Anyway, were you almost shocked like me that it’s now November and another year has almost gone up in smoke? I know this year is 2020, and it’s a year we’d all like to accelerate through, destroy, blow up, delete or all of the above. However, a year is still a year, and good things have happened in 2020. My cousin and his wife had a baby last week and friends got married and we’ve even been to a few parties lately. Of course, we’re rather shielded from the full impact of the virus and also extensive lockdowns here, but I’ve also been researching WWI intensively this year and that puts 2020 into perspective.
Last week was a bit clunky around here. There’s been the ongoing saga of our son’s subject choices for his last year at school and trying to keep him there for another year when he doesn’t need it to go into sound engineering. I’ve been doing my research which is very slow and I must admit I’ve been doing a lot of avoidance. I find it all confusing, and since I went down the university path and that was over 30 years ago, a lot has changed and I’m starting to feel like I’m from the era of the horse and cart (or is that actually his impression of me?) Not much has been said for a few days and he was home sick today. I can’t help wondering if I lie low and don’t say anything, he’ll accidentally get through Year 12 and he’ll at least have that under his belt before he heads off to TAFE to get a trade certificate to get into the sound engineering course he wants to do. However, this is probably too much to hope for and more stress is just around the corner.
Meanwhile, my research is progressing well. I’m still beavering away on my WWI research. I posted yesterday a South Australian farmer I’m researching, Herbert A Stewart who found close to 200 messages in bottles washed up on the beach near his home in Rendelsham , South Australia. He forwarded the letters onto their intended destinations with a cover letter, and there was one day where he found 47 bottles. So, at times he was really under the pump and while this would seem a unconventional way of supporting the war effort, it would’ve made such a difference to the families and friends of these men. I was also surprised to find that some of the messages in bottles thrown overboard in the Great Australian Bight were found in New Zealand. That’s extraordinary. I’ve also found it rather calming and reassuring to think about the ocean currents circulating around the world regardless of everything else that’s going on just like the sunrise and the sunset. There’s that continuity. At least, there was before cllimate change.
This afternoon, I went for a quick walk along the beach. Even though it’s almost Summer here, a cold wind was blowing and so I just did my walk and didn’t hang about. Not unsurprisingly, I almost expecting to find piles of bottles scattered across the beach after doing all my research. However, there wasn’t much to see on our beach today….just a jellyfish.
Meanwhile, it’s getting quite late. So, I’m going to head off.
So, what’s been going on for you? I hope you’re okay and keeping safe.
“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson
I’m not sure whether you can help me, but I’m hopeful.
After all, one of the things I appreciate about blogging, is how you can write and share your ideas before you’ve fully nutted them out. You can test the waters, and even hook up with others interested in the same area and collaborate in a more low-key environment. This is particularly good, too, when your nearest and dearest in terms of love, relationships and DNA, doesn’t share your research interest. Indeed, many of us would be better off talking to the dog, or trading in the cat.
However, by heading online too soon, you risk making mistakes, and there’s a definite safety in holding back until you’ve dotted the i’s crossed the t’s. Possible wisdom in staying offline perfecting your manuscript and seeing it published in print, even if your scribblings might be set in stone.
Of course, operating within the university context can provide the ideal nursery environment to safely nurture your research project and receive much needed mentoring support. However, there’s still that sense that you need to have your “shit” together before you put it out there, even as a concept. Indeed, embarking into the realms of professional research is very daunting. After all, “thou shalt not make a mistake” is its first commandment, but we’re only human. Even if it’s only a comma out of place, it’s still a mistake, and at the very least, you have to live with your own censure.
My personal journey along the serious research path is even lonelier than most. While research has been part and parcel of my writing and I have an honours degree in history, my current interests have been fuelled by the events of late 1999 and 2020. Firstly, I was forced inside by thick, suffocating bushfire smoke when I simply couldn’t breathe for weeks at a time, and I depended on our air-conditioner. After a brief intermission, I was back inside self-isolating from the coronavirus, which turned into lockdown, back to self-isolation. All I can say about that, is thank goodness for my research. It’s been a lifeline this year.
So, after keeping virtually all this research offline, I’ve decided to cast a line out into the world wide web. Moreover, just like anybody going fishing, I’m optimistic my efforts won’t return with an empty hook, and I’ll find a great big fish dangling at the end of the line,
The blog has come through for me before, and I’m hoping it will deliver once again, even if this approach does seem equally random as the very messages I’m chasing. They were written by Australian and New Zealand troops and sealed inside bottles and often thrown overboard as they crossed the Great Australian Bight with a hope they’d eventually find their intended destination.
However, my primary focus isn’t on the troops themselves, but on a South Australian farmer who found almost 200 messages in bottles near Rivoli Bay on the Limestone Coast. Not only that, Herbert A Stewart of “Bleakfield”, Rendelsham forwarded the messages to their intended destinations with a cover letter, and he even went to the trouble of forwarding letters written by NZ troops on to New Zealand.
