Monthly Archives: August 2012

Morpeth Revisited

If you are trying to resist an over-active sweet tooth, Morpeth is fatal.

Same goes for bread.

If you are trying not to be tempted by fashion, art, vintage books, baby dolls, teddy bears and luscious designs, Morpeth is also fatal.

If you long to return to yesteryear with gorgeous cobbled footpaths, streets wide enough for a bullock train to turn around and stunningly rustic historic buildings…Morpeth is impossible to resist.

To top it all off, I know the brochures all talk about the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting down the main street but all I could smell when I first stepped out of the car was cow. I won’t be specific but there was that gorgeous country cow smell which for me, is almost more fragrant than a rose.

Morpeth is my kind of place. In fact, I even saw a few signs around town which had my name on them…For Sale…For Lease…For Rent…

I’m sure it’s a sign.

I’m sure it was a sign!

I could so easily move to Morpeth even though I do love our stunning beach with breathtaking views across Pittwater to Palm Beach Lighthouse and beyond.

It’s interesting because of all the things I did see, there was one notable thing I didn’t see in Morpeth… technology shops. They might have been there but I didn’t see any computer shops or shops selling fancy TV remotes you need engineering degrees to operate. Yes, Morpeth definitely seems like my kind of place.

I’m not going to pretend to know Morpeth well or have any inside knowledge of the place. I’ve only been there twice but my grandfather’s grandmother, Charlotte Merritt, was born there back in 1864. While in some circles that could almost make me a local, they didn’t stay very long and never became part of the social framework. I believe her father was some kind of itinerant labourer who moved around a lot.

My Great Great Grandmother, Charlotte Merritt, who was born in Morpeth in 1864.

I ended up in Morpeth for the first time almost by accident about a month ago when we were visiting nearby Maitland. I was a bit curious to see where Charlotte Merritt had come from and friends of mine live in Morpeth and told me all about fudge and ginger beer tastings, Miss Liley’s Lolly Shop, a teddy bear shop and all the cafes. It sounded like a veritable of kaleidoscope of tempting possibilities. We were off.

Morpeth is a historic village located in the Hunter Valley North of Newcastle, Australia. It was founded in 1821 and is a historic river port. It’s 168 KM North of Sydney and roughly two hours drive depending on who’s driving and the traffic conditions.

This is my second visit to Morpeth and this time, I am here all by myself and the world, or should I say Morpeth, is my oyster.

Display upstairs at Campbell’s Store.

If I had to use one word to describe Morpeth, it would have to be “enchanting”. It has that real feel of being in a magical childhood setting like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I almost expected the oompa loompas to turn up any minute. Or perhaps, I was Alice in Wonderful and the white rabbit was about to turn up.

As much as I could wax lyrically about all the stunning, gorgeous wonderful things I saw in Morpeth, I was a woman on a mission. Both Mum and Geoff had requested more coconut ice from Campbell’s. My son had requested “souvenirs” and I was there with the explicit purpose of visiting the annual Morpeth Weird & Wonderful Novelty Teapot Exhibition and the Morpeth Tea Cosy Challenge. The local newsletter, The Morpeth Whisper had also featured a Leaning Tower of Pisa Tea Set, which I wanted to check out and I was also keen to have more of a lingering look at the very enticing clothing boutiques in Swan Street.

Something told me I should have robbed a bank before I went to Morpeth. There was just so much temptation on so many, many fronts. I had to take a deep, deep breath and muster all the self-restraint I could find and I still have more than just a few confessions!

Me with the tea cosys

I started out at the Morpeth Tea Cosy Challenge. This display was simply inspirational, magical with over 400 entries were on display. Most of the designs were knitted and there were amazingly intricate, detailed and imaginative worlds made out of wool. We’re talking flowers, birds, dainty little tea parties with teeny cups and saucers and even a red back spider. Personally, when I was at school, I struggled to knit the compulsory 20 cm x 20cm woollen squares we had to make for the annual clothing drive. I couldn’t imagine how anybody could produce these amazing creations without a magic wand or a pair of magic knitting needles!

Aren’t they just amazing!

Most of the tea cosies were either for sale or sold. There were so many exquisitely pretty designs to choose from but I opted for something quirky instead. I bought two tea coseys. One was the Queen of Hearts and the other one was Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. I’d had a rough time with our son last week and as I headed North along the freeway to Morpeth, I really did feel glad to get away and have a break…even if it was only for one day. So the Queen of Hearts sort of resonated with me…as did Tweedledum and Tweedle Dee. I couldn’t quite recall what the Queen of Hearts actually did in Alice in Wonderland at the time but she certainly had a very stern look on her face and she had a stick with a heart on the end in one hand. She really looked like a force to be reckoned with. I could use a bit of assistance. Both of kids can join forces against me and make life quite difficult at times so Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee seemed quite appropriate for them. I’m hoping the Queen of Hearts will sort them out!

The Queen of Hearts with Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.

Once I arrived home, I actually remembered what the Queen of Hearts actually said. That was “off with their heads!”

Oh well!

The New Baby.

I wandered out of the Tea Cosy Exhibition and into the baby Doll shop. Cathy Brady meticulously transforms doll parts into incredibly life like works of art or is it real life? This is a highly skilled and painstaking process taking 180 hours of work over a three week period…almost like a long labour. I personally thought these baby dolls were a vast improvement on the real thing. They’re low maintenance. They don’t cry. There are no dirty nappies. You can put them down and they’ll still be there when you come back. These dolls are also so lifelike that they do indeed have personality. But they can’t love you. Hug you. They’re not quite the same as the real thing but a very, very close impersonation. You can visit the dolls at

Cathy Brady- the Artist at Work.

Next, I wondered downstairs to the teapot exhibition. Now, I have a funny feeling I missed out on some of these. I did see a lot of teapots but most weren’t handmade. I am wondering how I managed this considering that was the main reason I went to Morpeth but there was just so much to see, perhaps I was a little overwhelmed. I ended up buying Geoff and I the leaning Tower of Pisa for our upcoming 11th Wedding Anniversary. I thought it summed our relationship up pretty well. We’ve had some tough times. We’re leaning a bit to one side but we haven’t toppled over. We’re still standing almost tall.

The teapot Exhibition

I wondered across the road into Miss Lily’s Lolly Shop. Even an adult feels quite childlike going into a candy store. I found some beautiful looking lollies that looked like polished stones. Unfortunately, I’d run out of cash and went on so many deviations along the main street that they had shut by the time I got back so that leaves something to look forward to for next time.

My New Suicide Shoes

Further up Swan Street, I saw the most deadly pair of heels in my size. I don’t know what was going through my head because given my muscle disease, I only ever buy sensible shoes. But I was in holiday mode. I was feeling frivolous and for once, I wanted to buy a pair of sexy shoes. So what if I couldn’t walk in them? I could always use my walking stick although that would look a bit silly. I’m sure it’s not written in the rule books but you can’t wear a pair of staggering high heels and use a walking stick! They’re diametrically opposed opposites. But they were only $30.00 and they have a solid block heel and surprisingly, I could actually walk in them after all. When I told Mum about them, she told me they could be my “under the table shoes”…uncomfortable shoes which you wear to a venue and discreetly take them off under the table. Sounds good to me although I suspect we’ll have to park right next to the table.

Writer At Work.

With so many nooks and crannies to explore, I wasn’t that interested in eating even though, yet again, there was so much temptation. I stopped for lunch at Cups N Crepes and had a banana smoothie, a cappuccino and a sumptuous Mars Bar and Caramel Cheese cake, which was delightfully mousey and melted in the mouth. It took me awhile to get through the smoothie and so I ended up writing for about an hour. I love writing in cafes and just letting my pen run wild. Shame I didn’t have the laptop though. I wouldn’t have to type it all up now.

Orange Trumpet Vine

While I was writing, I was almost mesmerised by a carpet of bright orange flowers (the Orange Trumpet Creeper) trailing down a boutique across the road. Growing on a rusty tin roof and back dropped against the deep blue sky, the composition was perfect. I zoomed in. I zoomed out. Just fabulous!

I also watched to get some shots of the bridge. The white wooden bridge over the Hunter River is a prominent feature in Morpeth. I was actually hoping to walk across but there was no footpath. I had to make do with photos from the bank.

