“Mummy, why do Charlie and I look the same on the outside, but are so different on the inside? You said we’re identical twins?!”
The twins were chalk and cheese. Charlotte was always staring out the window at goodness knows what…birds, the clouds, maybe she could even see something in the seemingly invisible air. Captivated by the old oil lamps, she found meaning in their flickering flames. Bridget loved to run. Charlotte’s side of the bedroom was pink with her books neatly filed in rainbow order. Bridget’s was a cyclone.
Sophie couldn’t offer any explanation and simply said: “Ask God.”
This week, I’m going to make you a pot of English Breakfast Tea and make you a Marmalade Sandwich and we can pretend we’re the late Queen Elizabeth and Paddington Bear having lunch together at Buckingham Palace.
It’s hard for me to know quite what to say about the death of the Queen. She’s been the monarch for 70 years and at the very least, she’s been a constant all that time at least in terms of being a portrait in our school halls, classrooms, scout and guide halls etc seemingly watching everything that’s going on and being a part of things, yet not. It’s going to be very strange to see King Charles III there instead, especially when I’m a Republican. Personally, I think it’s time to have an Australian as our Head of State and quite frankly I don’t want to see them to have the same ubiquitous presence the Queen has always had. She was quite an exceptional human being, stuck to the straight and narrow and was a worthy role model and leader. Most of us are a lot more human and so many leaders both in and out of politics have let us down. It would be good to move on.
Meanwhile, we’re coming into Spring here. I’ve heard the local Waratahs are back in flower and I’ll have to drive out and have a look. They’re about ten minutes away and simply growing beside the road. We’ve also seen groves of golden wattle in bloom, which is absolutely beautiful. This is all a reminder to keep your eyes open to the positives around you, even when the going gets tough. There’s always something to make you smile and radiate joy!
Speaking of joy, we’re actually very happy and relieved to still have Lady, our Cavalier x Border Collie still with us. Last Sunday she vomited and the next day she went off her food and was barely moving. I had no idea what was going on with her and after her carrying her out to bed, didn’t expect her to be with us in the morning. However, there she was at the back door wagging her tail and full of beans. Far from being sick, she was actually more lively than usual. I was most surprised. We’re not real good at keeping track of how old our dogs are. Probably because we really don’t want to know. As we all know, they speed through life seven times faster than us and that’s a tough thing to contend with. However, we think she’s about eleven or twelve so she’s older than she looks.
On Friday morning, I was in the process of waking up when Miss came in to tell me that the Queen had died.
There was a long pause as I processed the news.
Indeed, how could I process that news when there had been no precedent in my lifetime?
The Queen has always been there.
Not just over there either. She came out to Australia 16 times, although I never went to see her. However, my husband Geoff had that honour, although he barely remembers it. When the Queen toured Australia in March 1977, an eleven year old Geoff went down to Hobart with his older married sister to see her. The Queen clearly made a huge impression on young Geoff. All he remembers is buying his first guinea pig “Fifi” down there and taking her home. Apparently, his mother was “not amused”.
Reflecting on my own memories of the Queen over the last couple of days, probably my strongest memory is having her portrait hanging in our school hall, as it still does in schools and all sorts of buildings around Australia and the Commonwealth. I didn’t question it at the time. The Queen was simply everywhere in this subtle way which was largely unconscious and flying right under the radar. However, in a macabre way, it’s like she was watching us all those years and like the Mona Lisa, had eyes which not only followed us around the room, but through life. She was simply always there.
However, for many of us, our relationship with the Queen and the monarchy is complex. For starters, I’m a Republican and I don’t like what colonialism has done to First Nations people around the world. Australia had been deemed terra nullius (or unoccupied) by the English when they came here and the Aboriginal people were classed under flora and fauna and weren’t counted in the Australian census until 1971. Now, the Queen is a figurehead and couldn’t interject in politics, but it raises a significant question mark in my thinking.
Here in Australia, we also had The Dismissal in 1975. When I was only six years old, Australia was rocked by an seismic constitutional shock. Gough Whitlam, our democratically elected Prime Minister was sacked by the Queen’s appointed representative, Governor-General Sir John Kerr, who then appointed the opposition leader, Malcolm Fraser, as Prime Minister of the caretaker government. While I’m really not sure how much say the Queen had in all of this and I believe it was minimal, it was quite a shock to many Australians who thought we’d come of age, that the so-called “mother country” could step in like that. Not unsurprisingly, Gough Whitlam didn’t go quietly either! On the steps of the then Australian Parliament House he famously said:
Well may we say “God save the Queen”, because nothing will save the Governor-General!
