Category Archives: Travel

Exploring A Victorian Garden – Bathurst’s Machattie Park, Australia.

“Curiouser and curiouser!” is how I’ve felt about Bathurst’s Machattie Park since returning home. Two weeks ago, I had no idea this park even existed and my awareness of landscape design was also minimal. Indeed, I’m even one of those dreadful plant murderers who should be banned from buying plants altogether.

“Not all who wander are lost.”

Alice in Wonderland

Yet, now I find myself travelling down all sorts of rabbit holes (like the rabbit in Alice in Wonderland on steroids) exploring every nook and cranny of Machattie Park. Not only that. I’ve even found myself nipping over to France in a virtual sense to explore a myriad of magnificent historical gardens to gain a deeper understanding of its layout.  Apparently, the park was designed in the “French style” whatever that meant. I am certainly none the wiser, but at least I’m enjoying the journey.

Located between William, George, Russell, and Keppel streets; Machattie Park forms the graphical and cultural heart of Bathurst. Machattie Park was opened on Saturday 20th December, 1890 – a whopping 132 years ago when my Great Grandmother was two years old and I wasn’t even a distant dream. Fortunately, the park has been very well preserved and has only experienced minor change since then. Indeed, a visit to Machattie Park feels like stepping out of a time machine, and I could even picture myself wearing period dress promenading with my parasol back in the day.

When you look at the park today, it’s hard to imagine that it was ever the site of the former gaol. After the gaol was relocated, this space was known by the inauspicious title of: “Gaol Reserve”. Although it was used as a sports’ ground by the local schools, the crumbling foundations of the former gaol remained and it was a far cry from what we see today. However, the people of Bathurst under the leadership of the Progress Association, has vision and campaigned for the site to be transformed into a spectacular park with all the bells and whistles. When he opened the park, Mayor Crago expressed their grand ambitions for Bathurst and how the park was to play a central part in making Bathurst shine: “The park will henceforth he one of the landmarks of the city and the most beautiful spot in Bathurst, enabling us to hope that eventually our city will become the Ballarat of New South Wales1.”

While touching on the opening of the park, I found another gem this time in Dr Spencer’s speech, who was the President of the Progress Association. While these sentiments were no doubt said in earnest at the time, they certainly made me laugh today and it reminds me of my rather posh private school where we weren’t allowed to walk on the grass:

Now please remember this, and I speak especially to the intelligent and independent youth of Bathurst, those young men who will in the future guide public opinion. Let me tell them that they will not succeed in life unless they keep off the grass, and that no dogs are admitted. These regulations are for the benefit of all, and will be cheerfully obeyed by everyone with a spark of intelligence and good nature.2”

So, what is it like to walk through Machattie Park today? I guess I should also put a particularly emphasis on TODAY. As far as I could tell, most if not all of the trees in Machattie Park are deciduous. So, he park varies considerably from season to season. We were there in late Winter when the trees were stripped of their leaves forming bare skeletons against the muted sky. However, the daffodils and jonquils were in flower and looking particularly stunning.

Yet, despite the seasons, Machattie Park has a peculiar charm, serenity and spirit which extends well beyond just “going to the park” or “being in the great  outdoors.” Even on our rushed walk through, I felt an uncharacteristic sense of peace and calm, despite almost rushing around trying to absorb it all through my camera lens. There I was bending down to photograph the daffodils and jonquils. Next minute, I glace up and spot the fountain and I’m off again  zooming in to capture what I now understand to be dolphins, but which looked more like feral carp to me.  Then there was the band rotunda, which was known as the Music Temple. It was hard not to notice the Federation-style Gardeners’ Cottage on my right either with its roof tiles which came all the way from Marseilles, France. However, before I knew it, we were inside the Fernery and gob smacked by a trio of marble statues by Giovanni Fontana. As if all of this wasn’t sufficient fodder for my camera, there was also the very quaint Munro Drinking fountain which was erected in 1901. All of that was a lot to take in. Yet, as I said, the park was strangely relaxing at the same time.

Above: The Fernery. The sculptures were by Giovanni Fontana.

Naturally, I’m not the only one who has found peace and tranquility in Machattie Park. Browsing through the historic newspapers online, I came across this reference from the Bathurst Times on the 16th October, 1909:

“And now that the fountain on the main basin is spraying, it is almost like listening to a small waterfall or cascade. When one feels run down and tired, it is well worth while to put ones troubles on one side; sit down in Machattie Park and listen to the drip, drip, drip, and the splash and hissing of the water as it soothes, and lulls and —  just then one’s book drops down, and then comes peace — perfect peace.3.”

I absolutely loved that account! It was so poetic!

Relaxing in Machattie Park in front of the rotunda.

Of course, I was just a traveler passing through Machattie Park. There are locals who would have so much more to say about it, and know it much more intimately, of course, having spent all of their lives in Bathurst. I can well imagine them sitting the park feeding the ducks, listening to the band or attending Carols By Candlelight with their parents or grandparents and now doing the same with their children or grandchildren. No doubt, there’s also been a lot of romance in Machattie Park over the years too…that magic twinkle in the eye and perhaps a return to the park for solace with a broken heart. There’s certainly a real sense of timelessness visiting Machattie Park.

