Tag Archives: driving

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?

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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

An Australian Road Trip…All roads Don’t Lead to Wollombi.

Yesterday, I had to drive my daughter to GATS Camp at Point Wollstonecroft about an hour’s drive North of Sydney on Lake Macquarie. This was Mummy’s cue for adventure. So, I ensured our son had his key and my only specification was, that I didn’t get home before sunset.

At the same time, I also had a few ideas. I was going to start off by exploring some of the coastal beaches around Lake Macquarie, but I really had it in mind to get to Wollombi where my Great Great Grandfather, William Henry Gardiner, married his second wife, Jane Lynch. Thanks to Google, I’d already been to Wollombi online and found out it was one of those preserved country villages which had gone into a 100 year slumber thanks to a bypass. Being a lover of historic anything, I’ve been trying to get there for awhile and thanks to the mushy geographical soup in my head, had the strange idea that just because I was heading North, Wollombi would somehow be “on the way home”.

It wasn’t.

That’s how my road trip of a life time began. Well, it was actually more of a once in a lifetime road trip. That’s because when it came to travelling from Lake Macquarie to Wollombi, I bypassed the A to B route and detoured via just about every letter of the alphabet. Not that I was lost. Indeed, I knew exactly where I was and where I was going and blame whoever it was who designed the NSW road network, for my convoluted route. So, before I leave on my next great road trip, you can be sure I’ll be reciting this traditional Gaelic blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Anyway, before we leave on this road trip of a lifetime, I’d better provide some  coordinates. After all, my stats tell me that most of my readers aren’t Australian and to be quite honest with you, most Australians won’t be able to pinpoint Wollombi on the map either.That is, unless they cheat and use GPS. I’m a firm believer in using actual paper maps and when you’re travelling,those huge foldout monstrosities, which almost take up the windscreen (goodness knows how many fatal accidents they’ve caused!). Nothing else will do. No matter how lost I get, I refuse to sell out, or I’ll never find my way out of bed. My sense of direction is not allowed to get any worse!!

wollombi-map-and-directory

Wollombi is a small village in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, Australia. It is within the Cessnock City Council LGA, situated 29 kilometres (18 mi) southwest of Cessnock and 128 km (80 mi) north of Sydney. To the south is the village of Laguna, to the east, the village of Millfield and to the north, the village of Broke. To be quite honest, Wollombi is very isolated, but that’s part of its charm and how it’s become a time capsule of sorts.

However, back in the day, Wollombi was at least somewhat central. In 1836 the Great Northern Road was finished. Built by convict labour, it joined Windsor to Wollombi, and at Wollembi forked off to either Singleton or Maitland. It spanned the 200 kms from Sydney to Newcastle and took on average 9 days for a traveler to get to Newcastle. Consequently, it was mainly used as a stock route.

Anyway, we haven’t got to Wollombi yet. We’re still at Lake Macquarie.

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Looking North towards Swansea from Caves Beach.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, with deep blue skies and water was a dazzling diamond carpet of blue. I headed North and followed a sign to Caves Beach and pulled over. I could almost inhale the ocean and feel life’s burdens blow out to sea. The fisherman and a couple of walkers, looked like stick figures below and the windswept coastline stretched for eternity and I could truly spread my wings and soar and keep soaring. There was no ground beneath my feet.

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Illawarra Flame Tree at Pelican near Swansea, NSW.

I did wonder whether I should just stick to the coast, and head inland to Wollombi another time. However, the day was my own and I made no set plans.Indeed, lured down a side street by the enigmatic Illawarra Flame Trees in full bloom, I chucked a left into Pelican, which seemed to be little bigger than its sign beside the road.

I kept heading North, looking for a road to reconnect me with the Motorway. Wollombi was still on the cards and I was also looking for signs to Cessnock and the Hunter Valley. I know exactly where they are driving North. However, missed the lot heading South and found myself exiting at Morriset, turning right and going on the windiest road through Mandalong and Dooralong expecting to connect up with the inland road, which runs like a peripheral artery somewhere through here connecting up with Wollombi somehow. I knew it was there because I have been on it before. AND, I actually did consult the map before I left, not that I did a very good job of it.

