As I’ve mentioned before, we were house minding at Cremorne Point on Sydney Harbour for three weeks in January, which gave us quite an opportunity to see my home city as a tourist would, cramming as much as we could through the ever shrinking hour glass. Having been caught up with parenting for many years and then covid, extended lockdowns and self-imposed isolation due to my health; it felt like an eternity since we’d been to most of these Sydney landmarks and we were definitely out there to carpe diem seize the day. Moreover, with the ferry wharf conveniently down the road, the thrill of catching ferries and almost immersing ourselves in our beautiful harbour, they became our compass.
We left Circular Quay and were poised out on the deck with the wind in our hair and thriving on the exhileration as the ferry gained pace amd we left the Sydney Harbour Bridge behind.
Not unsurprisingly, catching the Manly Ferry was our first extended ferry trip. Catching the ferry to Manly has always been a very Sydney thing to do and the ferry makes the beach accessible to those living further afield. The ferry trip itself is also out of this world heading East through the harbour with spectacular 360 degree views. Then, you cross the Sydney Heads. That can get very lively with the ferry swooning up and down and chances are you’ll get wet, but its thrilling all the same. Wouldn’t miss it, especially for the safety of an inside seat. Boring!
I have so many memories of catching the Manly Ferry. There’s footage of me on Super 8 film catching the Manly Ferry when I was about five, which I still sort of remember. I also went to Manly as a teenager with friends and I remember buying Chinese food by the plate load on the famous Corso in a variation on the usual “chew and spew”, “all you can eat” venues which were around at the time. My best friend also lived in Collaroy and was forever catching the Manly Ferry back home after a night out on the town. Recently, my friend’s parents told me about how they’d met at Manly Beach years ago and there was such a sparkle in their eyes…happy days!
Manly wasn’t quite so perfect the day we went. There was quite a strong wind blowing and Ocean Beach was punctuated with signs warning “Dangerous Current”. When the lifesavers left for the day, everyone was even ordered out of the water, which seemed fairly exceptional. The beach was officially closed…even to idiots who didn’t care about sacrificing their own lives and taking their hapless rescuers with them.
The currents weren’t the only dangers we encountered in Manly. There were the seagulls, and before you burst out laughing about me being afraid of measly little seagulls, these weren’t your ordinary sea gulls. They were sea gulls on steroids, veritable terrorists swoop diving and snatching bits of our kebabs right out of our hands. They were an absolute menace! I’ve encountered pushy sea gulls before. You know the ones who puff themselves up, look real bossy and squawk like a union boss. They were nothing compared to this gang of thugs. The most aggressive of these sea gulls actually had no feet but was so annoyingly menacing, we had no pity. This was war. We were sitting on the steps down to Ocean Beach at the time and I seriously considered moving away. They were horrid!
Anyway, here I am listing Manly’s faults when I’m usually much more sunny side up. So, let me reverse back a bit and return to Circular Quay so we can take catch the ferry together and start over and return to Manly Cove where the ferry pulled in.
I’m going to do a bit of a very basic walk around Manly in a separate post.
Meanwhile, we’re going to catch the ferry back to Circular Quay. By now, sunset was approaching and the light was doing its magic and performing all sorts of tantalising tricks. I was smitten, but then again. I’m an easy target.
Unfortunately, I’d managed to get salt crystals on the lens on the way over, and while they didn’t show up on many of the shots, they were very noticeable photographing into the sunset and unfortunately I lost many good shots. Such is life, as a photographer. Lady Luck doesn’t always work in your favour and there are inevitably disappointments and lessons for next time.
All too soon, the Sydney Harbour Bridge came into view and ever closer welcoming us back to Circular Quay. Even though I saw The Bridge multiple times a day while we were staying in Sydney, I was still in awe. She is absolutely incredible.
Good night, Sydney. Sleep well.
Have you ever caught the Manly Ferry? Do you have any special memories? I’d love to hear from you.
Often, it’s all too easy to miss the rainbows on an overcast day. All we see is grey clouds. Complain about the rain. Swear the sun will never come out again. Indeed, we might even forget that the sun exists at all, and has only been covered up by the clouds. It hasn’t been smothered to death.
Well, it’s still raining and overcast here after more days and nights than Noah ever spent in the ark, and this terrible dreariness is seemingly never-ending. Yet, about an hour ago, Geoff called out and asked if I’d seen the Rainbow Lorikeets perched just outside our kitchen window. Of course, I hadn’t. I was sitting at the table reading, and hadn’t even glanced outside. Why would I? The weather’s bad. None of the trees are flowering, and to be honest, it all just looks wet and dreary. What I was reading was much more interesting.
However, I did get up to have a look, and went to fetch my camera. Not so much for myself though. While Rainbow Lorikeets are commonplace here, I know many of you haven’t seen them, and I took these photos for you. Indeed, I was simply trying to be a vessel, so you could see through me.
