Monthly Archives: April 2020

Y – Yachting Holiday – Hawkesbury River, Australia…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back to my series: Places I’ve Been for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.

Today, we’re jumping back into our time machine and re-setting the date for the 13th December, 1982. We’ve just arrived at Mangrove Creek, where we’ll be picking up the yacht and sailing down onto the Hawkesbury River. Of course, you’ll be meeting my Mum and Dad, my ten year old brother and my 13 year old self. By the way, you might notice that my Dad bears an uncanny likeness to British actor, John Cleese. I always used to wonder why people used to say to him:”Nudge, nudge wink wink, say no more”. However, the world’s full of so many mysteries for a kid, and this was just one of many which were never sufficiently explained.

My apologies for the lack of photos. My 13 year old self wasn’t much chop with the camera, and the camera wasn’t much chop either. I’m pretty sure I was still using my Kodak Instamatic, which had the cartridge of film you put in the back which you dropped off at your local chemist for processing. My parents and brother have also requested not too subtly, that I don’t post their photos on Facebook or the blog, and I mostly honour that request.

Anyway, on the 13th – 18th December, 1982 our family spent five days onboard a yacht slowly sailing from Mangrove Creek along the Hawkesbury River into Pittwater.  Mangrove Creek is a tributary of the Hawkesbury River which flows into Broken Bay not far from where we now live at Umina Beach on the NSW Central Coast.  We also stopped off at a picnic spot called The Basin where they have a shark net set up for swimming. My Dad flew over the Hawkesbury River once when he was young and saw loads of sharks in the water. So, beyond The Basin, swimming was out.

My Dad’s had an almost life long interest in sailing, and has since become a fully-fledged sailor. That is, even if he hasn’t completed the Holy Grail…the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

However, back in 1983, he hadn’t quite gained his stripes. So when the bloke hiring out the yacht asked Dad if he could sail, he could give an honest “yes”. However, I only found out a few months ago, that Dad didn’t actually know how to stop the boat. Of course, this was only a minor detail, and thankfully, everything went swimmingly well. My Dad in his typical try his hand at anything fashion, pulled it off and we were right.

By the way, “she’ll be right, mate” is something of an Aussie creed. It’s more or less  the reverse of catastrophizing where you just take everything in your stride. Of course, the little Aussie battler who’s even had it harder than most, will always triumph in the end. If they don’t, they’ll probably just find their way down to the pub.

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One of the things I clearly remember from the trip, is that the yacht came with a dingy out the back with a pair of oars for rowing out to shore. While Dad took us out for a bit of exploring, clearly the idea was to go out by yourself. However, Dad had this thing about needing to pass your rowing licence first. Of course, my younger brother who was more sporty and better coordinated, received his licence straight away, and was able to scoot off without me. However, it took me a few goes, which I was naturally unhappy about. Indeed, I was a ball of angst…sad, angry, jealous, disappointed…every intense emotion you can think of under the sun. Of course, being 13 and the eldest didn’t help either. Well, eventually, I also managed to get my rowing licence and loved exploring the little bays and beaches along the Hawkesbury River as well.

 

Another indelible memory, was when we sailed across the heads into Pittwater battling against strong winds and a larger swell. Indeed, I still remember the slap of the salty wind in my face, and my hair taking flight. As the yacht keeled right over with the gunnels in the water, I was helping Dad with the ropes and loving every minute. The exhilaration of speed and flying into the salty, ocean wind was incredible. However, my mother and brother were both below deck and couldn’t stand it. After my difficulties getting my rowing licence, it felt particularly good to be outdoing my brother at this point, even if he was younger than me. This was my moment of triumph, but I also truly loved sailing.

Above: we went out sailing around much the same area on the 19th December, 2010 with my parents and our kids almost 27 years to the day after our family sailing holiday and now, even that’s 10 years ago.

Although we’re now mostly a sailing family, we’ve only ever had that one family holiday sleeping onboard the yacht. Indeed, we still haven’t christened Dad’s current yacht, which is quite a shame. It would be rather magical to fall sleep on nature’s water bed, don’t you think?

Have you ever been out on a yachting or boat holiday where you’ve actually slept onboard? Or, perhaps you’re more of a day sailor? Or, you love your land legs. Either way, I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

X- An Xtraordinary Travel Yarn…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back to Places I’ve Been, my theme for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge.

