The Bike Project

By , April 9, 2012 10:14 pm

Well I thought it was about time I started to make proper use of the garage – AKA ‘Man Cave’. It’s a nice big garage in which I park my motorbike, keep the diving gear and the lawn mower. Oh and Nic’s for a fridge or 3 for curing meat and cheese. But apart from that – lots of space to do….. ‘stuff’.

So me and a couple of good friends who are also keen motorcyclists decided it would be a good idea to buy a ‘project bike’ between us with a view to doing it up, possibly altering it aesthetically and making it mechanically sound again. Luckily on of us (Bill) is very mechanically minded – having grown up on an farm here in Australia he was on motorbikes from soon after learning to walk and has taken them to bits an rebuilt them many times. A good guy to have on the team!

Bill steered us towards something simple for our first project – in fact about as simple as you can get in terms of motorbikes – a single cylinder, two stroke, air cooled bike. So let me introduce the 1978 Yamaha DT175 which we bought for $350 (about 250 of your English pounds)…

Yamaha DT175

Beautiful don’t you think?

As I said the main plan is to get it back to pristine condition with important things working again – you know, like brakes and things. Some suspension that works would be welcome too.

Yesterday Bill came round and we started to strip the bike down – little did we (well, I) know that we would demolish the whole thing in a few hours! Here’s the bike now…

All that's left!

So lots more to do – obviously – but hopefully we will keep momentum up and will also keep the website updated with progress!! :)

Early morning trip to Bondi

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By , March 11, 2012 4:46 pm

So as I keep mentioning this summer in NSW has not been a great one. In fact many people are calling it the worst they can remember (it certainly is the worst we can remember, but we’ve only been here 5 years!).

However, it seems that summer has decided to show it’s face again – now it’s officially autumn! So we decided on an early morning trip to Bondi Beach with a couple of friends – just a trip to take some photos, enjoy the early morning light, watch the surfers and have a lovely breakfast.

It certainly has been a lovely day, only marred by the fact that one of our cats (Molly) has not been seen since Friday morning – hopefully she is ok. I keep reminding myself of when our cat in the UK (Macy – remember her?!) went walkabout for 2-3 days. We were pretty worried about her but she turned up safe and sound and smelling of cigar smoke! So we assumed that she must have been to stay with an OAP (sorry – I’m not saying all OAP’s smoke cigars but this is the story we had in our heads ok?) who spoiled her rotten!

Anyway – some photos for you….

7.30am at Bondi Beach - not a bad way to start the day

The morning light was lovely

The crowds just starting to arrive for a day of baking...

Surfers catching the early waves

Going for a surf

The famous Bondi Icebergs pool getting a bashing

Until next time….

Oh and if you see a tabby cat looking lost, please give us a call!

Balcony update

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By , March 10, 2012 5:12 pm

It’s been slow going but the balcony refurb is getting close to an end. This weekend I installed all the stainless steel wires – all I need to do now is get some timber decking to do the underside (which will be painted), then finish the edges and I’m done!

Looking a bit more like a balcony!

Summer has been a bit of an English affair this year – record rainfall, lower than average temperatures, lots of cloud – so hopefully autumn will be much nicer. Then at least we can make some use of the balcony before winter arrives!

I’ve been very, very slack

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By , March 4, 2012 4:23 pm

Yes, I know. No updates to this website for 9 months?

My excuse is that there has been lots and lots of other projects going on and the nicandgraham website was a bit unwieldy for updating things regularly. So here’s a fresh(ish) start – I’ve stripped it right back to JUST blog posts – and none of the other galleries/videos pages and also no ‘Home’ page. That is, this page is it! Just blogs.

All the old stuff’s still there if you want to have a look in the archives etc.

Hopefully this will mean much more frequent updates!!

This is my sole responsibility now – Nic has too much to do on her niccooks website – make sure you have a look if you can!!


Byron Road Trip

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By , June 13, 2011 8:43 pm

We love Byron – an essential back-packer stop over on the ‘east coast of Australia’ trip that the vast majority of young travelers take. We may be getting a little bit older now but we still love the laid back feeling, the beautiful coastline with stunning surf beaches. The hinterland is also beautiful, hilly and almost mountainous – it includes spectacular national parks. It’s a great part of Australia – even if Byron itself is perhaps not quite so laid back as it used to be, with it now being a full on tourist hub.