The wind was incredibly strong and the river was so choppy that you could almost go for a surf. Okay, you know I’m exaggerating but you get my drift. I wanted to capture the raw energy of the wind in my photos. There is a very tall gum tree near the riverbank and its leaves and branches were exploding in a cacophony of sound as they thrashed away in the wind. There was such brute force and spirit but photos just didn’t do it justice.

Time was starting to get away from me by now.

Next stop, was Arnott’s Bakehouse, home of the famous Morpeth Sour Dough. I am a bread lover from way back and I was like a kid in a candy store staring at all that beautiful bread. At the time, I didn’t really have much of an idea about sour dough and was a bit wary to be honest. I chose a wholemeal loaf, which looked scrumptious and relatively “safe”. I really do recommend checking out their website at There are too many stories for me to encapsulate them here but this story was so funny, I’ll provide a direct link:

I don’t know if this is sacrilege but I brought my sour dough home and covered it in butter and Vegemite. The remaining loaf was converted into French toast for Sunday lunch and it was definitely scrumptious…a far superior product to my previous efforts. I’ve got a feeling I can buy this bread locally and if it wasn’t close to midnight, I’d be in the car and on my way!

I knew I only had a day or actually it was only three-quarters of a day in Morpeth and the Cinderella hour was rapidly approaching. Perhaps, I should have just felt grateful for the time I’d had but it was very hard to leave when I was having so much fun!

I had to be back by 6.30PM at the very latest to pick the kids up from after-school care. You don’t want to be the bad mother who arrives late and keeps everybody waiting even though the staff are well aware that “things happen”. I want to be responsible but at the same time, I feel like being wicked. I definitely have a bit of bad attitude what with buying the Queen of Hearts “off with their head” tea cosy, the suicidal high heel shoes and not caring about how late I arrive home… not to mention how much money I’ve spent. I know I’m over-compensating for something! Do you think I could blame the prednisone again?

Last stop Campbell’s where I stock up on Coconut Ice, Peanut brittle musk sticks and some boiled lollies for the kids. It sounds like I’ve bought a lifetime supply but I’m sure they’ll all be gone by the end of the week!

The clock has now struck four o’clock and contrary to my expectations, the car hasn’t turned into a pumpkin and my clothes haven’t turned into rags. There is no mad panic around me. It is all a matter of self-discipline. I can be strong and go now or I can push the envelope a little and hope the accelerator will do the trick. After all, it’s not every day you get to go to Morpeth and Geoff could possibly pick them up if I’m “stuck”.

Photographing the shadows on the cobbled footpath.

I walk out of Campbell’s and notice the shadows on the cobbled footpath. My camera is in the car. I was going to going to head off but just one last photo, then I’ll hit the road. Make it ten.

I somehow managed to get lost leaving Morpeth and was heading North towards Raymond Terrace. I also got stuck in heavy traffic but I still managed to pull up at after-school care at 6.00pm with half an hour to spare. I walked in to catch the kids in the middle of a fight. Another child had taken my son’s bag by mistake and later on that night my daughter had a bit of a tummy bug. I always expect payback. I can’t expect to have pure unadulterated fun without repercussions.

I’m hoping to get back to Morpeth again soon to do their walking tour. It looks fabulous. Stay tuned.

One final note…this morning when the musk sticks ran out, the kids I should go back to get some more. It was then that my son remembered the huge rainbow lollipops he’d seen at Campbell’s.

“The size of those rainbow lollipops!” he gasped. “I don’t care if I die. I just want one of those rainbow lollipops!!

“Make that two,” gasped my daughter.

“They have rainbow lorikeets in them,” my son exclaimed. “That’s why they’re not healthy. They have feathers in them.”

I don’t know where he got that idea from but it’s definitely “creative”.

I am already planning another trip. I still haven’t done the walking tour and I would mind a long lunch with some friends either.

Do you have any tales about Morpeth?

xx Ro

Driving Myself Crazy…Day trip to Morpeth, Australia – Part 1

Yesterday, I did something almost devilishly wicked. I booked the kids into after school care and went on a day trip to Morpeth in the Hunter Valley, almost 2hours drive each way from home. It was one of the best things I have ever done!! It felt like Alice’s journey into Wonderland. Morpeth is that kind of place.

I don’t usually do this sort of thing. The only time I ever run away from home, is to go to the Sydney Writer’s Festival once a year. That said, I do have a lot of medical appointments in Sydney and I have been known to get a little “lost” coming home but we’re only talking a minor deviation…not an epic adventure!

Mind you, I have to be honest and say that the main reason I don’t escape isn’t ideological. I have a bit of a thing about driving. I wouldn’t call it a phobia because to my way of thinking, a phobia involves an irrational fear. My fears, on the other hand, are perfectly logical… rational even! I get lost easily and the same kind of spatial issues which make it difficult for me to follow maps, also make it difficult for me to park my car. For some reason, I can’t work out where my car is in space and I usually leave room for an entire Olympic swimming pool both front and rear. I’m not great at reversing and I also get lost easily as well. On top of all of that, I get extreme fatigue which strikes at unpredictable moments. So while I can be full of beans and bouncing all over the place one minute, the next I could conk out completely and need to go to bed immediately…not great when you are driving long distance. You could say that it’s deadly even.

So as you can see, my fears are more than justified!

On the other hand, I want to explore and experience the world and not be stuck in such a small, minute part of it. In my early driving days, probably just after I got my P’s, when I had even greater driving anxiety, my Dad asked me: “Does your licence say you can’t drive anywhere? Well, no one’s stopping you. You can drive anywhere you like!” Dad’s words often come to me while I’m driving and somehow empower me! I can go anywhere! Do anything! I just need to convince myself!

But the local geography around here doesn’t help the situation. You see, we’re surrounded by water and there’s a steep hill with a bit of an annoying road between here and the freeway to Sydney. I broke down on that road once and subconsciously, that hill has become some kind of barrier, a boundary, a line in the sand I don’t cross. It’s even come to define me: “I don’t go up the hill”.

Of course, it’s only now that I’ve been up the hill and beyond that I’ve realised just what a mountain the hill had become… a complete blockage to growth and exploration.

After all, mountains are meant to be climbed not just left in the way! They should be stairways to heaven and the stars not roadblocks stunting our dreams.

I had already conquered the mountain recently and had almost driven to Newcastle. I was almost sure I could reach Morpeth.

Campbell’s Store, Morpeth. This is home to fudge tasting, coconut ice, peanut brittle as well as the MorpethTea Cosy Challenge.

I first visited Morpeth about a month ago. It wasn’t a planned trip and I met up with my cousin with husbands and kids in tow, which made it very difficult to explore Morpeth in any depth i.e. look at anything much or spend a lot of money. I did manage to buy a new dress and a shawl literally trying them on over my jeans on the run. We also managed to taste test the ginger beer and the fudge. We actually saw a lot but I also saw so many beautiful things in all those tantalising old shop windows that my eyes almost popped out of my head. I had to go back…alone!

Home to the famous Morpeth Sourdough

I also had another imperative…visiting the annual Morpeth Weird & Wonderful Novelty Teapot Exhibition and the Morpeth Tea Cosy Challenge, which is held in the last two weeks of August.

You see, I collect antique and vintage teacups and saucers, plates, table cloths. I love an authentic retro tea party. Not a high tea and not something stiff and starchy either. I just miss cups of tea with my grandmothers. More than cups of tea, I miss their love, their warmth, their smiles and almost getting lost inside their huge, warm hugs! There is nothing else in this universe quite like a grandmother’s love. I can almost feel their love when I surround myself with all this old world finery. Both of my grandmothers had collections of bone china tea cups and it was tradition to choose your own cup. My grandmother should have had her kettle wired into her doorbell because as soon as anyone walked in the door, the kettle went on and we all had tea. I bought a number of exquisite Shelley teacups with money from Mum’s parents. My grandma would have loved them but she would have put them safely away in her sideboard. She never ever used her special things.  I use some of mine but I do reserve the Shelley ones for rare, special occasions. Some of them are over 80 years old and have become fragile little old ladies. Of course, I don’t know if tea cups actually develop osteoporosis but they can’t take calcium supplements either so I just have to be careful.

