Tag Archives: driving

Driving The Tutu Taxi.

Frankly, parenting can take you down some wild and random roads, and I never quite know where I’m going to end up. Or, what death-defying challenge I’m going to be facing next. How I’m going to be stretched right out of my comfort zone. Stretched, and stretched and stretched until breaking point feels like blessed relief.

Geoff and I waiting for the concert to start.

Just as a bit of background, I’ll share that when our son was in kindergarten aged five, a friend and I cottoned on that what you really want as a parent, is an average kid. After all, academically the school system caters best for a child of average intelligence, and you don’t need to be Einstein to realize that if your progeny has any kind of talent, you’ll not only be driving from here to Timbuctoo, you’ll also need a second or third job to pay for it.

However, at the same time both my friend and I couldn’t resist booking our kids into enriching after-school activities, and we paid the price. Her son went on to excel in soccer, and she ended up driving out to the farthest reaches of the state, and almost into the outback. Meanwhile, we’ve driven to the ends of the earth for dance, sailing, and scouts. I have to be honest and say that in some ways being locked down for a few years gave us blessed relief. We could actually stay home. Yet, at the same time, we missed watching them, being part of these communities ourselves, and seeing our friends there as well. It hasn’t all been a one way street.

Anyway, this brings me to the actual good news, and that was that our daughter was accepted into the Youth in the Performing Arts Concerts (YIPA) held locally. It’s held annually for young people aged 13 to 21 years. Being selected was a significant achievement, and an indication that she’s climbed a few extra rungs up the ladder. Wow! Where the ladder is heading at this stage, we don’t know. However, progress is progress.

Photograph: Emily Stoddart.

However, the downside of these performances is all the work which goes on behind the scenes. Today, I spent the afternoon dashing around like a maniac chasing last minute paraphernalia she required, but we actually got her there, on time, in one piece, and she performed to perfection. We were so proud of her, but I’ve got to be honest and say I was just relieved it went without a hitch, especially given how she incorporates the rose into her incredible tricks. It always goes without a hitch. However, since I can barely walk with a mug of tea without spilling it, my own anxiety an run wild. Indeed, I spent most of this performance fixated on that rose and praying nothing would go wrong. Dance, is after all, a nerve-wracking business.

Yes! It all went brilliantly!

Notice the rose in her feet – photo Emily Stoddart.

Anyway, last night’s performance was breath-taking. We very proud of her…and relieved. I am now looking forward to watching her performance again on the video in the comfort of our lounge. Phew! Pure joy!

Does this trigger any memories for you? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Here’s a flash back to her first YIPA audition 2019. Aged 13.

Driving to Pearl Beach, Australia.

The white chariot headed out for a relatively short drive over to neighbouring Pearl Beach with young Miss at the wheel again rapidly accruing her driving hours. In case you missed the big announcement, about ten days ago Miss got her Learner’s Permit and now has mostly me bailed up in the front seat while she accrues her mandatory 120 hours of supervised driving. She seems to love driving, and mostly finds it very relaxing, and it must be such a great feeling to be driving herself to all sorts of places we rarely ever seem to get to ordinarily. We are going to know our local area like the back of our hand by the end of next week at the rate we’re going.

Today, she drove us around to Pearl Beach in between dance classes, which only allowed me to squeeze in a quick walk, take a few photos and to also check out the Little Book Library by the beach, which has long been an absolute treasure trove.

Indeed, that reminds me that the Peal Beach Annual Book Sale will be coming up soon on the Easter long weekend. This is a time to leave the family at home and to ensure the car is empty. For booklovers like myself, this is TEMPTATION and by my very own definition of evil last last when I was referring to the pokies, EVIL. It appears that even something good for you can become evil in excess (and especially when your house is already bursting at the seams with books!!)

Meanwhile, I was also curious to see how the beach was looking after the recent floods. The last time I was at Pearlie about a week ago, a great river had opened up and was carving a path from a back estuary straight through the beach. Indeed, it looks like it has always been there. However, I don’t recall seeing the beach carved up like that before. Then again, I don’t recall it raining like this before either. It’s been so intense and seemed to out last Noah’s 40 days and 40 nights by a country mile.

There was still a trailing snake carved deeply through the sand where the flood waters had been, but the river had almost dried up.

What I did find was one of these little “houses” made out of driftwood on the beach. Although it wasn’t anything like approaching a proper house, and was little more than a handful of sticks thrown together, it spoke promise to me…hope, optimism, new beginnings.

Wedding at Pearl Beach today.

Then, I noticed a wedding taking place further down the beach. How exciting was that. Not only were the bride and groom celebrating their big day and promising to love each other through it all, they had a dry wedding and glorious sunshine. They must’ve been deliriously happy, amazed and grateful.

Stick Tepee

However, that wedding is but a bright spark in an uncertain world. Lately, I’ve really been wishing I could wave my magic wand over the Earth and just make everything better. End this dreadful invasion of the Ukraine. Magically restore homes, businesses and lives lost during our extreme flooding here in NSW and Queensland. Getting rid of covid is another aspiration. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a miracle worker?!!

Such a loving dog! This is how many hours are spent, usually with my keyboard resting on his back.

Meanwhile, I’m back home and Zac is sleeping on my lap, and the troubles of the world seem very far away, and yet our son is coughing and our daughter is staying overnight at her friend’s 18th. Potential trouble is never far away, even if it doesn’t actually knock on your door. However, hope is also there as well, often to be found in the little things, especially at first, and so it can be so easy be missed.

How are you going in your neck of the woods? I hope you are doing well, and thank you for popping in.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 7th March, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? I hope you’ve had a great week!

