This week, I’m going to make you a pot of English Breakfast Tea and make you a Marmalade Sandwich and we can pretend we’re the late Queen Elizabeth and Paddington Bear having lunch together at Buckingham Palace.
It’s hard for me to know quite what to say about the death of the Queen. She’s been the monarch for 70 years and at the very least, she’s been a constant all that time at least in terms of being a portrait in our school halls, classrooms, scout and guide halls etc seemingly watching everything that’s going on and being a part of things, yet not. It’s going to be very strange to see King Charles III there instead, especially when I’m a Republican. Personally, I think it’s time to have an Australian as our Head of State and quite frankly I don’t want to see them to have the same ubiquitous presence the Queen has always had. She was quite an exceptional human being, stuck to the straight and narrow and was a worthy role model and leader. Most of us are a lot more human and so many leaders both in and out of politics have let us down. It would be good to move on.
Meanwhile, we’re coming into Spring here. I’ve heard the local Waratahs are back in flower and I’ll have to drive out and have a look. They’re about ten minutes away and simply growing beside the road. We’ve also seen groves of golden wattle in bloom, which is absolutely beautiful. This is all a reminder to keep your eyes open to the positives around you, even when the going gets tough. There’s always something to make you smile and radiate joy!
Speaking of joy, we’re actually very happy and relieved to still have Lady, our Cavalier x Border Collie still with us. Last Sunday she vomited and the next day she went off her food and was barely moving. I had no idea what was going on with her and after her carrying her out to bed, didn’t expect her to be with us in the morning. However, there she was at the back door wagging her tail and full of beans. Far from being sick, she was actually more lively than usual. I was most surprised. We’re not real good at keeping track of how old our dogs are. Probably because we really don’t want to know. As we all know, they speed through life seven times faster than us and that’s a tough thing to contend with. However, we think she’s about eleven or twelve so she’s older than she looks.
How are you all? I hope you are well and this weekend, I can offer you some cheese biscuits with a chive and parsley cream cheese filling along with your choice of beverage. They’re very addictive!
This last week has been a case of recovering from the adventurous week before, which is what I’m going to focus on today.
On Thursday 18th August, we dropped Miss at the local train station. She was heading off to Queensland’s Gold Coast with the school’s cheerleading team to compete at Nationals. She would also be competing in a few solo events as well. Although we seriously considered driving up there to watch and be a part of it all, it wasn’t long enough to pull it off and so Geoff and I decided to head off to Bathurst 200 kms WNW of Sydney. We live night near the beach, and I’ve never been out that way and was interested in its goldrush heritage and all the photographic opportunities it offered. Meanwhile, we stayed at Rydges Mt Panorama which was right on the race track at Conrod Straight. In case you’re not aware, Bathurst is also home to the Bathurst 1000 Supercars Race, which is what’s brought Geoff and Jonathon to Bathurst before.
I’m in the process of writing up about the trip. However, so far I’ve written up a fairly extensive overview which you might enjoy: here.
However, probably what you’d like to see most are some photos of kangaroos taken in Hill End. We were there past sunset into the twilight, which is when kangaroos become most active. Great for photography when we were walking around town, but potentially treacherous driving back to Bathurst. Indeed, we had a very stressful near miss when a huge male hopped in front of the car and instead of getting out of the way, he kept turning back in front of the car. Obviously, he was out to collect the Darwin award, but we didn’t want him taking us with him. Fortunately, Geoff grew up in rural Tasmania and is well-versed in country driving, but even he found this particular kangaroo too much.
In addition to all the architectural attractions, there was also the race track. The Bathurst 1000 takes place the weekend after the October long weekend, and will be held 6th-9th October this year. The track itself is 6.213 km long and runs on public roads 174-metre (571 ft) elevation difference between its highest and lowest points The race is 161 laps in length and generally takes between six and seven hours to complete, depending on weather and Safety Car periods. A likely race finish time can be anywhere between 6pm and 8pm AEDT and I can tell you, you don’t disturb Geoff too much especially towards the end of the big race.