With so much to look forward to, you can understand why I was so determined to overcome all my driving hurdles and just get to Morpeth.

But fear is a strong thing. If you have read my post about the bird flying into my house, you would already know that I have some huge issues with fear. I’m not just talking about anxiety but serious jelly-legged, hyperventilating, debilitating fear. It’s the sort of fear that leads to total avoidance and locking yourself up in an awfully restrictive cage…a cage you really need to break out of quick smart before it becomes your home, your comfort zone and you even forget how to fly.

But then I heard about brain plasticity. You are not set in stone. You can even re-invent yourself. The more you do something, the better you get at it. You might not get rid of your weaknesses altogether but with a bit of effort, you can certainly make them better. Now, if you didn’t have to live with your weaknesses, if there was any possible way of getting rid of them, if you could just somehow open the door of your cage and somehow spread your wings and fly free across the open sky, wouldn’t you just do it?!!  Wouldn’t you move both heaven and earth to experience the liberation of unfettered flight?!!

I would and I have.

I put my key in the ignition. Turned the key. Moved my foot off the brake and shifted it onto the accelerator. I was a little nervous but I wasn’t afraid because slowly but surely, I’ve been unconsciously building up to this moment by going on more and more driving excursions, building up what is referred to as “resilience”.

My main strategy for handling the long drive was to break it down into smaller, less daunting chunks…a series of small drives instead of one very long and winding road. There was the stretch up the hill. My next stop was Ourimbah. The end of the freeway represented another break in the journey and then there was the drive up the New England Highway into Maitland and then the turn off to Morpeth. It also felt good checking out the road signs and slowly but surely watching the kilometres count down.

When I left home yesterday, I had no idea whether I could actually make it to Morpeth but I was so determined to get there. At the same time, I was kind to myself. Said that I just needed to try. I didn’t have to get there. If I didn’t make it, it wasn’t the end of the world. There was always next year.

But all the positive thinking in the world can’t make something happen and I am also responsive to that. The night before, it was looking like my trip wasn’t going to happen. After a difficult afternoon with our son, I crashed in bed almost unable to move. Then the weather went haywire. The rain was pouring down. There were strong gusting winds and Geoff rang to say that a tree had even fallen across the railway tracks and he was going to be late home. It was really looking treacherous outside  and there was no way I was going to drive through that. I was starting to wonder whether I should just have a quiet day in bed and rest instead! That’s what any sensible “sick person” would do but not this little black duck.

But when I woke up yesterday, it was all sunshine, blue skies and I was out of here. All the doors opened up. All the obstacles disappeared. It was meant to be!

I pulled up in Morpeth quite chuffed. I wouldn’t say jubilant because the drive was that easy that it barely rated as a challenge in the end.

Stepping out of the car, that unmistakable smell of fresh cow manure hit me in the face like a fragrant rose. I was in the country. I felt like I’d climbed to the top of the Magic Faraway Tree. Walked through the back of an old wardrobe and found myself in mystical Narnia. I was Cinderella dancing at the ball.

That’s right. I was Cinderella. I might have driven kilometres away from home but I was still on a relatively short leash. I had to pick the kids up from after-school care by 6.30PM and had to allow for contingencies.

Carpe diem …seize the day. Today is my day and I am going to seize each and every single second and squeeze it til it’s dry.

Go Ro! The world is my oyster and I am its pearl!

Wish me luck!

xx Ro

PS: I will take you on a tour of Morpeth in my next post so please stay tuned.

PPS: I should point out that although I’m a wary driver, I’m no recluse. I do spend a fair amount of time “working from home” doing my writing and more recently painting but most of the time, I’m out and about. When it comes to going to Sydney, catching the train just makes good sense. Sydney traffic is just dreadful. The roads are so choked up that they’re little more than car parks. I honestly don’t know how anyone gets around without taking a packed lunch and a good supply of water just in case!

Tai Chi and the Fork in the Road

I don’t know about you but most of the time, I miss the huge fork stuck right in the middle of the road and just keep driving.

With my head up in the clouds or all my thoughts wrapped up in some creative project, it’s not surprising. I’ve been accused of living in my own little world…my own bubble…often enough.

This week, on the other hand, the fork was so big…so glaringly obvious that even I couldn’t miss it.

In my last post, I wrote about my daughter wanting me to take up physie. After she suggested we go roller skating together, I’ve since realised that she just wanted us to do things together and so I’ve been let off the hook.

So while I’ve scratched physie off the list, going through those thought processes made me realise that I really need to pick up some form of regular exercise. Exercise is quite problematic for me so choosing something suitable isn’t easy.

You might recall that I actually mentioned Tai chi in my last post.

Well, the very next day, I was driving home and I saw a huge sign in front our local community centre: “Beginner Tai Chi Classes”. I couldn’t believe it. It was like that sign was put there just for me and I knew it. The classes are even on during the day at a very convenient time. Moreover, just as I was wondering how I could possibly remember the phone number, I realised that it was only two digits different to our phone number. How easy was that?

When things are meant to be, they are really meant to be. Everything comes together so smoothly without any effort like a huge enormous present just left on your doorstep. Freaky!

Today, I even called the number. That was an achievement!

We all know that it’s one thing to see a sign. It’s another thing to know that glaring neon sign was put there for you. But it’s a huge, enormous step to actually pick up the phone and make the call!

I did it!

Now, I’m on my way only I can’t get there for two weeks. This is a serious hurdle. Everyone knows that when you close the deal, you need immediate action…no time or space to back out and reconsider…or forget.

I have to remind myself that I am committed to doing anything to improve my health and when I say anything that means everything. No holes barred. It means being 100% focused, which for me is going to be almost impossible considering I’m spread pretty thin at the moment but I can only do my best.

If Tai Chi only lives up to half its claims, things will be looking up. The Australian Tai Chi website suggests:

‘From a psychological point of view, Tai Chi helps release emotional tensions, increases concentration and awareness and decreases stressful psychological and physiological reactions… One becomes more centred, more at peace with oneself and less subject to outside influences.”

After some of the clashes I’ve had with my son lately, being less affected by outside influences sounds absolutely fabulous!!

Tai Chi will be a dramatic shift for me.

For anyone who knows me, the thought of me doing anything relaxing that requires silence, concentration and no talking, is mission impossible… a complete joke. I even manage to strike up in depth conversations with my dentist during root canal therapy. I get restless waiting for trains. I just can’t sit still. I’m always moving, talking, thinking, planning, pondering. I have no idea what it’s like to just BE!

I need to find out! This really could be radically life changing. I know that. I need to keep reminding myself of that like a mantra so I’ll really take it seriously:


Rowena you are going to go to Tai Chi.

You are going to go to Tai Chi.

You are going to go to Tai Chi.

I know I’m sounding very serious and committed to this new direction but I’ve had very good intentions in the past. I’ve had the proverbial fork rammed right up my nose and yet still I’ve managed to ignore it. That takes serious effort and real commitment.

The Neon Fork.

Last year, I had every intention of getting into yoga and meditation. One afternoon a week, I used to take my kids to swimming lessons where I chatted poolside with a yoga instructor. If ever there was someone who needed to do yoga, it was me a year ago. Despite all these good intentions, I never quite got there. I even wrote a poem about these good intentions…about how you find the acorn. Put it in your pocket with every good intention of planting it but the poor old acorn gets left in your pocket. Goes through the wash. Gets left by the bed. It goes on a grand royal tour but never finds its way into the ground.

That’s me. Great intentions but I struggle with implementation!

But that’s the old me. This is the new me and the new me is working overtime to convert good intentions not only into concrete actions but into life changing commitment. Change is all about the long-haul to be effective….perseverance in other words!

I am so good with all this motivational talk stuff but now I have to walk the talk or in this instance…Tai Chi it!

I am so determined to follow through on this, which is going to be difficult. As I said, I can’t get there for the next few weeks. It is hard enough to start a new path, especially one involving exercise but how can I possibly stick with it when I can’t get started straight away? This is going to take some serious willpower. Determination or perhaps a huge sign in my diary. “Tai Chi starts today”. I have to keep reminding myself.

This brings me to the following question… “If we know what we should
be doing something, why don’t we just do it? Why don’t we stick with it?

