Tag Archives: Aussie

Merry Christmas – Weekend Coffee Share.

This is just a brief message to wish you and yours a Merry and Blessed Christmas and a Happy, healthy and Wonder-filled New Year.

As you may be aware, I live in Sydney, Australia where it’s looking like we’ll be having a scorchingly hot Christmas and Boxing Day. We’re heading out to Church tonight for Christmas Eve and will be heading to my aunt’s my parents and extended family for Christmas Day. We’ll be catching up with Geoff’s sister from Boxing Day.

I’ve written a few Christmas posts in the last week which may interest you:

Silent Night

A Stinking Hot Christmas (written 2015 for Solveig Warner’s Advent Calendar)

A Sydney Christmas

Christmas Door – David Jones

St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney

 

We would like to wish you and yours a Merry and Blessed Christmas. Happy Holidays isn’t a phrase we use here in Australia, but I understand it’s used a lot in USA and has its place.

Yet, at the same time, we understand that this time of year is very difficult for many for a variety of reasons and we would also like to acknowledge that. We hear you and I put my hand on your heart and stand alongside you. It’s not easy and while I’ve experienced the most amazing miracles myself, they haven’t come about like clockwork. I haven’t clicked my fingers and hey presto, pulled a rabbit out of my hat. I’ve also found there’s a lot I can do to both improve my lot and also completely shoot myself in the foot and make things worse.

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”

-TS Eliot

Well, that’s a rather large dose of philosophy and reflection for what’s supposed to be a coffee share. However, so much is shared over a cup of tea or coffee in the real world. Why shouldn’t that be a part of our virtual coffees?

“Way too much coffee. But if it weren’t for the coffee, I’d have no identifiable personality whatsoever.”

-David Letterman

Best wishes,

Rowena

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

PS The photo of me as the elf was taken in the Cancer Centre at Royal North Shore Hospital. I popped down there to pick up some resources for a friend. However, 6 years ago I had a round of chemo (cyclophosphamide) to treat my auto-immune disease, which had started attacking my lungs. Treatment began the week before Christmas with my second dose on Boxing Day, when there was plenty of parking for a change. The treatment worked and I’ve been in remission for 6 years. So, I have much to be thankful for and it’s a reminder not to take the seemingly hum drum and every day for granted.

Palm Beach Perspectives, Sydney, Australia.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

-Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor (161-180 CE)

Known as Summer Bay to lovers of the TV Drama series Home & Away and “Palmy” to those in the know, generation after generation have made the long drive up to Palm Beach often returning with sand-encrusted butts, sunburn and shocking tempers in a stinking hot car full of flies. Of course, that’s turning the clock back to the inimitable 70s when going to Palm Beach for us, meant piling into the family’s beloved HG Holden which had painfully hot upholstery and no air-conditioning. Ouch!

Palm Beach is located 41 kilometres North of Sydney’s CBD. However, I can assure you that if you’re catching the legendary L90 bus, welcome to eternity. Indeed, the journey takes around 2 hours. If you were traveling in Europe, you could well have traversed a few countries in that time. Moreover, bus is the only form of public transport. At least historically speaking, trains have been resisted.

On the other hand, if you are coming from the Central Coast, Palm Beach is only a stone’s throw away. You can catch the Palm Beach Ferry from either Ettalong or Wagstaff, which is an absolutely stunning 30 minute trip. When that gorgeous Australian sun is illuminating the ocean like a magical diamond carpet and the wind isn’t too strong, you’re in absolute paradise. On the other hand, when there’s heavy rain, strong winds, the ferry is heaving up and down through what feels like treacherous surf and you’re about to throw up; you feel like you deserve a bravery award once you reach the other side. Yes, at times like that, you even wonder if you’re about to become a modern version of the Swiss Family Robinson or remake Gilligan’s Island. Melodrama aside, the crew are very adept and the ferry is cancelled during particularly rough weather.

