Category Archives: Travel

Weekend Coffee Share – 29th March, 2021

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I’m hoping I’ve made the deadline this week. It’s actually Monday night here in Sydney, which might not sound like much of a weekend coffee share, but when you’re busy over the weekend, Monday can be a good time to decamp.

So, how are you? How has your week been?

Whopping big clouds are great for photography, but more of a concern on a practical level.

Mine has been wet, with intermittent sunshine. I’m not sure whether you’ve heard about the flooding through NSW on Australia’s East Coast? We’re right where we are. However, reports show that in the last week, the entire NSW coast has been drowned by at least 200 millimetres, and in some places, more than 400mm of rain. To put that in context, Sydney averages 132mm of rain for the whole month of March. Flooding stretches 600 kilometres from Sydney to the Northern Rivers. The other difficulty, is that some of the areas experiencing the worst flooding, were also hard hit by the bush fires and the drought before that. That a pretty brutal trifecta that the Little Aussie Battler might laugh off in public, but it’s “hard yakka” and the farmers need every bit of help they can get. That is along with the animals. I heard a heart-breaking story of a Taree farmer losing 200 head of cows and has had a few of them turn up all over the place, including the beach. The cows are apparently having a rough time. Having their hoofs submerged in the flood waters has water-logged their hoofs and it’s hurting them to walk. I saw where they’re been laying down carpet in the paddocks to help them. Extraordinary, isn’ t it?!! Here’s a clip: https://www.manningrivertimes.com.au/story/7179146/carpet-needed-for-cows-at-oxley-island-video/

However, it hasn’t been all rain.

There’s been a dazzling fusion of sun, rain and incredible clouds, which is the perfect prescription for photography. I was actually quite lucky to get these photos, because if I hadn’t been babysitting my friend’s son and had promised to take him to the park, I probably would’ve been shut away inside at home doing my research without any conscious awareness of what was going on outside and I would’ve missed all this incredibly majestic beauty. It was one of the best sunsets we’ve had in a long time. Of course, the trouble with exceptionally magnificent skies like this, is dangerous storms, exceptionally heavy rain and even hail. I’ve been caught in all of the above before so I know all about it. The only trouble was this time I had my friend’s son in tow. So, he was told he had about 15 minutes at the park, and we might have to leave very quickly and make a run for it. One half of the sky was a very deep purple, and a series of huge, double-decker cumulous clouds had invaded the other half. Then, I spotted the rainbow arching over a mountain of cloud rising over the beach. Magic. I didn’t have my SLR with me, but the photos from my phone were still incredible.

We have just gone into the last week of the school term. So, it’s been Open Week at my daughter’s dance school. She recently turning 15 and she’s pretty serious about it. So, she’s getting to the pointy end of things. So, it’s been amazing to watch her and her classmates dance. She also had an audition where we were able to watch her perform, and that was a treat as well. We’re also very grateful that she’s been able to return to dancing in public and almost “back to normal”. I still don’t take it for granted, even though we’re having an amazing run.

Speaking of Covid, Geoff and myself along with our 17 year old son are getting vaccinated with the Astra Zeneca vaccine tomorrow. I was feeling very excited. Then, our daughter said her friend’s mum has been feeling really sick afterwards. So, now I’m feeling like I should double-check. Oh, no I shouldn’t. “She’ll be right, mate”. What choice do I have? Being immuno-suppressed and having lung fibrosis, I can’t risk catching Covid. Then, it could well be all over red rover.

I am making good progress on my WWI research and writing project. I now have the foundations of an introduction and a reasonably detailed plan. I also have a lot of gaps. However, at this stage I’m just wanting to get enough together to apply for a research grant. This first stage of the production line, is looking at the Australian Home Front from the announcement of war to the final return of the troops in 1919.