Whitlam’s words immediately became legend, and they still air routinely on TV and maybe even at the odd BBQ. I had a friend back in the day who used to have a few too many drinks and quote Gough at parties. Indeed, I can clearly remember him quoting Gough and falling spectacularly into my parents’ swimming pool fully clothed right on cue. There is obviously a very long story behind that and the rights and wrongs of what happened way back then, but I will mention that an election was held and the Australian people voted in Malcolm Fraser and the Liberal Party by a clear majority.
Then, along came Lady Diana Spencer. The entire world was dazzled and the Queen along with Prince Charles headed backstage. I’d just turned twelve when they got married on the 29th July, 1981 and the entire world went mad with Diana fever (except for Prince Charles as it later turned out). I madly cut out photos and stories of Diana and pasted them in an exercise book. We all wore blouses with Diana’s trademark bow tied at the neck. One of my friends also had the misfortune of being carted off to the hairdresser to get a Lady Diana haircut which didn’t suit her at all and took years to grow out. Princess Diana’s light shone so bright that the Queen seemed pretty dull by comparison.
However, then, the Queen got the job of sorting out the fall out from two family divorces followed by the shocking tragic death of Princess Diana and her absent silence. The House of Windsor really seemed to be teetering on the brink then. Yet, in hindsight, she was actually putting her family first focusing on the needs of those boys who had lost their mum. So, what appeared to be cold and heartless to the public at the time, was actually incredibly compassionate and humane.
Some time after the death of Princess Diana, the Queen seemed to find a second wind and her popularity started to soar. Indeed, she started to capture the public affection in a way her mother had done and she almost seemed to become everyone’s second grandmother while still commanding respect as Queen. Indeed, my all time favourite footage of the Queen was with her having tea with Paddington Bear at Buckingham Palace during her Platinum Jubilee. I absolutely loved it, especially when she pulled the jam sandwich out of her trademark handbag. Who hasn’t had a jam sandwich at some point in their lunchbox at school and she was so sweet and relatable and it will be such a delightful treasure for her family to pass onto future generations.
Yet, there was so much more to the Queen.
Too much more to refer to it all here.
However, I’d particularly like to draw attention to her war service during World War II. There was also her and Margaret’s delight celebrating VE Day and leaving the balcony of Buckingham Palace and mixing incognito with the people, which she described as one of the best times of her life.
It is also admirable that as a young 25 year old embraced duty and her destiny and rose up to be an exemplary Queen and world leader.`
The Queen was also a working mother in an era where most mothers stayed at home and she helped open the door for working mothers around the world.
Since Her Majesty passed away, I have been drawn towards her many weighty words of wisdom and have come to appreciate her unfathomable depth, integrity and faith. She has so much to teach us, even now that she’s gone. After all, she reached the age of 96 very well lived years. She had met so many, many people and travelled so extensively around the world and absorbed so much. She was an absolute treasure and fortunately she’s left an enormous legacy behind.
Last night, I watched a fabulous documentary: Elizabeth : The Unseen Queen Have you seen it? I highly recommend it. The Queen talks you through numerous home movies and shares her wisdom on life, which is really worth pausing on and processing for yourself. I didn’t really come across her incredible wisdom during her lifetime, but now I’ve found it, I’m holding on and digging deeper. She is an outstanding and very human role model for us all. After all, she lived through almost a century of world history, but she was also a daughter, sister, wife, mother, grandmother, great grandmother and friend. She also lived with an incredibly strong faith, which seemingly breathed life and hope into every nook and cranny of her incredibly rich and complex life. While she certainly had her standards and there were always very strict protocols about approaching the Queen and how she was to be treated, despite her incredible wealth and world standing, at least I don’t believe she was ever too big for her boots, and she kept walking.
This resilience is perhaps her most admirable quality of all. Whatever happened around and within her, she kept going. She kept performing her duty and greeting the red box daily with enthusiasm and a smile. We all could learn a lot from that. Indeed, as we do experience a sense of grief, we can think about what we have personally learned from Her Majesty and what we’re going to carry forward.
How do you feel following Her Majesty’s passing? Do you have any special memories? Or, have you written something yourself? If so, please leave a link in the comments. It’s so good to share our thoughts at a time like this and come together.
Yesterday, was Father’s Day here in Australia. Unfortunately, my parents have colds so we couldn’t go round to see them. However, we were able to focus on Geoff and went to Church as a family for the first time in about 18 months (due to covid) and out for dinner to a fabulous local Indian restaurant. We couldn’t finish it off, and brought the leftovers home so the east will continue tonight albeit more of a nibble. Indeed, I’m about to head out to buy some more chicken to cook up with my leftover sauce.