Palm Beach is an absolute kaleidoscope of perspectives, like any place, once you scratch beneath the surface. Obviously, creating that sort of mosaic, isn’t possible here so I’ll stick to the bigger picture, providing more of a broad-sweeping overview which a few “local” insights.

Geographically-speaking, Palm Beach has two quite opposite perspectives: the surf beach and Pittwater. The beach equals waves and swimming while Pittwater is “flat” and better suited for sailing, kayaking and other water sports.

Palm Beach- surf side

Palm Beach- surf side

Starting off with the surf beach, the first thing you’ll probably notice is that the sand is deep gold in colour. The next thing, is the surf. At the Southern end, the waves are relatively gentle and you have “kiddies’ corner”  where families with young kids hang out. There’s also an ocean pool where you can swim laps. The beach then stretches around towards the Northern end with it’s famous surfing breaks and culminates with the Palm Beach Lighthouse, which lies perched on top of the headland like a crown. If you are fit and energetic, you can walk up to the Lighthouse. I haven’t been up there for years and I’ve heard the path has improved but it used to be more of a climb than a walk.

The majority of swimmers are clustered “in between the flags”. The red and yellow flags mark where it’s safest to swim and is patrolled by the Surf Lifesavers. So, if you find yourself getting into difficulty, you can easily be spotted and rescued. I can assure you that as a teenager, my friends and I did consider needing a bit of CPR but never actually implemented these plans. We were all “talk”. That is, except when it came to talking to the lifesavers. These Adonises were in a league all of their own.

In a scene reminiscent of hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top of bread and butter (fairy bread),the crowds pour into Palmy from Christmas through to the Australia Day weekend at the end of January, which signals the return to school and the end of the precious Summer holidays. Then, the masses jostle for a precious rectangle of sand to park their towel on the hot,hot sand under the scorchingly hot Australian sun.

Although people living overseas have asked me about the hole in the ozone over Australia, it doesn’t look like all the sunbakers roasting themselves into early-onset melanoma have heard anything about it. When we were young, we used to to cover ourselves in baby oil or get sprayed on the beach by coconut oil, which was the height of sophistication back in the 70s and 80s. There was no such thing as a “fake tan” back then. Just sunburn, peeling skin, freckles and the odd genetic mutant who could actually pull off a tan.

Many years ago now, I used to hang out on the beach where designer sunnies were de rigeur and it certainly wasn’t the sort of place you’d turn up with hairy legs and arm pits which could fuel a forest fire. You didn’t just practice “the strut” at Palmy either. You had to have that down pat beforehand so Palm Beach could be your catwalk. Even better, if you also had the fingernails to eliminate your competition!

Geoff arriving home from a sail.

Geoff arriving home from a sail.

While the beachfront is renowned for flashing incredible wealth in a subtle, understated way and very much being “a scene”, the Pittwater side of Palm Beach is like it’s alter ego and incredibly down to earth  Understandably, there generally isn’t that fashion element you get over at the surf beach. Getting covered in sand and mud, we save our good clothes for back home or dining out and only wear our glad rags out there. It’s water shoes, wet suits, swimmers, grungy t-shirts and thick smears of sunscreen and broad-brimmed hats.

Although my tour of Palm Beach is rapidly drawing to a close, there are still two places I’d like you to visit.

Here I am enjoying a deep-fried prawn from the Fisherman's Basket.

Here I am enjoying a deep-fried prawn from the Fisherman’s Basket.

Firstly, there’s the infamous Palm Beach fish and chips shop, which has gone by various names over the years. It’s located on the Pittwater side, just across from the ferry wharf. People come from all around Sydney and the Central Coast to feast on these fish and chips, which surely must be among Sydney’s best?!! You can either eat-in or take them across the road and eat them in the park while checking out the sailing.

Secondly, there’s Alf’s Bait Shop in “Summer Bay”. Personally, there’s such an incredible cringe factor and like Neighbours, Home & Away is best exported but the show has been a fabulous ambassador and no doubt sold Australia to thousands of tourists. Palm Beach really does look incredible. That said, they usually present a glamorized, postcard perspective. After all, it does rain in Palm Beach and it isn’t always sun and blue skies!