While you would think that forwarding messages in bottles doesn’t make much of a difference to the war effort, when you look at it on this scale, it takes on a different slant. Indeed, I’m incredibly inspired by Herbert’s dedication, hard work, love and compassion for the soldiers and their families. Indeed, I’d love to be more like him.
By the way, it’s worth putting Herbert’s efforts into some kind of context. While it wasn’t unusual for soldiers to throw messages in bottles overboard in transit, so far I haven’t come across anyone else finding the sheer number of messages Herbert found. As far as I can tell, he found at least 180 bottles, and on the 31st August, 1916, he found a record 47 messages. The closest I’ve come across is Harbour Master, Ned Carrison, of Port McDonnell, South Australia who found 10 bottles on the 16th July, 1916 not far from Herbert’s stomping ground.
At the moment, I’ve only been able to identify 22 of the messages found by Herbert Stewart, and this is clearly only the tip of the iceberg. It looks like Herbert kept a record of all the messages he’d found, and I’m hoping that’s somehow been preserved. I’d also imagine that there are families out there who still know the story of how an ancestor or loved one’s message was forwarded to them by Herbert A Stewart of Bleakfield, Rendelsheim, South Australia. I would love to hear from you.
I’m also interested in the WWI messages in bottles in general. So, I’d love to hear from you if that’s of interest.
While researching messages in bottles might seem quirky and eccentric, the reality is that each bottle is a time capsule preserving a fragment of a much larger journey of a soldier, or group of soldiers heading across the ocean to the front. Moreover, they also tell a story about the person who finds the bottle. Who were they, and what were they do on the beach? They often had to work hard to salvage the scrap of paper which had been floating adrift at the mercy of the sea. I’ve read about bottles turning up covered in seaweed and barnacles. Messages which are wet and barely legible but the finder is just able to pick out an address, a name, a detail and the message has been printed in a newspaper. There was a message written by an Australian soldier which was found by a Maori man on the beach in New Zealand, Herbert Stewart also found a letter by a Maori man from the 1st Maori Continent which was found near Rivoli Bay, South Australia. Indeed, there’s something rather touching about the currents carrying these bottles across boarders and boundaries, especially when I’ve been conducting my research during Covid where we have boundaries on boundaries on boundaries, and we can’t even hug a friend. The ocean, on the other hand, knows no boundaries and these messages in bottles rose from the deep, and went where they went until they were found, retrieved and passed on. Sadly, some of these messages took years to research their destination and by that time, some of their scribes had inevitably died…killed in action, died of wounds, casualties of a foreign war.
Anyway, if you have any information to share or would like to pick my brains, please leave a message. I’d love to hear from you.
How are you this week? What’s going on in your neck of the woods? For those of you who don’t know or can’t remember, I live just North of Sydney, Australia and so it’s Spring here and we’re also in what seems to be a Covid bubble as it stands.
As time goes by and these truly radical lifestyle changes have become the norm, I’m feeling more relaxed about going out, but trying to remain vigilant. Until there’s a vaccine, we’re in it for the long haul which requires a different approach to getting through than a sprint. That’s not to say I’m taking risks, but I’m no longer Alcatraz either. Well, not when there’s such a low risk of transmission. Meanwhile, I’m somewhat conscious of increases overseas, and hoping and praying for all affected and hoping the numbers will drop. Melbourne is doing much better here, which is great news.
Meanwhile, life here’s been busier than usual, but mostly in a very positive way.
Yesterday, our daughter competed in a local dance eisteddfod and received two 1st placings and a second placing in her ballet solo (she was only .5 behind 1st place). This was the first time our daughter’s placed first and she’s been competing for a couple of years. So, this was a big step forward for her. She’s keen to pursue a career in dance, especially classical ballet, and so it’s important for her to place well to head down that trajectory. It’s also such a buzz to win, even though I know I’ve brought up the usual benefits of having a go when things haven’t gone so well in the past. That said, I’m pretty sure she’s always placed with her solos.
After the competition, we headed off to Terrigal to meet up with her cousin for lunch, and we wandered along the beach front afterwards. I only captured this quick snap of the three of us and didn’t bother with scenic shots as it was a bit overcast and I’ve had better conditions in the past. Terrigal is one of the tourist focus points on the NSW Central Coast and is more touristy and built up than our local beach. It’s also more upmarket. However, we’re surrounded by National Parks and also closer to the train to Sydney. So, we’re happy where we are.
Last week, was a big week for our son. He was off on work experience at a local youth centre where they have a radio station and sound set up. He received very encouraging feedback, which is more than I can say for his commentary on my driving. I had to get across three lanes of traffic to get to our turn off coming home and it really was quite hellish, and people were not real keen to let me in either. I really needed to be able to wave a white flag. Or, have a sign saying: “Mum’s taxi’s having a rough day. Please give me a break!!”
