Monthly Archives: April 2013

Our ANZAC Pilgrimage

Yesterday, we commemorated ANZAC Day. While there were public commemorations right around the country, we went on more of a personal journey.

Unfortunately, our journey didn’t take us back to ANZAC Cove in any literal sense. I wasn’t in modern day Gallipoli to attend the Dawn Service and we didn’t even make it to our local Dawn Service.

In fact, I spent the entire day in my pyjamas and didn’t even leave the house. Yet, contrary to appearances, this wasn’t a sign of disrespect. I was simply following the road less travelled.

ANZAC BIscuits

ANZAC Biscuits

This ANZAC Day began pretty much like most ANZAC Days in our house, watching the March on TV. However,  baking the ANZAC Biscuits had to wait until dinner time because I was on the Internet researching, or should I say, connecting with our past finding out about our family’s war service history.

This was an interesting journey where I was exploring and getting to know Geoff’s family who all come from rural Tasmania.

I don’t know when you can claim someone as family. There’s blood but there is also connection, spending time together, anecdotes, memories, a sense of shared history.

Unfortunately when it comes to experiencing much of Geoff’s extended family, we sadly missed out. Geoff’s Dad passed away when he was in high school and his father’s mother died when his Dad was only 9 years old…a young boy. Anyway, this has understandably left some gaps. There are people we are closely related to but we simply don’t know them.

That doesn’t mean, however, that their stories aren’t our stories.

We just haven’t found out about them yet.

Like most journeys, ours began with the familiar and then branched out and literally galloped off into the great unknown.

The acorn among the poppies.

The acorn among the poppies.

Last year, we visited the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and paid our respects to Geoff’s Great Uncle Robert Ralph French, known as Uncle Ralph. Uncle Ralph was on Geoff’s Mum’s side of the family so Geoff grew up hearing bits of his story. Uncle Ralph, who had been a school teacher in Zeehan in Tasmania, was Killed in Action on the 4 September 1918 at Mont St Quentin, France and was buried in the Military Cemertery, Feuilleres. He was just an average, ordinary bloke who went to serve his country and didn’t come home. The kids had found some acorns in the grounds of the War Memorial and they actually left an acorn behind for Uncle Ralph as well as the more conventional red poppy. I thought that was quite appropriate because Uncle Ralph was a bit like the acorn. He died before he was able to reach his potential. We are lucky that we have some insight into Uncle Ralph’s experiences because we have a scanned copy of a photocopy of his journal. I have read a few pages and must get back to it. I have been meaning to type it up sometime.

Uncle Ralph didn’t have any children but Geoff’s Nanna certainly never forgot her much-loved brother and she also went on to have two sons serving in World War II. They both returned home but she also had two nephews who served and at least one of them was Killed in Action. Geoff said: “The fear in her heart must have been enormous having already lost a brother and a nephew and then to have her two sons heading into battle.”

I never met Nanna but she was pretty resilient. I don’t know whether she saw herself as “lucky” after the war because many mothers did indeed lose a son or even sons but she was certainly one who carried on. She had carried on through two world wars and the Great Depression where she’d supported six children on rabbits and the butter sold from their precious cow, which supplemented her husband’s wages as a builder. I can’t imagine a lot of building going on during the Depression. Times were very hard.

Nanna didn’t know that he two precious sons would eventually come home and that she would actually be among the “lucky ones”. That’s the great power of hindsight.

Anyway, as I filled Geoff in about Uncle Ralph, he asked me about his other grandmother’s family. Molly was one of 13 children and living in rural Tasmania, Geoff was pretty sure someone would have served.

Uncle Jim

Uncle Jim

It was then that I found Geoff’s Great Uncle Jim. It turned out that I’d already noted Uncle Jim’s war service but I think I’d looked into all of this before we were married and certainly before the kids came along. Also, I don’t think all this information was available online before. I’m pretty sure you had to go to the Australian War Memorial in Canberra to look things up and that was just too difficult. We often forget how difficult research was before the Internet.

I now feel a bit funny bowling up to Uncle Jim and claiming him as family when we’ve never met but he was Geoff’s grandmother’s brother. That’s a close family connection. We just never had the chance to meet. Well, Geoff thinks he might have met Uncle Jim. He certainly knew some of the other Griffins.

Anyway, yesterday…our ANZAC Day…ended up on a totally different tangent.

We introduced ourselves to Great Uncle Jim.

Our search for Uncle Jim began with a Google search for the Griffin surname. This brought me to a fantastic website which shows photographs of Tasmanian service personnel and along with a brief bio. This is where I found Uncle Jim. In fact, I didn’t even know that he was family when I found him. He was a Major and he received a Bronze Cross. This was interesting.

This is when I put on my detective hat and the search really accelerated.

As I said before, searching these days is so much easier than it used to be. You can access records with a couple of simple clicks.

I found out that he served with the 3rd Australian Light Horse Regiment and within seconds, I was reading the text from his medal commendation:

For conspicuous gallantry and skill in leading his troops during the action in front of Beersheba on the 31st Oct 1917. He repeatedly led his troops forward under heavy machine gun and rifle fire and gave covering first which enabled his squadron to advance across exposed ground. His personal courage was a fine example to his men and his skill in choosing best positions for covering first was largely responsible for the squadron’s process during action.

Outside the Bible, Beersheba meant nothing to me but when I showed Geoff, he became quite emotional. Uncle Jack had been part of the Battle of Beersheba, which was apparently the last successful cavalry charge in history. Australian wartime history is dominated by Gallipoli and yet the Battle of Beersheba is an almost forgotten tale of Australian heroism and success. It was a turning point. Uncle Jim, it seems, made a significant contribution to the success. I was so proud.