However, while so far I’ve given you what pretty much reads as the glamour tour of Palm Beach, I can’t help feeling that Palm Beach is a little over-rated, especially given the cost of real estate. Even though it is part of Sydney, Palm Beach is actually very isolated and lacks most of what I would class “essential services”. There are no proper supermarkets and you have a ten minute drive into Avalon, which can extend to 20 in traffic. It is impossible to find a parking spot, which has meant that we’ve gone down for fish and chips and have driven off. I don’t want to knock down paradise and put up a parking lot. However, you do need to eat and get out of the house. That is also made difficult by the very narrow, twisting roads which lack adequate footpaths/ Indeed, in spots being a pedestrian is almost asking to get run over. As I was walking back from the bus stop the other day, I really felt like I needed to breathe in to distance myself from passing traffic.

Consequently, you can feel a little trapped and claustrophobic on the “insular peninsula”…especially when we have stunning beaches back home which are close to the shops, train and bus at such a fraction of the cost of real estate here.

Actually, thinking about Palm Beach’s location, it’s almost like someone was playing pin-the-tail on the donkey and stuck the pin almost off the side of the map. Even though it’s located in Sydney and not in the outback, it does feel strangely isolated both from services and people. So many of the houses are empty.

I am a bit down on Palm Beach at the moment because my Dad has sold the house here and we’re moving on, which is a serious wrench.

So rather than writing home about all the things I love about the place, I am also trying to remind myself of all the other equally beautiful places elsewhere and think about the flip side of the travel experience. For the last few years, we’ve immersed ourselves here but perhaps now it’s time to explore further afield and explore with a broader brush. When it comes to the Pittwater side of Palm Beach,it feels like we’ve explored each and every single hair on its head…especially when I’ve photographed it in such incredibly, minute detail and it feels like I know each single hair on its head, even though we’re still finding new critters.

So, soon I will be seeing our time in Palm Beach from another perspective…the past. I don’t need to leave it behind completely. After all, it’s only a short 30 minute ferry ride away but we planted roots here even if they’re uprooted and not severed completely, it still hurts and I feel a bit lost and disorientated. That said, once school goes back next week and we’re back to the grind at home, it will be a different story.

We’ll be home.

This has been P for Palm Beach Perspectives for the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge. How are you going with the challenge? Thank goodness, it is Sunday tomorrow and we have a break!

xx Rowena

WordPressers Taking Up the Blogging From A-Z April Challenge

If you have been following me lately, you would have noticed that I’m taking part in the Blogging From A-Z April Challenge, which you can find at: http://www.a-zchallenge.com/

Everyday in April, except for Sundays when we get to sleep through, we blog about a different letter of the alphabet.

Many participants have a theme, which is a fantastic approach to the challenge and I’ve been enjoying reading about nautical and travel themes as well as enjoying vicarious travels through the amazing Galapagos Islands and Maine.

As this is the first time I’ve participated in the challenge, I didn’t have a theme prepared but have subsequently decided to write about my favourite things. My posts are deliberately infused with an Australian feel. I am proud to be Australian and for me sharing the uniqueness of where we live and who we are, is such a feature of blogging. We put our shoes out for our readers to step inside and walk around in our skin. See through our eyes perhaps, even be us for a bit. I have also found connections and similarities and perhaps even a repressed inner voice in the blogs I’ve read and I hope that through reading my writing that my readers have that experience as well. I find blogging is very much a dialogue and not a one way street. After all, that is what public forms of writing are about and blogging is much more about interaction and conversation that just telling, informing and being the omnipotent author. We have come out of our ivory towers, left behind our thrones and are now mingling with the people…even if that mostly includes mainly hoards of other writers!

Here I am during the challenge. Take note of the haircut. It had taken me so long to get back to the hairdresser's that my fringe had grown out!!

