Category Archives: dogs

Stepping Back to Elizabeth Bay, Sydney.

Yesterday, I carpe diemed the afternoon. After my doctor’s appointment at Royal North Shore Hospital, I  went on extensive detour via Elizabeth Bay, which took me across the other side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and heading out towards Bondi and the opposite direction with a few doglegs thrown in versus heading home.

Map of Elizabeth bay & Sydney

Map of Sydney showing the location of Elizabeth Bay and Billyard Avenue, which is about halfway up the right hand side at the blue P. By © OpenStreetMap contributors – http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=15/-33.8699/151.1983, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30198821

 

Such detours have been my modus operandi  after my medical appointments for many years. While they might only be for a few hours, these brief getaways can feel like an adventure exploring all sorts of nooks, crannies and cafes through my Nikon lens and sometimes even my pen.  While this excursion to Elizabeth Bay was perhaps my most extensive detour, it didn’t require a lot of walking and wasn’t going to tire me out. All I had to do was  catch the train to Town Hall, change for Kings Cross and then find a bus to take me down the hill to Elizabeth Bay.

Fortunately, it’s Summer here and we’re on Daylight Savings Time, which allowed me to steal away an extra couple of extra hours before sunset. I truly needed the extra time yesterday. My appointment was at 4.30 pm, and it was 6.00PM by the time I reached Kings Cross Station. Until recently, I would’ve been in darkness. Yet, the sun was still shining and it was perfect weather for photography, which was one of the reasons I’d decided to push the envelope and head out so late in the day.

However, all this enthusiasm, plotting and planning didn’t alleviate my guilt. I still felt like I was on borrowed time and rather naughty. Mum had escaped and gone off the grid. Moreover, to make matters worse, my mobile phone hadn’t charged the night before. So, I was off without a leash and sometimes even I didn’t know where I was. BTW, that wasn’t a joke. With my appalling sense of direction, it’s the truth.

Well, I suppose there are those of you wondering why I was going to Elizabeth Bay on what had evolved into Friday night when I live a couple of hours North by train and so much longer as the crow flies. No doubt, there are also those very sensible souls among you, who would ramp that up a notch into an agitated: “What on earth was she doing out over there with only 25 sleeps left before Christmas? What’s she doing going on random detours, when she should be focused on essential activities only? After all, next Saturday is her daughter’s dance concert and on Sunday, she’s performing Danny Boy on her violin at the end of year concert. This isn’t the time for stray, random excursions. It’s time to stick to the diary. Go through the check list and stay true to the path. This is no time for pursuing the road less traveled.

Eunice & Robert Wedding

My grandparents’ wedding photo: Eunice Gardiner and Robert Curtin.

However, about a month ago, I found out that when my grandparents were first married, that they’d lived in a flat at Caversham Court, 25 Billyard Avenue, Elizabeth Bay. I was so excited. It was like a spark of electricity igniting my soul. Well, that might be an exaggeration. However, I love finding out anything about them. It momentary brings them back to life, and I realize just how much I miss them. So, I couldn’t wait to check the place out in person. Walk the very streets they’d walked, even if I couldn’t experience that nunoo nunoo sense of being back in the very same flat. I had seen a few photos taken through the windows looking out across the harbour and I could feel myself looking out that very same window, seeing the world through their eyes for just a moment in time.To see through their eyes…how powerful is that? It’s what a writer attempts to do with a character, but it means so much more when it’s someone you love, especially when they’re gone.

Caversham Court

Caversham Court, 25 Billyard Ave, Elizabeth Bay.

Perhaps, I could rightly blame Google for this sense of urgency. This need to go there and experience Caversham Court for myself. You see, thanks to Google, I was able to check out Caversham Court both inside and out. When you see it all by itself online, it looks very distinguished with striking art deco features, and it’s clearly from another era. When I looked inside, I fell in love with interior layout of the flats, which have a circular room. I don’t think I’ve ever been inside a circular room like this. Indeed, any place I’ve ever lived it, has always been composed of rectangles and squares and you’re ultimately living in a box. This, on the other hand, was architecture. Much to my delight, the real estate agents had also posted photos looking through the windows across to Sydney Harbour. Naturally, I thought of my grandparents looking out through those windows. Yet, at the same time, not knowing their flat number, I couldn’t quite put myself in situ.Didn’t know which window was theirs.