 

Yet, just because you know there’s a great road system out there somewhere, doesn’t mean you’re find it.

By this stage, things were becoming DESPERATE!! Even finding a person to give me directions was hard enough, let alone find somewhere to buy food and dare I mention the unmentionable…a toilet or even a camouflaging clump of trees. There was nothing until I finally stumbled across a bonsai nursery. That seemed quite appropriate for someone going on an epic adventure. Having downloaded my troubles, I perked up as I cast myself as Gulliver on his journeys through Lilliput.

Thankfully, the guys at the nursery directed me out of my geographical quagmire over Bumble Bee Hill and then right, then right, then right. OMG!!! Although I didn’t believe in GPS, I was relieved to have my mobile phone. By this stage, I was already starting to picture the search party looking for my last known whereabouts. Indeed, I probably should’ve left my card.

Above: I stumbled across a gourmet oasis and stopped for lunch at Jerry’s Gourmet Kitchen & Cafe, Kulnurra.

At this point, I should tell you that I’m not the most confident driver and that I don’t usually go on such long road trips.Indeed, I live on a Peninsula and have what I call “Peninsularitis”. Some days, even the ten minute drive into Woy Woy is too much, and that complicated gourmet dinner, becomes chicken schnitzel out of the freezer.

Moreover, while part of me loves this whole serendipity thing of just driving with the wind without any particular destination in mind, I also get a bit edgy on unfamiliar roads, especially after doing a loop the loop through the wilderness. After all, this is Australia and the outback’s only a stone throw away. (Ssh, Australians! Don’t ruin a good story!)

It doesn’t take much once you leave an Australia city and the main roads to feel like you’re off the beaten track. I was so close to so-called civilization. Yet, I was driving through farms, and was definitely “out in the country”. Indeed, even the road signs had changed. There were now multiple wombat warning signs. Yes, I had made it into Wombat Country.

By this stage, I’ve almost made it to Wollombi and I can start to relax. Unwind. Yes! I am actually going to get there and this journey of 1000 goat-trailing miles, is finally going to end and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t have a big sign set up in my honour: “Welcome to Wollombi, Rowena”. I sure deserved it.

Stay tuned. In my next post, I’ll take you on a walking tour of town.

Have you been on any road trips recently? Please share.

xx Rowena

 

 

The Audrey Roster…Friday Fictioneers.

Playing the organ on a frosty Sunday morning, Audrey sat the bulky hymnal on the front seat of her battered Toyota Corolla, and struggled to get the key in the ignition. Her eyesight wasn’t what it used to be. Although her vision was patchy, the Church was only two blocks away. She could get there blindfolded.

“Mrs Ledger, can I give you a lift?”

“No, thank you love,” she smiled. She’d heard about the Audrey roster. Next they’d be calling her son. She’d burned her bra in the 70s. No one was confiscating her car keys.

Not even the Police.

……….

Friday fictioneers is a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

 

The Great Esky Wall.

Tomorrow, we are leaving on an epic family holiday to Tasmania and we’re taking along the ultimate must-have holiday accessory…”The Great Esky Wall.”

The Great Esky Wall conveniently fits into the back seat of your car absolutely filling up that space that could have been number 3 if it hadn’t been for Numbers 1 & 2.

Indeed, our Great Esky Wall conveniently sits right on the seams of the backseat upholstery. This means that if either child tries to invade the other’s territory by even a millimetre, the battle lines are clear and action can be taken.It’s time to pull out the cannon. No, actually it isn’t!

You will notice in the photograph provided, that our Esky  is poo-brown ugly and beyond a retro-statement, but it’s made of good, old-fashioned plastic which could withstand a hit from a truck.