Today, this this brings us to X, and not without a rather pregnant pause. Indeed, you could say that I’ve never been anywhere starting with X. Moreover, although I’ve had multiple x-rays, I could hardly say that I’ve been to xylophone, could I?

Even with a great theme, every year there’s always a few rubbish letters which no amount of creativity, imagination or roaming through the thesaurus can resolve. X is a frequent flyer. Or, perhaps I should say: “frequent failure”. However, if we were looking on the bright side, we could simply re-frame these difficult letters as “challenging”. After all, even I have to admit the finding an X has been “an education” almost every year. Anyway, that’s how I conjured up the idea of this year’s X being… (drum roll!!) An Xtraordinary Travel Yarn.

Here goes…

Back when I was a 21 year old university student, I caught the Indian Pacific from Sydney to Perth sitting up the entire way with a week off in Adelaide to break up the trip. Although I initially stayed with my uncle in Perth, I soon moved into the Youth Hostel. As an unabashed extrovert, I was like a pig in mud mixing with backpackers from right around the world, which was so exciting for someone who’d only ever been to Hong Kong. I loved it. It was a constant party and talkfest with all these young, mostly single people all thrown together and blowing along with the wind.

Map from Perth, Western Australia to The Pinnacles Desert, Pinnacles Dr, Cervantes WA 6511

Map Showing the Trip from Perth to the Pinnacles.

Anyway, an American, two Japanese and an Australian (yours truly) decided to pitch in and hire a car to check out the Pinnacles, a series of eroded limestone pillars, which resemble a haunted graveyard. The Pinnacles are located in the Nambung National Park, near Cervantes 192 kms North of Perth, making for a 2.25 hour drive via State Route 60.  Looking like somewhere straight out of Stephen King, the Pinnacles aren’t the sort of place you want to get lost, especially after dark. The bogey man, woman, or their ghost, could well be lurking around somewhere.

Rowena Driving Practice Youth Hostel Perth

Being a cautious bunch, the night before our big adventure, as you can see from the photograph, our American driver practised driving the Australian way in the courtyard at the hostel. For the uninitiated, that means driving on the left hand side of the road  while sitting on the right hand side of the car (Gee all that was confusing. I had to run that by Geoff to get it right.)

Pinnacles Western Australia

All went well at the Pinnacles. Conditions were absolutely perfect for photography and we got some striking, even haunting images. Indeed,  if we’d just turned around and driven back to Perth the way we came, there wouldn’t have been a story to tell. Just a handful of photos with smiling faces, these wacky limestone pillars and deep blue skies.

However, we looked at the map and noticed an alternative, much more scenic, coastal  route back to Perth via a tiny place called Grey, which barely seemed to justify its dot on the map.  Indeed, we should’ve known we were hardly heading for a huge metropolis when we spotted the “Bar” out the window. Taking rustic to the extreme, I jumped out and took a photo.

Bar Grey Western Australia

The Grey Hotel

Meanwhile, our travels along this exceptionally scenic road continued. By the way, I should point out that when we checked out the map, this road was marked “vehicular track. Local enquiry suggested.” However, we were young. Had no idea what that meant, and brushed it off. Whenever we hit a bump in the road, our fearless American leader calmly reversed back up and literally floored it right through the sand.  Indeed, I’m sure we all gave him a huge cheer, instead of questioning whether our humble Toyota Camry truly had 4WD capabilities and whether it was capable of pulling off this trip. After all, this was a hire car and family sedan. It wasn’t your classic Aussie paddock-basher, which could be abandoned by the side of the road when it failed to do the deed.

Rowena & Backpackers bogged WA

However, it’s so much easier to be sensible  when you’re 50 years old and enjoying the comfort of your lounge chair. It’s also easier in hindsight when you know that humble Toyota Camry along with the American, Australian and two Japanese onboard  are about to drive straight into a massive sand dune, where no amount of reversing was going to save the day. We were bogged.

Rowena bogged Western Australia

Not only that. It was almost sunset and all we had in terms of food and water, was half a bottle of diet coke and an apple. In other words, no emergency rations.

We were in serious trouble.

While we weren’t exactly lost, we were well and truly off the grid in a very remote and isolate spot with a very slim chance of anyone finding us quickly along our road less travelled. Indeed, this area was so isolated, not even the coronavirus could find it.