 

When it comes to location, Caversham Court has a lot going for it. It’s the first street back from the harbour and you only need to venture across the road, to find Boomerang, one of Sydney’s most expensive, prestigious mansions.  Elizabeth Bay House isn’t far away either. Indeed, nothing is very far away. Well, that’s except for me in terms of getting home.

So, now we’ll pick up my journey from where I caught the bus at Kings Cross Station. It’s at this point, that I regret not bringing a map and the fact that my phone didn’t charge last night and is as flat as a tack. Directions-wise, I’m on my own. If you know me well, this is a red flag moment and you should be hearing something along the lines of: Danger, Will Robinson!” However, at least at this stage, I’m heading the right direction. The bus is moving along Darlinghurst Road past the El Allemein fountain and turning right on cue. So far, so good. I know where we are.

It’s just after this point, that things became a little crazy and I became lost in space. it appeared that Elizabeth Bay was a lot smaller in real life that I’d expected, and not quite the landmark I’d imagined. Looking out the window, I can’t find Billyard Avenue anywhere and the narrow streets are twisting into a confusing maze. I have no idea where I am, or where Billyard Avenue is hiding. Elizabeth Bay is missing. I can’t see it anywhere. Of course, I pressed the panic button. Sought help from the bus driver, who I figured ought to know where he is going. However, to my horror, the bus driver’s never heard of Billyard Avenue and neither have the other passengers. While it might’ve been the centre of my universe, Billyard  had never crossed their path and they clearly weren’t missing it. However, a true hero of a passenger, Googled it on his phone and it was time to jump off the bus and backpedal down the hill. Of all the days for my phone not to charge, this wasn’t a good one.

These directions were a help, but not my salvation. I didn’t take in much of what he said, except that I needed to get off the bus immediately. It was rapidly leaving Elizabeth Bay and heading towards Miller’s Point. I’m on Greenknowe Ave walking past an Elizabeth Bay Cafe and keep walking into what turns into a dead end with no Billyard Avenue. Things aren’t looking right either. Of course, this is when it should’ve hit me that while I was exploring Elizabeth Bay on Google Maps,  I was approaching it from the harbour, not from behind via Kings Cross and these back streets. Well, it wasn’t exactly a back street because it was the main road, but it wasn’t Billyard Avenue and that’s all that mattered.  I knew where I was going, and simply didn’t know how to get there.

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Has anyone seen Zozo the cat near Billyard Avenue? With the troubles I was having trying to find Billyard Ave, my family might also have been filling out a Missing Person’s Report. Mummy: Last seen leaving RNSH heading for Elizabeth Bay…

Thank goodness for walkers. A lady redirected me down Ithaca Road. I should’ve mentioned, by the way, that my big, heavy Nikon camera with it’s even heavier zoom lens has been dangling from my neck all this time. That despite being lost and nowhere near Cavendish Court with the sun starting to fade as the time is speeding towards 6.30PM and the land of the setting sun, I’m stopping every few metres to capture the art deco architectural features, huge Moreton Bay fig trees overhanging the road, and just about anything else I come across. Somehow, the ordinary became extraordinary surrounded by these stately art deco beauties and a sense of yesteryear. A yesteryear when my grandparents actually walked these streets and called it home. A time when my grandmother wrote a letter into the Sydney Morning Herald encouraging open-mindedness during WWII when the Sydney Eisteddfod banned the use of German language in 1941. By the way, that’s how I found out they were living here. No one ever told me, and they must’ve lived here for less than a year because my uncle was born in Cremorne.

Finally, after so many twists, turns and restarts, I turn the corner and here’s the view of the harbour I was expecting all along and like an apparition, I finally spot a street sign heralding the appearance of Billyard Avenue. I could jump for joy.

In real life, Billyard Avenue is a narrow one-way street, which could be better described as a lane. Indeed, after seeing it online, it feels like the place has taken a deep breath, and shrunk, halving in size.

Mopeds Billyard Ave

Mopeds parked on the corner of Billyard Ave and Ithaca Road.

I stop to photograph a handful of mopeds parked at the corner. You see quite a few of them buzzing through Elizabeth Bay. Given the narrow streets and scarcity of parking, they seem like a great idea. They’re part of the lifestyle here along with walking smallish fluffy dogs…poodles, cavoodles and definitely nothing as ordinary as a Staffy or Blue Heeler.

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The Overgrown Tower, Cnr Billyard Ave and Ithaca Road.