Here I am during the challenge. Take note of the haircut. It had taken me so long to get back to the hairdresser’s that my fringe had grown out!!

Even though I wasn’t sure quite what I was going to write about for the A-Z Challenge, I decided that it had to have meaning. That I didn’t want to just rattle off a whole heap of meaningless posts just to match the letter of the day and would just end up looking like excerpts from the dictionary…Boring!

So I have more or less decided to write about some of my favourite things and I’m infusing my posts with an Australian flavour. After all, I am Australian to the core and being Down Under, does give us an alternative perspective on things. Indeed, more than just the seasons are a little topsy turvy.

So far, I have written about:

A: The Acorn: a poem about my son growing up: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/01/the-acorn/

B: Byron Bay: Australia’s Alternative Paradise: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/byron-bay-australias-alternative-paradise/

C: Chocolicious Chocolate: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/03/c-is-for-chocolate-chocolicious-chocolate/

D: Dogs of the World Unite: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/dogs-of-the-world-unite/

E: Easter is Growing Up:https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/easter-grows-up/

F: Freaking Out…in progress

Sunseting over Pittwater with the cloudy sky reflected on the dining table.

Sunset over Pittwater with the cloudy sky reflected on the dining table.

Anyway, as much as I am enjoying the A-Z Challenge, I am finding it hard to locate other WordPress bloggers and I would much rather stay within the WordPress community where I can build ongoing connections, rather than hopping all over the place on a series of one-off stopover visits. I guess you could say I’m looking for more meaningful, longer term relationships than a series of one night stands. As I thought other WordPress bloggers might be in the same boat, I’ve compiled a list, a rather short list unfortunately, of the WordPress blogs participating in the A-Z Challenge. Please check them out and give some encouragement. There’s some great writing and I guarantee adventure!

So here is a list of other WordPress Bloggers I’ve come across while doing the challenge. Most of them, I’ve followed beforehand but some are new. I would like to expand this list so please add to it and if I have left you off, just add yourself to the comments and I’ll add you in. Please reblog this so we can encourage each other throughout the challenge and hopefully create something much more substantial and enduring.

Here we go:

Beyond the Flow (Me): An Australian’s ramble about some of my favourite things: http://www.beyondtheflow.com

Byrdword’s Blog: A nautical theme https://byrdwords.wordpress.com/

Sayling Away: travels through Maine: https://saylingaway.wordpress.com/

Ronovan Writes: https://ronovanwrites.wordpress.com/

Elizabeth Hein: Elizabeth is the author of two books and is A-Zing on the Galapagos Islands, the site for her next book.  https://scribblinginthestorageroom.wordpress.com 

TanGental has a travel theme: http://geofflepard.com/

Lilica’s Place: writing about the Bronx: http://lilicasplace.com/

I am Not a Sick Boy: writing about medical issues: http://iamnotsickboy.com/

Conversations Around the Tree: https://treerabold.wordpress.com/

Unchartered: Learn Something New Everyday https://unchartedblogdotorg.wordpress.com/

I hope you manage to at least check a few of those blogs out.

Happy reading!

xx Rowena

NYE Sydney: The Night I Met My Husband.

New Year’s Eve has a very special place in my heart.

While the rest of the world might be celebrating the demise of the old year and relishing the chance to wake up with a clean slate on Jan 1st, New Year’s Eve, Geoff and I met on New Year’s Eve sixteen years ago. It’s our anniversary. That means  I can honestly say that when we met, there really were literally fireworks!

Much younger versions of our current selves met at a mutual friend’s New Year’s Eve Party held in Wollstonecraft on Sydney’s North Shore. The apartment was perched on the edge of one of the hills overlooking the Harbour and of course, we were all there to watch the spectacular fireworks from our privileged bird’s-eye view. This was special.After all, Sydney’s NYE fireworks are up there on the world stage: Sydney, London, Paris, Time Square…only we beat them all to it!!