Charge of lighthorse at Beersheba

We also found out that Uncle Jim served in Gallipoli but haven’t had time to explore that further. I spent hours researching Uncle Jim yesterday and realise that it’s going to be a long process. He also served in World War II.

Uncle Jim’s brother, Daniel, also served but I haven’t had a chance to get to him yet. Even online, research takes time especially if you’re like me and really want to walk in their shoes. You need to find out exactly where those shoes have been. What those eyes have seen and that takes along of work.

Ultimately, I would like to put some kind of book together for our kids about members of our family who served in the wars. I want them to pay their respects. Know their own history.

I would also like the kids to know something about how these men fared when they returned home. That the war didn’t just end with the armistice. In some, perhaps, many cases the war raged on long after men returned home both in terms of permanent physical injury but also in terms of the psychological effects. War Veteran and Actor Bud Tingle touched on this when we said: “we found ourselves changed forever.” I am quite conscious that some wives and children lived what you could call a domestic war or battle as these husbands and fathers struggled to adjust to the home front. I don’t know how anyone survives the horrors of war and then goes home and supposedly leads a normal life. I have heard the story of a woman married to a returned serviceman who said it was the wife’s job to help the men settle back into home life but in her case, her husband had seen too much and I’m not really sure what, if any, treatment her husband received. Psychologists weren’t on every street corner back in 1945.

But there was the pub…

It seems to me that at least in terms of the public arena, these family matters have been hushed and silenced. We value and appreciate the sacrifices our war heroes have made. The sacrifices they made for our country and for global freedom. We don’t want to tarnish their memories by raising the negatives but at the same time, these wives and children are survivors and casualties of war and their stories deserve to be told and understood. Their wounds need to be loved and treated so they can become whole. Sure, not all families went through this and perhaps those who did have moved on but there is always a but… a small, quiet voice which longs to be heard and just acknowledged. To that small voice and to the women and children who have paid an ongoing price for our global wars, I say sorry and I also thank you for your sacrifice. I haven’t shared your experience but I’ve tried to understand.

Lest we forget.

xx Rowena


ANZAC Biscuits

Today is ANZAC Day.

Although ANZAC stands for Australia New Zealand Army Corps, it has become a word in its own right and has even become a biscuit.

ANZAC Day is held on the 25th April and commemorates the landing of Australian and New Zealand troops in Gallipoli in 1915.

Today, my daughter and I did what Australians have been doing on ANZAC Day ever since the the First World War…we baked ANZAC Biscuits together.

I have been baking ANZAC Biscuits on ANZAC Day since I was a little girl and I still remember my wonder when we mixed the bi-carb of soda and water together and it all frothed up. It was like magic. Wow!

When my son was smaller, we made ANZAC Biscuits together. For some reason he used to call oats “notes” and so these became “Note Biscuits”, which sounded incredibly cute. It still makes me chuckle.

Today, I made the ANZACs with my 7 year old daughter. Where we’d usually make them for morning tea and eat them while watching the march on TV, today we made them at dinner time and had them for dessert. I had spent much of today researching family members’ war time service and had some truly amazing discoveries which pretty much kept me occupied for the day. That will be a separate post.

Miss stirring the ANZACS. We spent the day in our pyjamas.

Miss stirring the ANZACs. We spent the day in our pyjamas.

When you read about me baking ANZAC Biscuits with my daughter, it sounds like one of those really sicky-sweet mother-daughter moments you’d expect to see on something like the Brady Bunch.

That wasn’t our mother-daughter moment.

We were making the ANZAC Biscuits while I was cooking dinner which really was setting us up to fail. I don’t multi-task well and really struggle to do two things at once. Miss was also a bit tired and fidgety. She struggles to follow instructions at the best of times and as we’ve already established, this wasn’t the best of times. We were cooking under pressure.

Miss doesn’t understand the need for recipes and has actually made half-decent cakes or “mixtures” completely from scratch. While that might work for her, it makes for some stressful moments when it comes to cooking something specific together.

By now, you can probably already sense the storm clouds were brewing. There wasn’t a huge storm. Nothing like the clash of the Titans but our cooking experience certainly wasn’t going according to plan and I was becoming a little grumpy.

The recipe says that making ANZAC Biscuits is easy but I’d forgotten to take my usual handful of tablets this morning and was starting to keel over. My brain was foggy and yes, I’ll blame the tablets but I stuck the butter in the microwave without thinking and remembering this needs to go in a saucepan and be melted properly on a hotplate. You also need to have the dry ingredients in the bowl first.


In other words, you need to stick to the recipe. Follow the recipe step-by-step.

Pretty Simple Simon, isn’t it? Only, I’m no Simple Simon.

I’m complicated.

My daughter is spirited.

We did everything backwards.

The ANZAC BIscuits weren’t the best ones I’ve ever made but we did it. We paid our respects to our fallen heroes and I am also even more mindful of those who returned back home and in the words of Veteran and actor Bud Tingle “they were never quite the same”.

So today, we honoured ANZAC Day. Perhaps, you would like to join us in a biscuit and a cuppa!

Lest we forget!

xx Rowena

This recipe comes from the Australian Women’s Weekly.

Anzac biscuits

Makes approx 40 biscuits


125g butter, chopped coarsely
2 tablespoons golden syrup
¾ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
1 tablespoon water
1 cup (90g) rolled oats
1 cup (90g) desiccated coconut
1 cup (150g) plain flour
¾ cup (165g) brown sugar


Preheat oven to 160°C or 140°C fan-forced.

