Tag Archives: Australia

Walking Through the Lens…I mean the Park.

Welcome to the Mt Penang Parklands, North of Sydney and about 20 minutes drive up the hill from my place.

I ended up here by default today after dropping my daughter off at a dance audition callback next door. It was such glorious, sunny Autumn day, that I packed my camera and headed off to the park for a walk. Of course, with that combination I was hardly expecting to raise my heart rate or even get close to 1000 steps. However, it’s the thought that counts, isn’t it?!!

Since the majority of you live overseas, I thought I’d better give you a quick rundown on Autumn in the “Australian bush”, as we call it. The majority of Australian trees aren’t deciduous, which means we don’t have the intensity of Autumn colours that you get in some parts overseas. Indeed, the bush stays pretty much the same shade of green all year round. In many ways, that’s a shame. After all, Autumn leaves are nature’s stained-glass windows and they’re absolutely magnificent, glowing in their splendor against a bright blue sky. Yet, we Aussies are proud as punch of our gum trees with their distinctive scent of Eucalyptus. Indeed, the gum tree is one of our greatest Australians. For so many of us who have travelled, it has always meant home.

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While there weren’t any Autumn leaves in the park itself, there were some liquid amber and plane trees on the walk there, which soon captivated the lens. They’re so beautiful and a dazzling kaleidoscope of colour. I also love watching individual leaves dangle from the very edge of a twig, as their brilliant, desiccated colours  flicker in the wind before drifting in a captivating twirl down to earth. I picked up a handful and brought them home. Of course, it’s not the same as seeing them outside in the sun, but now I have a touch of Autumn at home.

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Despite being dazzled by the Autumn colours, I was soon struck by the lone gum tree featured at the start of this post. Somehow, as it drew me into its orbit, time slowed right down and the big, wide world slipped away as I spotted a black ant making it’s way up the trunk. Like all teeny black ants, it seemed overly ambitious trying to make its way up to the top, which must have been the ant equivalent of climbing Everest. Moreover, since this tree was covered in bumps or some kind of “tree pox” after a rugged invasion by bugs, it would be a particularly rugged journey for an ant. I don’t know whether it was just me, but none of that registered from a distance, and it was only once I’d moved in closer, that its story became manifest. By the way, this bumpy surface is by no means typical of gum trees. This tree has had a exceptionly bad run. Indeed, it would be well within its rights to ask: “Why me?”

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It’s funny how I fell for this quirky looking gum tree when the pond clearly takes centre stage.When I came here for a previous dance event, I’m sure there were flowering water lilies floating on the pond. I’d been researching Monet at the time and with a good dose of imagination, I could almost feel myself walking through Monet’s garden, especially when I closed my eyes.

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However, when I went there today, the vegetation had died back and was looking unsightly, neglected and was literally begging to be pulled out.  Indeed, it looked like the gardener had gone off on an extended “smoko”and I could’ve pull them out myself given half a chance. However, when I got up close, it turned out these dead-looking plants were actually habitat. Indeed, there were five Dusky Moorhens (a species of water bird) in there. Goes to show how we need to view the environment through fresh eyes, as I’m sure I’m not the only one who would’ve destroyed their home due to my own misguided perceptions of beauty. Well, as they say, you learn something new every day.

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Anyway, that’s enough about trees. Let’s talk about flowers.

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Banksia Integrifolia

While there weren’t a lot of flowers in the parklands, there were some remarkable beauties. There were two different species of Banksia. There was Banksia Integrifolia with its huge, leathery green leaves and cone-shaped flower and also Banksia Spinulosa, whose flowers look like glowing, golden candlesticks.

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Banksia Spinulosa

Unfortunately, I didn’t catch the names of the other flowers. So, that’s enough of trying to name stupid flowers. These can be the “red” and “yellow” flowers. I don’t know why somehow else didn’t come up with that? Genius!

After all of this, what more could I ask for?

 

Well, on a different tangent entirely, the Chrysler Car Club was having a day out and there was a fascinating line up of vehicular temptation…dare I say lust?!! It was also rather quirky seeing all these old classics out en masse and I loved it. Retro is my middle name.

