Tag Archives: family

Farewell to the Family Car…

It was a long, long time coming and extremely overdue. Yesterday, our blue, 2001 Nissan Pulsar was ceremonially collected by the wreckers and carted off to heaven.

A few days ago, I’d been overjoyed that Geoff had finally gotten around to getting it towed away. It was finally going to be scratched off our never-ending to-do list.

However, when the moment finally came and this massive tow truck pulls up outside our place to cart her off, it was a different story. Indeed, I was more reflective than expected and both Geoff and I formed a guard of honour of sorts to see her off.

We’ve been through a lot with that car. We bought it new in February 2001 just after we’d got engaged on Valentine’s Day, it just so happened that we bought the house in about the same week. Things were on the way up back then. All our Christmases had come at once, and we were impervious to future bad luck. We were engaged and invincible! We’d come through our bad luck and it was all going to be smooth sailing from here. None of what I now know to be the regular ups and downs of life, that precarious journey along the snakes and ladders, and far away from the laws of gravity which dictate that what goes up, comes down.

it’s been about 18 months since the car was last driven. In that time, it’s been superseded by the two luscious red Alfa Romeos. I don’t know what it’s taken so long for that car to go, However, there was something about me needing to clear stuff out before it could be hauled away, and Geoff needing to arrange to get it picked up. I’ll also blame Covid, even though it was awaiting pick up at least a year before Covid came along. I should also mention that my husband grew up on a farm in North-Eastern Tasmania where deceased vehicles simply rusted into the dirt. However, we don’t live on a farm. Moreover, my husband is collector of cars and you could say one more just blended into the landscape, even if the landscape was just a suburban back yard. There’s also this other factor that we’ve almost had the blue Pulsar for 20 years and it has simply become part of our landscape…here but not here.

Seeing the old girl off, brought so many memories to mind, especially bringing the kids home as babies from the hospital, which is such a massive event for all families. Huge. Yes, the kids had come home in the blue car. Fallen asleep in the blue car. Fought in the blue car. Thrown up all over the back seat in the blue car. My husband and I had argued in the blue car, and at least he’d driven off in the blue car in a few heated moments. However, what I hadn’t remembered til tonight, was that we drove home from our wedding in the blue car. I’d totally forgotten that. I only remember pulling up at the Church in the Mark IV Jaguar convertible. I was such a princess and it might’ve only been for one day, but the memory remains (and I still have the tiara to prove it.)

So, by the time the old girl was being hauled up on the tow truck, I almost felt like dragging her back. Giving them back their $150.00 and saying I’ve changed my mind. No! The blue car will stay with us forever. Can become some kind of water (or even rust feature) in the back yard. After all, all those memories are so precious. They need to preserved and it felt surprisingly sad to wave her off. Yet, at the same time, our place is getting buried alive in cars and it had to go. Time to cherish the memories and the photos without its physical presence.

Still, you know that just like saying goodbye to Bilbo the family dog who had been with us for 12 years from the time our daughter could crawl, the car also served us through a long, and monumental time in our lives. From when our son was a baby to being just one year out of school. By this time, it was our back up car and we’d bought a younger red Pulsar, which I unfortunately wrote off in the hospital car park a few years ago. While I’m not a real car person, the family car certainly takes you places and some how becomes more than just a car. Indeed, how many people recognize their friends by their car? How many people become their car. or it becomes them? There’s some strange psychology in that. Indeed, there could well be an entire branch of psychology dedicated to cars and their owners. It would be busy.

I wonder if any of you have had a car for a long time and it saw you through a lot? Or, do you have a special car with some stories to tell? How do you relate to your car? Is it just an A to B job? Or, a character car which is something special? I should mention that we also have a Morris Minor, but that’s another story for another day.

Best wishes,

Rowena

When to Stop…? Friday Fictioneers.

“You can’t put me in a box,” Ava spat at her mother. “Why can’t you be normal, and not a shrink?”

Ava didn’t want to be seen, let alone analysed, and slammed her door shut.

Sarah stared at the closed door wondering  how her precious, much-loved baby girl had turned into this fragile, self-loathing teen.

Inside, Ava was painting all four walls of her room black, and was thinking about cutting off her tongue, so she’d never have to talk again. Why couldn’t her mother give up, and just let her drown quietly in peace?!

Finally, Sarah made the call.

…..

100 words

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Jean L. Hays.

As a mother of a 16 year old son and a 14 year old daughter, I’m well-versed in living with teens, although mine are going quite well atm. Well, at least I think they’re going okay. Our daughter’s madly catching up with all her friends in case we we end up going back into lock down. Sydney and Melbourne have always been rivals, but now more than ever those Victorians can stay South of the border.

I hope you and yours are keeping safe and well.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

A Chip Off The Old Block… Friday Fictioneers.