Does it mean we haven’t really decided? We still have a foot in both camps? Are we just lazy? I’m sure there is some fancy scientific equation for all of this. It might be Newton’s Law of Inertia? I like a law of inertia, by the way. I can be very inert at times although
you’d never know it. Everyone always comments on how I never stop but perhaps that is also a form of inertia. Bouncing around not doing the things you really ought to be doing.

It’s definitely avoidance.

Avoidance was a great thing in the days before we found out about brain plasticity. You could just decide that something wasn’t your thing and be done with it.

Now, we know that when we avoid something, that part of our brain is actually shrinking, putting us under enormous pressure to perform. Nobody likes the idea of a shrinking brain…especially when it’s your own brain that’s wasting away!

Avoidance isn’t the end of it either. When you avoid something, your brain shrinks but when you overdo it, your brain produces this superhighway of cabling. So you can’t just go and have a panic attack and get away with it anymore either. You have to be calm….otherwise your brain will look like an LA freeway with layers and layers of criss-crossing freeways looping around and around each other into a great big tangled knot of fear.
This is all very scary stuff.

That’s why I have just put a glaring note in my diary. Tai Chi starts today…Well make that the 12th of September. It’s written in red pen and I’ve committed myself with the World Wide Web as my witness. Now, I really do have to go ahead and do it.
Just two weeks to go…

Of course, as soon as I put the note in my diary, a meeting changed but it has brought things forward a week but put in a gap. Now I’m now wondering whether I should just wait three weeks so I can just get into some kind of rhythm. No Rowena. Don’t wait. Get started. This is exactly the sort of thinking that killed off yoga.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu
Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)

I wonder if he did Tai Chi…

How do you overcome procrastination? I’d love to hear your comments.

xx Rowena

Quit Before You Try?

When do you step out there, extend yourself and try something new? Something that you know isn’t your thing but you acknowledge that it might be good for you, extend yourself in some way and may indeed help you overcome a few of your weaknesses?

Alternatively, when do quit while you’re ahead? Leave the door shut and dash the other way?

Let yourself off with one of the usual excuses:

A)      “I can’t do it!”

B)      “I’m too busy!”

C)      “It’s not my thing!”

D)     All of the above.

This is my dilemma. Today, our daughter issued me with my next challenge.

We were baking ANZAC Biscuits when she almost knocked my socks off. “Mummy,” she says in her very cutest, 6 year old, high-pitched squeaky voice: “I want you to do physie.” (Physie is short for physical culture  and involves a combination of marching, dance and gymnastics).

I would have been laughing hysterically if she wasn’t so completely serious…deadpan even.

“Why do you think I should do physie?” I asked. I was rather curious. She had seen some other mums competing at her physie competition that morning and it must have given her ideas… ideas well beyond my station!!

“You’re a good dancer,” she replied.

I could have died laughing. Only a few days ago, both kids had told me I was “clumsy” in no uncertain terms. Neither of them stood up for me at all. It’s a pretty apt description. I was not only born with two left feet but they are usually heading the wrong direction. I’m sure I’ve also broken a few toes in my time. On top of that, there’s my muscle disease. It takes a crane to get me out of bed most mornings.

I’ve never heard of someone who is clumsy being a good dancer before and you can’t blame me for feeling confused.

When it comes to physie, I’m quite happy to drive the taxi instead of taking to the floor.



If the idea of me taking up physie is so ridiculous, why didn’t I just dismiss it outright?

I suspect that the idea was so far left of left field that I couldn’t ignore it. Why physie? Why physie of all things? I could understand something more sedentary but physie is pretty physically active. I mean you need to learn to do the splits. That’s usually something I only do when my ankle gives way…which it does pretty often by the way.

There’s also the matter of wearing a leotard in public.


Sometimes somebody else can see things in you which you can’t see in yourself and they can lead you onto an entirely new path of self-discovery. Is this one of those things? Should I just dip my toe  in the water and give physie a go? Is it something I need to do like going to the dentist or going on a diet? You do it because know it’s going to be good for you. I’ve had root canal before. Even though going public in a leotard could be painful, it isn’t root canal. We all need to work on our weaknesses and besides, I might actually have fun, meet new people and extend myself.

All this positive, motivational talk stuff is great. However, there are some serious downsides to taking up physie.

Top of the list has to be strutting around a crowded room in a leotard flaunting my six pack. Nobody 40+ really wants to be doing that without some serious camouflage and there is none. At least at the beach, you can wear a sarong or hide beneath your towel.

Then, there’s the matter of the hair and make-up. My hair is usually a very neglected after-thought and I’m certainly not up on hair styles of any sort or using curlers or applying hair spray through a fire hose. Make-up isn’t my thing either. These days, lipstick is usually reserved for exceptionally formal occasions and I usually struggle to find one anyway.

But surely physie is more than leotards, hair and make-up? I’ve looked into all of this for my daughter. Physie builds up all those all-important mind, body, spirit connections that somehow come together to enhance brain plasticity. I could use a bit of brain enhancement.

Then again, I don’t know why I’m even considering taking up physie. We only got into physie because:

1)      Her friends were doing it.

2)      It was convenient.

3)      They offered two free lessons and I didn’t expect her to take it up.

4)      My daughter thought physie actually meant fizzy drinks.

Who am I kidding? I know I’ll never take up physie. I know that I shouldn’t call myself defective but it feels like there isn’t much of this body which really works anymore. That doesn’t hugely bother me most of the time because I’ve never been sporty. In fact, I’ve always had quite an allergy to sport. But what with all this personal development stuff and trying to maximise my health, I am seriously wondering whether I should be extending myself? Work on my weakness! By putting myself in this “bad at sport” pigeon-hole, am I in fact selling myself short? Could I actually do it? Or, should I just  have a go and do what I can? Surely, something is better than nothing? I know stretching is good for my muscles and Tai Chi has been recommended before.

Perhaps, I could just test the waters doing physie with my daughter at home in secret. That would mean no leotards, so fancy hairstyles or make-up and if I have a nasty accident, I could just quietly call the ambulance in private instead of winding up in the local paper or even on the news! Physie Mum Breaks Neck…I can just see the headlines now!

I’m also not sure whether someone who uses a walking stick now can actually do physie. It does give a new slant on twirling the baton.

Perhaps, taking on physie is a bit beyond me…certainly at the moment when my muscle disease has flared up. Maybe, it’s okay to explain to my daughter that Mummy isn’t super human and I can’t do everything. Just like anybody else, there are things that I can do and things which I can’t. That’s no big deal but…

How can I tell my kids not only to have a go but to persevere at things when I won’t have a go myself? I’ve taken up the violin and practiced almost daily for the last six months initially to encourage our daughter. Provide an example. Show her how to persevere through the squeaks, playing two strings at the same time, and then being able to play beautiful music.

A few years ago, I reluctantly did a very basic Aussie Rules Football (AFL) coaching course to help our son with his AFL. Every year, they have the annual parents versus kids’ game at the end of season and I got way ahead of myself and the next thing I knew, one of the kids had tackled me. AFL was something I needed to watch from the sidelines.

I am open to possibility, trying new things, extending myself but…

I should just learn to say no. I really am too busy, over-extended and I really need to focus. As it is, I am being split in so many different directions that I don’t know where I’m going. No, I definitely do not have the time, mental space or energy for any new activities right now.

Besides, last night my husband suggested I learn the basics of the guitar to help our son with his guitar practice. Since I took up the violin to help our daughter, I feel I should support our son even if my husband is already helping him. He really seems quite keen and he may have found his thing. We have been looking for his thing and I really want to encourage him along. The thing is I just can’t get my head around the guitar with chords and things. I grew up playing piano and the guitar seems a very different beast. But I have decided to have a go. I’ll at least try to look like I understand what he’s talking about. I’ll get him to teach me. He’ll like that!!

I also wonder whether I am taking things too far. Just because my kids are interested something, that doesn’t mean I have to take it up as well. But I don’t like the idea of just being Mum’s taxi either. I’d prefer a much more interactive, proactive role…not just passive. I also want to be involved in their lives and do things together. Take an interest. That doesn’t mean, however, that I have to live their lives. Become them. I don’t have to take up their each and every interest just listen, observer and gently encourage.

