Tag Archives: holidays

Y – Yachting Holiday – Hawkesbury River, Australia…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back to my series: Places I’ve Been for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z April Challenge.

Today, we’re jumping back into our time machine and re-setting the date for the 13th December, 1982. We’ve just arrived at Mangrove Creek, where we’ll be picking up the yacht and sailing down onto the Hawkesbury River. Of course, you’ll be meeting my Mum and Dad, my ten year old brother and my 13 year old self. By the way, you might notice that my Dad bears an uncanny likeness to British actor, John Cleese. I always used to wonder why people used to say to him:”Nudge, nudge wink wink, say no more”. However, the world’s full of so many mysteries for a kid, and this was just one of many which were never sufficiently explained.

My apologies for the lack of photos. My 13 year old self wasn’t much chop with the camera, and the camera wasn’t much chop either. I’m pretty sure I was still using my Kodak Instamatic, which had the cartridge of film you put in the back which you dropped off at your local chemist for processing. My parents and brother have also requested not too subtly, that I don’t post their photos on Facebook or the blog, and I mostly honour that request.

Anyway, on the 13th – 18th December, 1982 our family spent five days onboard a yacht slowly sailing from Mangrove Creek along the Hawkesbury River into Pittwater.  Mangrove Creek is a tributary of the Hawkesbury River which flows into Broken Bay not far from where we now live at Umina Beach on the NSW Central Coast.  We also stopped off at a picnic spot called The Basin where they have a shark net set up for swimming. My Dad flew over the Hawkesbury River once when he was young and saw loads of sharks in the water. So, beyond The Basin, swimming was out.

My Dad’s had an almost life long interest in sailing, and has since become a fully-fledged sailor. That is, even if he hasn’t completed the Holy Grail…the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race.

However, back in 1983, he hadn’t quite gained his stripes. So when the bloke hiring out the yacht asked Dad if he could sail, he could give an honest “yes”. However, I only found out a few months ago, that Dad didn’t actually know how to stop the boat. Of course, this was only a minor detail, and thankfully, everything went swimmingly well. My Dad in his typical try his hand at anything fashion, pulled it off and we were right.

By the way, “she’ll be right, mate” is something of an Aussie creed. It’s more or less  the reverse of catastrophizing where you just take everything in your stride. Of course, the little Aussie battler who’s even had it harder than most, will always triumph in the end. If they don’t, they’ll probably just find their way down to the pub.

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One of the things I clearly remember from the trip, is that the yacht came with a dingy out the back with a pair of oars for rowing out to shore. While Dad took us out for a bit of exploring, clearly the idea was to go out by yourself. However, Dad had this thing about needing to pass your rowing licence first. Of course, my younger brother who was more sporty and better coordinated, received his licence straight away, and was able to scoot off without me. However, it took me a few goes, which I was naturally unhappy about. Indeed, I was a ball of angst…sad, angry, jealous, disappointed…every intense emotion you can think of under the sun. Of course, being 13 and the eldest didn’t help either. Well, eventually, I also managed to get my rowing licence and loved exploring the little bays and beaches along the Hawkesbury River as well.

 

Another indelible memory, was when we sailed across the heads into Pittwater battling against strong winds and a larger swell. Indeed, I still remember the slap of the salty wind in my face, and my hair taking flight. As the yacht keeled right over with the gunnels in the water, I was helping Dad with the ropes and loving every minute. The exhilaration of speed and flying into the salty, ocean wind was incredible. However, my mother and brother were both below deck and couldn’t stand it. After my difficulties getting my rowing licence, it felt particularly good to be outdoing my brother at this point, even if he was younger than me. This was my moment of triumph, but I also truly loved sailing.

Above: we went out sailing around much the same area on the 19th December, 2010 with my parents and our kids almost 27 years to the day after our family sailing holiday and now, even that’s 10 years ago.

Although we’re now mostly a sailing family, we’ve only ever had that one family holiday sleeping onboard the yacht. Indeed, we still haven’t christened Dad’s current yacht, which is quite a shame. It would be rather magical to fall sleep on nature’s water bed, don’t you think?