The sea was churning back and forth in George’s stomach. His eyes were turning green, and he didn’t know which way to turn. Whether he could crawl out from beneath the burden of destiny, this pre-ordained future he had no say in. He didn’t want to sit still, drink tea and become a stodgy portrait. Rather, he liked painting rainbows and digging in his veggie patch. Was mesmerised by the magic of watching beans grow. Imagined what it was like to be a tree.  No, when George grows up, he wants to dance and he might even want to sing.

….

100 words.

This story took off with a life of it’s own and I had no intention of writing about little Prince George and his life’s choices. I noticed the chip in the prompt and thought of the number of times I’ve been told that I’m “a chip off the old block”. That I’m very much like my dad. It annoyed me at times, especially when my Dad did his Masters of Creative Writing and pursued a life long goal of writing a book, which as anyone who has been following my blog for more than a week, knows is my goal and I’ve been working hard towards it for the last 10 years. I also look a lot like my Dad, but unlike me, he doesn’t like appearing online and so I can’t share a photo. He’s a mystery man.

I really do feel for people who end up growing up within strong family expectations and shadows and hope they manage to put their own stamp on what they do within those frameworks.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Sunset Walk At Patonga, NSW.

Lately, I’ve been getting itchy feet. Real itchy feet. Not surprising after being in lock down for at least 2 months, and not being allowed to leave the house except for grocery shopping and my eternal arch-nemisis….exercise. I wasn’t too sure whether meandering along with my camera, especially pausing to take in the view or stick my camera up a tree, counted as “exercise”. Or, whether this seemingly innocent escape for a woman with mobility issues, might be considered “illegal”. After all, a girl simply going out on a driving lesson with her mum in Victoria, was pulled over and initially fined $1652 until sense and intense media pressure prevailed. I didn’t want to land myself in that kind of trouble.

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The Jetty at Patonga looking towards Broken Bay and Palm Beach. 

 

Restrictions are really starting to lift here in Australia now, especially considering the exceptionally low transmission rates we have here. However, although our kids went back to school this week, I’m still practicing social distancing and largely staying home. Besides, it’s almost Winter here. I’m as snug as a bug in a rug getting on with my WWI research and writing projects, which I view as my job. At least, that’s the direction I’m working towards. I also have a fairly extensive, global network of blogging friends and we get on really well.

Rowena Patonga 2020

Here I am going for my walk. No selfie capabilities on my SLR. Besides, I quite fancy being a lurking shadow in all sorts of distorted dimensions. 

“He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk

and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.”

– Friedrich Nietzsche

I don’t really NEED to go out, but that can also become a problem. Unfortunately, my arch-nemesis exercise, along with sunlight and the great outdoors where I can stretch my wings and almost inhale the ocean, are almost critical for my mental health and happiness.

 

So, feeling rather virtuous, I headed over to Patonga Beach on Thursday afternoon. It’s  about a 15 minute drive away, taking us past last week’s Water Tower Walk Water Tower Walk, Pearl Beach, and we keep driving through Brisbane Waters National Park with nothing but bush on either side and the road stretching through seeming nothingness ahead. This area is so untouched and seemingly remote, that it’s hard to believe we’re only a stone throw from Sydney.

Lorikeet in a flame tree

Here’s one of our stunning Rainbow Lorikeets feasting in an Illawarra Flame Tree at Patonga. The tree was full of them chatting away.

The last stretch of the drive passes through some sharp twisting bends as you descend the hill into Patonga. After driving through the bush, the tranquil sea-side village of Petonga, which means “oyster” in Aboriginal, feels like something out of the set of an old movie. Patonga is nestled on Brisk Bay, which is on your left where there’s a rustic jetty heading out towards the Hawkesbury River on the extreme right and Palm Beach, across the other side of Pittwater on your left. There’s also a children’s playground here on the waterfront, which no longer captures my attention now that our kids are in high school. However, before our local park was given a massive upgrade, I used to take the kids to a park located next to the camp grounds at Patonga, which was almost on the beach.

However, today I was fairly rather reflective because my sister-in-law is starting treatment for breast cancer, and my thoughts are very much with her. Not only because she’s family and because what she’s going through is rotten, but I went through chemo a few years back for my auto-immune disease and it’s a frigging rollercoaster, even just from a logistical point of view. This time, it’s my turn on the sidelines, and I want to do a good job of that. Indeed, I want to do a better job of what I’m doing so far, because the card I wrote and it was an extensive message straight from the heart) is still sitting in the loungeroom and I’ve been thinking of a gift but haven’t got there yet. You know, there’s that going round in circles and wanting to get that gift that’s going to hit exactly the right spot, and heaven forbid in your desire for perfection that you actually end up doing NOTHING!! My goodness. Haven’t we all been guilty of that.

 

 

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Frolicking in the wonders of nature, able to walk through the clouds.

Anyway, I picked up a few shells along the beach to include in my letter to my sister-in-law. I hope she appreciates them for what they represent, and that she doesn’t take me for a cheapskate.

