Tag Archives: history

Weekend Coffee Share – 4th February, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

So, how can I tickle your fancy this weekend? Coffee, tea, Bonox? A slice of Vegemite toast perhaps? I’ve never had too many takers for the Vegemite toast on the Weekend Coffee Share, but if you want to walk like an Australian, you need to flood your bloodstream with the brown stuff and toughen up. Just think of it as chocolate sauce and ignore the taste.

Well, if you joined me for coffee last weekend, you might recall that the “kids” were heading back to school for the new school year and that my daughter was starting high school and our son was already there. That’s right. We now have have two high school students in the house and with that my responsibilities have gone up quite a few notches. No arriving back from holidays the night before and winging it with last year’s uniform on the first day. No, we had to be organized. Indeed, it was time to become anal about the whole thing and climb in the proverbial straight jacket.

You can  read all about our organizational efforts Here. Actually, I think that should read MY organizational efforts.

Anyway, after all of that, Tuesday was here and it was time for our daughter’s first day. I can barely remember how it went now, except that we took a few photos out the front of the house, without her brother because he was conspicuously scarse in case he somehow got roped into helping out. At their school, they have the Year 7s starting two days earlier than the rest of the school. So, big brother was making the most of time at home without little sister.

After taking some photos out the front of the school and greeting the Principal who we already know quite well, the students lined up in their form classes and I have to confess, that I was among a handfull of Mums were were clinging on so tight to their precious offspring, that we were almost part of the line. Although that might have been a bit pathetic, I didn’t cry.

Day 2, we our second day back at school had a bit of unplanned drama…a local blackout. Fortunately, the alarms all went off but making breakfast was tricky and we were eating by candlelight. It was all quite an uncomfortable experience, especially when we were still reeling from the shock of going back to school but we survived and she was at school on time.

She has settled in well and is making new friends and picking up with a few old ones and I’d say by the end of this coming week, she’ll be good.

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Meanwhile, Rosie our 6 month old Border Collie x Kelpie was also keen to get an education. She managed to pluck a pink highlighter pen out of the pen jar on the kitchen table and chewed it to death. There was a puddle of fluoro pink on the floor and spotches of pink on her paws…a photo opportunity.

Another funny incident around here this week, was a discussion with my daughter about the band INXS. “Devil Inside” was playing on the radio and she asked me whether he was singing “dead inside” or “devon inside”. If you’re not from Australia or New Zealand, you might not be familiar with Devon but its a cheap and nasty meat sandwich sausage often splashed with tomato sauce. This initiated a bit of a discussion about the late Michael Hutchence, which of course, became rather complicated but lead me into a reflection about the Americanization of Australian culture. You can read more about that Here.

It was fortunate in many ways that I could focus on their return to school and get things pretty much in order. I didn’t mind putting myself aside for a few weeks, because it’s a big change to start high school and a time where you need your parents on tap. You need them to be flexible and to understand your 1000 mood variations in 15 minutes without getting stroppy or needing to be the centre of attention. It’s the same when anyone starts something new. You often need that extra TLC and ideally those around you can give you that. However, with the cost of living these days, that’s becoming less possible. Everyone needs to work, even the dog (es[ecially when they keep chewing through highlighter pens!)

However, I can report that I did manage to have my first beach swim of the season on Tuesday afternoon. It was great until I waded in around waist height and then I chicken out and was reminded of my dog who didn’t like to get his paws wet and was feeling tortured as his beloved tennis ball drifted out to sea. I was pathetic, but I eventually dived under the water and survived. By the way, the surf is pretty flat at our beach and very non-threatening. Yet, you still hear about the odd rescue or drowning and it is a patrolled beach.

Anyway, I’ve decided that I need a holiday or an adventure, but don’t know what that’ll entail yet. It might just be a coffee down the street, but I’d like to think I might get further afield.

So, how was your week? I hope you had a great one and that the week ahead goes well for you. Got anything planned?

Well, I’d better head off.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.  You’re welcome to join us. Just click through to the Linky.

Best wishes,

Rowena

INXS Is “History”!

Today, while Miss 11 and I were out driving in the car, the great INXS classic: Devil Inside came on the radio and almost immediately my mood accelerated. It was 1988 all over again and I was basking in my first year of freedom at Sydney University. Yet, as much as I can be the penultimate in embarrassing mothers, I wasn’t singing, dancing or worst of all throwing my undies out the car window in honour of the late great Michael Hutchence. No. I had both hands on the wheel, both eyes on the road and not a hair out of place to betray the devil inside me.

