Category Archives: Parenting

Weekend Coffee Share – 7th February, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

After a hot and sunny day, it’s now after midnight. I can hear the rain outside cleansing the air, watering the earth, and all that grows. The blinds are drawn. So, I can’t see outside, but I can hear the raindrops, and a bit of wind and an intermittent soft pitter-patter on the roof. Of course, the dogs are inside sheltering with their humans, and the rest of the family is asleep I should be sleep too. However, after a hectic day yesterday, I slept through much of today and am out of synch again. Things also feel much more straightforward at night when there’s only myself to think about. There’s peace and quiet, and this sense of nothingness. I think that’s the sense that catastrophe is only just being held at bay, and this is but a stolen moment of respite from it all. Intermission. However, even intermission is good, isn’t it?!!

The highlight of this week was our daughter’s dance competition. She doesn’t enter many of these, and they sort of hover on the horizon with a mix of excitement and dread. I really love watching her dance. Not only because she’s my daughter. She’s also a magnificent dancer. Moreover, as a poet and writer, dance appeals to my soul, my inner most being. Well, at least some of it does. Lyrical, which is essentially about telling a story, is my favourite genre. It tends to remind me of some of my favourite poets…Kahlil Gibran, Rumi, and can be rather connected to nature. However, I do become quite entranced by ballet and all its trappings…tutus, satin pointe shoes and tiaras. However, I also want depth to any dance, and not just flouncing around.

Anyway, the concert began in earnest, two days earlier when we ended up on a last minute pointe shoe run. Our daughter had ordered in a pair, and they hadn’t arrived, leaving her seriously in the lurch, and with only two days for us to find a pair. For the uninitiated, pointe shoes need to be fitted, and for that you need an appointment. We had no appointment. On top of that, finding the right pointe shoe reminds me of Prince Charming trying to find the foot which fit into the glass slipper, only in reverse. We had the foot, and now we need to find the one in a million pointe shoe which was not only going to fit, but also offer exactly the right amount of support. It’s a very precise science, and our daughter’s had a few pairs now and has a pretty good idea of what she needs. Thankfully, we managed to find the pair, and on Saturday we were off with the car loaded up with costumes, shoes, food, a newspaper, and a book. It was going to be a 12 hour day, and even if you love dance, it’s a lot to watch and a lot of things you could be sorting out at home. As it was, she came first in her ballet solo, third in her duo and third in her Contemporary. However, just getting through all of this and all the preparation, is an achievement for us both. I was pleased I didn’t screw anything up.

Meanwhile, now that school has been back for a few weeks, I’ve started getting back into my WWI research and am focusing on a series of bios of people on the home front. It wasn’t my intention to write about the home front at all. However, I came across these stories and outliers while researching our families’ stories and working towards a collection of soldiers’ bios. Now, that I’ve been thinking about the home front more, I feel the link to the home front and the battlefield is closer than I thought and they’re quite interactive, even though they’re geographically quite distant in Australia’s case.

You see, the soldiers themselves are coming from the home front, so what’s going on there obviously has a strong influence on why they enlisted. Then, there are soldiers returning home, who are also bringing experiences and news from the battlefield to the front home. Anyway, right from the get go, it’s been riveting, and it’s exciting to see it coming together. By the way, this research turned into my covid lockdown project and it’s really given me a strong sense of purpose during these uncertain times, especially when we were in lockdown last year.

Have you had a covid project?

Actually, speaking of Covid, have you had the vaccine yet? It isn’t available here yet, and I’ll need to speak to my specialist before I go ahead. BTW for those of you who are wondering why get vaccinated if it doesn’t provide full protection from the virus and negate the need for masks, my view is that all these precautions add up and will hopefully be effective as a whole. It’s like wearing a suit of armour. You still need your sword.

Anyway, I’m going to head off because it’s way too late.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer at https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

When death comes. — Into The Clearing

In January my husband and I had to rush my Dad to emergency. We had to take a strange route to avoid traffic. We also had to keep him calm. He was ironically excited in his delirium from level 10 pain. We thought he would need to stay a few days but in reality the […]

When death comes. — Into The Clearing

Weekend Coffee Share – 31st January, 2021.

Welcome To Another Weekend Coffee Share!

You’re in luck again this week. I can offer you a slice of double-layer banana cake with passion fruit icing and filled with whipped cream, which has now been soaked up by the cake itself so it’s very creamy. It’s not rocket science, but it is particularly good, and the passion fruit icing really reminds me of my mum whose speciality is sponge cakes with passion fruit icing and cream. I doubt passion fruit is native to Australia, but it feels Australian, and especially suits our balmy Summers. (Turns out it’s actually native to southern Brazil through Paraguay and northern Argentina)

Sorry, I forgot to ask. Would you like tea or coffee with that? Or, perhaps you’d like something else?