Sea gulls Patonga

Sea gulls might be common but I still love them. They’re such characters and theis flock was just standing in the shallows on the beach looking like they were really enjoying themselves and I had to join in their festivities. Besides, they made me feel like less of a lone ranger and part of a wider belonging. 

So, going on this walk was really good for dealing with all of that, as well as all the fall out from the coronavirus and the kids suddenly being forced back to school full time  this week by the NSW Education Minister. As my walk continued and the sun started to set behind a row of incredibly majestic Norfolk Pines, my footsteps seemed to lighten as all these stresses wafted out to sea and far away.

“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher

storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

― Rabindranath Tagore, Stray Birds

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Sunset Behind the Norfolk Pines, Patonga. 

Of course, by this stage, I’m castigating myself for staying indoors and not getting outside amongst all this more often. What I appreciated, perhaps, beyond all else,was soaking in that vast expanse of space, and being able to stretch out as far as the eye can see. Even the most minimalist of homes, still has four walls, and I can assure you that our place has a hell of a lot more. You could say that the interior is made of books and tea cups with a pile of musical instruments thrown in.

Meanwhile, the sun has set on another day, but we did make it next door for a chat with our elderly neighbours who are family to us. They live behind us across a back lane way and one thing I’ve loved about lock down, is that is been perfectly acceptable to get around in your pyjamas. I bought a fancy pair of Peter Alexander PJ pants with are hot pink with white circles and are pretty shmick. I had no qualms about wandering out the back gate over to their place in my PJs with my ugg boots on. It was so incredibly relaxing. You could even say liberating. It’s been the same on zoom. At first, I used to get dressed, but now we’re all in PJs, dressing gowns and the other night I even watched an interview with Cate Blanchet and Stephen Colbert via zoom and both of them were in their PJs. It made for such a relaxed and intimate interview.

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What a magnificent sunset and I just love the feathery white clouds floating over the lingering blue sky. 

“Ô, Sunlight! The most precious gold to be found on Earth.”

― Roman Payne

As tempting as it is to immerse myself in nature and escape the heaviness and responsibilities of life, there’s always that rubber band drawing me back home in both good and bad ways. At times, I really resent having to rush home from my sunset photography jaunts to get dinner cooked for the family. However, I really cherish our family and all that being part of a family entails. Sure, there are responsibilities. However, there’s love, connection, intimacy, belonging along with frustration, irritation, expense, and that sense all round that someone’s clipping your wings. As much as we need togetherness, we also need time apart, space to do our own thing and the capacity to create and be a part of stories which we might choose to share with the family and have something to talk about. Moreover, this sense of family is also what you make it. You can build your own family. You do not need to be alone and these families are just as legitimate as your more conventional families. Blood is thicker than water, but the bonds of experience and caring for each other and especially being in the same boat are also strong.

I’m not quite sure how I reached that point after setting out on a walk around Patonga. However, with everything going on in the world at the moment, for many of us, it’s a time of deep questioning and thinking about just about every aspect of life and it will be interesting to see what life will be like on the other side. I for one am not planning on going back to how it was before and am working towards creating my own new world. How about you?

I hope you and yours are well and staying safe.

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Dog We’ll Never Forget!

“What we have once enjoyed deeply we can never lose. All that we love

deeply becomes a part of us.”

Helen Keller

It’s been almost three years since our gorgeous Border Collie, Bilbo, crossed over the Rainbow Bridge. However, today I read a few posts which reminded of him and all these raw emotions and memories came flooding back in a way which caught my defences off guard.

Bilbo was every bit a part of our family as the rest of us, and there’s a dreadful sense of loss when you lose someone in your family. Human or dog, you just can’t replace them straight away and they leave behind a hole like a cookie cutter in their very own shape, which can not be filled. However, although it can be painful to remember, it’s ultimately worse to forget, which is why I wanted to share this moving story.

Just to put you in the picture, it was mid-January 2012…eight years ago. It wasn’t New Year’s Day when every other human and their dog automatically go on diets to welcome in the New year. Rather, it was two weeks later. I was the first cab off the rank, Geoff was second and Bilbo was lucky last.

Bilbo + Amelia

Bilbo with the kids when he first arrived.

Starting with yours truly, just before Christmas, I’d found out that my auto-immune disease was affecting my lungs and I was showing early signs of Institial Lung Disease(ILD) and fibrosis. I couldn’t get an appointment with the lung specialist until mid-January, the day before we were due to leave on a family holiday to Byron Bay. I was absolutely distraught over Christmas and New Year and vowed I’d do anything to keep myself alive to be there for the kids. They were still only seven and five and still so young and naturally I vowed to do everything I could to get more time with them. Fight right to the very and if I had to. Indeed, I would do anything for love and the song became my song and mantra through this truly excruciating time:

Jonathon Amelia Bilbo

Taken on our son’s first day of school in 2009.

However, there’s a key line of the song undermines all that devotion….”but I won’t do that”.