A Lucky Duck on Spencer’s Pond

Well, that’s the end of our tour through Machattie Park. Now, it’s over to you. Have you ever been to Machattie Park and do you have any stories you’d like to share? Or, perhaps you have a and park near you, you’d like to share? Or, perhaps even your own magnificent garden? I’d love to hear from you.

the Munro Water Fountain.

After spending days revisiting and researching Machattie Park, I’m needing to quote White Rabbit:

“I’m late, I’m late! For a very important date! No time to say ‘hello, goodbye,’ I’m late, I’m late, I’m late!”

Best wishes,

Rowena


References

1.National Advocate (Bathurst, NSW : 1889 – 1954), Monday 22 December 1890, page 2

2. Ibid pg 2

3. [1] Bathurst Times (NSW : 1909 – 1925), Saturday 16 October 1909

Weekend Coffee Share – 29th August, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you all? I hope you are well and this weekend, I can offer you some cheese biscuits with a chive and parsley cream cheese filling along with your choice of beverage. They’re very addictive!

This last week has been a case of recovering from the adventurous week before, which is what I’m going to focus on today.

BWSC Senior Cheer Team Placed A Very Close Second at Nationals. Miss is fourth from the right.

On Thursday 18th August, we dropped Miss at the local train station. She was heading off to Queensland’s Gold Coast with the school’s cheerleading team to compete at Nationals. She would also be competing in a few solo events as well. Although we seriously considered driving up there to watch and be a part of it all, it wasn’t long enough to pull it off and so Geoff and I decided to head off to Bathurst 200 kms WNW of Sydney. We live night near the beach, and I’ve never been out that way and was interested in its goldrush heritage and all the photographic opportunities it offered. Meanwhile, we stayed at Rydges Mt Panorama which was right on the race track at Conrod Straight. In case you’re not aware, Bathurst is also home to the Bathurst 1000 Supercars Race, which is what’s brought Geoff and Jonathon to Bathurst before.

I’m in the process of writing up about the trip. However, so far I’ve written up a fairly extensive overview which you might enjoy: here.

Kangaroo and Joey outside the Hill End Hilton

However, probably what you’d like to see most are some photos of kangaroos taken in Hill End. We were there past sunset into the twilight, which is when kangaroos become most active. Great for photography when we were walking around town, but potentially treacherous driving back to Bathurst. Indeed, we had a very stressful near miss when a huge male hopped in front of the car and instead of getting out of the way, he kept turning back in front of the car. Obviously, he was out to collect the Darwin award, but we didn’t want him taking us with him. Fortunately, Geoff grew up in rural Tasmania and is well-versed in country driving, but even he found this particular kangaroo too much.

In addition to all the architectural attractions, there was also the race track. The Bathurst 1000 takes place the weekend after the October long weekend, and will be held 6th-9th October this year. The track itself is 6.213 km long and runs on public roads 174-metre (571 ft) elevation difference between its highest and lowest points The race is 161 laps in length and generally takes between six and seven hours to complete, depending on weather and Safety Car periods. A likely race finish time can be anywhere between 6pm and 8pm AEDT and I can tell you, you don’t disturb Geoff too much especially towards the end of the big race.

Rowena Conquers The Mountain. That’s our hotel on the left. So close.

Geoff has walked and driven around the track before. However, being my first trip to Bathurst, naturally I’ve never been and I made a decision to drive around the track myself. Normally, this wouldn’t be a small consideration because I’m quite an anxious driver. However, I seemed to get into a different zone and wasn’t nervous at all in the end. By this stage, I’d been round the track with Geoff a few times making note of where the trouble spots were and preparing to go at a snail’s pace if necessary. I didn’t care if I clocked up the slowest lap time in Bathurst history. No one was recording it and I truly enjoyed the experience.

However, before we left on the trip, I received some awful news. A friend of mine called to say she was having trouble reaching our friend, Stephen. His phone wasn’t answering and had a message saying it was out of power or something to that effect. I rang and got the same response and sent an email letting him know we were concerned and to get in touch. Nothing. I had to look up my old hardcopy address book and my friend and her husband went down to check on him. They spoke to his neighbours who were also concerned and they rang the police for a welfare check and both he and his cat, Pippa, were found deceased. At the time, we didn’t know how long it had been and I was initially devastated that my dear friend would die in such circumstances, even though he’d chosen to shut himself off. However, as time went by, it turned out family and friends had been keeping in touch with him and it hadn’t been that long. Well, it’s kind of inevitable when you live alone and don’t reach out. He was 65 and had some health issues, and we’re still waiting for cause of death.

Unfortunately, losing Stephen has reminded me of how many people I know in similar circumstances and as much as I would love to reach out to them all, my days simply go up in smoke often with very little to show for it. However, my heart is in it and I also recently did a suicide intervention program through Lifeline, which I found very helpful.

I realise that this is a rather heavy subject to consider while having a cup of tea or coffee with Rowie and I hope it hasn’t been triggering. As a positive, if each of us called someone we know who is doing it tough once a week, I’m sure we could make a difference.