How was your week? I hope it’s been good, and that Covid isn’t interfering too much.

A perfect beach day at last. I was down there late afternoon and it was still sunny.

I went for a swim at the beach this afternoon, which was incredibly relaxing, exhilarating even, and the effects lingered on for hours. Indeed, although the water was a bit chilly (no doubt from all the rain we’ve had lately), it still inspired me to go back more often and to get over my aversion to getting wet. It’s so stupid, and my husband, Geoff, will tell you that you should’ve seen me inching my way into the water even at ankle depth looking like a human chicken. I was hopeless, and didn’t even put my head under. Indeed, only the tip of my ponytail got wet. So, I suppose some of you will tell me that I didn’t really got for a swim at all, and that all I was doing was stand-up comedy. Well, each to their own!

It’s been a busy week. Our teenage kids went back to school on Friday. So, last week I was busy organising uniforms, books, and also driving our daughter to dance privates to prepare her for next Saturday’s dance competition. She is entering in a new section this time for student choreography, and this required a few more lessons. However, it’s an interesting area to get into, and something which appeals to my creative mind, even if the body isn’t willing.

On Tuesday, it was Australia Day, and we had a public holiday to either celebrate, mourn, or ignore the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet at Port Jackson in New South Wales, and the raising of the British flag at Sydney Cove by Arthur Phillip. As this also marks the British occupation or invasion of Australia, it’s also known as “Invasion Day” or “A Day of Mourning”. I don’t really celebrate it anymore, although either my son or husband have gone in the Australia Day Regatta at the sailing club over the last couple of years, and we do deck the boat out in Australian flags etc. By the way, my vote’s on Australia becoming a republic, and embracing more of our Indigenous culture and history. However, I’ve got too much going on at the moment to fight for our independence. So, myHowever, that’s where I stand from more of a theoretical standpoint.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to get organized for the new school year. I dropped another car load of stuff at the charity shop during the week, and you must be wondering if we have anything left by now. However, let’s just say things were rather “cosy’ before we started all of this and there’s still a way to go. Actually, I must confess that I’ve also been inside the charity shops this week and had some excellent “finds”. That includes two suitcases from maybe the 1940s-1960s. They were only $15.00 each and about the same price as a plastic storage crate, except they clearly have much more character. I left them in the car until my husband went out and introduced them slowly the way you might introduce an unexpected kitten…”Oh! What’s that doing over there?” Anyway, aside from being somewhat useful, I get very nostalgic about old suitcases, and suspect they remind me of my grandparents coming to stay. That was just so exciting, and twenty years after my grandmother passed away, it would be just incredible if my grandparents as they were when I was little and my grandmother was still full of beans and racing round the shops like a rocket, before her health nose-dived and there were open-heart surgeries and ultimately a series of cruel mini strokes. My grandfather developed Alzheimer’s, but he was 95 when he passed away.

Piles of books which have already left the building.

See why I have so much trouble parting with the things I already have, as well as with bringing new things into the place. I connect meaning, memories, people to these objects even if this thing is sitting in shop and has had nothing to do with them before and might even only have a very slight resemblance to something to do with them. This is, I found out, one of the danger areas which leads to hoarding. Interesting, because if you reverse that thinking, you could say that these hard core declutter types lead meaningless lives, or at least have less meaning, or they can simply compress their meaning into a smaller amount of space, or they have a bigger space to hold it. Perhaps, you are one of these declutter Nazis, in which case I sort of apologise. It’s not you. It’s me. That’s what makes me an endangered species and I’m even trying to wipe myself out.

Gee, I think that might be what you call “overthinking”. I’m pretty good at that too. Indeed, that could also explain why it’s taking me hours of journal writing not to get to the point.

However, my excuse on that front is that a lot’s been going on. Not just for me, but for other people.

Writing in my journal regularly was one of the few goals I’ve set so far this year. I did that because I sensed there was a lot of stuff stuck inside and it needed to get out. In some ways, then, writing in the journal is like decluttering the soul and just like throwing all those extra physical items into the clothing bin and clearing the decks at home, by putting all these thoughts, feelings, events, conversations into my journal, I’m clearing out the soul and I’m able to move around again. See more clearly and walk around without knocking a gazillion things over. This is if you see your soul like a room. Maybe you don’t. Anyway, clearly my soul’s room is overflowing with verbal diarrhoea. Of course, I’d kill anyone else who said that about me, but this is just the two of us and the entire world wide web if it actually bothered to turn up.

Anyway, one good outcome of my journaling today, is that I’ve decided to base our household’s daily routine around my husband’s schedule. I’ve been trying to work out routines for the kids and I. However, the trouble is that no two days are the same and we’re like three moons who’ve escaped their orbit and are drifting randomly through space. However, Geoff is exceptionally well structured, even working from home. His routine is still very much set in stone and he doesn’t work from home in his PJ’s either. That’s me. So, I’ve now decided that the rest of us are going to piggyback onto his routine and we’ll start off from there. The only trouble is he gets up at 7.15am, and some days I’m not up before midday. I have been trying to change that for awhile , but it’s so difficult. However, as we all know, a new year brings about a whole new you and anything is possible. Well, it is before February, maybe March.