What was it I wouldn’t do? Where was my breaking point? Where would I draw the line when it came to self-sacrifice to be there for my kids?

It was funny because I remember looking into the pantry and seeing a packet of Tim Tams sitting in there, and it was calling out to me. It was like they’d come to life and were asking me if I could give them up. Could I give up my beloved Tim Tams to buy extra time with my kids? Or, was the packet of Tim Tams going to be my Achilles Heel? My “but I can’t do that”?

Of course not. I was made of stronger stuff than that. Well, at least I hoped so.

Bilbo Lady Ro kayak

Only a lunatic would go kayaking with two dogs on board, especially Bilbo who is sitting right on top of me. He never really found his sea legs and tried to keep his precious paws well out of the water.

Well, I was lucky. The lung specialist felt that the Institial Lung Disease was mild and dormant. I was not in any imminent danger of dying, although he told me exercise and losing weight could help my breathing and quality of life. The next day, we left for my in-law’s place just outside Byron Bay, Australia’s alternate health capital and found myself sugar-free on the Caveman Diet and drinking gurgling spirolina smoothies. Over the next few months, I lost ten kilos.

Meanwhile, my husband, Geoff, was diagnosed with high cholesterol, and the doctor wanted to see whether diet could avoid medication. So, while I went sugar free, he went low fat and with all of us eating the same food, we were both losing weight.

That is, all except Bilbo.

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The dog really must be sick…he is sleeping in the trail of dog food Miss left for him.

However, that didn’t last very long. Soon, Bilbo went off for his annual trip to the vet’s, and boy did I get a talking to. I don’t know if any of you have ever taken an overweight pet to the vet. If you have, you might’ve found yourselves in a similar spot where you’re much loved pet is unceremoniously called: “FAT.” If they’re being nice, they might tell you: “You’re killing your pet with kindness”. However, they could also be brutally direct, and speak to you in a way that no paediatrician would ever use to a parent of an overweight child. Indeed, they can hit you where it hurts just like a well aimed ruler across the knuckles. Actually, make that the heartstrings. There’s not much worse than being told you’re a bad parent of child or dog.

Bilbo & Lady

Bilbo & Lady

To be fair though, Bilbo did hit the scales at 42 kilos, and although he’s tall for a Border Collie, he wasn’t that tall. Of course, I should’ve known and done something about it myself, without needing the vet to point it out. A friend had referred affectionately to his “love handles” as she was feeding him her left over gravy. Moreover, while he could somewhat conceal all that excess over-indulgence beneath his woolly coat, we weren’t stupid.

Bilbo Lady Ro kayak

Reality really hit home, however, when the vet asked how many meals a day he’d been having. That was the very first time I’d really become conscious of the mind-blowing volume of leftovers I’d been feeding him. Both of our kids were non-eaters and it wasn’t unusual for him to get both of their leftovers breakfast, lunch and dinner. After all, I hate waste, and we even have a worm farm to consume what the dogs don’t eat.

Bilbo was put on an instant diet. No more snacks, treats, leftovers.

Zip.

Fetching Bilbos Ball

Finally some assistance. Miss puts Bilbo out of his misery!

The trouble is, how do you tell a dog that he’s on a diet? How do you explain that you’re just not being mean, when you no longer give him that tasty morsel of fat off your steak? He was so used to getting all of our left overs that he had expectations – a sense of entitlement. So, naturally he looked at me through those huge, soppy puppy dog eyes as though I’d ripped his heart out. I was being so mean, and he knew nothing about the virtues of tough love. Was it too much to ask for Mum to have her cake, and for him to have some too? He certainly thought nothing of it. However he was a slow learner. A few weeks later when the kids went back to school, Bilbo spotted the lunchboxes and knew there would be leftovers for him inside. You could just imagine the look on his face when they bypassed his bowl and went straight in the bin.

Bilbo staring out to sea

I’m surprised Bilbo didn’t record his own sob song and post it on Youtube. His nose was very out of joint. After all, he knew food and love went hand in hand, and straight into his mouth.

“They say you die twice. One time when you stop breathing and a second time, a bit later on, when somebody says your name for the last time.”

Banksy

The only other time I’ve even seen Bilbo look at food in quite the same way was when he was put on prednisone for an infection. He was absolutely ravenous (prednisone is like a hunger drug and it makes you eat and eat and eat).

It really was hard putting him through this diet, but he lost weight, even if he was never going to make Slimmer-Of -The-Year.

Losing his appetite was the first sign Bilbo wasn’t well at the end and not being able to chase his ball was the second. Even still, we hoped for a miracle.

It wasn’t meant to be.

“Goodbyes are only for those who love with their eyes. Because for

those who love with heart and soul there is no such thing as

separation.”

Rumi

However, as the song The Way We Were reminds us:

Bilbo shadow Palm Beach

Our Philosophical Dog walking along beside the tide. He doesn’t like getting wet paws.