However, that still doesn’t mean the Great Esky Wall is going to endure 3 weeks of pretty intense driving with two kids living and breathing the same air all that time.

Even a tough and rugged Esky can only endure so much!

Have you ever been to Tasmania? Or, perhaps your family has been on an epic family car trip somewhere else, which you’d like to share.

xx Rowena

History. The Esky was created by Malley’s, a Sydney refrigeration business. Some historians have credited Malley’s with the invention of the portable ice cooler. According to the company, the Esky, was “recognised as the first official portable cooler in the world.”

PS While we’re away we have house minders in and two ferocious guard dogs. Well, make that one.

Driving to Newcastle …Mum’s Taxi Seeks Gold!

Shame I didn’t have the meter running yesterday. Mum’s Taxi clocked up some serious K’s (kilometers) driving to Newcastle for my daughter’s violin rehearsal, especially returning via the “scenic” route. However, being only ten years old, of course, she couldn’t pay the fare.Perhaps, she could find me a gold medal? I certainly deserved it!

Milly Violin

Before I delve into our travels, I should clarify that I was driving to Newcastle, Australia and NOT Newcastle in the UK… or anywhere else for that matter. Although I can get catastrophically lost, the last time I checked, the car can’t fly or swim. So, no matter how badly we got lost, we were still confined to the Australian continent! Phew! That’s a relief. Wandering into another country can get dangerous, and I’d hate to cause an international incident in addition to the usual road rage.

Newcastle is 168km North of the Sydney CBD and 110 KM up the freeway from home. As we have family in Newcastle, I’ve been up there quite a few times, but usually as a passenger. We were actually on the outskirts of Newcastle on the weekend, but that didn’t prepare me for finding yesterday’s rehearsal at The Junction, near Newcastle’s CBD.

All went well until we took the Newcastle turn off from the freeway and we pulled over at a servo (petrol station) to consult the map. My daughter had been on her iPad so far, which of course, does nothing to hone your map reading or navigational skills. I wrote out a list of streets for her to find and walked her through the route on the map. For some reason, I’d assumed she’d inherited her father’s sensational spatial skills and not my Blindis Mappis, or map blindness.

Big mistake. We’re driving along in very unfamiliar territory when she tells me she can’t read maps. That she couldn’t find where we were, where we were going or the all important Crudace Street where we need to turn right.

Meanwhile, I was peering through the windscreen trying to read street signs needing a magnifying glass. Of course, I only picked up the street names too late. Don’t you hate that?!

U-turn-permitted-cropped

Mind you, that’s why the U-Turn was invented. Indeed, my husband’s done quite a few U-turns over the years thanks to my navigation and I’m not mentioning a certain trip to Canberra, which nearly ended in divorce!

But, as I’m sure you can appreciate, the U-turn is a last resort. Missing your street can be incredibly stressful, especially when you’re on a main road. Moreover, although the sign should have been bigger, a miss always feels like a personal fail…a mistake. Nobody likes making mistakes, even when you’re used to it.

Abandoning the map, I get my daughter reading street signs. We never found Crudace Street but instead, she’s calling out names of streets further down our list. I don’t know what’s going on but Newcastle’s on the coast and we’re running out of road. Surely, we’re not going to drive into the sea looking for this !@#$% street??!!! Suddenly, I see our destination, Union Street, out the window. It wasn’t the route we’d planned, but we’re there.

I don’t know whether I was being too hard on Newcastle’s signage. However, despite The Junction’s popularity, I was surprised not to see one sign for the place. Isn’t that strange? Or, with my fixation on street signs, I might have missed them. Quite aside from the usual street signs and directions, I’d also been expecting a bit of a welcome. Wasn’t Newcastle expecting us? Hadn’t the Mayor stuck up a few extra signs for us, preferably in neon…such as: “Ro, turn here!..Left…right etc”

Apparently NOT!

