After a rather lengthy absence, I’m back with some doors I photographed at a local Tiny Homes Expo last weekend. If you’re interested in checking out the bigger picture, I’ve written a more comprehensive post: HERE.
Although I’ve been on numerous doorscursions in my time, these door captures are incidental as I was more concerned about maximising space in tiny homes and clever multi-purpose design ideas. There wasn’t anything I hadn’t seen before in that department and certainly no magic wand for accommodating a life time of book hoarding and a rather extensive tea cup collection. However, they were incredibly stylish and I must admit my mood plummeted when I arrived home. There’s not one part of our house that doesn’t require extensive work of some kind. However, the expo was also inspirational and by chipping away I won’t be able to turn this place into my dream home, but at least I’ll be content. (BTW the possibility of hosting Christmas here is also firing me into action.)
Although we weren’t focusing on doors, there was one door which really stood out and that was manufactured by Golden Domes. I don’t think I was actually on display at the expo but people were raving about their “Hobbit Door” and the photos come from their website. That would be so cool having that as your front door, don’t you think?!!
Although I’m here to talk about doors, I have a little confession to make. Geoff and I actually bought a new bed with all the bells and whistles and it is becoming our luxurious oasis. What with massage features and being able move your head and feet up and down electronically, it’s bliss. However, there is a pitfall for the perfectionistically pedantic and that is trying to get your bed in the absolutely perfect spot. You could keep moving those buttons up and down searching for nirvana for eternity and never be satisfied if you weren’t careful. That’s why I’m glad I’m a near-enough is good enough sort. Perfection is a curse.
Speaking of bed, I’d better head off. I hope you’re all going well.
Thursday Doors is hosted by Dan Antion over at No Facilities. Please come over and join us. You’ll be surprised what you can learn and how much pleasure you can experience simply by checking out a few doors.
My apologies for a bit of an absence. Let’s just say that time runs away from me and I’m staggering along breathless in its wake.
How are you all and what’s been going on in your neck of the woods?
Well, it’s still Spring here on the Australian East Coast. While there’s the odd roasting, much of the time it’s been unseasonably cool, and we’ve had a bit of rain. I haven’t braved a swim at the beach yet, but did get down for a delightful walk last week on a perfect sunny day and felt so much better for it.
Meanwhile, we’ve had quite a bit on.
Firstly, last Saturday a close friend of ours got married. I also had my 35th school reunion at same afternoon. So I splurged on a new dress, some strappy wedge heels and an overnight bag to stay with my friend, Glenda. Couldn’t believe that Mum was actually going to be staying with a friend for a sleepover. How could that be? Had I escaped into the realm of miracles? Of course, it’s not just responsibilities on the home front which have kept me grounded, but more likely covid and the dreaded lockdowns. So, it felt particularly good to get out there in my glad rags, see my friends married and catch up with the girls at the reunion.
Secondly, Miss Ballerina is back en pointe after snapping a ligament in her ankle a few months ago which had her hanging up her dance shoes for about six weeks (or at least the right one) and having weekly physio appointments. Before all that transpired, she’d done her Grade 8 ballet exam and received a High Distinction. Last Friday, she finally did her Intermediate Foundation exam after being stuck in suspended animation for the last three years, while she was also doing Advanced. Clearly, she’s been busy! The end of year concert is coming up now, along with the inevitable farewells which are getting harder and harder as each year goes by and they’re all getting older and leaving school. Two close friends will be leaving at the end of this year and moving away. Miss has one year left at school and the local dance school and then she’ll be fleeing the coop as well and heading goodness knows where.
Thirdly, Geoff and I headed off to the Tiny Homes Expo at Tuggerah yesterday and had a very interesting day where our minds were opened up to a host of incredible possibilities. However, rather than buying a tiny home, we ended up buying a new bed with all the bells and whistles and I can’t wait for it to arrive. If you’d like to read more about Tiny Homes, here’s a link to my post: Explorations Into Tiny Homeland on Australia’s East Coast.