Meanwhile, news came through today (now Sunday), that much of Western Australia is going into hard lockdown after a security guard in quarantine caught the more virulent UK form of the virus. They really should have Nigel No Mates working in these quarantine hotels. That way if they catch the virus, it goes no further. This guy was working two jobs and living in share accommodation. Enough said. Of course, the rest of Australia feels real sorry for those smug West Australians who locked the rest of us out and threw away the key. Thought they were above getting covid. It’s a lesson to the rest of us. Even if covid isn’t spreading like wildfire here as it in in much of the rest of the world, lockdowns are. We’re now back to being able to have 30 visitors at home, a big leap from the previous five. Most of us aren’t going to invite 30 people over in a hurry, but five didn’t allow a lot of scope, especially in share houses, families with older kids etc. Personally, I’m still lying low.

Anyway, that’s about it from me. I look forward to catching up with you and hearing your news.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer at https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

First Swim for 2021!

“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.”

–John F. Kennedy

Courage comes in many forms. My breathing has been a bit strained lately, but I went for my first beach swim in over 12 months this afternoon. No glasses on, I was also literally blind as a bat, and I took Geoff down with me in case of all emergencies. None ensued.

Just out of the water – Ocean Beach NSW – January 2021.

By the way, Geoff didn’t go in. He’s a sailor, and for him “swimming is a fail”.

“The heart of man is very much like the sea, it has its storms, it has its tides, and in its depths it has its pearls too.”

–Vincent Van Gogh

I have a love-hate relationship with swimming, which is hard to understand when you look at our beautiful beach, which is only 10 minutes walk away. Many would sell their right kidney to be able to spend their life at our beautiful local beach and be able to immerse themselves in that crystal clear, salty water which is sparkling in the luscious Summer sun. Then, there’s me who doesn’t like getting wet. Indeed, Geoff was in stitches watching me take eternity to even get my ankles wet. He did an impressive impersonation, which looked embarrassingly like an old lady and not a very gutsy one at that. However, it takes more than that to embarrass me. I might’ve been emerging from my “swim” with only the tip of my ponytail wet, but I did get wet.

Moreover, just to show off just a little, I found my way back to my towel. I swear I did, even though Geoff had seen me emerge from the water and had walked down to greet me.

My brother and I at Avoca Beach around 1979 aged 10.

Going to the beach brings back many treasured memories. While I didn’t live near the beach growing up, we drove down to Sydney’s Northern Beaches for day trips and rented a beach house for a week most years up at Wamberal or Avoca on the NSW Central Coast just North of Sydney, and not far from where we currently live. The waves could be pretty strong and I remember holding onto mostly my mother’s hand and feeling almost invincible. Holding onto Mum or Dad’s hand somehow seemed to save me from anything back then.

Our kids have only ever lived in our current home, and so they’ve always lived a stone’s throw from the beach. We’ve had some wonderful times going swimming, walking the dogs, having picnics with friends. It’s been really beneficial living right near the beach during covid with all that space and air around us, and not much in the way of crowds most of the time. It’s also been a real lifesaver.

Do you like swimming? Do you go to the beach? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Our son at Broken Head, near Byron Bay, January 2011.
I absolutely loved the absolute joy beaming out of my daughter’s smile in this photo taken in Byron Bay January 2011 about to turn five and go to big school.

Thursday Doors – Back to Dance 2021.

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul.”
Martha Graham

Collectively, we’ve posted many doors on this blog share. However, for most of us it’s the familiar doors which mean the most, especially our very own front door.

Well, this Thursday I was waiting for my daughter to finish her dance class, and I noticed the door to the studio with it’s welcoming sign and I thought I’d honour that this week. After all, this is 11th year we’ve walked through that door for another dance year, and now she’s about to turn 15. So, let’s just say: “she’s improved”.

Our daughter aged 4 at her first ballet open day where Mummy was finally let inside the door along with her camera. I think the aim here was just to point their toes.

Walking through this door has been a life changer for the kids and myself. Although I’d done ballet until I was about eleven, I didn’t really get into dance at all. Didn’t connect with it, and certainly wasn’t one to go to the ballet. I’m more one for the Sydney Writer’s Festival, or possibly the theatre.

However, that’s all changed. I’ve been metamorphosed into loving dance, not that I go to the ballet even now, I see so much of it through my daughter and right up close, that I haven’t felt the need. Perhaps, I’m missing out and I was edging towards taking our daughter to the ballet in Sydney, but then covid came along. Besides, we’ve been to a few musicals in Sydney. So, she hasn’t been deprived.

