Category Archives: Australia

Tasmanian Farewell – Friday Fictioneers.

The Spirit of Tasmania was boarding. With two cats perched on the back window of the Ford Laser, their Border Collie in the back, two lifetimes packed in the boot like a Chinese puzzle box, Jane and Dave were economic refugees moving to the Mainland.

Jane popped a couple of sea sickness pills. It was her first time, crossing treacherous Bass Strait. She was sick, before they’d even set sail. Even this massive North Sea Ferry, could become another Titanic.

Yet, with barely a whitecap, they had a perfect sail.

“It’s a sign, she smiled. “We’re making the right move.

…..

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers. PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

In January this year, our family caught the Spirit of Tasmania from Melbourne to Tasmania return. We were taking the kids down to Tasmania for them to see and experience where Daddy is from. You can read abut our trip here.

My husband is Tasmanian and his family have lived there since as early as 1828. During the late 80s early 90s during a nasty economic recession, Geoff and his then girlfriend left Tasmania bound for the Australian mainland in search of work. The rest of his immediate family had already left.

It’s a bold move to leave everything and everyone you’ve ever known, to move way. Pack everything up, and throw your stability into the wind.

I’ve done the same thing myself a couple of times in my lifetime. It didn’t seem such a big deal at the time, because I always had my parents to go back to. They were my anchor…my foundation and they’ve always called me home. I can’t imagine what it would be like going one way, with no prospect of return, especially moving to an unknown country on the other side of the world like my ancestors have done. I would love to know how they felt. Were there any regrets and where was truly home?

Best wishes,

Rowena

Great Get Together Goes Global #MoreInCommon

Lately, I’ve been feeling quite overwhelmed by the latest terror attacks in the UK, which as we all know too well, are simply the latest chapters in a much longer story. Despite believing in the power of the pen to overcome the sword and in the power of the individual to change the world, or at least influence the world around them, I am starting to doubt. These attacks are so random and unpredictable and the victims ordinary people…it’s all becoming quite impossible to fathom.

Coffee french

For those of you who have been following my blog for some time, you’ll know that I’ve been part of a global blogging group 1000 Voices for Compassion, which started up after the attacks on Paris. However, I’d already been speaking out against terrorism  following the shooting down of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 in the Ukraine and the Lindt Cafe Siege in Sydney. Journalists covering the MH17 disaster, brought back sunflower seeds from the crash site to give to families and friends of the victims. I had written to many of these victims and we sent them red hearts on paddlepop sticks which the kids had made to acknowledge their loss. It wasn’t much, it came from the heart. When I heard that they were offering the sunflower seeds, I put my hat in the ring not expecting anything. However, a few months later, a package arrived in the mail with a tin of seeds, a photo and a beautiful letter wishing: “May your sunflowers bloom.”

may your sunflowers bloom

A personal message from journalist Paul McGeogh & Kate Geraghty who sent me the sunflowers.

It took me a year to find the courage to plant those seeds. I am not a great gardener and I didn’t want to destroy something so precious, especially through my usual neglect. However, I was contacted by the cousin of the pilot of the plane who had lost her seeds and I thought I finally had to have a go. Have some faith. As these seedling were growing, I managed to take them to a few local schools to talk about compassion, the love of a stranger and the need to take a stand not only against terrorism, but also to simply treat each other better. These are simple truths. Not rocket science but when we think of changing the world, we usually think so big that we feel overwhelmed and do nothing. It’s so easy to forget that a simple cup of tea can be a stepping stone towards something momentous.

So, tonight when I heard about The Great Get Together which is being held across the UK to honor the life of slain MP Jo Cox, I wanted to get onboard, even though I’m in Australia on the other side of the world. After all, why not take Jo’s message global.

In her maiden speech in Parliament, Jo said: “We have far more in common than that which divides us.”

So, I’d like to invite you to join me for a cup of tea or coffee, toast and Vegemite and even a chocolate Tim Tam. I’d like you to share a bit about yourself and let’s see if we can help join the dots right around the globe.

So, here are our conversation starters. Please leave your answers in the comments below and I ask you to reblog this please. Let’s get the party started!

  • Which country do you live in? How about the city or town you live in?
  • What do you like about where you live? What’s a favourite spot?
  • What is your favourite novel? Why?
  • What is your favourite film? Why?
  • Do you prefer tea or coffee? Why?
  • Introduce your blog and provide a link.