The last week here has been somewhat obliterated by the news that legendary Australian cricketer, Shane Warne AKA “Warnie” died suddenly of a suspected heart attack on Saturday while he was on holidays in Thailand. It came as a super shock, that someone relatively young with so much life and vitality got snuffed out like that. Warnie was also a couple of months younger than me, and seemingly in much better health. So, it just goes to show, you can never know.

Meanwhile, Miss has passed her Learner’s Permit Test and has been out driving for a couple of hours most days. Ironically, almost all this driving has been done at night under wet conditions which you would see as ideal for a new driver. However, the roads have been virtually empty and it’s give her a chance to build her confidence. She also had an opportunity to go over the curb, but all things considered, she’s doing very well. She’s so proud of herself to and chuffed when she drives to qa new place and extends her range further. She was really happy to take on the Drive Thru at McDonalds where she works, and that one of her friends was on at the time and saw her. She needs to get up 120 hours of driving time and has to wait 12 months before she can sit for her Provisional Licence, but she’s made a solid start.

Tomorrow the infamous “Mister” turns 18. I can’t believe it, and I know many of you who have been hanging round here for quite some time, can’t believe it either. He will be old enough to vote, buy alcohol and if it hadn’t been for all the covid disruptions of the last couple of years, I’d also say be independent, but that will come. He’s having a small party tomorrow night and apparently our family dinner has been deferred to next week.

Meanwhile, Jonathon is running a fundraiser for Muscular Dystrophy Association, who support research into Muscular Dystrophy and neuro-muscular conditions. In case you feel like supporting his efforts, here’s the link to donate: https://www.facebook.com/donate/941861509874336/941861523207668/

I probably shouldn’t put this so far down the pecking order. However, yesterday I attended a writing workshop with bestselling author Graeme Simsion who wrote the Rosie Project, which has evolved into the Rosie Series. He recently released The Novel Project, and this formed the basis of the workshop. A copy of the book came with the workshop, which was great but I hadn’t had a chance to look at it yet. However, in a nutshell, Graeme had done a scriptwriting course and the Rosie Project had started out as a script, but he dramatically reworked it and produced it as a novel but hd used the classic three act scriptwriting structure, and it’s really worked for him and a number of successful authors. I first got onto this at a writing workshop at the Sydney Writer’s Festival conducted by Director and author, Mark Lamprell, who was seemingly part of the furniture at my grandparents home many moons ago. All this structure, is good for me in a way because I unashamedly write from the heart, the soul but am coming a cropper when it comes to larger works. All this structure could well be good for me. Yet, at the same time, it seems rather mechanical and like a factory processing line what with writing on all these cards. However, it’s probably a process I’m currently doing in my head as I edit and reedit my work, and it might actually be rather helpful to extricate that process out of my head and put it down on paper where I might also be able to come back to it later. Trying to stop writing without losing the thread and being able to pick up where I left off, has been a big problem, especially with my more detail WW1 history bios. I am often writing late into the night bleary-eyed not wanting to let go. So, I will try to dig out the cards I bought after attending Mark Lamprell’s talk, and really give them a go this time.

By the way, I’d be interested to hear what you feel about a tightly structured approach to writing a larger work like a novel. Does it take away all the fun? Or, is it the secret ingredient for converting good writing into a finished book?

Meanwhile, last Wednesday night, I found myself wandering along the streets of Pisa, Italy looking for inspiration for a flash fiction prompt for Friday Fictioneers. This week’s photo was the Leaning Tower of Pisa, and no immediate inspiration came to mind. So, I fired up my rocket and zoomed over to Pisa via Google Earth and touched down outside a chicken shop. I wandered round the streets for an hour expecting to see the tower any minute. After all, how could I miss it? When you see it in photos, it seems to be on a patch of grass and standing alone and isn’t crowded in my more recent newcomers like so many modern cities. Anyway, I gave up trying and went back to the search and this time when I opened my eyes I was right there about a nose length away from the tower itself. Wow! It was a mind-blowing experience. There it was. I also came across the Cattedrale di Pisa which was basically next door, and Trent let me know that the Leaning Tower of Pisa was actually constructed as the bell tower for the Church. Makes sense, and it too has a slight lean btw. Anyway, I came across a Youtube video about climbing up the tower and that helped inspire my story: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2022/03/03/stairway-to-hell-friday-fictioneers-3rd-march-2022/

Seaweed has overtaken Terrigal’s ocean pool during the heavy rain.

If you feel like a wander around Pisa, then you can check it out here: https://wordpress.com/post/beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/66442

Meanwhile, the rain’s still going here and wreaking havoc.

More grey skies at Pearl Beach looking towards home.

Well, I’d better keep going. I’m needing to cull back the photos for tomorrow night’s slide show.

Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Miss Becomes A Learner Driver!

Today, Miss who some have know since she was six years old when I first started writing Beyond the Flow, passed the test for her Learner’s Permit and I took her for her first official drive. It was so exciting and almost went without a hitch, and we’ll just gloss over that one time she mounted the curb and a couple of wobbles going round a corner. We started out at Umina Beach carpark, and after a few laps, she ventured down towards the caravan park until flooding forced her to do her first three point turn and soon she was driving down the main road and going around a couple of roundabouts.

Before you start thinking she’s a driving protégé, I should point out that we set out on our driving lesson at 8.15pm after her dance class on a wet and rainy night. Indeed, in case you’re not aware the East Coast of Australia has been hit by a mighty deluge and what they’re calling a “rain bomb”. The flooding in place is catastrophic and incredibly heart breaking. We haven’t been greatly impacted here but there are some local road closures and it’s been hard to get around.

However, the upside for our daughter’s first driving lesson was the there was virtually no one on the road, and so she could get a feel for steering and get somewhat comfortable in the car. She didn’t need to be critically vigilant about keeping left and skimming past parked cars. She could leave a bit of room while staying on the correct side of the road.