Combine all dry ingredients  except bi-carb soda in a large mixing bowl.

Combine butter and syrup in a small saucepan. Heat gently until butter and syrup melt.

Combine bicarbonate of soda and water in a small bowl and stir into butter mixture.

Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Pour over warm butter mixture and stir well to combine.

Roll rounded teaspoons of mixture into balls. Place about 4 cm apart on baking paper lined baking trays and flatten slightly. You can also be a bit more decadent and make a few large biscuits if you so desire.

Bake in preheated oven 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and cool 5 minutes on baking trays; transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling.

A Different Perspective on Humanity

Ever since I saw Dead Poet’s Society, I have truly appreciated turning something on it’s head and seeing it from a totally different perspective. Looking at something in a new or different way which challenges me to stop. Think. Not just go with the same old same old and step well beyond the square.
Indeed, beyond the flow.
That is what I love about this photo of Earth as viewed from the moon. We are so used to gazing up and looking up at the moon and yet how often do we ever consider how the moon sees us?
Sure, I know for most of you, the moon sees nothing. It’s just an inanimate lump of rock which orbits the Earth. You gave up believing in the man in the moon almost a lifetime ago. So who cares how the moon’s perspective of the Earth? How the moon sees things when, as I said, it’s just a lump of rock?
Well, I’ve always been a little different and some would argue that I’m in a league or perhaps even a world all of my own.
I am beyond the flow.
Anyway, a few years ago, I was working on a kid’s story where the moon wasn’t just a lump of rock in the sky. It was a character and for many months there, as I lived and breathed that story, I tried to see things from the moon’s perspective…as you do as a writer.
That was when I first saw this photo and I sat on the moon and enjoyed the view. That was how the moon saw us. I really took this view into my heart and loved it… our beautiful, blue planet rising in the vastness of space. It was so exquisitely pretty and beyond that, it was home… my home.  I am a little, invisible part of it joined up with all those other little bits and together we make a whole. We make up this blue planet.
It’s amazing what you can discover when you look at things from a different angle.
You can gain a whole new fresh perspective. You never know. You might even embark upon an entirely different journey.
I am trying this approach with a few challenges I am facing. Whenever I feel negative, I try to turn my feelings around to see the positives. Not in a way that lies to myself but just trying to view things differently. Finding a different perspective.
On Friday night, I will be staying in hospital overnight at the sleep lab to check out how I am breathing in my sleep. Like most people, I don’t like hospitals and I’ve had some very rough times in them. It could well be a time when some really bad memories return to haunt me and I am only human. I am scared.
At the same time, I am trying to find a different perspective. It is one night. I will be fine.
I might even think about this photo while I’m in there. It has a peace and serenity about it which is very reassuring.
It’s much more reassuring than the evening news which is on in the other room.
Isn’t it incredible how peaceful and serene our little blue planet appears from space where all the chaos and the craziness of billions of people just blurs in a blue haze?!!
I think I prefer that perspective, even if it means sticking my head in the sand.
Any thoughts?
xx RowenaI apologise for the formatting issues on this post. All the text disappeared and I had to fiddle around to get it back.

Surfing the Dream

Have you ever had an experience where your feet somehow walk ahead of you? That you suddenly wake up and you don’t know how you’ve got there? That something which has slowly been percolating away at the back of your mind has suddenly jumped out in front of you like a kangaroo in the headlights and bam. You’ve suddenly hit your dream head-on and almost had a fatality. You’re in shock. You just can’t believe how all your ducks have suddenly lined up all at the same time. How is this so? It doesn’t make any sense. It doesn’t make any more sense that when bad things happen to good people. There are just mysteries in this life…questions which are never going to be answered.

Coincidence is one of these great mysteries.

For the last few weeks, I have been working pretty flat out on my poem The Surfer’s Dog. This poem was inspired by a dog I saw at Whale Beach in Sydney something like 20 years ago. I photographed this particular dog lying on the beach staring out to sea watching his master. He seemed to be waiting and waiting for hours just lying there in the sun. He didn’t go to sleep or move a muscle. He just lay there waiting patiently for his master to return. He had such loyalty, devotion. His master was his entire world. I remember ebullient excitement when his master eventually emerged from the surf and then they walked along the beach together back to the car. The dog was in heaven.

That dog has stayed with me. He was the epitome of loyalty, devotion and love and yet I wouldn’t advocate putting your life on hold like that or revolving your life around someone else either. Phrases like “get a life” come to mind. He was an adorable but quite a lone figure on the beach…almost like a ghost…as he waited for his master to come back.

The Surfer's Dog...hardly a glamorous breed but tough.

The Surfer’s Dog…hardly a glamorous breed but tough.

Surfer’s dogs have always seemed a breed of their own…rough and tough and certainly not at all fluffy. Perhaps, they might have a touch of kelpie or working dog but certainly nothing glamorous. I’ve certainly never seen a surfer with a fluffy, white dog like the one in the My Dog commercial.

Whale Beach, Sydney

Whale Beach, Sydney

Last October, I went back to Whale Beach for the first time in about ten years. It was a strange experience because in so many ways, time had stood still. Nothing much had changed. In particular, I noticed that the surfers were still out there in the surf bobbing up and down like seals and it just seemed like they have always been there. They’ve never left. They were caught up in some kind of time warp. It was like they weren’t real…more iconic.

That inspired my poem: Surfing Through the Hourglass, which is still a work in progress but I’ve posted it as part of this story.