However,I do have a small confession about the view. We might have had front-row seats but we had what you’d describe as a “back-end view” of the Bridge and we were actually looking at the main fireworks display from behind. There was also a block of units somewhat in the way as well, which the inconsiderate sods didn’t relocate for the night. That said, we did have a very expansive view of the Sydney right out towards Parramatta and we could see all sorts of other locations “going off”. It wasn’t quite as good as being in the chopper but we had it exceptionally good

That said, we wouldn’t have knocked back tickets to the Lord Mayor’s VIP bash  right there on the Harbour and actually facing the Bridge. Who would?!!

Being a young 20 something, there was definitely no way we’d ever stay home and watch the fireworks on TV. That was the sort of social suicide reserved for the likes of “Nigel No-Friends” and we weren’t going to be one of them. No way!

However, another option for viewing the fireworks was joining the  mosh pit of bodies under the Sydney Harbour Bridge. At this point, I’ll remind you that it’s now summer in Sydney. It can get very, very hot in Sydney on NYE. No snow. Definitely no snow but lot’s of sweat.

Personally, I’ve never been game to go under the Bridge.

At the close of the Sydney 2000 Olympics, a group of us ended up in the city looking for a vantage point to see those fireworks. There were hordes of people choking up the streets all desperate for some kind, any kind of vantage point. I still remember our sense of desperation. Where could we go? What was left? Of course, the well-planned amongst us had been camping out for days and we were last minute optimists, cuckoos out to land in someone’s nest. Fortunately, I’d photographed the Wharf Theatre and had a lateral moment and we found a largely unpopulated vantage point down there only metres away from where fireworks were being let off. In our usual style, we were seeing the back-end of the Sydney Harbour Bridge but otherwise had a great, uncluttered spot. That was our moment photographing the fireworks with our legs dangling off the wharf indulging in cheese and champagne. It was incredible! A moment we’ll never forget.

Geoff and I walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge during  the Sydney 2000 Olympics

Geoff and I walking across the Sydney Harbour Bridge during the Sydney 2000 Olympics

Life has taken many twists and turns since then.

Anyway, those hordes haven’t encouraged me to try our luck under the Bridge.

Perhaps, everybody is just charmingly friendly as they crush each others’ feet in the general stompage but we all know what it’s like when some stranger  dares stand on someone else’s rug. That’s right. Their precious square of turf which they’ve been viciously defending like a magpie for days, camping out under a very harsh, unforgiving sun knowing they’ll be straight off to the skin cancer clinic straight afterwards.  Somehow, in the cruel aftermath, it’s all considered worth it but you’ve got to wonder!

Shame about the broken bones and it wasn’t good news for the altitudinally-challenged either,  spending NYE with their nose shoved in some stinky stranger’s armpit. Humph…Happy New Year!

I’m sure those moshers under the Bridge would’ve done anything to have our back-end view.

Yes! We knew we had it good!

Of course, I had no idea I was about to meet my future husband when I knocked on the same door I’d knocked on many times before. That couldn’t have been further from my mind, which I must admit was rather exceptional. You see, up until that freakish moment in time, I’d had a “proactive” approach towards looking out for Mr Right. I actually had a huge, fine-tuned antenna stuck on the top of my head. Moreover, I was also known as a notorious (but quite successful) matchmaker. Indeed, I could have stuck a plaque outside my place and I would have done a roaring trade…especially if I’d known a few more girls. I had a lot of male friends who kept turning up to parties doused in optimistic aftershave only to be let down once again by a severe gender imbalance.

Anyway, as I said, I wasn’t looking to meet anybody that night. As incredulous as that might sound, I’d just been unceremoniously dumped and I was in rough shape. Guttered and yet, at the same time…a survivor. I went off to this party with one New Year’s resolution and one resolution only: “No Nick 1999!”.

That’s probably the only NY resolution I’ve ever pulled off.