Geoff has walked and driven around the track before. However, being my first trip to Bathurst, naturally I’ve never been and I made a decision to drive around the track myself. Normally, this wouldn’t be a small consideration because I’m quite an anxious driver. However, I seemed to get into a different zone and wasn’t nervous at all in the end. By this stage, I’d been round the track with Geoff a few times making note of where the trouble spots were and preparing to go at a snail’s pace if necessary. I didn’t care if I clocked up the slowest lap time in Bathurst history. No one was recording it and I truly enjoyed the experience.
However, before we left on the trip, I received some awful news. A friend of mine called to say she was having trouble reaching our friend, Stephen. His phone wasn’t answering and had a message saying it was out of power or something to that effect. I rang and got the same response and sent an email letting him know we were concerned and to get in touch. Nothing. I had to look up my old hardcopy address book and my friend and her husband went down to check on him. They spoke to his neighbours who were also concerned and they rang the police for a welfare check and both he and his cat, Pippa, were found deceased. At the time, we didn’t know how long it had been and I was initially devastated that my dear friend would die in such circumstances, even though he’d chosen to shut himself off. However, as time went by, it turned out family and friends had been keeping in touch with him and it hadn’t been that long. Well, it’s kind of inevitable when you live alone and don’t reach out. He was 65 and had some health issues, and we’re still waiting for cause of death.
Unfortunately, losing Stephen has reminded me of how many people I know in similar circumstances and as much as I would love to reach out to them all, my days simply go up in smoke often with very little to show for it. However, my heart is in it and I also recently did a suicide intervention program through Lifeline, which I found very helpful.
I realise that this is a rather heavy subject to consider while having a cup of tea or coffee with Rowie and I hope it hasn’t been triggering. As a positive, if each of us called someone we know who is doing it tough once a week, I’m sure we could make a difference.
This is a good reminder that I need to start thinking about having something to look forward to myself now this trip is over. I’m not sure whether living from holiday to holiday is a good thing, and so I might organise a few get togethers with friends as well. After all, we’re about to launch into Spring here and come out of hibernation.
Lastly, speaking of Spring, I was struck by all the daffodils and jonquils we saw while we were away. They were EVERYWHERE!! I felt so grateful and could’ve thanked each and every soul who’d planted each and every one of those bulbs. I’ve gardened myself and have only been thinking of my own enjoyment and making the place look attractive and cheerful. It’s never crossed my mind that a stranger could be walking past and get some enjoyment out of it. Better still, that someone who is doing it tough could feel a moment’s joy simply because a stranger had planted a bulb in the ground. While I was trying not to think about Stephen too much while we were away, it was inevitable and seeing all the daffodils and jonquils truly helped.
Indeed, I ordered in a couple of bunches of daffodils from our local florist when I got home. They are so happy! It’s like having my own personal cheer squad every time I go out into the kitchen. Such a blessing!
Every morning, Amy watched the elderly man who was clearly love struck by the mannequin bride in the window. As tears rolled down his weathered cheeks, Amy wished she was more like her mum with a knack of talking to strangers and easing grief. Instead, she observed, paralyzed… a mannequin herself.
“How much for the woman in the window?” He asked.
“She’s not for sale. Only the dress.”
“When I saw my Audrey walking down the aisle, I was the happiest man alive. Now, there’s just me.”
Somehow, she’d have to explain the missing mannequin to the boss.
I am thinking this story would suit a longer format…even to just 500 words. I see the occasional wedding dress in the opportunity or charity shops and it always makes me wonder how they got there. Why did someone pass them on? Naturally, the divorce rate doesn’t help, but if I was divorced, would I part with the dress even though I’d parted with the groom? An interesting question. Any thoughts?
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields at https://rochellewisoff.com/ We’d love you to join us!
Meanwhile, I’m having quite a momentous week. I signed up for and have started an online freelance journalism course on Monday and tonight I was elected Vice President of the school Parents & Citizens Association (P& C). I’m not sure where all this is heading but I’m certainly extending myself.
Breastfeeding their first-born son in a derelict squat, Maria thought of Our Lady giving birth to baby Jesus in a stable. Things were grim, but not without hope. If love was enough, baby Thomas could soar to the moon and back. Be invincible.