I am also wondering whether suggesting physie was a serious suggestion or was it nothing more profound than wanting to spend more time with Mummy?

I might just ask her teacher about adult classes for beginners tomorrow. Meanwhile, I’m hoping our daughter will forget all about it and I might just get off the hook.

Being extended is all very good but nobody wants to snap!

Battery People

When you are outside the system, you can develop a different perspective.

That’s what’s happened with me and “work”.

Although I work in paid employment one to two days a week, I am definitely not part of the rat race. I only dip my little toe in the water.

This hasn’t been by choice but is the result of my numerous health problems as well as wanting to spend time with the kids. I also write quite furiously and that is a job in itself but at this point it is “unpaid” and as such “doesn’t count”. I also volunteer both at the school and on the Status of Women Committee at our local council. I am busy, work hard, am inspired and very motivated but largely operate outside the   9 to 5 grind.

I am also able to do this and have a roof over our heads because my husband plays “the rat”. He commutes one and a half hours each way on the train to Sydney every day. He also works one Sunday a month and is also on call. He puts in long hours at work and is also my carer.

All of this means that when it comes to work, I am more of an observer and outside the system.

So this is my question: why has work turned into such a religion for so many, many people? An obsession? The only source of meaningful fulfillment? I know for many it is sheer necessity but work certainly has a cult following. Why?

I understand the need to buy your own home. Provide well for your family and be able to indulge in a few niceties. Nobody wants to go without. We all need to put food on the table and be financially independent.

However, I’m not just talking about work itself here but more about attitude.How work is put up on such a mighty deis in our society, when it’s really just a means to an end.

Furthermore, this definition of all meaningful work as “paid work” is extremely narrow. It has nothing to do with being industrious, productive or innovative. It’s all about exchanging labour for money. For some reason, being paid somehow turns work into “work” with some kind of golden halo.

But is money the right yardstick for measuring fulfillment? The more you are paid, the more you contribute to our society. The more important you are.

Perhaps, we should ask Mother Theresa?

What I am seeing is actually a new form of slavery. That’s a strong word but how else can you accurately describe the 9 to 5 rat race especially when you consider that the 9 to 5 part of the equation has now spun out of control. So many are now leashed to work almost 24/7 via mobiles phones and email?

Is that your definition of fulfillment?

A lot of my friends have chickens at home. They insist their chickens roam free range. The chickens have to be free but what about people? What are we doing to ourselves? Are we the next generation of battery hens locking ourselves up in our cubicles at work?

We don’t want to admit to it but there’s more than just a bit of truth, isn’t there?!!

When was the last time you went for a stroll along the beach? Fed the ducks? Smelt the roses? Do you even know whether the sun is actually shining outside or even on the inside? How in tune are you with your own emotions?

Do you even know your own children, your partner or even yourself?

Or do you know your job like the back of your own hand?

Work can be so comfortable like an old, worn pair of jeans. Work is often so much easier to fathom than people. We usually know what we’re doing which is certainly much easier than managing relationships.

I’m not saying I have all the answers but I’m certainly asking a lot of questions.

It has taken me a long, long time to reach this point where I’m no longer dependent on paid work for my self-esteem, identity, sense of belonging and feeling essentially “human”.

I literally had grief counseling when I had brain surgery 15 years ago. I was told I was a “human being, not a human doing”” As much as that all sounded great at the time, it didn’t change how I saw myself. Who I was to myself as a person and that was not only as a working person but as a professional, a career woman, an achiever. I certainly didn’t relate to this new person in a tracksuit and sneakers being driven to and from rehab appointments by her mum. I was 28 years old. Why would I? I was a free and independent woman. I’d just been living on the other side of the country. I’d live overseas. I was well and truly my own person. I really grieved for that person and felt such an intensely painful sense of loss. For awhile there where I didn’t know whether I would ever regain some semblance of a “normal” life back, I felt like I had died and this shell, my body, had just gone on living. I didn’t relate to this new me at all.

It is true what they say about how time heals. Certainly, I recovered almost fully form the brain surgery and went back to work. Met and married my husband. Had kids. Picked up another rare and life threatening medical condition. Life goes on.

Through all of this, I slowly came to realise that work wasn’t everything and that I was still essentially me whether I worked or not.

Fortunately, I got into photography. This not only got me out of the house. It gave me a new and perhaps even more exciting identity. I was no longer the “invalid”. I somehow became a photographer. People were much more interested in talking about photography than work anyway. I had been working with marketing databases and really that was very boring and not me anyway.

Fast-forwarding just a little and getting back to the here and now, even though most of my work is unpaid at the moment, I can also get just as lost in my work as the next person. I write poetry, songs and stories while having breakfast with the kids and switch off and go into the zone. I can chat and chat and chat to my friends instead of focusing on the kids at times as well. I can also place myself in a stranger’s shoes and sometimes “understand” them better than my own family or close friends. That doesn’t make any sense to me either but it happens. I struggle to get the basics done and yet write, paint and play my violin. I can’t remember the last time I went to the beach even though it’s only metres away although I do indulge in a hot chocolate and a chat with my friend in at the boutique at least one morning a week. It’s also been a long time since I last fed the ducks.

I do put in a lot of time with the kids but like anyone I could always do more…but I could also do less. Moreover, it’s not just about doing either. It’s about love and being there. That is as much a spiritual connection as it is physical. You know when you are loved. Well, maybe not. Things do get lost in the translation. Love is a lot more complicated and tricky than any of us ever believed possible when we walked down the aisle to “Here Comes the bride” or gave birth to our beloved offspring.

I remember what my GP told me not long after our son was born. It’s about being a good enough parent… not the perfect parent. This applies to your spouse as well. As much as we’d all like to be perfect and I am really, really hard on myself at times, I have to remind myself that good enough is sufficient. I don’t have to be Supermum or Superwife… just me in all my quirky, technicolour glory. Most of the time, I can’t pull off being somebody else anyway. I trip over both feet and land face first in the mud.

So many of us are really struggling to find a meaningful work life balance whether that is in paid or unpaid work. But no matter who we are and what we do, we all need downtime and the opportunity to be free range or we risk becoming battery human beings. I ask you whether any amount of money or status is really worth selling your soul?

Lastly, we all need to respect anybody and everybody in unpaid work. We are all equal . Whether we are paid or unpaid for our labour, doesn’t reflect our character, our values or our contribution to our family, our community or the environment.

I would particularly like to elevate mothers who generally make many, many sacrifices not only to bring up their own children but also to volunteer and contribute to the community even through doing the reading at school or helping out on canteen. Many are doing this in addition to some form of paid work. Yet so often, I hear people putting mothers down. It really is a disgrace. Without our mothers, we wouldn’t have no people anymore.

I would also like to note that I do feel this post was somewhat “inspired”. I wrote it this morning in one go after breakfast and it’s barely been edited. I thought it should pretty much be read as is and readers could make their own conclusions and comments.

PS. You won’t believe this. Speaking of being inspired, after just writing about taking time out to feed the ducks, my husband was just putting out the garbage and called me out the front. There was a pair of wild ducks at our front door. It was all a bit freaky to be honest. I write about feeding the ducks and then there they are like a home delivery service. We have lived in this house for over 12 years and I can’t remember ever seeing ducks here before. It’s all a bit freaky if you ask me!

Taking time out to feed the ducks.

If any of you are familiar with the work of writer and cartoonist Michael Leunig,  he often incorporates a duck into his work. I think he even has a rather quirky duck with a teapot on its head. This moment seemed very Leunigesque. It is after all 10.00 o’clock at night. What were they doing here? Were they looking for a bit of a last minute takeaway snack?

Yes, I fed the ducks a bit of bread and the dog is currently doing circuits round the lounge. Somehow, I don’t think he is looking for friendship.

Good night and best wishes,


You can visit Michael Leunig at

PS After having the ducks turn up last night, I ended up with even more serendipity today. A friend called up needing some scenic beach photos so I actually ended up walking along the beach in the sun with my camera. I have had quite a stressful morning with our son and that was exactly what I needed.

Self-portrait at the beach… another touch of serendipity.