Did you celebrate Father’s Day where you are? I also understand that it’s a day of reflection and grief for many so if that’s you, I send you a hug and my thoughts.
As you may recall, Geoff and I went to Bathurst what is like three weeks ago now, and I’m still in the very early stages of writing up about our trip here on the blog. I’m also wanting to write some freelance articles as well, but decided to write these posts for the blog first and use them as a launching pad.
However, my third post about a trio of marble sculptures in Machattie Park has become very complicated taking me down numerous deep and meandering research burrows without really feeling confident about the basic facts like who made the sculptures, and how they came to reside in a fernery in a park in Bathurst 200 km WNW of Sydney. My quest has taken me back to the Sydney International Exhibition of 1879 where a swag of nations set up camp and showed of their national achievements. In addition to the main exhibition hall in the Garden Palace a separate art gallery was built and two out of three of these sculptures were displayed there and bought by the Art Gallery of NSW who went on to loan them to the city of Bathurst to put in their you beaut park with the band rotunda and massive fountain. By the way, the sculptor was Giovanni Fontana who was a well-known Italian sculptor at the time, who was commissioned to produce a number of public sculptures in Sydney. So far, I’ve been able to trace back the providence of two out of three of the statues but the third one is eluding me and I’ve lost myself down so many rabbit burrows as I said just trying to put the basics together, that I’ve ended up terribly lost and confused to the point of losing what I actually know. Have you ever experienced that?
Meanwhile, the other big news around here, is that Miss sprained her ankle last Friday night at dance. When it happened, they all heard a loud snap and they were really concerned she’d broken it. I missed a call from an unknown number just as I was meeting up with friends, and that turned out to be her dance teacher. They rang Geoff instead who was at home and so he drew the short straw of taking her to Gosford Hospital for hours on end while we waited and prayed for a verdict and I was going through all her dance commitments in my head and wondering how bad this was going to be and the implications of it all. I was also rather concerned about how she was responding to all of this psychologically. For a mere mortal, a sprained ankle is a painful inconvenience but for a ballerina, it can so easily feel like the end of the world. However, fortunately the timing is fairly good and she doesn’t have anything big right away. Her dance teacher has also referred her to special physio, which is probably going hurt us more in terms of the bank account, but you do what you’ve got to do.
With Mum and my step-dad fighting like alley cats, Sally said I could crash in her dad’s empty shed. I was almost asleep, when I heard footsteps outside getting closer and closer.
“Stop being such a baby!” I scolded. “It’s just the cat.”
However, then I heard the distinct clomp of heavy boots on the footpath. This was no cat. Suddenly, the door swung open. “Who was it?” I panicked, slinking down the bottom of my sleeping bag, as he hit the floor drunk.
With nowhere else to go, I held my breath and prayed for the sun to rise.
This is another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.
How are you all? I hope you are well and this weekend, I can offer you some cheese biscuits with a chive and parsley cream cheese filling along with your choice of beverage. They’re very addictive!
This last week has been a case of recovering from the adventurous week before, which is what I’m going to focus on today.
On Thursday 18th August, we dropped Miss at the local train station. She was heading off to Queensland’s Gold Coast with the school’s cheerleading team to compete at Nationals. She would also be competing in a few solo events as well. Although we seriously considered driving up there to watch and be a part of it all, it wasn’t long enough to pull it off and so Geoff and I decided to head off to Bathurst 200 kms WNW of Sydney. We live night near the beach, and I’ve never been out that way and was interested in its goldrush heritage and all the photographic opportunities it offered. Meanwhile, we stayed at Rydges Mt Panorama which was right on the race track at Conrod Straight. In case you’re not aware, Bathurst is also home to the Bathurst 1000 Supercars Race, which is what’s brought Geoff and Jonathon to Bathurst before.
I’m in the process of writing up about the trip. However, so far I’ve written up a fairly extensive overview which you might enjoy: here.
However, probably what you’d like to see most are some photos of kangaroos taken in Hill End. We were there past sunset into the twilight, which is when kangaroos become most active. Great for photography when we were walking around town, but potentially treacherous driving back to Bathurst. Indeed, we had a very stressful near miss when a huge male hopped in front of the car and instead of getting out of the way, he kept turning back in front of the car. Obviously, he was out to collect the Darwin award, but we didn’t want him taking us with him. Fortunately, Geoff grew up in rural Tasmania and is well-versed in country driving, but even he found this particular kangaroo too much.