Well, that’s all from me for now and I look forward to hearing what you’ve been up to.
“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!
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.
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.
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!”
Absence is the sign of a great, well-enjoyed holiday – absolutely no posts until well after you’ve arrived home. That’s because you’re not only seizing every single moment you’re away. You’re also so exhausted from your holiday, that you also need to recover.
That describes our trip to Bathurst well.
On the 18th August (just over a week ago now), Geoff and I left on a four day escape to Bathurst without the kids. After two years of intermittent covid lockdowns and isolations along with just over 18 years of parenting, this represented a tremendous achievement. Indeed, it could well be argued that it would be easier to climb Mt Everest, except you’d probably accuse me of hyperbole or that old favourite….being a drama queen! Anyway, the only reason we could get away now was because Miss was off to the Gold Coast for four days competing in Nationals for cheerleading.
However, just like Cinderella, we had restrictions in place. Firstly, we had to drop her off at the station at the unholy hour of 5.30am necessitating a 4.30am wake up for this die hard night owl. Then, we had to pick her up from the local train station at 4.00 pm Sunday afternoon. Of course, we didn’t want our beloved red Alfa 959 to get turned into a pumpkin if we ran late. If you’re the parent of a teenager or if you’ve ever been, you’ll know the teenager should not be upset, inconvenienced or forgotten. Being turned into a pumpkin could be an optimistic outcome!
Well, you might ask why we would go to Bathurst when we could almost go anywhere on the planet for our special extended weekend away. Well, given the time restraints, not quite anywhere but there was still quite a smorgasbord of choice available. Firstly, since we live at the beach, we wanted to go to the country to experience something different. We are both pretty interested in history and photography and we thought we’d check out old mining towns in the area as well as the race track at Mt Panorama.
Bathurst was traditionally owned by the Wiradjuri People, or “the people of the three rivers”, being the Wambuul (Macquarie), Kalari (Lachlan) and the Murrumbidjeri (Murrumbidgee). Meanwhile, the city of Bathurst was founded in 1815, and is the oldest settlement west of the Great Dividing Range. It is located on the Macquarie River about 200 kms West-Northwest of Sydney. Following the discovery of the first payable gold at nearby Ophir, on 12 February 1851; all roads led to Bathurst. Indeed, on the 17th May, 1851 the Bathurst Free Press reported: “A complete mental madness appears to have seized almost every member of the community. There has been a universal rush to the diggings.” The goldrush has left it’s imprint on Bathurst and the surrounding regions architecturally, which was one of the reasons we were heading up there- photography! Bathurst’s other great claim to fame is the Bathurst 1000 Supercars Race, which goes around the legendary Mt Panorama Circuit. Car racing is more Geoff’s thing, but I was also looking forward to driving round the track for the first time.
So, let’s get cracking…
Day One- Umina Beach to Bathurst.
After dropping MIss off, we headed to Bathurst via the Bell’s Line Road, which is an alternate route across the Blue Mountains to the more conventional Great Western Highway via Katoomba. When asked why we went this way, Geoff tells me “it is a much more fun road with better scenery and you’re not stuck in traffic all the way. Why would you want to be stuck in traffic all the way?” Makes sense to me.
Now, I’m going to pick up our journey from Bell’s Line Road, which took us through the Blue Mountains National Park. In 2019, four horrific bushfires swept through the region decimating bushland on an unimaginable scale. We drove through vast expanses of burned out vegetation at times stretching as far as the eye could see. It’s starting to regrow, but the loss was catastrophic. You can get an impression of the scale of these fires on the map here. Yet, we also stopped to enjoy spectacular views of soaring cliffs, and also saw a few wildflowers.
We arrived in Bilpin around 8.00am and were delighted to find the Grumpy Baker. We shared one of their epic sausage rolls, while I also indulged in the most luxuriously delicious cinnamon scroll I’ve ever had, and Geoff ordered an apple turnover. With eyes much bigger than our stomach’s, we also ordered a cheese stick for in the car. I almost forgot to mention my coffee. I usually don’t drink coffee due to my heartburn. However, feeling like a veritable zombie after around 4 hours sleep, it was a must, and I couldn’t believe the difference it made. I could well understand how coffee keeps the masses alive.