Before I reach Caversham Court, I am struck by the block of flats on the corner of Ithaca Road, which is overgrown with vegetation of an unspecified species. Essentially, the building looks like a jungle was growing all over its head and that David Attenburgh could well appear out of the undergrowth at any tick of the clock. I wonder what species of human he would find in there? It all seemed rather mysterious, and a great setting for a macabre, Gothic novel.

Boomerang is across the road. It is hard to imagine an extraordinary, giant mansion backing onto this narrow road. Indeed, boomerang itself seems strange, mystical and it’s hard to believe that it actually exists and it is here. You can’t see much of the building itself. However, the door is a work of art from another era. I can almost imagine that if you removed the Boomerang from the door and threw it, that you might actually land somewhere back in the Dreamtime.

Still, I digress. I am here to check out and photograph Caversham Court. There she is with her architectural splendour, albeit rather penned in. I am filled with a strange sense of awe knowing my grandparents lived here as newly weds. That this was where they returned to after their honeymoon and the very first place they called home. I could sense them so strongly, but more in the sense of watching a movie than really feeling a concrete presence as such.

Gardenia

A Gardenia photographed outside Caversham Court

The block of flats next door is being renovated as are the steps and front foyer of Caversham Court. Indeed, the steps up to the foyer are covered in scaffolding and she actually looks a bit sorry for herself. If she were human and you turned the clock back a good 50 years, you’d be offering her “a Bex and a good lie down”. There’s not a lot more I can photograph here. However, I did spot and photograph a solitary white Gardenia flower growing in the garden bed out the front. While that might not excite you, my heart skipped a beat because my grandfather loved and grew gardenias. Obviously, this particular one didn’t date back to when they were living here, but it did give me a sense of him being here.

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The foyer, Caversham Court, looks like it’s having orthodontic treatment.

By now, the light was starting to fade. So, I headed back to Ithaca Road and left into Beare Park which fronts onto the Harbour. I’m not sure at this stage whether this little patch of soil is the full extent of Elizabeth Bay but it was what I would describe as “cosy”. There was the marina on the left and Beare Park on the right, which was a couple of handkerchiefs of grass with a few park benches facing the harbour. There was a teeny strip of sand near the marina and a green tennis ball caught my eye. I’ve had too many ball chasing dogs to ignore it and couldn’t help wondering if there’s a displaced green tennis ball at every beach. Moreover,  it seems that for every ball you lose, there’s always another green tennis ball to replace it.

Being Summer and Friday night, a few people were gathering to have a picnic dinner in Beare park, or to simply share a glass or two of wine. There were also a few dog walkers and I spotted a very excited golden Poodles and a Cavoodle running off the leash through the grass with their ears flapping. My goodness. I don’t think any other creature on this planet, can do “happy’ with quite the zest and enthusism of a dog. They’re the best!

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Two empty seats…one for each of my grandparents.

I sat on a park bench for a bit watching the Friday night yachts racing on Sydney Harbour. Checking out the ferries zipping along hugging the opposite side of the Harbour, which might’ve been Neutral Bay. I can never be overly sure of what’s where with my dreadful sense of direction. The only thing I could really be sure of, was that the ferries were in a body of water known as Sydney Harbour. That’s all.

Time has never been my friend, and by this stage I was really becoming conscious of getting home.  I didn’t want to get into Woy Woy Station too late and was becoming concerned about my safety. It was only supposed to be a quick trip after all.

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A great place for dinner along with a side-serve of philosophy.

So, I walked back up Ithaca Road and stopped at a deli up the top. Wow! This was like entering a food Mecca specializing in Greek food. I bought some calimari, dolmades and two servings of a dessert Galaktoboureko. It looked absolutely scrumpious and coming straight back to Elizabeth Bay for more, was going to be out of the question.

So, now I just had to cross the road to the bus and wait. And wait. And wait. Two buses failed to materialize, and I was starting to wonder whether I should walk or catch a cab and then reminding myself that we weren’t stuck in the outback. A bus would come and eventually it did.

At this stage, I’m not sure when I’ll be back to Elizabeth Bay. However, although I share this stunning spot with thousands and thousands of people who actually live in all those flats, it did feel like my own little patch of Sydney Harbour. My own personal getaway. That is something well worth coming back for…and more of that Galaktoboureko. Sadly, the kids were still awake when I got home and those two pieces had to be sub-divided. What a pity.