Overcoming Life’s Hurdles…A Tribute to Olympic Champion -Sally Pearson

I have a new hero. This morning, I watched Australian athlete, Sally Pearson, take out the gold medal in the 100m Hurdles at the London Olympics. It was awesome!

Sally Pearson is my kind of athlete. She shares my weakness for the mighty Tim Tam but obviously doesn’t let a packet of so of the things get in the way of her Olympic dream. I bet she can even stop at one. I can too, you know!

Not being into sport, I haven’t watched much of the Olympics. Moreover, I usually cringe at the thought of sporting heroes. Just because someone is good at sport, it doesn’t mean they have integrity, character or the sort of values that should denote a hero. However, I’m open-minded. Being a sports person shouldn’t disqualify them either.

I had no intention of getting into the Olympics. I loved Sydney 2000, attended a few events and even had my photo taken with the Olympic torch. Like everybody else, I was also running around everywhere chanting: “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie! Oi! Oi! Oi!” like a complete lunatic but that was then and this is now. The Olympics are over there…in London…literally on the other side of the world. Bu­­t you know what it’s like when you have kids. You get drawn into things. My daughter’s class was following Sally’s Olympic journey and I was sort of pulled into the slip stream. So in between painting the Olympic rings and the Olympic torch, the kids and I started jumping to attention every time Sally Pearson’s name was mentioned on TV.

To be perfectly honest, I hadn’t really heard of Sally Pearson before the Olympics but what I started out as an educational experience for my daughter, has became a motivating and insightful moment for myself.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m having a bit of a rough time fighting my auto-immune disease at the moment. I dodged a bullet on Monday when even my specialist thought he was going to be admitting me. I’d even taken my pyjamas and toothbrush with me (haven’t done that before) but went home a free woman instead.

I am still on 50mg a day of prednisone and that is unsustainable but survivable short term. It’s a bit of a roller coaster ride emotionally speaking but creatively, I’m on fire doing some amazing stuff. Being a creative soul, I could almost say it’s been worth it but the stress has been phenomenal and it’s been really hard on our family. That kind of stress is to be avoided literally at all costs!

I have also picked up a nasty viral infection and I’m coughing my lungs out all night. Every night, I am hovering on the edge of calling the ambulance but somehow manage to make it through the night.

So you can see how I might be needing a hero at the moment!

Sally Pearson inspires me for a number of reasons.

Firstly, I like somebody who can jump over hurdles at great speed and win. After all, jumping hurdles takes guts. I remember doing hurdles at school and feeling rather defeated before I even got started. Those hurdles looked huge, enormous. It was like trying to jump over a tower. I know I baulked at them. Moreover, I’m sure I thought I was going kill myself if I actually hit the hurdle. I’ve always been a drama queen.

When it comes to jumping life’s hurdles, I’m not always quick off the mark either. Just do it, Ro! Get on with it. The more you procrastinate, the worse it gets! The more you gaze at the mountain, the higher it gets. We all know that but it’s another thing to actually do it.

Sally Pearson conquered the hurdles at speed, seemingly without a second thought. However, I’m sure her brain was processing things at a thousand miles an hour. Even a gold medal athlete doesn’t conquer hurdles without a lot of mental and physical processing! She just made it look so easy!!

Secondly, Sally Pearson won gold in the rain. If you live in a country where it rains or drizzles a lot that might not mean much to you but around these parts, things come to a grinding halt when it rains. My Mum was allowed to stay home from school when it rained when she was a kid. Sally won in the rain. She didn’t let it get her down. She didn’t stop. She got out there and she won gold…the ultimate reward.

I can do it too. Don’t let the rain stand between me and my dreams. Get on with it!!

Thirdly, Sally won by .02 of a second. Initially, I thought about that being an insight into how you need that competitive edge to win. It was such a tight, tight margin. Then, I saw another way of looking at it. You only need to be a very small step ahead of your adversary. I have always seen my auto-immune disease as a separate entity code-named “Dermie” and when things get bad, he’s like a malevolent creeping, lurking shadow… a stalker.  It’s never been part of me or who I am as a person.

Now, I only need to be .02 of a second ahead of Dermie to win! That sounds so much more achievable. I can do it but I know I’m in for the long haul and I will need to have the commitment, dedication and focus of a gold medal athlete to win the race. There is no room for complacency, defeat or turning my back on my foe. I need to fight for my life before my life depends on it! We all face this fight. It isn’t a glamorous journey. There will be no gold medal accolades but I just want to see my kids grow up and to be well enough to enjoy it. I also want my husband to have his wife and my parents to have their daughter. That seems like such a small request and it is I hope, quite achievable but it will be a fight.

As I said, this is a battle we are all waging. The distinction is that I am conscious of my battle. Most of us are quite oblivious. I know I was.

Sally was also competing under incredible pressure with the entire world watching her…so many fans willing her to win but there are always those wanting to see the tall poppy fall. She won gold under all that pressure and she didn’t crumple. She won gold…not just for jumping those physical hurdles but all those mental, metaphorical hurdles as well.

I have just watched an inspirational interview with Sally Pearson. I really felt I was running the race inside her head, inside her heart. Seeing things how she saw them. It was so amazing and such an encouragement now that I’ve decided to take inspiration from her success. There were a few quotes I liked: “Nothing hurts at the moment. I’m walking on a cloud”, “they almost got me but they didn’t”. “You have to push yourself to limits.” “All I could see was the yellow of Australia”, “You’ve done this a hundred times before. Get out there and do your thing.”

I’ve also Googled Sally and found an insightful interview. Sally hasn’t had the easy life and has fought against adversity. She’s been independent and has always been a fighter. That was very encouraging too. That ironically adversity can fuel your success, instead of just bringing you down. It reminds me of a quote by Australian photography sensation Ken Duncan which I stuck on my whiteboard last week:

Stumbling blocks are stepping stones to victory.

You can read the interview here:

So congratulations Sally Pearson. You’ve won a gold medal on and off the track. You’re simply the best!…along with Olympic cyclist Anna Meares.

Anna’s story is also inspirational but that’s someone else’s story to tell. Suffice to say that Anna Meares made an astonishing come back from a very bad cycling accident at the World Cup in January 2008 when she broke her neck. It is just amazing to think that you can break your neck and then go on to win Olympic gold. Another incredible inspiration!

I hope these stories encourage you to jump your hurdles whatever they might be. They’ve certainly inspired me!

xx Rowena

You Can Count on Me…when a bird flew into my house.

And within myself I’ve heard
day and night
in the company of countless birds
a homeless bird speeding through light and dark
from one unknown shore to yet another.
On cosmic wings a refrain echoes through space:
‘Not here, no, but somewhere, somewhere else!’

TagoreHomeless Bird

“Mummy! Mummy! Come quickly!” Mister pleads skidding into the kitchen a mini-cyclone of raw energy. His arms and legs are flapping all over the place and he is either about to take flight or fall over both feet.

Something has captured his attention. That’s hardly unusual and I barely look up from my breakfast. Mister is an excitable, enthusiastic seven year old boy. He is always running or rushing somewhere.  Usually, he’s chasing lizards and he is pretty good at catching them too. They’re then shut into old Chinese containers and taken off to school for news and hopefully released. At the moment, he is madly pursuing White Cabbage Butterflies, chasing them all around the garden with his butterfly net. I reach out and try to stop him but the juggernaut just ploughs on and now I’m just trying to keep him away from the road. He doesn’t seem to care where he’s going.

Mister is still in his pyjamas even though he knows full well that he has to get dressed before he can play. He is also barefoot, even though he knows he’s not allowed outside without his shoes on. The back lawn is carpeted with jacaranda flowers at the moment no doubt buzzing with bees. He could get stung but possibilities and warnings won’t stop him. The  juggernaut will have to learn the hard way.

I suppose I should be putting something into time out but that hasn’t crossed my mind. I haven’t woken up yet.

It’s Monday morning and I’m slumped over the table like a sack of old potatoes. My Weetbix is stone cold and hardly inspirational and would really make great cement. My coffee, which is never strong enough, hasn’t percolated through yet.

“Mummy’s lost in space again,” Miss giggles. She’s about to shine a torch in my eyes… “Mummy! Mummy!”… No response. “Time of death…”

I don’t know where I am. I’m not up in space as in watching stars and planets or anywhere beyond the sky. It’s difficult to explain but I am somehow lost in the space just beyond my nose.