Memories
May be beautiful and yet
What’s too painful to remember
We simply choose to forget

So it’s the laughter
We will remember
Whenever we remember
The way we were
The way we were

Best wishes,

Rowena

Bilbo with ball

Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

 

Dealing With The Diggingest Dogs.

When I was quite young one of my favourite books was The Digging-est Dog and how he dug through absolutely everywhere, had me in stitches of laughter.

 

However, it’s quite another story when its YOUR backyard, which is being dug up with such fervor and I’m the one likely to break a leg when I fall down a hole trying to hang out the washing.

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Geoff has tried re-filling the aforementioned holes. However, it’s seems that almost as soon as he’s filled the holes, the mutts have committed further offences and we’re back to square one where the backyard looks like a gang of wombats have torn the place apart. He tied, burying a plastic mesh across the yard. However, with us being so close to the beach and on sandy soil, it wouldn’t stay down and actually ended up becoming a potentially dangerous trip-hazard in itself.

Clearly, stronger measures were required, especially because we’re wanted to set the camper-caravan up in the backyard, without it toppling under.

So, in between working from home and being my carer, Geoff also turned into a mini excavator and dug up the backyard and buried a subterranean layer of Tonka tough, dog-proof paver thingys to save the day. It seemed like her was going to be working for eternity. However, he finally got it finished today ready to plant grass seed before tomorrow’s rain.

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Zac – Our beautiful boy! 

I still don’t know if there’s much hope for our backyard. However, the dogs are currently enjoying running round their patch of dirt, and I probably should’ve mentioned that they’ve been taking a great interest in Geoff’s activities out there. I’m sure they’ve already started plotting and scheming their revenge. However, in the meantime, since we’ve all been staying home (dare I say stuck at home? Imprisoned?), the dogs have been getting a lot more exercise. Indeed, they’re loving it. Everyone’s home. There are more ball and stick throwers to pester and there’s more food and loads of walks. What more could they want? After all, they don’t use toilet paper!

Zac at the beach

Zac at our local beach during the week. He was only allowed off the lead AFTER all the other dogs had gone home. He was taking social distancing way too seriously and clearly though other dogs posed a life-threatening hazard.  

What have you been doing while in social isolation? How are you going? I hope you and yours and keeping and safe and well.

Best wishes,

Rowena

I- Ipswich…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to Day 9 of the Blogging From A to Z April Challenge. My theme for 2020 is Places I’ve Been and today we’ll be travelling to Ipswich, Queensland, despite the state currently being in lock-down on account of the Coronavirus.

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Map showing the road route from Brisbane to Ipswich.

Australians will be rather gobsmacked to find Ipswich lined up alongside some of the most spectacularly beautiful cities in the world. Trust me! If I’d been to Ireland or India, Ipswich wouldn’t have made the cut. However, I decided to go with Ipswich to touch on a very important reason many of us travel. That is to see the people we love. Yes, that sense of place can also be about people.

Jonathon & Qantas Pilot

Our son with the Qantas Captain at Brisbane Airport.

So, today we’re going to visit my late grandparents who I always knew as “Mama and Papa Haebich, although since my grandfather lived to the ripe old age of 95, he came to be known as “Papa Bert” to our kids. My grandparents moved to Ipswich in about 1976, when I was seven years old.

Portrait Mama & Papa

My grandparents in front of the piano. My grandmother would cover it in cards and photos for special occasions. I don’t think I ever heard my grandmother play it, although she used to play the organ for church while my grandfather preached.

What I remember most about visiting my grandparents was their incredible, almost giddy love for us, which surpassed all human understanding. Our dogs get uber-excited about going for a walk and they literally quiver with excitement. However, I’m not even sure that comes close to how our grandparents felt about seeing us…especially my grandmother!

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A Historic Postcard of Ipswich’s Main Street. 

With us living in Sydney, it was roughly a 1000 km drive to get there and I still remember the first time we drove up there in the family’s EH Holden with the unforgettable number plate “EGO”. My brother and I were sharing the back seat and almost murdering each other before we’d even passed through the toll gates on the Pacific Highway leaving Sydney.  I remember that incredible excited anticipation as we pulled into their street. My grandfather had specially bought brand new numbers for the house so we could find it. They were bright red and still there last time I looked more than 40 years later. They would’ve been keeping an eagle-eye out for our car. As soon as it appeared, they would’ve been down the stairs in a flash making the 1954 Royal tour look relatively sedate. As soon as she saw me, I would’ve been lost inside my grandmother’s arms all snuggled up inside a hug.

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My grandfather ued to draw us cartoons and post them down to us. This one shows when the infants school choir made a record and my mum was the accompanist. BTW back then I saw known as “Nina”. 

Before we move on from this very first trip to Ipswich, there was something else which also captured our attention. That was the fire engines. Their siren was quite different to what we were used to and the fire station was about a block away. So, the next morning while the big people were still asleep, my brother and I took ourselves on an excursion to the fire station. It was so much fun, and then Dad suddenly appeared out of nowhere. We weren’t really in trouble as such, I suspect because he had a few walkabouts of his own as a kid and he understood the need.