In addition to all the architectural attractions, there was also the race track. The Bathurst 1000 takes place the weekend after the October long weekend, and will be held 6th-9th October this year. The track itself is 6.213 km long and runs on public roads 174-metre (571 ft) elevation difference between its highest and lowest points The race is 161 laps in length and generally takes between six and seven hours to complete, depending on weather and Safety Car periods. A likely race finish time can be anywhere between 6pm and 8pm AEDT and I can tell you, you don’t disturb Geoff too much especially towards the end of the big race.
Geoff has walked and driven around the track before. However, being my first trip to Bathurst, naturally I’ve never been and I made a decision to drive around the track myself. Normally, this wouldn’t be a small consideration because I’m quite an anxious driver. However, I seemed to get into a different zone and wasn’t nervous at all in the end. By this stage, I’d been round the track with Geoff a few times making note of where the trouble spots were and preparing to go at a snail’s pace if necessary. I didn’t care if I clocked up the slowest lap time in Bathurst history. No one was recording it and I truly enjoyed the experience.
However, before we left on the trip, I received some awful news. A friend of mine called to say she was having trouble reaching our friend, Stephen. His phone wasn’t answering and had a message saying it was out of power or something to that effect. I rang and got the same response and sent an email letting him know we were concerned and to get in touch. Nothing. I had to look up my old hardcopy address book and my friend and her husband went down to check on him. They spoke to his neighbours who were also concerned and they rang the police for a welfare check and both he and his cat, Pippa, were found deceased. At the time, we didn’t know how long it had been and I was initially devastated that my dear friend would die in such circumstances, even though he’d chosen to shut himself off. However, as time went by, it turned out family and friends had been keeping in touch with him and it hadn’t been that long. Well, it’s kind of inevitable when you live alone and don’t reach out. He was 65 and had some health issues, and we’re still waiting for cause of death.
Unfortunately, losing Stephen has reminded me of how many people I know in similar circumstances and as much as I would love to reach out to them all, my days simply go up in smoke often with very little to show for it. However, my heart is in it and I also recently did a suicide intervention program through Lifeline, which I found very helpful.
I realise that this is a rather heavy subject to consider while having a cup of tea or coffee with Rowie and I hope it hasn’t been triggering. As a positive, if each of us called someone we know who is doing it tough once a week, I’m sure we could make a difference.
This is a good reminder that I need to start thinking about having something to look forward to myself now this trip is over. I’m not sure whether living from holiday to holiday is a good thing, and so I might organise a few get togethers with friends as well. After all, we’re about to launch into Spring here and come out of hibernation.
Lastly, speaking of Spring, I was struck by all the daffodils and jonquils we saw while we were away. They were EVERYWHERE!! I felt so grateful and could’ve thanked each and every soul who’d planted each and every one of those bulbs. I’ve gardened myself and have only been thinking of my own enjoyment and making the place look attractive and cheerful. It’s never crossed my mind that a stranger could be walking past and get some enjoyment out of it. Better still, that someone who is doing it tough could feel a moment’s joy simply because a stranger had planted a bulb in the ground. While I was trying not to think about Stephen too much while we were away, it was inevitable and seeing all the daffodils and jonquils truly helped.
Indeed, I ordered in a couple of bunches of daffodils from our local florist when I got home. They are so happy! It’s like having my own personal cheer squad every time I go out into the kitchen. Such a blessing!
“Why did you do it?” The judge asked Jane Sutton, a 16 year old student from Queen’s College. Academic, popular, beautiful, rich and from an impeccable family… why did she go on a staggering shoplifting spree totalling over $20,000 on a fake credit card? “You didn’t need any of this stuff! You had it all.”
Jane didn’t want to speak or acknowledge her crimes in any way. Indeed, she was on suicide watch, and no one would’ve blamed her for taking her life. They would’ve done it too if they’re been this stupid and brought such unfathomable shame and disgrace, not only on her own name, but also her family. Her mother was the Australian CEO of the Red Cross and her father was the Bishop of Sydney, although they were both feeling pressured to resign. After causing so much trauma to those she loved and loved her more than life itself, she couldn’t bear to admit why she did it.
She was bored.
Geoff and I were in Carcoar, near Bathurst last week and marvelled at this gorgeously quaint village time forgot. Such a shame the courthouse wasn’t open while we were there. It really is a step back in time.
This has been a contribution to Stream of Consciousness Saturday hosted by Linda G. Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “board/bored.” Use one, or use them both for bonus points. Enjoy!
Absence is the sign of a great, well-enjoyed holiday – absolutely no posts until well after you’ve arrived home. That’s because you’re not only seizing every single moment you’re away. You’re also so exhausted from your holiday, that you also need to recover.