My favourite was a hot red Plymouth named after the Steven King horror movie classic: Christine. That car was hot! Hot! Hot! I definitely had a severe case of red car envy. That said, if I see that car lurking in the local streets, I’m out of here. If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll know exactly what I mean.

Well, that about covers my trip to the Mt Penang Parklands. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Have you been on any photographic walks lately? Where did you end up? I’d love to hear from you and please leave your links in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Our daughter’s audition callback went well and she will be appearing in Swan Lake later this year.

 

 

 

 

When Two Ships Collide…Stumbling Across the Wyrallah Disaster 1924.

On Tuesday 8th April, 1924, two ships collided in a treacherous stretch of water near the entrance of Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay, known as The Rip.  Five crew members and one passenger drowned when a massive coal steamer, the Dilkera, ploughed into a small coastal steamer, the Wyrallah, which had strayed across its path. The Wyrallah sank like a stone in less than ten minutes, and the heartbreaking cries of the drowning men could be heard from the Dilkera until there was nothing but silence.

Survivors Wyrallah Age April 10 1924

For the survivors, there was the dampened joy of a “miracle”. Meanwhile, for the families of the lost, there was only devastating heartbreak, and in many cases, also serious financial hardship. Widows were left without husbands, and children without fathers. With the victims being Melbourne men, the tragedy would have hit the city hard. With those few degrees of separation, many would have known the families and been touched by the Wyrallah Disaster in quite a personal way. Indeed, I can almost hear people talking in the streets about someone they knew. Yet, that pain was obviously most acute for the little ones who’d lost their dads. I keep thinking of those little children all tucked into their beds on that ill-fated night, sleeping soundly and not knowing Daddy wasn’t coming home. It breaks my heart. I’m also conscious that my grandmother and her brother were also sleeping in their beds at home in Sydney’s Bondi, equally oblivious to the tragedy. However, lucky for them, their father came back. Well, at least, he did that time.

My Great Grandfather, Reuben William Gardiner, was Second Mate onboard the Dilkera, and that’s what initially drew me into this story. While you’d expect that some reference to the collision would have passed down through the family, the first I knew about it, was spotting a reference in the online newspaper repository, Trove. I am something of a shadow hunter, relentlessly pursuing the lost tales of my ancestors through the online newspapers. Naturally, finding a reference to something this monumental, was something I had to pursue at full throttle and naturally, I wanted to know more about his role in the tragedy. I donned my Sherlock Holmes hat and cloak and set to work.

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Second Mate Reuben William Gardiner

Unfortunately, when it came to knowing Reuben William Gardiner on any personal level, I’d barely seen the tip of the ice berg. He died more than thirty years before I was born, and had become little more than a photograph on my grandmother’s shelf, and a few snippets of story.  He was still quite a young looking man in the photo, and he was wearing his officer’s cap. Although he’d qualified as a Master Mariner, he was working as Second Mate with the Adelaide Steamship Company. Apparently, from a technical perspective, that meant he was responsible for navigation onboard. However, that doesn’t take into account his love of the sea, the comraderie with his mates, or that knowledge that the fate of the ship rested in the Lord’s hands. Or, perhaps it was all just down to luck. I’m actually surprised more philosophers weren’t created out sailing on ships, rather than hanging out in the relative safety of Paris cafes.

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Reub & Rube…Reuben William Gardiner & Ruby May McNamara 1910.

Reuben Gardiner was born on 3rd Dec, 1876 in Newtown, Sydney to William Henry Gardiner boot maker and Sarah Ann Baker. A few years later, his younger brother, Frederick, followed. However, in 1884, tragedy struck when his mother and twin brothers died in childbirth leaving nine year old Reuben and brother without a mum. On 1st April, 1891 William Henry Gardiner married Jane Ann Lynch at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church Wollombi. Reuben struggled to adjust to his new step-mother, who he referred to as “Mrs G”. According to my grandmother, when he was around 17, he left home in West Maitland and joined the merchant navy. In 1910, he married piano teacher Ruby May McNamara at Waverley. Ruby was the eldest of eight daughters born at Queanbeyan to John McNamara and Elizabeth Johnston. I knew Ruby as “Gran, but they called each other: “Reub and Rube”.