Before we left Bilpin, I had a rather “interesting” experience. The public toilets were a short drive down the road. Although this should have been a very straightforward experience, I actually got locked in the toilet and couldn’t get out. The lock was a bit complicated and I’m turning it this way and that and pushing and then Geoff realized I was stuck and started pushing from the outside without any luck while I kept fiddling with the lock. By this stage, a mixture of dread, panic and potential embarrassment was setting in as I was starting to think we would be needing to call the police to let me out. OMG!!! That happened to a friend at a restaurant once and he was just lucky he’d taken his mobile phone with him and called us at the table to let him out. You could just imagine the laughter. We were such a sympathetic bunch. So, while you might say this was karma 30 years later, I didn’t see it that way. Anyway, I looked up and saw a second rather serious looking lock and hey presto, I was out. The toilets had just been cleaned and it looks like they hadn’t latched back the lock. Phew!
We arrived in Bathurst around 10.00am (can you believe we’d travelled 248 kilometres before 10.00am? I doubt it!!). Our first stop was the Visitors’ Centre where we came across one of three restored Cobb and Co. coaches in existence. Now, we really knew we were travelling back in time. We left with a swag of tourist brochures, heading for the town centre.
Almost…Geoff being Geoff, headed straight for Mt Panorama and the Bathurst 1000 track before we’d had much of a look around town. It was interesting, even a bit exhilarating, to drive round the actual track in person after watching the race on TV. It certainly gave me a much better appreciation of what the drivers go through at speeds of up to 300 kph, even though we had to stick to the speed limit of 60 KPH which dropped down to 40KPH in a few treacherous spots. I was too tired to even think about having a go myself.
We headed back into town. After doing a quick drive around the streets where I was literally salivating over all the historic architecture, we parked at Machattie Park on William and Keppel Streets and set out on foot armed with our cameras. Machattie Park is a wonderland all by itself. Moreover, it was surrounded by an incredible array of striking historic buildings. To be honest, I didn’t know quite where to point my camera, and was very grateful for digital technology where I could snap away to my heart’s content.
After sunset, we made it to our hotel, Rydges at Mt Panoroma, which is located right on the race track on Conrod Straight. Of course, it would be incredible on race day, but entirely out of our league. We have no idea how much it would cost, but it’s booked out for the next three years. When Geoff, Mister and their crew went to Bathurst, they were slumming it in tents, although being out in the paddocks had a culture all of its own.
We didn’t see much beyond sunset and crashed for the night. The early morning start had well and truly caught up with us.
Day Two – Carcoar and Milthorpe
The second day of our trip was a reminder that there’s only 24 hours in a day and brings to mind that old question about whether life is about the journey or the destination.
It began with breakfast at Nicky’s Cafe in Bathurst after we slept through breakfast at the hotel. I wandered across the road dazzled by architecture and a laser display and then wandered down an alleyway being lead by my camera and not by the clock. We were heading for Carcoar to see an old school friend of mine and Geoff mentioned getting there before she closed but I had all day. This steady stop-start meandering continued all the way to Carcoar, and you guessed it, she was closed by the time we got there, and she’d had to shoot off to Orange. Another note to self about prioritising.
We scooted around Carcoar which was absolutely stunning. We drove back to Bathurst via Millthorpe.
Day Three- Driving Around the Bathurst Track, Sofala and Hill End
By day three, we were well and truly into holiday mode, which in our case, had nothing to do with relaxing and was all about trying to squeeze as much as we could into one day.
Before we headed off to Sofala, yours truly finally had the chance to drive around the racetrack at Mt Panorama in our Alfa 159. While neither a Ford nor a Holden, Alfas have also had their day out at Bathurst. I was really proud of myself for “conquering the mountain” because I’ve generally been quite an anxious driver and I wasn’t nervous at all despite some very sharp bends. I’d gone round the track again with Geoff taking note of the trouble spots and thought it doesn’t matter if I take those serious bends like a snail, as long as I made to the end. After all, I wasn’t trying to be Peter Brock, the undisputed King of the Mountain! Hurray! I did it!!