Have you been on any adventures lately? I’d love to hear all about them.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Running Faster Than A Speeding Bullet…

This afternoon, my son and I took the dogs for a run along the beach and it was absolutely spectacular. The weather was absolutely magnificent with lashings of warm, balmy sunshine and if I was more adventurous, perfect for a swim.

Zac Rosie Lady

Our Three Canine Companions….Rosie left, Lady Front and Zac rear. 

Well, here we have our three canine beauties photographed in motion at the beach. Well, the two now fully grown pups are in motion, while lady takes a more leisurely approach to the beach. That’s not difficult considering that the pups view it as a racing track.

There’s quite a knack to taking the dogs to the beach. Although we live walking distance from the beach, dog beach is a little further away. This means it’s a bit too far for me to walk with the three dogs, and walk along the beach as well. So, we all pile into the old car known as the “Dog Mobile” to get there. What with three irrepressible dogs who know exactly where they’re going, the drive is pandemonium and a bit like shouting lollies to a pack of toddlers. You have to brace yourself.

Once we’ve parked, we walk the dogs onto the beach on lead for safety. By this point, they’re truly irrepressible and I really need to remind myself to step into my boss shoes before we all become airborne. Geronimo! Once those leads were off, the pups flew like bullets down the beach and they were truly beautiful to watch. Indeed, they reminded me of thoroughbred horses.

Our son became quite agitated about them and worse-case scenarios flooded his mind like a storyteller. One minute the dogs were going to disappear in pursuit of a seagull. Then, they were going to run out through the shallows onto the sandbar halfway to Palm Beach, in which case it would be my job to retrieve them. There was also a strong rip and this has proven hazardous to smaller dogs and a friend’s had to dive in after his white fluff ball a few times. There’s was also a fisherman and the dogs often end up trying to snaffle their bait. However, today the dogs were more focused on running than prawns and just flew past.

Despite their unbridled energy and a smorgasbord of hazards on every flank, I was quite relaxed. All they wanted to do was run. Run faster than the wind. Indeed, they were built to run fast. However, they weren’t running away. Indeed, whenever I’ve been here with them before, they’ve always had an eye on me.

After all, just like humans, dogs know that as much as freedom is a wonderful thing, so is a sense of belonging. That becoming lost, especially when you’re alone can be terrifying whether you’re a human or a dog. Mind you, I must say that getting lost doesn’t seem to worry Lady. She’s been quite the escape artist and we’ve received multiple calls asking if we’ve lost a dog.

That said, we haven’t had her since she was a pup, and perhaps that explains her apparent lack of attachment. However, she was quite happy to leave her former life behind and come with us in the car when we picked her up. It was only some time later, that she started wondering what was going on and wanting to go back.

I really loved being back at the beach. We’ve had about three weeks’ worth of torrential rain and with the sun out, it was time to do the happy dance. It was magnificent.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – October 1st, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Pinch and a punch for the first day of the month. No returns.

Now that we’ve got that out of the way, could I offer you a stick? Well, I’m not exactly the one offering you the stick. That’d be Rosie whose dropped the stick right on my keyboard for you. Zac’s parked himself a bit further back but though he’s hiding in the boon docks, he’s just as keen. Lady, our 6 year old Border Collie x Cavalier couldn’t care less about chasing sticks or tennis balls. She parked herself next to a bag of dog food for the afternoon desperately willing it to levitate and magically fill up her bowl.

It’s now Monday night here and today was the Labor Day Long Weekend here in NSW and Geoff had the day off. The kids are on their first week of school holidays. We couldn’t quite get ourselves organized to go away. Amelia will be in a dance production next week and the kids are taking turns staying with my parents in Sydney. Term 4 gets incredibly busy for us what with dance concert, sailing and Christmas. So, I just feel like l needed to get things sorted out at home and start the term ahead, not from behind. I remember getting back from holidays the night before school went back when the kids were younger and she could sort of get away with it. Now, there’s so much to grapple with and get under our belts and I just want us all to pass muster.

On Saturday, Geoff and I drove over to Pearl Beach about 15 minutes drive away. We’d planned to go to the Pearl Beach Food & Wine Festival but got the date wrong and went to an art exhibition instead and then went for a walk along the beach and onto the rock platform, camera poised. I picked up on the limpets which seemed to be sitting on the edge of a pool sunning themselves. Their miniature underwater wonderland was quite mesmerizing.

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The  Pearl Beach Garage Sale.