In the original version of the poem, the surfer’s dog was more of an image…an icon rather than being a real dog. The dog has been there so long that he’s become part of the spirit of the place.

Then I came up with a stanza about who feeds the dog. How does it eat? I mentioned that to Geoff and he said that if there was a dog on the beach people would be feeding it. As a result, the surfer’s dog became more of a community dog. I thought about him being a bit like a barperson who listens to everyone’s problems…a friend to all and yet at the same time, the surfer’s dog only has one master.

At this point, I was pretty sure that I’d finished the poem but I took it in with me for a final proof when I was having my regular blood transfusion of Immunoglobulin. These transfusions take about 4 hours so it’s a great time for me to write and catch up on some reading. Well, The Surfer’s Dog took another U-Turn. Instead of just passively waiting for his master to return, he was now wanting to learn how to surf. However, because he’s never seen a dog surfing before, he chickens out. He’s afraid. Doesn’t want to make a fool of himself. He has his pride. He is the surfer’s dog.

By the time I’d reached this stage of the poem, I was living and breathing The Surfer’s Dog. I was editing and re-editing the poem for hours each day and the surfer’s dog was my constant companion.

Then about a week ago, I had another revelation about the poem. I was the surfer’s dog. I have desperately wanted to learn how to surf most of my life. To me, surfing has always been the epitome of freedom and that sort of merges with my dream of taking off in a kombi. I realise now that my mythical Kombi has always had a surfboard strapped onto the roof and we’re heading up to Byron Bay. I can already feel my hair blowing in the wind,the sand between my toes and the waves calling me.

I’ve always wanted to learn how to surf but I’ve only been surfing once about 20 years ago and I’ve never forgotten just how amazing that felt. A friend of mine had come down to my parents’ beach house at Whale Beach and had brought his board along. I only went on it once. I didn’t stand up. I just lay on it and caught my first wave….my one and only wave. I still remember how good that felt…the exhilaration, the power of the wave. It was just amazing!! I could have surfed for the rest of my life. Yet, for some strange reason, I never went surfing again. The surfboard rider and I were supposedly “just good friends” and we all know what that means so there were no more surfing lessons from him. We lived just across the road from a legendary surfing beach and yet we had no surfboards. It all seems a bit insane now. After all, what is a beach house for????

So there I was a week ago having spent hours and hours and hours living and breathing as the surfer’s dog sitting on the beach inside his scruffy, sand-encrusted coat when I realised that I desperately wanted to surf. That I’d always desperately wanted to surf and here I was 43 years old and 20 plus years later and I’d done nothing whatsoever about it. The eyes of my heart had been opened. The scales had been lifted and I could finally see things clearly. I had to learn how to surf…especially as I only live 700 metres from the beach now. I’ve been living here for 11 years and I haven’t even tried out the kids’ boogie boards. It really does paint me as a bit of a sod.

It was time to get moving!

The morning after this great revelation, I left for an Adventure Camp at Nelson Bay with Muscular Dystrophy NSW. They support me with my auto-immune disease as it affects my muscles. We were just settling into camp when I looked at the program. What was the first thing on the program…learn to surf! I couldn’t believe it! It’s taken me more than 20 years to realise just how much I wanted to surf and then hey presto I’m going to surfing lessons the very next morning.

I was so stoked but I was also gobsmacked. My dream had been hand-delivered to me on a silver platter. I couldn’t believe it!! It was all a bit surreal and too much of a coincidence.

It was meant to be!

I was going surfing. Me… the middle-aged mother with the dodgy muscles was actually going surfing! It was so bizarre especially after working on that poem so intensely.

I was reminded of a quote by Oscar Wilde: Life imitates Art far more than Art imitates Life.

Yet, before I experienced the exhilaration of actually surfing, I still needed to clear a few minor, major hurdles.

Firstly, I had to squeeze into my wet suit. These things might look fabulous on a very fit, young body but I had serious trouble getting into mine. They seem to be two sizes too small and it’s pretty tricky squeezing all this whale blubber into such a confined space. My balance isn’t the best so I also needed a bit of assistance to climb in and it really did feel like I was climbing inside some kind of very thick and inflexible second skin. This was when I found out why surfers strut. Wet suits are so stiff, you’re moving like a robot!

Sadly, even in my tight, constricting wet suit, I didn’t perfect the strut. I was still me.

The second thing they leave out of the surfing brochures is just how much a surfboard weighs and you can’t just stick them on a luggage trolley and pull them down the beach. No, to be a true blue ultra cool surfie dude, you need to have your surfboard casually tucked under your arm like a piece of cardboard. Ha! Surfboards are heavy. I guess that’s how surfers develop all those lovely, well-developed muscles. My muscles don’t work that well so I had to settle for assistance. One of the carers very kindly carried my board down to the beach. Once there, I lugged the thing awkwardly by the neck while the poor tail dragged along through the sand. I had no poise or grace whatsoever…and certainly no strut!

Surfie Chick...ha!

Surfie Chick…ha!

But so what if I didn’t look cool?!!  I didn’t care! I was too blissed out living my dream to care about the mechanics. I just wanted to surf! The surfer’s dog was finally going to catch a wave.

Wait! Before we actually hit the surf, we had a surfing lesson on the sand. This lesson just took us through the basics of surfing like the parts of the board and attaching the leg rope to your stronger leg. I took special note of the leg rope and was determined not to trip over it!!

Then, off we went.

Wow! I caught a few waves. It was awesome.