Anyway, I still remember the first day we walked through this door, and into the studio for her first class. What I remember most about that, was the door closing in front of me, and I was left behind. She was only three turning four. The teacher took her away, and she was gone. It was like her first day of school, only a little early.

Since then, we’ve had the annual concerts where before we humble parents and grandparents were able to see our little darlings prancing around on stage, we had to master the fine art of getting the hair in place. This act of torture is not for the faint-hearted when your daughter has very fine hair which knots easily and every stroke of the brush produces tears and a deafening scream. Of course, it’s all worth it when you see them up on stage.

Our daughter before her first ballet concert aged four. Isn’t she sweet!

It was around the time of the first annual concert, that our daughter appeared en pointe at home. This, of course, wasn’t on real pointe shoes when she was only four years old. Rather, it was on little blue plastic cups, but she was entranced and took it very seriously.

I don’t know if I looked at her back then and started seeing glimpses of the ballerina she would become. However, it wasn’t much later because right from dot she looked like a ballerina and through all the trappings of a knockabout kid who was doing nippers, scouts and going swimming at the beach in her school uniform on occasions after school, the ballerina was there just like Michelangelo seeing David inside that block of marble.

That’s not to say that she’s going to become the next Misty Copeland. In many ways, she’s already become herself and is already a ballerina now, even though she’s still got such a long way to go. Of course, this is the benefit of being Mum and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa. She was breathtakingly beautiful and an incredible dancer at four, and every time we see her dance, we’re absolutely dazzled. We’re not her teachers, or the judge. We don’t need to be critical. It’s our job to encourage, drive, and probably work about three jobs to get her through. However, you do that for your kid. You do whatever it takes to the best of your ability. Well, most of us at least try, and hopefully we can also support and encourage those who are left falling through the cracks, even if it’s only for a moment. We’ve certainly appreciated that ourselves many times over.

My adult ballet class. I’m wearing the satin ballet slippers and you can pick our teacher with her perfect foot and not wearing socks.

Anyway, since we’ve walked through that door, we’ve made many friends, and connected at a fairly deep and meaningful level over the years. Indeed, one of the things I found most difficult about covid last year, was not seeing all the other dance parents. We might see each other say for ten minutes in the waiting room after each class, which isn’t much. However, when you multiply that by a couple of classes a week over 11 years, those moments add up, and there’s been a lot of sharing. I have also done some adult classes over the years as well, and I’ve really loved them and made some wonderful friendships there. I’m not just a dance mum. I am a dancer (just not a very good one and also one with disability and health issues!! It’s quite ironic actually!)

Our daughter using her brother’s head as a ballet barre. Seems like she’s turned him into the supporting act. This was taken before the concert in our hallway at home.

So, walking through this one door, has opened many, many doors for us, and before I head off, I’ll also mention that our son also did hip-hop classes here with a former Billy Elliott from Melbourne and Broadway. He also made a friendship then, which resurfaced last year and last weekend we found ourselves comforting him after his Pop had a stroke and we drove Nan to the hospital. Our son was such a comfort to his friend, who ended up sleeping in our loungeroom that night.

Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

I think this is the most recent photo I have of our daughter on stage.

All of that started by walking through this door.

I know this quote appears in a corny ad, but it’s very true: “From little things, big things grow…”

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors, which is kindly hosted by Dan Antion at No Facilities: https://nofacilities.com/2021/01/28/trinity-church-et-al-thursday-doors/

PS I just had to include this favourite.

This was the first time I saw her doing her ballet solo. Someone else took this photo and emailed it through to me, and I’m so grateful. I still absolutely love it.

Sitting On It – Friday Fictioneers 27th January, 2021.

My agent was on the phone for the umpteenth time this afternoon.

“Have you reached a decision yet?” She pestered. “The clock’s ticking”.

“I’ve already told you. I’m sitting on it.”

Of course, this was counter-intuitive. Anyone else would’ve leaped at the chance to play Victoria in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Cats on Broadway. This was what I’d been dreaming and striving towards, ever since I put on my very first ballet slippers as a three year old. Yet, I knew that once I’d accepted, there’d be no turning back. That my life would never be my own again. Was it all worth selling my soul?

Or, did I even have a choice?

Of course not. I was the moth flying straight into the candle flame, but at least I was prepared.

I had my mum.

….

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields https://rochellewisoff.com/ PHOTO PROMPT © Marie Gail Stratford

Ruby and Eunice Gardiner in Sydney after their return from London.

At the age of 16, my grandmother, concert pianist Eunice Gardiner, won a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London. At the time, Eunice was a sheltered Australian school girl living in Sydney’s Bondi Junction with her family. There was never any question of Eunice travelling to London alone. Indeed, her father said he’d “rather throw her to the sharks in Sydney Harbour”. So,  on the 3rd December, 1935 she set off with  her mother on board the Esperance Bay.