Inevitably, I was also drawn under their spell. I have always adored these birds. When I was a child and we didn’t know any better, we’d put out bread and honey soaking in water to attract them. They love it. However, they don’t recommend that for their health anymore. Besides, we’re lucky they’re often living in our backyard, and have taken up residence.
Meanwhile, on sunset seemingly thousands of Rainbow Lorrikeets return to their roosting trees by the beach for the night. The entire tree is literally exploding with rainbow feathers and noise. I can’t quite call it “music”, although it’s far more melodious than the raucous screeching of the cockatoos as they fly overhead heading off wherever it is they call “bed”.
Anyway, once I’d ventured outside with my camera, I was absolutely captivated myself, and almost as enthusiastic as when I first saw them over 40 years ago. Moreover, with their cheeky little faces, the little show offs were sitting with their perfect supermodel poses just waiting for me to take their portrait from their best angle.
Straight off an artist’s palette, I ask how can all that feathered colour not bring you joy even on the darkest of days, even if only for the briefest of moments?
Well, that is easy for me to say. I am safe and comfortable. I have a roof over my head, and even the air-conditioner is running. I’m not destitute or struggling to survive after the devastating flood waters which had decimated Lismore on the NSW North Coast. I’m definitely not in the Ukraine.
However, I watch the news and think of the people of Ukraine. I imagine that for them personally enduring what we only see on TV, that it must be hard to remember beauty, goodness and kindness still exist. Immersed in such brutal destruction at the hands of Putin’s forces, it must also be hard to believe in a good, loving and gracious God. or that he is reflected in the world and in our humanity. Yet, I also know that such brutal times can also bring out the best in people too and we can ironically feel closer to God than ever.
Gosh! How I wish I could do more and offer all these struggling souls a cup of tea, a warmed blanket, a hug, a smile, anything to remind them of the goodness of humanity. Yet, here I am tapping away on my keyboard snuggled up inside with my dog, the whole family is home today with one sick but it’s not covid so it’s all good. However, life here isn’t always this good, and there have been many times where I too have felt cursed, and particularly singled out by the adversities of life. I, too, have fallen on the ground and asked why? Why me?
So, even I still need to keep looking out for the good in this world, like these stunning Rainbow Lorikeets. I need to resist being swallowed up by what’s going on in my world, and by all the things which seem to be so precariously balanced and could so easily be destroyed by a puff of wind or that great enemy of joy – covid. “Rowena, do not let yourself go under.” I hear the words loud and clear. It has been a battle at times lately, and it’s funny how doing something as simple as getting out my camera and really focusing on the minute details of those feathers and their bright colours, has helped turn things around. Indeed, perhaps the same might work for you!
That is my hope, and my prayer for you wherever you are, and what ever your personal or community circumstances might be. As George Bernard Shaw wrote:
“Life is not meant to be easy, my child but take courage: it can be delightful.“
Lately, I’ve been getting itchy feet. Real itchy feet. Not surprising after being in lock down for at least 2 months, and not being allowed to leave the house except for grocery shopping and my eternal arch-nemisis….exercise. I wasn’t too sure whether meandering along with my camera, especially pausing to take in the view or stick my camera up a tree, counted as “exercise”. Or, whether this seemingly innocent escape for a woman with mobility issues, might be considered “illegal”. After all, a girl simply going out on a driving lesson with her mum in Victoria, was pulled over and initially fined $1652 until sense and intense media pressure prevailed. I didn’t want to land myself in that kind of trouble.
The Jetty at Patonga looking towards Broken Bay and Palm Beach.
Restrictions are really starting to lift here in Australia now, especially considering the exceptionally low transmission rates we have here. However, although our kids went back to school this week, I’m still practicing social distancing and largely staying home. Besides, it’s almost Winter here. I’m as snug as a bug in a rug getting on with my WWI research and writing projects, which I view as my job. At least, that’s the direction I’m working towards. I also have a fairly extensive, global network of blogging friends and we get on really well.
Here I am going for my walk. No selfie capabilities on my SLR. Besides, I quite fancy being a lurking shadow in all sorts of distorted dimensions.
“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk
and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche
I don’t really NEED to go out, but that can also become a problem. Unfortunately, my arch-nemesis exercise, along with sunlight and the great outdoors where I can stretch my wings and almost inhale the ocean, are almost critical for my mental health and happiness.
So, feeling rather virtuous, I headed over to Patonga Beach on Thursday afternoon. It’s about a 15 minute drive away, taking us past last week’s Water Tower Walk Water Tower Walk, Pearl Beach, and we keep driving through Brisbane Waters National Park with nothing but bush on either side and the road stretching through seeming nothingness ahead. This area is so untouched and seemingly remote, that it’s hard to believe we’re only a stone throw from Sydney.
Here’s one of our stunning Rainbow Lorikeets feasting in an Illawarra Flame Tree at Patonga. The tree was full of them chatting away.