Anyway, that’s enough from me. As I said before, I hope you’re having a good week and don’t find yourself in lock down wherever you are.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 8th March, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Happy Birthday to my 17 year old son , and Happy International Women’s Day. I’ve just woken up to wih my son Happy Birthday, and I’m not planning on staying up for long, and my stomach feels like I’ve swallowed Draino and my back feels like it’s been run over by a truck. I could say, that’s the power of positive thinking. That that’s me looking on the bright side. Well, I am looking at the bright side because I’ll feel bettter after a bit more sleep. I might also feel better if I wasn;t trying to type with a chewed up tennis ball under my right wrist too. There’s also an expectant do parked in front of my chair, too. That’s Rosie and the other two, Zac and Lady, are parked right in front of the door. I don’t know whether they’re hoping I might actually levitate out of my chair to take them for a walk. If so, they’re dreaming.

Our gorgeous little man as a new born in hospital.

17 years ago today, I became a mum and my husband and I became parents. I don’t think we truly understood what that meant at the time, even though we knew their were huge responsibilities and sleepless nights with our little bundle. I think beyond all of that, our fundamental feeling was profound and overwhelming joy. I’d had an elective caesarean. So, there isn’t a lot to say about that, except Geoff still hasn’t recovered from the stress of trying to juggle the video camera, SLR etc and actually seeing the baby. It was exciting times. Our hospital was also still using cloth nappies. I have no idea why because i was 2004 and they’d changed to disposables by the time our daughter arrived just under two years later just so she could always be first with the birthday, although she was the youngest and clearly number 2.

Little Man and Mum in Tasmania late 2005.

Meanwhile, I used to taken International Women’s Day a lot more seriously and have even gone into the local march and was on the organising committee. Today, I think International Women’s Day can also be able having a rest, taking it easy, and making birthday cakes.

Last week, I ended up heading down to Sydney for my first medical specialist’s appointment since covid and in just over a year. This was a big milestone in terms of feeling safe and being able to take what now amounts to an almost negligible risk, and also in extending my personal freedom.

We went out for lunch in Kirribilli afterwards, and also walked down to the harbour to fully soak in the magnificent views of the Sydney Opera House and the sheer imposing grandeur of the Sydney Harbour Bridge which truly towers over the top of you their almost stretching a protective arm around like like a father towering over a small child.

Walking back up the hill, I spotted a pair of boots sitting on a street corner.

Not only that, the boots were around the wrong way and looked plain odd, which of course told a story they wouldn’t have told if they’d been around the right way.Of course, I have no idea what they were doing there.

Whose boots they were.

That turned out to be part of their appeal, and their inspiration.

Of course, I photographed the boots, and needless to say, I wrote a post about them, which I’d like to encourage you to read: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/03/06/boots-under-the-bridge/

After all, they made a perfect analogy for how we respond to people who don’t quite fit the norm.

So, how are things at your end?

Before I head off, I thought I’d just update out on the vaccine roll out there. Well, to start that story off, we’ve had over 42 days without any community transmission here in NSW, which is wonderful news, and further praise for our response to the virus. Without the imminent virus threat, we’ve been able to wait to get the vaccine through the proper government approval processes, which also means vaccination is only just kicking off here. Vaccination began on the 22nd February, and they’re still just starting to vaccination health and aged care workers who are in category 1a. We fit into 1b of people with health conditions, and last night I heard that we’ll be eligible from March 22nd. That’s only a few weeks away as along as all goes to plan. I still don’t know how I’ll go with getting the vaccine via my local GP. They have nothing written up about it on their web site, but I should have faith, shouldn’t I?!! I shouldn’t panic. Freak out or desperately long to have some peace of mind?!!

Well, what do I have to worry about anyway? It appears covid isn’t here and yet, when it gets out of its box, it truly takes off and as we all know, you can’t tell you or someone else has it and it turns out this early barely detectable stage is when it’s most infectious. It doesn’t do a lot to ease my concerns. However, I’m not really complaining about taking measures to stay safe, because I’m still here and a year ago I had a chest infection, breathing difficulties and was concerned hospital would be full of covid cases and it would be too risky to go. Thankfully, that never happened here, and friends of mine who are even more vulnerable than I, are still around. I say that not to show off, but to show what is possible. We should never give up on what is possible, because sometimes, it can actually come to pass, and the worst case scenario passes us by.