Anyway, the American and one of the Japanese guys did the hero bloke thing, and walked off in search of help while I stayed behind with the other Japanese guy at the car. I started wondering how long we were going to be stranded here, and that my parents back in Sydney all the way across the other side of the country,  had no idea where I was and how much trouble we were in. Indeed, I could go missing and never, ever be found all because we couldn’t read a map properly and opted for the scenic route.

Grey Western Australia

Spotted nearby. I wonder if this tourist ever made it home?

If the guys couldn’t find help, our only hope lay  back at the Youth hostel. I’d arranged to go out for dinner with a friend at 7.00 pm, and was hoping  she might raise the alarm when we didn’t get back. After all, this was 1990 and none of us had mobile phones. Besides, they wouldn’t have worked there anyway. Too remote.

Sunset Grey Western Australia

Sunset At Grey, Western Australia -taken while we were bogged and waiting for help to return.

Meanwhile the sun was setting. I photographed the sunset. As you can see, it was absolutely magnificent, an incredible golden glow over the ocean. However, I still remember the fear.  I also didn’t really know what to talk about with the Japanese guy, but he talked to me about work in Japan and he sang me a song which I think might have been from the company dormitory where he lived. I could well have recited Dorothea McKellar’s iconic Australian love poem: My Country, as I always love to educate people about Australia and share a bit of “us”.

However, all too soon, the sun had set. It was pitch black, and the others hadn’t returned. I think we had the lights on. After all, we were needing to be found. It was a very stressful time, particularly for me as the only Australian with any idea of just how dangerous being stranded in such an isolation place without adequate provisions could be.

Trust me. I wasn’t catastrophizing!!

Yet, then out of the darkness, salvation appeared. The guys had flagged down a local fisherman with a 4WD who towed us out…not without a bit of a smile either. Rotten tourists. We weren’t the first lot he’d towed out either.

Probably the worst part of this story, is that it along with the photos have been buried for almost 30 years. My kids have never seen them and boy did they have a laugh at my expense, especially our son who is about to head off and get his Learner’s Permit. My pathetic map reading skills and zero sense of direction are legendary around here, and this was just the icing on the cake. Trust Mum!

Indeed, while I can have a laugh at our ordeal, driving into a sand dune is even way too cringe-worthy for me, although I was but a humble passenger at the time.  Well, as the only Australian in the car, I could well have been the navigator and that in itself could well have been our undoing. I get lost even when I turn the map around the right way. Anyway, about five years later, I returned to Western Australia and all of this was well and truly swept under the carpet. Pinnacles? What Pinnacles? Moreover, I’ve never returned to the town of Grey either.

Do you have an Xtraordinary travel story? Please share in the comments down below and add any links.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share – Finding Normal In A Crazy World

As a parent of school aged teenagers, the issue of when they should return to school is a serious consideration and I know many of my friends are also wondering what is best.
My friend Maria works as a teacher in Sweden and shares her experiences in this very interesting Coffee Share post, and the comments which follow and the banter back and forth are also very interesting. It reminds me just how much I love being part of an international blogging community where I can get own out my own head, beyond my own backyard and gain more of a global perspective.
Best wishes,
Rowena

Sagittarius Viking

smart

Welcome to another virtual coffee date. Yesterday I tried a new type of coffee, I already forgot the fancy name. . you whisk together equal parts of sugar, hot water, and instant coffee. You whisk it for a long time until it becomes very fluffy. I tasted it at work in our break room, and it was really good. Tasted sort of like a creamy espresso. My colleagues enjoyed it with milk, I thought it tasted better without milk. A very small amount of this very potent coffee gave me tons of energy that lasted all afternoon yesterday. I’m sure I could whisk some together if you’d like to try! How hard could it be? Would you like to try?

Speaking of work, this was the first week of only outdoor activities. It was fun, intense, and the kids really enjoyed themselves. The days consisted of a lot…

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Weekend Coffee Share – 27th April, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share.

How are you all holding up under the varying strains of the coronavirus? Although they’re calling it a pandemic, it’s not affecting all countries equally and there’s also such a variation in how it affects those who’ve become infected, that there’s far from a shared, universal experience.

I suspect I’ve now been in lock down now for about six weeks with Geoff and the kids being home for four. The kids have been on school holidays for the last two weeks, although I don’t really feel it’s quite fair to call what they’ve had “a holiday”. It’s really been more of a continuation of limbo, and at times lock down feels very much like being in jail. Australia’s a pretty mellow country most of the time, however, Police powers have ramped up and we are living in a Police state. Of course, it is for our own good, and some idiots need to be controlled by external forces. However. that doesn’t mean we need to like it.