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Reuben Gardiner far left photographed onboard ship possibly the Arkaba.

What I did know about Reuben Gardiner, was that he died of a heart attack at sea onboard the Arkaba in 1936. Reuben died only four months after my grandmother, concert pianist Eunice Gardiner, had left for London with her mother onboard the Esperance Bay and neither could attend his funeral held at Sydney’s towering St Mary’s Cathedral.

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Eunice had won a prestigious scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London and was already quite a sensation. A fundraising committee had been established by Lady Gordon and a big testimonial concert was held at Sydney’s Town Hall to finance her studies. However, there was never any question of Eunice going to London alone. Her father was clear: “You might as well throw her to the sharks in Sydney Harbour.”However, this meant that Ruby wasn’t here to bury her husband and make those last goodbyes. That in supporting her daughter’s prodigious talent as she had always done, Ruby had made an incredible personal sacrifice. Reuben’s death also meant that Eunice’s older brother, Dr Les Gardiner, a young doctor at St Vincent’s Hospital, stepped in and supported his mother and sister while putting his own surgical studies on hold and supporting his own wife and family.

So, in a different sense, I have also grown up with this story of a father going off to sea, and not coming home, but for different reasons.

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Captain Watson of the Dilkera on the right and survivor, Alfred Edward Wise, mate of the Wyrallah (left)

In addition to my personal connection to the collision, I also saw another story emerging from the Wyrallah Disaster. Something about the mysterious twists and turns of fate, which most of us fail to understand, and pause to question from time to time and usually at our peril. These two ships could well have passed each other in the night. Yet, through a series of such twists and turns, they collided. Why was it so? Why did the survivors make it, while the victims perished? Was it God, fate, destiny or just bad luck? Who or what was at the helm of that particular ship? The one which makes all the ultimate decisions over life and death? Was it God? Each of us has a length of string. Some of us have a longer piece of string than others. Moreover, some of us will know when our time is close, while many have no idea at all. They’re suddenly struck down by the equivalent of a cosmic thunderbolt, and that’s it. Game Over.

Captain Bracken

Of course, we can’t live our lives constantly in the shadow of the Grim Reaper. We need to Carpe Diem seize the day. Stretch ourselves out to our full capacity, not knowing whether we’re going to make it. Indeed, there seems to be something innately human about challenging ourselves well beyond our known capabilities, even if it does lead us to our death. In that case, our loved ones stoically celebrate: “At least, they went doing what they loved.”

Map Wyrallah wreck site

However, I wonder how many of us actually consider that it could well be a little, miniscule detail something so small we can barely see it, which in that flash of lightening, that momentary second in time, puts us in the wrong place at the wrong time? Moreover, in some instances the difference between life and death can be a few centimetres either to the left or the right. One person dies, while the other survives. It can all seem so random. In many instances, there were turning points where decisions were made setting all sorts of events in motion. Yet, there is no turning back. After all, we can’t just rewind and “play it again, Sam”. What’s done is done. We can only learn from it, and do our best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Above: Three of the “missing men who lost their lives onboard the Wyrallah. Engineer John Wighton (on the right) went back in to rescue the firemen and didn’t make it out.

Personally, I find it hard to understand how God’s will, fate, destiny, good and bad luck and miracles all come together. I don’t understand why some people who have been very close to me or people I care about, have died tragically and far too young. However, I do believe that each of us has our lot…our own burden to carry. Yet, at the same time, I also know that in many instances we can make things better or worse for ourselves. Indeed, I’m constantly amazed by how often we shoot ourselves in the foot without any help from anybody else. I do that myself.

Weekly Times 19 April 1924 model boats

It took a long of reading and research before I could even start to understand what happened on that ill-fated night of the Wyrallah Disaster. Moreover, naturally my initial focus was to place my Great Grandfather at the scene and find out what I could about the role he played, if any. However, most of the newspaper coverage focused on the survivors and “missing” from the Wyrallah, and they weren’t interested in the actions of Mr RW Gardiner. However, that didn’t stop me from infusing him into the scene. As I read stories of survivors being wrenched from the wreckage by the grip of a stranger pulling them to safety, I wanted that to be him. I wanted him to be the good guy, the Good Samaritan, the hero.