View Larger Map

The other reason we come here as often as we can (which, unfortunately, is not very often) is that there is a big rock poking out of the ocean a couple of kilometers or so off the coast. This rock is called Julian Rocks and is one of our favourite dive sites in the whole of Australia (well, out of those that we’ve dived at least!).

It was a long weekend in Australia this weekend – we had Monday off for, wait for it……… THE QUEEN’S BIRTHDAY! Yes, whilst most Poms are blissfully unaware of the queen’s birthday, Aussies put aside their talk of becoming a republic and embrace the Monarchy for all it’s worth! And who are we to complain?!

So we took a couple of days off work and drove the 10 hours to Byron on the Thursday, leaving bright and early! The weather was beautiful and sunny but, unfortunately, that was soon to change according to the forecasts. The whole of the east coast of Australia was due to get a monumental soaking – we were just hoping that the diving wouldn’t get cancelled having driven all the way up!

Nic at Coffs Harbour for lunch

Diving at Byron Bay is always fantastic – even in not-so-great conditions. And not-so-great conditions is what we found on our first day of diving on the Friday. Vis was not great being a little murky, but at least the sun was out. Water temperature was around the 20-21 degree mark which is not too bad, in fact that’s a pretty good temperature for Sydney in summer, but the air temperature was pretty low too. The whole of the east coast was cold and heavy rain was working it’s way up towards Byron. In fact the temp in Byron was certainly no more than in Sydney, 10 hours south, and Sydney was several degrees below what it should be at this time of year too!

Lion Fish - Beautiful but poisonous!

Diving in wet suits means that you’re soaking wet between dives, that combined with a fresh southerly wind on the open ocean mean that we were shivering constantly between dives! Added to this was the fact that my wetsuit is on it’s last legs and I had a hole the size of a dinner plate in the small of my back. Nic had to keep apologising to fellow divers because of the ‘builders bum’ scenario playing itself out before us. This was the last weekend diving with this wetsuit, now happily retired for spare neoprene patches if required in the future!!

Byron is just so great because of the shear diversity of marine life to be found on ‘the rock’ and this changes throughout the seasons depending on the water temperature etc. During the warmer months leopard sharks and eagle rays frequent the area. We arrived just after the transition to the ‘colder’ water and this meant the arrival of Grey Nurse Sharks which prefer this cooler water. We can see Grey Nurse Sharks around Sydney but they are the kind of large, graceful animal that you can never tire of seeing. They had arrived in numbers and were also BIG!

So we had several fantastic dives – added treats included seeing the whales migrating north whilst out on the boat. We had a couple breaching in front of the rock so the skipper gently trundled over to have a look. Then, with the engines off and drifting off the rock, we had one of the whales surface no more than 4m off the boat. And it just say there on the surface for a couple of minutes – it was fantastic!! Of course, that was the dive I didn’t have my camera on me but it really happened!! On the way back we also saw a Manta Ray on the surface! We’ve never seen on of these underwater (it is high on our list of “want to see’s”) but I guess it doesn’t really count if we see it from a boat…

The weather turned much wetter over the next couple of days but luckily the dives weren’t cancelled – all in all a fantastic weekend with great diving. We are already planning to go back in the summer, or later spring, so that we don’t shiver so much. I might even have a new wetsuit by then, sans big hole!!

Have a look at the video page for a little compilation including the grey nurse sharks!!!

The Big Trip

By , April 30, 2011 9:35 pm

So here’s a round up of the BIG TRIP back ‘home’!

As you may or may not be ware, I get no holiday. Well, that’s not strictly true – I get the same amount of holiday that the majority of workers would get. It’s just that Nic gets lots, lots more. She works an extra 30 mins here and an extra hour there and all of a sudden she’s got another 3 weeks to use up. Somehow.

Hence the surprise trip back last year.

I works an extra hour here, or two hours there and gets a ‘see you tomorrow Midge’.

Anyway, I’m not bitter. So Nic left for the UK a whole week earlier than me and did ‘the rounds’ a bit – seeing a few friends etc.

Beautiful Cottage!