The last stretch of the drive passes through some sharp twisting bends as you descend the hill into Patonga. After driving through the bush, the tranquil sea-side village of Petonga, which means “oyster” in Aboriginal, feels like something out of the set of an old movie. Patonga is nestled on Brisk Bay, which is on your left where there’s a rustic jetty heading out towards the Hawkesbury River on the extreme right and Palm Beach, across the other side of Pittwater on your left. There’s also a children’s playground here on the waterfront, which no longer captures my attention now that our kids are in high school. However, before our local park was given a massive upgrade, I used to take the kids to a park located next to the camp grounds at Patonga, which was almost on the beach.
However, today I was fairly rather reflective because my sister-in-law is starting treatment for breast cancer, and my thoughts are very much with her. Not only because she’s family and because what she’s going through is rotten, but I went through chemo a few years back for my auto-immune disease and it’s a frigging rollercoaster, even just from a logistical point of view. This time, it’s my turn on the sidelines, and I want to do a good job of that. Indeed, I want to do a better job of what I’m doing so far, because the card I wrote and it was an extensive message straight from the heart) is still sitting in the loungeroom and I’ve been thinking of a gift but haven’t got there yet. You know, there’s that going round in circles and wanting to get that gift that’s going to hit exactly the right spot, and heaven forbid in your desire for perfection that you actually end up doing NOTHING!! My goodness. Haven’t we all been guilty of that.
Frolicking in the wonders of nature, able to walk through the clouds.
Anyway, I picked up a few shells along the beach to include in my letter to my sister-in-law. I hope she appreciates them for what they represent, and that she doesn’t take me for a cheapskate.
Sea gulls might be common but I still love them. They’re such characters and theis flock was just standing in the shallows on the beach looking like they were really enjoying themselves and I had to join in their festivities. Besides, they made me feel like less of a lone ranger and part of a wider belonging.
So, going on this walk was really good for dealing with all of that, as well as all the fall out from the coronavirus and the kids suddenly being forced back to school full time this week by the NSW Education Minister. As my walk continued and the sun started to set behind a row of incredibly majestic Norfolk Pines, my footsteps seemed to lighten as all these stresses wafted out to sea and far away.
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher
Of course, by this stage, I’m castigating myself for staying indoors and not getting outside amongst all this more often. What I appreciated, perhaps, beyond all else,was soaking in that vast expanse of space, and being able to stretch out as far as the eye can see. Even the most minimalist of homes, still has four walls, and I can assure you that our place has a hell of a lot more. You could say that the interior is made of books and tea cups with a pile of musical instruments thrown in.
Meanwhile, the sun has set on another day, but we did make it next door for a chat with our elderly neighbours who are family to us. They live behind us across a back lane way and one thing I’ve loved about lock down, is that is been perfectly acceptable to get around in your pyjamas. I bought a fancy pair of Peter Alexander PJ pants with are hot pink with white circles and are pretty shmick. I had no qualms about wandering out the back gate over to their place in my PJs with my ugg boots on. It was so incredibly relaxing. You could even say liberating. It’s been the same on zoom. At first, I used to get dressed, but now we’re all in PJs, dressing gowns and the other night I even watched an interview with Cate Blanchet and Stephen Colbert via zoom and both of them were in their PJs. It made for such a relaxed and intimate interview.
What a magnificent sunset and I just love the feathery white clouds floating over the lingering blue sky.
“Ô, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth.”
― Roman Payne
As tempting as it is to immerse myself in nature and escape the heaviness and responsibilities of life, there’s always that rubber band drawing me back home in both good and bad ways. At times, I really resent having to rush home from my sunset photography jaunts to get dinner cooked for the family. However, I really cherish our family and all that being part of a family entails. Sure, there are responsibilities. However, there’s love, connection, intimacy, belonging along with frustration, irritation, expense, and that sense all round that someone’s clipping your wings. As much as we need togetherness, we also need time apart, space to do our own thing and the capacity to create and be a part of stories which we might choose to share with the family and have something to talk about. Moreover, this sense of family is also what you make it. You can build your own family. You do not need to be alone and these families are just as legitimate as your more conventional families. Blood is thicker than water, but the bonds of experience and caring for each other and especially being in the same boat are also strong.
I’m not quite sure how I reached that point after setting out on a walk around Patonga. However, with everything going on in the world at the moment, for many of us, it’s a time of deep questioning and thinking about just about every aspect of life and it will be interesting to see what life will be like on the other side. I for one am not planning on going back to how it was before and am working towards creating my own new world. How about you?
How are you all holding up under the varying strains of the coronavirus? Although they’re calling it a pandemic, it’s not affecting all countries equally and there’s also such a variation in how it affects those who’ve become infected, that there’s far from a shared, universal experience.