Dilkera 2 after collision Argus April 10

However, tough decisions also had to be made and not everyone could be the hero. The Dilkera had also been damaged in the collision and at the time, both ships were within the treacherous waters of The Rip. The Dilkera desperately needed to reach safety to assess her own damage. So, after quickly saving who they could, a decision was made not to stop to save the drowning men… the chilling voices calling out from the sinking vessel. Captain Watson decided that it was “better to save one ship than to lose two”.  Of course, when you’re talking about maneuvering a massive vessel like the Dilkera, swinging into action wouldn’t have been a simple matter, and it was considered too dangerous to send out the lifeboats. There would only be a further loss of life. Yet, there’s still that Good Samaritan in me who can’t understand how anyone could leave those men behind without even throwing them a lifebelt. That said, by all accounts, it seems that the men died very quickly and more than likely, that nothing could be done. However, I wasn’t the only one asking such questions and the newspapers of the day also wanted to know. There was also an inquiry.

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A young Sir Robert Gordon Menzies.

Speaking of the inquiry, I thought I might just mention that Sir Robert Gordon Menzies (1894-1978), former Australian Prime Minister twice over (26 April 1939 – 29 August 1941 and19 December 1949 – 26 January 1966) , represented the owners of the Wyrallah at the inquiry. Admitted to the Bar in 1918, he’d already established a name for himself. In 1920, as advocate for the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, he won a case in the High Court of Australia, which proved a landmark in the positive reinterpretation of Commonwealth powers over those of the States[1].

So, already quite a complex story has started taking shape. However, unfortunately even a good story doesn’t come all neatly gift wrapped. I have a lot of hard work ahead but I want to take this story as far as I can. Fingers crossed. I can see this one having a beginning, a middle and an end.

I would be particularly interested to hear from anyone connected with collision of the Wyrallah and the Dilkera. It’s definitely a story which deserves to be retold and it would be lovely to honour those precious men who tragically lost their lives, leaving their families behind.

Best wishes,

Rowena

[1] http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/menzies-sir-robert-gordon-bob-11111

 

The Australia Day Regatta… 26th January, 2019.

Buying bread from a man in Brussels
He was six-foot-four and full of muscles
I said, “do you speak-a my language?”
He just smiled and gave me a vegemite sandwich
And he said

I come from a land down under
Where beer does flow and men chunder
Can’t you hear, can’t you hear the thunder?
You better run, you better take cover, yeah

Men At Work: Down Under

Yesterday, our family headed off to Gosford Sailing Club  for the Australia Day Regatta.  The Australia Day Regatta is the oldest continuously-conducted annual sailing regatta in the world. It has been conducted each year since 1837. While based on Sydney Harbour, races are held around the coast and apparently our winner is off to receive their medal from the Sydney Lord Mayor.

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Our son with his Flying 11 ready to set sail. 

By the way, if you know anything about boats, our son was competing in his Flying 11, a small sail craft and Geoff was sailing in a Magic 25 (as in 25 ft) as part of his sailing course. Meanwhile, yours truly was armed with her Nikon D3100 and left on dry land.

“There is nothing, absolutely nothing half so much worth doing as simply messing around in boats.”

-Kenneth Grahame

However, before the race got underway, our son was part of the Australia Day Sail Past. This was a real extroverted parade of sailors with most of the boats decked out in the most garish and ridiculous Australia Day gumph they could find. There was an inflatable boxing kangaroo and a plethora of flags and the one thing which was missing was our unofficial Australian National Anthem Down Under by Men at Work .

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Above: We have my son’s boat being towed along by the support boat and his crew managinjg the boat while he (the skipper) is pulled along behind. Not the plan, but he clearly enjoyted himself, created a spectacle and won an award. 