Not unsurprisingly, as soon as we pulled up outside the school, I parked the car and wasn’t driving anywhere. I had 3 hours up my sleeve and set out to find a cafe on foot where I could write, read and chill out without getting lost.

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Hello Talulah. You wouldn’t believe I’d stumbled into Mum’s cousin’s restaurant. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there. Had lunch and wrote a short story and arrived back at the school in time to hear a full run through of their concert repertoire. It sounded heavenly en masse and I can’t wait…Sydney Opera House here we come! Thank goodness we know where that is! No navigation required.

Now that we’re back in the car, I can hear you pleading with me to drive straight home. Get out of there before we’re in a major accident, as our drive-by-feel tour of Newcastle continues. In that case, driving home would have been a no brainer. I just had to turn the car around, and drive out the way we came in. Simple Simon…even I could do that!

Except…(and as we know if there wasn’t an except, there wouldn’t be a story. I don’t need to write fiction to come up with plenty of complications!)

I wanted to buy myself a pair of ballet shoes and there was a Bloch’s store conveniently located in nearby Charlestown. We don’t have a local dance shop. So, you could say “it seemed like a good idea at the time”. However, this little excursion meant that we weren’t going back the way we came and trouble was looming. Just how lost could we get in one day?

You’d be surprised!

Spotting a huge Westfield Shoppingtown out the window, I didn’t even question whether we were at the right place and was very unimpressed to find out we were in the wrong suburb and Charlestown was still out there somewhere…lost.

Or, was it us?

By this stage, I was starting to wonder whether the ballet shoes were worth it. Somehow, I’d managed to live 36 years without a pair of ballet shoes. Yet, suddenly I had to get these shoes. There was such an urgency, a determination. I yearned to have my daughter with me when I bought them so we could do it together…the same way my mother came with me to try on my wedding dress. I wanted Miss to see me slip my huge clodhoppers into those dainty pink ballet shoes, pointing my toes and dancing away. Forget that I haven’t done ballet in 36 years. I had changed.

Charlestown Square

Finally found Charlestown Square shopping Centre.

Finally, we found Charlestown. Found Bloch’s and bought my shoes, satin ribbons, pink tights and some black dance pants. I was a real dancer and it was time to drive home.

Oh! If only I could slip into those same precious ballet shoes and tap my heels together saying: “there’s no place like home” and suddenly find us parked in the driveway at home.

Alas, no such luck! More caffeine required!

Worse still, we were on the slow road home, via the scenic route…the Old Pacific Highway. What with driving through 60kph zones, stop-start traffic lights and peak hour crawls, an hour’s journey stretched into two without even stopping to photograph the sunset over Lake Macquarie.

After all of this, I almost fell through the front door when we arrived home…a marathon driver falling over the finish line, dry retching and completely spent. While nobody would expect a marathoner to cook dinner straight away, I could forget that! Should’ve ordered takeaway. What with all these medals in Rio, surely they could spare a weenie gold medal for me?

I deserve it.

However, unfortunately driving Mum’s Taxi hasn’t become an Olympic sport.

Meanwhile, thanks to my daughter’s teacher, I at least had a thank you box of chocolates.

It was great to be appreciated!

Do you have any good getting lost stories? Of course, getting lost is an important part of travel and so many travel stories simply wouldn’t exist if we directly went from A to B!

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Drats! The Sunset Which Got Away!

Check out this breathtaking sunset!

It all but escaped my snap-happy finger, while we were driving down to Sydney. As much as we’re inclined to pull over to immediately capture that stunning sunset, we had the trailer on the back. Moreover, due to the an accident on the freeway, we’d opted for the “scenic route” along the rustic and rather windy Old Pacific Highway, and couldn’t stop. Out of sheer desperation, I managed to snatch this shot through the windscreen and you too can enjoy water droplets bouncing around like ping pong balls, wrecking what might have been a stunning shot.