As it turned out, Eunice’s father died of a heart attack back in Australia four months later, and Her mother never saw her husband again. Eunice never saw her Dad. Moreover, Eunice’s older brother made personal sacrifices to continue supporting the pair in London. It was a very challenging road and Eunice’s incredible talent also had an incredible toll, especially for those around her. Indeed, in 1948 she left Sydney bound for New York leaving her husband, three young sons and mother behind. She returned about 12 months later at around 2.00am in the morning on Christmas Day morning. Hard to understand, and yet there have been times on my own parenting journey, I could’ve joined her.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 25th January, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, you’re in luck. This week I can offer you some banana cake mini muffins with luscious passionfruit icing, which I whipped up for a picnic with some friends, but it was too hot to go out and so we’re forced to eat them ourselves. Hey, it’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it.

How was your week? I hope it went well.

Camp Tahlee, North of Newcastle, where our kids went to camp.

My husband Geoff has just finished two weeks of annual leave, and heads back to work tomorrow and the kids head back to school on Friday for the start of another year. I feel we’re better prepared for the start of this school year. However, the unfortunate key to this improved organization has been staying at home and not going away on holidays. I’m not sure that the end justifies the means, but we’re blaming covid for staying home. After all, you can blame covid for just about anything atm, except having a good time.

However, the aim of the game is find ways of creating joy, pleasure, excitement in the midst of whatever covid or any other significant problem throws across our path. So, while driving about 500 kms in a day transporting our daughter from one camp to another, Geoff and I headed into Newcastle for lunch and caught up with my cousin and family, which included her 3 year old and new baby (I got a cuddle!!)

Said daughter, didn’t like camp and so I picked her up a day early, but not without warning her we weren’t coming straight home. We were going on a detour via beautiful Norah Head, with its iconic lighthouse which I decided was having to be a surrogate for our anticipated trip to the Byron Bay Lighthouse, where we usually indulge in an ice cream cone and if we’re lucky, watch the dolphins diving through the waves down below.

Norah Head Lighthouse, NSW.

That’s the thing about lighthouses. They’re usually stuck on top of very steep rocky precipice overlooking some particularly rough and powerful surf not to mention rocky reef outcrops which would do nasty things to ships especially in the night. So, all of this makes for spectacular scenery and stunning photos, even better if you can chuck in a sunrise, sunset or a stormy sky. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to pull any of those rabbits out of the hat, but at lease it wasn’t dull grey overcast and we had sunshine, blue skies and it was postcard perfect.

The Rockpool, Norah Head.

If you’d like to read more about our Norah Head experience, you can check out my previous post.

I was due to go out on a picnic with friends today. However, it was 35 degrees celsius and incredibly sunny and I ended up falling asleep. Exciting, I know, but it was like being under a griller out there and it really felt too much, especially as the heat or perhaps it’s the humidity which is causing troubles with my breathing. It’s annoying because one minute you’re on top of things and the next, they’re on top of you and you really didn’t see it coming.

Speaking of sudden changes, a friend of ours had a stroke yesterday, and one minute he was seemingly okay and the next his face was dropping and he couldn’t move one side of his body. I’ve had some serious health issues myself where my body hasn’t done what it’s supposed to, so I have at least some insight into what it’s like when the tried and tested doesn’t do what it’s always done before. We ended up driving his wife to the hospital to drop off some things, and while she was there, we ducked down to the Gosford waterfront and were struck by the stunning city lights against the night sky. It was a moment of much needed peace and beauty at a troubling time.

Anyway, I’d better head off because it’s well past bed time.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer at https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Norah Head Revisited – Making the Most of Where I Am.

“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.”
― Henry David Thoreau

Covid is no longer just a thing belonging to 2020. Rather, it’s leaped out of the bag, looked back at us dumbfounded humans and chirped: “Catch me if you can!” Unfortunately, at this point in time, Covid has the upper hand and has taken off down the street before we’ve even put our joggers on, let alone done up our shoe laces. It is affecting everybody differently in all sorts of ways, and it seems quite trite to complain about not being able to travel when much of the planet is chronically ill and so many people have died and they are sorely missed.

The Rockpool, Norah Head. Isn’t it glorious?!!

Yet, at the same time, what about us in the land of the living? What are we supposed to do? Do we still carpe diem seize the day to our very utmost within the limitations we are personally experiencing? Or, perhaps we even break the rules, and there have been some spectacular examples of this in the news. Or, do we retreat?

Retreat, at least in my mind, is different to giving up, and is a legitimate response to covid, especially if you’re living in a country where it’s rampant, and even more so if you’re in a high risk category. My approach varies, mostly in accordance with the infection rates. I’m trying to be flexible, but one thing we did take a hard stance on was travel. We’d planned to visit Geoff’s sister and family near Byron Bay, which is about a 10 hour drive away. We usually go up once a year. However, right when we needed to make a decision, the numbers were starting to rumble, and since we didn’t have to go right now, we decided to put it off.