Our son had Australian Flag bunting on the stays, was wearing an Australian Flag Top hat and out the back of the boat, they were towing an inflatable plastic donut again bearing the Australian flag. For a brief time, our son managed to convince his sister to ride along behind in the donut. However, she baulked and the next thing we see is our son’s boat being towed by the support boat under the command of his crew member while the skipper was being towed along out the back with the biggest grin you’ve ever seen. He’d broken just about every convention in the book, but that’s entertainment and when it came to the award presentation at the end of the day, he took out the Junior Aussie Larrikin Award along with a $5.00 cash prize. As you may recall, our son recently made quite an impression wearing his ghillie suit at the Australian Scouting Jamboree won the dance competition winning backstage passes to see the band Justice Crew. He’s been busy!

“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.”

-Vincent Van Gogh

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Our Junior Aussie Larrikin.

Meanwhile, at 2.00 pm the Regatta was off. Geoff tells me that there were 50-60 boats ranging in size from the juniors in their baths tubs (Optimus) to 40 footers, which looked like giants next to the fingerlings. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one who missed the start of the race. Geoff’s boat couldn’t hear the start gun and had to scramble to get away. Unfortunately, our sailors didn’t place. However, I’ve heard tales from our son of waves from the bigger boats crashing over the side of his tiny Flying 11 and the boat filled up with water. The spinnaker rope also slipped under the boat putting the spinnaker out of action and slowing them down. Apparently, spinnakers are known troublemakers. They’re known unaffectionately as “the divorce sail” and “prawning” is when you’ve spinnaker drags along through the water. There was a complaint yesterday that one of the sailors had go prawning but hadn’t shared his catch. They have a good sense of humour at Gosford Sailing Club.

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Here’s the “Senior” or adult Aussie Larrikin at work shooting water out at the crowd, including the General Manager, who is wearing the hat in the foreground and the Commodore.                                                                

“The sailor sits by his tiller, waiting and watching. He knows he isn’t sovereign of earth and sky any more than the fish in the sea or the birds in the air. He responds to the subtle shiftings of the wind, the imperceptible ebbings of the tide. He changes course. He trims the sheets. He sails.”

– Richard Bode: First You Have to Sail A Little Boat.”

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the photographs of the line up. We had a lot of fun and loved being a part of this great event.

jonathon after race

We would like to wish all our fellow Aussies a Happy Australia Day, while mindful of the concerns of Indigenous Australians. What, if anything, did you do to celebrate? Any sailors out there? Any great stories you’d love to share? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS  Here’s a few photos of the sea mist which floated in at the end of the day. It was scorchingly hot.

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I loved this tree silhouetted against the mist. 

Main Beach, Byron Bay…Sunday 8th January, 2019 (continued).

“At the beach, life is different. Time doesn’t move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents, plan by the tides and follow the sun.”     

Sandy Gingras

After spending so long dawdling around the markets and waxing lyrically about my first trip to Byron Bay in 1995 or thereabouts, I thought I’d better start a separate post to write about my trip to the beach. To be precise, my trip to Main Beach. Byron Bay has been blessed with many beaches.

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The view from my parking spot under the tree.

Well, to be honest, I didn’t quite make it onto the sand and as for getting in the water, you must be delirious or dreaming. I bought myself some sushi and parked myself on a seat underneath what I think was a huge Norfolk Pine Tree. I was in the shade with a view looking out to Julien Rocks and I was listening to a group of young German tourists and noticing how young, skinny and tanned everybody looked and how I didn’t fit the demographic. Indeed, I’d become OLD!

Anyway, I managed to levitate out of my seat and go for a bit of a walk along the path beside the beach heading to the left in the photo above, which I think takes me due North. However, with my lousy sense of direction, I could’ve been heading South so I try not to be too specific or simply use hand signals and point.

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Although you can’t see the shadow of Mt Warning in this shot, I still love is mysterious layers of mist. Anything could be hiding there.

I’ve always loved this Northerly aspect with it’s view towards Mt Warning and the stunning volcanic mountains. It’s so relaxing and reminds me of the Lord of the Rings for some reason. I’ve taken some magnificent photos of these hills at sunset over the years. However, I wanted to share with you what I saw and experienced on this particular day more than showing off my photographic skills.