Humph. I’m not sure whether I should spend so much of our coffee time talking about covid. There’s so much more going on, but at the same time, i is having a daily impact on our lives. I’ve decided no to go to a physical Church service until I’m vaccinated, because people are singing and not wearing masks. Indeed, our Church has taken a stand against it because they feel the Church is being discriminated against when restrictions aren’t so stringent in other places, especially sporting arenas. However, singing has been shown to be a super-spreader. So, their decision counts me out. Moreover, when you’re having to make decisions all the time about wearing masks, hand sanitising etc, it’s hard to ignore covid’s omnipresence in our lives, and for that longing to boot covid out once and for all to reach fever pitch.

I hope you and yours are doing well and keeping safe. What have you been up to this week?

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

Boots Under The Bridge.

Yesterday, was all blue skies and glorious, golden sunshine when Geoff and I headed down to Sydney’s Kirribilli, lured away by the magnificent views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Sydney Opera House and the harbour itself. This is the third post inspired by this trip. So, might I suggest that if you can get yourself down to Kirribilli (or your local equivalent), your efforts could be well re-worded.

Geoff and I photo bombing the view from Kirribilli towards the city and the Opera House.

After lunch, we walked down Broughton Street towards the harbour. After undergoing some nasty tests on my lungs and responding badly, I was naturally concerned about the steep decent and whether I could make it back up. Indeed, as we marched enthusiastically down the hill, Geoff even voiced these concerns: “what goes down, has to climb backup,” he said.

However, “oh me of little breath” powered ahead just like the the “Little Engine that Could”. I’ve done that: “I think I can. I think I can. I know I can” up many a hill or flight of stairs before. I might be turning blue and gasping for air, but you can’t “carpe diem seize day” from the couch. You need to have a go! Besides, (and I didn’t tell him this), he could always go and fetch the car. After all, even the best of generals has a “Plan B”. On the other hand, giving up before you try is, of course, an automatic fail.

kirribilli-map.gif
Above: Map of Kirribilli. The boots were on the corner of Fitzroy and Alfred Streets half way down on the left hand side of the map.

While we were walking back up the hill via Alfred Street, I spotted a random pair of black workman’s boots sitting on the corner of Alfred and Fitzroy Streets just back from the curb.

Now, if you’re someone who is focused and gets straight to the point, you’ll probably find my reflections on this pair of boots quite random. Or, you’ll even accuse me of over-thinking things again. However, on the other hand, it could equally be a virtue to find meaning and purpose in seemingly insignificant little things – especially in a place overshadowed by two of the great modern architectural wonders of the world, and one of the world’s most beautiful harbours.

The work boots’ neighbours are pretty impressive, making it hard to keep up with the Joneses.

Moreover, being “creative”, I couldn’t help thinking about how these worn, ordinary work boots must feel glancing up at the magnificent steel arches and towering granite pylons of the Sydney Harbour Bridge? Then, as if they didn’t already have a massive inferiority complex, across the harbour there’s the Sydney Opera House with her magnificent white sails glowing in the sunlight at the very top end of town! It must be hard for those work boots to feel that meaning and purpose aren’t just confined to the big wigs, and the flashy, strutting peacocks of life. That an old, discarded pair of work boots couldn’t possibly have anything worthwhile to say. Moreover, you can also understand how people feel like that way too.

However, it wasn’t just their simple ordinariness which attracted my attention to the boots, and you’ve no doubt noticed this yourself. They’re round the wrong way, back-to-front. Mixed up. Odd. So, if you were mad enough to try to step inside these boots and see what it was like to walk in their shoes, your legs would be heading off at cross-purposes and you’d fall smack – face down on the pavement.

By the way, there’s also another reason why I probably noticed the boots. I’ve had to learn to walk again twice. In my mid-20’s, I found out I’d been born with a harbour inside my head, and I was a lot more than “anxious”. Indeed, when the hydrocephalus was at its worst before I had a shunt put in to relieve the pressure, leaving a pair of boots around the wrong way would’ve been the very least of my problems. I have definitely tried walking in a wonky pair of boots that made no sense to anyone including myself. I also know what it is to be THE STRANGER, and not just someone unfamiliar.

So, how are we supposed to respond to these boots? Do we look at those boots and judge?

