Category Archives: Parenting

Weekend Coffee Share… 22nd June, 2020

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How was your week that was? Perhaps, you might need a cup of tea or coffee while you reflect on that and a Tim Tam might also get the brain cells moving. They were on sale this week, and we have what would be a year’s supply of Tim Tams for the more restrained consumer stashed away in the cupboard. However, please don’t accuse us of food hoarding in these lingering days of Covid 19, as these supplies could well only last us a week, especially if the teenagers stage a raid!

It’s Winter here, and to be honest, it feels like I’ve spent the last week snuggled up in my dressing gown and ugg boots. However, I know I’ve been out and about within a fairly confined circuit because I’m still social isolating and being careful as much to avoid Winter colds and flus as much as Covid 19. I don’t know how I’d go living somewhere it actually gets cold. I’ve been huddled by the heater rugged up and it’s been 18°C. I clearly have no resilience to the cold at all!!

Lady June 2020

Lady is clearly thinking mischievous thoughts and is in stealth mode.

That said, I did manage to get Lady to the beach for a walk and I actually clocked up around 5000 steps. However,  I wasn’t so virtuous on Saturday. I talked instead of walked and the sun set before I managed to get going. As I picked up dinner, my phone flashed a report on my screen usage and congratulated me on 5 seconds of exercise. How’s that for impressive!! Well, at least I went for a walk while I was waiting for our meal.

Lady & Ron Kallmier

Lady and I ran into a friend who’d caught this huge salmon down at the beach. As I took the photo, I wasn’t watching the dog and as you can see, her nose in only millimetres away from the fish… the scallywag!

I’ve done a lot better on the research front. I’m continuing my research into the stories of Australians serving in France during WWI. I’m really excited about how this is going and how lucky I am to be putting these stories together in 2020 when I have so many resources online at my fingertips and I can flit around all over the place to build really comprehensive profiles. It really enhances my capacity to get inside their shoes, slip inside their skin and try to get some idea of how they lived, breathed and possibly even viewed the world around them. Or, at least, I can delude myself into believing I can. After all, these people aren’t going to be so obsessed with themselves on so many different levels as I am, and they might even appreciate finding out what I’ve put together and would get quite a surprise. I certainly haven’t allowed for things like getting a song stuck in their heads for hours on end. Or, what it’s like to basically be a bloke. That is exceeding the realms of even my over-zealous research. Moreover, I also need to factor in what goes on in my own mind. Sometimes, there’s absolutely no traffic at all, and at other times, the same thought can get stuck driving round and round the roundabout, and there’s equally very little to report. So after that rethink, I’m going to retract my great confidence about stepping into these soldiers boots and confess that no matter how much research I do, they’ll still be characters where the facts will always be infused with a dose of me along with the effects of being buried in history for over 100 years.

The other thing I wanted to mention this week, is that I am now well on the way towards resetting my sleep patterns. I’m not sure whether I’ve ever truly confessed about just how out of synch my sleeping habits have become during lock down. Although I’ve been a night owl for some time and might get to bed around 1.00 am, this has slipped back a considerable notch and I was going to bed at 3.00 am most nights and waking up at midday. Indeed, some days, I was waking up in the afternoon. I was rather embarrassed about this, and it wasn’t working for me or anyone else. It was like I’d become a shift worker living in a time zone all of my own, and it needed to change. Now, I’m gradually working towards waking up at about 7.00 am to help get the kids off to school. Geoff’s still working from home, so I’ve been let off the hook. So, next week, I’ll  be down to 9.00 am. Being Winter and losing so many hours of sunlight, sleeping through the day simply doesn’t make sense so I’m pleased to be seizing more of the day.

Lastly, I wanted to update you on the story of Will Callaghan, a non-verbal teenager on the Autism Spectrum, who went missing for two nights in bush land in Victoria a few weeks ago. A friend of his mother’s is now hosting a fundraising campaign to help make the family’s life a bit easier. As you could imagine, looking after Will and his brother, who is also on the spectrum, has additional challenges and it’s also equally important to look after carers and ensure they are not stretched to breaking point. If there’s a way we as the community can help lighten the load, we need to try to do what we can. This is most certainly challenging atm when so many people are in need. However, what strikes me about this family is that their needs are long-standing and ongoing. There isn’t that capacity to plan for a rainy day or build a nest egg. It’s more a case of getting by and hoping the wheels don’t fall off. Anyway, here’s the link: https://www.mycause.com.au/page/229759/will-callaghan

Anyway, I’d like to have something more exciting to share with you next week, but it looks like that will have to wait. Excitement seems to involved large crowds, partying, swinging from the chandeliers. However, I’m hoping to find somewhere new and interesting to explore on foot and through the lens, and there’s always the possibility of unplanned excitement in this household, but that wasn’t the kind of excitement I had in mind.

So, how was your week? I hope you and yours are staying safe from the dreaded Covid 19. Melbourne’s having a few troubles, but it’s all good here.

Take care and stay safe!

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

A Meeting of Minds….Walks With My Friend.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

C.S. Lewis

When you think about what remains of our life stories after we’re gone, it’s all about family connections…DNA. However, most of us can’t live with family as our only source of human interaction. We also need friends.

Every friendship is unique, just like our fingerprints. No two friendships are the same, which means we need to cherish each and every friend like gold, and they’re certainly not simply a stepping stone to get us where we’re wanting to go. Rather, I’d prefer to think about how I could ease my friend’s journey in some way, although I’ve had some truly wonderful friends who’ve been literal lifesavers when I’ve been seriously ill, barely able to look after my kids and they’ve driven them to and from daycare, school, fed them, cooked us meals or simply, and very importantly, listened. Finding understanding and acceptance, especially given my rare health and disability issues, has been a struggle and such a God-send when I’ve found it.  There are those two parallel footprints in the sand. We’re each independent and carrying our own load, but we’re also there with and for each other through life’s ups and downs, cups of coffee, walks along the beach and no doubt through the storms.