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Devon- a manufactured meat product sold in Australia and NZ.

That’s when my daughter started talking about how this song reminded her of a kid who was dead inside (I think this was her interpretation of being boring), and asked me to clarify the words of the song. Was it “dead inside” or “devon inside”? She also added that they could improve their diction. I had to chuckle at the thought of the late, great Michael Hutchence having devon inside. Although, in the land of young kids and school sangers, of course, devon inside makes perfect sense. Indeed, you might even have devon and a splash of tomato sauce inside two buttered slices of bread.

That’s when I asked Miss 11 if she’d heard of Michael Hutchence? Sadly, that just resulted in a blank stare and then she asked me if I’d heard of Josh Hutcherson who played the leading role of Peeta Mellark in  The Hunger GamesSadly, I had not. So, we were even. Nil all.

After that, my husband and I decided that the kids needed to get an education and we conjured “Devil Inside” up onto our TV, bringing 1988 back to life. While we were very excited and really looking forward to sharing something special to us with them, for the kids, it was a lesson in ancient history in the same way my own grandfather used to talk about his father and grandfather making wheels for carts in the old smithy. Moreover, while to us,  the music sounded contemporary enough, showing the kids the film clips put the nail in the coffin. Indeed, even I found them dated.

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I guess I can take comfort in the knowledge that I am at least a step ahead of my parents. They each went to see The Beatles on their 1966 Australian tour. My mother also tells a story about how she had tickets to go and see Peter, Paul and Mary but her parents forced her to go on a family holiday to visit her Great Uncle out in Burke in far Western NSW. Mum, Dad and four “adult children” squeezed into the FJ Holden without air-conditioning or a radio. Mum played the piano in some kind of concert while she was out there. A promising pianist at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music visiting the outback was a big deal back then. Not the Queen perhaps, but perhaps an alternative to the pub.

When I was studying history back at school and university, we didn’t really look at the music people listened to as a way of interpreting the times. Of course, there were newspapers, novels and art. Yet, at least as far as I can recall, not much of an emphasis on music. Yet, for those of us who’ve lived through the times, music is such a part of it. It’s always there in the foreground, the background or stuck inside our heads even when we wish it would stop. Couples have their song and when an old song comes on, it’s like jumping straight into a time machine. I’m there.

In addition to sharing these songs with our kids as a part of us, I also want them to know their own culture, and their own cultural history. I want them to read some of our great books. Listen to our songs. Not only see a kookaburra sitting on a gum tree, but also know the song (even if it’s no longer cool to sing along now they’re teens).

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The family standing in front of the Dog on the Tuckerbox (back right hand side), Gundagai, NSW, Australia.

Last January, when we were driving down to Melbourne to catch the ferry over to Tasmania, we drove through the famous country town of Gundagai. This town is not only famous for its statue: “The dog sits on the Tuckerbox”, but also the song: Along the Road to Gundagai, where the chorus goes:

There’s a track winding back to an o-old fashioned shack
Along the road to Gundagai
Where the blue gums are growin’ and the Murrumbidgee’s flowin’
Beneath the sunny sky
There my mother and daddy are waitin’ for me
And the pals of my childhood once more I shall see
Then no more will I roam when I’m headin’ straight for home
Along the road to Gundagai 

Well, the kids almost murdered me as I kept singing the song as we approached Gundagai. I just wanted them to know their own culture, but there was no respect. None whatsoever, just a combined cringe.

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Paul Hogan as Crocodile Dundee.

Sometimes, I feel that bringing my kids up with an Australian culture and influence, is like migrants trying to bring their kids up with a knowledge of the old country. That my own Australian culture feels just as foreign here due to the omnipresent American influence. Moreover, with the Internet now part of our homes, our kids are becoming Americanized in a much more intimate and personal way. One afternoon, I heard my son chatting over the Internet to a young kid from the American deep South. This was interesting and novel in a way and something I could never have done as a child. However, it wasn’t long and our son was speaking American around the house and I wanted it to stop. The same with our daughter. We have tomato sauce, not “ketchup”. We have cupboards/wardrobes not “closets”. We have biscuits, although we also have cookies but they’re an American style biscuit not your standard tea-dunking thing. We are our own people, our own place.