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The Post-Hippy Era in Byron Bay

While I was photographing these misty covered hills, I spotted a young man walking out along the rocks with what looked like a cape tied around his neck. Could he indeed be a contemporary incarnation of Superman? I was intrigued and my curiosity was rewarded. He walked out to the edge of the rocks and pulls out his phone and started posing (and I mean posing) out there risking life and limb to get some selfies. Apparently, your more likely to die from a selfie than a shark attack and if you’d like to read more about the dangers of selfies, you can read this grueling story from RollingStone Magazine.

 

Meanwhile, I am now back home. The kids get back from Jamboree on Tuesday morning and while a certain mouse was away, the cat has pounced in her bedroom. Actually, I’ve done more than pounce and have been undertaking serious excavations and archaeological digs in there. Don’t worry. I’m not doing it all for her. She had a good crack at it before she left, but I’ve since got in under the bed and I think that just about sums things up. I’m sure I don’t need to spell out the subterranean world under a teenager’s bed. I’m just happy to report that I made it out alive and there were no dead bodies of any variety under there. Phew. Thank heaven for small mercies!

Well, that finishes up last Sunday and I think we’re off to the Macadamia Castle for coffee tomorrow and a quick drive around Ballina.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Australian Scouting Jamboree…Thursday Doors.

Happy New Year and welcome to the 1st Thursday Doors for 2019!

This morning, we were engulfed by a swirling vortex of emotion as the doors of this  almighty white coach opened and swallowed up our kids, along with a gazillion scouts and bags. They’re off to the Australian Scouting Jamboree 2019, which opens tomorrow at ‘The Bend Motorsport Park’ Tailem Bend, South Australia. That’s about a 20 hour coach ride away and they’re sleeping on the bus.

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Inside the bowels of the bus and behind closed doors.

Our kids are members of Broken Bay Scout Group, but for Jamboree purposes, they’ve now become part of the “Bin Chickens”. Well, at least that’s the name of their troop and the name on the corresponding badge I sewed onto their shirts.

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The kids with their scout bags. 

 

By the way, I should probably put you into the geographical picture. We live on the New South Wales Central Coast in Greater Sydney. Tailem Bend is in South Australia less than 100 km south-east of Adelaide on the east bank of the Murray River close to where the river empties into Lake Alexandrina. The Murray River (or River Murray[n 1]) (NgarrindjeriMillewaYorta YortaTongala)[1] is Australia’s longest river, at 2,508 kilometres (1,558 mi) in length.[2] The Murray rises in the Australian Alps, draining the western side of Australia’s highest mountains, and then meanders across Australia’s inland plains, forming the border between the states of New South Wales and Victoria as it flows to the northwest into South Australia. It turns south at Morgan for its final 315 kilometres (196 mi), reaching the ocean at Lake Alexandrina.

Bin Chickens

I should also fill you in on what constitutes a “Bin Chicken” and recommend you view this highly informative documentary: The Bin Chicken

While coaches don’t usually feature on Thursday Doors, how could I not report on this beast, which has taken my children away? Of course, I was emotional, although much less emotional than I would’ve been if the kids weren’t more concerned about their friends, getting a good seat on the bus and all that lies ahead. That’s a good thing. It is. However, they could’ve given Mum just a bit more of a hug, because maybe I needed it. Maybe, I’m a bit more aware that things happen, and that you can’t take anything for granted. That you always need to ring and say that you’ve arrived safely, even though you know you’re okay. On this front, I also have to admit that I was thrilled and relieved that their coach was so big and looked so safe. It definitely had inbuilt bubble wrap. I’m sure it did.

Anyway, all too soon the doors of the coach closed. The engine rumbled and their journey began. By the way, you might also see through my cries of missing the kids. You could also say that we’re also spreading our wings, as we’re child-free for the next ten days.

While our kids are in transit and last photographed having dinner in Hay, scouts have already started arriving on site and pitching tents. Here’s some media coverage: Australian Jamboree 2019

I hope you’ve enjoyed dipping your toe into Australian Jamboree 2019. I must say it’s a very exciting experience and quite something when you consider that 10,000 scouts from around the world are all heading down to Tailem Bend. I can’t wait to hear their tales.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Here’s food for thought when the scouts arrive tomorrow and they’re pitching their tents in the dusty heat, especially if my daughter ruins her nails:

“A Scout smiles and whistles under all circumstances.”

