Tag Archives: Australia

A-Z April Blogging Challenge- Theme Reveal – Places I’ve Been.

Once again, yours truly is completely unprepared for the annual A-Z April Blogging Challenge, despite fervid vows to “Be Prepared” next year and have all my posts written up in advance. Well, I guess my disorganized, last minute response could well be in keeping  with the theme of today…April Fool’s Day. Last night, I decided to change direction from ANZAC Soldiers serving in France during WWI to a photography travel series covering places I’ve been. I chose this theme because much of our world is currently in some form of social isolation at home and any form of travel has been outlawed and a plane has become a rare sight.

So, let me introduce myself.

Rowena 2018

My name’s Rowena Curtin and I’m no longer a 40 something writer, researcher, wife, mother, photographer and poor impersonation of a violinist. I am now 50. However, let’s be quite clear. I haven’t become 50 something YET!!!

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The Family at Christmas 2019

The other cast members here are my husband Geoff and two teenagers simply known as Mr and Miss. Geoff is currently working from home having conference calls and the like from our kitchen dining area which has now become his office. Our kids are doing schoolwork from home until the end of the week when they go on holidays. Our daughter has also been turning our kitchen into a dance studio right through dinner time and then there are the three dogs who are overjoyed to have all their ball and stick throwers at home. So, as you can see. Our place is rather cozy at the moment and will be for the unpredictable future.

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Lady at Ocean Beach, Umina, NSW.

By the way, we live at Umina Beach just North of Sydney Australia. The beach is only a short walk away, which has been a blessed escape hatch from being imprisoned at home. Well, being stuck at home hasn’t quite become a prison yet. So, perhaps I was exaggerating things just a little for creative effect. However, whichever way you look at it. The world as we know it right now is hardly situation normal.

Of course, we’ll be travelling around the world alphabetically. However, there will be a particular emphasis on revisiting my 1992 backpacking trip around Europe where I landed in Amsterdam and then caught a train to Koln (Cologne) in Germany and onto Heidelberg, where I ultimately ended up living for roughly 6 months with a local family which was the experience of a lifetime. I also spent a week in Berlin living in what had been an East Berlin student house which still had all the authentic “interior design”. Then, I spent two weeks in Mons which included seeing Van Gough’s house nearby. There was about 6 weeks in Paris, a weekend in Florence and a week in London. It has become the trip of a lifetime, despite my desire to get back. Added salt to the wound, was when our son’s 3 week school history tour of Europe was cancelled due to the Coronavirus. He was due to be there now, but my goodness! We’re so glad he’s home.

So, I invite you to join me for these vicarious travels and I hope these photos and stories lift you out of the coronacrisis and possibly even taken you to your happy place. Indeed, that is the hope for myself.

Moreover, if you are doing the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, please leave a link to your theme reveal in the comments below.

Stay tuned!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Santa’s Australian Post-Christmas Escape.

You couldn’t blame Santa for needing a bit of a break after supervising all his elves and dashing round the planet on his sleigh. After all, he must have the most stressful job on Earth.

So, here he is hiding out at Lennox Head, South of Byron Bay on Australia’s East Coast catching some waves.

Of course, I had to join him. While I’m not much chop as a surfer, today must have been my lucky day because I not only managed to stand up, I also stayed dry. That’s quite an achievement.

By the way, I should mention that I’ve enjoyed feeling 21 again on this holiday. I’m not looking forward to returning to responsibility when the kids go back to school at the end of January. It’s been absolute bliss drifting along for a bit and not needing to be anywhere at a particular time. No lines etched in the sand. They’ve all been washed away.

Have you ever been surfing and do you have any stories to share?

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 11th November, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I’m not so sure you’ll be wanting to come round to my place this week. Not only is the house a disaster zone, but the air is redolant with the aroma of choking bushfire smoke and while I was  picking our daughter up from school today, a warning siren sounded on the radio from the Rural Fire Service warning that the fire status is catastrophic for Greater Sydney tomorrow. People have been warned to get out and not to expect assistance from fire services. They could well be overwhelmed with not enough resources to go round. Many schools will be closed and there really is that sense of Armageddon in the air. Meanwhile, I’m trying to “Keep Calm & Carry On”. We’ve had dire warnings like this before about others pending catastrophes (Y2K for example) and nothing’s come of it. Just because the conditions are condusive doesn’t necessarily mean disaster. That said, there have been over 70 bushfires raging over the weekend. However, aside from the smoke, they haven’t impacted on us here.