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A sign of the times- local picnic table wrapped up in red tape to due social; distancing restrictions.

I’ve also been getting a bit annoyed with people in the media calling this the worst thing that’s happened. It’s not. There are still survivors from Jewish concentration camps alive. There are still others who went through the horrors of WWII. Our recent bush fires here in Australia, have affected us a lot more than the cononavirus has so far. I simply don’t see the need for them to turn this crisis into anything bigger than it already is. It’s already bad enough.

What we have really enjoyed and appreciated lately on TV, has been two music specials. There was One World Together At Home organized by Lady Gaga. However, we also had our own Australian version, Music from the Home Front which was held on the night of our ANZAC Day to honour those who have served our country in war as well as those in our hospitals who are the front line warriors in the battle against Covid 19. Fortunately, the Australian concert overcome the sound engineering difficulties which made it difficult to hear some of the performers in the world concert. I absolutely loved it, and much preferred the Australian concert. These were my people.

I have also been getting out for “My Walk”. By the way, you can put that up there in lights. Due to my health issues, Geoff is doing all the shopping and the odd bit of other running around. So, the only time I’m legally allowed to leave the house, is to go for my walk. If I didn’t know better, I’d be thinking this was some sort of conspiracy between my physio and the WHO. She’s been trying to get me to go for a daily walk for years. Of course, in the end I had to accept that this was fake news. As if the physio could conjure up the coronavirus and kill all these innocent people just so that Rowena  in distant Australia would finally go for her daily walk.

However, while there are some days where I can’t be bothered and doing exercise comes  with its usual expletives. However, I’ve also found there’s a fine, almost imperceivable line between being a proud Super Sloth on the couch, and doing a Bruce Banner metamorphosis into the Incredible Hulk. Indeed, cabin fever’s snuck up on me a few times, usually late at night or when I’m trying to sleep. OMG! It’s unbelievable. It’s like an insatiable itch you just can’t scratch. I had a couple of really difficult days last week, where I felt totally trapped, and there was a blast of unbridled angst  surging through me body and soul. It was quite horrible and for awhile there I felt like I was going to self-destruct, only I’ve been through this before and knew I just needed to ride it out. That like all storms, this too would pass.

 

That’s why I’m trying get out for my walk most days now, and I’ve even taken the camera with me a couple of times. Last week, I went for a walk around the Woy Woy Waterfront right on dusk. The sun was setting and I managed to get some beautiful photos of the orange sun setting behind the silhouette of the wharf. I also spotted some kind of white crane, which was quite resistant to letting me get close up for that knockout shot. It was also rather confronting seeing the local playground closed up due to the virus and there was one park bench in particular which brought it all home. It was wrapped up in so much red tape, it could have been a government department. The mannequins all lined up in the opportunity shop, also seemed rather eerie and goodness knows how long they’re going to be shut away behind the glass.

Umina Beach from Pearlie

A Paddle-boarder making the most of social isolation.

Later on in the week, I went for a walk at nearby Pearl Beach. I’ve been finding the repetitive routine of simply walking down the road to our beach a bit tiresome and I’ve needed a change of scenery. I went walking with my usual coffee and writing buddy Roland, who is in his 70’s and lives alone. Whil we were there, a kookaburra came right up behind us and sat on the park bench. I was pleased Roland pointed it out and the kookaburra didn’t seem at all camera shy, although it did seem to be looking for a feed.

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Kookaburra close up at Pearl Beach. 

I’ve also been continuing through the Blogging From A to Z Challenge. My theme this year is Places I’ve Been, which I chose to overcome the claustrophobia of being locked down at home. I’ve accomplished quite a lot, and it’s great to have collated this collection of my personal travel stories. It’s actually helped me to appreciate how much I love travel and exploring places both through the lens and my pen, and how that hasn’t changed although I haven’t been overseas for almost twenty years. It’s been such a long time, and something I fully intend to rectify once these travel bans are lifted. This jail bird will be fleeing the coup!!

The series has also re-engaged me with blogging, which is good. It’s been an excellent tonic during the madness of the covid 19 pandemic and it’s helping to keep me somewhat sane.

 

W – Whale Beach, Australia…A-Z Challenge.