This is a good reminder that I need to start thinking about having something to look forward to myself now this trip is over. I’m not sure whether living from holiday to holiday is a good thing, and so I might organise a few get togethers with friends as well. After all, we’re about to launch into Spring here and come out of hibernation.

Lastly, speaking of Spring, I was struck by all the daffodils and jonquils we saw while we were away. They were EVERYWHERE!! I felt so grateful and could’ve thanked each and every soul who’d planted each and every one of those bulbs. I’ve gardened myself and have only been thinking of my own enjoyment and making the place look attractive and cheerful. It’s never crossed my mind that a stranger could be walking past and get some enjoyment out of it. Better still, that someone who is doing it tough could feel a moment’s joy simply because a stranger had planted a bulb in the ground. While I was trying not to think about Stephen too much while we were away, it was inevitable and seeing all the daffodils and jonquils truly helped.

Daffodils along with Rosie photo bomber extraordinaire along with her tennis ball.

Indeed, I ordered in a couple of bunches of daffodils from our local florist when I got home. They are so happy! It’s like having my own personal cheer squad every time I go out into the kitchen. Such a blessing!

So, how was your week? I hope it’s been good.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Bored…Stream of Consciousness Saturday #SoCS

“Why did you do it?” The judge asked Jane Sutton, a 16 year old student from Queen’s College. Academic, popular, beautiful, rich and from an impeccable family… why did she go on a staggering shoplifting spree totalling over $20,000 on a fake credit card? “You didn’t need any of this stuff! You had it all.”

Jane didn’t want to speak or acknowledge her crimes in any way. Indeed, she was on suicide watch, and no one would’ve blamed her for taking her life. They would’ve done it too if they’re been this stupid and brought such unfathomable shame and disgrace, not only on her own name, but also her family. Her mother was the Australian CEO of the Red Cross and her father was the Bishop of Sydney, although they were both feeling pressured to resign. After causing so much trauma to those she loved and loved her more than life itself, she couldn’t bear to admit why she did it.

She was bored.

163 words

Carcoar Courthouse, NSW, Australia

Geoff and I were in Carcoar, near Bathurst last week and marvelled at this gorgeously quaint village time forgot. Such a shame the courthouse wasn’t open while we were there. It really is a step back in time.

Featured image: https://www.centralnswmuseums.com.au/museums/carcoar-court-house/

This has been a contribution to Stream of Consciousness Saturday hosted by Linda G. Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is “board/bored.” Use one, or use them both for bonus points. Enjoy!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Exploring Bathurst, Australia…A Trip Back In Time.

Absence is the sign of a great, well-enjoyed holiday – absolutely no posts until well after you’ve arrived home. That’s because you’re not only seizing every single moment you’re away. You’re also so exhausted from your holiday, that you also need to recover.

That describes our trip to Bathurst well.

On the 18th August (just over a week ago now), Geoff and I left on a four day escape to Bathurst without the kids. After two years of intermittent covid lockdowns and isolations along with just over 18 years of parenting, this represented a tremendous achievement. Indeed, it could well be argued that it would be easier to climb Mt Everest, except you’d probably accuse me of hyperbole or that old favourite….being a drama queen! Anyway, the only reason we could get away now was because Miss was off to the Gold Coast for four days competing in Nationals for cheerleading.

However, just like Cinderella, we had restrictions in place. Firstly, we had to drop her off at the station at the unholy hour of 5.30am necessitating a 4.30am wake up for this die hard night owl. Then, we had to pick her up from the local train station at 4.00 pm Sunday afternoon. Of course, we didn’t want our beloved red Alfa 959 to get turned into a pumpkin if we ran late. If you’re the parent of a teenager or if you’ve ever been, you’ll know the teenager should not be upset, inconvenienced or forgotten. Being turned into a pumpkin could be an optimistic outcome!

Well, you might ask why we would go to Bathurst when we could almost go anywhere on the planet for our special extended weekend away. Well, given the time restraints, not quite anywhere but there was still quite a smorgasbord of choice available. Firstly, since we live at the beach, we wanted to go to the country to experience something different. We are both pretty interested in history and photography and we thought we’d check out old mining towns in the area as well as the race track at Mt Panorama.

Bathurst was traditionally owned by the Wiradjuri People, or “the people of the
three rivers”, being the Wambuul (Macquarie), Kalari (Lachlan) and the
Murrumbidjeri (Murrumbidgee).
Meanwhile, the city of Bathurst was founded
in 1815, and is the oldest settlement west of the Great Dividing Range. It is located on the Macquarie River about 200 kms West-Northwest of Sydney. Following the discovery of the first payable gold at nearby Ophir, on 12 February 1851; all roads led to Bathurst. Indeed, on the 17th May, 1851 the Bathurst Free Press reported: “A complete mental madness appears to have seized almost every member of the community. There has been a universal rush to the diggings.” The goldrush has left it’s imprint on Bathurst and the surrounding regions architecturally, which was one of the reasons we were heading
up there- photography! Bathurst’s other great claim to fame is the Bathurst
1000 Supercars Race
, which goes around the legendary Mt Panorama Circuit.
Car racing is more Geoff’s thing, but I was also looking forward to driving
round the track for the first time.

So, let’s get cracking…

Day One- Umina Beach to Bathurst.