Last week, my aunt, Dr Anna Haebich from Curtin University in Western Australia, was interviewed on Radio National by Phillip Adams:
Meanwhile, last week I was also pretty shaken up. I found out last Sunday that there was a devastating car accident locally involving local teens. Unfortunately, now that my kids are also local teens, it also meant that we knew some of the people in the car and there was also that awful realization that we could also get a knock at the door at some point. I’m also a community-minded person and so I’m trying to be there for my friend and find out more about what our teens are up to. This incident has made me realize that while our teens are very well connected via social media and mobile technology, us parents are probably crashed out at home or happy to be catching up with a few of our friends and enjoying our own new found freedom without being aware of the undertow. I’m now applying my research feelers to this to get up to speed. I’m talking about brain speed here, not putting my foot down in the my Alfa Romeo.
Anyway, I’d better call it a day and crawl into bed.
This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share.
It’s currently Sunday night, and I’m currently watching Masterchef Junior Australia. So, this week I thought we should try to nut out some way of breaking into the TV set and running off with all their goodies. Sounds good, doesn’t it?!! A serving of lobster mornay, followed by handmade ravioli with lemon tart with berries for dessert followed by Spiced Chocolate Tart. Hey why stop there? I think I’ll add a third dessert and also go for the Masterchef interpretation of Smores using marshmallow made from Davidson Plum. I have no shame. Besides, with this being a virtual meal, we can gourge ourselves without consequence and no fear of impersonating Monty Python’s Mr Creosote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U
How was your week?
Last week, was the second week of school holidays for my kids. On Tuesday, our daughter and I caught the ferry across to Palm Beach where we met up with my Dad and spent a few hours out sailing across Pittwater. It was a really special day, because we haven’t been out on the boat with Dad for a few years , and we also haven’t seen him and my mum for a few months as we’ve been playing it safe re Covid. On top of that, it was also special to snaffle our daughter away from her friends for the day, and time with her has become a precious commodity, especially with all the hours she puts into her dance. However, there were also a few disappointments as well. While we’ve been having some wonderfully sunny Spring days lately, on Tuesday it was grey and overcast, which isn’t great for photography. My favourite fish & chips shop was closed so I missed out on my fisherman’s basket, although I did pick up a tasty and very generous fish burgers next door. Lastly, there was the problem of insufficient wind. Since we thought we might end up without any wind at all and would have to go under motor, the soft 2 knot wind was great. However, it would be fair to say that both Dad and I were left longing for more and were very pleased when the wind managed to get to 4 knots, even if it was as we turned for home. Dad says that often happens.
I’m sure I must’ve done something else last week. Has it just slipped my memory, or was I just trying to keep my head above water? I’ve been doing a bit of research on my WWI soldiers’ project, as well as baking. Oh dear! I’m sure I did more than that. However, I’ve also been trying to clear stuff out of our house, and get it to a point where we can actually entertain from home again. It’s been years.
Lastly, this week school goes back, which also means that violin lessons start up again. I’ve had over two terms off from my lessons, and I’m still a little undecided about whether I’ll go back. I think it would be good to reconnect, and I’m starting to feel it would be a good idea for me to get something back to normal. However, I’ll need to suss out things at the studio before I truly make up my mind and I also need to get in more practice. I’ve been getting back into the piano, and having the keyboard where you can lower the volume and play into the night. Obviously, that’s much harder with the violin, and I try to be considerate about when I play.
Next week, I might have to make up a few activities. I’m feeling like there’s not a lot to report. Hey, I believe that’ll take me into the league of creating “fake news”. The only trouble is, that with all the covid restrictions in place, you’d know I was lying. What a pity!
Monday was all azure blue skies and glorious sunshine. However, of course, when we were going sailing on Tuesday with my Dad, it was dull and overcast, and we weren’t even sure there was going to be any wind.
However, that didn’t really matter. That’s because it’s been a couple of years since I’d been out sailing with Dad, and thanks to being cautious about covid, we haven’t seen him for a while either. Moreover, our daughter was also on school holidays, and I’d finally managed to pry her away from her friends for a day out. So, when you look it at like that, no matter how the sailing turned out, we were in for a wonderful day!
Yet, that’s not to say we still weren’t hoping for a perfect day out. A steady, but not gale force, wind with sunny skies good for photography, great conversation, and I did mention something about food? I was particularly looking forward to ordering my Fisherman’s Basket from Palm Beach Seafoods. Yum. Nothing like a good grease and oil change now and then! I’m now really sure grease is good for my engine, but it sure tastes good.
This all brings me to possibly the most challenging aspect of sailing. You’re 100% at the mercy of the wind. Be that too much wind, not enough wind.