For those of you who’ve ever been to Whale Beach, I can hear you calling loud and clear: “What are you talking about? That’s not Whale Beach!!”

However, today I decided to challenge your sense of the perspective of place. Instead of just viewing Whale Beach from it’s classic postcard perspective with its rocky headlands at each end and the sandy beach in between, we’re tracing snail trails across a rock pool on the Southern headland. I’ve always loved tracing and photographing their curly trails. They’re so creative, and seem to reflect my state of mind. There’s no such thing as a straight line from A to B.

ferry

Palm Beach Ferry

After that brief explanation, I’d like to welcome you back to Places I’ve Been, my theme for the 2020 A-Z Challenge and as you already know, we’re heading off to Whale Beach.

Whale beach Map

A Map of Northern Sydney with Whale Beach top right.

It’s a bit of a complicated trip, and we’ll be catching  the ferry from Ettalong to Palm Beach, which will take us across Broken Bay with stunning views across to Lion Island. From Palm beach we’ll be getting a lift to Whale Beach, which is not the easiest place to reach via public transport. However, that’s also part of its quaint appeal. It has a very relaxed village feel, and doesn’t get the crowds during the Summer peak.  Indeed, many of the dwellings here are weekenders and while these blow-ins might live someone else, they’re largely considered locals, at least among themselves.

Whale Beach

Whale Beach looking North. CC BY-SA 4.0

I know “Whaley” very well. Indeed, it’s been my home. Our family used to have a house on Whale Beach Road, just across from the beach. Well, there was the slight matter of needing to climb up 200 stairs to get back to the house. That could be very challenging. Yet, there was a spot roughly halfway, where you could turn around, pause, and point out the view and distract your friends from your acute shortage of breath. It was often my salvation, not that I was that unfit even back then. Let’s just say there were a lot of stairs and they did go straight up!!

Whale Beach trike

Trike Heading Out To Sea, Whale Beach (looking South). 

My parents bought the place at Whale Beach, while I was still at uni. Unfortunately, I didn’t drive. So, unless I was with friends, I had to catch the dreaded 190 bus from Wynyard Station, which grunted along for at least 90 minutes from point to point, and that doesn’t factor in the steep walk from Surf Road straight over the top of the hill to reach Whale Beach Road. It might not be one of the world’s tallest peaks, it was a pretty decent climb.

Whale Beach Estate 1928

However, since my parents’ sold the house about twenty years ago, we won’t be revisiting the old house, and we’ll be heading straight down Surf Road to the beach. Indeed, I forgot to tell you we have a surfboard on the roof and we could even be driving a Kombi. Not a splitty, because that’s well beyond our price range, and I suspect we’re driivng something rustically unreliable. After all, that’s the less than romantic reality of being a true Kombi owner these days.

 

 

Whale Beach is a surf beach, especially at the Northern end where there’s a cool rip called “The Wedge”. I’m not even going to pretend that I know what that’s about. However, I have photographed quite a few surfers down there over the years. Watched them sitting on their boards bobbing up and down like corks waiting for the wave, while their faithful mutts sit on the beach waiting. At least, that’s how it used to be back in the day. Dogs off the leash are probably incarcerated now. Hey, even the humans are in trouble these days thanks to the coronavirus. A couple of footballers made headlines and were fined for flauting social distancing today. However, even I’m getting itchy feet and I have more incentive than most for staying put, and that doesn’t include sitting on Whale Beach and contemplating life, the universe and everything. Rather, these days have to revamp the walk and talk into some kind of walk and think. Is it possible? I’m not convinced. It’s certainly not easy to walk and write, although I could possibly argue that writing is work and the beach is my office, just as long as I stay away from Bondi!

Whale Beach Feet

Anyway, let’s rewind a little. As I said, my parents owned the house while I was at uni. So, of course, there were parties, usually with a ratio of way too many blokes to girls. There was love and heartbreak, not just for myself but also my friends. There were lonely stretches staying there for weeks at a time all by myself, but resulted in prolific writing and no doubt long hours talking on the phone. However, every night as regular as clockwork, a light switched on at the Southern end of the beach. The light fell right across the breakers and snaked around with the waves. It was absolutely magnificent and a memory which almost defined my soul and brought me such peace. Joy doesn’t need to cost the earth or be high tech.