Footprints Pearl BeachThese photographs of footprints in the sand could tell a story of their own. However, they were actually taken while I was out walking along Pearl Beach with my friend who I’ll call “Henry’. I turned around and saw our footprints side-by-side in the sand stretching uninterrupted almost along the full length of the beach and they told a story of friendship, and what it means to be a friend. Well at least that’s what these two sets of parallel footprints said to me.

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
– Muhammad Ali 

In many ways my friendship with Henry breaks a few taboos. As you know, I’m married to Geoff and well you might ask what’s the story of my friendship with Henry? To put you at ease, Roland is the same age as my Mum and Dad and while some people might go for that kind of age difference, it definitely puts up a roadblock for both of us. Besides, I am clearly and most definitely married and if I was going to have an affair, I wouldn’t be hanging out once a week at a local cafe next door to the bookshop where Henry and I met. Rather, I’d be heading off to Sydney well and truly away from this goldfish bowl where everyone knows yours and everyone else’s business.

“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod, my shadow does that much better.

-Plutarch.

By the way, I first met Henry a few years ago in our local bookshop.  He was looking for books about WWII German history to write about his father’s war service as a Polish fighter pilot in the RAF. I knew of a good book through my own German/European heritage on my mum’s side and so we had that cultural connection, as well as our shared writing interest. Henry and I also made time for each other. Time to meet for coffee once a week, and at much the same time every week… very much like clockwork. Many of my friends don’t operate like clockwork, or don’t feel the need for that weekly coffee/ tea fix. However, I need it just like I need food and water and the car needs to be topped up with petrol. Geoff has joined us a few times, and the kids have met him. Moreover,  they know that my meetings with Henry are set in stone unless it’s mission critical. Aside from my violin lessons, there haven’t been many restrictions placed on my time since I stopped work a few years ago and I think it’s good for them to know I’m not available on tap. Another thing I really appreciate about my friendship with Henry, is that he takes me seriously. He sees something more in me than this incomplete, imperfect scrambling character I see inside myself, and he gives me hope. Reads my writing and takes it seriously and even edits it and provides suggestions. He is kind, considerate and in the mould of his chivalrous Polish father, a gentleman and someone I trust and can truly rely on.

Roland & Rowena

Our shadows captured walking down the beach…Henry with his cap on and me lugging my camera bag along.

 

“It’s your road, and yours alone, others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.”

– Rumi

Henry’s friendship has also been a very important for me during the coronacrisis. For a few months there, he was all but my only physical social contact outside the family. He is fastidious about maintaining social distancing, is very protective of my health and also has a small social circle and takes precautions when he’s out. Our cafe’s been closed and I’m not quite ready to head back yet So, we’ve been going for walks along the beach instead. We did actually try to get a coffee at Pearl Beach last week but that all stops at 2.30pm over there so we didn’t have the opportunity to support local business. Gotta say, I was pretty disappointed, but we’re still coming out of covid and it is Winter here and there aren’t a lot of people around. However, they can also become a viscous circle.

DSC_0158

A few years ago, I used to have my dog-walking friends who were important to me. However, mornings and I haven’t been well acquainted of late and that’s fallen by the wayside. Moreover, I’ve seriously missed all the incidental friendships, which are structured around our activities and haven’t happened during lock down. Unfortunately, although dance has returned to the studio, parents are excluded and I’m still being cautious. The coronavirus is down, but not out.

Ferry and big clouds2

This massive cauliflower-shaped cloud decided to join us as well as a pod of dolphins which I didn’t quite manage to capture on film.

Anyway, might I encourage us all to unapologetically pursue and maintain our friendships. Indeed, I’ve made some really strong friendships through blogging, which have added a very interesting and largely international dimension.

Friendship matters!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Finding Hope On Mt Disappointment.

This week, we had the best good news story here in Australia, which really warmed and electrified my heart. On Monday afternoon, word got out that Will Callaghan, a 14 year old, non-verbal youth on the Autism Spectrum, strayed away from his family on a bush walk at Mt Disappointment in Victoria, and had gone missing. He was lost in dense bushland, and it was almost like trying to find someone in a fog. You just wouldn’t know where to start, and the only way forward involved trying to think like Will and somehow trying to crawl inside his mind and body, and do everything they could to be like him.

No doubt, this is what Police and emergency service personnel are trained to do. However, trying to find Will was next level, but they went there, pulling out all the stops to lure him out. Will’s favourite song is the theme song from Thomas the Tank Engine, and they were playing that from Police cars and loud speakers in the area. They also put food out for him, and warned locals to keep an eye out. That he could help himself to their fridge, or be asleep in a bed. They also encouraged locals to fire up the BBQ, as Will particularly loved the smell of frying onions or bacon and kept repeating how much he loved his food. The local response was so enthusiastic, they had to turn people away. Indeed, it seemed there was a real public surge of love and concern for Will and wanting him found

After spending two nights in the bush, Will was found by a volunteer not far from where he went missing. Despite all he’d been through, he only had a few scratches and was pretty much fine and unscathed. Indeed, on the way to hospital, the ambulance detoured via McDonald’s, and after a check-up he was allowed to go home. It was an absolute miracle, especially after being missing for 47 hours barefoot in sub-zero temperatures without food or water.

rcmit-mt-MountDisappointmentStateForest_003

It was like trying to find  a needle in a haystack. Photo: https://www.film.vic.gov.au/choose-victoria/locations/mount-disappointment-state-forest

I was so struck by the efforts Police, emergency services, community, the media, everyone made  to put themselves into Will’s feet (he doesn’t like wearing shoes and was indeed found barefoot), that I needed to write about and acknowledge it myself in my own words and share it in my little space here at Beyond the Flow. I’ve never seen acceptance, understanding or empathy for someone on the Autism Spectrum on such a grand scale before. Indeed, if you could write a wish list of how you’d like people to respond, this would have to be it. Moreover, I feel that this experience has embraced this community in a way we haven’t seen before. Well, not to my knowledge anyway. I hopeit encourages people to respond to people living on the autism spectrum with greater understanding, acceptance and flexibility in the future.