When I was older, I used to catch the McCafferty’s bus up to see my grandparents in my school holidays. Much to my mother’s annoyance, I did a lot of baking while I was there and she was trying to get both my grandmother and I to lose weight. However, she was over 1000 km away, and out of reach. My grandparents especially picked and froze mulberries from their tree, so I could make my not so world famous mulberry pie when I came. Of course, being the forbidden fruit made every scrumptious mouthful so much better. In addition to the cooking, we also used to catch the train into Brisbane to go shopping. I still remember when the then Premier of Queensland, Joh Bjelke-Petersen, introduced these flash new silver, single-storey trains, which my grandparents simply called: “Joh’s trains”. Joh could do no wrong, and was up there alongside the saints, until he slipped up. That was painful!

My grandparents lived in what’s known as a Queenslander house. This is essentially a historic rather ornate timber home, which is built up on pillars to maximize air-flow to cool the place down. This provides a massive and much cooler space under the house, which could provide added living space. However, in my grandparents’ case, it was an Aladdin’s cave of stashed treasures, including a functional laundry copper, which was still there when we sold the house about ten years ago. (I still get sad and have a deep sense of loss about all the stuff that was thrown out!!)

In more recent times, Queensland’s most infamous politician hails from Ipswich. Pauline Hansen famously used to have a fish & chips shop there, and has been canonized for her catch cry: “Please explain.”

Above – The Workshops Rail Museum has a nipper’s playground section for the kids. It’s sensational!!

Meanwhile, the arrival of our son on the scene, brought fresh meaning and a brand new destination on our trips to Ipswich. When he was about 2 years old, we took him to the Workshops Rail Museum for the first time. We’d flown up to Ipswich to celebrate my grandfather’s 70th year of ordination as a Pastor in the Lutheran Church. While mum was busy with preparations back at the house, my Dad and I decided to take Mister for a quick visit to the trains, and we’d planned to return the next day for a longer visit. However, you try explaining that to a two year old who’s just discovered Nirvana?!!! He wouldn’t budge. He threw a whopper of a tantrum, and the guy operating the model train exhibit and was well versed in dealing with disappointed kiddies, kindly turned it off so we could get him out. My Dad pick him up and held him under his arm, kicking and screaming blue murder all the way out to the car . He clearly wasn’t taking “NO!!!” for an answer and after going to a gazillion parenting courses, I knew the only way forward was to wait until Vesuvius subsided and his rational mind started to kicked back in. That was our only hope of ever getting him back into his car seat and buckled in. However, who was I kidding? This toddler couldn’t read, but he’d sure as hell absorbed my favourite motivation quote:

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan Press On! has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.”

― Calvin Coolidge

Well, this kid had it covered. He was sitting in the driver’s seat and refusing to move. We rang my mum and warned her we could be back late and that her much beloved grandson was holding things up. Of course, this didn’t go down well. I don’t know how many head honchos from the Church were going to be at the celebration, but mum needed the car to get the cake out there and the stress levels back at the house were also at fever-pitch. I have no idea how we managed to get that car moving.

Papa Bert 70th ordination

My grandfather, Pastor Bert Haebich, at his 70th Ordination in 2007.

However, all’s well that ends well apparently. We all managed to get out there. The afternoon went without a hitch. AND (drum roll) we were all smiles for the cameras. Happy families!

Jonathon teaching Papa Bert to read

As is often the case when grandparents live a distance away, we’ve barely been back since my grandfather passed away in 2009. We’ve visited friends and gone back to the Workshops Museum, but it’s been too long and that’s not going to change for awhile now. I am exceptionally grateful for that and the strict measures the governments have put in place. We’ve had a good reduction in the number of new cases and Australians who are bunkered can actually feel quite safe, and also a huge sense of gratitude to our front line workers who are keeping us alive. Thank you very much!

Amelia & Jonathon piano 2010

Have you ever been to Ipswich? Or, perhaps there’s a place which is made special to you because of the people living there, which you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you. 

Best wishes,

Rowena

Papa & Mama Haebich

 

D- Devonport, Tasmania: Crossing Bass Strait…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to Day 4 of the Blogging A to Z April Challenge! Today, after visiting Australia’s capital Canberra yesterday, today we’re off to Devonport in Tasmania and you’re in for a treat. That’s because we’re travelling by boat on board the Spirit of Tasmania which runs between Melbourne and Devonport. I should point out that this is NOT a cruise ship and since we’re travelling in the virtual realm, you won’t catch the coronavirus. I promise!

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So, while it’s not a major city, you could say that Devonport is the Gateway to Tasmania when you’re traveling by boat.

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Family Photo taken in Devonport just before heading home on the boat.