Once I arrived it was straight of to the cottage in the Peak District for Mum and Dad’s 40th wedding celebrations! And what a lovely cottage it was! All of the family were together with all wives and grandchildren present and correct (big thanks goes to Martin for providing grandchildren – I owe you at least a beer for that!).

We had plenty of room, an open log fire, fantastic food and a beer or three (sorry Mum!). I think the bins were overflowing with recycling by the end of our time there – no one can say we don’t care about the planet!!

Yay! I made it half way up a hill!

The weather was absolutely beautiful for the first few days – imagine the perfect English countryside scene and you’d be spot on. Spectacularly beautiful (but we still prefer Australia 😉 !! But the UK being the UK, the weather soon turned on us – it provided a good opportunity to hole up in a free-wifi coffee shop/bar for a while though – even if the coffee was terrible!

We also had lots of fantastic food with everyone taking turns to cook – Dave and Hanka even tried to kill us all with an excess of spectacular curries!

After leaving the cottage Nic and I headed to Colin and Karen’s for more food! Nic had planned a fantastic 7 course degustation menu for Dave’s birthday (Gemma’s Dave that is!). Of course this in no real surprise as Nic just can’t help herself when she’s near a kitchen!

Course 1
Anchovy Lollipops

Course 2
Foie Gras Parfait

Course 3
Egg yolk salad

Course 4
Tuna Ceviche

Course 5
Savoury Slow Roast Beef Profiteroles

Course 6
Epoisse Cheese with Maple Syrup

Course 7
Chocolate Potts

Anchovy Lollipops

Course 1 didn’t go down too well with all the guests, with Karen gobbing out one of the anchovy fillets lovingly prepared by her daughter onto her plate in disgust! It was no real surprise however as this is the sort of behaviour we’ve come to expect from Mrs Abinett senior! Luckily the rest of the meal went much more smoothly – even the egg yolk salad which involved cooking egg yolks in cling film at 65 degrees (sounds weird but it’s something to do with setting the protein). It all went swimmingly and was very, very tasty!!

'The kids'

Attention then turned to a certain younger sisters 30th birthday! A multitude of people were invited to a surprise BBQ – and the amazing thing was that we all actually managed to keep it a secret from the birthday girl! Incredible!

Nic had yet again arranged a big spread of food, spearheaded by a huge lump of very slow roasted pork which went on at 6am! Even Graham managed to BBQ the home-made burgers and marinated chicken without burning/overdoing/poisoning anyone (I think!). The weather held out on us and a great time was had by all!

The very next day Nic and I had to hire a little car and get ourselves down to London village for a ‘meat-up’ (geddit?) with a few of Nic’s fellow cyberspace charcuterie bloggers!! (By the way check out niccooks website for all her food exploits if you haven’t already!). A bit weird meeting people you have only talked to on forums etc., but we have done it before with some success (in fact one of our best friends in Australia we met via a forum!) – and also some failures (but I won’t talk about them!) but it went really well. It may have been a success because we all met at a great restaurant in central London village called St John which was fantastic!! A proper ‘foodies’ place! This is the sort of place which really makes the most of the whole animal – ‘nose to tail’ eating they call it – bone marrow, ox heart, snails, tongues, liver, trotters and more were on the menu. Most importantly they had Jersey Royals for potatoes – very hard to get hold of in Australia! Very tasty it all was was too!!!!

Then it was off to Stansted for the trek to Malaysian Borneo and the scuba diving we had booked! We were off to a area around the island of Sipadan off the coast which has some of the best diving in the world.

We were staying on a converted oil rig – now painted pretty colours and used solely for diving! It was a really good experience – like a big liveaboard boat but without the swaying!

The diving was awesome – we managed to squeeze in 22 dives in the 5 days we were there – even pretty much foregoing lunch on one day to get another dive in underneath the rig. We saw turtles-a-plenty, sharks, schooling barracuda and jack fish along with lots of amazing small stuff including angler-fish, ribbon eels, jaw fish, many different types of shrimp and even tiny sea horses!