It was also funny driving with her, because she was chatting with me most of the time. A car would appear and she’d pipe up: “I have competition”, which I thought was hilarious. I didn’t really interfere very much. I thought the early days were more about her getting a feel for the road and gaining confidence. However, she was keeping a fairly close eye on how she was going, particularly the speed. For much of the time, she was going along at about 20 kph and that was where she felt comfortable. I reassured her that she has the L plate and people will give her some breathing space. That said, she was overtaken by a rather reckless driver we both agree ought to be on his L plates or lose their licence entirely.

While I was incredibly excited to be driving with our daughter, the biggest part of this story is not her learning to drive. She has been dancing since she was three and must have highly tuned spatial skills from 12 years of dance, especially performing in groups. However, the real drama was all about producing her blessed original birth certificate before she could even sit for the test, and this was where the side fell down big time. I suspected the certificates weren’t in their place in my top right desk drawer, and yet I left it right until almost the last minute before we left to look for them. I thought I’d done well finding the decorative copies still in their gold tube from 16 years ago. They were originals and authorised copies so I couldn’t see them being a problem. That was until we were at the desk at Service NSW and they told her she couldn’t sit the test.

I don’t need to tell you how awful I felt. Our daughter was disappointed and no doubt angry with me although she said nothing. Meanwhile, I said a lot, berating myself for being so stupid. This incident raised those horrible, dreadful weaknesses of mine with organisation, time management. I have been trying so hard to overcome these difficulties and have been seeing an occupational therapist for a very long time, and I am improving, but the situations I am facing keep changing and the last two years of covid and lockdown have really stonkered me. It’s been really hard going trying to reconstruct things at home, particularly getting on top of my daughter’s busy life of school, dance, work, and now L tests and upcoming dance competitions not to mention getting eyelash extensions and her hair done. I am such low maintenance that I’m barely conscious of how I look, and sometimes marvel at this stranger I occasionally see in the mirror…”Who are you?”

To be honest, my writing and research along with the lockdowns has more to do with that than running after the kids. I could focus 100% on my inner life and almost forgot the veneer completely. It’s been wonderfully refreshing, and even liberating, but it’s over and time to merge bck with the real world.

Anyway, I digress.

The place was pretty forgiving about our ID troubles, and just said to pop back before 4.00pm Wednesday or Thursday.

Well, that was easier said than done.

Firstly, I had no idea where the birth certificate was. We tore the place apart, and without any luck we tore the house apart and ordered a new one which was going to arrive in three weeks even with an express order. Boy, I felt bad!!!

Secondary, there was another hurdle we hadn’t quite grappled with yet – the rain.

Meanwhile, I turned my attention to another problem at home. The clothes dryer was broken and needed to be pulled apart and have the sock or goodness knows what other blockages removed a long with the inevitable lint which shouldn’t have been anywhere near the motor. I’d cleared the kitchen table for that surgical procedure, but had filled it up again looking for the certificates and so piles of detritus were being moved round and round the house, while a good portion also made it into the recycling.

Meanwhile, our daughter was very sweet and said she knew I’d find them.

I was praying!!

Then, I noticed that about five crates of stuff out of our son’s room from a year ago were still in the kitchen and backroom. After the debacle of losing the certificates and still needing to find them, those crates were going. I attacked them with fresh eyes and was making steady progress. Then, after moving this one particular crate, the promised land opened up in front of me. There was the folder of certificates. I’d redeemed myself.

That was yesterday, and today we headed off again. This time, we made a list of everything we needed and had it altogether before we went to bed last night like good little Vegemites (there’s an Aussie saying for you). However, we got in the car and Miss asks us if we had the documentation. Can you believe it?! Diffusion of responsibility strikes again. None of us had thought to take it out to the car, and I think she’d also left her glasses behind.

Meanwhile, there were the floods and heavy rain with the possibility this forecast rain bomb was going to hit while we were on the way. We checked reports and adjusted our route, and allowed a good hour for what might’ve been a 15-30 minute trip…and of course, some really heavy rain blinded our vision for a bit and the traffic was abysmal. Gosford had turned into a parking lot. We needed to be there by 4.00pm and it was getting mighty close with red light after red light. Where is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang when you need him? Dilbert’s detrafficator would also have been appreciated. However, we g\had God and the power of prayer, and we got there.

By this stage, I was a total nervous wreck, and I was wearing a mask which combined with my impaired lung capacity and hyperventilating, wasn’t good. I just wanted her to get the test over and done with. However, they seem to draw the whole build up right out and before they even know whether they’re going to pass, they do the eye test and goodness knows what else but it took a good fifteen minutes (not that I was counting or fixating at the clock like a crazed maniac!!)

I needed the toilet and there wasn’t one there. So, I had to go for an extended walk.

When I returned, she had passed and was sitting in the chair getting her photo retaken.

I’m glad it’s over.

Tonight, we clocked up 45 minutes of night driving in the rain. We have 119 hours to go before she is eligible to sit for her licence.

There is also her brother who has also just started learning.

Let the driving begin.

Have you got any stories about learning to drive that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share… 19th October, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you this week? What’s going on in your neck of the woods? For those of you who don’t know or can’t remember, I live just North of Sydney, Australia and so it’s Spring here and we’re also in what seems to be a Covid bubble as it stands.

As time goes by and these truly radical lifestyle changes have become the norm, I’m feeling more relaxed about going out, but trying to remain vigilant. Until there’s a vaccine, we’re in it for the long haul which requires a different approach to getting through than a sprint. That’s not to say I’m taking risks, but I’m no longer Alcatraz either. Well, not when there’s such a low risk of transmission. Meanwhile, I’m somewhat conscious of increases overseas, and hoping and praying for all affected and hoping the numbers will drop. Melbourne is doing much better here, which is great news.