More coffee required.

“Mummy!” Mister repeats emphatically. He grabs hold of my arm and tugs hard almost jolting me out of my chair. “Mummy! Come on!” There is a real urgency in his voice…  a desperation. He is puffing, short of breath. However, he is just a little prone to exaggeration and I’m not quite sure whether I really need to move or not.

“Mummy! There’s a bird in the house and it’s stuck. Mummy, we’ve got to save it! Come on!”

Miss is dust.  She’s off to help… any excuse not to eat her breakfast!

Meanwhile, I am still motionless. Frozen to my seat, I can’t move.

“There is a bird in the house,” I gasp!

I can feel its wings flapping all around me… flapping in my face, in my eyes…. flapping, flapping, flapping. I can hear the bird from here. Its wings are beating against the glass desperately flapping, trying to get out. I have no compassion or empathy whatsoever for the poor stricken bird who can’t understand why it can’t fly through the glass. Instead, I feel like I’m about to die any minute myself if that damn bird doesn’t get out of my house! My entire body has turned to jelly wibbley wobbilly jelly with no spine whatsoever.

“Mummy! Come on!” I’m sure it’s only been a couple of seconds but for the kids, it’s the usually eternity and Mister is particularly persistent.

“Hurry up, Mummy! The bird is going to die!” He shrieks.

Miss joins in. “Mummy! Come on! We’ve got to save the bird!” she pleads in her wee, irresistible voice. Her big blue eyes are swelling with tears and her whole body is starting to quiver.  “It’s going to die!”She is now quite overwrought.

“Shit!” I think to myself. “Shit! Shit! Shit!”

“I’ll get it out!” Mister says matter-of-factly, taking matters into his own hands. He marches out the front with this look of focused determination. All of his senses are switched onto red alert. A man of action, he is going to do whatever it takes to save the bird. I mean whatever it takes and that’s what concerns me most. Any boy small enough to still call me Mummy, is usually more dangerous than useful in a crisis.

Mister returns with his stick….a little boy’s solution to almost any crisis. This isn’t good. I picture him poking the poor, exhausted bird with the stick, ever so kindly plunging the stick through its brain.

“I know what to do!” He is so confident and so sure of himself… full of boyish exuberance. He is trying to get the bird to jump onto the stick and use it as a perch but I don’t get it. I’m in too much of a flap myself. I just want the stick out of here before disaster strikes.

I still haven’t actually seen the bird. I can’t look but I can hear it. Feel its distress….the panic. It is absolutely petrified.

Miss grabs my hand and drags me towards the bird. She has such faith in me. I am MM… Mighty Mummy! I can do anything! I am fearless. Unstoppable. Incredible. I can almost leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Her faith is so misguided but how do I explain to her that big people, the people you trust with your very life, are also afraid? I’m supposed to be the strong one, tough, infallible. Do I dare admit that I’m weak too? That my feet are made of clay? Or that Mummy, even Mummy, could indeed be human?

I feel so incredibly small, such a little girl. I wish my dad was here and he could just come and take care of it all. I don’t want to be brave or have a personal growth experience. I just want to disappear. My legs are like jelly and I’m on the brink of collapse.  I am gripped by some very deep, very dark primeval fear. Fear so deep that it wraps its tentacles around me and drags me deep beneath the surface. I’m drowning in the darkness and I can’t breathe. There is no escape.

Things are really heating up around here!

I soon forget all my motivational talks to the kids about overcoming their fears. I forget all about daring Miss to climb to the top of the tower when she was paralysed halfway.  There is just this constant mantra repeating in my head “No! No! No! No! No!” It won’t budge.

But…but…I love birds and all living things. I want to help. I want to be the good Samaritan not the person who looks away, walks past and doesn’t give a damn. I want to make a difference. So many times, I have been the broken bird myself, dependent on someone else to save me and here I am powerless to act. Pathetic!

I take a deep breath and try to change the broken record in my head.

“I think I can. I think I can.” I take another deep breath and picture myself as my Dad grabbing a towel and taking action…  getting the bird out successfully and saving its life. I want to be the life saver, the hero….a winner, not a loser!

“Mister, put the stick down. Kids, please stand back. You need to be really quiet. We don’t want to frighten the bird.” I take a deep breath and muster all my strength and take charge of the situation. I am Dad. I can do it. (Deep breath!)  I grab an old towel and edge my way towards the bird. This is the first time I actually see the bird. It is still flapping it wings impotently and seems quite stuck between the chest of drawers and the glass sliding door. Armed with the towel, I plan to grab the bird and take it outside. It’s such a simple manoeuvre. I’ve seen Dad pull it off a number of times. Nothing to it! I try not to think about the bird wriggling and flapping in my hands… all that squirming. I try not to think of it escaping and flying around the room unable to be caught and flapping all over the place.  I am trying to be so strong and not catastophise this dire situation any further but I don’t like it. I wish Dad was here to take care of it! I feel so small and powerless just like a little girl.

But I have grown up and now I’m the one in charge…

I’m holding the towel. I brace myself and swoop down onto the bird. It resists all my rescue efforts, squarks and plunges from trapped to deeply trapped. It’s now firmly wedged in position and can barely move its wings at all. It twists and contorts its head and I’m concerned it’s going to break its neck and kill itself.

The kids are still hovering beside me. I am trying to keep everybody calm and perfectly still and a good arm’s length away from the bird when the dog barges in and the sliding door almost runs over the bird. The dog was the last distraction I needed. Being a sheep dog, it’s not his fault he’s been genetically pre-programmed to chase and kill but I don’t need him on the rampage right now!

I shut the dog out.

I tell the children to stand back.

Mummy is in charge…heaven help the poor bird. It doesn’t stand a chance.

I am thinking…thinking…!

I am thinking about all my ideas about community… people being there and supporting each other. So often I am the one being rescued and just this once I’d like to help! I feel this huge enormous inner tension like two armies running towards each other locked in heavy combat… love versus fear. I absolutely believe in caring for one’s fellow man, even if it is a bird. I love and often quote that phrase about how it takes a community to raise a child. Everybody has to do their bit. This is my bit. My challenge. My hurdle but I just can’t do it. I feel myself stretched and torn. Stretched and torn. If I do nothing, the bird is probably going to die.

It’s quite ironic. We have a worm farm and I’m doing my best to save the Earth and yet I can’t even save a bird just because it flaps! This isn’t what I stand for. It’s not what I’m about. I’m a rescuer…the ambulance driver…not a murderer! I don’t believe in guns and yet my neglect…it’s pulling the bloody trigger.

Despite my best intentions, however, I’m getting nowhere. Time to call in for reinforcements. There are times when it’s okay for even the most independent and strong-minded of women to admit she actually needs a man. Not that I’m fussy. It doesn’t have to be a man.  I just need someone, anyone, with just a little more courage than myself and is old enough to use it wisely.

I try to reach my husband, Geoff on the mobile. But it just goes through to voicemail. The train would have to be going through a tunnel right when we need him!

Then, I remember my friend Bill. He’s a single Dad and just lives a block or so away. Bill is always offering to help but I like to save these offers for the “Big Emergency”. I decided this was it. I needed help. I mention calling Bill to the kids and while I’m looking for his number Mister already has him on the phone. Bill must feel like he’s entered the twilight zone with Mister talking about the bird stuck in the house. It’s barely after 8 o’clock and if his son isn’t over, I’m sure he’s asleep. I try to grab the phone. Mister keeps talking. I finally manage to snatch it away.

“Bill!”I plead. “Help!”

Bill apologises profusely but his son his sick. He can’t leave the house.

Bill then asks me what type of bird it was. I’m not sure. I‘ve been trying not to look at it.  But there was definitely some yellow on its face and I suggest it’s a Noisy Minor. Bill wasn’t exactly encouraging: “There are way too many of those damn things already. You should just squash it. Do the world a favour.”

I wasn’t a fan of Noisy Minors either but I couldn’t just let it die! A bird is a bird…a life… something so precious … even if it is a pest.

Bill doesn’t come to the rescue.

I wonder whether WIRES would save a Noisy Minor or whether they just saved native birds.

Mister suggests the vet.