That describes our trip to Bathurst well.
On the 18th August (just over a week ago now), Geoff and I left on a four day escape to Bathurst without the kids. After two years of intermittent covid lockdowns and isolations along with just over 18 years of parenting, this represented a tremendous achievement. Indeed, it could well be argued that it would be easier to climb Mt Everest, except you’d probably accuse me of hyperbole or that old favourite….being a drama queen! Anyway, the only reason we could get away now was because Miss was off to the Gold Coast for four days competing in Nationals for cheerleading.
However, just like Cinderella, we had restrictions in place. Firstly, we had to drop her off at the station at the unholy hour of 5.30am necessitating a 4.30am wake up for this die hard night owl. Then, we had to pick her up from the local train station at 4.00 pm Sunday afternoon. Of course, we didn’t want our beloved red Alfa 959 to get turned into a pumpkin if we ran late. If you’re the parent of a teenager or if you’ve ever been, you’ll know the teenager should not be upset, inconvenienced or forgotten. Being turned into a pumpkin could be an optimistic outcome!
Well, you might ask why we would go to Bathurst when we could almost go anywhere on the planet for our special extended weekend away. Well, given the time restraints, not quite anywhere but there was still quite a smorgasbord of choice available. Firstly, since we live at the beach, we wanted to go to the country to experience something different. We are both pretty interested in history and photography and we thought we’d check out old mining towns in the area as well as the race track at Mt Panorama.
Bathurst was traditionally owned by the Wiradjuri People, or “the people of the three rivers”, being the Wambuul (Macquarie), Kalari (Lachlan) and the Murrumbidjeri (Murrumbidgee). Meanwhile, the city of Bathurst was founded in 1815, and is the oldest settlement west of the Great Dividing Range. It is located on the Macquarie River about 200 kms West-Northwest of Sydney. Following the discovery of the first payable gold at nearby Ophir, on 12 February 1851; all roads led to Bathurst. Indeed, on the 17th May, 1851 the Bathurst Free Press reported: “A complete mental madness appears to have seized almost every member of the community. There has been a universal rush to the diggings.” The goldrush has left it’s imprint on Bathurst and the surrounding regions architecturally, which was one of the reasons we were heading up there- photography! Bathurst’s other great claim to fame is the Bathurst 1000 Supercars Race, which goes around the legendary Mt Panorama Circuit. Car racing is more Geoff’s thing, but I was also looking forward to driving round the track for the first time.
So, let’s get cracking…
Day One- Umina Beach to Bathurst.
After dropping MIss off, we headed to Bathurst via the Bell’s Line Road, which is an alternate route across the Blue Mountains to the more conventional Great Western Highway via Katoomba. When asked why we went this way, Geoff tells me “it is a much more fun road with better scenery and you’re not stuck in traffic all the way. Why would you want to be stuck in traffic all the way?” Makes sense to me.
Now, I’m going to pick up our journey from Bell’s Line Road, which took us through the Blue Mountains National Park. In 2019, four horrific bushfires swept through the region decimating bushland on an unimaginable scale. We drove through vast expanses of burned out vegetation at times stretching as far as the eye could see. It’s starting to regrow, but the loss was catastrophic. You can get an impression of the scale of these fires on the map here. Yet, we also stopped to enjoy spectacular views of soaring cliffs, and also saw a few wildflowers.
We arrived in Bilpin around 8.00am and were delighted to find the Grumpy Baker. We shared one of their epic sausage rolls, while I also indulged in the most luxuriously delicious cinnamon scroll I’ve ever had, and Geoff ordered an apple turnover. With eyes much bigger than our stomach’s, we also ordered a cheese stick for in the car. I almost forgot to mention my coffee. I usually don’t drink coffee due to my heartburn. However, feeling like a veritable zombie after around 4 hours sleep, it was a must, and I couldn’t believe the difference it made. I could well understand how coffee keeps the masses alive.
Before we left Bilpin, I had a rather “interesting” experience. The public toilets were a short drive down the road. Although this should have been a very straightforward experience, I actually got locked in the toilet and couldn’t get out. The lock was a bit complicated and I’m turning it this way and that and pushing and then Geoff realized I was stuck and started pushing from the outside without any luck while I kept fiddling with the lock. By this stage, a mixture of dread, panic and potential embarrassment was setting in as I was starting to think we would be needing to call the police to let me out. OMG!!! That happened to a friend at a restaurant once and he was just lucky he’d taken his mobile phone with him and called us at the table to let him out. You could just imagine the laughter. We were such a sympathetic bunch. So, while you might say this was karma 30 years later, I didn’t see it that way. Anyway, I looked up and saw a second rather serious looking lock and hey presto, I was out. The toilets had just been cleaned and it looks like they hadn’t latched back the lock. Phew!