Here are my responses:

I live in Australia with my husband Geoff, our two kids Mr who is 13 and Miss who is 11 and our two dogs. We live in Greater Sydney on Broken Bay a stone’s throw from the beach and a short drive to Brisbane Water, which is protected and ideal for sailing and kayaking. So, we have the best of both worlds, although I tend to appreciate our local area more as a walker with and without the dogs.

What I love most about where we live, is the relaxed atmosphere and the proximity to the hussle and bussle of Sydney, without being in it. Initially, we moved here due to more affordable real estate. However, being away from the thick of it is a real drawcard, which we’re appreciating more and more. My husband commutes to Sydney by train and Sydney is only a train trip away and I also do enjoy that proximity to catch up with family and also get to arty places like Surry Hills.

My Favourite novel. I’m not much of a novel reader. My favourite books are more inspirational and philosophical such as Kilail Gibran’s The Prophet, Mitch Albom’s Tuesday’s With Morrie and Daniel Gottlieb’s Letters to Sam. If you haven’t read these, I highly recommend them.

My favourite film: Casablanca. Years lately, I still go to jelly with so many of those lines and feel a dreadful heartache as I watch the plane take off.

Tea or coffee: I mostly drink decaf tea because I’d be flying if I drank coffee of full strength tea all day. I start the day with a medium strength expresso and will have another if I go to a cafe. I generally have a full strength English Breakfast tea to backup the coffee in the mornind another in the afternoon.

I started Beyond the Flow five years ago as a stepping stone to getting my writing out into the world.My focus at the time was on getting published in the mainstream media and to write and publish books. However, the blog gained a life and purpose of its own, which has also helped me find my voice. This voice surprised me as it was very different to what I’d expected. In the five years I’ve been blogging, there have been many twists and turns. Most notably, there’s been the ups and downs of living with my chronic health conditions…hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain and dermatomyositis, which included a stint of chemo and the uncertainies which go with all of that. I’ve been in remission for 3.5 years now, which hasn’t been smooth sailing. It’s been a very long road for me to find my feet again but I am almost there. My blog is very much about my role as a parent and aspects of that journey with our kids who were 8 and 6 and are now 13 and 11 years old. We have also added another dog to the family. I love how the blog has documented these moments.

Best wishes and I look forward to getting together,

xx Rowena

Do the Milkshake!

Yesterday, my daughter had a friend over and we ended up walking down to a local cafe for a milkshake with the dogs in tow and then onto the beach.

However, these weren’t your average milkshake. Indeed, if you tried doing the milkshake after one of these, your stomach would start to quake. These wacko jacko milkshakes are called Crazy Shakes, and have everything stuck on top but the kitchen sink.  The kids ordered a caramel shake and this came with an entire cinnamon donut parked on top  along with pretzels, popcorn, a caramello koala, a lollypop, possibilly some kit kat, caramel topping and goodness knows what else. Just like our local pie shop makes you sign a waiver before you try their scotchingly hot chilli pies, this place should do the same although I’m not sure how the waiver should read: “Warning: too much gluttonous pleasure contained in this glass?” Or, this milkshake could exceed your annual calorie intake? I’m not sure. I didn’t order one for myself, and ordered a chcolate muffin instead. As nice as it was, it really was “Plain Jane” next to the milkshakes, and I sprinkled some of the kids’ popcorn over the top.

It’s interesting how food trends have changed over the last couple of years. I didn’t bat an eyelid when I saw popcorn or pretzels in the milkshakes. What has become an indulgent take on the norm, would have had you locked up for your own good, a few years ago. That is, unless you were pregnant and could blame it on the cravings.

Anyway, shouting the kids these milkshakes made me feel like the fairy Godmother. “Bad cop” was nowhere in sight.

As I mentioned, we had the dogs with us and they loved being at the cafe. We were sitting outside, which was glorious. Although it’s winter here, sun and blue skies had broken through what had been a week of heavy rain and grey clouds and those warm rays of sunshine felt sooo good! Anyway, Bilbo wandered around the coutryard on border patrol and decided he loved the cafe life when he was given some leftovers. That’s right. It’s perfectly acceptable for dogs to dispose of those delectable leftovers as long as they don’t help themselves off the plate.

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Walking off Indulgence.

After their milkshakes, we strolled down to the beach and walked for a bit. Our struggling beach has been battered further and the erosion and removed more sand and tree cover. While it’s great for those gaining water views across the road, as much as water access would add value to their properties in theory, having your house washed away isn’t quite the same thing. Fortunately, unless there’s a very strong storm, that’s not on the cards…yet.

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Our Beach in Winter.