As a person living with disability myself, I know what it’s like to be misunderstood and be “beyond the flow”. I get sick of having to explain myself over and over again, and so frustrated having to make so much effort just to do this basics, and there are times where every day involves conquering an Everest of some sort. I have friends with children who are non-verbal and on the Autism Spectrum, and they have their good days and their bad, but I can tell you, they adore their children and step out and advocate for them so passionately. They endure often experience discrimination, judgement, pity and being cut off from family and friends because oil and water don’t mix. Yet, they also experience a love for their child which knows no bound.

So, while I’m grateful that things have come such a long way for people living with disabilities and their families, we need to maintain this momentum and take it further. The Wills of this world are counting on us and so am I.

Lastly, I hope I have got all the lingo right through this. There are so many ways of referring to people living on the Autism Spectrum. Some are quite fine with being called “Autistic”. Others prefer to maintain the distinction between what was known as “Asbergers” and “Autism”. Others say that we’re all somewhere on the spectrum. However, the point I wanted to make, is that it’s possible for all of us to find out more about how people on the spectrum experience the world and how to relate to them without pressing any triggers. That love and acceptance should be for everyone and we need to look at ways at making community more inclusive, even if people choose to go their own way. These are difficult conversations to have without tripping over the lingo. However, we still need to try, and that’s where I’m coming from.

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

Surfing Through the Lens – MacMasters Beach, Australia.

“People see by the light of their own stars. Some nights the stars waver

in obscuring mists. I steer a straight course by my own compass. and

delight in the mysteries of misguiding stars.”

― Chris Ernest Nelson

Let me start out by saying, that when I set out on my latest, local photography walk,  I had no plans of going to MacMasters Beach. Rather, I was heading for Killcare. However, it just goes to show that a person with no sense of direction, shouldn’t leave home without consulting the map. Moreover, some of us are so spatially-challenged, that turning the map around to face “the right way up”, doesn’t help. It doesn’t get us where we want to go. So, we need to allow an extra hour or so to reach our destination. Or, move to a peninsula or island where we can’t stray too far away, and will eventually find our way home.

MacMasters Beach

MacMasters Beach, NSW, Australia.

Indeed, I’m sure John Lennon had geographically challenged people like me in mind when he said:

“Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans”.

Last Friday afternoon, I set out for Killcare to explore the beach and the adjacent rocky headland through the lens and hopefully, at least, raise my heart rate  a little. Although Killcare is only about a 15 minute drive away, I’ve only been there a couple of times and that was about 8 years ago. That was back in the days when I went out for coffee with some of the mums from school, and that’s been awhile too!

MacMasters Swimming ppol

It almost feels like I could walk on water here and I was so amazed people were actually swimming in there during Winter. 

Anyway, I don’t think I mentioned that I’m trying to extend my walks beyond the local beach, and expand my horizons. That goal’s been reinforced by the coronavirus. Although Australia is starting to open up, I’m still semi-locked down and social distancing, and not at the point of returned to enclosed cafes or shops quite yet. Moreover, I’m not wanting to catch trains down to Sydney, which makes my usual escape hatch of Sydney more of a consideration. So, like so many of us the world over, exploring our local area is the way to go. Indeed, “local” has now become the new  “travel” just like “cruise ship” has now become synonymous with “the plague”.

Although I didn’t consult the map before I left, I did check my camera battery and swapped it over. At least, I was somewhat prepared, although I didn’t have time to wait for the battery to charge and didn’t have a spare. I also checked that the memory card was there. I’ve been let down on that front before as well. Nothing like heading out on a photo shoot, only to find an empty void in either compartment.

When it came to finding my way to Killcare, I knew I needed to turn right at the servo. After that, it was going to be case of drive by feel. To be perfectly honest, I fully expected to find a sign, which didn’t seem unreasonable. After all, Killcare is hardly a bush shack  hiding in the gum trees.

Well, if there was a sign, I missed it. It wouldn’t be the first time. Won’t be the last. However, as I kept driving through the bush with no Killcare in sight, I knew I’d missed it and was heading further afield. Indeed, it was starting to look like further, further afield. I had no idea where I was going to wind up. However, I was somewhere on the Australian East Coast and knew they’d at least stop me when I reached the Queensland border. That’s because the border between NSW and Queensland are closed and no doubt heavily guarded on account of the coronavirus. Indeed, you’d be excused for thinking NSW was the new Mexico and hopefully the Queensland Premier won’t be building any physical walls any time soon to keep us out.

Anyway, eventually I spotted an exceptionally rare local sight…a sign. Directions.

I was at MacMasters Beach just under 10 kilometres off course.

spring rolls MacMasters Beach

No worry. I’d never been to MacMasters before, and now it was about to become my oyster. Or, in this instance, my delicious prawn spring roll from the Barefoot Cafe. I haven’t exactly been going into shops and cafes. However, I could make it in and out of this place quite effortlessly and sit out alone out the front and soak up the magnificent view.

Cafe MacMasters Beach

The Barefoot Cafe, MacMasters Beach

Gee, it’s a hard life.

Well, it did become a bit tougher. Instead of going for an easy walk across the sand, I opted for a much more challenging step, hop, stumble  jump across an endless jumble of rocks and stones at the foot of the cliff, which only lead to more rocks, stones and fallen boulders around the corner. I didn’t end up going there and decided to turn back before I tempted fate. This sort of terrain is really good for strengthening your feet and ankles. However, since I’ve had some really nasty falls on supposedly safe footpaths albeit with nasty cracks, I thought I’d better limit the liability a little.

MacMasters Feet Rocks

Walking over bumpy terrain and building up my resilience.

However, before I walked anywhere, I stepped out of the car to photograph a banksia flower, and one shot later the @#$% camera battery went flat and I had to resort to using my phone. I know most people don’t think twice about taking photos with their phone, but I’m a hard core SLR user and a phone is a phone is a phone. That is, unless I’m absolutely desperate like that poor soul who who has to pull up beside the road when that elusive public toilet remains out of reach.

Fortunately, the phone photos weren’t too bad and going back with my real camera, gives me a better excuse for going back than feasting on more of those scrumptious prawn spring rolls. They were particularly good.

As I was stumbling over the rocks, I was the very personification of solitude itself. A lighthouse watching the surfers floating on the waves like bobbing seals, catching the odd wave and then running over these same rocks nimble-footed and leaping off the rocks into treachery itself yet miraculously surviving so effortlessly.