After going round Bathurst i.e. the track, we were off to the former gold mining town of Sofala, followed by Hill End. Artist Russell Drysdale immortalised Sofala with his award-winning landscape (pictured above). I have a feeling my parents had a print of Sofala at home growing up as it feels very familiar. Another artist, Donald Friend, was with Drysdale at the time and did his own version which isn’t as well known. For some time, I’ve been wanting to get out to Sofala and and photograph my own version. I was most annoyed that a telegraph pole was put right in the way along with all the parked cars, but otherwise the scene looked pretty much the same. However, being Winter it didn’t have the omnipresent sense of blazing heat of Drysdale’s work.
Next stop Hill End. By now, we were hungry and I remembered reading about Hill End Pies at the Hill End Estate found at 3664 Hill End Road, Hill End. Thanks to plumber turned pastry chef, Steve Rattray, we were in for a treat, especially with the Danish pastries we had for dessert. Oh golly! I’d get in the car and go there now if it weren’t for the 319 kms drive!
Day Four – Abercrombie House, Bathurst.
Unfortunately, by the time we reached Day Four, we were living on borrowed time and needed to be back home by 4.00pm to pick up miss from the station. Their team came a very close second at Nationals and we were looking forward to seeing her, while also not real thrilled about going back on the leash and the time pressures involved. Yet, in our usual carpe diem style, we headed out to historic Abercrombie House. We couldn’t leave Bathurst without experiencing this magical castle.
Built in the 1870s by Bathurst pioneers the Stewart family, Rex and Mary Morgan bought the house in 1969 it’s been the home of the Morgan family since then. They’ve fully restored the house, outbuildings and grounds and share it with the community. As it turns out, Rex Morgan also founded a successful private school on Sydney’s Northern Beaches, Pittwater House. My best friend used to go to Pittwater House and they used to stay in dormitories at Abercrombie House for a week, which included dinner at the main house one night. It sounds like quite the experience, especially with plenty of ghost stories thrown in.
While we were wandering through the gardens at Abercrombie House, a message came through from Miss saying they were arriving back at the station early. Being 4.5 hours drive away, we weren’t going to make it back in time, and we could relax a little. My friend was driving her home. Returning home after only four days away felt rather brutal. However, we’d had a wonderful time and now needed a rest.
Have you ever been to Bathurst? If so, I’d love to hear from you.
Today, we’re going on a quick fly-by tour of Geelong, which is the second largest city in Victoria. It’s a major port located on Corio Bay, which is an an extension of Port Phillip Bay. I’ve posted two maps down below to help you get your bearings. The first map gives you the bigger picture of where Geelong is located in regard to Australia, and the second map zooms into Port Phillip Bay, and you can see Melbourne up the top on the Yarra River, which flows into Port Phillip, and Geelong on the left.
After that brief geography lesson, I should explain that our visit to Geelong is really riding on Geoff’s shoulders. Geoff was down in Geelong for the weekend depositing our son (the Infamous Mister) onto the Young Endeavour which was sailing out of Geelong on Monday, and arriving in Sydney on Wednesday 30th March nine days later. They spent two nights in Geelong before Mr sailed out and Geoff drove home yesterday (Wednesday) after he spent Tuesday stalking the ship around Port Melbourne.
Geoff quite liked Geelong, and pointed out that much of the historic architecture is still around and hasn’t been bulldozed to make way for concrete bunkers. So, you can thank him for most of these photos, although after looking at all the photos and hearing his stories, I decided to pop down there myself via Google Earth, and join the dots for myself. I’m glad I did, because it’s a really good thing to walk around the streets to get to know a place, and not just jump from spot to spot.