It was fun walking with the kids and getting to know my daughter’s friend better. While not being gossippy, I’ve found her friends are much more chatty about what’s going on at school and I at least gain some idea of what’s going on. That doesn’t mean that I have my finger on the pulse but at least I might be able to find a pulse if it’s needed.

Amelia looking out to sea

One last point before I head off about this playdate. At 11, the girls are almost old enough to have gone to the cafe themselves and yet they’re not. Not so much because of them as they’re quite capable of ordering, but because of those despicable characters we know are out there and we somehow need to be vigilant without growing out kids up in a dark cupboard. I’m glad they were still happy to have Mum and big brother in tow. We had a wonderful time.

xx Rowena

 

Must Read: Hugh Mackay, Selling the Dream.

For me, it’s a no brainer. Hugh McKay’s seventh novel, Selling The Dream is a must read.

In case you haven’t heard of Hugh McKay, he’s an accomplished Australian social researcher and best-selling author of eighteen books, including seven novels. I heard him present at the Sydney Writers’ Festival a few years ago, where he well and truly lived up to my very high expectations. He has amazing insight and can well and truly read in between the lines. More to the point, he takes us on the journey with him.  So, you can learn a hell of a lot from Hugh McKay, who is undoubtedly a man of great substance and wisdom. Words I don’t throw around lightly.

MackayHugh03

Author Hugh Mackay.

If you have been following Beyond the Flow for some time, you might’ve noticed, that I very rarely do book reviews. This is no coincidence. Partly, it’s because I have a huge book pile, which is largely untouched. Moreover, I tend to feel that writing the odd book review bears more weight, unless you run a book review blog. I should also add, that I don’t finish books which don’t appeal on some level, let alone write a review. Indeed, I rarely write a bad review of any sort, although I’m about to spread the word about a brand of children’s vitamins which taste disgusting, despite being labelled: “chewable”.

So, when you see me write a book review and read that I couldn’t put the book down, you should take notice. Even more so, when I tell you that I bought this book for my Dad’s birthday, but read it BEFORE I gave it to him. Obviously, that says this book is not only good. It’s very good!  That’s very high praise from an Australian. (After all, “not bad” would be an Australian’s equivalent to an American’s “awesome” or something to that effect.)

Although reading a book before you gift it is poor form, my Dad’s a practical man. He’ll understand the logic in reading it while it’s here. Moreover, as a voracious reader, he’ll be grateful that I’ve bought him a book so good, that I couldn’t wait for him to read it first. I can also see Dad with his nose stuck in this book and laughing his head off, just like he did when I gave him: The Rosie Project. I’m really looking forward to talking it over with him too, especially as one of their close friends used to head up a multi-national advertising agency. That could well influence how Dad reads the book.

I’ve actually worked for two advertising agencies myself and would be back working in one in a flash. However, these days I’d be on the creative, rather than the sales side.

That said, I’m honest to a fault and would be chewed up and spat out by the likes of the characters in this book. Characters, who I’m sure weren’t characters at all. They’re so very real.

I really don’t like spoiling a read by exposing too many details. Indeed, I would recommend not even reading the back cover of this book. It says too much. Aside from being a book by Hugh Mackay which for me is reason enough, I also bought it based on this endorsement by John Clarke on the front cover:

 

“If someone asked me who should write a satirical novel about the advertising business – someone with inside knowledge who could write well and was extremely clever and amusing – I’d say, ‘See if Hugh Mackay is available.'” John Clarke

“Lincoln The Hunter is living the dream. Universally admired and terrifically charming, he has a formidable reputation in the world of advertising, and is the jewel in the crown of agency KK&C.

When Linc is handed the reins of the high-budget, high-profile campaign for the groundbreaking new snack ‘The Ripper’, he knows it’s his chance to leverage his way to greater success and greener, more glamourous pastures. No matter that it will leave KK&C floundering in his wake …”

Unfortunately, despite loving this book and being utterly impressed with McKay’s use of language, being a gift, I obviously couldn’t do my usual thing of underlining my favourite turns of phrase. So,I did a quick flick through after my post-it notes fell out. There was one excellent phrase I managed to rediscover: “Fishing off the company pier” , which refers to having an affair with a work colleague.

If you haven’t heard of Hugh McKay, perhaps I haven’t said a lot to convince you to go and read this hilarious, insightful read. That is, other than my word for it. Without spoiling its many twists and turns, I’m just going to say “you’ve gotta have faith”.

You can get to know Hugh Mackay a little better by visiting his web site.