For many, it would be just too tempting to simply rearrange them. Make them right, just like you’d re-adjust a crooked picture frame until it was straight. However, I didn’t rearrange the boots and much to my later annoyance, I didn’t move the dead leaves out of the shot either. Moreover, if we’re really getting stuck into straightening things up and going for all out perfection, I wish I’d had my digital SLR camera with me instead of my phone. I am a photographic snob from way back. I also wished I’d got down lower for the shot. However, the boots were right on the curb and I didn’t want to risk being runover on Fitzroy Street just to take a photo. (That’s a first).

In addition to thinking about how the worn-out, back-to-front work boot people of this world feel in the shadow of greatness, these boots also made me think of how we respond to the apparent rejects and oddballs we come across through life. Do we as individuals (rather than the “royal we” where we can hide) offer them shelter and invite them in? Or, do we lock them out by whatever means is at our disposal be it a glance, a door, harsh words, a diagnosis, prescription drugs or a prison cell?

There’s a lot of bridge maintenance going on at the moment, so maybe the boots belong to someone working here?

However, when you give these boots a second glance, they’re scuffed, but they’re not worn out. They’ve been positioned carefully beside the road as a pair, even if they are back-to-front. Anybody could just walk up to those boots and set them straight. It wouldn’t take much, although perhaps you might be worried that who ever left them there, is watching. That they might misconstrue your good intentions and attack. You might also pop back down and speak to the supervisor on the work site beneath the bridge and see if anyone’s lost their boots. Reuniting the boots with their owner would be a noble thing. Indeed, perhaps those boots aren’t so unloved after all. Their owner might just be careless…or a teenager.

Who knows?

However, that’s the point, isn’t it?! No one knows anyone else’s story without asking AND without listening. You can’ t even judge a pair of back-to-front boots by their cover, let alone a person.

I have been reminded over and over again about the capacity of people to show love and even self-sacrifice to a stranger, especially someone in need. I have had a couple of spectacular falls in public places well away from home. Both times, I was using my walking stick so it was clear I had mobility issues. Both times, I’d hurt myself quite badly and had nasty grazes on my knee, was bleeding and needing a plaster. Last year, I had a nasty fall outside a nearby school. Passers-by, were quick to stop and render assistance, along with the inevitable question about an ambulance. A man headed off to his car and returned with a medical kit. Gave me saline to clean it, and the big sticking plaster. You know… the only big one which comes with the medical kit. Meanwhile, a teacher returned with ice and drove me down to McDonalds where I was meeting a friend. They were so kind!!

Yet, at the same time, the so-called weirdo who might not put their boots together in quite the right way, probably gets a much harder time of it. Indeed, it’s not just the strangers who reject them, but their nearest and dearest. The people who know them. Or, more to the point, don’t want to know them – the rejects. Somehow, we need to ensure there’s a place for them. A place for them in our families, our schools, our Churches, our streets. We don’t need to lock them up. They don’t need to self-medicate because they feel unloved, misunderstood, outcast. Love might not be enough to save everyone from genetics, society, bad luck or themselves, but it certainly goes a long way.

There’s still so much life left in these back-to-front workman’s boots, and I really hope they’re not still sitting there beside the road. That someone has taken them home.

Meanwhile, our son has invited “the boys” over tomorrow afternoon. He has no idea how many are coming, but I’ve made a pavlova, Mars Bar Slice and figure we can order pizza. After all, home is where the heart is and where real connections are forged.

What are your thoughts on the boots under the bridge? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

An Empty Harbour – Sydney.

Yesterday, my husband and I went down to Kirribilli for lunch after the first appointment I’ve had with one of my medical specialists since Covid started ravaging our world. I usually go on an outing after these appointments as a much needed pick-me-up, and often end up at Kirribilli by the harbour, where I might catch a ferry into the city (and by city I mean Sydney and yes I’m coming to you from Australia). The other place I end up is Surry Hills, which is also characterised by the terrace house, but is more inner city than harbour if that makes any sense.