We arrived in Bathurst around 10.00am (can you believe we’d travelled 248 kilometres before 10.00am? I doubt it!!). Our first stop was the Visitors’ Centre where we came across one of three restored Cobb and Co. coaches in existence. Now, we really knew we were travelling back in time. We left with a swag of tourist brochures, heading for the town centre.
Almost…Geoff being Geoff, headed straight for Mt Panorama and the Bathurst 1000 track before we’d had much of a look around town. It was interesting, even a bit exhilarating, to drive round the actual track in person after watching the race on TV. It certainly gave me a much better appreciation of what the drivers go through at speeds of up to 300 kph, even though we had to stick to the speed limit of 60 KPH which dropped down to 40KPH in a few treacherous spots. I was too tired to even think about having a go myself.
We headed back into town. After doing a quick drive around the streets where I was literally salivating over all the historic architecture, we parked at Machattie Park on William and Keppel Streets and set out on foot armed with our cameras. Machattie Park is a wonderland all by itself. Moreover, it was surrounded by an incredible array of striking historic buildings. To be honest, I didn’t know quite where to point my camera, and was very grateful for digital technology where I could snap away to my heart’s content.
After sunset, we made it to our hotel, Rydges at Mt Panoroma, which is located right on the race track on Conrod Straight. Of course, it would be incredible on race day, but entirely out of our league. We have no idea how much it would cost, but it’s booked out for the next three years. When Geoff, Mister and their crew went to Bathurst, they were slumming it in tents, although being out in the paddocks had a culture all of its own.
We didn’t see much beyond sunset and crashed for the night. The early morning start had well and truly caught up with us.
Day Two – Carcoar and Milthorpe
The second day of our trip was a reminder that there’s only 24 hours in a day and brings to mind that old question about whether life is about the journey or the destination.
It began with breakfast at Nicky’s Cafe in Bathurst after we slept through breakfast at the hotel. I wandered across the road dazzled by architecture and a laser display and then wandered down an alleyway being lead by my camera and not by the clock. We were heading for Carcoar to see an old school friend of mine and Geoff mentioned getting there before she closed but I had all day. This steady stop-start meandering continued all the way to Carcoar, and you guessed it, she was closed by the time we got there, and she’d had to shoot off to Orange. Another note to self about prioritising.
We scooted around Carcoar which was absolutely stunning. We drove back to Bathurst via Millthorpe.
Day Three- Driving Around the Bathurst Track, Sofala and Hill End
By day three, we were well and truly into holiday mode, which in our case, had nothing to do with relaxing and was all about trying to squeeze as much as we could into one day.
Before we headed off to Sofala, yours truly finally had the chance to drive around the racetrack at Mt Panorama in our Alfa 159. While neither a Ford nor a Holden, Alfas have also had their day out at Bathurst. I was really proud of myself for “conquering the mountain” because I’ve generally been quite an anxious driver and I wasn’t nervous at all despite some very sharp bends. I’d gone round the track again with Geoff taking note of the trouble spots and thought it doesn’t matter if I take those serious bends like a snail, as long as I made to the end. After all, I wasn’t trying to be Peter Brock, the undisputed King of the Mountain! Hurray! I did it!!
After going round Bathurst i.e. the track, we were off to the former gold mining town of Sofala, followed by Hill End. Artist Russell Drysdale immortalised Sofala with his award-winning landscape (pictured above). I have a feeling my parents had a print of Sofala at home growing up as it feels very familiar. Another artist, Donald Friend, was with Drysdale at the time and did his own version which isn’t as well known. For some time, I’ve been wanting to get out to Sofala and and photograph my own version. I was most annoyed that a telegraph pole was put right in the way along with all the parked cars, but otherwise the scene looked pretty much the same. However, being Winter it didn’t have the omnipresent sense of blazing heat of Drysdale’s work.
Next stop Hill End. By now, we were hungry and I remembered reading about Hill End Pies at the Hill End Estate found at 3664 Hill End Road, Hill End. Thanks to plumber turned pastry chef, Steve Rattray, we were in for a treat, especially with the Danish pastries we had for dessert. Oh golly! I’d get in the car and go there now if it weren’t for the 319 kms drive!
Day Four – Abercrombie House, Bathurst.