I have to admit I was quite grateful, because Geoff especially photographed the architecture around Geelong to give me a feel of the place, and I guess to also help me feel like I was still a part of it. I was planning to be there and was really looking forward to it, but our daughter had a dance audition here, and so it evolved into a father-and-son road trip in the end and I watched the boarding and departure via FaceTime, which actually wasn’t too bad. I really felt a part of it.
Geoff also made a particular effort to photograph doors around Geelong for me (and of course my other door affectionadoes at Thursday Doors). This means that he’s become a convert, which is rather good. Much better than him thinking we’re a bunch of nutters (even if it might be true!!)
Anyway, here’s a selection of doors Geoff spotted around Geelong:
Well, I need to call it a day. However, I will be back tomorrow to share some fascinating painted bollards which can be found around Geelong. I felt they deserved a post of their own.
“Idiot! You absolute idiot! Most people climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa to appreciate its exquisite, historic architectural beauty and mind-blowing views.
Instead, you go there to deal with all your phobias at once…claustrophobia, acrophobia, agoraphobia, and heaven help you if you come across a spider, because your arachnophobia will be the death of you.
However, the book said you could do anything. Carpe diem seize the day. Keep breathing. Yet, you know you’re going to die in that tower, and nothing can save you.
“How many stairs to the top?”
Once again, living with myself was my toughest battle.
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields https://rochellewisoff.com/ Every week, we write 100 words or less to a photo prompt and the results always astound me. I’ve found it incredibly worthwhile.
I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to respond to this week’s prompt. In some ways, being confronted by such a well-known public landmark made it harder.
Lately, I have been going on little trips via Google Earth. It was been absolutely mind-blowing particularly as I’m still largely in lockdown avoiding covid for medical reasons. So, I decided to head to Pisa, and have a look around the tower. Well, despite clicking on the tower itself, I didn’t land there, and spent quite a time poking around all sort of alleyways and still not finding what I’d assumed would be unmissable. I went back to my search and really tried to be more specific, and this time when I came to, I was standing right in front of the tower and tilting my head right back to get a look at the top. Wow! I turned around and there was an another possibly more exquisite site – the Cattedrale di Pisa. How could one place be blessed with such incredible architecture on one spot? I guess it helps being in Italy!
I had a bit of a wander around Google, and came across a video of climbing up the tower. Aha! Now, I had my angle. However, where I started out was a bit different to where I ended up, and that was with those famous words of “The Little Engine That Could”: “I think I can! I think I can” as it tried to climb of the mountain. I thought of trying to climb up all those stairs with my dodgy lungs with 50% capacity and I was locked in this battle between “I think I can” and “No I can’t!!” That got left out as well, and as often happens, the story took on a life of it’s own.
“Often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us. “
Welcome to Another Thursday Doors!
This week we’re heading off to Cloyne in County Cork, Ireland for an exciting doorscursion. While I know checking out doors isn’t everybody’s cup of tea, even before I knew Thursday Doors was a thing, I’d photograph an interesting door, especially since photography has gone digital and it’s nowhere near as expensive. We have the luxury of being able to explore every nook and cranny around us through the lens without sending ourselves broke.
Although I live in Sydney, Australia, I’ve been researching my Irish roots and that’s what took me to Cloye near Midleton in County Clare last week. I was researching my 4 x Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan, who was an inmate of Midleton Workhouse during the Great Hunger (Irish Famine) and jumped on Google Earth to get a feel for her world.
While these trips of mine via Google Earth might seem rather eccentric, they’ve actually been surprisingly beneficial. While it’s nowhere near as good to being there in person, I’ve been able to pair it up with YouTube and have enjoyed traditional Irish music in a few pubs in Carrigaholt, Clare and discovered an inspiring new author in Michael Harding thanks to Midleton Bookshop. That’s what travel does. It opens doors, but unfortunately travel has been seriously curtailed for so many of us over the last two years.
Who knows what the future is going to bring. Today, Russia invaded Ukraine, and I am praying for a miracle in this region, independence for Ukraine and long term peace.