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This photo was taken later in the afternoon just as we were leaving. The Jacaranda tree has a very special place and was in full bloom and absolutely stunning. 

The highlight of the last week was heading down to Sydney on Saturday to attend The PLC Garden Party. That’s what my old school calls their annual fete, which pretty much gives away that I went to a high faluting school. I met up with a group of friends for traditional lunch of champagne and chicken sandwiches at the ex-students stall (usually known as the “old girls”). I skipped the champagne and bought myself a $6.00 chocolate cupcake with a mountainous swirl of butter cream on top. It was interesting trying to eat that elegantly in front of my friends as I face-planted into the icing, resembling a grubby two year old. Of course, I should’ve known better but clearly my sweet tooth overrode all sensibility.

The cake stall wasn’t my only point of weakness.

There was also the book stall. No doubt many of you have also succombed to this weakness and like any other form of addict, really should go cold turkey and implement a firm policy of total avoidance. 100% abstinance. However, when it’s the end of the day and you can fill a box for $10.00, practicality sets in although many would see this as a guised form of FOMO (fear of missing out).

The other aburdity of bringing home even just this relatively small box load of books, is that I’ve put the house on a diet and I’m actively putting this bookcumulation process into reverse and clearing the shelves, piles, columns away so we can aquire that very rare commody…breathing space.

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Before I move on from the school Garden Party, I wanted to share one of our important annual rituals. Every year the Knox Pipe Band plays at the Garden Party. They’re our brother school and that also btw was where actor Hugh Jackman went to school and I’m not sure if he was the only lure for some of my school mates to audition for the Knox Musical, but he was the lead male back in the day and not a bad incentive. Thoought you’d appreciate a few photos. BTW I should also point out that my school used to be the Presbyterian Ladies’ College and both Knox and PLChave Scottish heritage hence the pipe band.

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It was actually quite a social weekend. It started on Friday night when we attended a birthday party at the “The Treehouse”. That’s what my friend calls his pole home up among the gum trees and it appears that the local wildlife have also made themselves at home, which includes at least one possum, rainbow lorrikeets and cheeky sulfur-crested cockatoos which my friend refuses to feed because they’ll chew up your house. I made an ambitious Caramel Nut Tart. It’s taken me two years to muster up the courage to make it. We have it at the Macadamia Castle up near Byron Bay and the recipe was published in a local cookbook. Yum. So proud of myself for doing this and I’m planing to make it for Christmas Day.

Rowena Japanese dinner

Out for dinner at a Japanese restaurant with a friend.

I stayed with my parents on Saturday night and spent the day in Sydney. I went back to the Church I grew up in on Sunday morning nad chilled out for the rest of the day with my parents and brother and even tinkered away on the piano. I’m rather deluded when it comes to these piano efforts. I expect to be able to pick up the music I used to play back in the day and play it like no water’s passed under the bridge and I’ve been keeping up my practice. Yes, very deluded. However, I’m adding ambitious to that description because I’ve photocopied the music for Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and Phantom of the Opera’s Music of the Night. By the way, I probably should mention that my mother is a piano teacher and accompanist and has loads of music at my fingertips. Indeed, her loungeroom with the grand piano and all the music is a musical bonanza. I often take my violin down but didn’t this time as it would’ve spent the day in a hot car, which it doesn’t like. 