I suspect I’ve now been in lock down now for about six weeks with Geoff and the kids being home for four. The kids have been on school holidays for the last two weeks, although I don’t really feel it’s quite fair to call what they’ve had “a holiday”. It’s really been more of a continuation of limbo, and at times lock down feels very much like being in jail. Australia’s a pretty mellow country most of the time, however, Police powers have ramped up and we are living in a Police state. Of course, it is for our own good, and some idiots need to be controlled by external forces. However. that doesn’t mean we need to like it.
A sign of the times- local picnic table wrapped up in red tape to due social; distancing restrictions.
I’ve also been getting a bit annoyed with people in the media calling this the worst thing that’s happened. It’s not. There are still survivors from Jewish concentration camps alive. There are still others who went through the horrors of WWII. Our recent bush fires here in Australia, have affected us a lot more than the cononavirus has so far. I simply don’t see the need for them to turn this crisis into anything bigger than it already is. It’s already bad enough.
What we have really enjoyed and appreciated lately on TV, has been two music specials. There was One World Together At Home organized by Lady Gaga. However, we also had our own Australian version, Music from the Home Front which was held on the night of our ANZAC Day to honour those who have served our country in war as well as those in our hospitals who are the front line warriors in the battle against Covid 19. Fortunately, the Australian concert overcome the sound engineering difficulties which made it difficult to hear some of the performers in the world concert. I absolutely loved it, and much preferred the Australian concert. These were my people.
I have also been getting out for “My Walk”. By the way, you can put that up there in lights. Due to my health issues, Geoff is doing all the shopping and the odd bit of other running around. So, the only time I’m legally allowed to leave the house, is to go for my walk. If I didn’t know better, I’d be thinking this was some sort of conspiracy between my physio and the WHO. She’s been trying to get me to go for a daily walk for years. Of course, in the end I had to accept that this was fake news. As if the physio could conjure up the coronavirus and kill all these innocent people just so that Rowena in distant Australia would finally go for her daily walk.
However, while there are some days where I can’t be bothered and doing exercise comes with its usual expletives. However, I’ve also found there’s a fine, almost imperceivable line between being a proud Super Sloth on the couch, and doing a Bruce Banner metamorphosis into the Incredible Hulk. Indeed, cabin fever’s snuck up on me a few times, usually late at night or when I’m trying to sleep. OMG! It’s unbelievable. It’s like an insatiable itch you just can’t scratch. I had a couple of really difficult days last week, where I felt totally trapped, and there was a blast of unbridled angst surging through me body and soul. It was quite horrible and for awhile there I felt like I was going to self-destruct, only I’ve been through this before and knew I just needed to ride it out. That like all storms, this too would pass.
That’s why I’m trying get out for my walk most days now, and I’ve even taken the camera with me a couple of times. Last week, I went for a walk around the Woy Woy Waterfront right on dusk. The sun was setting and I managed to get some beautiful photos of the orange sun setting behind the silhouette of the wharf. I also spotted some kind of white crane, which was quite resistant to letting me get close up for that knockout shot. It was also rather confronting seeing the local playground closed up due to the virus and there was one park bench in particular which brought it all home. It was wrapped up in so much red tape, it could have been a government department. The mannequins all lined up in the opportunity shop, also seemed rather eerie and goodness knows how long they’re going to be shut away behind the glass.
A Paddle-boarder making the most of social isolation.
Later on in the week, I went for a walk at nearby Pearl Beach. I’ve been finding the repetitive routine of simply walking down the road to our beach a bit tiresome and I’ve needed a change of scenery. I went walking with my usual coffee and writing buddy Roland, who is in his 70’s and lives alone. Whil we were there, a kookaburra came right up behind us and sat on the park bench. I was pleased Roland pointed it out and the kookaburra didn’t seem at all camera shy, although it did seem to be looking for a feed.
Kookaburra close up at Pearl Beach.
I’ve also been continuing through the Blogging From A to Z Challenge. My theme this year is Places I’ve Been, which I chose to overcome the claustrophobia of being locked down at home. I’ve accomplished quite a lot, and it’s great to have collated this collection of my personal travel stories. It’s actually helped me to appreciate how much I love travel and exploring places both through the lens and my pen, and how that hasn’t changed although I haven’t been overseas for almost twenty years. It’s been such a long time, and something I fully intend to rectify once these travel bans are lifted. This jail bird will be fleeing the coup!!
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
The series has also re-engaged me with blogging, which is good. It’s been an excellent tonic during the madness of the covid 19 pandemic and it’s helping to keep me somewhat sane.
For those of you who’ve ever been to Whale Beach, I can hear you calling loud and clear: “What are you talking about? That’s not Whale Beach!!”
However, today I decided to challenge your sense of the perspective of place. Instead of just viewing Whale Beach from it’s classic postcard perspective with its rocky headlands at each end and the sandy beach in between, we’re tracing snail trails across a rock pool on the Southern headland. I’ve always loved tracing and photographing their curly trails. They’re so creative, and seem to reflect my state of mind. There’s no such thing as a straight line from A to B.