Well, maybe it’s not quite 100% controlled by the wind, because other weather factors also come into play. We get some scorchingly hot Summer days here where I’d rather not be out on the water burning to a crisp. On the other extreme, I know some of you live in parts of the world where your marinas are buried under snow and ice in Winter, and that puts an end to sailing. On this front, we’re pretty lucky. Our Winters are pretty temperate, and you can sail all year round. However, there’s still about a month each year where you’re better off staying home and snuggling up in your woollens in front of the heater.
Dad sails a Catalina. It’s a beautiful boat with everything you need to sleep onboard and it certainly feels luxurious. You can sit up there on the deck and soak up the view without the boom hitting you on the head and throwing you overboard. You can also get in and out of the boat without getting wet. That can be a real bonus.
However, there’s still something thrilling about being in a small craft almost at one with the ocean, even if it is pretty hard work constantly adjusting the sails and ducking under the boom. However, there’s that exhilaration of speed and shooting through the water, which is pure fun.
Of course, catching the wind on any sail craft is problematic, and also seems to require an intuitive sense. Indeed, the initiated, can pick up speed in a relatively light wind and in such a small craft, its absolutely exhilerating!!. Indeed, putting all this overthinking aside, it’s fun. Pure fun.
Anyway, I’ve put the cart before the horse already talking about sailing, because we still need to catch the ferry from Ettalong to Palm Beach. Meanwhile, our journey to Palm Beach on the ferry from Ettalong is always an adventure, and I was really looking forward to that too. It’s been a few years, and what with Covid, we’re lucky to travel anywhere at the moment. However, while we had perfect weather on Monday, it was chilly with grey, overcast skies yesterday, and instead of hanging out outside as usual, we huddled indoors. I took no photos, and sat there wearing mask and gloves…humph.
In additon to the ferry and sailing trips, I was also looking forward to having my fisherman’s basket at Palm Beach Fish & Chip Shop. This has been a ritual ever since I was my daughter’s age, when I stayed at “Palmy” with a friend. I even worked there briefly, but didn’t make the cut. I was more in-tune with baking than the fast food industry. However, I still like to reminisce, especially about nights eating pizza at Palm Beach jetty with friends, while drinking Dad’s second-rate French Beaujolais.
However, they’re closed on Tuesdays, and I was left staring through the window at an empty shop. We sat down and had lunch together at the other takeaway shop. I enjoyed a very generous fish burger while chatting with our daughter, which was probably the most remarkable part of the day. She’d planned to bring a friend along and they were going to head to the beach while Dad and I went sailing. However, the friend was grounded, and our daughter didn’t quite twig that lunch with Papa included sailing. The last time we took her sailing didn’t go well. She was absolutely terrified. However, she was much younger then, and Dad had more of a racing yacht then. It was much more sensitive to the wind and I remember some exhilarating (terrifying) moments. While Dad’s always looking for converts to sailing, he hasn’t taken our daughter or my mother out on the boat since then.
Sailing’s been something I’ve dabbled in as a by-stander over the years. I went sailing with my dad a few times when I was at school. We sailed lasers down at Middle Harbour, and I really loved it. Again, it was more of an exhilarating experience and nothing to stop you from flipping over, which is why my Dad prefers the safety and security of his yacht these days. I don’t know why those sailing outings with my dad stopped all those years ago. That was him, not me. I would’ve kept going. The family also spent a week onboard a yacht sailing around the Hawkesbury River and Pittwater. A few years ago, my parents had a place at Palm Beach and the previous owners had left a laser behind. This was a wonderful opportunity for our family. Our son was doing sea scouts. It was great for him to have access to our own boat, and I went out with my husband. I was really little more than ballast, and he did all the hard work. However, I still loved being out there, and a few times we even took the dogs. If I didn’t have my health difficulties, I could see myself as a sailor. I can sense the waves in my soul, which could also be what makes for the poet in me.
Meanwhile, to get out to the boat, we caught a ride from the marina. This is fun too, because this guy gives us an entertaining tour of the houses. He knows who owns which massive waterfront mansion, and always throws in some incredible stories to boot. His feet also told a story, and wished I could make a portrait. They were definitely sailor’s feet… tanned, weathered, a few jagged broken toe nails and dusted with sand. This is his second life, and he used to be more corporate. However, he clearly belongs here now, and could well be a very good friend of Hemingway’s if he was still alive today and found his way Down Under.
Dad was not happy when we pulled up at the boat. It’s only been a week, but the seagulls have pooped from one end of it to the other. Indeed, they’ve even left a nest, making themselves right at home. Fortunately, there were no eggs and Dad unceremoniously cast that into the water filled with disgust. As he cleaned the deck, the seagulls were circling like vultures. They weren’t about to give up their perch without a struggle, and no doubt their squawks of complaint acknowledged Dad’s impertinence. Meanwhile, my daughter and I waited down below in luxury. I was becoming pleased that she’d come. She was admiring the Catalina with its plush interior, and she enthusiastically raised the curtains and peered out through the portholes. Phew! It was starting to look like we had a convert in our midst, and that the terror was gone. That she might actually enjoy sailing after all. Wouldn’t that be great?!!