It’s not always easy to know what it means to be Australian. We are a multi-cultural society and any discussion of being Australian also includes Aboriginal Australia. For me, at least, it’s not just about white Australia or male/female Australia but a diverse mix which, despite all it’s diversity, is still it’s own nation with it’s own culture. Moreover, while our population is small, we don’t need to stop being who we are and become someone else to survive or make a go of it. We are beautiful just the way we are. I might not know what that it is, but I sure know what it isn’t!

Perhaps, I need to go and think of a way of rewriting Waltzing Matilda for the modern day and I’d better not ask INXS to perform it.

How are you conquering the cultural divide with your kids? Do you think its important for countries to maintain their own cultures? Or, should be all just merge into a global monoculture? As individuals, do we have a say? 

xx Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 7th January, 2018

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

Today, I’m not even going to ask if you’d like a glass of water. You need it. While the official temperature outside is 35°C /95°F, I swear they’re taking the temperature in the shade because it’s a furnace outside and our poor air-conditioner is sounding like a train struggling to cross Mt Everest…”I think I can…I know I can’t!”

How was your week? I hope you’ve had a good one and a great start to the New Year.

My week could best be described as “The Cough”. I don’t know what possessed The Cough to use my lungs as a BnB, but surely there’s somebody closer to the beach who could have provided ocean views? Our place is a few blocks back. An easy stroll. That said, the cough is so virulent it could reach the beach from our place in an instant. BTW, I”m not exactly sure what’s causing The Cough. I took some precautionary antibiotics, but I have fibrosis in my lungs, a “complication” from the auto-immune disease. I only have 60% lung capacity as a rule so the slightest irritation to the lungs, is more noticeable and potentially serious. meanwhile, the dogs are complaining because I’m a better barker. I’m also thinking the antiobiotics might’ve upset the balance in my stomach and the cough is more about heartburn.

Anyway, enough about the Cough. Coughs are like serial killers. They’re publicity craving sponges, and you don’t want to fuel their narcissistic demands.

Just before Christmas, Geoff and the kids drove up to Queensland for a family wedding and I stayed at home to tend to the coughs and mind the dogs. It was the first time since we’ve been dating that he’s visited his family up North without me, and as much as I wished I’d been there, I also think it was good for them to spend time with Geoff’s people without me there as a distraction for a change.

As a special treat, Geoff took the kids to  Warner Bros Movie World on the Gold Coast with their cousins. Apparently, it’s the Warner Bros version of Disneyland. Not having been there, I’m harranging the rest of the family for details. They, on the other hand, are more interested in playing Minecraft. Don’t they understand that it’s feeding time at the blog, and that they have a moral and social obligation to cough up! Not ust to make their mother happy, but also to promote Australia and encourage more visitors.  Obviously, not. Yet, after much heavy-handling, I did manage to extract a few spartan details about riding the Scooby’s Spooky Rollercoaster. They were telling me about sharp twists and turns, which would have you holding onto onto your false teeth. Then, they tell me about speeding down a hill backwards,  which would have my own teeth falling out. It took quite a lot of prodding, to actually find out that the Spooky Rollercoaster is an indoor ride, and is actually in the dark. Yikes! However, theat was not enough to deter Geoff and our son from going on the DC Rivals Hypercoaster. That either takes courage or insanity and both could apply here.

They also went to the Macadamia Castle at Knockrow, located in the hinterland behind Byron Bay. I just happened to call them while they were there feasting on pancakes at the cafe. I had a bit of a moment then, because we usually go there as a family and we’ve been taking the kids there for around ten years. Some years when we’ve had a few trips up, we’ve gotten to know the keepers and had such a personal experience of the place. Even though the kids are getting older, they’re not too older for the Castle and still loved interacting with the animals.

Speaking of animals, I did hear that they had a few close encounters with snakes at the farm. I prefer not to think about that, although while I’m there I try to remember to watch where I’m walking. Snakes are far from tourist hype in these parts and not uncommon.

Without the family at home and having a break from all our activities, I’ve been amazed at how much I’ve got done at home. While it’s very boring to say you spent the Christmas holidays cleaning the house when you could be at the beach, starting a new year has inspired, dare I say driven me, to sort out the accumulating piles around the house and return to bare earth. With the rest of the family out of harm’s way, I booked a council clean-up and 6 bags of rubbish went along with quite a stash of miscellania. It felt so good. Yet, it was only the beginning.