Whale Beach also became a place of solace. Somewhere we could take friends who were going through tough times, and even combusting with self-inflicted angst. We’d walk along the beach or walk around to Palm Beach. It was a place of gentle, compassionate healing and casting all your cares off the cliffs and out to sea. For many of us, myself included, there was a Christian spiritual aspect to this, but I can’t speak for the rest. People from many walks of life came to the house, and had their own beliefs. It was not not a place of judgement, at least, from my perspective.

Rainbow Lorrikeets

A Pair of Rainbow Lorrikeets Having A Cup of Tea on the Balcony.

Before I head off, I just want to tell you about some extra special visitors to the house. There are the birds, especially the Rainbow Lorrikeets. They’re absolutely beautiful and ever so friendly with their sweet chatter.

Whale Beach is why we live at Umina Beach. It’s Whale Beach on a beer budget.

Have you ever been to Whale Beach? What did you love about it? Mind you, from my point of view, what is there not to love?

Best wishes,

Rowena

V- Places I’ve Played My Violin.

Welcome back to Places I’ve Been, my theme for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge, which is rapidly drawing to a close. I had considered heading to Victoria, and was going to write about visiting the vineyards of Australia’s Hunter and Barossa valleys. However, as experienced in previous posts, I’ve been having a lot of trouble digging up my old photos and so I decided to bail. So, instead, I’m writing about where I’ve played my violin, although I’ll also throw in my daughter’s grand violin performance, which humbles mine completely. Indeed, I’ve become her humble shadow.

Violin & concert violinist music

My violin journey began as a child when I was learning Suzuki violin from Yvonne Gannoni, who I recently found out had studied at the Royal Academy of Music and had stellar talent. In the 1970’s, she was teaching Suzuki violin from her home in Pymble on Sydney’s North Shore and also at Glenbrook in the Blue Mountains. What I remember most about her, however, is her bright blue eye shadow and colourful kaftans. At least, I think they were kaftans, and they sort of fit in with the era. She was a larger than life, flamboyant figure who held her annual concerts at nothing less than the Sydney Opera House, where groups of students would perform the Suzuki repertoire. It was in hindsight, absolutely fabulous.

It was my brother who was truly learning violin from Miss Gannoni, while I was learning the piano from my beloved Mrs Gaut. However, I had to wait for my brother’s lessons to finish and somewhere along the way, I decided to take up the violin. Unfortunately, my efforts at the violin were very short-lived as I couldn’t get either my head or my fingers around how to hold the bow. I think I stuck at it for a year and that was that. Unfortunately, in that very short time, I never made it to the Opera House.

family playing violin

The family playing violin from Suzuki Book 1 in 2012.

That could well have been the end of my love affair with the violin. However, when I was around 25 and working in the city, I was walking through Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building and heard a busker playing Meditation By Massinet. Ever reflective and tinged with melancholy, this piece of music was absolutely magnificent and seemed to be playing my soul song at the time. I even bought his CD, which was very unusual for me.

violin birthday cake

I was quite surprised when my mum ordered me a violin cake for my birthday in 2012. It was something of a premonition! Good on you Mum!

Fast-forwarding to 2012, our daughter begged us to learn the violin. I wasn’t altogether sold on this, because the general consensus was that the piano would be a better first instrument. Moreover, with my mother being a piano teacher, accompanist and former student of the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and my grandmother being a concert pianist, the piano was a natural destination. However, the piano never really spoke to me in the same way it moved my moher and grandmother and my cousin is a cellist. So,  contrary to my upbringing, there were other instruments and you didn’t HAVE to learn the piano. You could diversify.

Amelia Violin

That’s how we found ourselves one afternoon in term one 2012 with my daughter kitted out with her eighth size violin. At least, I’m pretty sure it was an eighth. The teacher offered for me to sit in. I didn’t know this at the time and her teacher wasn’t Suzuki trained, however, part of Suzuki’s approach is for the mother to play and for the child to play alongside the mother and learn music in the same way they almost seem to absorb language. Anyway, when we came home, it soon became clear that my help was required and that year of Suzuki training I’d had under the Great Yvonne Gannoni was being summoned back from the very deepest depths of memory. We pulled Geoff’s grandfather’s violin out of storage and that was to be my instrument until the Ebay violin arrived from China and I later moved onto the Stentor I still play today.

As it turned out, our daughter’s relationship with he violin at age 6 was short-lived. After a very passionate start, we went way and when she came home, her violin was screeching like a dying cockatoo, which not only assaulted her ear drums, but also her pride. The end didn’t come quietly or through neglect, but rather stormy angst and heartfelt tears. I continued on with her lessons until the end of term and kept going.