As I said, Dad was thinking that we weren’t going to get any wind, and we’d be under motor. However, the wind managed to get up to a trifling 2 knots, which wasn’t enough to ruffle the water, but we did get under sail. It was very relaxing , quiet and peaceful. I had a go at steering, which according to my dad was “having a sail”. To be honest, it all felt pretty calm and timid. Moreover, of course, it was only when we were heading back that the wind managed to get up to around four knots. Dad said that often happens, and I could see that he also liked a faster sail. A bit of an adrenalin rush. However, we managed to keep my daughter happy, and that was the real success of yesterday’s voyage.
Indeed, I was reminded of the importance of little things yesterday. That just sitting together is enough. You don’t need an action-packed, adrenalin-fueled adventure to have a great time. Indeed, we don’t even need to have words. We can just be.
Yet, of course, it was also pure magic to be out there again. I love experiencing the enormity of being out there on the water, even if we weren’t out at sea and far away from land. I loved soaking up this vast enormity of water all around me, with the rim of the coast snug around us. Indeed, from the comfort of my desk, I can’t help wondering what it would be like to be onboard one of those triangles of white sail you see far out on the horizon. It looks so peaceful from a distance, even though I know it’s like the proverbial duck floating on the water. While it’s all grace above, those feet are paddling like fury, working hard down below. Moreover, it’s dangerous, and I don’t need to look far to see someone who has lost their life onboard a yacht out there. Indeed, it reminds me. There’s much to be said for dreaming, but not all dreams are meant to become real.
So, in my mind’s eye I’m hovering around the horizon in my little white yacht. There’s wind in the sails, dolphins jumping past and life is all blue skies and sunny days.
Have you been sailing? Are you a sailor? I’d love to hear from you and more about your adventures.
After a tumultuous battle between land and sea, the waves engulfed and devoured the crumbled ruins of Atlantis. Proud of its conquest, the ocean refused to regurgitate its shattered remains, or give up clues of its whereabouts. Rather, it kept its hoard buried deep beneath the sand, where its secrets could not escape. Meanwhile, the humans spun magnificent myths and legends. Surely, such a place could not exist, and the sea fuelled this deception with its whispers to keep its treasure secret. However, Poseidon had finally had enough, and left a solitary coin upon the beach. The time had come.
Goodness knows how I ended up at Atlantis from this photo prompt, except to say that my husband and I end up watching a lot of ancient history documentaries. Anyway, I had fun with this. We live right near the beach ourselves and have been through some nasty storms which have ravaged the coast, but no mysterious secrets have been revealed at our end.
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. Every week, she posts a photo prompt and we write a hundred words to the prompt. I am constantly amazed at how these prompts stimulate my writing, and I strongly encourage you to get involved and have a go. You might surprise yourself!
After taking our son on a long, epic drive last week, I was reminded of the walks we used to go on when he was just knee-high to a grasshopper. I know it’s such a cliché, but I’m still amazed how much time’s flown under the bridge. That with the click of my fingers, he’s now turned 16 and at the end of next year, he’ll be out of school and on the cusp of adulthood. Where did all that time go? I don’t know. However, paradoxically as we headed forward on our journey North, I was taken back to those very special early walks together. Walks with me and my boy.
Ironically, what I remember most about our walks together, is how I’d be tugging on his small hand trying to get him moving, while he was enthralled by some random “treasure” he’d discovered on our path. Of course, I tried to slow my pace down to appreciate that lump of gravel, or rusty bottle top through his eyes instead of my own. However, there were understandably times when my patience grew thin. I just want to go, and he’d become equally immovable. However, back then I had one thing in my favour. When all else failed, I could pick him up and cart him off, even if he wasn’t happy.
I can’t do that anymore either.
Anyway, our son has decided to go into sound engineering when he leaves school, and he’s already getting good experience helping out at Church. That’s why he needed the lift. He’d been offered further training and the opportunity to help out at a funeral at our main Church campus an hour’s drive away.
To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t mad keen on driving him up there. Indeed, I’m sure you can read my mind: “What the???? Can’t you catch the train? A bus? Fly on your broomstick?” Moreover, when all of those avenues failed, there was the added annoyance of having to fill in a few hours before driving him home. Indeed, it was looking like much of my day was going up in smoke with the barest slither remaining. Not that I was counting. Or, that I minded. I am his mother. If I can love him to the moon and back, surely I could drive him there as well?!!
Humph! I’m not so sure that was part of the contract.
Rather, it was looking like the perfect time to play the dying swan. Get his father to drive him. However, Geoff is working from home, not doing long distance parent taxi duties. So, for better or worse, I had to rise to the challenge.