Sipadan Island

Ugly mug

The main ‘draw card’ of the area is the island of Sipadan itself which is a national park. It is a pinnacle of an old volcano where the drop off’s are awesome. You can walk off one of the beaches into waste deep water and then the ground drops away 600m into the depths! It means that it has fantastic wall diving (normally drifting with the current) and attracts all sorts of marine life due to the nutrient rich upwellings from the depths! The government only issues 120 permits per day for people to dive around the island to try and keep it in ‘good nick’ so we dived it 2 of the 5 days we were diving.

We had a few boat dives each day and on top of that we had unlimited diving beneath the rig itself. Even under there we saw lots of really cool stuff. There were strong currents on a couple of dives which was interesting though – of course it’s not like on one of the ‘wall’ dives where there’s a boat to pick you up at the end of the dive, under the rig you have to get back to where you got in! On a couple of occasions people got swept off! But it was ok – they got plucked out of the water soon after!


Nic and I also did our ‘Enriched Air Nitrox’ course whilst on the rig. It is a course we had been meaning to do for quite a while and when the opportunity came up on the rig (not to mention the fact that it was 1/2 the price of doing it in Sydney!) we jumped at it to get it under our collective belts.

It basically means we are certified to dive on ‘Enriched Air’ – that’s air with more than 21% oxygen in it. During our time on the rig we were a diving 32% oxygen mix mainly. What this does is allow you to dive at depth for longer before you get ‘the bends’. It’s funny – we met so many divers on the rig who were apparently ‘experienced’, but who didn’t have the first clue about the effects of nitrogen on the body when diving. Nitrogen is what can cause the bends if you a) Absorb too much into your blood and b) surface too quickly. This is lesson 1 when learning to dive!

Anyway, no matter how we tried to explain it to many of our temporary diving buddies, they all though we would be able to stay underwater for hours! No idea – which was a bit of a worry.

SIpadan Gallery

UK April 2011

The food was excellent and the evenings were very pleasant – spent with a beer going through photos of all the creatures we’d seen. Click on the left for a small gallery of some of the things we saw, and click on the right for a small gallery from the UK leg of our trip!

No bike = new toy

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By , March 17, 2011 9:48 pm

Well I have been without a motorbike for nearly a month now!

It started having problems when we went on our momentous trip down to see the motoGP near Melbourne when it wouldn’t start.

In the pouring rain.

On the freeway.

Not 2 hours out of Sydney.

Anyway, I’m not bitter – I love my bike and doesn’t seem to do anything wrong, up until now. So anyway – long story short – my bike broke. Regulator/rectifier (whatever THAT is), alternator, battery. All dead/burnt out. Parts needed to be ordered in from the UK (it’s a Triumph, after all) and nearly 4 weeks later here I am. Still on the bus.

In fact I thought it was all over today as they had the main ‘problem’ bit (the alternator) had arrived and been fitted – all good – or so I thought. Just as I was walking out of work to go and collect my bike (with a big smile on my face), I got a call from the shop saying that my battery was dead and I needed a new one. But they wouldn’t have any until tomorrow!! So I turned on my heels and headed for the bus again!

So tomorrow, I am told, I will get my beloved bike back. And about time too. I’m getting pretty fed up of having to rely on public transport to get me to and from work.

Anyway, the point of this blog. Well I have a friend at work who brought in a little remote control helicopter – and I was hooked! So I had to go out and get one, such good fun whilst my other toy is off the road!

Here’s a video of me having a go!

Finally, we made it to Eveleigh Markets

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By , February 11, 2011 7:56 am

Eveleigh Market

This is another of those things I’ve been meaning to do for months, but the Charcutepalooza challenge gave me the kick up the backside to do it.  We finally made it to the Eveleigh Markets last Saturday morning to seek out some top quality, humanely raised meat.  I’m not quite sure what the definition of “close to home” is, but Eveleigh is a 60km round trip away, however, in the grand scheme of things, when you consider the size of Australia, that’s pretty close really!

Kylie Kwong

Now Eveleigh is a foodies paradise! Every stall specialises in seasonal, locally sourced produce and most allow you to sample the goods. And even better there are a few stalls that are there to sell their food to snack on whilst you shop. One of these stalls being Billy kwong, and most Saturdays you’ll actually find Kylie Kwong serving the customers and making the dishes from scratch. I absolutely didn’t mind queuing for my dumplings as it meant I got to watch the master at work, and this week, Matt Preston was also sampling the delights right next to me, genuinely a foodies paradise!