Then, the crucifying doubts set in.
“Who am I kiddin’? If I can’t save meself, what hope does me baby have?”
She wrapped him up in her only blanket, and kissed him goodbye.
“There’s no greater love, than heart-wrenching sacrifice,” they said.
Age didn’t soften the blow. He was old, and she was old. Still, his death was brutal. She’d held onto his ice-cold body until the neighbour called their daughter. “It was time.” No! It would never be time. They would dance together for eternity: the swan and her beloved prince.
Celeste made them tea, right through Winter, and barely noticed he never said a word.
Now, the snow was thawing, and his chair had risen from the dead.
She couldn’t bear it.
The neighbor found Celeste lying on the snow still holding the axe.
For those of you who know me well, you’ll know our daughter dances seriously. After a very disjointed couple of years, dance is back with a vengeance and I spent hours at the studio last week for open week and it’s dance competition this week. Part of me quite enjoys living and breathing dance, but am just a bystander and with my health issues, it’s really difficult to keep up with the demands of high pressure dance. At today’s competition, it wasn’t one of the dancers on stage who crashed and had a fall. It was yours truly who managed her feat of brilliance from her chair. I ended up on the floor and the whole competition came to a grinding halt for a good 10-15 minutes. I felt humiliated. What no one tells you about having offspring pursuing a high octane career path, is that they’re taking you with them. You also have to measure up. Sadly, I don’t believe I can. Well, not in a physical sense anyway. However, I’d imagine I’d be hard to beat if imagination had anything to do with it. However, that’s not the domain of a dance mum, and could even be a curse. Much better to stay in your place. Fire up the engine. Sew up those pointe shoes, and pay the bills. (Humph, feeling a bit sorry for myself tonight and very sore. Perhaps, my love affair with dance might return again in the morning.)
For those of you who don’t remember him, this is Bilbo, our beloved Border Collie who passed away four years ago.
Well, it’s part of Bilbo. If you knew how much Bilbo loved his food, and how he got in trouble with the vet for having about six meals a day eating all the kids’ leftovers, you’d know this photo is very apt.
Perhaps, I should be feeling like a traitor, posting photos of Bilbo while Zac is snoozing away on my lap with the keyboard perched on top of him like always as I tap away. Am I betraying Zac, by thinking of his predecessor? Or, am I betraying Bilbo by getting another dog? Actually, we have three dogs. Personally, I think they’d understand.
I was so heartbroken when Bilbo passed away, and crossed over that blasted Rainbow Bridge. I’ve never had a cat. So, I’m not sure whether cats also cross over the Rainbow Bridge. Or, do cats they have their own heaven? I don’t know, but it makes sense. After all, how could cats and dogs ever be in the same place and call it heaven? Perhaps, there is someone with greater wisdom than I out there who could explain it all.
Anyway, we had quite a fancy afternoon tea what was now ten years ago when I made Monte Carlos and got out one of my grandmother’s tablecloths and the crinoline lady tea cup. So traditional, and visions of High Tea come to mind. Then, there’s Bilbo under the table, and looking like he’s volunteering to clean the plate.
I miss him, and our other dogs. Each of them has a place with us that’s just their own. Unique. There’s not some dog-shaped cookie cutter we use around here, and every dog is just the same. They’re each unique, and I love them all dearly and they were each wrapped around me like Zac is now, and also wrapped around my heart.
There is a part of me who strives to get “there”. Be organised. Pull out all the bells and whistles, and pull it off. Although that sounds rather cryptic, I’m sure you know what I mean. That when you have a fancy tea party, your dog doesn’t jump up on the table and help themselves to the cake. Or, that you go somewhere special with your kids, they simply sit there as still as statues. Or, if the situation permits, they just or smile and wave just like the Queen without any youthful exuberance whatsoever. Such kids don’t really exist beyond the royal family, do they? I’m sure of it.
Anyway, for those of you who remember dear Bilbo who was once quite a regular at Beyond the Flow, we might raise a cup of tea and a biscuit and remember all our fur babies who have passed.