Then it was time to really get stuck into it. We were back out on the sand learning how to stand up. This was getting serious. Could I do it? Could I actually stand up? I wasn’t holding my breath although it would have been out of this world to pull it off and rather amusing. Mummy learning to surf at my age…ha!

Standing up was proving seriously difficult. As I mentioned before, I have muscle weakness. Moving from sitting to standing isn’t a quick, seamless manoeuvre on land. It takes time, thought, effort. The instructor was quite encouraging suggesting that the water might help to lubricate the board and make it easier but I wasn’t convinced. I had a go in the surf and nothing budged. But the instructor wasn’t to be deterred. I started off in a kneel and then tried to manoeuvre my feet to get me up but they wouldn’t move either. My movements were just too slow and awkward. I’d need a good hour to laboriously move all my body parts into the right positions and by then the wave would be history.

Standing up wasn’t going to happen at camp but I didn’t dismiss it as a never ever. I might just need a bit of practice. As much as you need to push yourself to reach a dream, you also need to know when to stop and defer things to another day.

Surfing was hard work and had what Beatrix Potter would describe as a soporific effect. I went back to our cabin for a snooze.

Instead of waking up feeling like an iron woman the next morning, I felt like quite the geriatric. Almost every muscle ached but it was worth it!!! Rowie had finally caught some waves.

Wahoo! I was finally surfing my dream.

Now, perhaps there’s even hope for the surfer’s dog!

Check out these very cool surfing dogs…

19th April, 2013

Poem: Surfing in the Hour Glass



I wonder

whether surfers live forever,

eternally riding the golden wave…

caught up

in some kind of perpetual motion,

the constant, rhythmic  rolling of the sea?

I don’t know.

Summer, autumn, winter and spring

and even when the ocean’s wild with rage,

they’re always surfing.

Season after season,

year after year,

merging into an eternal wave.



they’re perched

on the very edge of the world…


after wave

after wave,

thirsting for the big one.

I’m sure the very same surfers

were here last year

and even decades past.

They all look pretty much the same.

Dream the same dreams

although the girls are also out there now

no longer content just watching

the iron men from the beach.

They also want a piece of the action!

The car park has also changed.

Most of the kombis have rusted

and have gone to hippy heaven,

although their spirits still live on.


there’s still this timelessness,

as though the sand has somehow

by-passed the hour glass.

Time has stood still,

so very, very still

and is barely breathing at all.

For the surfers are still out there

burning under the blazing, summer sun.

Perched on their boards

like a pod of bobbing seals,

they’re waiting.


Still waiting

for the perfect wave.

Breathing in and out in time

with the great, deep lungs of the sea.

They are almost one.



a lone dog lies

waiting on the beach…

perpetually waiting

with patient devotion.

His loving eyes glued

only to his master.

He never complains.

Doesn’t count the minutes,

hours, days and decades

and just wags his tail

happy and content

whenever Dad returns.

After all, a surfer’s dog

is a breed of its own.

I can’t help wondering whether

the poor dog’s ever been fed.

Wave after wave,

comes and goes

and he’s seemingly been parked

on the beach forever

like an abandoned wreck.

He hasn’t budged.

No one’s even offered him a bone.

He’s just waiting,

almost hibernating in the summer sun.

Waiting for the wave,

which never seems to come.

Waiting for the wave,

which will bring his master home.

Poem: The Surfer’s Dog

A darkened silhouette camps

down on the beach

shadowed by the rising sun.

Perched on the sand

like an antipodean sphinx,

he’s almost been there

since The Dreaming.

It’s the surfer’s dog.

He’s salty and sandy

with a wet, scraggly coat.

There’s a streak of pink zink

on his nose.

More Scruffy than Fluffy,

he knows he’s not pretty

but he’s just fine.

At least, he’s not

a backyard dog!

Oh no!

A surfer’s dog is a breed

all of its own!


Hibernating on the beach

in the hot, Australian sun,

his breathing’s slowed down.

Almost slowed down to a stop.

He barely moves from his spot.

Waiting…still waiting for his master!

He might have been waiting

but a dog’s still a dog.

Even the surfer’s dog will be

your best friend for a feed.

He’s heard many sad songs.

Has given advice

and has just been

a good place to lean.

Yet, as much as he listens

and can be a great mate,

his heart only belongs

to his master.

Nobody knows quite how long

he’s been waiting.

The beach is somehow beyond time

and the sun simply rises and sets.

Time comes and goes with the tides.

But the surfer’s dog’s always been there

He’s now become part of the place.

A real champion,

he never complains.

You don’t even hear

a soft whimper.

He’s not afraid of

being left on his own.

He knows that his master

always comes home.


Whenever I’ve gone to the beach,

the surfer’s dog has always been there.

Lying on the beach in the distance,

he’s almost a part of the sand.

Yet, as much as I felt like I knew him,

that I’d heard the song in his heart

we were really only just strangers.

I didn’t know what he thought.

But today for some reason unknown,

I sat down beside him and stopped.

Threw him a stick.

Gave him a pat.

We sat watching the waves roll by.

It was then that I finally heard it.

Heard the song playing in his heart.

A song with a beat of its own

and a dream which set him apart.

While other dogs just bark at the postman

or might chase the neighbourhood cat,

he wants to learn how to surf.

Ride the waves for himself.


as much as the waves

might roar in his heart,

as much as he lives

for his dream,

the surfer’s dog

is stuck in his tracks.


Stonkered, it seems.

He can dream all he likes

but a dog’s still a dog.

Dogs do not surf.

They only wait on the beach,

defending their turf.

Who’s he to challenge

the great status quo?