Meanwhile, life here’s been busier than usual, but mostly in a very positive way.

Our daughter with yesterday’s dance trophies

Yesterday, our daughter competed in a local dance eisteddfod and received two 1st placings and a second placing in her ballet solo (she was only .5 behind 1st place). This was the first time our daughter’s placed first and she’s been competing for a couple of years. So, this was a big step forward for her. She’s keen to pursue a career in dance, especially classical ballet, and so it’s important for her to place well to head down that trajectory. It’s also such a buzz to win, even though I know I’ve brought up the usual benefits of having a go when things haven’t gone so well in the past. That said, I’m pretty sure she’s always placed with her solos.

After the competition, we headed off to Terrigal to meet up with her cousin for lunch, and we wandered along the beach front afterwards. I only captured this quick snap of the three of us and didn’t bother with scenic shots as it was a bit overcast and I’ve had better conditions in the past. Terrigal is one of the tourist focus points on the NSW Central Coast and is more touristy and built up than our local beach. It’s also more upmarket. However, we’re surrounded by National Parks and also closer to the train to Sydney. So, we’re happy where we are.

Last week, was a big week for our son. He was off on work experience at a local youth centre where they have a radio station and sound set up. He received very encouraging feedback, which is more than I can say for his commentary on my driving. I had to get across three lanes of traffic to get to our turn off coming home and it really was quite hellish, and people were not real keen to let me in either. I really needed to be able to wave a white flag. Or, have a sign saying: “Mum’s taxi’s having a rough day. Please give me a break!!”

Last week, my aunt, Dr Anna Haebich from Curtin University in Western Australia, was interviewed on Radio National by Phillip Adams:

https://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/latenightlive/german-botanist-in-wa/12761494?fbclid=IwAR3tyA3egsS0Ht33SWHn8jZ4OoGSAFImhN-6-46LISh7T06k_WkoyI2VUv4

Meanwhile, last week I was also pretty shaken up. I found out last Sunday that there was a devastating car accident locally involving local teens. Unfortunately, now that my kids are also local teens, it also meant that we knew some of the people in the car and there was also that awful realization that we could also get a knock at the door at some point. I’m also a community-minded person and so I’m trying to be there for my friend and find out more about what our teens are up to. This incident has made me realize that while our teens are very well connected via social media and mobile technology, us parents are probably crashed out at home or happy to be catching up with a few of our friends and enjoying our own new found freedom without being aware of the undertow. I’m now applying my research feelers to this to get up to speed. I’m talking about brain speed here, not putting my foot down in the my Alfa Romeo.

Anyway, I’d better call it a day and crawl into bed.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Me and My Boy…

After taking our son on a long, epic drive last week, I was reminded of the walks we used to go on when he was just knee-high to a grasshopper. I know it’s such a cliché, but I’m still amazed how much time’s flown under the bridge. That with the click of my fingers, he’s now turned 16 and at the end of next year, he’ll be out of school and on the cusp of adulthood. Where did all that time go? I don’t know. However, paradoxically as we headed forward on our journey North, I was taken back to those very special early walks together. Walks with me and my boy.

Ironically, what I remember most about our walks together, is how I’d be tugging on his small hand trying to get him moving, while he was enthralled by some random “treasure” he’d discovered on our path. Of course, I tried to slow my pace down to appreciate that lump of gravel, or rusty bottle top through his eyes instead of my own. However, there were understandably times when my patience grew thin. I just want to go, and he’d become equally immovable. However, back then I had one thing in my favour. When all else failed, I could pick him up and cart him off, even if he wasn’t happy.

I can’t do that anymore either.

Mister and I reading during my 7 week hospital stint in 2007 when I was diagnosed with dermatomyositis
Swimming with our son at our local beach.

Anyway, our son has decided to go into sound engineering when he leaves school, and he’s already getting good experience helping out at Church. That’s why he needed the lift. He’d been offered further training and the opportunity to help out at a funeral at our main Church campus an hour’s drive away.

To be perfectly honest, I wasn’t mad keen on driving him up there. Indeed, I’m sure you can read my mind: “What the???? Can’t you catch the train? A bus? Fly on your broomstick?” Moreover, when all of those avenues failed, there was the added annoyance of having to fill in a few hours before driving him home. Indeed, it was looking like much of my day was going up in smoke with the barest slither remaining. Not that I was counting. Or, that I minded. I am his mother. If I can love him to the moon and back, surely I could drive him there as well?!!

Humph! I’m not so sure that was part of the contract.

Rather, it was looking like the perfect time to play the dying swan. Get his father to drive him. However, Geoff is working from home, not doing long distance parent taxi duties. So, for better or worse, I had to rise to the challenge.

Meanwhile, alongside this protesting siren of complaint, was gratitude, relief and a sincere desire to do whatever it takes to help our son to find his feet and get his career established. I mean that too. Whatever it takes, especially when he’s so keen and he has an equally keen mentor volunteering to train him up. With our local theatres closed down due to covid, Church is one of the few venues where he can get some experience. Indeed, as we all know, it’s a hard world out there. No one’s knocking on your door to give you a start. You have to go hunting. Go all out. Eat humble pie by the kilo, just to have a chance of getting a toe through the door.

However, instead of being an onerous ordeal, our trip turned into an adventure, and reminded me:

“Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.”