Driving back from Pearl Beach, we stopped in at an art and garage sale. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven, although for some of you, you’d probably think it was a funny kind of heaven. Three artists lived in the house. The garage sale was on one side, which looked like something out of my grandparents’ place and I could’ve bought the place out if I had the money and the space. One of the artists took dressmaking mannequins, laquered them and turned them into lamps. They were stunning and so unique. My grandmother had one of those things and used to make me dresses. Indeed, her mother was an accomplished dressmaker and used to make my grandmother’s gowns for her piano recitals. I have a thing for antique and vintage sheet music and they had a pack of 60’s Beatles sheet music with Can’t Buy Love on the top. I really wanted it but came across an antique photo frame with waratahs carved into the wood. This is the only one of these antique carved frames I’ve ever seen which has depicted Australian fauna. I’ve studied Australian cultural history at uni and ever since and really believe Australians need to know their own culture. I put that under a very broad heading because we’re a very diverse people but when I’ve travelled overseas, I’ve known that there’s something, that mysterious X-factor which runs through us. Hold us together.

Oops. I was supposed to be giving you a bird’s eye view of this garage sale, not beating you over the head with a sermon about what it means to be Australian. As we pulled up out the front, we couldn’t miss the laminex table with orange vinyl chairs. I remember having something very similar as a kid and being overjoyed when it found its way to the tip. Yet, I was so excited to see it again and if we didn’t already have about three tables surplus to requirements, I would’ve brought it home. I quite literally felt my heart jump out of my chest when I saw it. I must be a fairly simple soul, because it wasn’t anything flash, designer or unique. It was just a memory. A kitchen table. Our kitchen table.The heart of the home. Geez, I’m a sentimental sod and it’s no wonder the place is packed to the rafters.

I was pouring over all the stuff and came across a violin. As you might be aware, I’ve been learning the violin for about five years but lately my confidence has taken a nose dive and I’ve been feeling self-conscious. I think I’ve outgrown beginner’s pluck and am much more conscious of my mistakes rather than being thrilled to play anything at all. However, a moment of madness, or to be honest it was the real me breaking out because I’m a performer at heart. An extrovert. Someone was interested in buying it and taking up the violin at 51 and I did my very best to convert her to what must surely be one of the most difficult, cantankerous and beautiful instruments in the world. I tried to play a few bars of Danny Boy, which I’m preparing for the end of year concert but without the music I was flying blind. It was fun though and more like a stand-up performance.

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The kitchen table mid clean-up.

Today, was D- Day. That is D for Desk and this was operation clean-up my desk to set up the stereo Geoff bought me last Christmas. It’s been sitting in its box all that time, which I know was an incredible waste but in addition to finding room for it, I also had to set it up and that was a huge unknown. I hate anything technical and Geoff’s been so busy plus he always seems to want me to do these things for myself when all I want, is for him to take care of it. I’ve never felt the need to learn how to change a tyre either. That doesn’t mean I don’t believe in feminism or equality. I’m sure there are a lot of men who can’t change a tyre either. No one has to do it all. Fit all of humanity in their own two shoes. Indeed, we can’t. That’s why we have community.

Anyway, I’ve managed to set up the stereo and spent the afternoon listening to Icehouse: Man of Colours while carting stuff in between my desk, the kitchen table and the bin.

These cleanups are all great at the beginning when you’re making great progress. However, as the hours go by and you’re down to the nitty-gritty sorting and there’s no end in sight, it all seems like a very bad idea. Yet, this blitzkreig or clear-felling approach to sorting out my desk has been tried and tested. It works, but the mess gets so bad that you really wonder if you’ll ever find the surface of the kitchen table again.

Creative Genius at Work

For some strange reason, this desk is looking more than a trifle staged. BTW do you like my creative genius?

Well, the kitchen table wasn’t even clear beforehand. I’ve started packing up our lounge room so we can replace the flooring and I had half a dozen items on there which still needed to be packed up. They’re now gone back where they came from for the time being. Rome wasn’t deconstructed and rebuilt in a day.

Well, the table passed muster and we had supermarket lasagna for dinner to keep things simple.

In terms of this week’s posts, I shared about a new stick swing Geoff built for the pups in Exhausting A Working Dog. For Thursday Doors, we went back to Penguin in Tasmania for Penguin Doors. Then, for Friday Fictioneers, I wanted to incorporate Macbeth into my plot this week, after re-reading it during the week to encourage my son who has had to study Shakespeare for the first time at school in The Wake. Finally, I wrote about our trip to Pearl Beach

How was your week? I look forward to catching up with you and thanks for popping round to join me.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Exhausting A Working Dog.