However, my time alone at home wasn’t all work. I also got stuck into some reading. I’ve been reading a gripping trilogy by Brendan Graham, who also wrote the lyrics for You Raise Me Up. I’d met Graham at the Irish Famine Commemoration Day in Sydney and he came across as a warm, gentle man. Through his books, I’ve appreciated that he’s also a thinker. A man who asks questions and doesn’t just accept the status quo, which struck a chord with me. If you are a writer interested in the source of creative inspiration, I recommend you read this interview.

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I also managed to finish Tim Harford’s: Messy: How to be Creative & Resilient in a Tidy-Minded World. I’m actually disgusted with myself that it’s taken me so long to finish what I consider to be one of the best and most useful books I’ve ever read. Somehow, I stopped with about 30 pages to go and didn’t get back to it. Part of the reason, is that I haven’t caught the train for awhile, and that’s my preferred reading location. Along with that, there’s also been all the end of year stuff, which has kept me right away from my teetering book pile in general.

Lastly, I’ve started reading Harry Potter. My daughter’s been badgering me to read Harry Potter for the last month and I keep promising and yet haven’t managed to open the cover. I’m not sure why I’ve been resisting Harry Potter all this time. When it first came out, there was very strong opposition in some Christian circles and that definnitely played a part. In that regard, reading Harry Potter felt tabou, very much like reading Lady Chatterley’s Lover back in the day. However, as a writer, it’s also important to read and analyze very successful literature to either accept or reject its influence in my own writing. I also wasn’t sure that I’d like Harry Potter and reading it strangely felt like a chore. I don’t know why because millions upon millions of readers have loved it. Yet, I’m not sure that I would necessarily relate to all these millions of readers and clearly, they are not me. I have my own opinions, likes and dislikes and I’m anything but a conformist or sheep. As the blog title states: “I’m beyond the flow.”

Harry Potter is quite different to what I’d expected with complex characterization and moves at a delightful, fast-pace where you’re constantly turning pages and looking forward to the next one. What I haven’t picked up through my casual glances at the movie, was that Harry spent his early childhood as the bullied underdog, living with his aunt, uncle and horrid cousin, when within Hogwarts circle, he was revered as a a hero. This, at least to me, adds quite an interesting dimension to the plot. Ramps it up. I guess this plot, or what I’ve uncovered of it so far, is about Harry finding himself, when everyone around him already knows. That is intriguing because most of us would like to think we know ourselves better than other people, but i guess that isn’t always the case.

Given the extreme heat and the cough, I’ve also been getting stuck into my research. This moves around a bit, but I’ve made great headway. While I’m still researching the Irish Famine Orphan Girls from the Midleton Workhouse who came out to Australia, I ended up revisiting the McNamara’s from County Clare and moving back onto the Johnston’s. The Johnstons have been a gripping area of research. My ancestors on that front were whiskey distillers on the island of Islay, Scotland and owned Tallant Distillery. The brother and his son, Donald and Alexander Johnston, went on to found Laphroaig Distillery. I’ve never been to Islay, but I did find a fantastic blog which has almost taken me there and I’m grateful for that. I we’re always saying it’s a small world, but it’s not so small when you’re trying to visit somewhere on the other side of the globe and trying to finance it.

By the way, while we’ve been chatting, the temperature outside has soared. The Ashes Cricket test is on TV and they’re saying it’s now 41°C/ 106°F in the shade and 50°C on the field and the pitch temp is 55°C. Personally, I reckon the cricket should be called off in weather like this, but it appears the cricketers are made of tougher stuff than I. (Humph! You could say that. If a red cricket ball was heading my direction, I’d duck. There’s now way I’d even think about catching any cricket ball, let alone one moving that fast. BTW, the Aussies are winning but it looks like England is trying to stretch it out for a draw.

That’s the full extent of my knowledge of the cricket.

Meanwhile, the dogs are all enjoying the air-conditioning and snoring away. We’ve ramped their training up a notch now that Geoff and the kids are home and have been training them on the lead. Thy need to be able to walk on a loose lead without using interventions like a Halti collar which has been our go to in the past. Perhaps I’m deluded, but I’m thinking we can harness puppy power and produce a pair of easy walkers.