Have you read Selling the Dream or any of Hugh Mackay’s other books? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 10th June, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Tonight, I’d like to offer you what we Australians call a “rubber duckie”, an umbrella and a good waterproof torch. A rubber duckie? That’s an inflatable boat and if it rains too much more, you might be needing it to reach my place.

Yellow taxi

It’s been a very set week for Mum’s Taxi. 

It’s Saturday night here in Sydney, and I’m now trying to get the stuff I’ve been sorting through back in the cupboard so we can get to bed tonight. I’m making good progress, but it takes so long to sort through everything and even if I could throw more stuff out, we don’t have the available bin space. Indeed, despite taking stuff to the thrift shop. I’ve been doing a second bin run for the last month. While talking about garbage collection sounds as humdrum as it comes, our bin manoevres would make for good TV. You see, the garbage truck goes passed our house and then doubles back to pick up the bins on the other side. So, this allows us to refill our bin and wheel it across the road. This is no casual manoevre either. I have to keep an ear our for the truck and as soon as I hear its approaching rumble, my breathing accelerates and I start getting myself primed. I don’t know whether the truck driver has noticed me hotfooting across the road but I usually wait until the truck’s halfway down the street before I make my move. Desperate times call for desperate measures.

Of course, there’s been the aftermath of the London Attacks this week. Two young Australian women were killed in the attack, and our sympathies goes out to their families, friends and communities. So many Australians have had a stint working in the UK just like these girls, yet we’ve returned home. I only spent a week in London when I was there in 1992, and was living and working in Germany. Yet, I still feel a strong sense of solidarity.

Above: Bush Rescue was set at the Echo Point Lookout at Katoomba in the Blue Mountains, West of Sydney.

This week I’ve written two pieces of flash fiction. For Friday Fictioneers, I wrote: Back to Earth and Bush Rescue for Carrot Ranch. While Friday Fictioneers uses a photo prompt, Carrot Ranch has a text prompt. I’ve found it quite interesting doing both prompts in the same week. I’d probably say that I feel there’s more freedom and a wider scope with the text prompt, because I feel my flash has to link closely to photo to answer the brief. Many of these photos were taken in USA and that has been challenging a few times. I usually give my response an Australian element.

Have you written much flash fiction? How do you find it as a genre? Do you have a preference for text or photo prompts? I’d love to hear your thoughts. 

Anyway, so how has your week been? I hope you’ve had a great one. 

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Ally at Nerd in the Brain

xx Rowena

 

Bush Rescue…Flash Fiction Carrot Ranch.

Bob saw the helicopters hovering over the lookout again.

“Blimey, another bloody tourist’s lost,” Bob announced, taking his eyes off the footy. “All our taxpayer dollars going up in smoke. They should pay. This isn’t a free country.”

“Daddy! Daddy!” The kids puffed. “Jet’s stuck in a tree.”

“How on earth did the dog get stuck in a tree? You gone mad?”

“Hamish threw his tennis ball over the edge, and Jet flew straight after it.”

“Bob, told you that dog’s a maniac.”

“So, all those helicopters are out saving our dog????  Thank goodness, he doesn’t have a collar.”

Jonathon at Three Sisters

Surely, this smiley face would never throw his dog’s ball over the edge!!! Of course, this is fiction but…Our son at the Echo Point Lookout, aged 6.

 

June 8, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves playing an outdoor game, like tetherball, hoops, tag. It can be made up, traditional, cultural or any kind of twist. Go where the prompt leads.

Kids at Echo Point Katoomba

The Kids at the Echo Point Lookout, Katoomba in 2010. Mr was 6 and Miss was 4. Her hair still didn’t reach her shoulders. 

This story is set at Echo Point in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. There’s a spectacular lookout there which has views across to the famous Three Sisters and the expansive Grose Valley. I’ve had this idea for a story since we were there a few years ago. It’s quite common for bushwalkers to get lost in the region and big searches have been mounted to save them. This incredible story of Jamie Neale who was lost in the Blue Mountains for 11 days factored into my story and is well worth reading: Lost Backpacker Survives Blue Mountains Ordeal

Now, bushwalkers are urged to take EPIRBS with them.

Anyway, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see a ball obsessed Border Collie like mine, jumping off a cliff to fetch the ball.

Bilbo with ball

Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

By the way, I take our dogs down to our local beach for a run and Bilbo goes crazy chasing other dogs’ tennis balls. Most of the walkers down there, expect a crowd of other dogs to hang around when they throw it to their own. Some of them, however, are not quite so understanding when Bilbo starts barking at them for them to throw it for him! He keeps telling me that he’s a highly skilled athlete, and not an addict. However, I tend to disagree…

xx Rowena