-Robert Baden-Powell

Weekend Coffee Share…31st December, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s already New Year’s Eve here in Sydney and I’m briefly putting my feet up after leaving the pizza dough to rise and making Chocolate Mouse and Pavlova for dessert. We don’t go out on NYE. It’s not easy to venture into Sydney city for us to view the fireworks in person due to my mobility restrictions, and it’s not the safest time to head into the city either. Moreover, we also have the added complication that at least one of our dogs, Lady, is terrified of fireworks and breaks into a sweat when local fireworks get set off illegally. No doubt, that also happens where you live as well, and you’re also aware of how many pets go missing as a result.

Couple Ocean Beach best

I’m struggling to remember what happened during the last week and I had to confirm with Geoff that today is actually Monday. That’s a common phenomenon in between Christmas and New Year However, I should’ve remembered that there was a minor event called Christmas. How could I forget? Well, I’ll blame the heatwave for that.

We had a family dinner at home on Christmas Eve and headed out to Church for carols intermingled with the traditional Christmas tree manger reenactment.

We spent Christmas Day at my aunt and uncle’s place where we met up with my parents and the extended family. These Christmases fuse tradition and change. Much to my concern, there’s an increasing Melbourne contingent and missing persons from the celebrations. If you’re not aware of the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, it’s not quite as intense as it used to be but to have family exodus to Melbourne of all places, is a concern. Need to stem the tide. The highlight for me of this Christmas celebration was taking part in a jam session with my cousins with two on guitar, another on cello while I played my violin. It was a very interesting experience because my cousin was playing chords in a blue grass style and I was trying to listen deep into the music and pick out what became something like a song line to play on my violin and my violin actually sounded like a harmonica which surprised me. I usually play classics on my violin of the likes of Bach so playing blue grass ad lib was quite a change and I was very proud of myself for stepping so far out of my comfort zone and doing so well. Our son also joined in with the jam on guitar and also took over my violin plucking the Peter Gunn.Monopoly Go to Jail

We received this local fundraiser Monopoly for Christmas from my parents. Playing Monopoly is a good this time of year. I ended up in jail a few times.

After Christmas, we’ve been catching up with friends and we’ve also braved the post-Christmas sales. Not unsurprisingly, I found my way into yet another book shop.  where I bought Cicero’s: How To Be A Friend which was written in 44BC in Latin. I’m almost halfway through and highly recommend it. I also bought Oliver Sacks’: The River of Consciousness. In case you’re not aware, Dr Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who has written quite a few books including: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. Have you stuck your nose in any great books lately?

heat wave

The weather around here has been fairly intense lately. After having three or four storms the week before Christmas including blackouts and hail, we’ve been caught in a heatwave, which has largely forced us underground. Indeed, we’ve been hibernating at home although I did venture to the beach two days ago for a photographic walk. That was a lot of fun, and despite initially thinking I wasn’t going to find much, the light was particularly good the clouds seemed to dance in the setting sun especially for the camera. I was also quite fascinated by the watermarks in the sand. All those wiggly lines of sand along the beach which resemble secret messages.

Well, it’s now 10.00pm  and after watching the 9.00PM fireworks, we’re listening to the NYE entertainment and Ross Wilson has just finished singing Can’t Get No Satisfaction and has moved onto his own hit Eagle Rock. This music is a good distraction from the choking smoke leaking in from the kitchen. Somehow, the hot plate which I swear I didn’t use tonight, ended up on high and the left over pizza has apparently been incinerated and it’s not safe for me to enter the kitchen. Indeed, even the rest of the family is covering their mouths going in there. Hoping the air is going to clear soon so we could put together our NYE dessert  of pavlova, chocolate mouse, fruit and cream. I was even thinking of chopping up some Tim Tams and sprinkling them over the top for a bit of added chocolate crunch.

Have you set any New Year’s resolutions? I’m still working on mine and as you can see by the dessert we’re having tonight, that my sins are continuing to mount.