At the end of the year, the music school held their annual concert at a rather impressive local music venue, Lizottes, which was owned by Australian rock legend Diesel and his brother and all sorts of famous local and international acts had performed there…along with little old me in our violin ensemble. As we hung out together in the “red room” downstairs, we had a taste of the big time and boy it felt good, even better once we hit the stage. It was exhilarating. I even won an award.

Perhaps, it was the thrill of this success, which gave this novice and not very proficient violinist the pluck to pose with her violin outside Byron Bay Lighthouse. Indeed, this was actually more the photographer in me than the “budding” musician. Aside from the Sydney Opera House, what better backdrop could you ask for? I was just hoping against all hope, that nobody asked me to play. Boy, that would’ve had been scuttling off for cover, which of course they did. OMG!!! What was I thinking?

Anyway, I still haven’t made it to the Sydney Opera House. As the years go by, and my hopes rapidly fade of ever pulling off that much needed 10,000 hours of practice before I’m beyond a Zimmer frame, I’m now needing to find a fresh sense of purpose for my violin. Indeed, I need to find a tribe, which is not so easy where we live, especially when I’m not getting a lot of practice in.  My lessons are currently on hold due to the coronavirus, and I’m reconsidering everything. I need to find a way forward, which is seriously heading off along the road less travelled. It would be so much easier if I played the guitar. However, I’m a violinist. It’s a different sound, which comes from a different place, and I don’t want to lose that precious part of me. Somehow, I need to hold on.

Rowena on stage

Performing at an in-house concert last year.

Have you ever learned the violin? Or, perhaps you have a favourite piece of violin music? Or, you play something else? Or, you might even hate the violin and it’s dreadful screechings and squarkings. You don’t need to tell me just how vile a violin can sound, particularly in the early days. I know!!!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

U – Umina Beach, Australia…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back to Places I’ve Been, my theme for this year’s Blogging From A to Z April Challenge. Today, we’re off to Umina Beach, which isn’t very far away for me at all. It’s actually only 700 metres down the road.

Indeed, Umina Beach is home. Geoff and I moved up here almost 20 years ago to buy our first home. Despite what we thought would be a quick renovate and flip, we’re still here. In fact, we haven’t finished those renovations, and what we did manage to get done back at the beginning, needs to be re-done. After all, fixing up a fixer-upper is a lot like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge. By the time you finally reach the finish, you need to  start painting at the beginning again.

Zac at the beach

Zac at the beach a few weeks ago.

Geoff and I didn’t plan to leave Sydney, or even buy a place in Umina Beach. We’d started looking around real estate in Sydney, but came up to Umina Beach to visit our niece and this place was for sale two streets away. This massive decision was all very spontaneous, although you could also say it was meant to be. However, as we’ve found out, this decision was a lot more far-reaching than deciding where to camp for the night. Although Sydney’s only an hour down the road and Geoff commutes there for work, it’s not the same as actually living there.  It’s taken me quite a long time to call Umina Beach home, and I still consider myself a Sydney person. This region is considered part of Greater Sydney. However, when I was alone at home with the new baby and Geoff was commuting to Sydney and away most of the day, I really felt that distance. However, through getting involved in Church, playgroups and community action groups, that started to change. By the time the kids started school and I was also working part-time for a local IT company, I felt a lot more settled. Through living there, we’ve managed our mortgage on one income, without being enslaved to the mighty mortgage which is the norm in Sydney. It’s naturally a lot more relaxing around here with the beach at one end of the street and flat, inland water suitable for sailing and kayaking down another. Can’t complain about that!

 

Lady at Ocean Beach

Lady at Ocean Beach, NSW.

So, after that rather lengthy introduction, you must be wondering if we’re ever going to make it to the beach. My apologies. I can take all of this a bit for granted what with living here all the time. However, before we hit the beach, I need to make a quick distinction between the name of the place and the names of the beaches around here. The place is called Umina Beach, but the beach itself is divided into Ocean Beach, which is just down from our place, and Umina Beach to the West. However, it’s all one expanse of golden sand and a fabulous place to go for a walk. There’s even a designated dog beach.

Nippers Running

Our son racing at Nippers, a junior form of life saving. 