Jack Quealy WWI

Private Jack Quealey

Lastly, I’m still deeply embroiled in my research. The twists and turns keep changing. However, I’m fundamentally researching my Great Grandmother’s family, the Quealys of Lisheenfurror, Moyarta, County Clare. My Great Grandmother’s brother, Jack Quealey, served in WWI and I was researching his war service in more detail this week. Trying to nut out even a general idea of what he went through is very difficult , despite reading through his service records with a fine tooth comb. However, they mentioned he was wounded and that put a sort of stake in the ground. I was able to work out that he was was most likely wounded in the battle of Mouquet Farm near Pozieres. I then turned to the old newspapers which are online and found some gripping letters home which were published in local papers, which gave incredible insights into what our soldiers and my Great Great Uncle went through.It was incredibly humbling and I don’t know how anyone made it out alive. By the way, working on these war records atm has been great timing. Today, is Armistace Day. 

So, that sums up last week.

How was your week? I hope you’ve had a great one.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

Red Door, Patonga…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Thursday Doors.

You know you’re sadly door-obsessed when you go to a place of stunning natural beauty, and your heart skips a beat when you come across a red door. I’m sure many of you relate to my experience and perhaps Thursday Doors has become the equivalent of AA  for the door-obsessed. A safe place for us to share our passion for doors and all the stories they tell. Moreover, doors also have a metaphorical appeal…an open door, closed door and what these mean to the journey.

“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.”     

Alexander Graham Bell

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Patonga

This week our love of doors takes us to Patonga, on the NSW Central Coast 91 kilometres North of Sydney and a short drive from our port of call last week,  Pearl Beach. By the way, Patonga is Aboriginal for “oyster”.

Patonga has a delightful sleepy feel to it. As you drive down the hill into the village, the beach is on your left and a jetty heads out into the bay. You’ll spot a few fishing boats and there was a father and son fishing from the end of the wharf without catching anything. You see scenes like this around the world, and only the backdrop changes.

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This red flower, which I took to be an Australian native, turned out to be a weed hailing from Madagascar…Mother of Millions. I wonder if it’s seen the movie. 

“Red is uplifting.”- Jerry Lewis

After going for a bit of a walk along the waterfront, we drove around town and that’s how I came across this red door in a side street just back from the Hawkesbury River. I have to admit that there was an instant tick inside my head…”That’s Thursday Doors done and dusted.”

Before I head off, I’ll leave you with this quote from Oscar Wilde. Although it pertains to red roses,I’m sure the sentiments could be extended to red doors.

“A red rose is not selfish because it wants to be a red rose. It would be horribly selfish if it wanted all the other flowers in the garden to be both red and roses.”

Oscar Wilde

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0 Please pop over and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Aussie Street Library, Pearl Beach …Thursday Doors.

“Be an opener of doors” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Welcome back to Thursday Doors. This week, we’ve jumped into the red Alfa, traversed the steep hill and hairpin bends down to Pearl Beach, just so we could check out Jill’s Library. This is Pearl Beach’s incredible incantation of the humble street library or book exchange. Without a shadow of a doubt, this brightly painted library full of pre-loved books, is just waiting for desperadoes like myself to pop along.

More than functional, Jill’s Library is also a work of art featuring some of the area’s local characters…a kookaburra, magpies and rainbow lorrikeets and sprays of wattle. I don’t know much about how it came about. Simply that it was painted by Pim and named after Jill. That’s all.

I know I’m supposed to be writing about doors here. However, you barely notice the door on this picturesque box. Rather, it’s little more than a framed piece of glass, designed to keep the books clean and dry. However, for ardent bibliophiles like myself who are peering through the door in search of treasure, the door is a window of possibility. What’s beyond the glass?

Temptation…That’s what it is. Although our place is bursting at the seams with books with buttons flying and fabric tearing under their monumental force, I still want more. Indeed, like Monty Python’s Mr Creosote who couldn’t stop stuffing his face, I can’t stop bringing more and more books home. I can’t say no.

Indeed, this was no exception. I shamelessly raided the library, taking home Kristina Olsson’s spell-binding Australian novel, Shell. However, in my defense, I’ve almost finished it. I couldn’t put it down.  Shell tells the gripping story of shell-9781925685329_lgPearl Keogh, a journalist who is protesting against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war. Then there’s Axel Lindquist, a glass artist from Sweden, who is working on the site of the emerging Sydney Opera House creating a glass sculpture inspired by Utzon’s design. Of course, there’s romance. However, that’s almost secondary to this world of living, breathing history. Olsson’s prose is incredibly poetic and philosophical, which I absolutely love. Indeed, it feels like Shell was written just for me. Indeed, it’s opened a door into another world just as surely as that very famous wardrobe door, which took Lucy into Narnia.