It’s been three years since we last went down to Tassie. My husband, Geoff, was born and bred in Scottsdale in the North-East and families on both sides date back to early settlement. While most of his family were free settlers, the original Newton was a convict who was sent out Van Dieman’s Land via Nolfolk Island at Her Majesty’s Pleasure. He was caught red handed wearing the clothes he’d stolen.

Have you ever been on the Spirit of Tasmania? Here’s a link to our experience.

We hope that you and yours are keeping well and safe and pray for God’s protection and comfort at this time.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – October 28, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? How has your week been? It’s now Monday morning here for me, which is my usual time for checking in with you after the weekend is done and dusted. I don’t really have much to offer you this morning unless you like a fresh roll with butter and Vegemite on top. Otherwise, you might have to come back later. I’m currently sipping on my cup of English Breakfast Tea, which I re-heated in the microwave after dropping the kids at school and running through the chemist and supermarket. Turns out yet another prescription’s expired. Humph! This is all too much for a Monday morning, especially after things on the home front blew up last night. Like all families, stuff brews for a bit them blows, but it’s not good when more than one person blows at the same time. It’s hard to know how to divide my attention, and not ignore somebody.

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Last week, we drove up to Queensland for my sister-in-law’s wedding on the Gold Coast. It was a beautiful wedding, especially because they’ve both been through a lot and against the odds, they’ve found love again. We had the wedding ceremony on Saturday at 6.00pm and on the Sunday we had what could be described as a post-wedding wake where we met up for lunch at this historic mill site with a large sprawling cafe and an animal farm. It was not only an occasion of catching up with family. I also had some rather deep and probing conversations with a few people, and experienced that sense of delight and disappointment when you meet someone you connect with but doubt you’ll see again. Meanwhile, we were staying with Geoff’s other sister just South of the border at Nureybar, in the hinterland behind stunning Byron Bay. What with going up for the wedding, we didn’t get to go anywhere else, although it was novel to be in the country listening to fruit bats fighting in the fruit trees at night, which to the city person to me sounded rather sinister and macabre.

Lady at Ocean Beach

Lady at Ocean Beach, NSW.

Talking about not getting out and about, that reminds me that our so-called “holiday” was cut short a day after two of the dogs got out and Lady was missing overnight. Geoff had been working on the car to get it ready for the trip and didn’t quite latch the back gate properly. When our daughter went to feed them, she found the gate wide open and Rosie and Lady were gone. Just to compound the difficulties, Lady’s tag had fallen off a few weeks ago and I’ve had a chest infection and hadn’t quite managed to get a new tag. So, while she is microchipped, she didn’t have a tag. Rosie had a tag, but as we later found out, she refused to be caught. So, when they were found on the road, they managed to catch Lady and they dropped her at the vet in the morning and we picked her up. Meanwhile, Rosie arrived back at home about 11.00pm looking absolutely exhausted. She’s a border collie x kelpie and she looked like she’d been running all that time and had well and truly overdone it. While the two dogs were at large, my daughter and I were driving around the streets and stopping off at the beach trying to think like a dog so we could find them. Geoff hit the streets with our other dog, Zac, hoping he’d draw them out. They walked about 10 kilometres without finding any trace of them at all.  It was so eerie being out there. The whole place was just silent. There were very few cars or people out and about although we saw quite a few cats roaming about, their eyes glowing in the headlights. It was like we’d escaped from planet Earth and landed on “Planet of the Cats”. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but it certainly wasn’t “Planet of the Dogs”. Ours were nowhere to be found.

That was enough excitement.

Bridget O'Donnell and children

Meanwhile, I’ve been digging deeper into my family history research along with pursuing that burning question…how did they survive the horrors of the Irish Famine? This branch of my family, the Quealy’s, came from Lisheenfroor, Moyarta, Kilrush, County Clare. I don’t blame you if that all means nothing. Lisheenfroor sounded like somewhere out of an Irish fairytale when I first heard about it too. To put it simply, we’re talking about West Clare and if you’re familiar with the famous etchings of the Famine which appeared in The Illustrated London News, 1849-50 that’s the area I’m talking about. It’s been pretty confronting knowing my ancestors went through all of that and I dread to think of what they saw and experienced themselves, and yet this is what I need to know. I can’t turn my back on what happened. It is a part of me.

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However, none of that pays the bills. It doesn’t help organize the family and keep the household running smoothly either. Indeed, it has quite the opposite effect. It sends me into my research tunnel and the world around me could disappear. Moreover, to be able to write this all up in any meaningful fashion, I need to go into this tunnel and nut things out. Distraction is clearly distracting, unproductive and to put so much energy into the research without grabbling with all and writing it up is somehow self-destructive. I don’t know if you agree with that. Yet, the cost of getting to the end and getting it all finished, if that is even possible, is very high.

If you’re a writer yourself, perhaps that rings true to you too.

That constant tension between survival in the real world versus knowing what you’re made of and striving towards that elusive creative or storytelling goal.