Palm Beach Ferry
After that brief explanation, I’d like to welcome you back to Places I’ve Been, my theme for the 2020 A-Z Challenge and as you already know, we’re heading off to Whale Beach.
A Map of Northern Sydney with Whale Beach top right.
It’s a bit of a complicated trip, and we’ll be catching the ferry from Ettalong to Palm Beach, which will take us across Broken Bay with stunning views across to Lion Island. From Palm beach we’ll be getting a lift to Whale Beach, which is not the easiest place to reach via public transport. However, that’s also part of its quaint appeal. It has a very relaxed village feel, and doesn’t get the crowds during the Summer peak. Indeed, many of the dwellings here are weekenders and while these blow-ins might live someone else, they’re largely considered locals, at least among themselves.
I know “Whaley” very well. Indeed, it’s been my home. Our family used to have a house on Whale Beach Road, just across from the beach. Well, there was the slight matter of needing to climb up 200 stairs to get back to the house. That could be very challenging. Yet, there was a spot roughly halfway, where you could turn around, pause, and point out the view and distract your friends from your acute shortage of breath. It was often my salvation, not that I was that unfit even back then. Let’s just say there were a lot of stairs and they did go straight up!!
Trike Heading Out To Sea, Whale Beach (looking South).
My parents bought the place at Whale Beach, while I was still at uni. Unfortunately, I didn’t drive. So, unless I was with friends, I had to catch the dreaded 190 bus from Wynyard Station, which grunted along for at least 90 minutes from point to point, and that doesn’t factor in the steep walk from Surf Road straight over the top of the hill to reach Whale Beach Road. It might not be one of the world’s tallest peaks, it was a pretty decent climb.
However, since my parents’ sold the house about twenty years ago, we won’t be revisiting the old house, and we’ll be heading straight down Surf Road to the beach. Indeed, I forgot to tell you we have a surfboard on the roof and we could even be driving a Kombi. Not a splitty, because that’s well beyond our price range, and I suspect we’re driivng something rustically unreliable. After all, that’s the less than romantic reality of being a true Kombi owner these days.
Whale Beach is a surf beach, especially at the Northern end where there’s a cool rip called “The Wedge”. I’m not even going to pretend that I know what that’s about. However, I have photographed quite a few surfers down there over the years. Watched them sitting on their boards bobbing up and down like corks waiting for the wave, while their faithful mutts sit on the beach waiting. At least, that’s how it used to be back in the day. Dogs off the leash are probably incarcerated now. Hey, even the humans are in trouble these days thanks to the coronavirus. A couple of footballers made headlines and were fined for flauting social distancing today. However, even I’m getting itchy feet and I have more incentive than most for staying put, and that doesn’t include sitting on Whale Beach and contemplating life, the universe and everything. Rather, these days have to revamp the walk and talk into some kind of walk and think. Is it possible? I’m not convinced. It’s certainly not easy to walk and write, although I could possibly argue that writing is work and the beach is my office, just as long as I stay away from Bondi!
Anyway, let’s rewind a little. As I said, my parents owned the house while I was at uni. So, of course, there were parties, usually with a ratio of way too many blokes to girls. There was love and heartbreak, not just for myself but also my friends. There were lonely stretches staying there for weeks at a time all by myself, but resulted in prolific writing and no doubt long hours talking on the phone. However, every night as regular as clockwork, a light switched on at the Southern end of the beach. The light fell right across the breakers and snaked around with the waves. It was absolutely magnificent and a memory which almost defined my soul and brought me such peace. Joy doesn’t need to cost the earth or be high tech.
Whale Beach also became a place of solace. Somewhere we could take friends who were going through tough times, and even combusting with self-inflicted angst. We’d walk along the beach or walk around to Palm Beach. It was a place of gentle, compassionate healing and casting all your cares off the cliffs and out to sea. For many of us, myself included, there was a Christian spiritual aspect to this, but I can’t speak for the rest. People from many walks of life came to the house, and had their own beliefs. It was not not a place of judgement, at least, from my perspective.
A Pair of Rainbow Lorrikeets Having A Cup of Tea on the Balcony.
Before I head off, I just want to tell you about some extra special visitors to the house. There are the birds, especially the Rainbow Lorrikeets. They’re absolutely beautiful and ever so friendly with their sweet chatter.
Whale Beach is why we live at Umina Beach. It’s Whale Beach on a beer budget.
Have you ever been to Whale Beach? What did you love about it? Mind you, from my point of view, what is there not to love?
Perhaps, I should’ve tossed my research hat out the window, when we arrived in Byron Bay. That way, I could appreciate a pretty photo for what it is without having to research everything I see to the nth degree. Clearly, I ask too many questions and if I were a less complicated soul, I could’ve simply posted these bird photos without any explanation at all. Not even a name.