The way it’s always been?

He might have his dreams

but a dog’s still a dog.

No dog likes to be

laughed at, it seems.

Oh no! A dog has his pride.

He’s the surfer’s dog

and a surfer’s dog

never, ever cries!


fear hasn’t stopped him

from dreaming.

He knows one day

that he’ll be brave.

That one day he’ll strut into the water

and will finally catch that big wave.


The sun had almost reached midday

when his master finally returned.

He emerged from the surf strong and tall,

strutting down the beach with his board.

A tanned, Australian Adonis,

he sparkled like diamonds in the sun.

No need to whistle or call to his dog.

The dog was already gone.

Running, leaping, almost flying

wagging his tail non-stop,

the dog was right by his side.

I’ve never seen such love…

such devotion.


I felt a little bit sad

as the dog’s surfing dreams

had all gone.

A dog’s dreams might be transient.

They ebb and flow with the tides.

But the surfer and his dog…

they will live forever.

Their love will never, ever die.


Summer isn’t dead yet!

Yesterday, we waved a teary farewell to summer as we reluctantly switched our clocks back an hour to mark the end of daylight savings time.

I know I’m possibly being a tad too melodramatic but the end of daylight savings always feels like a death to me. It really does. Even though I might gain an hour and I can actually sleep in, I really love those long, lingering summer nights especially down at the beach.

Once daylight savings ends, the days just seem to go. I blink and it’s already dark.

If you didn’t already know, you can’t half tell I’m an Australian. We are seriously spoilt with our beautiful weather and feel seriously cheated if we don’t have Summer-like weather for at least six to nine months of the year. We are well into what is officially Autumn and it’s still swimming season here but only just! We’ve had a patch of cold weather and some heavy rain but Summer fought back and we’ve had beautiful, sunny weather again.

Friends at the beach at sunset

Friends at the beach at sunset

Anyway, I took this photo of the sunset yesterday. A friend was visiting us from Western Australia with her son and we took them down to our local park and for a walk along the beach. Western Australia is known for it’s breathtaking sunsets over the ocean. I wasn’t even thinking about sunsets as we watched the kids run along the beach gathering bits of driftwood to make a pretend campfire. It was an unexpected bonus and quite breathtaking…a glimpse of heaven perhaps!

It looks like I’m adding “Go to the Beach More Often” to my to do list now!!

xx Rowena

Watching time go by

Watching time go by

In the Congo – African Forest Elephant

My late Mother-in-Law collected elephants and now I seem to buy elephant euphemera in her memory. This post also has some interesting info about the African Rainforest Elephant. Enjoy! xx Rowena

Artist Daniel Mackie, Artist behind The DM Collection

African forest Elephant watercolour painting
The Congo Rainforest is the world’s second largest tropical forest, covering 700,000 square miles. It spreads across the basin of the Congo River and across six countries. So its big! Big enough to hide a brand new species?

Well, up until recently it was always thought that the Forest Elephant was a smaller subspecies of the African elephant. It was generally considered that, although the elephants had adapted to their forest habitat, they were still Savanna Elephants. But they weren’t.

Forest Elephants

When a DNA identification system was set up to trace where poached ivory was coming from, scientists found that the African Elephants consisted of two very different species. They expected slight variations in the genetic makeup, but were surprised to discover two different species.

About 2.5 million years ago two genetically different strains of elephants evolved in Africa. The forest elephant, which found its niche in the equatorial…

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On Yer Bike, Mummy!

It’s a conspiracy! As much as I have endeavored to avoid exercise, it still finds me. Despite my very best avoidance techniques, it still haunts me like an obsessive, deranged stalker. There is no escape!

Why? Why does it still bother? Why doesn’t it just give me up as a lost cause?

I don’t know because I’ve seriously played hard to get. I’ve prayed for rain so I wouldn’t have to go swimming. Back at school, I was permanently excused from PE after having an asthma attack during the cross country. I was sent off to sick bay where sister gave me cough mixture and then sent me back to class. I was away from school for a few days after that and my parents wrote a stern note. Forget being stoic. This had been some kind of near-death experience and needed to be taken seriously. I wasn’t allowed to do cross-country ever again!!  I have to confess that I also felt like I was going to drown in the school pool. That was when we were doing our Bronze Medallions in lifesaving and I had to swim lap after gruelling lap fully clothed to pass. It was torture! I was excused for awhile after that too.

I was pretty sure that  I’d done enough exercise back at school…especially after completing the cross-country asthma attack and all. Apparently, I was mistaken. You see, exercise isn’t like fat, which you just keep storing up. Exercise runs out. In fact, it runs out pretty quickly because you need to exercise for a minimum of 30 minutes three times a week for the term of your natural life. On the other hand, when it comes to fat, that one chocolate bar you ate ten years ago is still hanging round your hips and waving at you every time you look sideways in the mirror. It’s not going anywhere.

I also have another more personal gripe with exercise these days. Quite frankly, you’d think having a muscle-wasting disease would let me off the hook? That I’d never have to do exercise ever, ever again!! That I could just curl up in my arm chair and go to sleep? Let someone else do all the exercise on my behalf?

You’d think so, wouldn’t you? But even as a “sick” person, I still have to exercise. That was what the lung specialist prescribed to help improve my lungs… rotten exercise. Of course, he didn’t prescribe some luscious chocolate pill to get me better. Oh no! He had to prescribe exercise!

I also have to admit that as much as I protest, my muscles work better with a bit of exercise…use it or quite literally in my case, lose it!