― George Bernard Shaw

That’s exactly how our drive together panned out. We had an hour each way to chat, but then there were some complications. For those of you who know me well, you won’t be surprised to hear that we experienced some navigational difficulties. However, this time I blame my son. I was pretty sure we were meant to take the next exit, but he was insistent. Moreover, although I know he is “often wrong but never in doubt”, he has a much better sense of direction. So, I bowed to his expertise. Indeed, I carefully followed his directions to turn right at the roundabout, and drove along until it was clear we were in the wrong place, even if we weren’t officially “lost”. I must admit that my heart rate started to increase a little at this point. I mentioned heading back to the freeway to take the next exit. However, he was quite confident. Knew there was a Bunnings Hardware Store on the left coming up and a shopping centre. Sure enough, he was right, and good enough with his sense of direction to redirect us. Meanwhile, in the end it turned out that we were both right. Both exits worked.

When we pulled up, I still wasn’t sure what I was going to do for the next few hours. However, one of the guys showed me a local map and I spotted that Norah Head was nearby. Now, I was set. With my camera in the car, I set off to revisit Norah Head and the lighthouse where I’d been as a young child with my family and on a couple of slumber parties as a teenager with friends. By now, I was actually quite excited and grateful for my big day out. You could even say I was happy!

Just to top off my day, I bought myself a beautiful new skirt and a tray full of red Salvias which I’ve planted out the front. I ate a pie in a park surrounded by lush green trees and ocean views feeling pretty chuffed our day was going so well.

After walking around the lighthouse (which you can read about here), I was back to pick him up. I was even given a tour of the sound desk by his mentor, who had no idea just how untechnical I am and how I even struggle to operate out TV. However, I did gain at least a cursory view of the thing which makes our son tick, and is going to be a big part of his future. That was pretty special. After all, being understood has always been very important to me, but the flipside of that is to understand. Put yourself into someone else’s shoes even when they don’t fit particularly well, and go for a walk.

Or, perhaps even go for a long drive.

That certainly worked for us!

Has our day out brought back any memories for you? Do you have something you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share…9th March, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s now Monday afternoon here and I’ve finally managed to levitate myself from the comforts of bed. I suppose I should be embarrassed and a tad ashamed for sleeping through much of the day, but it felt so good and I also read about 20 pages into Thoreau’s Walden, which I should’ve read years ago, but I haven’t. Have you?

DSC_8929

This is the only red Alfa our son is getting hold of. Ours are off-limits.

Anyway, the last couple of weeks have meant birthdays here. Our daughter turned 14 a few weeks ago and our son turned 16 yesterday. He’s now able to get his Learner’s Permit (his L’s) and would’ve been there yesterday if it wasn’t a Sunday. I don’t know why we didn’t book him in for today, but he still hasn’t been booked in. He’s as keen as mustard, but his father and I are justifiably hesitant. I’m sure he already believes he can drive better than me, and I’m not sure whether it’s better or worse to put someone who is wildly over-confident into the driver’s seat for the first time, or a nervous Nelly like I was who ducks beneath the dashboard praying to escape (along with the instructor). We’ve heard stories of friends’ sons wanted to drive home from the registry or drive to school the following morning through heavy peak-hour Sydney traffic. Fortunately, that’s left us forwarned. He’s been told that he’ll be having his first lesson in the car park at our local community centre and I think he’d already chosen his Dad for the first drive. Hey, that could well be all driving lessons, except he’ll get his hours up with me.  I don’t like driving and can’t wait for him to get mobile!

Their birthdays have changed now that they’re teenagers. Gone are the days of making them a fancy cake out of the Australian Women’s Weekly Birthday Cake Book. In fact, gone are the days of us being invited along to festivities with friends. Our daughter requested a pavlova at home and went out with friends and our son almost had to be dragged away from his Youtube videos for us to sing Happy Birthday.

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The Cake of Carnage. A scrumptious Bienstich from our local bakery. The candles had to go in the cracks in between the slices and after the dog got to it, there was no chance of decorum.

By the way, I should point out that the dog didn’t need to dragged anywhere near the cake.  Well, to protect the innocence of the other two dogs Zac and Lady, I’d better name and shame Rosie. While I was trying to round the family up, she chomped a good eighth of the cake away and I hastily had to rearranged what was left to try to get something of a circle. It’s not the first time a dog has helped themselves. They’re so much more switched on than us humans and rearing to strike. No doubt, all her ball and stick chasing has enabled Rosie to gulp up a cake just as quickly with but one snap of her trap.  I won’t go into details, but you can be sure family tensions rose after that the by the time everybody was back seated round the table, it was a case of “you will have a Happy Birthday!!”

I was particularly trying to give our son a Happy Birthday because he had some rather devastating news during the week. The NSW Education Department canceled the school’s Europe trip due to the Coronavirus. I was so devastated when we found out and the school held a meeting and I was so emotional and shaken up. We’d given our son this trip of a lifetime from the very depths of our hearts. It wasn’t something we could afford and my husband’s never been to Europe, and it’s been over 25 years for me. The depth of the history teaching in this tour was so good that we found the money. As turned out, my husband got a lot of overtime last year and that covered it, but it meant he was working six days for three months. It wasn’t something that came easily and I’m sure the other parents from this tour are in the same boat. At the moment, it looks like we’ll get some of our money back but it’s a complicated process. That hurts as well. However, we just have to do the whole life goes on thing. They were meant to be leaving in six weeks.

Speaking of the Coronavirus, what if any impact is it having over your way? The most obvious sign of the virus here, is the empty spaces on the supermarket shelves where the toilet paper is supposed to be. For some reason, people have bought up huge volumes of toilet paper and it really does seem rather strange. Has that happened over your way? I remember when we were kids we used to play a game in class where you said what you wanted to taken if you were deserted on a desert island and you had to remember what everyone before you had said. I don’t remember ANYONE saying a 50 pack of toilet paper. Rather, you can put me down for Tim Tams, chocolate, tea and some blueberries just to be a bit healthy.

Toyota Corona

Do you remember the original Toyota Corona? Could this be the original source of the virus?