It usually takes me a few weeks to get through a book. So, the fact I’ve almost finished Shell in a couple of days speaks volumes.  Indeed, I’ve have been enjoying snuggling up in bed with my book and my electric blanket on. While the Winter sun filters through the curtains behind me, I could almost feel like I’m sunbaking down at the beach, except a cold snap surrounds me. Most homes around here don’t have central heating. We brave the Winter months and invest in air-con for the Summer.

Anyway, getting back to the Street Library…Despite its apparent simplicity, Jill’s Library captures the essence of Pearl Beach, a relaxed creative and cultural community of locals and weekenders who live alongside the lorrikeets, magpies and colourful Rainbow Lorrikeets.  It’s the sort of place people go to exit stress and embrace sun, sand, surf and a good read. Indeed, a good book is even better shared and discussed over coffee and cake.

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Thought I’d better share a photo of the real deal also taken at Pearl Beach the other day. While that kookaburra is looking pretty innocent and minding his own business, I’ve had a local kookaburra snatch a hot sanger (sausage) off the BBQ here. So, they’re actually pretty audacious.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed that broader story of Jill’s Library, Pearl Beach.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0 Please pop over and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Pearl Beach, NSW…Walking Through The Lens.

Shame! Shame! Shame! Why is it so difficult for me to get out of the house and get over to Pearl Beach and go for a simple walk? Pearl Beach is only a 15 minute drive away, and is absolutely beautiful. It’s hardly going to the dentist. Although we have our beach just down the road, it’s important to get out of your own backyard and see the world, even if it is only the world next door and not somewhere further afield.

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Pearl Beach, NSW.

However, the reality is that when you live in a place, you’re not on holidays, even if you live near a beach. Life still gets you by the short and curlies and as much as life is to be lived, it also has to be endured. Stuff has to be done. Annoying, irritating stuff such as cleaning, appointments, brushing your teeth, which are hardly earth shattering unless they’re neglected. I’ve also been researching and writing my book which has caught me up in some kind of net where I’ve been swimming along feeling like I’ve broken through, when my foot gets stuck. However, through my efforts to escape, I only make things worse. I’m wrapped up like a cocoon and I’m going nowhere. A spider trapped in its own web.

Empty Chair Pearl Beach

Fond and painful memories of our Pearl beach friends who moved to Poland. It is a strange feeling being the ones left behind still living in the same house while they’ve moved on.

So, I deserve a 22 carat gold star for just making it to Pearl Beach today. However, after going for a walk as well and getting some EXERCISE, I deserve the sun.

yacht

So, there we are… me and my girl walking along Pearl Beach. I looked out to sea and there was a white dot of a yacht sailing along the horizon. I’ve been giving a bit of thought to what lies on the other side of all that ocean. Who am I waving at? This was a tough question for me, because I have no sense of direction and am hopeless at reading maps. However, this was a question I’m pursuing  like a grand global adventure all from the comfort of my armchair and laptop. Anyway, if you could throw a stone from Pearl Beach across that vast expanse of ocean, I think it would bypass New Zealand and Easter Island, heading straight for Chile somewhere around Valparaiso. That freaked me out. That’s a long way over the rainbow.

Anyway, back to walking along the beach. The weather was absolutely glorious, sunny and about 22°C. This was the best of our Winter. Talk about being lucky ducks.

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Moreover, the beach was the most incredible canvas underfoot. Although the wiggling strandlines are meaningless, I sense something profound in their squiggles which is beyond music or words and something like the whisperings of heaven. These squiggles formed wave-like patterns at Pearl Beach, which I’ve never seen before. They were absolutely enchanting. Moreover, tiny crab holes punctured through the sand. Foot and paw prints were appearing, disappearing or merging in a footprint jungle. So much to photograph.