I’ll be back in the New Year to share a snapshot of the Sydney Fireworks.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Surviving the Australian Sun…

Perhaps, you’ve heard that Australia is currently experiencing a dire heatwave. Indeed, it’s been coloured-in bright red on the weather maps, and threatening temperatures of over 40 degrees and everything but hell fire and brimstone.  Well, that’s if you believe the weather reports. However, where we live the reality has been much closer to 30 degrees, and dare I say, an English Summer.

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Arriving at Ocean Beach.

While there are those sun-seeking Australians who head straight for the beach when the temperatures soar, these days I prefer more of a hibernation approach and only hit the beach around sunset. Moreover, although I considered getting into my swimmers and going for a swim, I opted for a “photographic walk” instead. In case you’ve never been on one of these, a photographic walk is taken peering through the lens and is a rather stop-start experience. Nothing that’s going to raise your heart-rate. Rather the aim of this exercise is to stimulate your creative juices. It works wonders for me and I always see in a much more focused and intense way exploring the world through my camera lens, than my own eyes. Moreover, I don’t like getting wet. I know that might sound rather hypocritical after teasing my dog for not getting his paws wet. However, at least I’ll dip my toe in and once I’m wet, I love it.

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Ocean Beach looking out towards Lion Island and Palm Beach headland.

Besides, I also wanted to explore the beach and all it’s nuances through the lens. Our local beach has copped a beating over the last five years. Or, is it more of a case that that our coastline is a rugged wilderness at the mercy of storms, tides and shifting sands and any semblance of smooth calm is nothing more than a postcard illusion? After all, the ocean isn’t a swimming pool, is it!  It can’t be contained.

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Fishing

That’s part of the ocean’s rugged beauty. That every day, even every minute, it’s different…an ephemeral force of nature. The people on the beach are also ever-changing. Ocean Beach with its Surf Lifesaving Club, is usually a swimming beach with fishing usually based around the point at Ettalong. However, the fishers were out in force when I was there yesterday.

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Love at Ocean Beach

Indeed, they weren’t the only ones. I’m sure it won’t come as any great surprise that we get overrun during Summer by this supposedly great force known as “tourism”, but could be better termed “an invasion”. This also justifies a hibernation approach, and the benefits of sunbaking inside at home with a good book and the air-conditioning on. Indeed, you could call it enlightened self-preservation.

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The closest I can get to a selfie with my SLR…self portrait at Ocean Beach.

Yet, I still had this unmet urge to carpe diem seize the day and actually make it to the beach on such a beautiful day. How boring to simply stay at home and let it float by without having lived it. Been a part of it.

As soon as I hit the beach, my mojo returned and as my toes sunk into the sand, my eyes were darting left and right scouring the sand and waves for something different, striking or eye-catching. Some days, that something hits me right in the face such as finding a group of Tibetan monks going surfing. We’ve also found the wreckage of a small boat and rows of trees yanked out of the dunes by the roots by a callous storm. There’s always something, even the fleeting watermarks in the sand.

Lines in the sand

Have you ever traced the watermarks in the sand and wondered where they came from? Where they’re going? Or, what they’re trying to say? Instead, I’ve watched my castles fall down and cursed the ocean for washing my efforts away.

However, my first impression was that there was nothing special and the beach was looking pretty ordinary, especially as the waves were flat. However, I found my eye drawn into the watermarks along the sand, which seem to tell a story of goodness knows what or where. Something beyond my human understanding.

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Perhaps, the seagulls were also discussing the mysterious secrets contained in a grain of sand.

Once you attune your eyes to appreciate grains of sand, your awareness of your surroundings becomes much more sensitive and acute. Even the common sea gull appeared extraordinary. Had character. Or, perhaps it was the extraordinary golden light which wove its magic? Certainly, this magic had certainly captivated the clouds. They were absolutely magnificent. It was a perfect sky.

Sunburnt Sunset Ocean Beach

Even the clouds were on fire.

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How have you been spending the Christmas break? I’d love to hear from you. 2018 is about to pass through the hour glass and I guess I’d better start thinking about some resolutions for the New Year before 2019 also washes out into the ocean.

Best wishes,

Rowena