Surfers MacMasters beach

Surfers Bobbing Like Seals at MacMasters Beach.

Many, many times through the years, I’ve longed to trade places with one of these surfers and hit the waves myself. I have had a surf lesson once and have at least managed to get a board out there and surfed on my tummy and had a taste of what it might be like if I could actually make it up onto my feet. What it would be like to step out of my body into the wet suited fitness of someone else. Or, even that I could get back there again myself. It wouldn’t matter whether I couldn’t could stand up or not, because I’d be embracing the waves, the ocean and somewhere far beyond my chair at home. Moreover, life is to be lived and not just viewed as a by-stander through the lens or as  a writer through the pen or any other form of standing by and observing instead of jumping in. So many of us, for a myriad of reasons, are guilty of this, which is why I’m often just grateful to get out there doing something and soaking up some other part of the world, even if it is virtually on my own doorstep.

MacMasters Beach Full moon

Meanwhile, it’s Winter here. The sun had set and the light was rapidly fading. Having to traverse back over this rocky terrain, I couldn’t linger and risk an accident. I couldn’t risk stumbling over these rocks in the dark. So, I started walking back. Then, much to my delight and my frustration with my SLR camera out of action, the full moon is rising above the horizon. It’s just a ping pong ball in the sky. There’s no glow. No reflections on the water, but it’s still a full moon rising with all its awe and majesty and I feel so blessed to be here and a part of this.

Yet, it was also time to go home.

Daleys Point2

However, you might recall that I missed a turn and found myself at MacMasters Beach. So, you shouldn’t be surprised that I missed a different turn heading home and found myself at Hardy’s Bay. I haven’t been there before either and again, it’s pretty close to home. Why is it that we keep returning to the same places, revelling in our comfort zones, instead of exploring what’s almost on the palm of our hand? Is it all too easy and prior to the covid craziness, we always thought adventure had to be overseas. It doesn’t have to be and my health challenges have aught me that.

Daleys Point

 

After being immersed in all that awe and wonder, arriving home proved quite an anti-climax. Do you ever get that? Those times you walk in and almost walk straight back out the door?! Life is so much easier behind the lens, especially when your battery is fully charged and ready for action. Reality is over-rated. Over-rated indeed.

Have you been on any walks or photographic adventures lately?

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

A Chip Off The Old Block… Friday Fictioneers.

The sea was churning back and forth in George’s stomach. His eyes were turning green, and he didn’t know which way to turn. Whether he could crawl out from beneath the burden of destiny, this pre-ordained future he had no say in. He didn’t want to sit still, drink tea and become a stodgy portrait. Rather, he liked painting rainbows and digging in his veggie patch. Was mesmerised by the magic of watching beans grow. Imagined what it was like to be a tree.  No, when George grows up, he wants to dance and he might even want to sing.

….

100 words.

This story took off with a life of it’s own and I had no intention of writing about little Prince George and his life’s choices. I noticed the chip in the prompt and thought of the number of times I’ve been told that I’m “a chip off the old block”. That I’m very much like my dad. It annoyed me at times, especially when my Dad did his Masters of Creative Writing and pursued a life long goal of writing a book, which as anyone who has been following my blog for more than a week, knows is my goal and I’ve been working hard towards it for the last 10 years. I also look a lot like my Dad, but unlike me, he doesn’t like appearing online and so I can’t share a photo. He’s a mystery man.

I really do feel for people who end up growing up within strong family expectations and shadows and hope they manage to put their own stamp on what they do within those frameworks.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 1st June, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share.

How are you?

I don’t always ask that first up. However, given everything that’s going on at the moment, I wanted to see how you are and hope you’re going okay. It’s fine if you’re not. Well, it’s not fine, is it?!! However, with so much going on in some parts of the world, it can be very overwhelming. I wanted to acknowledge that and simply say: “we’re thinking of you”.

All of this seems so far away from our backyard, which has been receiving considerable attention during “iso” and is actually improving. On the other hand, so much else has gone down the toilet along with all that precious loo paper. Yet, in this modern world, nothing is faraway. Much of the time, we end up absorbing foreign news as though it were our own. Besides, many of these issues such as the coronavirus and inequality, are global concerns. Our daughter’s been following the George Floyd protests very closely via Tik Tok and wanting to join a local protest march here in Australia supporting Black Lives Matter. I said no due to concerns about the coronavirus. However, I’m also concerned about her safety if things get out of hand. Although protesting and having having a heart for social justice are in her genes and I’m proud of her, I’m still her mother and it’s my job to keep her safe.

school whiteboard

Our Daily Timetable Provided A Phantom Framework to School At Home. 

Meanwhile, last week was fairly stressful. The kids returned to school after being in lock down for a month, and that was stressful, chaotic and strangely felt just as weird as doing school from home. Students across the board aren’t themselves. My SIL also started treatment for breast cancer and I feel like hitting someone, something over the head with a baseball bat over that. How dare they! I’m sure many of you would also like to join a protest march against cancer. The chances of survival have improved a lot, but that still doesn’t mean you want your loved ones going through all of this. My other concern is trying to be an adequate support person. I know all of us have done it. We’ve meant to write the card. We might even have bought the gift. However, nothing makes it into the mail. You don’t ring. Time drifts by and added to procrastination, there’s the guilt, embarrassment, even shame. After all, don’t we all want to be the one who drops off a meal just when it’s needed? Buys that much needed soft blanket to keep them warm during treatment? Anyway, I finally managed to post a card yesterday about 4 days after I wrote it, and I stuck in a shell I found on my walk around Patonga. At least, now I’ve done something.

Like many others, I’ve also been struggling to sleep and have found myself in a dreadful cycle of going to bed around 3.00 am and waking up at Midday or even later. Indeed, I’ve ended up on “Rowie Time” and it isn’t working for me, or anyone else. While I’ve heard about how to break challenging sleep patterns, I haven’t really wanted to until now that I’m ending up with a few scant hours of disappearing sunlight every day, and I also need to help get the kids off to school. Anyway, you’ll be proud of me today. I actually got up at the official wake-up time of around 7.00 am. It’s the first time I’ve seen the morning for quite awhile and I’ve been quite energetic and productive, which has surprised me.