However, this hasn’t stopped our friends from travelling. Or, from posting their holiday snaps on Facebook. I’m not going to lie. It hurts. I also wanted to have fun, good times and swing from the chandelier. Moreover, just to add salt to the wound, we’ve spent most of Geoff’s two weeks of annual leave doing jobs around the house. Yes, they’re long overdue, and some would argue that improving the house and giving us a great start to the year might be worth more than a fancy holiday. Moreover, it is strangely satisfying to be dropping car loads of stuff at the charity shop, instead of going shopping and bringing a car load home. Yet, at the same time, there’s that old phrase:

“All work and all play

makes Jack a dull boy”.

Yes, I was definitely losing my shimmer, and needed to claim it back.

Well, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. We have dependents. Yesterday, we drove dependent from camp no 1 to camp number 2. Afterwards, we went on a detour to Newcastle to go out for lunch together, and then on to catch up with my cousin and family, we covered about 500kms.

However, although we were moving and we were in the car and covered quite a distance, that’s not what I consider travel. It was more what I would call “work”, “duty”, “obligation” even though we made the most of the long drive and added in some fun for ourselves.

We hadn’t even left Newcastle to drive home, when our daughter rang from camp and said she wanted to come home. She’s been on this camp before. She doesn’t get homesick, but she is a teenager, and it appears she had outgrown the camp. We left her there overnight, and I ended up driving up today and picking her up a day early. It made no real difference to me. However, I wasn’t just going to drive an hour up and then drive an hour straight back. I warned her we were going on a detour to Norah Head. She’s used to me and my detours which usually involve food and photography.

Norah Head was probably about a 30 minutes drive South from the camp, and in my head, I decided it was going to be our surrogate for missing out on our trip to Byron Bay. You see, Byron Bay has a light house and Norah Head has a lighthouse, and while it might not have been a perfect correlation, I could almost make it fit.

As it turned out, visiting the lighthouse at Norah Head actually had a lot of advantages over visiting the light house at Byron Bay. It was much, much closer to home and only an hour’s drive away. it’s much less crowded. Lastly, we could easily get a parking spot, and parking was free…Win! Win! Win!

However, Norah Head isn’t just about the light house for me. It’s also about the memories. I first went to Norah Head as a very young child with my family, and I had a vague memory of have gone to the lighthouse before when I went up to Norah Head for a slumber party when I was 12 at my friend’s place. That was repeated the following year, and we slid down the sand dunes on big green garbage bags, and also had her birthday cake in the dunes. It was such a special thing to go on a holiday with friends when I was 12, and I’ve never forgotten it.

I returned to Norah Head about 10 years ago for the first time since school, and couldn’t find the sand dunes anywhere. I wanted to show them to the kids. However, it turned out they’d regenerated the dunes and they were now hiding under thick scrub and even rather tall paperbark trees. It was hard to understand how they could’ve grown so tall in such a short time. I popped back about 6 months ago and wandered around taking photos. It still had that special sense of magic and all those memories.

The Island Cafe,, Norah Head where my daughter and I had lunch looking out across the the breakers, and that’s my red car across the road.

Anyway, today I wasn’t on my own. It was me and my girl and we kicked off our adventure with lunch at the Surfside Cafe.

How relaxing. I didn’t actually sit in this chair, but I wanted to.

Then, we drove round to the lighthouse. Although the lighthouse itself is very striking and had strong appeal, I was actually more drawn towards simply watching the mighty waves surging into the rocks which such incredible power. It was breathtakingly beautiful.

We actually spotted a couple getting married on the rocks down below surrounded by their attendants and family. The waves weren’t quite breathing down their necks, but they were close enough, and from certain angles through the lens, they certainly seemed precarious enough.

Next, we retraced our steps and walked down a long and very steep flight of stairs to the rockpool. I wondered whether I’d be able to make it back up. However, being able to get up Neil’s stairs encouraged me, and I thought if I just took my time and had a few breaks, I’d be right. Well, I wasn’t quite right and my heart was racing but I made it, and it was certainly worth the effort. It was really quite festive down on the beach and there was so much colour what with the coloured beach umbrellas, assorted swimming costumes, towels etc. It was beautifully sunny as well and the sky was an intoxicating bright blue and it was like one of Ken Done’s beach paintings, and boy was I glad to be amongst it!! Yahoo!

Almost died getting up these stairs and it was tough going with my dodgy lungs, but well worth it, and I took them very slowly heading back up.