There’s a lot to dazzle you in Kirribilli. Obviously, you need to go no further than the Sydney Harbour Bridge whose Northern arch is parked right in its front yard. Across the harbour, the Sydney Opera House is smack bang in your face. You can’t miss it. Although I’m Sydney born and bred, I never tire of these monumental architectural feats. Yet, there’s still the beauty of the harbour itself, which is usually a hive of activity.

Selfie.

So, I was rather taken aback when I was down there yesterday, and the harbour looked “empty”. There was water without boats. No cruise ships were parked across at the International Terminal. Of course not! Could you imagine the huge public outcry??!!! Yet, only twelve months ago these cruise ships were simply part of the scenery. Of course, I photographed them whenever I was in town, because they’re still a novelty to me and they’re absolutely massive, and almost unbelievably big, glamorous and totally dominated the waterfront. However, they’re now gone, and I wonder if these super-spreaders of disease will ever be back, or at least in quite the same way.

However, this emptiness isn’t just confined to the water either. The harbour foreshore is also conspicuously empty. There are no armies of tourist ants marching around the usual suspects. Indeed, in hindsight, it sinks in that we were alone and didn’t see anyone else posing in front of anything. The SLRs, phones and selfie sticks were all gone along with all the people. Not that Sydney’s become a ghost town yet, but she’s not what she was.

How you feel about that, probably depends on your perspective. Less humans is always a good thing for the environment. We are a destructive breed. However, the economics must be tough. I don’t know to be really honest. We live in a protective bubble both thanks to me needing to social distance and my husband needing to work from home to protect me, but also because he has a good job, and he managed to survive the extensive staff cut backs at the university.

There’s been much to lament about covid, but environmentally speaking, it has eased the pressure a little, and perhaps also reminded us of what we’re doing to the planet. That maybe we don’t need to go, go, go quite so much and that we cause pause, slow down and connect more with each other, and it’s not the end of the world.

Geoff in shadow and a glimpse of Kirribilli. This is the chopped off version of the covid beard.

Obviously, our lessons here are quite different to places overseas where so many lives have been lost, and there is so much grief. It’s hard for some of us to grapple with that, but we also struggle with the effects of isolation, or being jammed in together with no escape. I think for many travel offers something to truly look forward to, and also allows many to keep in touch with close family and friends. So, the very tight travel restrictions are really being felt. Last year, our son was booked to go on a six week history tour of Europe, and instead he ended up in lock down with Mum, Dad and his sister and doing school at home. Not only that. We were also living in sheer terror of seeing another human being in case they might secretly, unknowingly have the virus, and particularly that I of reduced immunity and shitty lungs would die. The fact that storm has seemingly passed, doesn’t negate what it was like to live through it, and that until we are vaccinated, the risk, however minute, is still there.

Florist window in Kirribilli.

We wait.

Well, some of us wait.

Others are invincible. We’ve had over a month since there’s been any community transmission here in NSW. It’s very tempting to throw caution to the wind, and get out there and party.

However, our defences at this point are not infallible. One slip up in hotel quarantine, and it’s out. Moreover, we won’t know where it is until someone symptomatic is infected. Yet, does this justify such caution? So many restrictions?

Here we were late last year trying glasses on over our masks.

Given our current status, it’s not something to lose sleep over, but I’m still largely social distancing, trying to remember to wear my mask in high thoroughfare areas, washing my hands more than I’ve done in the last ten years, and won’t set foot on a train. If I’m in a small group, I’ll give my friends a hug, but I don’t shake hands. I think of it as insurance. Moreover, I don’t blow the sacrifices I’ve made through the last year, by not seeing this through to the end.

Meanwhile, close friends of mine have barely made any changes. Life’s gone on. However, we respect each other’s decisions. Well, most of the time. I do like to see people comply with the government’s restrictions, particularly as organizations. Do the right thing. After all, to use a phrase borrowed from World War I, we need to do “our bit”. Moreover, for those of us who are more susceptible, we need to go the extra mile which might seem unnecessary, but for us it might not matter. For us, the risks are still too high.

Loved being able to have lunch in a cafe in Kirribilli, and that the table was cleaned when we arrived and great precautions were maintained.