Jokes aside, I am in a high-risk group maybe not of catching the virus, but certainly of having a serious response if I do catch it. I have an auto-immune disease called dermatomyositis and a complication of that called Institial Lung Disease. This has left me with 50% lung capacity and fibrosis. So, I get a flu vaccine every year and try to keep away from crowds etc. Meanwhile, my husband works at Macquarie University in Sydney and that is at the epicentre of cases there. At this point, we’re talking about a handful of cases but there has been at least one death. Epping Boys High School nearby had a case, and so on Friday the school was closed down and teachers and students were in isolation for two days. That included a friend from Church.

Corona Beer

Could this be the possible cure?

It’s hard to know at this stage what this virus means for our global community. Is it going to become a great pandemic rivaling the Spanish Flu of 1919? No one knows at this stage, but it’s good to see that health authorities aren’t taking chances and it seems isolation is reducing the spread.

Meanwhile, I am continuing with my research into WWI Australian soldiers serving in France. I can now appreciate how all these months and months of research are consolidating into a solid knowledge base. I really knew nothing about the actual running of the war before I started, although I’d studied the cases of the war and how it led to WWII in a lot of detail at school and uni. I’m only now starting to appreciate the distinction between artillery and infantry and how that shaped a soldier’s experience of the battlefield and I’m picking up great stories and insights into the battles themselves. This all started out with trying to find out where my Great Great Uncle Jack was wounded (Mouquet Farm), which has evolved into an obsessive ques to try to work out what he went through back then. The records of the day were very scant and nowhere near enough for anyone truly wanting to build a solid picture of what their family member went through. Geoff’s Great Uncle was Killed in Action at Mont St Quentin in September 1918, but at least he left us his diary and some sense of his experience was passed down to my husband. However, that was not the case with his relatives who returned. understanding what our people went through over there, and back here at home, is very important to me. It’s clear to me that our younger generations don’t know what happened so it’s no longer a case of “lest we forget”. We do not remember. We do not know.

I’m not sure what else I’ve been up to. How about you? How have you been?

I hope you are keeping well and staying clear of the Coronavirus and other nasties that are out there.

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

Driving North- Photographing the Aftermath of the Australian Bush Fires.

No doubt, you’ve also experienced that mixture of excitement and disappointment on a long drive, when you spot something spectacular out the window, but are having difficulties finding somewhere to pull over safely. If you’re as desperate as yours truly to seize the moment in 6 x 4, the fear of missing out (popularised as “FOMO”)  grips you body and soul. You’re a possessed maniac just like that person busting for the toilet in the middle of nowhere yet precariously still strapped into their seat. Don’t you know that desperation too? You’re about to explode. You have to get out. You can’t wait any longer. The cry goes out: “Pull over!!!”

Sunset After the Fire's Been Through

That’s what happened two weeks ago when we were driving North from Sydney to Byron Bay via the Pacific Highway and we spotted the sun setting through the burned out bush. The sun was enormous, glowing like a ball of fire through the charred eucalyptus or gum trees. It was strangely breathtaking. I had to seize the moment, which was rapidly disappearing with the fading light.

Fortunately, my husband who was driving at the time, was sympathetic to my plight and pulled over without complaint. The photos didn’t work out quite as well as I’d hoped, and actually tell quite a different story now I look at them back home. After all, they contain so many signs of life and nature fighting back against the devastating impact of the fires. Indeed, we saw vast expanses of trees exploding in a profusion of fresh green leaves seemingly as a form of post-traumatic growth. My goodness. These eucalyptus trees are tough. Bloody resilient. The bush wasn’t dead after all.

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The family in front of the lens with me behind it. 

By this stage, the bush fires had been extinguished up North, but were still blazing fiercely on the South Coast. Yet, we still weren’t sure what we were going to find. Independently, Geoff and I have been up and down this road all our lives and since we met 21 years ago, we’ve driven up here at least once a year to see his sisters and family. So, while this stretch of the Pacific Highway isn’t quite an extension of our driveway, we know it well. We care about it, too, and it sent a chill down our spines when we heard that a fascinating time capsule to early settlement, a museum called Little Italy, was at risk. I’m sure I screamed out: “NO!!!” to the TV. If I didn’t, I certainly wanted to. The devastation has been catastrophic.

However, we were relieved and almost surprised to see that the bush had endured, persevered and overcome. Indeed, we saw kilometres of bush where trees were sprouting fresh green leaves, an almost freakish, furry-green regrowth, as their will to survive went into overdrive. Indeed, I wondered if this was a variation of the post-traumatic growth we can also experience following a traumatic event. I’m not a scientist so I can’t know for sure. However, on a personal level, I found it very encouraging and it certainly lifted my sagging spirits. After being confined to the lounge room at home to escape the menacing smoke, I’d watched months of bush fire coverage on TV. Indeed, I was seriously starting to wonder how much of our precious Australian bush would be left when we ventured further afield. So, I found these shoots of green such a relief. A restoration of lost hope.

Horses after the fires

Horses running from humans rather than the flames. 

We’d pulled over to photograph the sun setting through the scarred, burned-out landscape. However, while we were there a couple of skittish horses ran passed not to escape the fires, but from us. I madly clicked away and sadly didn’t do the moment justice. However, the makings are there. It doesn’t take much imagination to see these horses running from the flames. Much better in the imagination than reality, and I certainly don’t want to be around to photograph that. Indeed, I’ll leave that to the movies. Far too many animals have been lost in these horrific fires. I’ve seen enough. I just hope there’s some way our wildlife can bounce back like these trees and am grateful for the rain and for the incredibly generous donations which are coming in from around the world. They’re much appreciated.