Many of you would have heard about the freakish, tragic accident in Devonport, Tasmania where so far six children died when a jumping castle was swept 10 metres into the air by a fierce, rogue gust of wind.
Although we live on the Australian “mainland” (as Tasmanians call it), for us it’s still quite personal. My husband is Tasmanian, and in particular, from Northern Tasmania. While Geoff was born and raised in Scottsdale on the North-East, his dad came from Penguin which is just over 30 kilometres away from Devonport and Geoff has families spread right throughout these parts. Indeed, numerous branches of his family arrived in Tasmania in the 1830s, and let’s just say there was no TV back then. Many of his ancestors had massive familes, and there was one guy in particular who really clocked the numbers up. He had 24 kids with two wives. So, you can appreciate how his family tree has been very prolific and spread something like a weed. I stir him about being related to anyone with old time family ties in Northern Tasmania, and I’m yet to be proven wrong, although it’s only been a small sample size.
So, like everyone else we were shocked and heartbroken by this freakish tragedy, but we had the added concern of whether we had family involved and it took awhile for them to release the names of the children. So, while we were one of the families pulling up at the school not knowing whether our child was affected or not, we were connected. Indeed, so many people are. Moreover, quite a number of my friends have kids making the transition from year 6 which is the end of our primary school system here, and into year 7 next year, which is the start of high school. So they’re really feeling it too.
For awhile there, we didn’t know the names of the children who had passed away. So, far they’re not familiar. However, but one grandfather looked familiar and would’ve fitted in well at Geoff’s sister’s place for Christmas. Moreover, there’s definitely a sense of Geoff and his family genetically belonging to this community. There’s a noticeable “look”. Being an island, Tassie is a close-knit community, but it’s also had its internal divides too. There’s traditionally been a very strong divide between North and South, and to a lesser extent the West Coast as well. Like most island communities, Tasmania is isolated and they refer to the refer of Australia as “the mainland”. One of Tasmania’s other claims to fame is that it often gets left off the map, although during covid having a moat was rather advantageous and I think some politician down there talked about having a moat and a drawbridge, and not being afraid to use it back in the early days of covid.
So, for this to happen in a place like Devonport, it’s monumental. With an estimated population of 25,747 in the 2020, it’s not a village. However, with a web of established families and networks, it’s a particularly close community – especially now.
Sharing a bit about Devonport with you isn’t going to help any of these families, but it helps me feel closer. It helps us feel closer to a community where we have indeterminate connections. A close friend of ours, who is married to Geoff’s best man, is a school counsellor at a nearby school, and was at Hillcrest School on Friday providing counselling for families and children – such a tough job but she’s put years into her training and really strives to develop strategies for connecting with children, and in particular children who are doing it tough for a whole swag of reasons. I’m not her mum, but I am proud of her and so grateful she was there. However, as we move into school holidays and Christmas, there needs to be a changing of the guard as school staff go on holidays. They will need support for the long haul.
Meanwhile, tonight we did what we do at the close of every year. We went to my daughter’s end of year dance concert. With all the stunning and thought-provoking dancing, it always makes me reflective, and when I see the younger ones dance, I also remember our daughter’s progression through all the grades to where she is now about to embark into the senior teens. I wasn’t being morbid. I wasn’t teary or sad. However, it certainly hammered home what it would mean if it happened here, and a sense of what the families at Hillcrest School are going through, and the students. Six of their precious friends are gone and for some it’s going to be very lonely going back to school next year. You hope they were all someone’s bestie, and know there are now six huge, and very painful holes in the playground, as well as at home. Holes they will never be filled, but I pray there will be some kind of healing. That maybe being in this together, they can help each other muddle through, and as the Beatles said “I get by with a little help from my friends.”
This week, it feels like I’m needing some kind of snorkel or perhaps a kayak to connect with you through the heavy rain which is besieging us at the moment. I’m not complaining yet, because I’m probably so used to being in lockdown that being indoors due to the rain doesn’t feel like such a big imposition as it used to. I am also older, and finding the comforts of home much more alluring than I used to.
How has your week been?
I hope it’s gone well!