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A Molten Sunset Through the Norfolk Pines, Patonga.

Although it’s the first day of Winter, I also managed to lie on a blanket outside on the grass in the sun and read a few chapters of my book. I was pretty stoked, as I can’t remember ever doing this. Two of our three dogs, Rosie & Zac, were just as happy. A human lying the grass on a rug, made for an easy target, and Rosie repeatedly dropped the rope toy on my back and waited beside me with baited breath.  Clearly, she had no respect for my serenity, and Geoff wasn’t any better. He said I’d invaded the dogs’ territory. What did I expect? As usual, I was out numbered.

Meanwhile, last night was a dramatic night on Masterchef. As I might have mentioned before, Masterchef started filming before Australians went into lock down, and this very weird, unnatural state of “social distancing” became our way of life. While it might be a relief for those who don’t like to be touched, not being able to hug our non-residential family members and friends has been difficult and quite frankly weird for most of us. Moreover, for some people living alone, the complete lack of physical contact from anyone, has been exceptionally hard. One of my close friends is a swinging from the rafters character who lives alone, and all the venues from Churches, gyms, cafes to pubs and clubs are all closed. It’s the sort of thing you’d do to torture someone, not to be kind.

Anyway, while we’ve been doing social isolation with the family and dogs at home, I’ve loved watching pre-iso Masterchef with everyone hugging, talking, laughing being friendly. It was so good to be surrounded by normal and leave this fruitcake world behind for a few hours. However, now the madness has caught up. Last week, the contestants were spread-out through the kitchen “social distancing”. However, nothing prepared me for young Jess’s heartbreaking elimination where the tears started to flow, she crumpled, imploded and no one could reach out to physically touch her. It was hard to watch on TV, and I had a pretty good idea that she was going from the ads. Moreover, I know, we all know, NO HUGS. However, how unnatural and unhuman is this? There wasn’t one person on that show who wasn’t shattered and feeling the need to come together. However, instead of their usual huddle, everyone went through this standing alone. It must’ve been so very hard for everyone there, her very close friends and  Masterchef Family not to be able to comfort her in a physical way as was their norm only a week or so before. It is madness. If I didn’t already know this strange world we’re living in is utterly mad, I knew it then as Jess exited the Masterchef kitchen distraught and alone (no doubt some assistance must’ve been given off camera). It was heartbreaking.

Gee, I wish this virus would go away! Pack its bags and never come back!!

Talk about understatement!!

Meanwhile, I made it out for a walk and a paddle this week. For the walk, I drove about 15 minutes away to Patonga and walked along the beach and onto the rocks and photographed the sunset. Then, yesterday, Geoff and I drove round to Tascott on Brisbane Waters (a 15 minutes drive the opposite direction) for him to get out for a sail on the laser while I paddled around on the kayak. The Sailing Club is starting to open up again, and Geoff wanted to get the Laser out for a test sail as the winter series starts up next weekend. It was good that he did, as there were a few problems to iron out. Although there was no wind, and so he didn’t manage to get the boat set-up and ended up Sailing In The Park. However, we did make it out on the kayak. I went out by myself while he was working on the boat and then we went out together. This was in our big yellow two-seater plastic kayak we affectionately call “The Bathtub”. For awhile there, I was Paddling Through the Clouds. I could’ve been a thousand miles away from civilization, except main road traffic was rumbling past beside us.

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Tascott Looking Towards Woy Woy

Aside from waking up early this morning and lying out in the backyard soaking up some rays reading my book, I also managed to fit in some gardening. We visited our elderly neighbours on Saturday and we’ve been very close to them the whole time we’ve been living here. They’re about 90 and they’re English. As children, they were living in London during the blitz and were sent away to the country for awhile, but ended up going back and Mr attended Sandhurst Road School which was bombed on Wednesday, 20 January 1943 when a German fighter-bomber dropped a single 500-kilogram (1,100 lb) bomb on the school at 12:30 pm, killing 38 children (32 killed at the school and 6 more died in hospital) and 6 staff and injuring another 60 people. He and his mate were walking back to the school after lunch and the plane actually shot at them as they walked down the street. It was terrifying, but makes for a great story now. Anyway, they have quite a lovely garden, and I took some cuttings from the geraniums and planted them in compost from the worm farm. They should take off like Jack’s bean stalk with all those nutrients. 

Sunset Tascott 2020

A Much More Muted Sunset At Tascott than Patonga.

Lastly, I managed to get a contribution off to Friday Fictioneers again last week. I was quite thrilled with last week’s contribution which drew from such a plethora of sources to build a story all of its own. This piece was called Salvaging The Masterpiece.

As I head off, I wanted you all to know that I’m thinking of you. Some of you I know quite well and have a reasonable idea of your whereabouts on this big small world of ours. Others, I don’t. However I am conscious that we live in troubled times and I am thinking of you wherever you are.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Paddling Through the Clouds…

Paddling through the clouds certainly sounds idyllic, and indeed at was for me while Geoff was battling it out with the boat and trying to get it out on the water before sunset. Indeed, while I was gazing at the reflections of clouds glowing on the water, the moon was bouncing up and down like a tennis ball, until it disappeared behind the clouds. It was all very atmospheric for me, and frustrating and disappointing for Geoff who didn’t get any further than sailing in the park. That said, he did get out with me for a better-than-nothing paddle. Well, it was far better than that and it was lovely to spend time together. Indeed, you could even say that we went out on a date. How strange is that!

Map of Brisbane Water, New South WalesIf you look at the map above, we were kayaking at Tascott, which is located on left hand side of the blue pond outlined above. It’s quite a pretty spot, but not as removed from civilization as my walks along the Water Tower Walk or Patonga. We were paddling just off the main road and my serenity was accompanied by the unnatural hum of traffic.

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I paddled out to check out this old boat with loads of “character”. There’s a garden seat tied on at the front and I was surprised to see people on board. 

It’s feels like we’re finally liberating ourselves from some of our parenting duties and can actually snatch some moments away from the kids together. Their activities have largely been cancelled during lock down, and that’s also freed us up. I don’t know if we’re going to be entirely happy when it all starts up again.