There has been such catastrophic suffering. I don’t even know where to begin. Possessions can be replaced, but there’s the horror for many of the engulfing flames and smoke and many have lost their lives. There’s a post traumatic anxiety pervading all our communities. At a very basic level, just watching the coverage on TV is enough, but our population is relatively small here in Australia. Our friends and families were at the heart of these catastrophic fires, even if we were well away and not impacted ourselves. What is perhaps most telling, is that the smoke from these fires reached as far away as South America. That’s the other side of the world and a reminder, that we’re a global community.

Driving back home, we stopped off at Taree, where the fires hit hard. We saw the writing melted on road signs on the turn off and places where the fire had jumped across the freeway, showing just how bad it was. There was a roundabout covered in the charred remains of grass trees and it looked pretty bleak until my husband pointed out that fresh shoots were springing from the devastation. A keen photographer himself, he said: “that’s your shot”. Unfortunately, this time there was nowhere to stop, and that one went through to the keeper.

Have you been affected by the Australian fires? I’m thinking of you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Hope For the Lost…?

Sometimes, I wonder if there’s any hope for the directionally challenged, especially those of us with “geographical dyslexia’ who head the exact opposite direction like someone reversing their letters.

Last weekend, my doubts were only confirmed when my daughter and I managed to miss the freeway exit for Newcastle, the second biggest city in NSW and hardly somewhere you could miss. Obviously, the sign was hardly insignificant or hiding behind a tree either. Yet, we achieved the seemingly impossible! We missed it.

Before I go any further, I should emphasise that we were heading for Newcastle just North of Sydney in Australia and not Newcastle Upon Tyne in the UK, or Newcastle Ontario and if you want to be really clever or completely lost you could even end up in Akhaltsikhe (Georgia), Nove Hrady (Czech Republic), Jaunpils (Latvia). Those would take my capacity for getting lost to new, inconceivable heights!!

While it’s all very funny to joke about how women can’t read maps or might hold the street directory “upside down”, for those of us who literally get lost in the shower the difficulties, stress and consequences of venturing further afield are daunting and even prohibitive. Indeed, as a sheep who’s been lost many times over, I’m often left calling out for a shepherd and lost beyond the powers of prayer. It’s no wonder that I have three sheepdogs at home and perhaps if I sat one of them in the front seat, they might be able to get me where I want to go. I’d just have to hope a ball or stick didn’t fly past or we’d end up in serious trouble. They wouldn’t stop.

Rowena & Amelia red car

Shame you can’t drive along with your navigator sticking their head out for a better view.

Anyway, I was put through my paces again last Saturday when I had to drive our daughter to Newcastle for her regional school aerobics competition. Theoretically, Newcastle is “just up the road” and about a 1.5 hour’s drive. Moreover, I’ve been to Newcastle quite a few times. So, finding my way around shouldn’t be a problem and yet it was. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t be like my Dad who only ever has to go somewhere once and can find his way back without any assistance at all. He might not have been to Newcastle for over ten years. However, I still remember him driving straight to Mum’s Aunty’s place which wasn’t right smack bang next to the GPO either. His navigational skills are legendary.

Papa and Chev

My proud grandfather with his Chev in 1938. 

 

However, Mum’s father’s sense of direction was also legendary but for all the wrong reasons. He not only seems to be the source of my spatial dyslexia he also refused to follow the map and had to find his own way. Once, after we’d moved house my Dad posted him a map with red arrows marked on it. Yet, he still managed to get lost. Thought he’d use “DIY navigation” instead. Go his own way. Dad was beside himself. Why couldn’t he follow the arrows? Jeepers! What’s a shepherd supposed to do when the sheep exits stage left instead of right and won’t heed the warnings? Just to add a bit more texture to this portrait, my grandfather was actually a Church Minister so goodness knows where he was leading his flock or if they were ever heard from again. Naturally, I jest on that front because in every other sense of the word, he was a true shepherd. Just don’t ask him to follow a map!

Bert & Marj State Border 1938

Pictured with his sister Marj (I think) on the South Australian & NSW Border back in 1938 when he drove to and from Dalby Queensland back home to Hahndorf, SA. 

 

While the spatially challenged were at the mercy of the street directory back in the day, we now have a host of gadgets and apps at our disposal and we have no excuse for getting lost. However, so far I’ve refused to get GPS because I don’t want my navigational skills to get worse. I believe wholeheartedly in the powers of neuroplasticity and that if I get lost often enough, one day I’ll be found. Well, actually it would be far better if I could find my own way there.

So, I decided that if I had any chance of turning myself into a navigational superhero, I needed to apply the Scout’s motto and “Be Prepared”. Friday night, I got the street directory out. Photocopied the route and highlighted it with a bright orange fluoro marker. You couldn’t miss it. I also sat our daughter down and went through the map with her. After all, she was going to be Navigator-In-Chief. We both knew where we were going. We’d been to this part of Newcastle before and it was quite familiar. The venue was also across the road from a huge Westfield Shoppingtown at Kotara and if we lost everything else, we couldn’t miss that. We could not go wrong.

However, as we found out, there’s a huge difference between seeing something on a map and seeing it on the ground where you have all sorts of landmarks which bring these streets and turn-offs to life.

Newcastle Link Road

How could we possibly miss a sign this big, bold and clear?

Before we had a chance to apply our knowledge of the Newcastle map itself, we missed the turnoff to the Newcastle Link Road off the freeway. I definitely remember seeing the exit and the sign beforehand. However, then I saw this little goat track off the freeway and couldn’t see the overpass and so I didn’t turn off. The next thing we were heading towards Hexham with no U-Turn and no side streets. We were stuck on a trajectory which was taking us all the way to Queensland.