The produce

The only slight downside to Eveleigh Market is it’s a cash only destination. We knew this before we arrived, but hadn’t quite budgetted for all the amazing things we just couldn’t resist buying, so we had to trot off down the road mid shop to collect more cash. But we found some, and successfully managed to purchase pork and beef – both organically produced and one coming from rare breed animals; some amazing washed rind cheese – only after we’d sampled everything that was on offer from that stall of course; some organic beetroot – we had difficulties choosing between the traditional purple and the more unusual golden variety; exotic mushrooms – pick and mix from about 10 varieties; some King Edward potatoes – the most amazing find.


For all of you reading this blog in the UK I can hear you shouting, “but I buy King Edward’s every week in Morrisons”. Well, I got very excited because this is the first time I have seen this variety here in Australia in the 4 years that we’ve been here.  I thought maybe it was the sentimental, grass is always greener me that thought King Edward’s make the best roast potatoes, but with the cool change that came though on Sunday afternoon, it allowed us to put the oven on and test the theory, and accompanied with the duck fat, they really were the BEST roast potatoes we’ve had in 4 years! I can see Eveleigh Markets becoming a regular date in our diaries!

There goes the beer fridge…

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By , February 9, 2011 7:43 pm

Duck starts curing

So we all know that Nic just LOVES to cook, that’s no secret at all! But she has now got ANOTHER project on the go!

She is still doing the Nic and Jamie project and if you are following the progress you will know that she has finished the first book and given her appraisal (!). She is now onto book two (The Return of the Naked Chef) and blasting her way through it!

Anyway, she now has a new and very exciting project on the go – CHARCUTERIE! – which includes all sorts of cured meats.

Wot no beer?!

She has started a new blog called which is now devoted to her food exploits, currently being the charcuterie challenge, CHARCUTEPALOOZA – have a look on the website for an idea of what’s going on. But basically Nic is part of 300 other bloggers across the world who are completing a monthly charcuterie challenge, followed by blogging about it on the 15th of each month. Completing all 12 challenges means you are in with a shout of winning a trip to France to go to a cookery school, amongst other things! The winner is picked on the quality of the blogs (obviously they can’t taste the produce) – but it’s all good fun!!


Anyway, round to the title of this post – curing meats requires very specific temperature and humidity, which means my (un-official) beer fridge in the garage has been commandeered to be a curing fridge! Nic bought a gadget which maintains the fridge temperature at 16 degrees (or whatever other temp you want) so it’s warm beer from now on…..

Not that I am complaining mind you (I may find another fridge on ebay…), she has already completed the first challenge which was home made bacon. She’ll be blogging about it on on the 15th of this month so make sure you check it out!! All I can say is, she (well, we) thought that it hadn’t worked, but it was spectacular!!! THE BEST BACON EVER.

Till next time…

The Abinett visit 2010/2011!

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By , January 4, 2011 10:07 pm

Karen Working Away

Well, well, well. We can’t keep them away – the Abinetts decided to descend on Sydney for Christmas/New Year and who were we to complain! Always a pleasure to have Colin and Karen to stay. I mean – now they’re gone I miss the exclamations of ‘Jeeepers!’ at anything slightly out of the ordinary (such as a warm day) and the amount of coffee Karen gets though (it really is unnatural!).

The holiday was almost a carbon copy of the Midgley’s trip last year, almost to the day. We also did a few things that we did with Mum and Dad M last year.

Camp Fires Ahoy!

The clan

First on the list was a long weekend trip to the Barrington Tops National Park to stay at a fantastic, fairly secluded place called Mudaridge. It is a great place to stay, several km’s down a dirt track, kangaroos hopping through the garden in the evening, plenty of space to spread out etc…. A cold snap came across NSW when we were there which meant cool days and cold nights (although not quite as bad as the rain we had with Mum and Dad M last year!) – but it was an excuse to spark up the camp fire most nights. Very nice indeed! Especially for ‘cub scout Graham’ who cannot resist playing with fire. Especially with a glass of wine in hand!