Well, I know I’m really stretching the truth a very long way, by even suggesting that our dearly beloved Border Collie x Kelpie, Isaac Newton (mostly known as Zac) has been over to Ireland this week, and more specifically to to the quaint little village of Carrigaholt in West Clare. If ever there was fake news, this had to be it. However, I was checking out Carrigaholt myself via Google Earth and whizzing along all sorts of country roads and photographing derelict old farm houses, when Zac stood right next to the screen and got beamed up into the story.
I know that travelling from Sydney to Carrigaholt might sound rather random, and in my usual style, it sort of is. However, my Great Great Grandfather, Edward Quealey, was born in nearby Lisheenfurroor, and it was late the other night and I wandered off to check it out and ended up in Carrigaholt. Indeed, I feel like it was all meant to be.
Meanwhile, I’m hoping some doors open up soon for me to physically get to Ireland. Australia’s had our borders closed for almost two years, and we’ve had young kids and health issues to consider, but now more than ever I just want to get on a plane after doing all this exploring.
Have you ever been to Ireland? Where did you go? How was it? I’m like a sponge and could just soak Ireland up, although it could be a bit cold for me at the moment. That said, it’s been quite hot here over the last couple of days. I am very grateful for the air-conditioning.
You can call me “bonkers”, “insane”, “weird” for heading off on another Virtual Adventure via Google Earth, but I don’t care. I’m “creative”. Moreover, after making a concerted effort to change and overhaul myself on the weekend, I’ve actually concluded that more people should embrace their dormant creativity, instead of supressing it beneath a veneer of glorified efficiency. That’s right. Let it all hang out.
There I was trying to get “alles ist in Ordnung” (everything is in order) when I cut my finger and found myself shut in a treatment room for three hours at the hospital. Of course, this was the very embodiment of Ordnung what with perfect white walls, no pictures, and not even a piece of paper, let alone a desk full of paperwork all out of place. Humph. That was a stark warning to be careful what you wish for!
Anyway, let’s just say I needed to unwind after the trip to the hospital, and after enjoying my recent virtual explorations of Cork City, I set out again. This time I decided to visit Lisheenfurroor near Carrigaholt in West Clare, where my Great Great Grandfather, Edward Quealy (1843-1917) was born.
It was a totally random idea, and I had no idea what to expect. I never do. Google Earth just drops you off somewhere in your intended destination like a body thrown out of a speeding gangstermobile. Once you’ve come to your senses, you need to get your bearings, work out what’s what, and which way to turn. It turned out there was a lot of green grass in Lisheenfurroor, and so I kept walking, walking, walking tracking along the edge of some body of water until I stumbled across the enchanting village of Carrigaholt, and I was smitten.
Stumbling across Carrigaholt was particularly exciting. While it’s always interesting to finally see something familiar in person for the first time, it’s quite something else to follow where the wind and the road take you, and stumble across somewhere entirely unknown (at least to yourself!) and make a FIND!!! Indeed, I wish I could dig out my old backpack, and head straight over there now, although I might take our Summer with me. While it’s a hot and sunny 28°C here and perfect beach weather, it’s a bitterly cold 8°C in Carrigaholt today. That’s enough to put your average Aussie into immediate shock and hibernation.
As I said, I first came to Carrigaholt via Doonaha travelling mostly through farmland dotted with a few houses. My eyes lit up when I spotted a village ahead, and what turns out to be Carrigaholt Bay on my left. A blue fishing boat is moored there, and I have no idea whether it was just parked there for that brief moment in time, or whether it’s a more permanent fixture. However, for me it’s just as much a part of Carriagaholt as Keane’s across the road.
I cross over the Moyarta River (which flows into the estuary of the famed River Shannon) here via a quaint stone bridge with hanging baskets of flowers (such a lovely touch!). Although I was traveling via Google Earth and depending on someone’s questionable photographic skills, they did manage to capture the reflection of the sky on the river, and I felt a strange sense of satisfaction capturing it myself (even if photographing a place via Google Earth is a bit desperate!!).