A working dog needs a job, a challenge and when none is provided, it will soon create a job of its own. Although Rosie and Zac, our year old Border Collie x Kelpie pups, love chasing balls and sticks right down to retrieving minute splinters and fragments, fetch becomes difficult when there’s no one home to throw. With no one to throw, somehow  being home alone translates into: “Let’s dig a hole.” Or even: “Let’s play wombats and dig a network of underground tunnels”. For all I know, they could even be digging an underground spy network, or even working on the great escape. No. They wouldn’t do that. They love us much too much. On the other hand, Lady, our Border Collie x Cavalier would be off in a flash. We’ve even had to install chicken wire along the fence line. Yes. She could well be called: “The Wanderer” :

“They call me the wanderer
Yeah, the wanderer
I roam around, around, around”

– Dion.

Humph…when you consider escape artists and the diggingest dogs, even I’m wondering why we’ve further complicated our already complex lives with three “unnecessary” dogs. However, love knows no bounds, no logic, no sense. We have four humans and only three dogs, not that we have room for anymore except on a temporary basis. After all, we’re not on a farm. Of course, this also means that when the dogs decide to dig large, wombat like burrows, our backyard becomes a safety hazard and it wouldn’t take much to break an ankle, let alone your neck.

This is when their excavating activities met their match. Deciding to distract them, Geoff built them the stick toy to end all stick toys…the Giant Stick Swing. He screwed a chain into a very big stick, which he suspended like a swing so the dogs could grip hold of the stick and wrestle with it for hours and hours while they keep trying to work out how to extricate the stick from its cage. Our daughter was given the task of getting them interested and then their new job began. Both of them were working flat out pulling at the stick trying to get it out, running round and round and back and forth. It was the perfect device for exhausting two very energetic working dogs. Happy Days.

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The Dog Proof Lawn Protector in situ.

By the way, the Giant Stick Swing is only Geoff’s latest invention. You might recall that I recently introduced you to the  Dog Proof Lawn Protector where Geoff attached a layer of protective chicken wire to a large wooden frame which he is moving around the backyard on the equivalent of a crop rotation system, where he’s sowing grass seed and installing new sprinkler heads as he goes. It’s a lot of hard work just to have a patch of green, especially when there are no guarantees. Growing grass seems to be as precarious as farming crops. There are no guarantees.

Yet, there are those green thumbed-freaks of humanity out there who somehow have a perfect lawn. Indeed, they have a manicured lawn, which looks like it’s been trimmed with a pair of nail scissors and is meticulously maintained. Lawn which is a show piece, a status symbol. However, the perfect green lawn is quite an indulgence when we’re in the midst of a severe drought. Yet, at the same time, we’re doing what we can to salvage our patch of green from three working dogs, the drought and sandy beach soil and we’re succeeding without too great a cost.

Do you have any dog posts to share? Or, perhaps you’re also struggling to nurture your own patch of green? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Chocolate Brownie with a Stick on the Side.

It’s been awhile since I’ve dobbed in a dog on Beyond the Flow. However, when I found one of Rosie’s sticks parked on the plate  right next to my chocolate brownie, duty called. All of a sudden the quirkiness of living with dogs was flashing like neon lights and I couldn’t keep my amusement to myself. I had to share it with you.

Above: Zac top left, Lady bottom right and Rosie has the red collar and spots.

Just to recap on the dogs in our family…We have Lady, a 6 year old Border Collie x Cavalier who is more Cavalier in temperament. Left to her own devices, she’d love to eat and sleep all day and chase the occasional moving critter. She totally ignores balls and sticks and refuses to chase inanimate objects. Last year, after Bilbo our beloved Border Collie passed away, we fostered two Border Collie x Kelpie pups from the same litter…Zac and Rosie. They’re now about one year old. Zac and Rosie are like twins and it’s not uncommon for each of them to grab an end of the stick and play tug-of-war with each other. Lady has absolutely no interest in chasing sticks or balls, which was a big reason we adopted the pups. We were used to a crazed, ball-obsessed dog and as much as he drove us crazy, we couldn’t live without this harassment. We needed that constant pestering.

That might explain how I’ve allowed myself to get manipulated and dare I say trained into perpetually throwing the stick , or even the teeniest splintered fragments to Rosie. I’ve also found myself feeling rather fed up, and it’s a natural instinct to throw something away when it’s annoying you. However, you don’t need to be a human or dog psychologist to know that this is only reinforcing the very behavior I’m trying to curb.  Clearly, I’m being out-manipulated by a dog. Or, you could say that I’m  very well trained.