Lastly, I know we don’t usually advertise the unwanted critters we find lurking in our homes, but last night Geoff finally caught the rat which has managed to elude multiple traps and three dogs. Lady’s been pretty keen to hunt it down, but unfortunately couldn’t climb up the bookshelf. The pups ran away and hid and I’m not going to dob myself in on that front. Dealing with the semi-dead rat was definitely a “Geoff job”.

Well, that’s enough from me for now. How was your week? I’d love to hear from you!

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share. Eclectic Alli is hosting a coffee share.  This week’s share is here. and the link up is here. Come on and join in!  We’d love to have you along!

xx Rowena

PS: I just came across this very funny post about the Great Australian Emu War: https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/1699685/posts/1725886161

Magpie On the Cross: Day 4, Seven Day B&W Photo Challenge.

This photo was taken on a day trip to Wollombi, NSW where my Great Great Grandfather married his second wife, Jane Lynch in the very quaint stone Catholic Church.

Wandering through the historic cemetery, I was struck by this momentary fusion of elements…a magpie perched on a cross, a historic headstone.

Being Spring, I had to be careful taking this shot, as I’d already been warned about swooping magpies and I wasn’t one to argue with that. Well, that’unless a resonating image was up for grabs.

A magpie doesn’t tell quite the same story, as spotting a crow in a graveyard and yet it’s presence resonates and feels a bit forboding. As it would be, I guess, if I were a small bird.

Today, I’d like to ask Irene Waters from Reflections & Nightmares if she’d like to take up the challenge.

xx Rowena

Love For A Thousand Years…Friday Fictioneers.

Being detained for importing acorns into Australia, Ciara had simply snaffled a few back from the family churchyard in Cloyne. She didn’t know how old that gnarled and crooked oak tree was, but had no doubt that her grandmother’s great grandmother would’ve climbed it as a little girl. After all, an oak could live for a thousand years. Now, Ciara planned to grow her own and watch her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren climb its branches and feel her arms wrap around them, even  centuries after she’d passed. They would know and feel her love…a love stronger than time.

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This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. This week’s photo prompt is © Sandra Crook. Thanks Sandra for sharing this image of a very striking tree.

Perhaps, many of you are unaware that Australia has  very tight quarantine restrictions, which are strongly reinforced. Indeed, perhaps you might’ve heard of how Johnny Deep and his girlfriend brought their dogs illegally into Australia, which potentially could’ve introduced rabies with catastrophic consequences.

Many years ago, my grandmother brough heather back from Scotland in her luggage and planted it when she arrived home. She was her own woman right to the  very end and I guess so many of us feel that something small and seemingly insignificant couldn’t possibly cause an environmental disaster. Yet, it can.

I am in the process of tracing the journey of my 4th Great Grandmother through the Irish Famine and out to Australia. She was born in Midleton, County Cork and lived in Cloyne nearby as well, which has the most imaginative round tower and churchyard, which inspired my take.

BTW I have become a foster carer for an animal rescue group and we are currently fostering 5 week old kelpie pups, who are still largely bottle fed. Alot of fun but time consuming.

xx Rowena

A Walking Tour of Wollombi, Australia.

Welcome to Wollombi, NSW.

After what turned out to be a very convoluted route, which my husband has called “driving to Wollombi via Darwin”, the little red car and I pulled into Wollombi and I did the rest on foot.

In case you haven’t read the  preamble, I’d driven to Wollombi to see historic St Michael’s Church of the Archangel, and also to steep myself in Wollombi’s historic ambiance. It was no exaggeration to say that arriving in Wollombi, felt like stepping out of a time capsule into the 19th Century and I loved that. Love, loved, loved it. It’s so good that some places have in a sense been by-passed, fallen asleep and been spared from the crappinization process. That’s what we loved about so much of Tasmania and it was great to find that so close to home.

Obviously, Wollombi  isn’t a huge metropolis. So, you won’t be surprised that I spotted the Church straight away, but it did feel a bit funny to actually see it in person for the first time, and it was much smaller than expected. Wondered how you could fit both sides of a good Catholic family inside back in the days before TV. I guess they were probably used to squishing in.