Consequently, what started out as brief snapshots of some of the birds we encountered around Byron Bay, has expanded into something much more complex and I must admit I’ve learned quite a lot myself along the way. After all, I take my role at Beyond the Flow as Australian tour guide seriously. I not only want you to see what I saw. I also wanted to share some local, lived insights which you won’t find in a more scientific account of my stunning feathered friends. These photos were taken in my in-laws’ backyard and at the Macadamia Castle, which has a bird aviary. It’s not quite the same as seeing them in the wild, but it does make it easier to get a good photograph. Yet, as much as I love photography, I’d naturally prefer all birds to fly free.
Although this guy lives at the Macadamia Castle, sulfur-crested cockatoos are very common in the wild where we live on the NSW Central Coast and in Sydney. You can’t appreciate these crazy characters from a simple photograph. They’ll perch up in the trees or telegraph wires and swoop down kamikaze style across car windscreens and only narrowly escape being hit. They’re absolutely cheeky, and don’t let that gorgeous feathered-face deceive you. They’re very destructive and are renowned for chewing through wood-trim on your house, your balcony, and stripping fruit trees bare. Moreover, behind that beautiful smile, lies an ear-piercing screech. Yet, despite their shenanigans, they still want to be your best friend and crave attention. They seem to love posing for the camera with a huge cheeky grin and you might even get a “Hello”.
Jacko with family cropped out.
When I was a young child about 8 years old, my Dad bought a baby sulfur-crested cockatoo, called Jacko. He initially lived in a cage in the laundry inside where he had the joy of listening to my father’s voice on an old tape recorder. Indeed, it was an old tape recorder then, although I think cassettes were somewhat new at the time. It was 1977. I still remember that old recording and will take it to my grave…”Hello Jacko! Hello Jacko!” Jacko made it outside into the aviary but didn’t stay with us for very long. We were moving house and there seemed to be some kind of “discussion” between my parents. Although we were moving onto five acres, it seems there was no room for Dad’s birds and Jacko went to live with friends. So, not unsurprisingly, sulfur-crested cockatoos have a special place in my heart.
Rainbow Lorikeets are the happiest little birds on earth and on sunset you can here them chirping away drunk on nectar in the trees if you’re lucky…or not depended on your perspective. My friend’s mum planted a red bottlebrush outside his bedroom window and he was woken up by a swarm of rainbow lorikeets at the crack of dawn whenever it was in flower. He was not amused.
Our daughter feeding seed to the Rainbow Lorikeet at the Macadamia Castle last week.
The Rainbow Lorikeet isn’t as outgoing or interactive as the Sulfur-Crested Cockatoo and seem reasonably gentle. Back in the day when we mere mortals weren’t as educated about looking after wildlife, we’d coat a slice of bread in honey and soak it in water on a plate and put it out in the backyard. The Australian museum refers to such backyard feeding as “artificial feeding stations”, but the birds didn’t mind. That bread and honey was a sure-fire magnet. They loved it.
Galahs feeding in the backyard.
These galahs were photographed in my in-laws’ backyard, where they had quite a large flock of galahs. Apparently, numbers there have increased lately due to the drought and possibly also the fires. The in-laws have planted bird-attracting plants, but given the drought, have also been putting seed and water out for the birds. It’s been interesting watching the changing cast of characters out at the seed bowl. The galah’s are at the top of the pecking order, and shoo away the doves who sit perched up on the wire above waiting for the galahs to buzz off. There are also some pretty red-breasted finches who have their own seed bowl in the thicket.
Galahs were originally located in arid, inland Australia, and only expanded into their present, vast range in the early- to mid-20th century. The galah’s scientific name is Eolophus roseicapilla. Its holotype was collected in Australia in 1801 by biologists on the Expedition led by France’s Nicolas Baudin and is held in the Musée National d’Histoire Naturelle, in Paris.
The word galah comes from Yuwaalaraay and related Aboriginal languages of northern New South Wales. In early records it is variously spelt as galar, gillar, gulah, etc. The word is first recorded in the 1850s. The bird referred to is the grey-backed, pink-breasted cockatoo Eolophus roseicapillus, occurring in all parts of Australia except the extreme north-east and south-west. It is also known as the red-breasted cockatoo and rose-breasted cockatoo.
The term “galah” has also entered the Australian vernacular, and is a derogatory term meaning a “loud-mouthed idiot”, “fool”, “clown” and is also use to describe gaudy dress. It has also inspired a number of colloquial idioms: To be “mad as a gumtree full of galahs“ is to be completely crazy. “To make a proper galah of yourself” is to make a complete fool of yourself. A “pack of galahs” is a group of contemptibly idiotic people. If you’re a fan of that great Aussie TV export Home and Away, you might’ve heard Alf Stewart complain: “Ya flamin’ galah”, which means you’re a complete idiots.
Kookaburra sits on the old gum tree. They might look cute and sound hilarious but they have the last laugh once they’ve snatched the snags off your BBQ!