Being a true blue desperado, Rosie keeps depositing these bits of stick right in front of whatever I’m watching. Quite often, she’ll hover over my laptop and delicately remove the smallest fragment of stick out of her mouth with surgical precision and place it on the keyboard. This might even be accompanied by a gentle nudge with her paw as a polite but rather insistent reminder.  “Come on, human. Get moving!” Or, as one of my teacher’s used to say back in primary school in around 1978: “Wake up, Australia!” (I wonder if this was because Australia was generally seen to be asleep???!!)

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I’m not sure why I found it particularly funny that Rosie had deposited a stick on the plate next to my brownie. There are random stray bits of stick scattered all around me and I’ve even had a stick or two go down my top. That was rather disturbing and quite an invasion of privacy. So, having bits of stick turn up in unexpected places is nothing new around here. However, it did look particularly striking on the plate and like it had been dished up…Chocolate Brownie Served with Fragment of stick. Humph…I can see it appearing on the menu at Heston Blumenthal’s  The Fat Duck in However, the very near future. The must have dish!

However, perhaps it’s what happened next which really caught my attention. Rosie goes over to my plate and unlike your average dog who would’ve helped themselves to the brownie if they’d had the chance, Rosie picks up the stick and brings it closer. Drops it on my lap. I don’t know about you, but if I had the choice between a brownie and a stick, it’d be a no brainer. Just in case you’ve been infected by a similar madness, let me just confirm. I’d take the brownie.

Rosie! Rosie! Rosie! Hasn’t anyone told you that you’re just a tad too obsessed? Trust me! We’ve tried. We even get her up on our laps, massage and pat her and try to get her to relax. It occasionally works. However, most of the time she’s looking trapped and is squirming to escape.

Clearly, she’s taking the whole working dog thing too seriously, and needs to learn about holidays.

Has your dog been up to anything “interesting” lately? Feel free to dob in your dog in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Making the Grass Greener.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

A few short weeks ago, we looked out over our backyard the same way Moses saw the Promised Land. However, all we saw was a dust bowl with three dogs standing somewhere in it and a few holes dug in for good measure. Indeed, if I hadn’t seen the three dogs, I might’ve wondered whether a wombat had taken up residence in our backyard. Some of these holes were huge.

Needless to say, the grass wasn’t happy.

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”

Walt Whitman

Moreover, just to add to it’s struggles, we’re in the throws of a serious drought and just because we’re not farming out on the land, doesn’t mean we haven’t been affected by the lack of rain. It might not be affecting our livelihood but our backyard was a dust bowl.

“The moment one gives close attention to anything,
even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome,
indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

–   Henry Miller

So we have digging dogs, dry drought and then there’s the sandy soil. We live metres away from the beach and while this very same sandy beach might be a thing of beauty, our sandy soil is largely infertile could go a few rounds of IVF. Indeed, even the weeds had given up trying to grow in our backyard. There was just bare sand.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t hold out much hope of ever seeing green grass out the back, let alone anything approaching a lawn. I’d more or less assumed that my husband had also given up. After all, it had been awhile and there wasn’t exactly a lot of activity out there.

However, I don’t know what happened, but my husband sent up the backyard sprinkler system again. That was step one. Then, he built a very clever lawn growing contraption of the likes I’ve never seen before. Just like Australia has the rabbit proof fence, my husband built the dog proof lawn protector by simply nailing four planks of wood together and covering it with chicken wire. Just like the Parable of the Sower, my husband sowed out the lawn seed, covered it with the protector and then it was on with the sprinklers every night.

Then, miracle of miracles, we now have lawn. Indeed, the dog proof lawn protector has been moved onto its second location and much of the grass in the first plot is still alive.

Sometimes, I think we can settle where we are believing that things can’t get any better. That this is as good as it gets and we can forget to prepare the soil, sow the seed and water our dreams or just even our basic needs. It’s too easy then to fall into an engulfing sense of despair where there is not point lifting a finger or even trying to get up off the ground and pick up our mats.

I also want to say that I’m proud of my husband for coming up with our dog proof lawn protector. He commutes to Sydney puts in a long day’s work and is my carer 24/7 as well as being a father to our kids and the three crazy mutts. In so many ways, that’s life. We’re all busy. We each have our lot. Our hardships and our blessings. Last weekend, he started a sailing course. So, now he’s not only enjoying some green grass, he’s also experiencing some smooth sailing. Well, perhaps in time.