Meanwhile, alongside this protesting siren of complaint, was gratitude, relief and a sincere desire to do whatever it takes to help our son to find his feet and get his career established. I mean that too. Whatever it takes, especially when he’s so keen and he has an equally keen mentor volunteering to train him up. With our local theatres closed down due to covid, Church is one of the few venues where he can get some experience. Indeed, as we all know, it’s a hard world out there. No one’s knocking on your door to give you a start. You have to go hunting. Go all out. Eat humble pie by the kilo, just to have a chance of getting a toe through the door.
However, instead of being an onerous ordeal, our trip turned into an adventure, and reminded me:
“Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.”
― George Bernard Shaw
That’s exactly how our drive together panned out. We had an hour each way to chat, but then there were some complications. For those of you who know me well, you won’t be surprised to hear that we experienced some navigational difficulties. However, this time I blame my son. I was pretty sure we were meant to take the next exit, but he was insistent. Moreover, although I know he is “often wrong but never in doubt”, he has a much better sense of direction. So, I bowed to his expertise. Indeed, I carefully followed his directions to turn right at the roundabout, and drove along until it was clear we were in the wrong place, even if we weren’t officially “lost”. I must admit that my heart rate started to increase a little at this point. I mentioned heading back to the freeway to take the next exit. However, he was quite confident. Knew there was a Bunnings Hardware Store on the left coming up and a shopping centre. Sure enough, he was right, and good enough with his sense of direction to redirect us. Meanwhile, in the end it turned out that we were both right. Both exits worked.
When we pulled up, I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do for the next few hours. However, one of the guys showed me a local map and I spotted that Norah Head was nearby. Now, I was set. With my camera in the car, I set off to revisit Norah Head and the lighthouse where I’d been as a young child with my family and on a couple of slumber parties as a teenager with friends. By now, I was actually quite excited and grateful for my big day out. You could even say I was happy!
Just to top off my day, I bought myself a beautiful new skirt and a tray full of red Salvias which I’ve planted out the front. I ate a pie in a park surrounded by lush green trees and ocean views feeling pretty chuffed our day was going so well.
After walking around the lighthouse (which you can read about here), I was back to pick him up. I was even given a tour of the sound desk by his mentor, who had no idea just how untechnical I am and how I even struggle to operate out TV. However, I did gain at least a cursory view of the thing which makes our son tick, and is going to be a big part of his future. That was pretty special. After all, being understood has always been very important to me, but the flipside of that is to understand. Put yourself into someone else’s shoes even when they don’t fit particularly well, and go for a walk.
Or, perhaps even go for a long drive.
That certainly worked for us!
Has our day out brought back any memories for you? Do you have something you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.
“Turning, she looked across the bay, and there, sure enough, coming regularly across the waves first two quick strokes and then one long steady stroke, was the light of the Lighthouse. It had been lit.” ― Virginia Woolf
As a poet, photographer and philosopher, I had to jolt myself while looking at my photos of the Norah Head Lighthouse. Force myself to remember that lighthouses were actually constructed to serve a practical, potentially lifesaving purpose. They weren’t just plonked on top of dramatic, rugged headlands in splendid isolation for me to explore and express my creativity. Moreover, during this time of covid, social distancing and even lock down, this lighthouse doesn’t exist just so I can project our collective sense of isolation onto this “concrete tower painted white” (as it was described when it was opened in 1903).
“A fallen lighthouse is more dangerous than a reef.”
Navjot Singh Sidhu
However, these practical realities still haven’t stopped me from delving deep into my imagination and my soul, to marvel at the dramatic beauty of its glowing whiteness backdropped by the azure blue sea on a charmed sunny day.
It also didn’t stop me from confronting the realities of the here and now. The front door of the lighthouse, which could well have been there for over 115 years, has now been slapped with a Covid notice, and the lighthouse is closed for tours. Welcome to 2020.
Of course, I couldn’t help wondering how the lighthouse feels about being all locked up, and whether the ghost within is enjoying its solitude, or perhaps it’s craving human forms? Not that I really believe in ghosts. However, if you’re going to talk about a lighthouse, especially one which has witnessed shipwrecks and the tragic loss of life, it’s okay to let your imagination wander. You can put on your storytelling hat, and nothing really needs to make a lot of sense or stand up in a court of law.
I first came to the Norah Head Lighthouse when I was a little girl about six years old when we were staying nearby at The Entrance. Being so young, I didn’t have strong memories of it. However, when I was 13, I returned to Norah Head to attend a friend’s slumber party. I immediately recognized the lighthouse. Lighthouses are like that. They stay with you forever. Leave a lasting impression.
I attended two birthday slumber parties at Norah Head for my friend, and they still retain their magic after all these years. At that age, you rarely go away with anyone but your own immediate family. However, there we were just our group of friends, and without that sense of omnipresent parental supervision either. I remember snorkelling in the rockpool and seeing little fish. I also remember having my friend’s birthday cake up in the sand dunes, and sliding down the sand dunes on large green garbage bags. It was so very simple, and yet so much fun.