Meanwhile, Geoff and I enjoyed a wonderful lunch in Kirribilli and soaking up those magnificent harbour views on a perfect, sunny Sydney day.

How is covid impacting you where you live? What are you going through? I would love to hear your stories and hope you and yours are keeping well and safe.

Love,

Rowena

PS The vaccine roll out has been slow here in Australia. Given the low incidence rates, there understandably wasn’t the urgency and it was good to wait and see how it went overseas first. However, now that I’m hearing about friends with my auto-immune disease being vaccinated overseas and responding, I’m keen to line up.

Vaccination began on the 22nd February, and we’ve barely scratched the surface of the first category, which includes frontline medical and nursing home staff. he urgency wasn’t here and they’re just starting to vaccinate health workers and frontline staff. These people fall into category 1a, where I’m in category 1b. Although the TV is looking promising, it could well be more than a month before I get my first jab. Again, I’ve got to talk myself through the anxiety and be thankful the vaccine has been developed so quickly or at all. I’m not really suffering or doing it tough, but who isn’t hoping the mass vaccination is going to help restore some real sense of normality. Who wants to live in covidland, even our covidland of very low incidence for any longer than we have to? No! Of course not. We all long to escape. Go back and just enjoy walking down the street, stopping off at a cafe or browsing through a shop without thinking, logging in, wearing a mask and being able to shake hands with a mate.

Thursday Doors – Kirribilli, Sydney.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors!

Today, we’re heading down to Kirribilli, located smack bang on stunning Sydney Harbour. Indeed, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is parked here with one foot in Kirribilli, and the other planted across the water in Miller’s Point. Not unsurprisingly, the Bridge dominates Kirribilli with its sheer physicality, but also in terms of sound, whenever a train rumbles across all that steel with its echoing, idiosyncratic roar.

The Sydney Harbour Bridge viewed from Kirribilli today. In so many way, the bridge is the gateway (or door) into Sydney.

In a sense, our trip to Kirribilli represents the opening of an invisible door. This door marks the dividing line between the safety of home, and the more risky context of Sydney and Covid 19. Although there hasn’t been a case of community transmission for over a month, clusters have seeming sprung up out of nowhere, but usually connected somehow to the hotel quarantine program. While contact tracing does a fabulous job of identifying potential spread, it doesn’t actually prevent you from catching it. It only tells you after the fact. Due to my auto-immune disease and associated lung fibrosis, I am at a heightened risk of catching the virus if it’s around, and also having a more dire outcome. So, for me, caution makes a lot of sense, especially with the vaccine around the corner so I don’t have to lock myself away forever.

However, there’s also a risk that avoiding medical treatment for these conditions could also be harmful, and all my specialists are located at Royal North Shore Hospital about a 15 minute drive North of Kirribilli, and I often go to Kirribilli afterwards as a reward.

So, that’s how I ended up having lunch with my husband, Geoff, in Kirribilli and comin across this really beautiful and richly ornate door as we walked down to the water’s edge.

Isn’t it something?!!

However, even to the most one-eyed door lover around, it still couldn’t compete with this…magnificent Sydney Harbour.

The thing that particularly struck me about Sydney Harbour today was just how empty it was. It’s usually a hive of activity with ferries criss-crossing the waterways and people moving around on the foreshore. There could well have been one of those towering cruise ships in port, as was often the case before covid. Sydney Harbour isn’t usually this empty, even on a weekday.

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip to Kirribilli, and I apologize for being a one-door-wonder this week, but hopefully this is a sign of things to come and I’ll soon be able to get out and about more and venture further afield.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Dan Antion.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 31st January, 2021.

Welcome To Another Weekend Coffee Share!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Piles of books which have already left the building.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

First Swim for 2021!

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

–John F. Kennedy

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

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

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

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

–Vincent Van Gogh

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

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

Weekend Coffee Share – 25th January, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

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

How was your week? I hope it went well.

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

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

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

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

Norah Head Lighthouse, NSW.

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

The Rockpool, Norah Head.

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“All work and all play

makes Jack a dull boy”.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

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

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

Remnants of the Greta Migrant Camp, Australia – Thursday Doors

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

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

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

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

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

Lock on a shed door.

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

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