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On 1st April, 1891, my Great Great Grandfather, William Henry Gardiner, married his second wife, Jane Ann Lynch from Glendon Grove, Wollombi at St Michael’s. This press excerpt provides a great impression of their special day and I can just hear those bells ringing out:

“On Tuesday last our little town, usually so dull and quiet, was the scene of much excitement, and that eventful day will long be remembered as a red-letter day in the annals of our history. At the early hour of eight o’clock the tolling of the bell at St. Michael’s Church announced that some ceremonies of a very rare occurrence were about to take place there, and immediately crowds of spectators could be seen wending their way to it. Half an hour later two brides (sisters), the Misses Lynch, of Glendon Grove, were standing before the hymeneal altar in the above-mentioned place. The elder, Miss Jane Lynch, who for some years has been residing near West Maitland, was united in the bonds of matrimony to Mr. William Gardiner, a resident of West Maitland, and afterwards her sister, Miss Agnes Lynch, was joined to Mr. Joseph Tripp, of Aberdeen. Each was assisted by two bridesmaids, the former by her sister and niece, Miss Teresa Lynch and Miss Bourke, and the latter by Míss Tripp and Miss Katie Bourke. The Rev. Father Flanagan, who came here the previous evening from Cessnock, performed both ceremonies, and afterwards celebrated Mass, during which the choir, of which Miss Agnes Lynch was a prominent and efficient member, sang some beautiful selections, and as the long procession was leaving the church, Miss M. Kenny played the Wedding March with great effect. On the previous evening the ladies of the Altar Society, as a last tribute of respect to one of their members, decorated with artistic skill the church and altar the walls being hung with magnificent wreaths and festoons. At ten o’clock a start was made for the brides’ residence, and as tho long train o£ buggies passed through the streets the firing of guns and ringing of bells could be heard in every direction.” Tuesday 7th April 1891The Maitland Advertiser & Hunter River Advertiser pg 7.

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The Forge, Wollombi.

Next to the Church, I spotted an intriguing looking building called: “The Forge” and I couldn’t quite make out whether it was a home or a shop. There was a mannequin tied up to a telegraph pole out the front and I’m not sure whether she was waiting for a bus, a ghost or an alien landing, but she’d definitely been heading somewhere before she’d been detained. Macca, the Proprietor, invited me in, even though it was closed and let me take photos, which I really appreciated as this place really felt like home to me. Perhaps, I should be concerned about that, and book myself in with a shrink. However, I love maccabre and I love how random objects can be thrown together in a space, creating a licorice allsorts of possibilities in my head. It also reminded me of exploring under both my grandparents’ houses where things weren’t thrown out, but simply “retired’. What gave this place the edge over your garden-variety vintage store, was Macca’s artworks peering out inbetween old dolls and vintage mannekins a few Sunbeam Mixmasters, books and salvaged farm equipment. He’d also arranged things in intriguing combinations, which ranged from maccabre to down right hilarious.

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Naturally, this place which seemed like a kind of “Mecca to Displaced Euphemora”, deserves its own post and so I’ll be back with more photos.

Meanwhile, I’m heading off to the cemetery. William Henry Gardiner wasn’t buried here, but Jane Lynch’s family is well-represented. I love exploring and photographing old cemeteries like this, especially capturing haunting  shadows lurking on tombstones and the like. They get you thinking.

Anyway, I was delighted to spot this magpie sitting on top of a Celtic Cross, especially when it didn’t dive bomb me as I approached. It’s Spring here, and I’d already been warned about a dive-bombing magpie earlier on the trip and was on guard. I know I often overinflate the dangers of Australian wildlife, but these swopping magpies are beyond a joke.

I walked back to the car via the grocery store and old courthouse.

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By now, it was approaching 5.00PM and impending darkness. It was a windy drive home through Wombat country and I needed to be alert. I was also concerned about having a possible encouter with a kangaroo. They come out and feed on dusk, and let’s just say they’re best avoided.

However, I popped into the local pub for an apple juice and toilet stop before leaving. I very rarely go into pubs and they’re not my scene. However, I really loved the country feel of this one, which felt very authentic and real. Names had been carved into the tables outside. Farm utes were parked out the front. I felt surprisingly relaxed and would’ve loved to stay for a yarn.

I am already planning my next trip and am even looking into camping there with friends. However, next time, no detours. It’s just a 70 minute drive “up the road”.

xx 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!!

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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