However, when I went back to Norah Head with my kids about 10 years ago, the sand dunes were nowhere to be found. Indeed, when I inquired about them at a local shop, they were quite a mystery. You see, the dunes had been rejuvenated and by this stage, were hidden beneath six foot paperbark trees and thick vegetation. Although this was good for the environment, I have to admit I was rather disappointed. I wanted to slide down those dunes again and take my kids with me. Moreover, I particularly didn’t want to be that old, that I’d developed my own tales about “life back in the olden days”.
Anyway, getting back to the lighthouse, I’m not going to delve too deeply into its construction and design of the Norah Head Lighthouse. All of that’s only a quick Google search away. However, I wanted to share this little story I came across from Christmas 1945 where a journalist explored what it was like to spend Christmas at the Norah Head Lighthouse:
Lighthouse Wasn’t Lonely
Although Norah Head lighthouse is in a comparatively isolated position, about 20 miles south of Newcastle, its staff had anything but a lonely Christmas. The head keeper’s wife (Mrs. J. H. Fisher), who said: “It couldn’t be lonely here-it’s absolutely beautiful,” entertained a party of guests from Sydney. A number of fishermen and holiday-makers are camped on the head land and fishing catches are reported to be good. Supplies brought in from the small village of Norahville, 20 minutes’ walk from the light house, ensured a typical Christmas dinner for the lighthouse staff. Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954), Wednesday 26 December 1945, page 2
I also thought you’d enjoy this aerial perspective from 1953, even if it is in black & white:
While the lighthouse itself is a stunning attraction, the dramatic views from the headland are amazing and stretch in all directions. I was particularly captivated by the waves smashing onto the rock platform down below, more than reinforcing the need for a lighthouse here, at least historically speaking. This photo gives you a good idea of the forces down below:
Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our tour around Norah Head Lighthouse. It’s been awhile since I’ve posted on a blogshare called Thursday Doors, but I thought my trip to the Norah Head Lighthouse made for a good contribution.
Hosted by Norm Frampton, “Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing your link in the comments below, anytime between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time). “
Well, after all these years of blogging, I’m lucky not to be battered and bruised!! When I pulled up to my desk this morning with my cup of tea, I noticed the counter had not only clicked over 200,000 hits, it now reads 201,823. Wow! I can’t believe I missed it so spectacularly, because I was keeping an eye out, even though I no longer take much notice of my stats. 200,000 hits is something to celebrate. Ring the brass bell and break out the champagne, or a personal treat, get stuck into the Tim Tams. The Vegemite can wait.
Meanwhile, it’s Spring over here and I’ve been trying to get out and enjoy the local wildflowers as much as I can. Unfortunately, my mobility has been hampered by that spot of rock surfing I mentioned last week, and my knee is still sore and going down stairs is quite tricky and I’m trying to rest my leg. However, a friend whose been living in Northern NSW, came down for a visit and so I took her out to see the Waratahs (scene of my rock surfing accident). While we were out there, I spotted a beautiful yellow wildflower I’ve never seen in the wild before. This striking flower is Isopogon anemonifolius, and its common name is “Drumsticks”. It was such a blast to come across this new flower, and I feel like an intrepid explorer when I’m out there. It doesn’t bother me that car after car is also pulling over and that all these admiring pilgrims have even forged a trail through the bush. After all, I don’t view these discoveries through the eyes of many, but my own and I’m just spellbound. You don’t need to go past nature to be inspired and feel your heart soar, even just a little. Of course, another aspect of that is that it’s free and I barely need to travel.
Of course, for most of us 2020 is the year of local. Anywhere but local or at least outside the state is banned. In many ways I don’t mind staying local. We were lucky that we managed to get up to Byron Bay for a week or so in January after the bush fires up North had settled down a bit. That’s a 10-12 hour drive with stops and even though I don’t do much of the driving, looking at the grey bitumen and the white line for all those hours, even if I am reading, talking or looking out the window, grates on you. You just want to wave a magic wand and turn up.
Our kids (now teens) are on school holidays for the next two weeks. Next weekend, our daughter has the Dance Production, which will be incredible as this is put on by the dance team at the dance school. Also, rehearsals take up much of this week. Notice that I’m not too disappointed about that. While they naturally need some time to chill out, smell the roses and socialize, too much time on their hands can be problematic.