Yacht Tascott

By the way, if you recall my sunset photos from Patonga, I was facing West and capturing the sun’s fading rays in all their golden glory. However, from Tascott, we were facing East and as you can see, the colours were much more muted and had a Monet feel about them. Well, at least they did to me.

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By the way, my husband doesn’t apologize for not taking any photos of me out on the kayak. When I asked him about it when he got home, he said he was too busy working on the boat. Just as well I photographed my feet. I thought it might come in handy. The photo of me kayaking up the top, was one “I’d prepared earlier.”

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Tascott looking towards Woy Woy, NSW. 

I hope you had a good weekend, but looking at these photos what I experienced is very different to what so many are going through either fighting the coronavirus or dealing with the riots in USA and issues in Hong Kong and so many other things which are going on. I can assure you, our world is not as calm as it appears either. While my health is good atm, we have family who aren’t well and I’m very mindful of that. We need to snatch away these moments of serenity and sunshine to refuel us for whatever lies ahead. It all seems a bit up in the air at the moment.

Sunset Tascott 2020

A Muted Sunset at Tascott. 

I’m thinking of you whoever or wherever you are and praying that you know it can be okay and to hang in there.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Sunset Walk At Patonga, NSW.

Lately, I’ve been getting itchy feet. Real itchy feet. Not surprising after being in lock down for at least 2 months, and not being allowed to leave the house except for grocery shopping and my eternal arch-nemisis….exercise. I wasn’t too sure whether meandering along with my camera, especially pausing to take in the view or stick my camera up a tree, counted as “exercise”. Or, whether this seemingly innocent escape for a woman with mobility issues, might be considered “illegal”. After all, a girl simply going out on a driving lesson with her mum in Victoria, was pulled over and initially fined $1652 until sense and intense media pressure prevailed. I didn’t want to land myself in that kind of trouble.

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The Jetty at Patonga looking towards Broken Bay and Palm Beach. 

 

Restrictions are really starting to lift here in Australia now, especially considering the exceptionally low transmission rates we have here. However, although our kids went back to school this week, I’m still practicing social distancing and largely staying home. Besides, it’s almost Winter here. I’m as snug as a bug in a rug getting on with my WWI research and writing projects, which I view as my job. At least, that’s the direction I’m working towards. I also have a fairly extensive, global network of blogging friends and we get on really well.

Rowena Patonga 2020

Here I am going for my walk. No selfie capabilities on my SLR. Besides, I quite fancy being a lurking shadow in all sorts of distorted dimensions. 

“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk

and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

I don’t really NEED to go out, but that can also become a problem. Unfortunately, my arch-nemesis exercise, along with sunlight and the great outdoors where I can stretch my wings and almost inhale the ocean, are almost critical for my mental health and happiness.

 

So, feeling rather virtuous, I headed over to Patonga Beach on Thursday afternoon. It’s  about a 15 minute drive away, taking us past last week’s Water Tower Walk Water Tower Walk, Pearl Beach, and we keep driving through Brisbane Waters National Park with nothing but bush on either side and the road stretching through seeming nothingness ahead. This area is so untouched and seemingly remote, that it’s hard to believe we’re only a stone throw from Sydney.

Lorikeet in a flame tree

Here’s one of our stunning Rainbow Lorikeets feasting in an Illawarra Flame Tree at Patonga. The tree was full of them chatting away.

The last stretch of the drive passes through some sharp twisting bends as you descend the hill into Patonga. After driving through the bush, the tranquil sea-side village of Petonga, which means “oyster” in Aboriginal, feels like something out of the set of an old movie. Patonga is nestled on Brisk Bay, which is on your left where there’s a rustic jetty heading out towards the Hawkesbury River on the extreme right and Palm Beach, across the other side of Pittwater on your left. There’s also a children’s playground here on the waterfront, which no longer captures my attention now that our kids are in high school. However, before our local park was given a massive upgrade, I used to take the kids to a park located next to the camp grounds at Patonga, which was almost on the beach.

However, today I was fairly rather reflective because my sister-in-law is starting treatment for breast cancer, and my thoughts are very much with her. Not only because she’s family and because what she’s going through is rotten, but I went through chemo a few years back for my auto-immune disease and it’s a frigging rollercoaster, even just from a logistical point of view. This time, it’s my turn on the sidelines, and I want to do a good job of that. Indeed, I want to do a better job of what I’m doing so far, because the card I wrote and it was an extensive message straight from the heart) is still sitting in the loungeroom and I’ve been thinking of a gift but haven’t got there yet. You know, there’s that going round in circles and wanting to get that gift that’s going to hit exactly the right spot, and heaven forbid in your desire for perfection that you actually end up doing NOTHING!! My goodness. Haven’t we all been guilty of that.

 

 

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Frolicking in the wonders of nature, able to walk through the clouds.

Anyway, I picked up a few shells along the beach to include in my letter to my sister-in-law. I hope she appreciates them for what they represent, and that she doesn’t take me for a cheapskate.

Sea gulls Patonga

Sea gulls might be common but I still love them. They’re such characters and theis flock was just standing in the shallows on the beach looking like they were really enjoying themselves and I had to join in their festivities. Besides, they made me feel like less of a lone ranger and part of a wider belonging. 

So, going on this walk was really good for dealing with all of that, as well as all the fall out from the coronavirus and the kids suddenly being forced back to school full time  this week by the NSW Education Minister. As my walk continued and the sun started to set behind a row of incredibly majestic Norfolk Pines, my footsteps seemed to lighten as all these stresses wafted out to sea and far away.

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher

storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

― Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds

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Sunset Behind the Norfolk Pines, Patonga. 

Of course, by this stage, I’m castigating myself for staying indoors and not getting outside amongst all this more often. What I appreciated, perhaps, beyond all else,was soaking in that vast expanse of space, and being able to stretch out as far as the eye can see. Even the most minimalist of homes, still has four walls, and I can assure you that our place has a hell of a lot more. You could say that the interior is made of books and tea cups with a pile of musical instruments thrown in.