Moreover, I hate to admit it but what they say about exercising improving your mood is true…especially when it also involves conquering personal hurdles. I felt great afterwards, even if my legs were a bit sore and my ankles are a bit stiff and sorry tonight.

I am yet to find out if I sleep any better. For that, I actually have to go to bed!!

However, as much as I need to exercise for my health, that wasn’t why I went bike riding this afternoon.

It was a small, soft voice inviting me for a bike ride: “Mummy, I want to go bike riding with you!” Miss looked at me with those huge, grey-blue eyes which don’t always understand that I can’t do everything that other mothers can do. She is just a little seven year old girl who wants to go bike riding with her mum.  That’s all. So how could I resist?

I could do it!!

It’s been at least 8 years since I last rode my bike. I was a bit apprehensive but I couldn’t really see any reason why I couldn’t do it. I just wouldn’t be able to ride very far.

Mummy riding her bike.

Mummy riding her bike.

Mummy getting on her bike was a photo opportunity or at least it was for me. It was a gold medal moment.

The kids, on the other hand, just took my bike ride for granted. Of course, Mummy can ride a bike. That’s normal.  What they’d expect. I don’t remember hearing “well done,Mummy!” afterwards  but they did enjoy bike riding together. That was special. For us, doing things like bike riding together are special and not something we can take for granted.

Bike riding with the kids

Bike riding with the kids

Actually, going for a bike rise together was quite a big deal for us even though it was only in the cul-de-sac down the street. Miss only learned to ride her bike two weeks ago and Mister finally got there last weekend after quite a few stop starts. That was quite a relief. We have been trying to teach them to ride their bikes without training wheels. Miss finally had a proper go and picked it up pretty quickly whereas Mister was vowing never to get back on his bike ever again after he had a bit of a crash at my parents’ place. He had sounded pretty determined but there’s something about your little sister learning to do something before you  that can be pretty motivating…in a nice way of course. Miss loves riding her bike and has been riding almost every day and she has a kind of infectious enthusiasm that drags you along with her, even though she can also be a pretty shy kid at times.

It’s also been hard to teach them how to ride a bike when I haven’t been well and we’ve had hospital visits for my treatments every third Sunday. I was starting to think I was going to have to add teaching the kids to ride a bike to my bucket list…not that I have one. I’m going to be immortal. I’m never going to die. Well, not yet anyhow!!

I am quite stoked that the bike riding went well. As much as I joke about avoiding exercise, I’ve had some serious attempts because my life may literally depend on it and I’d be a fool not to do it.  I quite like walking but have had some serious falls due to cracked footpaths, weak ankles and no doubt the muscle disease. I am hoping that riding my bike might be a much safer option. I have been swimming for a few months but it’s starting to get cold now and I might have a break for a few months. So the bike riding has come at a good time. It got my lungs working and it’s a form of exercise I can do with the kids.

As much as part of me wouldn’t mind being a one-ride wonder, the bike riding isn’t going to end there. There are now plans to ride the bikes to school. Miss also thinks I should go bike riding to get fit.

“On yer bike, Mummy!”

In the meantime, I’ll be off to watch Mister and possibly the pair of them play Australian Rules Football in the morning. I had been hoping the game had been washed out but I’m out of luck. The exercise conspiracy continues.

xx Rowena

PS I was just uploading the photos for my post and I was struck by the ordinariness of these photos. We live metres away from a beautiful, stunning beach which would make such a stunning backdrop to our bike riding photos but we weren’t ready to venture that far afield today and so our photos celebrate the everyday, the ordinary without dressing it all up and turning it into some fancy moment. It was just great to just be!

Buying Time

This morning I finally took the plunge and bought myself some more time. Actually, I bought more thyme.

Ha! Ha! Ha! Very funny! While I know that pun is the very lowest form of wit, I’ll blame the rain. It’s been raining for days and days. My brain’s gone soggy and needs more sunlight to function properly.

But wouldn’t we all like more time? Isn’t that the Holy Grail we’re all madly trying to find? Some almost magical way of buying more time, even though we know there are only 24 hours in a day?

I know I’d certainly like more time!! Particularly now that I’ve had to accept that time is a limited resource. It doesn’t stretch. Like the sands through the hour glass, it just runs out. That’s it. Poof! It’s all gone!

This came as a bit of a rude shock to me. I don’t know about you but I’ve always treated time as a fairly flexible resource. Squeeze something in here. Jam something else in there. I’ve also had my watch set five minutes fast, so I could always squeeze in that one last thing before I bolted out the door. I can also run a little late, which is another way of buying just a little more time.

However, as the school bell rudely reminds me very morning, time is fixed.

Well, that might be what the so-called experts believe but I’ve finally found a loophole. I’ve proven them wrong. Not by buying myself some thyme. Rather, I’ve just done some very simple mathematics.

You see, if you want more hours in the day, you simply subtract them from the night.

Wake more…sleep less.

As I said, it’s a very simple equation…all very basic mathematics. An equation so delightfully simple that even the most mathematically challenged can get it.

I always knew I was clever…a veritable genius! I just needed to find my thing.