Well, it would have if we’ve driven another ten hours down the same road. I’m not intending to exaggerate, catastrophize or in any way beat up just how far we’d deviated off course. However, I did need to pull over. Stop hyperventilating and work out how on earth we were going to shift the earth round and off its axis so we could approach Newcastle from a different angle. Actually, I think that should read something like turning the map around,  but I’m not good at regrouping. I had my route all planned and mapped out in bright orange. It was gouged into my neurones for eternity. I just hadn’t factored in that we could miss a major exit and all the signposts which went along with it.

Unfortunately, it took a while for our daughter to appreciate the true nature of the crisis. That she was driving with Mum not Dad, and I was in throws of having a fully fledged catastrophic meltdown. That soon there was only one direction I could drive, and that was home.

Phew! She woke up. Next, she did what every sensible teenager would do She went for the map on my phone. While this might not be as good as the street directory for giving us the bigger picture, it does have a blue dot showing where we are and talked us through where we were and where we were going. It overcame the hurdle of coming at it from a different direction as well, which isn’t done easily with your old-fangled street directory. Indeed, I might even be a convert. If we’d been using Google Maps, we would not have missed the exit. It would have been clear.

By the way, if you ever see a red Alph Romeo wandering around the road like a lost sheep, be afraid. Very afraid. Or, if you’d like to be constructive, you might just tell me where to go. I’d be most thankful!

How are you when it comes to reading maps and getting around? Do you have any epic sagas of getting lost and battling with the compass? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

The Woman in the Red Car…

“Red has guts …. deep, strong, dramatic. A geranium red. A Goya red … to be used like gold for furnishing a house … for clothes, it is strong, like black or white.”

–Valentino

For those of you who have been following my ups and downs here on Beyond the Flow for awhile, you’ll know that I’ve had some car troubles over the last couple of months. These began with a nasty scrape in the supermarket car park and was following up with driving into a concrete divider in a car park which cracked the radiator and our red Nissan Pulsar was written off. For those of you who appreciate a bit of humour, I say that I took my son to the Emergency Department but my car didn’t make it home alive. My husband bought a Subaru Forester and we all really loved that car. However, I think it was only two weeks after we bought it, that I got caught in a hail storm and the car is covered in dents and everyone else we know, has had their cars written off. So, we were back to the online auctions and that’s when my husband stumbled across an Alfa Romeo 159. I can’t remember what year is was made and I struggled to remember the 159 part, but the trait I never lost sight of, was that is was red. An absolutely luscious red that makes you want to go and put on your tap shoes and dance on the table.

“There is a shade of red for every woman.”

-Audrey Hepburn

rowena alfa patonga 2

I need to brush up on my modelling skills.

However, it wasn’t just the colour that lured me in. It is Italian and oozes with Italian style and pizazz. Indeed, the Italians invented pizazz. This included a leather interior. I have always wanted a sports car, and while this is technically classified as a family sedan, this Italian sedan has nothing to with being sensible, responsible and did I mention anything about being dowdy? Not on your life. In other words, my Red Alfa, who in typical Australian fashion, could well be named “Blue” is my midlife crisis, post-disability and chronic illness mobile.

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Look who popped out of my sunroof!    Photo Geoff Newton

Although the car actually arrived home on Friday, I wanted to wait and get some good photos incorporating our beautiful local scenery rather than photographing it while it was simply parked in our driveway. While I clearly need more experience posing as a photo model, we haven’t turned out too badly and didn’t crack the lens.

pelican

The pelican didn’t seem that interested in my new car.

On our first photo stop, we drove over to Patonga about a fifteen minute drive away. Being a Sunday during the January Summer school holidays, there were no parking spots at the beach or near the wharf and so we meandered around through the back streets until we found a spot on the Hawkesbury River side and there was a stunning pelican swimming back and forth doing its rounds.

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The backwaters of Patonga, NSW.

We also thought we’d head over to Koolewong on Brisbane Waters to photograph the car in front of the Imagine Sign. Based on the game of Scrabble, IMAG_NE features large letter pieces which spell out the word “IMAGINE”, with a space where the second “I” would be and invites the community to interact with the sculpture to complete the word.

Created by Australian visual artist and creative producer, Emma Anna, the artwork originally exhibited at Bondi’s famous Sculpture by the Sea in 2008, and has since featured around the world including at Denmark’s inaugural Sculpture by the Sea in 2009.

I think the sculpture was installed on the Gosford Waterfront towards the end of 2016 and yet I’ve never stopped and photographed it, which really is rather extraordinary when you think of the vast myriad of things I have photographed. I don’t often drive into Gosford so it’s probably a case of out of sight, out of mind. However, I’ve always loved it. Not only do I love to imagine, but I also love Imagine by John Lennon.

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Let me reassure you the car was stationary when these photos were taken. Photo: Geoff Newton.

Needless to say, the kids are expecting to be driven to school in the Alfa, instead of the bomb which usually gets parked at the station. We’ll have to see.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with some of my favourite driving songs:

Lastly, as I was just wrapping up with a Google search for “red car” to see what turned up, up popped The Wiggles hit:   The Big Red Car, which dare I say it, has to rate as a driving song and has certainly been a big hit. It just wasn’t quite the driving song I was hoping for:

Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga, Big Red Car
We’ll travel near and we’ll travel far
Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga, Big Red Car
We’re gonna ride the whole day long
Murray’s in the back seat
Playing his guitar
Murray’s in the back seat
Of the Big Red Car
The Wiggles: Big Red Car
I’m not sure that the Wiggle’s Big Red Car is a good place to finish up, but c’est la vie. What do you think about my new set of wheels? What are a few of your favourite driving songs? When it comes to what I usually listen to in the car, it’s usually the local radio station or a CD like David Bowie. I do like listening to him in the car. Ed Sheerin’s another but I usually hear him on the radio. That reminds me of beautifully moving ballad: Perfect.
Anyway, I’m actually heading off this time.
Best wishes,
Rowena