Meanwhile, the sun has set on another day, but we did make it next door for a chat with our elderly neighbours who are family to us. They live behind us across a back lane way and one thing I’ve loved about lock down, is that is been perfectly acceptable to get around in your pyjamas. I bought a fancy pair of Peter Alexander PJ pants with are hot pink with white circles and are pretty shmick. I had no qualms about wandering out the back gate over to their place in my PJs with my ugg boots on. It was so incredibly relaxing. You could even say liberating. It’s been the same on zoom. At first, I used to get dressed, but now we’re all in PJs, dressing gowns and the other night I even watched an interview with Cate Blanchet and Stephen Colbert via zoom and both of them were in their PJs. It made for such a relaxed and intimate interview.

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What a magnificent sunset and I just love the feathery white clouds floating over the lingering blue sky. 

“Ô, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth.”

― Roman Payne

As tempting as it is to immerse myself in nature and escape the heaviness and responsibilities of life, there’s always that rubber band drawing me back home in both good and bad ways. At times, I really resent having to rush home from my sunset photography jaunts to get dinner cooked for the family. However, I really cherish our family and all that being part of a family entails. Sure, there are responsibilities. However, there’s love, connection, intimacy, belonging along with frustration, irritation, expense, and that sense all round that someone’s clipping your wings. As much as we need togetherness, we also need time apart, space to do our own thing and the capacity to create and be a part of stories which we might choose to share with the family and have something to talk about. Moreover, this sense of family is also what you make it. You can build your own family. You do not need to be alone and these families are just as legitimate as your more conventional families. Blood is thicker than water, but the bonds of experience and caring for each other and especially being in the same boat are also strong.

I’m not quite sure how I reached that point after setting out on a walk around Patonga. However, with everything going on in the world at the moment, for many of us, it’s a time of deep questioning and thinking about just about every aspect of life and it will be interesting to see what life will be like on the other side. I for one am not planning on going back to how it was before and am working towards creating my own new world. How about you?

I hope you and yours are well and staying safe.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 26th May, 2020

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I’m not going to lie to you. The weather today is absolutely appalling. That’s not just because I’m some wussy Australian who can’t handle  the rain…or the cold.

Well, maybe I am.

However, it’s beyond my control. My DNA’s been reprogrammed by the heat and rain is such a rare thing here at times, that I almost don’t know what it is when I see it.

Moreover, I’m not alone in this either. Lady, our Border Collie x Kelpie wanted to go outside tonight but as soon as she stuck her nose out and saw the rain, she changed her mind.

Well, we had some big news here. Last Monday schools here in NSW were literally ordered back full time by the Minister for Education , just like a frigging dictator. There’s been little thought or accommodation for people in high risk categories. We’ve simply been told that zoom won’t continue. Unless you provide medical documentation, your child will be marked absent and consult your school principal. As you can see, it really annoyed me, and put me in a really dreadful position of having to choose between my kids’ education and potentially my own survival. However, the incidence of the virus here in Australia is seemingly so low, that I do think and hope that the risk is minimal.

So, we’ve had to get the household adjusted and prepared for back to school. It’s all been made much easier by having Geoff working from home. He’s showing no sign of needing to go back to working in the office, which is great.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to get our for some exercise. I can’t quite recall whether it’s only been the one walk. However, last week I went on a wonderful walk   to the Mt Ettalong Lookout which is about 10 minutes drive from home and on the way from Umina Beach to Patonga. From the road, it’s pretty unassuming. So much so, that it’s simply known as “the water tower walk” locally. However, it has breathtaking coastal views over natural rock lookouts and you almost feel like an intrepid explorer looking over the headland out to sea. I also loved the trees and wildflowers, which really came alive to me. I call myself a tree gazer. I find so many shapes and forms in their exquisite boughs and branches and I was there right on magic hour right before sunset when the magic was at its best. You can read more about it HERE.

Matchsticks

What with the whole Covid 19 situation, I’ve found myself in a fairly reflective mood at times. In fact, I’ve caught myself going through my misery list a few times. You know that list of losses and everything that’s gone wrong and been totally unfair. Well, I pulled myself up on it and decided to reflect on the first six months of 2020, through the framework of Acknowledgement & Gratitude. Acknowledgement recognizes those disappointments and setbacks without dwelling on them. You’re just visiting, and in the case of the Monopoly board you’re not going away to jail and staying there. I was quite surprised that my gratitudes outnumbered and also outweighed my acknowledgements by more than two to one. Indeed, that proved to be a very useful exercise and I encourage you to check it out here: Acknowledgement & Gratitude- 2020 Revisited.

I also got back into flash fiction this week, contributing to Friday Fictioneers. My flash this week as: Inside-Outside.

So, how are things going over in your neck of the woods? I hope they’re going well and you’re all keeping safe.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Stunning Water Tower Walk: Pearl Beach, Australia.

It’s hard to believe this breathtaking bushwalk is simply known locally as “the Water Tower Walk”. That sounds so plain Jane and understated. I’m not even sure there’s a sign, although it’s probably on the map.  That said, you either have to be local and in the know…or lost…to find it!

Rowena Mt Ettalong Walk

Here I am snuggled into the bushes with my Nikon photographing the view.

Yet, this walk is literally awesome, packed with knockout views, especially for the contemplative soul. Moreover, you never know what you’re going to stumble across on  the wildlife front. Much to our surprise,we’ve actually seen an echidna, which we didn’t even know were living in our local area. We’ve also seen a flock of stunning black cockatoos, although I only heard them this time.

Since we’re in varying stages of being cooped up in lock down like a flock of old chooks, I thought I’d invite you on a virtual bush walk. This way, you can ease into my shoes and hopefully get a sense of the magic.

However, before we get started, I’d better give you some directions. As it turns out, a quick Google search for a map actually told me its official name is : The Mt Ettalong Lookout Walk and its official address is 135 Patonga Dr, Pearl Beach NSW 2256. Well, that’s all well and good if you want to write it a letter. However, if  you’re in the car and looking out the window, you just need to look out on your left for the water tower. Take it from me, you can miss it and if you reach the Pearl Beach turn off, you’ve gone too far. The water tower is camouflaged in the scrub.