Unfortunately, by the time we reached Day Four, we were living on borrowed time and needed to be back home by 4.00pm to pick up miss from the station. Their team came a very close second at Nationals and we were looking forward to seeing her, while also not real thrilled about going back on the leash and the time pressures involved. Yet, in our usual carpe diem style, we headed out to historic Abercrombie House. We couldn’t leave Bathurst without experiencing this magical castle.
Built in the 1870s by Bathurst pioneers the Stewart family, Rex and Mary Morgan bought the house in 1969 it’s been the home of the Morgan family since then. They’ve fully restored the house, outbuildings and grounds and share it with the community. As it turns out, Rex Morgan also founded a successful private school on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Pittwater House. My best friend used to go to Pittwater House and they used to stay in dormitories at Abercrombie House for a week, which included dinner at the main house one night. It sounds like quite the experience, especially with plenty of ghost stories thrown in.
While we were wandering through the gardens at Abercrombie House, a message came through from Miss saying they were arriving back at the station early. Being 4.5 hours drive away, we weren’t going to make it back in time, and we could relax a little. My friend was driving her home. Returning home after only four days away felt rather brutal. However, we’d had a wonderful time and now needed a rest.
Have you ever been to Bathurst? If so, I’d love to hear from you.
Yesterday, we welcomed home the new baby. Well, baby doll to be precise. She’s not real which is fairly evident from the photos. However, at the same time, she’s not your standard doll either. She’s what’s known as a baby simulation doll and she is manufactured by RealCare Baby. My daughter is studying Child Studies at school and the “babies” were sent home for two days as an assignment. The dolls come with a pseudo bottle, two nappies and the student wears a wristband to log on every time they care for the baby. The doll also also has computer technology onboard which reports back to base how the baby was treated, especially if the baby was dropped or shaken and the baby will emit loud cries if the head isn’t supported properly. A friend of mine told me she accidentally dropped her daughter’s baby doll a few years ago, and her daughter failed. So, evidently, the are a few pitfalls and I don’t want to be the weakest link.
Naturally, I was fairly curious. I was also rather excited about the whole project, but was also wondering whether this thing was going to keep us awake all night. After all, newborns are synonymous with sleepless nights. I remember them well. I’ve also seen these dolls on TV before, as they’ve been used fairly extensively in sex education classes to prevent teenage pregnancies. The theory goes that if the teens know how difficult a baby can be, they’ll be more careful. However, research suggests that the students who had the dolls were actually more likely to experience a teen pregnancy.
Although the baby would only be staying for a few days, she still needed a name. Miss decided to call her McKinley. I thought she’d told me the doll was Indigenous American and decided to give her a name of my own…Tallulah, which comes from the Choctaw people and means leaping water. My cousins also have a restaurant in Newcastle called Tallulah. However, as it turned out, Tallulah was African-American. However, I only found that out after she’d gone.
Anyway, enough about names. Let’s get on with the doll. Whoops! I mean, baby.
The thing that’s struck me most personally, is how she latches onto your heartstrings. She feels so incredibly real, and yet not (if that makes any sense). Unlike a standard doll made of hollow plastic, Tallulah is weighted and feels surprisingly heavy. Indeed, she weighs around 3 kilos or 6.5 – 7 pounds, which is about the average weight of a new born baby. So, there was a lot of familiarity, and I really felt something rekindle within, which surprised me.
While I’m not going to comment on how Miss went with her assignment, I did get the opportunity to see how a few others responded to Tallulah, and see that she also elicited an emotional response from them both at the local shops with me and also when she made a guest appearance during my Zoom Bible study group.
Starting with the local shops, I had to take Tallulah down to the dance studio to pick up Miss. This was a bit of an exercise and normally, a baby would travel in a capsule, but Tallulah didn’t come with one. So, I just strapped her into the car seat and hoped she didn’t attract attention. To compound matters, I couldn’t get a park out the front and I couldn’t leave Tallulah in the car in case she woke up and needed attention. Consequently, as a 50 something woman, I was left walking down the street carrying a baby doll.
It was very interesting to see how people responded to Tallulah. I could see drivers being extra careful when when I was walking across the pedestrian crossing. They definitely registered “baby” and altered their demeanor. After all, they wouldn’t be expecting me to be carrying a doll around.
Then, I had a further opportunity to gauge the reactions of others during my zoom Bible study tonight. The doll was supposed to be turned off while Miss was at dance. However, Tallulah woke up screaming with 15 minutes to go. I abandoned Zoom and ditched my headphones racing to Miss’s room as though Tallulah’s life depended upon me. I managed to find everything I needed to settle her down again except the logging on device. So, I returned to my zoom with a screaming baby the group knew nothing about. The instant they saw her, there was an immediate emotional response, and I even sensed a touch of joy. They didn’t know what was going on at the time, and Tallulah looked real enough, and they wouldn’t have been expecting a fake baby who was my daughter’s homework. They were just humans reacting to what they thought was a real baby.