After dropping MIss off, we headed to Bathurst via the Bell’s Line Road, which is an alternate route across the Blue Mountains to the more conventional Great Western Highway via Katoomba. When asked why we went this way, Geoff tells me “it is a much more fun road with better scenery and you’re not stuck in traffic all the way. Why would you want to be stuck in traffic all the way?” Makes sense to me.

Now, I’m going to pick up our journey from Bell’s Line Road, which took us through the
Blue Mountains National Park. In 2019, four horrific bushfires swept through the
region decimating bushland on an unimaginable scale. We drove through vast
expanses of burned out vegetation at times stretching as far as the eye could see. It’s
starting to regrow, but the loss was catastrophic. You can get an impression of
the scale of these fires on the map here. Yet, we also stopped to enjoy spectacular views of soaring cliffs, and also saw a few wildflowers.

Bilpin

We arrived in Bilpin around 8.00am and were delighted to find the Grumpy Baker. We shared one of their epic sausage rolls, while I also indulged in the most luxuriously
delicious cinnamon scroll I’ve ever had, and Geoff ordered an apple turnover.
With eyes much bigger than our stomach’s, we also ordered a cheese stick for in
the car. I almost forgot to mention my coffee. I usually don’t drink coffee due
to my heartburn. However, feeling like a veritable zombie after around 4 hours
sleep, it was a must, and I couldn’t believe the difference it made. I could
well understand how coffee keeps the masses alive.

Before we left Bilpin, I had a rather “interesting” experience. The public
toilets were a short drive down the road. Although this should
have been a very straightforward experience, I actually got locked in the
toilet and couldn’t get out. The lock was a bit complicated and I’m turning it
this way and that and pushing and then Geoff realized I was stuck and started
pushing from the outside without any luck while I kept fiddling with the lock.
By this stage, a mixture of dread, panic and potential embarrassment was
setting in as I was starting to think we would be needing to call the police to
let me out. OMG!!! That happened to a friend at a restaurant once and he was
just lucky he’d taken his mobile phone with him and called us at the table to
let him out. You could just imagine the laughter. We were such a sympathetic
bunch. So, while you might say this was karma 30 years later, I didn’t see it
that way. Anyway, I looked up and saw a second rather serious looking lock and
hey presto, I was out. The toilets had just been cleaned and it looks like they
hadn’t latched back the lock. Phew!

Bathurst

You can see how cold it was in this photo. I was very rugged up!

We arrived in Bathurst around 10.00am (can you believe we’d travelled 248 kilometres before 10.00am? I doubt it!!). Our first stop was the Visitors’ Centre where we came across one of three restored Cobb and Co. coaches in existence. Now, we really knew we were travelling back in time. We left with a swag of tourist brochures, heading for the town centre.

Almost…Geoff being Geoff, headed straight for Mt Panorama and the Bathurst 1000 track before we’d had much of a look around town. It was interesting, even a bit exhilarating, to drive round the actual track in person after watching the race on TV. It certainly gave me a much better appreciation of what the drivers go through at
speeds of up to 300 kph, even though we had to stick to the speed limit of 60 KPH which dropped down to 40KPH in a few treacherous spots. I was too tired to even think about having a go myself.

We headed back into town. After doing a quick drive around the streets where I was literally salivating over all the historic architecture, we parked at Machattie Park on William and Keppel Streets and set out on foot armed with our cameras. Machattie Park is a wonderland all by itself. Moreover, it was surrounded by an incredible array of striking historic buildings. To be honest, I didn’t know quite where to point my camera, and was very grateful for digital technology where I could snap away to my heart’s content.

After sunset, we made it to our hotel, Rydges at Mt Panoroma, which is located right on the race track on Conrod Straight. Of course, it would be incredible on race day, but entirely out of our league. We have no idea how much it would cost, but it’s booked out for the next three years. When Geoff, Mister and their crew went to Bathurst, they were slumming it in tents, although being out in the paddocks had a culture all of its own.

We didn’t see much beyond sunset and crashed for the night. The early morning start had well and truly caught up with us.

Day Two – Carcoar and Milthorpe 

The second day of our trip was a reminder that there’s only 24 hours in a day and brings to mind that old question about whether life is about the journey or the destination.

It began with breakfast at Nicky’s Cafe in Bathurst after we slept through
breakfast at the hotel. I wandered across the road dazzled by architecture and
a laser display and then wandered down an alleyway being lead by my camera and
not by the clock. We were heading for Carcoar to see an old school friend of mine and Geoff mentioned getting there before she closed but I had all day. This steady stop-start meandering continued all the way to Carcoar, and you guessed it, she was closed by the time we got there, and she’d had to shoot off to Orange. Another note to self about prioritising.

We scooted around Carcoar which was absolutely stunning. We drove back to Bathurst via Millthorpe.

Day Three- Driving Around the Bathurst Track, Sofala and Hill End

By day three, we were well and truly into holiday mode, which in our case, had nothing to do with relaxing and was all about trying to squeeze as much as we could into one day.

Rowena Conquers the Mountain at Bathurst.