BTW, to help you get your bearings, I thought I’d better remind you our seasons are upside down for most of you. That means, we’re heading into Winter here in Australia. Now, I’m constantly running out of frigging daylight, because I stay up too late and miss half the day. So, this will tell you that we’re arriving about half an hour before sunset when the light is at its magic best, although there were definitely spots  where the light was gone, and needed the morning sun.

Track Mt Ettalong Lookout

From the road, this half hour walk appears pretty understated. There’s just the water tower and a bit of bush. Definitely no multi-story car park, luxury hotel or other travesties you expect anywhere worth visiting. Just nature. However, walk further down the track, and you’ll soon see stunning water glimpses through the gum trees  on your right.

Mt Ettalong Lookout through trees

Further along, you’ll see a little track across to a series of natural rock lookouts. By the way, there are no safety railings to spoil the view, until you reach the lookout at the end. So, you need to watch your step and be careful. Otherwise, it will be you being rescued and appearing on the 6.00 pm news…or worse!

“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the

ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on

underwater,you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the

ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and

staring at the outside of the tent.”

― Dave Barry

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The View from the first lookout over Pearl beach and across to Lion Island and Broken Bay.

 

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a

drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be

missing something.”

― Mother Teresa

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Pearl Beach viewed from the Mt Ettalong Walk. During these times of social distancing, I’feeling particularly struck by images of the lone individual., as captured in this photograph, which would improve in the morning light. 

Alongside the view, you’ll also spot a few wildflowers. If I came here more regularly, I’d have a better idea of what to expect. However, since I only come here randomly once a year or so, it’s always a bit of a lucky dip. This time I spotted a star-shaped purple flower which I couldn’t identify, as well as the stunning Fushia Heath (Epacris longiflora). There was also a touch of wattle, and some Banksia seed pods still clinging tenaciously to the branches with others being trodden under foot.

Tree beside the path

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.”

― Khalil Gibran, Sand and Foam

You could come here just for the ocean views, and be in heaven. However, the trees were almost equally magnificent. Please don’t mistake me for a tree hugger. I’m more of a tree gazer, photographer and philosopher. I’m currently reading Julie Baird’s sensational book: Phosphoressence. She’s introduced me to the Japanese concept of “forest bathing”, or shinrin yoku. Unconsciously, that’s what I was doing on this walk, although I’ll take the liberty of translating it into the Aussie vernacular and call it “Bush Bathing”. Mind you, that’s something you need to approach with extreme caution in a more literal sense in the Australian bush. There are not only the legendary snakes and spiders you’ve no doubt heard about. The leaves on many of these plants have adapted to rough conditions and are tough, scratchy and even vicious. So, they’re clearly not something to embrace in a literal, physical sense and most definitely not naked. Indeed, this could well explain Australians’ bizarre toilet paper hoarding fetish during the coronacrisis. There was no way we were turning to our native flora as an alternative.

tree

 

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

― William Shakespeare

Anyway, back to the trees. They were absolutely breathtaking, and I often struggle to understand how a simple tree could be so majestic and awe-inspiring. Meanwhile, I almost felt the size of an ant, dwarfed by this kaleidoscope of twisting, turning branches back-lit by the setting sun.  Their arms are reaching up into the omnipresent sky like a classroom full of kindergarten kids, where each of them has the answer to the question and desperately want to be picked. Moreover, being on top of a headland, these trees have wrestled with the wind and their branches have warped and twisted into an array of chaotic, misshapen forms, and I can almost hear the music playing, enchanting the branches to dance.  Of course, the effects of the late afternoon sun known as “the magic hour” by we photographers,  further illuminates their magnificent splendour. Gazing through my lens, I zoom in and absorb it all. It’s food for my soul.

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A jumble of branches.

Or, perhaps I’ve just been in lock down for far too long, and I’ve almost forgotten that the sky is blue. Or, that the sky exists outside at all, and hasn’t become a ceiling. That carpet hasn’t suddenly replaced the grass, and the world isn’t a square box after all.

I wish I could actually take you on this mesmerising journey in person with me. However, I’ve done my best to try to record it for you and, as I said, to ease you into my shoes. So, when I wasn’t standing stationary sticking my camera up a gum tree or gazing like stout Cortez across the sea, you would hear my footsteps rhythmically crunching over a carpet of crushed rocks and decaying detritus left, right, left, right. The track was uncharacteristically damp, because we’ve actually been getting some rain lately, and there’s a slighty musty smell of decaying leaves infused with eucalyptus, that scent we know as “Australia”.After all, this is our scent, our fragrance, even our deodorant. (Actually, we don’t go that far with the eucalyptus. Or, at least I don’t. Cough lollies are my limit.)

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As you can see, this spot is almost pure nature. Nothing’s been planted in neat little rows like peas in a pod. Rather, there’s raw, chaotic diversity and a freedom of spirit without pretence. I felt a million miles away from home, and any thought of covid 19 which has been stalking all of humanity around the entire globe. After all, there was no need for social distance. It was just me, myself and I, the birds, the trees, the awesome profound views across this vast stretch of water, the enormity of huge timeless boulders all  around me as well as the dramatic drop over the edge. This doesn’t quite count as a cliff, but if you fell down there, you might never get up, especially if no one knows you’re there.

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However, regardless of how deeply I was “bathing” in these scenes and senses, reality was always going to stick it’s ugly head in.  With the setting sun, came responsibilities. Dinner wasn’t about to cook itself and fly magically onto the table. Moreover, I also had a zoom meeting to attend. Indeed, it was going to be rush, rush, hustle bustle when I got home.

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However, at least I’d got out. Spread my wings. Broadened my horizons. Finally, done some exercise. Moreover, once the Palm Beach Lighthouse was lit and the street lights were coming on, it was time for me to go home. After all, even a child knows they need to be home before sunset.

Matchsticks

 

Well, I hope you enjoyed our virtual walk. Have you been out on any special walks recently? Or, do you have a favourite walk which you would like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Meanwhile, I hope that you are well, and keeping safe both from the virus but also all of its associated stress and the effects of isolation, job loss and just sense of things being turned upside down and inside out.

Best wishes,

Rowena