Of course, even these brief snapshots of Australian birds, wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the kookaburra, even though it didn’t feature central stage. Indeed, the photo I’ve included here was taken at Pearl Beach round the corner from home where they’re rather partial to stealing sausages (Or snags in the Aussie vernacular) straight off the BBQ without any concern about burning their beaks!! We spotted a few kookaburras while we were on holidays around Byron Bay, but what I remember most was hearing the kookaburras laugh while I was floating on my back at Brunswick Heads watching fluffy white clouds scud across the deep blue sky. There was absolutely no doubt I was in Australia. Indeed, over the years, the sound of kookaburras laughing has been used to create a sense of Australia in movies over the years.
My Great Great Aunt Rose Bruhn with her pet kookaburra who appeared on Brisbane radio.
This parrot is living at the Macadamia Castle. Although I’ve occasionally seen them in the wild i.e. my backyard, they’re quite shy and not all that common. Indeed, it’s a real treat to spot one.
Male Australian King-Parrots are the only Australian parrots with a completely red head. Females are similar to males except that they have a completely green head and breast. Both sexes have a red belly and a green back, with green wings and a long green tail. King parrots are normally encountered in pairs or family groups.
We also saw the emus at the Macadamia Castle. I had no idea how the emu originally got it’s name. However, it turns out that ’emu’ isn’t an Aboriginal word. Rather, it might have been derived from an Arabic word for large bird and later adopted by early Portuguese explorers and applied to cassowaries in eastern Indonesia. The term was then transferred to the Emu by early European explorers to Australia.
Emus are a funny-looking flightless bird, which also makes quite a peculiar sound. Not that I’m being judgemental. I haven’t spent a lot of time with emus, although they used to have a few at the Australian Reptile Park up the road from home, and they were savage food thieves. In the wild, packs of emus have been known to decimate farms. I think my grandfather used emu oil to treat his arthritis.
My childhood memories of emus, include a show called: Marty and Emu. It took a bit of detective work to dig that one out of the memory bank. They appeared on a kids’ show called: The Super Flying Fun Show, which was hosted by “Miss Marilyn” Mayo. Of interest to Australians, Darryl Somers appeared later on in the history of the show, and you can see how Hey Hey It’s Saturday with Darryl and Ossie Ostrich evolved from there. It turns out that Rod Hull had appeared with emu on the show before my time and a duplicate emu was made when Hull returned to the UK and continued his performances over there.
Marty Morton & Emu (I was so excited to see them again!)
Of course, when we’re talking about cultural representations of the emu, you can’t go past John Williamson’s classic: Old Man Emu:
These are only some of the birds we saw on our travels. The ones we photographed or found most interesting. We also saw a large flock of black cockatoos on the drive North, which we had no chance of photographing, but they were good to see. There were also crows and magpies.
I’ll sign off with this photo of a duck in plastic kiddies wading pool at the Macadamia Castle. Usually, this pond is full. However, there’s been such low rainfall that the pond’s dried up for the first time in the 15 years we’ve been going there. These are clearly hard times for our wildlife (and domestic ducks).
What is your favourite Australian bird? Please share in the comments below.
Much coffee has flowed under the bridge over the last couple of weeks celebrating my 50th Birthday. So far, I’ve just been catching up with small groups of family and friends but I’m planning a larger party when the weather warms up a bit. Daylight is extending. Wattle is flowering. There isn’t long to wait.
I’m not sure how long it’s been since I touched base last. I wrote a post which didn’t make it up last week. So, if I’m repeating myself, I apologize.
Embracing My 50th Birthday at Pearl Beach, NSW.
My 50th Birthday was a big deal for me. I would’ve like to do something more spectacular to mark the occasion. However, it’s Winter and the kids have school. So, it wasn’t a good time to get away. Then, inspiration hit. I decided to watch the sun rise on my special day. In the days leading up to the Big 50, the sunsets and the weather had been quite good. However, as luck would have it, rain threatened. The clouds rolled in and there wasn’t even an orange blush where the sunrise should have been. We were philosophical about it. We still enjoyed the serenity of the waves rolling into the shore accompanied by magpies, kookaburras and rainbow lorrikeets in the surrounding bush. Before we left, I strutted my stuff for the camera, which was just as well because that could well have saved us from changing places with a Mercedes which was side-swiped by a ute and forced off the road. The drivers door was badly damaged and shards of glass carpeted the front seats. I’m not superstitious but an accident like that which would have written of our beloved red Alfa, would have felt like a terrible harbinger of doom on my 50th birthday.
I don’t know about you, but birthday celebrations for us are also about food. We went out for dinner at a local French restraurant, Sous le Soleil, with my parents for my main birthday celebrations. It was such a special treat. Felt like we were in this little oasis of France in Sydney. All the staff seemed to be French and the food was exquisite. I was particularly touched when my dessert arrived with Happy Birthday inscribed in chhocolate around the plate. It was beautiful…as were the pears soaked in red wine and floating in a chocolate soup. That’s my type of food.