I hadn’t been back to the rockpool since I was there as a 12 year old snorkelling with my friends, and as I followed the beach around, I had no idea that I’d come across the most wonderful view of the lighthouse. An angle I hadn’t seen before and it was rather breath-taking. I’m sure you’ve had that experience yourself where there’s a place you really love, but you know it from that postcard perspective, but then you see it from an entirely different angle, and it’s like it’s been reborn. Moreover, when you’re really into photography like me, these fresh perspectives are even more valued. It’s like you’re seeing this place for the very first time and your gobsmacked with awe and wonder.

I could’ve stayed there for hours, except my passenger was getting tired and needed to get home, but not without picking up my Danish pastries from the bakery.

Clearly, I highly recommend you check out Norah Head some time, which as we all know, is not all that easy atm, but in the meantime, at least you can enjoy my photos.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Here are two cute dogs I spotted at the beach:

Doesn’t he just know he’s too handsome!
I thought this dog was actually wearing swimmers. However, it turned out the stripes were just his harness.

Remnants of the Greta Migrant Camp, Australia – Thursday Doors

It’s been awhile since I made an actual contribution to Thursday Doors. That’s not because I haven’t continued opening and closing doors, not to mention leaving the odd door open. Indeed, I’ve even been photographing doors. Of course, I’ve been photographing doors, because once you start, you never really give up. You’re either a door person, or you’re not! Yet, at the same time, I also go through different seasons, and as we all know, nothing’s been the same since covid hit the scene.

The doors to nowhere. We’re thinking the theatre used to have a balcony.

Well, this week’s door isn’t particularly fancy. However, it fronts a courageous tale of war-torn survivors, displaced refugees from war-torn Europe who found themselves residing at the Greta Migrant Camp 40 kms North-West of Newcastle. Initially from Estonia, Latvia/ Poland, the Ukraine, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Lithuania and Russia, they were to be followed by Italians, Greeks and Hungarians. Experiencing enormous cultural shock, these “New Australians” described the camp as “a wilderness;” “a place like hell” and “the end of the world.” However, out of this “Babel” and multi-cultural crucible, a culturally rich, dynamic community evolved, and dispersed.

Not the original door to the former theatre, but it does the job.

The door itself was part of the original theatre from the Greta Migrant Camp, which along with some of the Nissan huts from the original camp, were relocated to YWAM’s Camp Tahlee where my kids attended a Church youth camp on Monday and Tuesday this week. I like the idea of this building being moved and repurposed, not for greatness and glory, but in this case it’s being used to share the Gospel and care for young people, and there’s a lot to be said for that. And so, these doors tell an incredible story of the survival not only of the people who came and went through these theatre doors, but also of the building itself. That has to count as a win-win.

Lock on a shed door.

Our daughter wasn’t quite ready to be picked up when we arrived, and so we walked around a bit and me being me had to check the place out through the lens. As has been pretty typical lately, it was overcast and not the greatest weather for photography.

However, you can get a sense of the place, and it really seems very relaxing. Not that it was so relaxing for the youth. A lot of pranking went on, and I must admit I was rather concerned when our son left with a couple of containers of live grasshoppers he’d bought from the local pet shop. He also took a roll of chicken wire. I haven’t heard a lot about what went on up there, but he crashed when he came home and was aching from head to toe, couldn’t move and was sporting quite a few cuts and bruises. No pain, no glory. Not sure what his sister got up to. She’s quieter and probably left her mark without detection.

It’s not a door, but it is red, and so it had to be included.

Anyway, I hope you and yours are keeping safe and well.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors, which is kindly hosted by Dan Antion from No Facilities https://nofacilities.com/.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS This little Church was just down the road from Camp Tahlee and it looks like it’s no become a private residence.

Finding Time…

What with living only 10 minutes walk from the beach, you’d think we’d be down there everyday trying to carpe diem seize the day – especially at the moment during the peak Summer holiday period, where even our dog is sunning herself for hours out in the midday sun. Indeed, this is when all the ring-ins descend on the beach like “plagues of locusts”, as though they own the place. Clearly, if the crowds are any indication, the beach is where we’re supposed to be (although social distancing, of course, this year!)

However, just because we live near the beach, doesn’t mean we don’t have to get on with the realities of life just like everyone else. There’s going to work, school, and our endless battle with trying to sort out, maintain and renovate our house and garden. On top of that, there are the personal crises which affect most families from time to time and despite all the advise to take time out for self-care, it’s very hard (at least for me) to fight my fixation on the problem and a need to get it sorted, which isn’t going to happen if I’m swanning down the beach.

Moreover, this Summer has been uncharacteristically cool, and we’ve also experienced frequent heavy rain. While there are some who still feel the need to get outside even in the rain (and they often have a dog or two in tow), I don’t like get wet at the best of times and being rained on is just plain yuck.