This brings me to the subject of the end of school muck-up days which were held last week. Oh dear! It seems the end of this school year, has drawn out the most putrid pus out of our young people and made it public. I am hoping this students are the exception and not the norm and I really believe they are because there are beautiful young people who are an inspiration and are doing the right thing. There are also vulnerable, disadvantaged and simply uncool kids and members of our society at large who have been targeted through these well-planned, detailed scavenger hunts and these people are make of flesh and blood. They hurt. They break and they can’t always be put back together again. Unfortunately, a prestigious Sydney boys’ school seems to have taken this despicable form of scavenger hunt to another level, producing a pdf document which looks all the world like a business annual report. It’s seems that at least one of the boys receiving the document blew the whistle and I commend them 100%. I also feel for the boys in that year who have done and have always done the right thing and I feel for the parents of all. However, then I found out that my old school had their own not dissimilar treasure hunt circulating and today I heard about a school in Newcastle which outed a young woman who is a child sexual abuse survivor and sent her spiraling back down into the most intolerable depths of despair. To make matters worse, those details were made public by a trusted friend. I don’t know who this young woman is but I send her my love and hopes of a miracle. That she will find healing and reassurance of the good in humanity. Indeed, I’m struggling with that myself after these documents have come to light. Here’s a link to details of the list: https://www.news.com.au/national/nsw-act/news/private-school-students-tasked-with-vile-muckup-day-challenges/news-story/10a74efdfcedc9a0df6291ebde25383a
Meanwhile, we’re pottering along with our own kids, which has made me more compassionate to parents whose kids don’t believe like automated robots even after expensive schooling and possibly even intensive parent input (or absence which might be the case). You can’t make assumptions, because then someone will always rub your nose in your mistakes saying “Didn’t you know that “assume” means making an ass of you and me??!!” Anyway, I’ve been pleased that our son has been volunteering with sound at Church so far these holidays and will be helping out at a funeral tomorrow, even if I do need to drive him up. I might detour up to Maitland for a bit. Meanwhile with our daughter, she’s now going to parties and wanting to push the envelope. Stay out late. Walk around at night with her friends. Weekends are starting me mean “on duty” for us and I’m mighty grateful to have everyone tucked into bed at night, and a sense of relief.
I’ll leave you with an entertaining pic I took of a dog I saw at the shops on Friday. Max is some kind of Mastiff and looked straight out of a movie when he pulled up in a bright yellow ute. However, watching his owner try walk him down the street was hilarious. When he’s not on guard dog duties, Max is a big softie and just wants to play with other dogs. We were sitting at a cafe where there was a tiny toy poodle parked under an adjacent table with their ball. Well, Max spotted the tiny dog which was about the size of half his head and wanted to pass with the dog and ball. However, this massive, bony colossus was clearly to big for the footpath itself, let alone the tiny dog and his owner who seemed to be inversely proportioned to the dog, was also struggling to contain him. It was funny, although it might not have been. An inch either way, and there would’ve bee tables and people flying and a toy poodle crushed into a floor rug. Despite, or perhaps because of the pandemonium, you couldn’t but love Max and wrap your arms around him in a hug, even though he could well take your head off if he’s on duty.
Meanwhile, our Rosie’s just appeared with the rope toy. She has no doubt about her purpose in life. It’s to chase. This also means that it’s my job to throw…my only job.
PS I also got a haircut for the first time in over six months. Indeed, it could well have been 12 months thanks to the bush fire smoke and covid. No point restating the obvious. 2020 has been a difficult and very weird year.
Yesterday, I drove a friend out to see the magnificent Waratahs currently flowering right beside the road on the way to nearby Patonga. We were just about to leave, when I spotted this striking yellow flower. I almost didn’t see it. I’m so glad I did! It was such a magnificent find. Wow! I love how nature is like that…an absolute treasure trove.
However, what really surprised me was that I haven’t seen this flower before. At least, not at a conscious level. It’s apparently an Isopogon anemonifolius, which gets its name from Isopogon – two Greek words meaning ‘equal’ and ‘beard’ (alluding to the hairy fruits of some species); and anemonifolius – with leaves like those of some Anemones. Meanwhile, it’s common name is “drumsticks”, which refers to the rounded fruits which can be found on the bushes throughout the year. It’s a small to medium shrub from about 0.5 to 2 metres in height by a similar width, and it flowers in late Spring and early Summer. By the way, it’s other claim to fame is that it was apparently one of the first Australian plants to be cultivated in Europe in the late 1700s.
Anyway, now the big question is whether to try growing Isopogon anemonifolius at home. This is a big question, because I seem to have great waves of enthusiasm for buying plants, which almost burns out as soon as I get the plant home. Too often, they die of neglect before they even make it into the ground. However, I used to love gardening and the garden used to look quite pretty. It’s this former glory, which keeps renewing my hopes. Takes me back to the nursery , and send more unfortunate victims to early graves.
Oh no! This reminds me that I haven’t planted the two gardenia’s we bought a few weeks ago on our wedding anniversary. So, I’d better give them a good water before I go to sleep tonight.
Meanwhile, I’ve spotted a magnificent yellow flowering native around the corner, and I’m wondering whether it’s one of these. From a distance, it looked a bit like a yellow waratah. So, I’ll have to get a photo and check it out. I’ll keep you posted.
Have you photographed any wildflowers lately? I’d love to hear from you.