Of course, I know I shouldn’t get upset about not being able to photograph a sunset. There are, after all, much more pressing issues in our world, and it wasn’t like I was trapped underground and couldn’t see it.

However, therein lies the problem. I could see that sunset in all its technicolour glory and felt the call of the wild. Such an incredible sunset isn’t something you just see through your eyes, but also through every part of your being…mind, body, spirit and it somehow becomes a part of your very being. So, to be able to capture that, it’s a bit like sticking your bubble gum to the bed post over night. You can come back and relive the experience later.

I also enjoy sharing a little taste of Australia with you. Through even this less than perfect photo, you can still appreciate an Australian bush sunset with those towering gum trees silhouetted against the setting sun. You can also sense the vibrant intensity of the colours…molten oranges and yellows slapped across the sky like generous coats of paint. It looks so good, I want to eat it! Yum!

However, as much as I’m disappointed about missing the sunset, I must admit that I think it’s good for me to just to stand back and appreciate the bigger picture now and then. Take in the vast enormity of an endless sky. Feel gobsmacked! Awe inspired! Instead of trying to work out how I’m going to frame it. Shove it inside a 6 x 4 box to contain it. By trying to constrain the heavens and stick boundaries around them, they lose some of their magic. Like wild animals caged at the zoo, they’re still great to look at, but it’s not the same as seeing them in the wild. Or, experiencing a sunset simply for its intrinsic beauty without trying to turn it into something it’s not…a photo!

These two opposing views, however, bring me into conflict with myself. How can someone whose love of photography could be described as a chronic twitch, ever happily let a brilliant sunset go and simply let it be?

I don’t know but every now and then it happens. I spot something and don’t have my SLR with or my phone and I have that experience, albeit reluctantly…a lesson in savouring the moment…!

Meanwhile, could you please pass me a Kleenex. I still have a bit of work ahead on acceptance! I’m still thinking about the sunset which got away!

What do you think about savouring the moment? Is it better with or without the camera?

xx Rowena

PS: By the way, if you like a good sunset photo, here’s one I prepared earlier.

sunset dove

Sunset Down the Road a few weeks ago.

 

 

Born To Crash.

Ȕber-pumped, Fangio’s poised in the driver’s seat. His foot’s on the accelerator ready for blast off! Mightn’t have a licence but this is the Dodge Em’s.

What a misnomer! Although the sign states: NO BUMPING, we’re all out to crash.

Caught up in “The Siblings’ Revenge!” my husband and I fight on opposing sides.

Disco lights flash. The hunt begins. Where are they? A hunter stalking his prey, he was born to crash!

Bang! Got them! Again! Again! Again!

“Yahoo!” We’re in the zone… until retaliation hit.

Ouch!

Siren rings!

Adventure over, we’re laughing like a bunch of crooks!

dodgems 2

March 23, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write an adventure, experienced or witnessed. Explore your own ideas about what makes an adventurous spirit. Is it in the doing? Does standing witness count, and if so, how? Be adventurous!

Respond by March 29, 2016 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

…..

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Setting out on our big adventure…standing at the entrance to the show.

Yesterday, we went to the Royal Sydney Easter Show and had the best time ever. I will never forget our ride on the Dodge Ems where I teamed up with my son and my husband teamed up with Miss.

My son and I chased them round the track like a crazed stalker. He was driving and a couple of times, I actually grabbed the wheel and tried to get up out on the edge where he could actually drive. He wasn’t interested. Just wanted to crash…especially into Dad and his sister. She was just as bad. The looks on their faces were quite priceless…grinning from ear to ear with the most fiendish smiles. They just loved being legalised villains. All the other drivers were the same. We all just wanted to crash.

I laughed so much my face hurt. Much more fun than driving a stupid car and you don’t need a licence!

This is my second flash fiction this week. After writing about the personification of fear on the rollercoaster, I wanted to write about a happy adventure. Take the topic a different direction.

Hope you’ve had a Happy and Blessed Easter!

xx Rowena