Beach Canvas

Beach Canvas

I used to go to playgroup at Pearl Beach with my kids before they started school and  we’d often end up at the beach afterwards, particularly when they were older and had outgrown their morning nap. We’d order a serve of chips and chat until responsibilities sank in and it was time to go home. In hindsight, their childhood seems like one endless Summer by the beach. However, this idyllic interpretation is definitely the rose-coloured version. Life has had a nasty habit of stepping in and stamping on our dreams. However, we have big feet and are just as good at stomping back.

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Plagelines, Pearl Beach. 

Now that I’ve got back out there extending my explorations of our beautiful local beaches, I’m thinking of doing a walking tour of our coast and walking along a new beach each week. Considering I’ll have my camera in hand, it’s hardly going to raise my heart rate in a big way, but it will help. Exercise is exercise. Hopefully, if I draw up a plan, I might actually stick with it and I’m thinking of recruiting a few friends. Turn it into a social event. Clearly, I’m not really passionate about raising my heart-rate. Indeed, I can just see myself indulging at a cafe afterwards but at least I’m honest.

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Anyway, I hope you enjoyed our walk along Pearl Beach.

Is there somewhere special where you like to go walking? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Winter Walk Along the beach…

“Because there’s nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline, no matter how many times it’s sent away.”

– Sarah Kay

It’s a tough life living near the beach here on Australia’s East coast just North of Sydney. Although the mercury might plummet to single figures, it doesn’t stay there for long and the sun can be absolutely glorious. Indeed, during the last week, it’s been perfect.

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Umina Beach, NSW.

“Only from the heart can you touch the sky.”

Rumi

After spending a few days indoors with our daughter competing in the local dance eisteddfod and our son performing in the annual Scout and Guides’ Gang Show, I was busting to get outside, spread my wings and soak up that balmy sunshine.

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Even seaweed on the beach can take on a magnificent beauty and I loved its jagged shadow.

These photos were taken over two beach walks this week. On Friday I went by myself for some much needed solitude. Not necessarily that sitting on a rock all by myself type of solitude, but definitely not having to worry about dogs pooping or lunging at other dogs who for reasons unexplained seem to press the growl button not an enthusiastic wag of the tail. I didn’t have to wait for anyone else to get dressed or find a missing shoe either. Rather, I could simply get in my car and go.

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A lone photographer on the beach…

“Stop acting so small. You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”

Rumi

As much as I simply love going to the beach enjoying it at face value, at times I also push myself to squeeze in a beach walk to de-stress, raise my heart rate or improve my overall well-being.

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Today, our daughter asked if she could come with me, which was great because she’s competed in a dance eisteddfod during the week and has her grade six ballet exam in three weeks and more phenomenal stress there, along with the final preparations. Getting out of the house, out of the studio and onto the beach and expanding your horizons across the vastness of ocean which extends off as far as New Zealand or even South America. Isn’t that incredible!

“Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”

Helen Keller

I love photographing shadows down on the beach. They’re so intriguing and distort as the sun nears toward sunset which is when I usually manage to get there. Shadows are also mysterious, enigmatic, and alluring. They’re not just something you accidentally capture in your photo which needs to be Photoshopped out. The other thing about these shadows, is that for users of real cameras and not phones posing as cameras, shadows are our take on the selfie. otherwise, I still need to stop a complete stranger to take our photo and I don’t feel entirely happy about handing my camera over especially when I take my glasses off and I couldn’t even see them make a run for it.

“A human being is only breath and shadow.”

-Sophocles

Another favourite subject of my beach photography is the seagull. Although I’ve probably overloaded my hard drive with seagull photos, I keep taking them. As annoying as they are, I love seagulls.

“You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean, in a drop.”

-Rumi

When you take a closer look at these photos, you’ll see that our beach is surrounded by bush and is relatively untouched and natural. You can walk down the beach during the week and only run into a few dog walkers and virtually have the entire stretch of beach to yourself even in Summer. It makes me wonder why anyone would ever compete to find enough space to stretch out their towel among the multitudes.

Anyway, reality bites and I’d better get dinner into the pie machine and onto the table. It’s a cruel world, but Masterchef finals week starts in ten minutes so I’d better get a move on.

Best wishes,

Rowena