I just see dollar signs and try to think of something else.

That’s when I notice the clock. I’d forgotten all about getting the kids to school.

The bird drama has totally sabotaged our entire morning “routine”. My friend is due to pick up the kids in five minutes. Mister is still in his pyjamas. Miss has barely touched her breakfast and I need to make the lunches.

“Mister you need to get dressed. You have two minutes”.

I quickly throw their lunches together totally unable to think about anything except the bird. I am now less sympathetic. Pissed off that the bird had to have its crisis in my house not somewhere out in the bush where I didn’t have to get involved.

I rebuke myself. This is what community involvement is all about. It isn’t always convenient or comfortable.  You get intrusions. Have to go out of your way. Step beyond your comfort zone.

All these ideals are quite beyond me at the moment. I’d much rather be alone on a deserted island – especially an island without any birds as much as I love them from a distance!

My friend pulls up to take the kids to school. She sits so calmly in her four-wheel drive…such a picture of serenity while Mister’s still running all over the place trying to save the bird. He clearly doesn’t want to leave before the crisis has been resolved. I push him into the car and close the door. Shame he wasn’t just a little bit older. He would have saved the bird by now and spared me all this angst!

I know my friend has her own dramas but I can’t help feeling that our dramas are of quite a different magnitude.

Last week, while the dog was chasing his tennis ball, he actually managed to get his head stuck in between the back steps. It was wedged in with barely a centimetre free and he was banging and bashing his head around trying to get it out with brute force. This time, I managed stay quite calm and collected and actually managed to be useful. I reassured the dog, amidst all the kids’ screams and tears, and managed to get his head out the same way it went in.  A few weeks ago, Miss had managed to get her skinny little arm stuck in the huge glass sliding doors at the RSL club. That was after an “All You Can Eat” lunch and she was still wafer thin afterwards, squeezing into the smallest of gaps she should never have fitted into.

The bird fits in well here. It doesn’t just fly into the house and do circuits round the room like a normal bird. Oh no! It had come in here and get stuck. Do something different just like everybody else! Amen!

Weird stuff always happens to us.

My mother always says we were born under an unlucky star.

I just think we come from a different planet.

I wave goodbye to the kids and the car takes off.

Now, it’s just me and the bird… and the dog!

Responsibility….so far I’ve just blamed myself for this mess but what about the bird? Did I invite the bird inside? Is it my fault? Oh no! Of course not! The bird got itself into this mess. It had nothing to do with me. If this had happened somewhere out there in the bush, the bird would have had to save itself. Save itself… or die! Perhaps, I should just ignore it.

But I just can’t turn my back. I am the Good Samaritan. I will not walk past. But I can’t move either. My fear is so intense that I can’t even step inside the room anymore. I am so afraid. I can hear the poor bird flapping….still flapping! I tell myself it could be one of the kids but it’s useless. My kids don’t have wings.  They don’t flap. I’d be happy to save them.

I think about helping people. I think about how much I love birds. I think about how I’ve longed to be a bird flying through the sky and experiencing the exhilaration of flight. Not this bird feeling trapped, tortured and so afraid.

The bird is still fighting. Its will to live is so strong, all-consuming. It will not give up! I glance at it again. So twisted, in such agony!  I can’t bring myself to look anymore.

I try once again to reach my husband on the mobile. He’s on the train and must almost be at work by now. He’s too far away to come home but he’s a great problem-solver. He’d know what to do.

Once again the phone goes through to voicemail.

I am on my own.

I am now starting to think that the bird will just have to die in there. I tried. There’s nothing more I could do.  Yet, the prospect of having a dead bird in the house doesn’t thrill me either. I hate dead things. I remember when my goldfish died as a kid. Dad had to fish it out and bury it. I couldn’t even look at it.

I haven’t got any better. It’s not that I’m unfeeling or insensitive. More the opposite. I’m completely overwrought.

But somehow, I couldn’t just give up on the bird either. I didn’t want the bird to die. I didn’t want to be the one who had turned her back too gutless to act. I didn’t want to let my fear, my silly, petty fear cost the bird its life. I didn’t think about its family or friends and how they would feel if the bird never came home but I should have.

I couldn’t give up. I had to find someone. Anyone!

That’s when George, my neighbour across the road, pottered outside to water his plants. He had no idea what he was stepping into. I didn’t give him a chance to say no. George was the man… the rescuer…the knight in shining armour.  He had to act whether he liked it or not. Now, the bird’s fate rested on his mighty shoulders and I was off the hook!

George wasn’t bothered by the bird. However, however, there was the matter of my dog…

Bilbo who normally lounges round the house like a somnolent floor rug, hates George. He just needs to open his front door all the way across the street, for Bilbo to go ballistic barking furiously and gnashing his teeth. I don’t know what goes through Bilbo’s head but he definitely has it in for George and George has every reason to be “afraid” of the dog.

George gingerly inched his way inside while Bilbo was still locked out and the bird remained trapped.

George very logically points out that we can’t get the bird out while with the door shut. I should have thought of that myself but I’m not good with practicalities! He tells me to take Bilbo through to the front of the house and to shut him out there and then we open the back door. Good thinking 99!

Strangely, Bilbo didn’t bark at the bird and he didn’t bark at George either. Instead, he dropped his ball at the back door hoping George will throw it for him. I admire his optimism. Bilbo never gives up!

The bird is looking better now and has almost managed to free itself. I can now see that it’s some sort of Honey-Eater, not a Noisy Minor after all. However, this new found identity doesn’t change how I feel about the bird. I am still petrified and I’m still trying to save its life.

We open the sliding door in anticipation and I hand George the towel. Instead of grabbing the bird, the bird flies off. Instead of doing the logical thing and flying outside, it starts flying around the room…round and around and around in a mad flapping frenzy. I am going absolutely out of my mind!

It was bad enough when the bird was stuck in but free-range is so much worse. I’m suddenly having flashbacks. I’m in famous Dam Square in Amsterdam being dive bombed by swarms of pigeons. Yes, I know I bought the pigeon food and I fed them but I was so unprepared for the aftermath… all those flapping wings descending on me… squadron after squadron. In a scene straight out of Alfred Hitchcock’s horror classic:  The Birds, I could barely move let alone breathe.

This one bird has now multiplied into something quite beyond description but I’m not catastrophising at all. This is a complete catastrophy!

The bird, who I forget is probably more terrified than I and also rather exhausted after its ordeal, flies into my laundry basket. I am excited. Jubilant! The end is finally in site.  Now, we just need to throw the towel over the basket and take it outside… Simple Simon.

But George has other ideas. He encourages the bird to fly outside unaided. After all it does have wings. It can actually save itself now.

At last, the bird flies straight out the door and is gone!

Gone! Problem solved.

But I wasn’t so sure. Was it really okay? It had been fighting for its life for over an hour. Did it need help or was it okay flying back outside into the wild?

I didn’t find out. I didn’t want to find its tiny body lying in the grass. The bird just had to be fine.

I’m still in shock… emotionally crippled, shattered, barely standing up at all. The terror is still stuck to me like a second skin, a parasite, it’s roots penetrating deep into my being. I can’t just pry it off and return to any state approaching “normal”. It takes a good hour before I can go anywhere near the crime scene again.

Instead, I return to the safety of the kitchen and make myself a good cup of tea – Twinings English Breakfast in my Royal Albert Old Country Roses tea cup. I also grab a Tim Tam …. my solution to just about any crisis!

Geoff finally checks his voicemail and calls back.

“You should have shut the blinds,” He says. “Opened the door and just let it find its own way out,” he says. “Imagine how you’d feel with this great big beast hovering over the top of you?!! It was probably trying to get away from YOU!”

I laughed. I actually managed to laugh. “I’d never thought of that. I was too busy trying to save it!”

Soon, my mind starts drifting out the window again. A light breeze is dancing through the Jacaranda tree. Its purple flowers nod up and down, falling like snow and carpeting the ground underneath. I smile. The white butterflies are now fluttering around the garden in peace – without a little boy and his butterfly net chasing them out of existence! They’re looking for somewhere to lay their eggs…  no doubt, someone’s much-prized veggie patch. Just what some poor green thumb needs… more very hungry little caterpillars!

Such is life…