Coming to the intersection, briefly take a turn to your left to fully appreciate the local post office, which looks like it’s straight out of a fairy story to me with an assortment of brightly-coloured chairs out the front. It puts our local post office to shame, and I can’t help wondering if Postman Pat works there…
By the way, I’ve just spotted something which yours truly with no sense of direction would appreciate in one sense, but totally struggle to make sense of…a map.
Then, across in the distance, is Carrigahalt Castle. I am told: “This five storey tower house was built in about 1480 by the MacMahons, the chiefs of West Corkavaskin on the Loop Head peninsula. The castle, which offers commanding views of the Shannon Estuary, has quite a turbulent history. It was occupied by Teige Caech “the short sighted” McMahon in September 1588 when seven ships from the Spanish Armada anchored in the estuary. Even though the MacMahons offered no aid to the Spanish the tower house was unsuccessfully besieged by the Sir Conyers Clifford, the Governor of Connacht. The following year the castle was captured by the Earl of Thomond, Donagh O’Brien.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like I can get any closer via Google maps,, although photos abound on the Internet. This is as good as it gets, and going to the castle isn’t part of my journey.
Despite missing out on the castle, I’m already charmed by this place. It’s the first Irish village I have ever seen, and it doesn’t really matter that my first impressions aren’t in person. Our Australian borders have been closed for almost two years and as a parent with kids and health and budget restraints, getting there in person hasn’t been a possibility anyway. So, I am totally excited to be doing this, and I’m imagining all these people behind closed doors with accents like my favourite Irish actor James Nesbitt (even though as I just found out he’s from Northern Ireland and has a different accent entirely).
In this brief time, my heart is already fluttering. I can barely contain my excitement as I come across a heartwarming and unique character village. I love a bit of colour, and Max Bites with its canary yellow walls and red doors was like a magnet. I believe it sells takeaway food, and that’s where the downside of travelling via Google maps truly sets in. I’m currently nibbling on an Arnott’s Scotch Finger Biscuit with a cup of decaf tea, while the dog has migrated from my lap to sit on my husband’s feet.
A few doors down and a rustic stone wall leads to a captivating and intriguing pale yellow cottage with mauve doors with some kind of decorative wreath. Even more intriguing, mysterious Gaelic words adorn the walls, and I’m convinced fairies must be living inside. In a way it seems a shame to resort to an online Gaelic to English dictionary to demystify their cryptic code. However, my insatiable curiosity and nosiness proves too much. I have to know.
Although it’s tempting to cross the road, please hold your horses and bear with me just a bit longer. You won’t be disappointed. There’s another beautiful cottage, which I’ve simply called “Heart Cottage” where the door and window shutters have been painted red, with a white heart. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this could be our centre of government?! A place where love rules the world? It all seems so simple to me. So, why is there so much hate, disagreement and exclusion? Humph! Instead of going green, it seems I’ve put on my rose-coloured glasses since arriving in Carrigaholt, and I’m not taking them off any time soon. I’m living the dream.
Okay, so now we’re going to cross the road, and doing a bit of a U-turn. Our first stop is Carmody’s Bar. Their FB page says: “Carmody’s Bar is a family run bar that has been in the family for well over 150 years, (which means it was here when my Edward Quealey left about 1881). We are known for regular traditional Irish music sessions and sing songs. Great Guinness, friendly customers and a great welcome for everyone.” Here’s a taste of what we’re missing out on:
Before I head off, here’s a few more pics around Carrigaholt before I head off:
So, now I’m pining for Irish music and a bowl full of freshly cooked mussels and some way of beaming myself up to Carrigaholt. I am going to post this on their Facebook page and hope to connect. So, might I encourage you to come back to see how the comments evolve.
Meanwhile, there’s so much to love back here at home. I enjoyed a lovely walk along the beach and chatting with my friend who is the local lifeguard. Our daughters met when they were babies at playgroup and have been best friends through high school together.
Things could be worse!
If you live in or near Carrigaholt, I would love to hear from you or from anyone who has been there on their travels.
“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). “