Well, chatting away with Geoff watching the fireworks that night, he gave me some excellent advice: “Just be friends. Take time to get to know someone.” That was the general gist of it all but it all sounded rather profound at the time and I really took it to heart. I went off to another party later that announced that great advice. Well, you know how it is. Love and romance can creep up on even the most unsuspecting of characters. We met up at a few social things with our mutual friend and somehow that led to email which then resulted in some comment about: “You know you can pop over” and an invitation to join him and his niece to visit Taronga Zoo. All I can really remember about that is feeding carrots to the giraffes and by this stage that finely tuned antenna of mine was working overtime. I must admit that I was now concerned about his so-called “good advice”. How on earth we were ever going to shift gears out of friendship into something else  but  I guess that’s where Cupid steps in.

Geoff and I not long after we'd met photographed in his Austin Healy Sprite...not as romantic as it looks!

Geoff and I not long after we’d met photographed in his Austin Healey Sprite…not so romantic when it rains!

In retrospect, meeting Geoff was one of life’s serendipitous, “meant to be” moments where God and fate intervened and a whole heap of incidentals all lined up and for just once in a lifetime, didn’t conspire against us. I almost didn’t end up going to that party after being dumped that afternoon. However, my friend had only invited a select few to watch the fireworks and I didn’t want to let her down. Besides, she knows how to throw a party and was renowned for her vodka jellies and chocolate mouse. We are turning back the clock to another, very different lifetime but I do have photos of a friend dancing with a bunch of flowers after partaking of these legendary vodka jellies.

However, this party seemed relatively quiet and I do remember standing out on the balcony photographing the fireworks, albeit from our quirky backend perspective and talking about photography with Geoff. He was interested in photography…tick. He also drove a green sportscar and that sounded very romantic even though he warned me straight away that she was 30 something English and temperamental. There was something about water and leaks in the conversation that I only really came to appreciate drive up to Byron Bay during particularly heavy rain while we were both wearing raincoats. That is, inside the car!! Yes, we were still wet.

Watching NYE on TV with my broken foot. Not quite what it used to be but at least I've found love.

Watching NYE on TV with my broken foot. Not quite what it used to be but at least I’ve found love.

Fast forwarding right along to 2014, New Year’s Eve doesn’t quite have the same air of possibility or wild excitement that it used to. No Vodka jellies or chocolate mouse although we managed to organise going over to a friend’s place with all the kids to watch the fireworks on TV and I’d made pavlova. That is what an exciting New Year’s Eve entails these days. To be honest, that’s even been an improvement on having to babysit two anxious dogs freaking out from the loud nasty banging fireworks or having babies to attend to.

Sadly, we’re quite used to watching the fireworks on TV these days although there is still that spark. That memory of… once upon a time.

The family together on New Year's Eve.

The family together on New Year’s Eve.

So there we all were watching the fireworks on TV and I couldn’t resist. I had to take some photos. That’s right I was being incredibly daggy and photographing the fireworks on TV. Old habits die hard. Of course, they weren’t award winners and there was that sense of crazed desperation, which could also be called determination. An all conquering spirit which says never says die. I am who I am.

There is still a photographer and a party animal buried somewhere deep within my soul,  which has somehow overcome the descent into middle-age, mortgage, kids, muscle-disease and lives on.

I will not be beaten.

Hence, I’m already making plans for next NYE. Somehow, I’d like our family to get down to Sydney. This is more of a wish than a resolution…along with getting to the Easter Show. Not always easy but we’ll at least try to find a way.

Perhaps, I should give the Sydney Lord Mayor a call…or maybe just friend her on Facebook. I wonder if that would be enough?!!

Happy New Year to you all!

Love and Blessings,

Rowena, Geoff, Mister,Miss, Bilbo & Lady xxoo

PS Bilbo and Lady report they were not impressed at being left home alone  to fend for themselves against all those nasty loud banging noises. Lady ended up burying herself in the garage and once the humans were home bounced on mum’s lap. Many dogs end up “doing the Harold Holt” and get lost on NYE. Like a good Martini, though, we were shaken but not stirred.