Is there something that’s changed recently in your life that’s made a difference? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share… 13th August, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

As much as I’d love to have you over for coffee tonight, you might want to reconsider. It’s so cold that my fingers are numb. Of course, it would help if I accepted that it was still Winter, and that turning on the heater or putting on a jumper would be a good move. It’s evening and currently 11°C or 52°F.

Rosie tennis balls laptop

Rosie with her tennis ball collection on my laptop.

Before I proceed, let me just introduce you to Rosie, our black and white Border Collie x Kelpie, who is staring straight at me with dogged persistence. She has a serious fixation with chasing balls, sticks or anything which could possibly launch through the air with her in hot pursuit. Rosie’s been parked in front of my chair for hours patiently depositing fragments of stick on my keyboard depositing fragments of sticks and tennis ball on my keyboard, and wondering why I haven’t seen them. Indeed, the pile is growing and she’s just upped her campaign and brought me a forbidden wooden peg. You should see the focus on those eyes and the highly strung tension in every cell of her body. She can maintain this pose for hours…and hours. I’m ignoring her more than usual tonight. Wonder if she thinks I’m broken? Or, perhaps she’s concluded I require more training… She certainly hasn’t given up trying to motivate this comatose human. She is the personification (or should that be dogification?) of persistence.

Rowena Haircut

Sporting my new haircut at the local waterfront. 

My big news this week, is that I’ve finally had my haircut. While I acknowledge that for much of the population having a haircut is a non-event, for me it’s more of significant and I’m out there ringing the brass bell.  Forgive me Father for I have sinned. It’s been around two years since my last haircut, and that rushed ponytail or makeshift bun have been heaven-sent. I know it sounds terrible now I’ve actually reflected on my crime and the horrors -of “letting myself go”. It’s just that it takes a lot of effort, not to mention money to maintain the facade, and my prime focus is more on what goes on underneath something money can’t buy.

Rowena Flying Hair

Trying to get a photo of my new haircut…the wind showed no respect and kept blowing it around. 

After my haircut,, I headed back down to Terrigal Beach for a Fisherman’s Basket and thought my hair hair was about to fly away…so much for respecting my new haircut. However, I was grateful to find a parking spot. It took quite a tour to find one. What? Did they know I was coming? Obviously not.

Last week, I mentioned that I was reading Raphaelle Giordano’s  French novel: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One. This inspirational book is a hard creature to categorize. While it claims to be a novel, for me it reads more like a memoir, which is perhaps the ultimate tick of approval for any novel. After all, they’re supposed to feel real, and lure the eager reader into their web.

However, most novels don’t include action steps and writing post-it notes to change your life. Fill the void surrounded by all the trappings of success, supposed happiness, dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s.

I decided to take on these challenges myself. Why not?

The first task was to throw out ten items. Me being me, I started musing to myself about what these ten things should be. Of course, I could follow the letter of the law and throw out ten bobby pins and cross it off. However, obviously to experience the full benefit, I needed to embrace the full spirit of the law. Ideally, I would’ve moved on the piano, car bed or table I’ve been meaning to sell or give away, but that wasn’t going to happen quickly. So, I found a sort of middle ground and the deed was done. Too much analysis was only going to lead to paralysis, something I knew too well.

In the book, simply throwing out these ten items launches Camille into a cleaning and renovation frenzy where she even ends up painting their apartment. Such monumental change seemed too good to be true. However, I’m also finding a renewed desire to straighten things up around here. As usual, all roads are leading to my desk and the kitchen table, which always end up as a layer cake of family detritus. Indeed, I have no doubt that there are even fragments of stick buried on my very desk. Clearly, when it comes to sorting all of this out, I’m up against it.However, I’m not aiming for clinical perfection. It is our home. We’re a family. Love, connection and relationships are what it’s all about. Yet, these diametrically opposed worlds collide in every home and we each just try to make the best of it.

Have you read any good books lately? Has anyone read the Jane Hawk series by Dean Koontz? I heard a great review this week, and am tempted to have a go. I don’t usually like reading series and am more of a non-fiction reader, but might give it a go.

How has your week been? What have you been up to? I hope it been great.

This has been another contribution for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali. You’re welcome to come and join us for a cuppa.

Best wishes,

Rowena