Yesterday, was my husband Geoff’s birthday. We had a very low-key day, after a stressful week and ordered Indian takeaway, rather than braving the crowds and potential covid risk at the restaurant. That, however, meant clearing the kitchen table for us to sit down. OMG!!! That was an effort. I don’t know how things are with your kitchen table. However, ours seems to fill up with all sorts of detritus, which on a good day might be stacked carefully into neat piles in descending height order. However, on an average day, stuff just gets pushed up the other end, and the sedimentary layers buckle to form unstable mountains and inevitable avalanches onto the kitchen floor below. Just to compound the chaos, our cleaner had to stop coming because she hasn’t been vaccinated and they couldn’t provide a replacement. That certainly hasn’t helped.
Anyway, by the time the takeaway arrived, the table was clear, cloth in place, and table set. What more could he ask for? Presents, of course. Well, I had them sorted too after wrestling with the crappy wrapping paper which wouldn’t allow the sticky tape to stick and so I had to use the stapler in the end. You can just imagine how that turned out. Indeed, it reminds me of when I managed to end up sideways on zoom during the week when the dog pressed a few buttons on the keyboard. Boy, was that humbling. I was asked to mute myself while we went in to watch the video and I had to apologise. Can’t find the mute when I’m stuck sideways like this and the host kindly muted me instead. Welcome to my chaos.
In addition to the chaos, the last couple of weeks have been incredibly difficult for some people close to me, and I absorbed their tragedy very personally. Indeed, the shock hit my physical body like being rammed by a truck. Since then, a different friend has has a micro-stroke or what is called a TIA, another friend has a tumour in his colon, and another friend who had gone off the grid has resurfaced which brought me absolute joy, although her harrowing tale was very distressing. My husband half-joked to stop answering the phone. I didn’t but Friday was a busy day, and I’m not in the psychology business or a doctor. I’m just garden variety me.
I don’t feel that I’m of an age where your friends start dropping like flies, and I certainly recall my grandparents telling me that all their friends had died, or they were going to funerals all the time, and the reality of that didn’t really sink in back then. However, there is that progression through life…children’s birthday parties, 18ths, 21st’s, weddings, births of kids, for some divorce, and as the zero birthdays start to add up, it’s inevitable that we’ll end up at funerals…the last stop on life’s journey. Not that I intended to get all morbid on you. After all, my friends are doing well. One is recovering and the other off to surgery so nothing too worrying there at this stage. It’s just that all of this has made me think.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to keep myself on the straight and narrow. That’s involved trying to ensure I get regular exercise, and extricate myself from my writing/research to get outside and absorb the expansive coastal landscape right on my doorstep. I went on a walk to the Mt Ettamalong Lookout. The flannel flowers were still out and waving their pretty faces in the wind while I was there. There was quite a blanket of them, and they just looked magnificent. I continued on to the lookouts, which I found so healing after recent events. I don’t know what it is about looking out over a steep cliff and across the water at an expansive view, but it was absolutely breathtaking.
I also went on another walk at the Mt Penang Gardens up the hill at Kariong. The garden here have quite a mix of native and overseas plants, and so much to scintillate the camera lens (or my phone in this instance). I didn’t come across too many labels identifying the various flowers and so you’ll just have to enjoy their visual appeal without knowing exactly what they are.
Since I missed last week, I’ll also mention that Geoff and I went out for dinner at nearby Terrigal Beach last weekend, while we were taxiing our daughter and her friends around.
Anyway, that about sums things up. How has your week been? I look forward to hearing from you.
I don’t know whether I should be apologizing for taking an extended blogging break, or whether you’ve all been grateful for a reprieve. Only so many hours in a day and all that. I get it. Truly, I do. Indeed, that’s why I’ve been missing in action for awhile and have been blogging much more intermittently this year. Real life has overtaken me, and I’m also striving towards what must be a writer’s Holy Grail…finishing a book and getting it published (or indeed, self-publishing).