Before we headed off to Sofala, yours truly finally had the chance to drive around the racetrack at Mt Panorama in our Alfa 159. While neither a Ford nor a Holden, Alfas have also had their day out at Bathurst. I was really proud of myself for “conquering the mountain” because I’ve generally been quite an anxious driver and I wasn’t nervous at all despite some very sharp bends. I’d gone round the track again with Geoff taking note of the trouble spots and thought it doesn’t matter if I take those serious bends like a snail, as long as I made to the end. After all, I wasn’t trying to be Peter Brock, the undisputed King of the Mountain! Hurray! I did it!!

After going round Bathurst i.e. the track, we were off to the former gold mining town of Sofala, followed by Hill End. Artist Russell Drysdale immortalised Sofala with his award-winning landscape (pictured above). I have a feeling my parents had a print of Sofala at home growing up as it feels very familiar. Another artist, Donald Friend, was with Drysdale at the time and did his own version which isn’t as well known. For some time, I’ve been wanting to get out to Sofala and and photograph my own version. I was most annoyed that a telegraph pole was put right in the way along with all the parked cars, but otherwise the scene looked pretty much the same. However, being Winter it didn’t have the omnipresent sense of blazing heat of Drysdale’s work.

Next stop Hill End. By now, we were hungry and I remembered reading about Hill End Pies at the Hill End Estate found at 3664 Hill End Road, Hill End. Thanks to plumber turned pastry chef, Steve Rattray, we were in for a treat, especially with the Danish pastries we had for dessert. Oh golly! I’d get in the car and go there now if it weren’t for the 319 kms drive!

This kangaroo and her joey have seemingly taken up residence at the “Hill End Hilton”.

Day Four – Abercrombie House, Bathurst.

Abercrombie House, Bathurst

Unfortunately, by the time we reached Day Four, we were living on borrowed time and needed to be back home by 4.00pm to pick up miss from the station. Their team came a very close second at Nationals and we were looking forward to seeing her, while also not real thrilled about going back on the leash and the time pressures involved. Yet, in our usual carpe diem style, we headed out to historic Abercrombie House. We couldn’t leave Bathurst without experiencing this magical castle.

Built in the 1870s by Bathurst pioneers the Stewart family, Rex and Mary Morgan bought the house in 1969 it’s been the home of the Morgan family since then. They’ve fully restored the house, outbuildings and grounds and share it with the community. As it turns out, Rex Morgan also founded a successful private school on Sydney’s Northern
Beaches, Pittwater House. My best friend used to go to Pittwater House and they
used to stay in dormitories at Abercrombie House for a week, which included
dinner at the main house one night. It sounds like quite the experience, especially with
plenty of ghost stories thrown in.

While we were wandering through the gardens at Abercrombie House, a message came through from Miss saying they were arriving back at the station early. Being 4.5 hours drive away, we weren’t going to make it back in time, and we could relax a little. My friend was driving her home. Returning home after only four days away felt rather brutal. However, we’d had a wonderful time and now needed a rest.

Have you ever been to Bathurst? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share- 17th July, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How has your week been? I hope it’s been good!

Well, today I can actually offer you some balmy, invigorating sunshine after months, and months of miserable, very heavy rain accompanied by serious flooding in many places around NSW. Indeed, I was almost in shock when Geoff told it it was 22 degrees Celsius today, although I must confess that I was still wearing a light jumper which sounds a bit odd. Although we probably should’ve spent the day outdoors especially as the rain is seemingly returning on Tuesday for another cold and miserable five day stint. However, we did get down to the beach, which was still covered in debris from the floods and there were also a few impressive structures which had been made out of sticks along the beach. The creek doing it’s best to impersonate rapids although it didn’t come close. It’s also gained a few handmade bridges which intrepid children were happy to cross and they didn’t care if they fell in.

Last Thursday was Bastille Day. Did you do anything to celebrate? Well, my friend, Lisa, and I celebrated in style at Sous le Soleil French Restaurant in Sydney’s Roseville. We were marking 30 years since we were in Paris together for Bastille Day. It’s hard to believe now that we were ever actually there: watching the military parade along the Champs Elysee and by night sitting in the shadows of la Tour Eiffel marvelling as it glowed in the dark. Of course, there was the piece de resistence…the incredibly fire works display. I watched it on YouTube and it was magnificent, and you can see it here. One day, I will return!

Bastille Day Fireworks via YouTube

Meanwhile, I’ve temporarily returned to life as a student. I’ve just completed week four of Freelance Journalism – Part One with the Australian Writers’ Centre. This week, we had to develop a story concept focusing on research and who we’re going to interview. We had a session on interviewing techniques which was rather helpful. However, I really enjoyed writing the profiles last week and it was interesting to read everyone’s efforts more from a point of view of getting to know the people in the course better and I found I had a few things in common. There was even someone doing adult jazz and ballet classes. I was doing an adult ballet class about a year before covid hit and absolutely loved it, but the studio doesn’t run them regularly.

Doing the course has been exciting, interesting, challenging and terrifying. I’ve been writing seriously for about 35 years and after ten years of regular writing on my blog, I thought I’d have it covered. However, writing feature articles is quite different to blogging. It’s in the third person and your opinion doesn’t matter at all. Indeed, unless you’re writing something like a travel story or you’re very famous or interesting, your opinion counts for naught. Humbling. So, instead of writing about what I know, I’m looking for other people who know stuff and statistics and it’s how I weave all of that together which makes a good feature article. I’m not sure how easy it’s going to be to make a living out of it, but at least I’m not short of ideas.