Anyway, perhaps I should’ve stuck to offering you tea, coffee and a Vegemite roll. Perhaps, you’re chilled, relaxed and don’t grapple with these tensions. Indeed, I could easy walk down to the beach and post a very pretty photo of the golden sand and rolling ocean glistening in the sun. Some times, it’s not a good idea to think. Worse to dream. Just stay in your rat-run and not take the blinkers off.

Rowena Pearl Beach 2018

Here’s a relaxed outdoor shot I prepared earlier. It’s me on the rocks at Pearl Beach, NSW and that beach in the distance is home. 

Meanwhile, Lady our fluffy Border Collie x Cavalier who is losing black clouds of fur as we head into Summer has plonked herself under my desk and on my feet. She tells me not to grapple with anything and sleeping through life in your bed is okay, as long as a cat doesn’t move into your territory. She tells me that it’s okay to plunder food off the table or the bench and that being in a little bit of trouble is worth a tasty morsel in your belly. She also tells me that life is too short to wait until you get it right to tell a story. Start telling and the story will tell itself if it wants to be told.

Deary me. I would never have thought that Lady could be such a fountain of wisdom. Trust me. She keeps it a closely guarded secret stashed behind her gorgeous floppy ears and fluffy coat.

I think that just about covers things here. How about you? What have you been up to lately? I look forward to hearing from you.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

Rosie and ball

PS Rosie insisted I included photo of her. 

 

 

 

 

 

Who Was the Diggingest Dog?

This is what we woke up to this morning… a monumental crater in our backyard. A crater so big, you could almost park a Mini inside it, and we weren’t happy!

Well, you might think we’d been struck by a meteorite. Indeed, given the smattering of holes around the backyard, a meteorite shower.  However, this particular hole is much larger and deeper than the rest and might even be considered impressive. Meanwhile, thanks to all these holes and the grey, sandy soil, our backyard resembles a moonscape and there’s barely a blade of grass in sight.  It looks pretty desolate to be honest and I don’t really go out there unless I have to.

As soon as you step foot in our backyard, the cause of these holes is obvious. It’s our three dogs… Lady and the “pups” Rosie and Zac. However, this hole was most likely the work of one dog, and the other two are innocent. However, how do we find out who done it when we don’t have the forensic resources of the FBI, Scotland Yard or NSW Police at our disposal? We obviously won’t get far by interrogating the dogs. Moreover, each dog is very good at feigning innocence. So, I guess this all means the guilty dog has got away with it. Committed the perfect crime.

Above: Lady is adamant it wasn’t her…”I’m an absolute angel.”

Pity that, because I really would like to have a backyard, which hasn’t literally gone to the dogs. Last night, this question raised it’s ugly head again when I had the chance to nip over to London via the blog and was able to check out  Geoff Le Pard’s backyard. His garden not only has flowers. It also has that lush green expanse otherwise known as “a lawn”. A lawn is a luxury. Yet, Geoff also has has a dog.

“Get close to grass and you’ll see a star.”

― Dejan Stojanovic, The Sun Watches the Sun

How does this man manage to have a perfect backyard and an incredible almost glowing green lawn when he also has a dog? How is it so? Does Geoff have direct access to Flora, the Roman goddess associated with flowers and Spring? Or, is it just a case that God has blessed the gardens of England and cursed the gardens of Australia, or even the backyard of this Australian in particular? It’s not that I feel like I have a target painted on my back. However, sometimes I do feel the man upstairs has made my journey that bit more difficult than most, and I could well throw “gratitude” to the wind. Indeed,  I could walk straight up to God and ask him straight out: “Please explain”.

Many of you won’t understand what I mean by “please explain”. It’s a phrase made famous here in Australia by our controversial Federal politician Pauline Hanson. While I might not like Pauline Hanson or her politics, the phrase has stuck moving into common usage, often with comic effect.

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Our Family

Mind you, I can’t really blame God for the state of our backyard and in many ways, the dogs aren’t to blame either. Having the perfect backyard, the perfect house aren’t achievable at the moment with two kids, three dogs, sailing and dance activities, work and chronic health. It’s relationships which matter, although I will confess that’s not as easy as it sounds and fueling relationships over the longer term isn’t easy. There’s a big difference I guess between where we aspire to be and where we’re at. That’s what it means to be human.

How is your garden going? Do you manage to have dogs and a decent garden? What’s your magic secret?

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I found this beautiful quotes which related so well to our battles to grow grass in our backyard of beach sand:

“The children had had an argument once about whether there was more grass in the world or more sand, and Roger said that of course there must be more sand because of under the sea; in every ocean all over the world there would be sand, if you looked deep down. But there could be grass too, argued Deborah, a waving grass, a grass that nobody had ever seen, and the colour of that ocean grass would be darker than any grass on the surface of the world, in fields or prairies or people’s gardens in America. It would be taller than tress and it would move like corn in the wind. (“The Pool”
― Daphne du Maurier, Echoes from the Macabre: Selected Stories