There have also been a couple of fabulous lunches, cafe morning teas and dinners with friends. I’ve taken a few of my photo albums along to a few of these. It was so much fun pouring over the pages with my Mum and Dad and photos taken during my 20s with a bunch of old friends. We had a lot of laughs and a few red faces.
Geoff and I overlooking Pearl Beach.
A friend also took us out for lunch at Pearl Beach and afterwards we went for a drive to nearby Patonga and along the headland overlooking Pearl Beach, which is known locally as the water tower walk. There are breathtaking views. Indeed, they’re monumental, reminding me of the closing lines of John Keats poem: On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer:
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
-However, the flip side of all this catching up, eating and splendor, was quite few weeks of deep and not always satisfied reflection. I’m not sure these would amount to regrets. However, there is certainly disappointment. There is also a sense of renewed determination to get a book finished and published. Not just any book but a book worth writing and reading. However, this ongoing mission is offset somewhat by an increased need to catch up with friends and socialize more, which is somewhat incompatible with withdrawing to my cave writing my life away. Decisions and choices need to be made. Or, I can simply go with the flow and wherever that takes me, which isn’t what the manuals of success advocate. So, the last couple of weeks have been rather intense in both directions.
Meanwhile, I’ve been doing a bit of reading. I’ve almost finished reading Kristina Olsson’s Shell.
Shell tells the gripping story of Pearl 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 Shellwas 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.
I’ve also been trying to get back into regular blogging. That dropped off a bit while I was working on my book project. This seemed the right thing to do. Be focused. However, the book project turned into a marathon instead of a sprint and it turned out this blog writing and interaction were weaving all sorts of magic which couldn’t be immediately classified but it’s absence was felt. After taking part in my regular blog shares this week, I’m feeling my better. My voice is back.
Well, that seems to cover the last couple of weeks. I hope you’ve enjoyed joining us for my birthday celebrations. This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.
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 Pearl 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 Shellwas 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.
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.
You thought you’d heard it all. However, you’ve been living in a cultural vacuum if you haven’t been introduced to this little Aussie icon… Jonathan Livingston Budgerigar.
After reading my previous post about my efforts to photograph Jonathan Livingston Seagull down at the beach, a friend put me onto Bob Hudson‘s Jonathan Livingston Budgerigar. The outcome for JLB is truly Australian, but I’m no spoiler. You’ll need to watch it for yourselves. I guarantee you’ll never see anything else like it!!
While you’re onto a good thing, you might also want to listen to Bob Hudson’s The Newcastle Song. It’s a little bit rough, but funny as. Back in March 1975 when I was six, it topped the Kent Music Report singles chart.
By the way, this was the era when Paul Hogan had hit the big time with the Paul Hogan Show and The Newcastle Song album fitted in well.
I’ve been left absolutely speechless, but suspect my cred with the kids has suffered a beating, but it’s been worth it. I love a good belly laugh.
Do you have any funny posts you’d like to share? I’d love to check them out.
Jonathan Livingstone Seagull wasn’t in the mood for mindfulness, meditation or even having some kind of a chat down at the beach this morning. Usually, he’s quite happy to pose philosophically and even stands statue-still for the camera as though he’s had a bit of modeling experience. However, this morning he was either out to carpe diemseize the day or might’ve been late for an important date further down the beach. On the other hand, perhaps, he was simply trying to raise his heart rate after absorbing more of my physio’s wisdom than I (who was slowly wondering along the beach absorbing life through the lens).
You’ll also notice that a bit of a breeze was ruffling his feathers. It was a brisk 17°C down there today, which might have some of you leaping for joy shouting “Summer!” However, that’s considered cold here. That said, over the last couple of days the weather’s been awful with temperatures around 9°C, chilling winds and rain. Of course, these near blizzard conditions forced many frost-bitten locals to rug up and stay home, especially of the teenage variety. So, with the sun back out and the mercury rising, the whingeing Aussies were back out singing the Alleluia Chorus.
“Heaven is not a place, and it is not a time. Heaven is being perfect. –
And that isn’t flying a thousand miles an hour, or a million, or flying at
the speed of light. Because any number is a limit, and perfection doesn’t
have limits. Perfect speed, my son, is being there.”
I’m pleased I snatched a few moments away from my research to get outside and stretch my wings. I’ve lost myself somewhere in between the lines over the last couple of months and am slowly recalibrating myself for a marathon, not a sprint, on the book project. Darn it. I want to get something finished. Published. Done and dusted. Grr. Could I possibly write a book about trying to write a book? Would it take off? I’m getting desperate.
However, in the meantime, it’s good for the soul to get out there, inhale the ocean air and the beauty all around me and return to the present for a bit. After all, I’m sure it’s quite possible to get buried alive in the past and that doesn’t sound good.
Thought I’d better show you the bigger picture. Ocean Beach on a beautiful day.
What do you do to relax and unwind while working on a bit writing or creative project? After all, all writing and no unwinding makes for a wrung-out soul. Indeed, we do have our casualties.