Here I am rather rugged up at the beach.

It’s been school holidays here, which for Miss involves dance and more competitions, exams and photographs. However, there were also challenges off stage. I have mentioned the rain many times over. Well, she was performing her Jazz solo at around 8.00pm and a massive deluge hit while we were there and our poor car was parked on the grass a good walk away and it was not an unrealistic concern that the car might get bogged. Indeed, the wheels were spinning and I tried to think like Geoff to get out of there and we got out. Saw the spot the next day and it was a mud bath. Oh golly. The things we contend with as parents for our little darlings! I felt like quite the survivor!!

it comes to this last competition, I also have a confession. For the first time ever, I didn’t stay for the duration and I left her behind to head off to my Bastille Day lunch. I admit I felt guilty and wondered whether I should reschedule the lunch and go the next day. Did it really matter if it wasn’t quite Bastille Day? Not really, although the restaurant and some of the diners did make it special. However, with Miss’s dance commitments being so intense, I’ve just had to accept I can’t be there all the time and she’ll need to accept that too. I can’t keep up.

Anyway, this brings me to the end of another weekend. School goes back on Tuesday and a friend of mine from Sydney is catching the ferry from Palm Beach to Wagstaff and I’ll drive round and meet her there. So, that’ll be good.

I hope you and yours have a great week ahead!

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Stop Sign – Friday Fictioneers 13th July, 2022.

“Stop, Jane! You’ve gotta stop!”

Yet, Jane couldn’t take her foot off the accelerator. She’d said nothing to anyone, but lately she’d been considering driving over The Gap.

“What do you do for self-care?” Her therapist asked, knowing she was on the brink.

“Self-care?” Jane exploded. “@#$%!! I don’t even exist. I’m squished in between Stuart, the kids, work, Mum’s stroke, Dad’s cancer. I’m driving to appointments, soccer, ballet and then there’s church. Busy, busy, busy!”

“I’m prescribing you a week’s holiday. Before you say you can’t go, please consider what will happen if you don’t. You matter too!”

“Do I?”

…..

100 words PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

For so many of us, it’s impossible to stop and get off the treadmill, but there can come a point where too much activity and no rest reaches breaking point. It’s important to consider things the rests which are inserted into music, full stops and commas inserted into sentences and if you think back to when you were first learning to write, putting that all important finger space in between the words.

The Gap, Watson’s Bay, Sydney.

I hope my story this week isn’t too triggering for anyone. If case you haven’t heard about The Gap in Sydney, it’s an ocean cliff at Watson’s Bay which is infamous for suicides. So much so, that if someone’s going through a rough time or having a particularly bad day, they might say: “I feel like jumping off The Gap”. However, it’s generally used to let off steam, and not as an expression of intent.

The flipside of this story, is that much has been done to try to reach or help those wanting to take there life. In particular, there was Don Ritchie, who was known as the Angel of the Gap. I encourage you to read his story and it’s interesting how far a smile can go towards saving someone’s life. It’s really something to keep in mind!

Personally, I see this as a good news story, because Jane is very overstretched but she is seeing a therapist which is a help and she is releasing much of the inner tension she’s been holding back.

About a month ago, I actually did a two day course in suicide intervention run by Lifeline who run a telephone crisis line here in Australia. I have been a first responder and I was surprised at how well I actually handled the situation. However, I wanted to skill myself up. Be prepared.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 11th July, 2022

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, t feels like I’ve been lost in space lately. However, I enrolled in a Freelance Writing Course at the Australian Writers’ Centre a few weeks ago and I’ve been head down bum up reading magazines and writing bibs and bobs. Well, this week which is rapidly turning into last week, we had to interview one of our fellow students and write a 500 word profile. Just to make it extra tricky, they get us to undertake this exercise BEFORE we’ve learned about writing profiles. There’s apparently motive for their madness and they’ve found over time that this works best. Anyway, the idea was that they emailed us through the name and contact email of our person last Monday. However, I don’t know what was wrong with me, but I couldn’t find the email and contacted them on Thursday and I didn’t recognise the name in the email and didn’t hear back from her for a few days. Meanwhile, another student had their person fall through and so we profiled each other. Then, my person turns up. She lives in rural Norway about an hour’s drive North of Oslo and the idea of getting to know someone from Norway better was too tempting. So, we ended up profiling each other too. It was a very interesting exercise and I ended up capturing pages and pages of information on each of them. While that was great in theory and certainly far better than being stuck for words, it was quite daunting. After all, we didn’t know each other. All we know is that we write. My thinking was to go broad so if there was a good story there, I’d collect it. However, the obvious thing to look at was why they’d enrolled in the course and why they write.

What really came out of it, was that the three of us are juggling a lot of different things as well as our writing but naturally feel very drawn to writing as our thing and have varying degrees of faith that we can do it. Being so busy, it’s easy to feel that we’re procrastinating about our writing or letting it slide. However, there are only so many hours in the day. I am quite fortunate that I’m not trying to do this course while holding down a full time job, while also having the family to consider. I can largely put my heart and soul into it, and I am very grateful to Geoff for that luxury. He’s been working flat out lately.