My contribution to the the great libraries of the world, book shops, op shops, and no doubt recycling bins; is a compilation of short biographies of Australian soldiers who served in WWI and fusing family background, battle details, letters home and diaries where available with a focus on the psychological aspects of war and the inner man. How did they survive physically and mentally? Of course, so many didn’t make it and instead “went West” as the saying went. So, death and dying is also a significant aspect. I’ve been working on this for about 18 months now, especially since the horrendous Australian bushfires and their choking smoke forced me underground, only for Covid to send me back into my bunker not much later. Indeed, I’ve been calling this my “Covid Project.
Meanwhile, there’s been a lot going on.
On Monday, I attended my dear friend, Lisa’s funeral. We’ve only been friends for just over six months, and yet we connected very deeply and neither of us thought our friendship was going to be that short. Lisa’s been fighting a very aggressive form of breast cancer for eight years. She’d had three brain surgeries, and after the cancer started eating through her spine, there was more surgery and she had a rod put in her spine. She was married with three boys, and the youngest was only two when she was diagnosed and he’s now eleven. Sometimes, people turn to survivors like Lisa, and be inspired by their strength. After all, they’re a personification of the miraculous. They can also became what my mother calls “a case” where they suddenly become the pet project and helping them out seems to become more about people gaining Kudos that actually helping the person themselves. You can also feel sorry for them. However, when we first met Lisa, she looked relatively well and she had the most beautiful smile. We went on picnics, kayaked, saw in the New Year, the visual overrode the intellectual knowledge that she was already on borrowed time, although I was somewhat prepared to lose her. I made a conscious decision to love her, be close without holding back, even though I knew it was going to hurt like hell. However, we both needed each other and I’m glad I was there to help lift up the last six months and help her feel loved. Indeed, when a friend went to see her, she said she felt “overwhelmed by love”. A friend and I spoke at her funeral, and although we didn’t know her for long, we knew her well. At least, the Lisa she was then which is after marriage, kids, cancer…quite a lot of life.
Have you found that it’s hard to know quite what to do and where to turn after the funeral is over? That’s what I felt last week. There was a part of me which thought going back in time to before we met would be the answer. However, you can’t do that and I don’t want to wipe out our friendship or forget her. I’ve put her photo in a frame. That’s a start. I wrote a song, a poem. I think about her much of the time, and I baked her boys a cake. I can’t change the world, and as Benjamin Franklin and other before him in various variations wrote: “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.
Anyway, dealing with my grief took me to my usual haunt…the op shops. Never knock a bit of retail therapy. As long as it doesn’t take you too far into debt, it can work miracles and if you’re going round the second-hand charity stores like me, you can save a small fortune (not that you’d be able to afford all of this stuff new.) I am particularly thrilled with my new to me fleecy-lined, purple jacket. I also managed to get my mum a beautiful designer top for her birthday.
By the way, I almost forgot to mention that we had to buy our son his first suit to wear to the funeral. I had hope to buy him something smart from the op shop. However, he insisted on something new, and who doesn’t feel fabulous in something special that’s new? He looked incredibly handsome, and I was so proud of him, especially because he’s spent his whole life with his own serious ill mother, and the parallels to our situation were obvious. Why not me? I wouldn’t say I have survivor’s guilt. It’s more a case of survivor’s question marks.
Yesterday, Geoff and I went for a walk. Naturally, I needed to lighten my mood and walking is a true-blue healer. Moreover, we went for a bushwalk where there are some absolutely breath-taking coastal views. So, we were immersed in nature. The sun was shining, although being Winter here, it was a little chilly, but we certainly weren’t rugged up. Indeed, I think it was about 16-18 degrees Celsius. Not bad for Winter, hey?!! One of the highlights was finding a flannel flower, and it looks like there’ll be a carpet of them in about a month’s time. So, I’ll have to keep an eye out. While you’d think I’d be back at this spot at least once a week given it’s alluring beauty, I usually only get here a few times a year. As usual, life gets in the way.
I should mention that I have two dogs up on my lap- Lady and Zac. Nothing like a drop in temperature to attract the dogs to a warm lap, and having my keyboard perched on their backs doesn’t seem to bother them – or the constant clicking. They’re also keepin me toasty warm.
How have you been? I hope you’ve been well. I look forward to hearing from you and catching up.