Yet, at the same time, there’s still been enough sunny days to at least encourage me to go for a swim, for Geoff and I to go for a walk, and maybe even the four of us to venture along the beach as a family. That is, if we could actually hit our teenagers over the head with a baseball bat so they don’t mind being seen down at the beach with mum and dad…HOW EMBARRASSING!!

Yet, sometimes, you just need to be forceful. Make it happen.

Finally, Geoff and I actually made if over to Patonga Beach, a 15 minute drive away, and walked along the beach and rocks together where we could soak up each other’s company, and also immerse ourselves in such natural beauty. I really love walking along the rocks, and even though I’m now 51 and have well and truly outgrown my spade and bucket, I still remember going exploring through the rockpools with my dad as a kid, and my incredible delight at finding little crabs and shells. Indeded, even now, exploring the rocks reminds me Keats’ immortal poem: On First Looking Into Chapman’s Homer:

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.

Such incredible markings in the rocks.

What really struck me about visiting the rock platform at Patonga, was the swirling pattern in the rocks. As Geoff pointed out, the swirls were created as the sandstone was being deposited, seemingly by the ocean currents. We don’t know. We’re not geologists, but we do have inquiring minds. So, if any of you are any wiser and know how these swirls got into the rock, we would love to know.

How were these interesting and very striking markings in the sandstone formed?

I have spent years climbing over rocks at the beach. Back when my parents used to have a place at Whale Beach, I used to spend hours down there by the myself, and I’d go down on to the rocks and watch the furious encounters between land and sea. I’d sit on this massive rock, which jutted out into the waves like a mini headland and the waves crashed out the front and swooshed up the side. It was very spectacular, and I almost felt consumed by the ocean, I was that close.

I almost always walk over the rocks in bare feet. Of course, it feels very footloose and fancy-free. Indeed, feeling the sensation of the rough sandstone underfoot, the discomfort of stepping onto those pokey blue periwinkle shells which jab into your feet, is such a sensory experience. It’s just not the same in shoes where your feet can’t see, feel or even breathe it all in. it is as real as real can be especially with the sea breeze slapping your hair into your face. There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind at all. I’m fully and completely alive.

It’s interesting too, because each beach is unique. They might look similar, but each and every beach has its own fingerprint embedded in the sand and surf, and it’s own soul bellowing out through the waves and making its presence felt. You can even drive from one beach to the next around here, and the motion of the waves, the action and intensity of the surf, and the nature of the rocks all vary. You could never get bored. Or, at least you shouldn’t. There’s always so much to explore and absorb and it’s all different.

Looking across to Palm Beach from Patonga. You can barely see it, but the Palm Beach Light House sits on top of that headland.

It’s not often Geoff and I go to the beach together. I’ll blame him for that. He goes sailing most Saturdays, and is more of a flat water soul. I enjoy going to the beach, but not when it’s really sunny and I’m likely to fry like an egg and just get burned. I also enjoy sailing, but more on my Dad’s bigger yacht or going out on the kayak. I don’t know how to sail the laser myself.

The other trouble Geoff and I have is trying to find some spare time. Time is constantly going up in smoke, and although our kids are teenagers, they still take up a fair bit of time and emotional energy, and are more likely to need us spontaneously. Indeed, that’s why they have the mobile phones. It’s not so we can keep track of them. It’s so they can keep us on a constant leash…”Taxi!”

“It is not a lack of love, but a lack of friendship that makes unhappy marriages.”
― Friedrich Nietzsche

Our Family Taken Christmas Day 2020

However, it’s also important for Mum and Dad to have time together and not just so-called “quality time”, which to me is the biggest cop out ever. From where I sit, it’s very hard to have true quality time if you don’t spend enough quantity time together. Indeed, there’s a lot to be said for just sitting a long side someone for awhile, and simply going fishing or going for a drive. By spending time together, you gain a sense of the whole person, and not just a series of disjointed snapshots. You can tell a few stories, and create a few as well. Indeed, being close to someone is being able to read them like a book. I don’t know about you, but when I read a book, I don’t just speed read from cover to cover. I usually read with a pen in hand and underline my favourite bits. Indeed, I also read in between the lines. After all, good writers don’t spell everything out for us in the text, especially when it comes to poetry. (Humph! No wonder I haven’t read many books lately!) WE have to go looking.

“Love never dies a natural death. It dies because we don’t know how to replenish its source. It dies of blindness and errors and betrayals. It dies of illness and wounds; it dies of weariness, of witherings, of tarnishings.”
― Anais Nin

Meanwhile, Geoff and I were looking at going out for dinner tonight. However, most of the local venues are closed tonight and the weather’s a bit blah. So, we’ve ordered takeaway instead. Now that the house is looking better, it’s much more relaxing to eat at home and we’ll head out for lunch when we’re in Newcastle tomorrow.

How to you juggle relaxation, relationships and the never-ending to-do list? Have you been for any great beach walks or activities lately? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena