Tag Archives: Covid

Weekend Coffee Share – 29th January, 2023.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share & a Belated Happy New Year!

My apologies for not being active lately. However, we went away to Byron Bay and the Gold Coast just after Christmas. We spent New Year’s Eve taking in the New Year’s Eve fireworks at famous Surfers’ Paradise. To be perfectly honest, we were sorely disappointed. The fireworks suddenly stopped without a finale as though someone had poured a bucket of cold water on proceedings. There were a few fights around us, loads of drunks but the beach was a sea of joyful revellers and it was mind-blowing to see so many people there. We caught a tram from Geoff’s sister’s place in Southport into Surfers which was very convenient, but the crowds coming home were phenomenal and sardine tin doesn’t come close to describing how packed it was.

Not unsurprisingly, Geoff caught covid NYE and two days later tested positive on a RAT. I was in disbelief. As you may recall, I’ve been continuing to isolate to avoid covid due to my lung condition and being immuno-suppressed. However, I get sick of being a wet blanket and just wanted our family to have fun. Geoff and I met on NYE 1998 watching the Sydney fireworks at a mutual friend’s place and I’ve always wanted to watch the fireworks together in person as a family and this was our big chance. The “kids” are about to turn 19 and 17 and are starting to forge their own paths. We don’t have forever to be doing things as a family.

A rainy night for our arrival in Sydney.

Following Geoff’s diagnosis, we came home early to avoid passing it onto his other sister and husband and hoped we might be able to beat the odds and get me home without getting infected. I was booked in to mind my friend’s house in Sydney the day after our early return so we hoped our quarantine would work. It didn’t. The night we arrived home, our son tested positive. The next day our daughter and I had a pcr test and that was negative. However, the next day I was overcome by the most mind-blowing fatigue. I sank like a stone. That probably sounds familiar. By this stage it was Sunday and I did the dreaded RAT test and much to my horror, was positive. Have any of you noticed how doing these rats is like taking a pregnancy test? Fortunately, I was much more excited about the results of the pregnancy test all those years ago. By this stage, covid had struck my sinuses and was nasty but thank goodness, stayed away from my lungs which are my Achilles Heel. Next day, I got onto the antivirals which seemed to give me a bit of pep. No doubt they made a difference. Meanwhile, Geoff had a chest infection and was on antibiotics. Our daughter felt symptomatic but didn’t test. So, that was the end of our status as “novids” and so far so good.

Our house minding gig was a wonderful opportunity. We were staying at Cremorne Point on the magnificent Sydney Harbour. We were a short drive up the hill from the wharf with harbour glimpses, a balcony looking out across the street where I could ponder who was living in the flats across the road and also watch the lightening display one stormy night. However, we weren’t really house minding. We were pet sitting. We were minding a dog, two cats and two guinea pigs. This is never a matter of just filling up their hungry bellies and topping up the water bowl. We loved their pets like our own. Indeed, our daughter was particularly excited to have cats and Guinea pigs as we’re a dog only family.

Sydney Opera House framed by the Sydney Harbour Bridge

While others probably would’ve planned out every second of their holiday time, we had no plans and getting covid only fueled the uncertainty. Three weeks sounded like a long time, but it disappeared in a flash and while a caught up with a few friends, I barely caught up with anyone. However, I caught loads of ferries and have become what you might call a “Ferry Hopper”. I caught the ferry to Circular Quay a couple of times initially but then I went further afield to Manly.

My fine self at Manly Beach about to blow away

Catching the Manly ferry is such a Sydney thing to do and I was reminded of trips in days gone by as a child but also as a teenager with my friends where we used to buy a plate of “chew and spew” Chinese for $10.00 and head to the beach. Manly is on the Northern head of Sydney Harbour.

Not the best beach day in Manly. The beach was closed once the lifesavers finished for the day. Everyone was ordered out of the water.

Watson’s Bay

We also caught the ferry over to Watson’s Bay, near the Southern Headland. Watson’s Bay used to be a fishing village and despite the influx of luxury homes, many of the historic cottages still remain and have been preserved under the National Trust.

Miss & Geoff at Watson’s Bay

While on the subject of bays, I also caught the ferry to Rose Bay. My parents were living in a flat on Old South Head Road there when I was born. They moved to Wahroonga when I was about two (in around 1972) when my brother was on the way.

In addition to my ferry hopping, we also visited Taronga Zoo. Not only does it have the wildlife, the harbour views from Taronga are incredible.

also went to the Art Gallery of NSW and it’s new offshoot, Sydney Modern. I think it’s been three years since I’ve been to the art gallery and sometimes I’d go a couple of times a year. Just another casualty of covid and covid lockdowns. The new gallery was great but I couldn’t help thinking they could’ve squeezed more paintings into that vast space. However, these gallery people seem to be great believers in conserving white space and less is more. I know it makes sense but what about all those paintings consigned to the dungeon that we could also be seeing? Well, clearly no one asked for my opinion.

Lastly, I went to Cockatoo Island , a UNESCO World Heritage Site at the junction of the Parramatta and Lane Cove River in Sydney Harbour. Cockatoo Island is the largest of several islands that were originally heavily timbered sandstone knolls. Cockatoo Island became a penal establishment in 1839 and convict-built buildings remain today. Exploring Cockatoo Island through my camera lens was a lot of fun.

Indeed, I’ve taken a swag of photos while I was in Sydney. Our son estimated I’d taken 3000 photos, but I’m not sure. Moreover, I had a lot of trouble with the auto-focus on my Nikon and too often I’d have to take at least two photos just to get one in focus. It would be fair to say my Nikon SLR is an endangered species.

However, all too soon we were packing up to come home. Arriving home with two packed cars to a packed house, although at least the Christmas decorations could disappear back to the roof. Geoff has also had to resurrect his working from home facilities and did a massive clean up yesterday. Still a long way to go.

Lastly, I’ll just mention that we still have Christmas pudding, brandy butter, Stollen, Christmas cake and even a spare Turducken (turkey, chicken and duck) in the fridge/freezer. My parents didn’t make it up here on Christmas Day and we weren’t terribly hungry. Hopefully, we might manage to have Christmas in February along with birthday celebrations.

How are you going? I’m looking forward to catching up.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Network Guy- Stream of Consciousness Saturday

Thanks to Dan Antion over at No Facilities I have been lured into a new to me blog challenge this weekend- Stream of Consciousness Saturday #SoCS which is kindly hosted by Linda G Hill. Please head over there to get the full rules for the challenges, but here are the details for this week’s prompt. I must say I really enjoyed it. It’s been a good 20-30 years since I’ve done a strict stream of consciousness piece and was quite pleased with the results, which have more than a grain of truth.

“Your Friday prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday is starts with ‘u.’ Find a word that starts with the letter ‘u’ and use it however you’d like. Bonus points if it’s the first word in your post. Enjoy!”

“Ultimately, it’s not your responsibility. You can walk away. It’s only a job. There are plenty of others,” Kate told her husband who was the sole network engineer at Parliament House since covid and the staff cutbacks. The Australian people had no idea that Australia’s political and economical stability all rested on Mike’s aching shoulders. That he was the very one person holding this country together like a wretched safety pin. Sure, he was reliable, but he wasn’t infallible.

“What if I get covid? What happens then?” he asked.

“They’ll replace you. Everyone’s replaceable. You know that.” She said, telling him what he wanted to hear, and what the CIO* wanted to believe. However, Mike knew that wasn’t true. No one else cared about the network or understood its intricate inner workings like he did, and nobody fought to maintain its integrity and reliability either. Management should’ve been called “mismanagement”. They didn’t care about people, and they had no mechanical empathy either.

“Why don’t you just walk away before it’s too late, Mike? Your blood pressure’s skyrocketing. You’ve got pre-diabetes and I don’t mean to sound judgmental but you’ve really stacked on the kilos. We could sell up. Move to the country without a mortgage and be free from it all.”

Mike loved his wife, but just for this instance she was sounding like the devil. That wretched serpent luring, enticing him into sin: “You don’t have to go to work tomorrow,” he could hear this enticing voice luring him away. “Walk away. Leave them to deal with the consequences. If the entire country falls into a screaming heap, it’s not your fault. You’re just a cog in the machine. You could actually be lying in a deck chair by the pool sipping piña coladas without a care in the world.”

It all sounded way to good to be true, but he knew it was possible. The house was paid off. They had money in the bank. They could be free. Yet, Mike couldn’t be the one. He couldn’t be the one who brought Australia to its knees – even if it wasn’t his fault he was the only man left standing.

“You know, Mike, it would be really nice if you could just forget about work even for one night and give me your 100% undivided attention. I know that data centre isn’t another woman, but I can’t help feeling you understand it better than me and care more about keep it happy than me.”

“Crikey!” That’s what Mike dreaded more than a total network outage right across Parliament House where all that vitriol usually reserved for their political opponents suddenly hurled itself at him. At least,he knew he stood a chance of fixing that. His wife was a different story and while he wasn’t just capable of understanding machines, he didn’t do well when the going got tough. Got stuck on the finer points of interpersonal communication. That’s when he usually resorted to flowers or chocolates. He didn’t know how they did the trick, but they worked. That’s all that mattered.

Right on cue, his mobile rang. It was work. Almost in synch with his wife, the server was down. Couldn’t be dealt with remotely. He had to go in.”

Kate didn’t even need to ask. She knew where she came in the pecking order, and she knew he’d be back with flowers, chocolates anything but himself.

“A dose of covid,” she wondered, “might not be a curse after all. Indeed, long covid could even be the answer.”

589 words.

CIO = Chief Information Officer

Hope you enjoyed it, and I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Winter Camellia Wonderland.

Yesterday, I visited my parents for the first time in a year. Geoff was going down to work, and so he dropped me off on the way, and I was expecting to be there for a good six hours. Well, I can assure you that even after not seeing me for a year, my Dad didn’t think he could talk for that long, although their was the possibility my mother could, but she sleeps irregular hours and so she was also a bit of an unknown quantity. The other thing I came to consider, is that they’ve had very little face-to-face contact with anyone since Sydney went into lockdown last June and so even having their dearest daughter land on their doorstep for the day might’ve been overwhelming, and my Dad recently had an operation as well and so isn’t in prime form either. I guess it suffices to say they’re in their late 70’s and have slowed down a bit.

????????????????????????????????????

I packed a book and my journal and looked forward to playing the piano. However, it was a glorious sunny day and they have a magnificent cottage style garden which is quite a camellia wonderland. Indeed, now in the depths of Winter, the camellias are in flower and were absolutely beautiful. As you walk down their driveway, there’s what I think is a Ted Craig Reticulata which is 15 centimetres in diameter and absolutely magnificent. To use a classic quote from Kath & Kim, it’s shouting out: “Look at me! Look at me!” it’s hard not to.

Their garden also has quite a few deciduous trees and there was some stunning yellow Autumn leavers out the front and the neighbours have a towering Liquid Amber which is now mostly a skeleton of branches and all those leaves have fallen somewhere and been swept or raked away. I dare say, many of them have dropped in my parents’ garden and while I was there, I found myself sweeping the front steps until I found myself down on the driveway. It was alright when I started out. I seemed to be making progress. However, a wind had come along and it was literally snowing leaves and they were almost falling faster than I could sweep them away. Of course, I started to see a sort of futility in all of this. Do I end up becoming a sweeper just to keep up with the never-ending tide of leaves or do I simply leave them be? Well, it’s easy for me to say, because I don’t live there and we don’t have any deciduous trees here, except our jacaranda but it rains purple flowers instead. That’s why I guess sweeping up all those Autumn leaves was such a thought-provoking novelty. It’s not something I usually think about.

Anyway, I wanted to share that going round and working on your parents’ garden can be a great way of spending time with or around them while not being underfoot or tiring them out too much. My uncle showed me the way here. He used to go round and work on my grandfather’s garden. This way you can have a chat and a cup of tea, do some gardening. Have another chat and maybe even talk about the garden or they could sit out their with you too.

Their Driveway

By the way, I should also mention that I took over some Date and Apricot All Bran Muffins which they love. Home baked treats also keep to make a visit special.

Are you into gardening at all? Or perhaps you have elderly parents. What enhances your visits? It would be great to share some ideas and special memories.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 29th May, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Wow! I can’t believe I actually went somewhere. In fact, I’ve even been to somewheres. It’s been an exceptionally busy week, but so very rewarding.

I’m going to get the ball rolling, by sharing what I’ve been up to first.

Firstly, on Thursday and Friday last week, I attended a Suicide Intervention Course called ASIST, which is put together by a telephone crisis service called Lifeline. The course usually costs $600.00 but they were offering it free of charge to locals thanks to Rotary sponsorship. I know that doing two solid days of this must sound incredibly heavy. There were parts where my hand turned noticeably red, and I gathered I’d got a bit too worked out. However, my overall feeling was that doing the course was more uplifting than heavy going since the training helped me feel much more capable and empowered.

Yesterday, we drove down to Sydney for Miss to compete in a lyrical troupe dance at the Sydney Eisteddfod. Because we’ve seen the dance before and it was going to cost $50.00 to attend, we decided to go out for an early dinner at an adjacent Vietnamese restaurant instead. We had been there almost precisely a year ago when she competed in last year’s Eisteddfod and we hadn’t been able to get back due to covid lockdowns and being cautious. So, this felt like quite a treat and I was so excited to enjoy scrumptious crispy chicken and prawn pancake known as Bánh xèo. it was so good. We also managed to check out an exhibition of street art, and we also came across two of the massive inflatable gnomes which are in Chatswood at the moment, and we also found an exquisite bakery and bought a chocolate mouse cake shaped like a very cute puppy dog and a mango coconut mouse cup. Yum.

Today, we ended up pointing the car in the opposite direction and driving to Newcastle for Miss to compete in the School Aerobics Championships where she competed in cheer and aerobics. Everybody did really well and they all made it through to the State competition which will be held in St Ives, Sydney in a month’s time. If they get through that, it’s off to the Gold Coast for Nationals.

Look wat the dreaded Miss did to me!

Afterwards, we drove down to The Junction, a popular part of Newcastle where Mum’s cousin’s family owns a wonderful restaurant, Tallulah, but it had just close when we turned up, and so we headed across the road to the Grumpy Baker. Well, the baker might be grumpy, but we can assure you, none of the patrons were grumpy indulging in their scrumptious sensations. Even their sausage rolls had been elevated to highly delicious heights and we were most disappointed that we missed out on seconds after someone else bought the last two from under our noses. Golly, it all made a very strong argument for heading back North up the freeway.

Anyway, I need to head off now.

Hope you’ve had a great week.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Golden Pineapple Farm…Friday Fictioneers

Things had never been easy. However, bushfires, covid, and now the floods had
all but wiped out Jim and Sally’s small-time pineapple farm. While the tourists
were back, they drove straight past heading for the Big Pineapple. Now, down
to their last gold coins, hope was almost gone. Yet, despite being rabid
atheists, they fell to their knees in prayer.

Miraculously, Bill responded, proposing they could sell his dope crop via
their roadside stall.

Finally, they’d seen the light!

It was only meant to be temporary, and apparently the cops were turning a
blind eye.

That was until they stopped.

…..

100 words PHOTO PROMPT © Brenda Cox

Thought I’d better share a photo of Queensland’s iconic Big Pineapple with you. It is 16 metres (52 ft) high and was originally opened on 15 August 1971. It is situated on a 165-hectare (410-acre) site.

You can vaguely see it’s us in front of the Big Pineapple around 1977.

I wonder how many Australian families have had their photos taken in front of the iconic Big Pineapple. I know Geoff went with his family and here’s a photo with my family including my grandmother. I think my grandfather took the photo, and clearly we didn’t have a great camera.

What you can’t see in that photo, is that I was probably wearing my Mickey Mouse thongs. So, I decided to include this photo and thought you might appreciate the photo of my brother and I patting the kangaroo. I was very proud of my Mickey Mouse thongs, and would still be wearing them now if I had my way.

Anyway, this has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by our intrepid leader, Rochelle Wishoff-Fields at https://rochellewisoff.com/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 9th March, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Don’t know whether it’s Mother’s Day in your neck of the woods, but it has been here and I have a large bunch of flowers on the kitchen bench, and we had various delicious snacks, German Bee Sting Cake and white chocolate rocky road. We had a low key Mother’s Day, because I slept through half of it, and my parents are keeping a low profile still avoiding covid, although we did have some lengthy conversations on the phone. Of course, it’s not the same, but hopefully we’ll get down there soon.

I had a bit of a Mother’s Day tribute in my previous post.

Well, I have to tell you it’s getting chilly around here now. The weather isn’t always the best judge of the seasons around here, but the end of daylight savings is usually the death knell to Summer. Just to put you in the picture, the weather is expected to range from 11-18 degrees Celsius today. That’s cold. Anything below ten is FREEZING!!

This weekend, Geoff and I drove over to Hardys Bay to watch the sunset. As you can see, it’s a truly magnificent spot. While we love and appreciate our own beach, it’s always good to mix it us and this little patch is emerging as a really special place for us. It is so incredibly tranquil there. I don’t know whether that’s a function of it being on still water rather than the surf, but I can easily lose track of hours sitting there watching and photographing the sunset talking with Geoff. Indeed, it felt totally timeless. Indeed, I’d have to say we’d finally managed to relax into human beings instead of human doings (or in my case it’s often a “gunna do”.) We went over there yesterday and went on quite a long walk (at least for me), and we went back today to drive further round to Pretty Beach but we loved Hardys Bay so much we headed back and parked ourselves at the end of the jetty feasting on spiced nuts. The sunset seemed to last forever and more and more colour somehow managed to leak out. I was a very happy snapper.

Sunset Hardys Bay

I’ve been thinking a lot about my future lately. It’s a future I didn’t think I’d have a few years ago, and I didn’t really give a lot of thought to going back to work because time was short and my family mattered most, and my writing and research interests were intellectually stimulating and probably even more so than most jobs. My kids have also needed me around, but that didn’t prevent me from working part-time. However, then covid hit and my health situation has meant I’ve spent much of the last 2.5 years in isolation and trying to stay alive on that front has been very draining too. It’s been a war zone for vulnerable people like myself, especially when you’re living with family who are out and about and could bring it home. However, the extra income would be good and I’m think work might give me a bit more grounding and direction. I’ve been feeling a bit lost lately. Then again, there have been so many changes, it’s not surprising. Our daughter s now halfway through her second last year at school, and I’m also wondering if I should just wait until she’s done. She’s got her school work, heavy dance commitments and working at McDonalds. I could continue on with my WWI research and get that polished off in the meantime. I’m going to pray about it. That’s not another way of saying I’m going to sit on the fence, procrastinate or do nothing. I don’t really have strong views either way. Have you had to go through this process and how did you go about it?

Well, I think I might head off.

How has your week been? I hope you’ve had a good one.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer: https://fresh.inlinkz.com/party/d195f0f14edb4d419024884d730b8c75

Best wishes,

Rowena

Grit & Determination Onboard the Young Endeavour

“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”

-Vincent Van Gogh

Since our son returned from his voyage onboard STS Young Endeavour, we’ve had so many chats, and I’ve literally been squeezing out every last detail. Strangely, I haven’t even needed to coerce. He’s been surprisingly chatty and responsive to my endless questions. I have an insatiable curiosity, and after being in lockdown or isolation for so long, he was a marked man.

Despite all these stories and conversations, this is how he summed the trip up in a nutshell: “no words can describe the rollercoaster it was”.

Meanwhile, what I would like to say at the outset, is how proud I am of him and all the other Youthies onboard. That’s not just proud Mumma speak. While they had a lot of fun, they had some tough life lessons onboard, particularly when three of their number tested positive to covid three days before they were due to disembark, and had to leave the ship early. It must’ve been devastating for those who left, but the camaraderie among the group meant that it deeply affected them all. They were “one for all, and all for one”, and I was really touched by their empathy and compassion.

So here’s a bit of an overview of some of the challenges our intrepid youthies faced during their voyage.

It’s a long way to the top – the Young Endeavour moored in Geelong. Photo: Geoff Newton

Probably, the most obvious challenge when you first see the Young Endeavour, is height. It’s a very long way to the top of the mast. While I doubt anyone with a serious fear of heights would do the trip in the first place, that’s not to say these daredevils didn’t face some trepidation. While they were up there, they were balanced on nothing more than a wire tightrope, while they furled and unfurled the sails and they were heavy. However, this crew was apparently pretty good, and they had all been up before leaving Port Phillip Bay. Well done!

“The heights by great men reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they, while their companions slept, were toiling upward in the night.”

– Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

View out the porthole

Another big challenge was also clearly identified before he left. That was no mobile phone, WIFI, Internet…the works! All of these were banned onboard. Surviving without social media probably wasn’t going to be his battle. However, as a gamer, we thought going cold turkey on this front was going to be tough. Yet, he hasn’t mentioned that at all.

“You can never cross the ocean until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.” – Christopher Columbus

Physical fitness was also a serious concern. I’d watched the promotional video and it looked very physical furling and unfurling the sails. It would be too late once they were onboard and had raised the anchor to have second thoughts: “Let me off. I’ve changed my mind!!” They were committed. However, they were not alone. They were going through this very steep learning curve together and they had the “staffies” onboard. They were headed by inspirational Captain Adam “Charlie” Farley who might’ve had his official whites on for boarding and disembarking, but the rest of the time he was wearing the blue shirt like the rest of them and was inspiring alongside rather than from above. (By the way, he was the only one who managed to do a backflip off the boat while they were in Jervis Bay, and apparently he was as smooth as a “swan”.) He also stuck a motivational quote on the fridge every day.

Captain Adam “Charlie” Farley welcoming the “youthies” onboard in Geelong.

“Seasickness: at first you are so sick you are afraid you will die, and then you are so sick you are afraid you won’t die.”

— Mark Twain

Meanwhile, seasickness wasn’t something we’ve given any consideration until we watched the informational videos. Our son has sailed for many years, and has never shown any sign of seasickness before. However, this trip was much more challenging what with crossing Bass Strait and being out at sea. Given that their website had dedicated an entire video to the subject, it wasn’t something to ignore. https://www.facebook.com/YoungEndeavour/videos/1018219102114384

Fortunately, he was only sick once after eating too much breakfast. However, things weren’t pretty for some of the others on Day Two while they were crossing notorious Bass Strait, and the sea was rolling like a Bucking Bronco. Naturally, this wasn’t pretty, and I’ll spare you most of the details. However, he did mention there was a “Red Sea” flowing through the ship, which reminded me of that famous scene from Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life featuring Mr Creosote: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U (watch at your own risk).

Yet, despite their ordeal, the Captain’s Log reported that the youthies still performed their duties, which sounds incredibly commendable. Yet, while it would be easy to feel sorry for them, all of this struggle was what they’d signed up for… throwing themselves against the elements to develop that much desired trait…resilience. Of course, resilience has never been served up on a silver platter, and only comes once you’ve stretched yourself well beyond breaking point. My dad used to call this “putting hair on your chest”. So, all these youthies must be woolly mammoths by now!

However, as bad as the seasickness was for some, there was a popular antidote…the humble Sao biscuit. Our son described them as “the wonder food of seasickness”. Indeed, written underneath the bunk above him were the words: “Saos are king”. In case you’ve never encountered a Sao biscuit, it’s very plain, and would be kind to a troubled tummy. The fact that something as plain and ordinary as a Sao biscuit could save the day, goes to show that a big problem doesn’t necessarily require a big solution.

Youthies on Floral Shirt Friday

Another consideration I had, was how roughly 20 young strangers aged 16 to 23 were going to coexist for nine days in a very confined space without erupting. Being stuck on the same boat for so long could be rather fractious, and I did address this with him before he left. However, it was actually quite the reverse. As I explained earlier, they all got on incredibly well and really looked out for each other. It’s also worth mentioning that they didn’t stay onboard the ship for the full nine days and they broke it up a bit with some activities on land.

Homesickness was another possibility. Our son has been away on Scout camps and Jamboree before, so I wasn’t expecting him to get terribly homesick. However, some of the others were younger and especially with covid around, haven’t been away from home all that much. You don’t have to be a sook to get a bit homesick, especially given the physical challenges of the journey.

In addition to the challenges, our son also shared details of the voyage.

They did a bit of singing onboard. Singing was also a bit of a thing onboard and the Captain’s Log mentioned them singing John Lennon’s Imagine, which must’ve been so moving out there at sea. J. also told me that when they were waking someone up to go on a watch, they sang a variation of The Wiggles’ song: “Toot Toot Chugga Chugga Big Red Car”: “toot toot chugga chugga big blue boat”, and by the end of the voyage, they’d call out: “Wake up Charlie” (the name of the Captain and a reference to Wake up, Jeff also from the Wiggles).

Source: Young Endeavour

He also made a reference to them being told to “use your Navy voice”, and that they had to raise their voices to be heard. That made me laugh. When he was younger, he was always being told to “use his inside voice”, and bring the volume down. How times have changed!

“When anxious, uneasy and bad thoughts come, I go to the sea, and the sea drowns them out with its great wide sounds, cleanses me with its noise, and imposes a rhythm upon everything in me that is bewildered and confused.”

– Rainer Maria Rilke

Meanwhile, although I thought the storytelling driving home in the car was amazing, it was nothing compared to having him bring up my good old friend Google Earth and for a virtual experience. He took me from Geelong out through the Heads of Port Melbourne and across the notorious Rip all with a click of the mouse. From there, they’d sailed across Bass Strait where they saw quite a few islands, dolphins and fed a lot of fish. Then, they anchored in Refuge Bay, which was a welcome relief from the rough seas and seasickness. They sailed up along the continental shelf reaching Jervis Bay and then onto Sydney’s Watson’s Bay where I think they spent a few days. They spent their final night moored near Taronga Park Zoo being serenaded by the elephants. I recorded the whole experience, and wished I could’ve been there. Somehow, being a couch sailor isn’t the same.

“To me, the sea is a continual miracle; The fishes that swim–the rocks–the motion of the waves–the ships, with men in them, What stranger miracles are there?”

– Walt Whitman

Me and my boy. Oops I mean man.

These were apparently the Captain’s parting words:

“You leave with new skills, improved persistence, resilience and adaptability, as well as generally knowing you are more capable than what you probably thought. And of course, having made great new friends – most probably, friends for life”

-Captain Adam “Charlie” Farley

There is so much more that could be said, and perhaps I’ve focused a bit too heavily on the hurdles they’ve overcome rather than the fun, especially since one of my motivations is to encourage other young people to sign up. Yet, despite or perhaps because of these hardships, our son has emerged a much more confident and optimistic version of himself with a pile of gripping stories, and a swag of new friends. Indeed, even a week down the track, he still remains exhilarated.

I wonder what it means when you sail into a rainbow…

Lastly, I would like to thank everyone who made this trip not only possible, but also such a success. No doubt so much has gone on behind the scenes, and we are incredibly grateful.

Before I head off, here are a couple of videos you might enjoy and if you or someone you know has been onboard STS Young Endeavour, I’d love to hear your stories in the comments below.

Best wishes,

Rowena

https://www.facebook.com/YoungEndeavour/videos/389567701984131

Under the Rainbow… the STS Young Endeavour Returns.

“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”

– Jacques Yves Cousteau

Last Wednesday, Geoff and I drove down to Sydney Harbour to welcome back our No. 1 son, who’d been away for ten days sailing on the tall ship STS Young Endeavour from Geelong to Sydney. Indeed, we were waiting at the Coal Loader Wharf near HMAS Waterhen with our eyes peeling looking for the much anticipated ship, when a massive rainbow appeared. I couldn’t believe my luck. I have been in lockdown at home for the best part of six months and right on my release, a rainbow appears, I have my camera, and better still, the Young Endeavour appearing right on cue and I managed to capture it sailing across the rainbow. Better still, our son was perched right at the very top like an oversized crow as they came in. Oh! Be still my beating heart!

Just to recap on the journey, he’d been away on a nine day trip from Geelong to Sydney which, as he said, was pretty much the “Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race in reverse minus Tasmanian.” They sailed out of Geelong on Monday the 20th March. On Day two, they sailed out of Port Phillip Bay, across the notorious Rip and soon they were taking on the even more notorious Bass Strait before heading up the East Coast. They stopped off at Refuge Bay, Jervis Bay and Watson’s Bay along the way before spending their final night anchored near Taronga Park Zoo listening to the elephants.

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”

Dr Suess

The Young Endeavour sailed right through the end of the rainbow. Wonder if they found the fabled pot of gold?

I can’t tell you how excited I was to see him, the boat, and to finally be a physical part of his experience after being unable to see him off in Geelong. The ship was due in at 10.00am and knowing the Navy, it would be 10.00am sharp, and they certainly wouldn’t be running on Byron Bay time (which is little better than a hair past a freckle). However, my watch hit 10.00am and there was still no sign of the Young Endeavour. The anticipation was absolutely killing me. Thank goodness the rainbow was there to distract me, and we were just hoping the rain would hold off long enough for us to see them come in.

“My big fish must be somewhere.”
― Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

Then, apparently just a minute or two after ten, the ship’s canon sounded, and STS Young Endeavour finally came into view. There he was – one of those large black birds perched right at the very top of the mast with the daring of a movie stunt double. I couldn’t wait to see him. Give him a hug. Have him back.

However, there was a spanner in the works. An unfortunately all too familiar spanner, which I’d naively thought had been wrestled and dealt with before they’d climbed on board. Three of the “youthies” (as the young people were called) had tested positive to covid despite having had a PCR test and a RAT before leaving (covid seems to be more effective than the devil at sneaking into unwanted places and wreaking havoc). Apparently, the news went up to the Navy “higher-ups”, and after being isolated on the bridge for four hours they were given a “VIP” escort to the big navy base at Woolloomooloo. While it was tough for those whose voyages were cut short, it also hit the remaining youthies really hard. In only seven days, they’d all grown incredibly close. There was no “us and them”, or being focused on No. 1. They’d become a unit and they were welded together like an unbroken chain.

J. onboard the Young Endeavour leaving Geelong.

Of course, I wasn’t there, and it’s an interesting experience writing about someone else’s journey as though it was your own. However, even as a parent of a now 18 year old where the umbilical cord was cut years ago, we’re still Mum and Dad. We’re still interested in what he’s up to, especially when he’s been on such a privileged adventure, and as the Captain mentioned in his first Captain’s Log, we had all become “armchair sailors” back home.

Besides, we’d also gone through the last two years alongside them. I don’t need to explain what this has been like to any of you. We’ve all been living through it. We also had the worst bushfires in living memory just before covid along with it’s choking haze of smoke which travelled the globe several times over before finally breaking up. We haven’t been able to plan, hope, leave the house although many of us tried to make a positive out of a negative and had our “Covid Projects”. On a much more serious note, people have died. Now, places are recovering from devastating floods and there’s the invasion of Ukraine.

So, without going into all our son and these other young people have been through over the last two years, let’s just say that their arrival home, especially surrounded by that massive rainbow, just screamed positivity. Indeed, you can see, I’ve doctored the photo of the ship surrounded by the rainbow, and added the words: “There Is Always Hope”. I’ve come a very long way to reach that point. Indeed, with our son perched high up on the mast, me being there to greet him after more than six months in lockdown, and capturing the photo of a lifetime, it was an incredible triumph.

“My soul is full of longing for the secret of the sea, and the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Day 3 from Refuge Bay, Victoria. J. is second from the left.

I was pleasantly surprised by how chatty he was, and his incredibly enthusiastic and visually graphic storytelling abilities. After all, teenagers aren’t renowned for sharing all the lurid details with Mum and Dad and perhaps there was still a lot he left out. Usually, we’ve ecstatic to get a grunt.

In my next post, I’ll share a few points from his trip, and you never know perhaps he or one of his fellow youthies might share their experiences directly on Beyond the Flow. I live in hope.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Quick Trip to Pisa, Italy.

Never thought I’d be posting a photo of the front door of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. However, last night I jumped on Google Earth, and to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t a case of: “Hey presto, watch me pull the Leaning Tower of Pisa out of a hat”. However, I did get there eventually and as John Lennon famously said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I must remind Geoff to get that inscribed on my grave. That is my life.

My first glance at Pisa

Anyway, if you have ever travelled anywhere via Google Earth, you might’ve had this experience. You type in where you want to go, and instead of landing straight there, you wake up in some random back street, and unless you cheat and re-do your search like I did after wandering around Pisa for an hour, you need to somehow get your bearings and head off. My usual modus operandi is to look up, which you’d think would work when you’re looking for a tower, and when you see the LTOP , there isn’t anything in the background ie it’s not crammed into a suburban block dwarfed by office blocks like special landmarks in Sydney. No, it has it’s own space. It’s own expansive patch of green under the sun, which it doesn’t seem to share with anyone.

Well, that is until you get there, and find the most exquisite church next door, and ponder how it is that this one patch of ground under this sun has been blessed with such exceptionally amazing architecture, especially when your own little patch is let’s just say: “left wanting”. Of course, it helps to be in Italy. However, as Trent so kindly told me, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is actually the bell tower for the Cattedralle di Pisa. By the way, it, too, is on a slight angle.

Even the Leaning Tower of Pisa has a front Door.

I’m not going to repeat what can be so easily sourced on the web about the history of these buildings. However, I thought I’d let you know how I randomly came to be wandering around Pisa. After all, when you last heard from me on my Google Earth travels, I was travelling from Cloyne to Middleton, County Cork, Ireland. Since then, I’ve been hanging around the very picturesque village of Overton in Hampshire where my 4 x Great Grandfather, Geoff Merritt was born. He married Bridget Donovan the Irish Famine Orphan from Midleton in Sydney in 1853 so there is some logic to these seemingly random travel destinations of mine. However, it wasn’t family history research that took me to Pisa. Rather, the photograph posted for Friday Fictioneers yesterday was of the LTOP and I thought I might as well head over and have a look because no inspiration was coming at me straight away.

So, there I was roaming through the streets of Pisa and the markets with no tower in sight. I returned to sender, and this time, I was right at the base of the tower and almost had my nose up against the wall. Wow! It was sensational. Who would have thought you could have such a sense of really being there simply by using Google Earth while you’re still sitting in your chair here in Australia. It’s incredible. It’s really opening my eyes.

Anyway, the highlight of the trip was actually switching over to Youtube and climbing up the tower. I was researching the Statue of Liberty about a year ago and had no idea that you could actually climb up inside her (which I must say felt rather weird and creepy to be honest, and then exciting). This was much the same experience. Didn’t know you could climb up the LTOP either and as I climbed the stairs, I thought of my seriously reduced lung capacity, claustrophobia but on the other hand my sheer determination and iron will. Yes, I could see myself getting halfway up and major trouble setting in on so many different levels. It was just was just as well I was safely back home sitting in my lounge chair back home with Zac the dog on my lap. (If you’d like to climb the tower, here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNbpbn9E2dc

By the way, I don’t want to leave you with the false impression that there’s no ordinary among the extraordinary in Pisa. So, I thought I’d share the Via Delle Sette Volte with you, which reminds me of a tunnel we had back at Sydney University. While it’s not as exquisite as the better known Pisa landmarks, I’m sure it’s walls have told many stories throughout the centuries. Pisa is that sort of place. Only it’s history isn’t all confined to the past. It’s ongoing, and still being made today. After all, does history ever truly die?

Have you been to Pisa and climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Or, perhaps you’ve visited the Cattedralle of Pisa. I love to hear from you. BTW this is also a contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Dan Antion at No facilities https://nofacilities.com/category/thursday-doors/

Best wishes and thank you for reading!

Rowena

PS I was intrigued by the inconsistent quality of the photos on this trip. Some of them were really good, and others barely passed muster and certainly would’ve been deleted if I’d taken them in person on my Nikon SLR. However, when you consider they were taken on my phone from my computer screen and I’m all the way over in Australia, they’re all pretty exceptional.

PPS Here’s a link to my story for Friday Fictioneers: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2022/03/03/stairway-to-hell-friday-fictioneers-3rd-march-2022/

Stairway to Hell – Friday Fictioneers: 3rd March, 2022

“Idiot! You absolute idiot! Most people climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa to appreciate its exquisite, historic architectural beauty and mind-blowing views.

Instead, you go there to deal with all your phobias at once…claustrophobia, acrophobia, agoraphobia, and heaven help you if you come across a spider, because your arachnophobia will be the death of you.

However, the book said you could do anything. Carpe diem seize the day. Keep breathing. Yet, you know you’re going to die in that tower, and nothing can save you.  

“How many stairs to the top?”

Once again, living with myself was my toughest battle.

……..

100 words PHOTO PROMPT © Anne Higa (thank you Anne!)

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields https://rochellewisoff.com/ Every week, we write 100 words or less to a photo prompt and the results always astound me. I’ve found it incredibly worthwhile.

I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to respond to this week’s prompt. In some ways, being confronted by such a well-known public landmark made it harder.

Lately, I have been going on little trips via Google Earth. It was been absolutely mind-blowing particularly as I’m still largely in lockdown avoiding covid for medical reasons. So, I decided to head to Pisa, and have a look around the tower. Well, despite clicking on the tower itself, I didn’t land there, and spent quite a time poking around all sort of alleyways and still not finding what I’d assumed would be unmissable. I went back to my search and really tried to be more specific, and this time when I came to, I was standing right in front of the tower and tilting my head right back to get a look at the top. Wow! I turned around and there was an another possibly more exquisite site – the Cattedrale di Pisa. How could one place be blessed with such incredible architecture on one spot? I guess it helps being in Italy!

I had a bit of a wander around Google, and came across a video of climbing up the tower. Aha! Now, I had my angle. However, where I started out was a bit different to where I ended up, and that was with those famous words of “The Little Engine That Could”: “I think I can! I think I can” as it tried to climb of the mountain. I thought of trying to climb up all those stairs with my dodgy lungs with 50% capacity and I was locked in this battle between “I think I can” and “No I can’t!!” That got left out as well, and as often happens, the story took on a life of it’s own.

Not too sure about the angle of this photo, but I’m sure my heart skipped a beat when I saw it close up for the first time even via Google Earth. It is so beautiful, detailed and incredible!

Thank you for reading, and if you feel like climbing up those stairs without doing it yourself, here’s a video link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNbpbn9E2dc

Best wishes,

Rowena