In so many ways, the beach is our cultural hub and a true blue melting pot where lifesavers, swimmers, walkers, dogs, kids and seagulls all congregate, exercise and relax. We’ve taken the kids down to the beach from the time they were born, and held them into the frolicking waves, until they were old enough to hold their hands and eventually join Nippers, along with many of the other local kids on a Sunday morning. Now, our daughter goes down to the beach with her friends and Geoff and our son prefer sailing. I have done some swimming, but am better known as walker and dog walker, although there can also be a bit of talk with that as well.

The set of photos above were taken in November 2007 celebrating Geoff’s Birthday.

Our beach has had some rough times over the years. Rough storms have removed tonnes of sand, ripped out rows of native trees and extensive remediation works have been undertaken to halt the damage. The road around the beach front was even closed off for awhile there, as there were concerns it too could fall in the drink. I don’t think this situation has really stabilised but it might’ve improved.

Geoff & Rowena

Just off Umina Beach, there’s the Umina Precinct Park, which as a dream come true for the local action group I belonged to when the kids were small. Back then, even getting a local park with a fence seemed like an impossible pipe dream. However, council came onboard and the project snowballed into a regional park and tourist attraction. This was well beyond our wildest dreams, and I should remember this when a situation seems hopeless. Never give up!

Flamin Ron the World’s Hottest Chilli Pie on TV

However,  every town has to have its personality. It’s claim to fame. For Umina Beach, this comes in the form of pastry chef, Ron Bruns from the Bremen Patisserie and his infamous pie… the Flamin Ron, the world’s hottest chilli pie. While I know Ron quite well and love his almond croissants and bee sting cake, I’ve never even considered dipping my little finger into one of these pies, let alone tried to eat one. In case you’re wondering whether this pie is as ruthlessly hot as it claims, you actually need to sign a legal waiver beforehand. So, that’s warning enough for me. However, despite local horror stories, there are still mighty warriors willing to take on the Flamin Ron challenge blow the consequences. This includes Richard, who tells a wonderful  tale

Woy Woy Air Strip

Woy Woy Air Strip extending down to Umina Beach with Lion Island right in front of the runway. 

While I was putting together this post, I did some historical research, hoping to find some historical detail of interest. After all, if you’ve been following me throughout this series, you’ll know how much I love jumping into my time machine, travelling back in time beyond the present day. It’s somewhat well-known around here that there used to be an air strip through town. I couldn’t have told you exactly where it was. However, that’s what Google’s for and the old newspapers.

This brings us to the Woy Woy Airstrip, which was built during WWII along with an aerodrome. The runway extended from Woy Woy down in a straight line along what’s now Trafalgar Avenue into Umina Beach, ending about a street away from our place. During WWII, the air strip was even used by US bombers. You can read more about it here  at All Things Woy. 

Tiger_Moth

Imagine this crashing into your roof. Luckily, no one was home when a Tiger Moth crashed into a Umina home in 1950. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

However, our street wasn’t always a street away from trouble. On the 4th November, 1950 long a few life times before we moved in, a Tiger Moth plane crash landed into a house at the end of the street. Of course, 70 years down the track, having a Tiger Moth crash land in your street sounds particularly exciting (especially after being in lock down for at least 6 weeks!!), although I should also point out that the pilot was injured. The plane crashed into the roof, and as the pilot wandered out in a dazed state, he fell 15ft  off the roof. Fortunately, residents Mr and Mrs Henson were away visiting their daughter in Sydney at the time. The plane crashed right on dinner time, and it’s almost certain they would have been killed. So, there’s something more I learned on my travels during the Blogging From A to Z Challenge.

Couple Ocean Beach best

Sunset at the beach

Well, it’s now time to leave Umina Beach behind and get a bit of shut eye before our adventures start up again in the morning. Indeed, I might need to stay home for awhile after all this travel is over. What I would give to sleep in my own bed again, instead of tramping along the road from hotel to hotel.

Oh, that’s right. I haven’t been anywhere at all. It’s just me, myself and I stuck inside these same four walls along with Geoff, two teenagers and three dogs.

Humph! We’re definitely in need of a holiday!!

How are you holding up in isolation? Where would you like to go? My list is just getting longer and longer. However, due to my health, my movements are particularly restricted. So, right now even being able to walk into a local shop to buy some chocolate has become an impossible dream. That said, I’m certainly not going without. Hoarding chocolate hasn’t become a crime.

Take care & stay safe!

Best wishes,

Rowena