The weather has been dreadful again here and it’s been absolutely pouring with rain. To be honest with you, it’s been getting me down. Rather down. We’re just not used to this weather even though it has moved in and well and truly over stayed its welcome much of this year. However, I need to be grateful. We are not flooded. We are not being flooded for the second or third time in 12 months. I have a warm dog on my lap who doesn’t mind having the keyboard slapped on top of him and is absolutely gorgeous.

Anyway, I did manage to get out for a drive to Putty Beach about 20 minutes drive away from here. I stopped off at a nursery on the way and bought two rose bushes: a pink Queen Elizabeth rose and a yellow fragrant rose. They’re to represent my mum and dad. They’re still in the land of the living but I guess I’m feeling their absence because we haven’t seen much of them over the last two years since covid came along. I also bought an Australian native called a Golden Gem and a few primulas. When I arrived hom with my stash, our son said: “You’ve bought more plants to kill, have you?” Deary me! Oh son of little faith!

The beach itself was showing the signs of all the heavy rains and flooding. I don’t know what this beach looks like normally but it had a few estuaries running through it, which might not be there normally. There were a lot of fallen trees around and a massive tree floating just off the beach and a few logs rolling around in the surf. There was also a lot of spume in the water. This is the excess foam which whirls up in storms and t’s a bit like foamy whipped cream.

However, what particularly interested me were the various structures made out of sticks which dotted the beach. These were very well constructed and I was very impressed and wondered who’d made them. There was even a cubby house built into the side of one of the estuaries and I just love it. They’d even managed to get a chair and table inside, and the whole set up showed impressive ingenuity and creativity. There was also a well-constructed tent.

Last week, I also went to see Aladdin the Musical at Laycock Street Theatre in Gosford. It was fabulous and a family friend of ours played the Genie and did a fabulous job. She was hilarious. It’s the first time she’s been able to perform in a musical for two years due to covid, which is really rough so she was really excited to perform.

Lastly, I’d like to mention an exhibition coming up at the Beinart Gallery in Melbourne Annie Montgomerie: Fitting In It’s amazing and I encourage you to click through and check out the portrait of her socially awkward creations gathered together as diverse community. I love them, and am feeling very tempted to jump on a plane to check them out.

Well, on that note, I’m heading to bed.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Australian Winter Wanderlust.

Today, I unwittingly marked the Winter Solstice with a drive, which could at a serious stretch be described as a “trip to the country”.

I hadn’t ventured far, when I came across a stand of stunning Autumn trees (which I must admit I’ve stopped to photograph before many moons ago in that haze now simply referred to as “before covid”.) Of course, I immediately pulled over and instantly regretted not packing my SLR. However, I had my phone. Now, what seems to suffice for mere mortals, had to be good enough for me.

A crunchy carpet of Autumn leaves.

By the way, this little drive of mine was all in aid of Miss getting her eyelash extensions done. Well, at least that’s what propelled me off the lounge driving 20 minutes up the hill to Kariong. The whole procedure usually takes about an hour. While she’s there, I usually walk around the Mt Penang Parklands. However, I was only there two weeks ago, and today I was seemingly swept up in a gust of wanderlust and I decided to venture further afield to Somersby, where I might find a nursery or some Autumn trees. Whatever else I ended up doing on this expedition, I was mindful that I needed to go for a walk and get some exercise. My back has been a rusty gate of late and my step counter has been swearing at me. So I really needed to get those steps up and my heart rate moving!

Once again, I was reminded how easy it is to live in our little bubbles and forget what’s just around the corner, or even only slightly further afield. There I was driving along Wiseman’s Ferry Road when I spot a familiar row of Autumn trees resplendent in their crimson and golden splendour glowing in the muted sun. They were absolutely magnificent, especially for me. We live right near the beach and there aren’t that many deciduous trees around here. Our native Australian trees are evergreen, and as much as I often feel these trees are out of place here, I adore them.

Meanwhile, admiring and photographing these gorgeous beauties has taken me down yet another research rabbit warren…trying to identify the leaves. However, I guess I ought to be thankful. In the course of my quest, I stumbled across a post by another beleaguered tree hugger who was trying to identify trees with only their barren skeletons and the texture of their bark to go on. So, it seems I’m decidedly better off, and should be feeling grateful instead.

Well, I am grateful. Truly, I am.

I’m grateful that I had the time to drive out to the trees, park beside the road and stop. I’m grateful that someone had the foresight umpteen years ago to plant those trees, and for whoever owns them now to do whatever they’re doing to nurture and maintain them, while putting up with voyeurs like myself pulling up and disturbing their patch of soil under the sun. I don’t know whether they have to do a lot of raking. However, looking at the number of trees, the volume of leaves they’re losing is staggering which makes me grateful I get all the joys and none of the responsibilities.

The cows were an added bonus and helped authenticate the country experience.