So, it seems I wasn’t the only one who had an emotional response to Tallulah, and it’s interesting to consider that this baby simulator can stimulate these very emotional (and probably innate) responses when it’s just a piece of plastic. I don’t consider myself particularly into babies and young children and tend to prefer older children. So, the fact this doll (let’s call her by her name – Tallulah) drew me in, says a lot although I wouldn’t say that I love Tallulah. Also, as far as babies go, she was pretty easy going.
This raises an interesting point. If these dolls establish an emotional connection with their carers, are they really an effective deterrent when it comes to teen pregnancies? Could they in fact be encouraging them to want their own real baby instead? On the other hand, they do get a feel for how time consuming a baby can be and unlike Tallulah, they can’t just be switched off while they’re at school or in a dance class.
Anyway, I had a bit of fun being grandma and taking a few photos. While most of our kids’ toys are stored away in our roof, I did manage to find a sheepskin teddy bear which our elderly neighbours gave her. I also found a sheepskin a school friend had given me. She’d used it for her daughters and we used it when Mister was born. Indeed, I’m going to check whether my friend’s daughter has had a baby yet. She might be wanting it back.
While I’ve mainly focused on the upside of having the doll here, I have a few concerns. Firstly, I’m not supportive of the one student having sole responsibility for the doll/baby and there should be capacity for family members to help. After all, we keep saying it takes a village to raise a child, but then putting all responsibility back onto the mother and there are also some quarters who also complain about the declining birth rate. In many ways, it’s good experience for all of us to have experience of a screaming doll-baby who won’t stop crying before we have our own so we have realistic expectations of parenthood. I don’t know whether there is a debriefing process in place when students return the dolls/babies. However, failing could hit a some people fairly hard and while they might be wanting to prevent teen pregnancies, the aim is not to turn young people off having children altogether. It would have been hard for probably all of us as new parents to have been scrutinised like these students caring for our own children We all made mistakes. All had times we struggled to cope. Yet, an important aspect of this program which goes a bit more under the radar is the importance of not shaking your baby and it does raise awareness of these dangers to young people. So, these dolls are not just about sex education, but also give some insights into how to care well for your baby and what will be involved.
Have you or your family had any experience of baby simulation dolls? I’d be interested to hear from you!
Thought I’d better warn you before you’re totally shocked. That said, I’m sorely tempted to spin a little story if only my beloved daughter’s reputation wasn’t going to be on the line. What feels like tomorrow, is actually today and Miss will be bringing her “baby” home from school.
“Baby” is one of those baby simulator dolls they send home with teenagers to turn them off teen pregnancies, although apparently studies show that teens who’ve taken these dolls home are actually more likely to have a teen pregnancy and go through with it. That concerns me a little and if she had a boyfriend, perhaps I’d be sending that baby doll straight back to school. However, Miss has been looking forward to this ALL YEAR and it’s been a big motivation for taking her child studies class.
Of course, we never had anything like this when I was at school. Indeed, we didn’t even get to lug around an egg or a bag of flour to get a taste of parenthood in a warped kind of way. After all, there’s very little correlation between a sack of flour and a living, breathing, screaming human baby. Besides, I don’t think my school believed in teen pregnancies, at least ones which went ahead.
Meanwhile, this high tech baby doll does a pretty god job of simulating a human infant (at least according to the promotional video.) It needs to be fed, have it’s nappy changed, cuddled etc Like a real human baby, supporting it’s head is very important and if they don’t support the head properly, the baby gives a pained scream. Ditto if its mistreated. It seems like this baby has all the state-of-the-art computer monitoring capabilities Big Brother would be proud of including a full record of how the student interacts and cares for the baby. So, there’s no covering up poor or mediocre parenting (Or, heaven forbid…a FAIL!!). Indeed, I am hoping I might gain a bit more appreciation after this experiment is over. More understanding. How would you rate my chances?
Anyway, one good thing about this baby is that it only responds to my daughter, who has been given a wristband, which she uses to interact with the baby.
That means I’m let off the hook. No babysitting duties for me.
Well, I’m not sure I’m even going to meet this baby let alone have a photo shoot or spend time together.
I’ve been told it’s hers.
Here’s to switching off and having a goodnight’s sleep…oh pretty please!
Have any of your kids had one of these baby simulator dolls come home? How did it go? I think I want to know…maybe not!