Ssh! This has to be our little secret. At around 9.30PM when my husband starts thinking of going to sleep, I conversely start to wake up. I make myself a cup of decaf tea, ostensibly to unwind before going to bed. Of course, it takes time to cool down. So instead of turning off my laptop and actually letting my brain slow down , unwind and  prepare for sleep, it actually fires up again. Inspiration hits and suddenly I’m typing at whirlwind speeds and the ideas are really flowing. Of course, it’s the very best writing that I’ve ever done and I don’t want to lose “the moment”. If you write, you’ll understand just how precious “the moment” can be. When inspiration hits, you’ve got to catch it. Get it down anyway you can before it gets up and leaves and goes somewhere else. (Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, gave a fabulous  TED Talk about creative inspiration:

I write and write and write until all that inspiration has well and truly dried up. I only stop when the words are starting to merge and blur together and I can’t tell the difference between a verb and a noun. By this point in time, instead of capturing all those pearls of wisdom, I’ve actually deleted them and nothing makes much sense in the morning!! I’m just left with a pile of gobbledegook. This, of course, is the danger of stealing too much time. Unfortunately, it seems you can borrow a little bit of time but you need to pay it back. You can’t keep it indefinitely!

Sadly, like most good theories, there’s a catch…no  free lunch. You pay for it. In this particular scenario, it’s called sleep deprivation. There’s that magic balance between wake and sleep and when you deduct too much from one of side of the equation, the whole thing topples down taking you down with it. Did you know that seventeen hours of sustained wakefulness leads to a decrease in performance equivalent to a blood alcohol-level of 0.05%? That means that if you were driving a car, you could actually kill someone!! That’s rather scary. We push ourselves further and further beyond the brink of sleep deprivation and that’s where we can end up. It’s not pretty. Not pretty at all and contrary to my earlier boasts, it’s not smart. It’s not smart at all.

In the Harvard Business Review, Tony Schwarz argues that “sleep is more important than food”. That we could survive a week without food but we couldn’t survive a week without sleep.  He quotes former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin who wrote about the experience of being deprived of sleep in a KGB prison in his memoir White Nights : “In the head of the interrogated prisoner a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep … Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger and thirst are comparable with it.”

The case for getting an early night was mounting but this was the real clincher. Schwarz goes on to quote Anders Ericcson’s famous study of violinists which found that top violinists also reported that except for practice itself, sleep was second most important factor in improving as violinists. The top performers slept an average of 8 ½ hours out of every 24, including a 20 to 30 minute mid-afternoon nap. That is some 2 hours a day more than the average American.

Humph!! Could sleep deprivation possibly explain some of the difficulties I’ve been having mastering my violin lately? For my husband, Geoff, it was a no-brainer: “Are you surprised? You are exhausted. You can’t keep the bow going straight!”

Alright! Alright! Maybe I’m starting to concede that things are having to change. The trouble is how? We all do things we know are bad for us, even when we know they are slowly killing us but how do we stop?

I could start by totally reprogramming my thinking. Tell myself how much I hate and even loathe that 30 minutes of total me time where I bask in absolute, beautiful blissful  silence each night. Tell myself I hate that final, lingering cup of tea and that I especially hate any Tim Tams or stray pieces of evil chocolate which might happen to stray across my path late at night.

But is it wrong to lie, even if it is for your own good?

Staying up late feels way too good to give it up even though it’s really bad for my health, relationships and mental state. It’s probably not even that good for my writing.

So if I know all of this why don’t I stop? Why can’t I change?

It’s like eating broccoli. You know it’s good for you. You know it prevents cancer and does all these other wonderful things but you just don’t like it. But then sometimes, something comes along and forces you to change. It’s like being pushed straight up the side of a mountain…a mountain you never, ever wanted to climb.

You see as much as I love those moments of very precious solitude, even I have to admit that I’m exceptionally tired. I sleep for at least an hour most days, no doubt catching up for what I’ve lost late at night. But I’m still not entirely convinced.  My auto-immune disease causes extreme fatigue.  I also blame my lungs which have been down to 50%. Not getting enough oxygen, can also make you tired and give you brain fog. But even taking all these possibilities into consideration, I should be going to bed earlier. Make the supreme sacrifice. After all, I’m supposed to seize the day, not the night!!

This has all become a bit tragic because I had no intention of going to bed earlier when I started this post. It’s just been a miserable, wet couple of days and I bought myself some thyme. Thought I’d photograph it for the blog as a bit of a joke because like most of us, I would really like to buy some more time. I have also had some scares with my health where I’ve wanted to buy some serious time. Sticking to the nitty gritty like going to bed and choosing the broccoli feels boring but if that’s what it takes to truly seize the day and possibly even save my life, perhaps it’s time for me to seriously play ball.

I’m getting myself a star chart and a serious reward. This time I mean business!

A keen gardener

A keen gardener?

Moving from time to thyme, the sag of my thyme plant continues. I used to be quite an avid gardener but we’ve had drought, water-restrictions and busyness. I don’t tend to buy many plants these days but every now and then I succumb. Despite my protestations, they generally end up thirsty and near death thanks to neglect. Every time I buy a new plant, I promise to do a better job but sadly history repeats itself. But…but…I am determined for this plant to live and to live life abundantly!!

Mister helping to plant the thyme.

Mister helping me plant the thyme.

To give it the very best chance of success, Mister and I headed out to the worm farm and filled the pot up with the best soil I’ve ever seen. It was so beautifully rich in nutrients. Our thyme plant surely has to flourish.

The last word on thyme goes to this folk song a friend sang to me after school this afternoon when I mentioned my post. I’ve just included a couple of verses but you can click through to read the whole song.

Let No Man Steal Your Thyme

For thyme it is a precious thing
And thyme brings all things tae your mind
Time wi’ its labours alang wi’ all its joys
Oh time brings a’ things tae an end

Come all ye maidens young and fine
All ye that are bloomin’ in your prime
It’s aye be aware and keep your gardens square
Let no man steal awa’ your bunch of thyme

Any thoughts?

xx Rowena