Mixin' with the winemaker

Of course, heading up to the Barrington Tops meant that we were pretty much driving past the Hunter Valley – a famous wine region in NSW – so it would of been rude of us not to call in and try a few… Nic and I are members of a wine club up there called Mount View which makes really, really nice wine. We get a case 4 times a year but delayed our last one so we could go and taste the wine with Colin and Karen and pick what we wanted. Luckily the winery was busy when we got there with a group of drunk backpackers on a tour from Sydney (!), which meant that (as they knew we were members) we got a free, impromptu tour of the winery and a private tasting session from the winemaker himself! This is the guy who decides when the grapes are ready for picking, what should be mixed with what, how long it should be in barrels for etc., etc. He was the main man – and very nice too!

Buster & Marrion

Christmas brought a trip to the fish markets to get, well, fish obviously. But we thought we’d try something new for Christmas Eve and get a live crab and lobster. Until we saw the price, then settled on crab and a Marron (kind of a small lobster). It was an interesting experience buying them – having never bought live stuff before we didn’t really know how to look after them etc. but the guys at the markets gave us some tips (we only needed to keep them alive for 24 hours after all!).

It nearly fits...

So the moment came to get the crab into the pot for dinner on Christmas Eve, a quick 15 mins in the freezer to put it to sleep and then into the pot with you! Except the pot wasn’t quick big enough… Woops! Back into the freezer with dozing crab and a bigger pot was ordered to be filled with boiling water ASAP!

Luckily ‘buster’ fitted in this time (just about – give or take a leg or two), swiftly followed by ‘Marrion’. That’s the Marron by the way. The meal was very nice, but we decided that it probably wasn’t worth the time, effort and expense to do again any time soon!


Christmas day was a mixture of a fantastic spread of food for lunch courtesy of Nic (who else?!) – including lots of lovely Asian nibbles, lots of time in the pool in the afternoon with lots of time for ‘keepy-upy-volleyball-type-thing’ with the blow-up ball! We also had decided to cook a whole suckling pig on the BBQ this year! Wooo! We borrowed a big spit from a friends Dad (who has lots of cooking stuff like that!), ordered the pig a few days before and got in lots and lots of charcoal for the big event. Nic had done her research and had a good recipe for the pig – so we boned it (rib cage, spine), stuffed it with a beautiful meaty, spicy, fruity stuffing, sewed it up (literally-much to the horror of the lady in Lincraft who sold us the needle), shoved a big metal stick through the length of it and roasted it over hot coals whilst we paddled in the pool with cold drinks! Ha!

Lookin' good!

After nearly burning the deck due to the heat from the coals, we got it under control and it was looking good! Really good!!! Once it was done we couldn’t wait to dig in – the meat was absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately the crackling wasn’t actually crackling. We later deduced that this was because the poor little blighter didn’t have any fat on him! More like tasty chicken skin that crackling – but good all the same. We will DEFINITELY be doing this one again – so nice!

Following Christmas we had a few lazy days in the pool, followed by a couple of days at Wiseman’s Ferry, an hour north of Sydney where some of our friends parents have a lovely house on the river. Literally, on the river. It was lovely spending some time there and getting a little tour of the locale in one of the neighbour’s boats!

We had a couple of lovely days at the beach – one at Palm Beam – AKA Summer Bay from Home and Away – and the other at Manly where we had a lovely breakfast and stroll round to Shelly Beach.

It's over there!

Sydney goes off!

New years eve was great! We did the same as last year – setting up camp at Mort Bay Park in Balmain (near where we used to live). We got the ferry round the corner into Circular Quay for a spot of lunch and to soak up the atmosphere in the sun. It was a warm day so we took it easy. Heading back to Balmian at a decent time so we could claim our spot on the front row and chill out for the rest of the evening!

Beer, wine, books and take-out fish and chips was the order of the day. However we were sat next to a group of young back-packers who clearly had no idea where they were (I’m pretty sure they knew they were in Sydney and it was New Years Eve, but apart from that they didn’t know much!) which provided much chuckling to ourselves – especially Nic who couldn’t get into her book because she was ear-wigging too much!

The fireworks were spectacular as always, and the weather was lovely and warm – a perfect way to see in the new year! New Year’s day was a stinker – high 30’s centigrade and definitely a pool day with a few drinks and lovely food.

Good time all round – till next time Abinetts!!

Make sure you check out the gallery for some more pics!

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