So I guess this brings me back to waiting for Miss, and whether I’m cranky and resent the time I’m waiting around and could be getting on with so, so many things. Or, do I actually appreciate the breathing space and the opportunity to get out of my little neck of the woods and stretch my legs and my photographic-eye a little further afield? It is a choice, and I’ve even surprised myself. I don’t complain. I always find something mind-blowingly wonderful.

What are the seasons up to in your neck of the woods? What have you been exploring? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I managed to clock up 2,197 steps. Not a personal best but the brutally honest stepcounter doesn’t mess around and told me : “You took 1,699 more steps yesterday than the day before”. Well, at least it’s an improvement!

Weekend Coffee Share – 19th June, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How have you been? I missed last week. I was flat out and before I knew it, it was Monday afternoon. So, here I am on Sunday afternoon trying to get ahead of myself this week. By the way, I can offer you some home baked Chocolate & Pecan Cookies, which are pretty scrumptious along with a cup of tea, coffee or even something random if you like. We’ll look after you here. However, I should warn you that we have three dogs and they make things rather lively for unsuspecting visitors.

Before I go any further, I would like to invite you to check out a conference held in Sydney for Young People called Standing Tall. They had a day of speakers and the day was livestreamed and available online for three months. I watched in myself and really found myself changed at the end of the day and having faith that I can actually make my dreams happen. Wrote a post which includes links to other motivational videos posted by the speakers. I was stunned at the amount of really good quality talks available free online. While the program is geared towards young people, it’s suitable for all ages. It’s not often I say this, but I challenge you to check it out here via my post: Learning to Dream Again After Standing Tall.

It’s Winter here. However, the weather has been glorious lately albeit a little chilly at times. Last weekend, Geoff and I were finally able to visit my parents in Sydney after a 12 month break due to covid lockdowns and ongoing cautious isolation. My parents have a glorious, well-established cottage garden. The camellias are flowering and they have these massive camellia reticulatas whose flowers are as big as saucers and even stunning when they’ve fallen from the tree into the groundcover down below. https://www.camelliagrove.com.au/

We also went whale watching last weekend, which was more about water watching instead. We might have seen the odd flicker in the water, but that was it. However, as you’ve no doubt heard before, it’s more about the journey than the destination. I was proud of myself for getting up the hill and onto the headland, especially as the track was pretty rugged with plenty of rounded rocks just waiting to trip me up. Unfortunately, I haven’t been walking too much over the last couple of days and need to catch up. Apparently, I’ve only taken 110 steps today. That isn’t entirely true. I’ve been sorting things out at home and have physically exerted myself but didn’t have my phone on me.

Lately, I’ve stepped up more with my writing and have entered two competitions. There was a 500 word piece for a Furious Fiction competition run by the Australian Writers’ Centre, and I also entered a 250 word competition out in Mudgee in Western NSW which had to be based on a photo and you have include the photo. Note that I said “include” and not “attach”. They wanted everything hard copy and there will be an exhibition. I only found out about the competition the night before so I had to work pretty hard turning all that around and getting it in the post in time, and am rather chuffed that I pulled it off. I now have a list of upcoming competitions and am putting myself out there. Of course, everyone wants to win, but entering in itself is a win of sorts and far better to throw your hat in the ring and lose, than not having a go.

Collapsing uer the weight of my new book haul with Zac the dog on my lap. I think he was sitting beside the books and you can see his black ear sticking up.

Well, we’ve been beavering away on the house, and it’s starting to pay off. We have way too much stuff, and we are trying to downsize but temptation keeps crossing my path. Yesterday, I just happened to find myself at another second-hand book sale. This time I didn’t count my haul, but it must be close to 50. That might sound insane, but when you consider I paid $25.00 for them, it makes a lot of sense. The only issue is how am I going to read them all? Anyway, I touched on all of this is my previous post for What’s On My Bookshelf? for June.

How has your week been? I hope it’s gone well.

Anyway, this has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Carpe Diem – Friday Fictioneers: 8th June, 2022

Jane wasn’t one to complain. However, this new-fangled motivational seminar was the last straw. She only attended under duress.

“We’re librarians. We don’t need all that motivational mumbo-jumbo?” She grumbled over morning tea. “What about all the potholes? It’s roadworks who need a rocket up the arse.”

“Must be the new mayor,” Daphne groaned. “He’s so positive, he’s painful. Doesn’t he realize we librarians prefer our adventures in books, NOT in real life?!”

Not anymore. Jane resigned. Booked a one-way ticket to Bali. She was last seen kayaking off a waterfall, and wasn’t alone.

She was finally living her dreams.

………

100 words PHOTO PROMPT © David Stewart

When I showed my husband this week’s prompt, he showed me photos of dare-devils kayaking off waterfalls. I must say them very impressive, reckless and also potentially stupid. Of course, I could ever do anything like that, only write about it. However, today I attended an motivational seminar via livestream called Standing Tall. It’s actually for teenagers. However, I wanted to see what it was about. I’d signed my kids up for it, and also thought I might benefit myself. After all, you’re never too old to learn. The livestream will be available for the next three months and I highly recommend you check it out. Here’s the link: https://www.standtallevent.com/online

It’s a few years ago now…kayaking with Bilbo and Lady at Palm Beach.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields at https://rochellewisoff.com/ We’d love you to join us!

Best wishes,

Rowena