Have you ever been out on a yachting or boat holiday where you’ve actually slept onboard? Or, perhaps you’re more of a day sailor? Or, you love your land legs. Either way, I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

U – Umina Beach, Australia…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back to Places I’ve Been, my theme for this year’s Blogging From A to Z April Challenge. Today, we’re off to Umina Beach, which isn’t very far away for me at all. It’s actually only 700 metres down the road.

Indeed, Umina Beach is home. Geoff and I moved up here almost 20 years ago to buy our first home. Despite what we thought would be a quick renovate and flip, we’re still here. In fact, we haven’t finished those renovations, and what we did manage to get done back at the beginning, needs to be re-done. After all, fixing up a fixer-upper is a lot like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge. By the time you finally reach the finish, you need to  start painting at the beginning again.

Zac at the beach

Zac at the beach a few weeks ago.

Geoff and I didn’t plan to leave Sydney, or even buy a place in Umina Beach. We’d started looking around real estate in Sydney, but came up to Umina Beach to visit our niece and this place was for sale two streets away. This massive decision was all very spontaneous, although you could also say it was meant to be. However, as we’ve found out, this decision was a lot more far-reaching than deciding where to camp for the night. Although Sydney’s only an hour down the road and Geoff commutes there for work, it’s not the same as actually living there.  It’s taken me quite a long time to call Umina Beach home, and I still consider myself a Sydney person. This region is considered part of Greater Sydney. However, when I was alone at home with the new baby and Geoff was commuting to Sydney and away most of the day, I really felt that distance. However, through getting involved in Church, playgroups and community action groups, that started to change. By the time the kids started school and I was also working part-time for a local IT company, I felt a lot more settled. Through living there, we’ve managed our mortgage on one income, without being enslaved to the mighty mortgage which is the norm in Sydney. It’s naturally a lot more relaxing around here with the beach at one end of the street and flat, inland water suitable for sailing and kayaking down another. Can’t complain about that!

 

Lady at Ocean Beach

Lady at Ocean Beach, NSW.

So, after that rather lengthy introduction, you must be wondering if we’re ever going to make it to the beach. My apologies. I can take all of this a bit for granted what with living here all the time. However, before we hit the beach, I need to make a quick distinction between the name of the place and the names of the beaches around here. The place is called Umina Beach, but the beach itself is divided into Ocean Beach, which is just down from our place, and Umina Beach to the West. However, it’s all one expanse of golden sand and a fabulous place to go for a walk. There’s even a designated dog beach.

Nippers Running

Our son racing at Nippers, a junior form of life saving. 

In so many ways, the beach is our cultural hub and a true blue melting pot where lifesavers, swimmers, walkers, dogs, kids and seagulls all congregate, exercise and relax. We’ve taken the kids down to the beach from the time they were born, and held them into the frolicking waves, until they were old enough to hold their hands and eventually join Nippers, along with many of the other local kids on a Sunday morning. Now, our daughter goes down to the beach with her friends and Geoff and our son prefer sailing. I have done some swimming, but am better known as walker and dog walker, although there can also be a bit of talk with that as well.

The set of photos above were taken in November 2007 celebrating Geoff’s Birthday.

Our beach has had some rough times over the years. Rough storms have removed tonnes of sand, ripped out rows of native trees and extensive remediation works have been undertaken to halt the damage. The road around the beach front was even closed off for awhile there, as there were concerns it too could fall in the drink. I don’t think this situation has really stabilised but it might’ve improved.

Geoff & Rowena

Just off Umina Beach, there’s the Umina Precinct Park, which as a dream come true for the local action group I belonged to when the kids were small. Back then, even getting a local park with a fence seemed like an impossible pipe dream. However, council came onboard and the project snowballed into a regional park and tourist attraction. This was well beyond our wildest dreams, and I should remember this when a situation seems hopeless. Never give up!

Flamin Ron the World’s Hottest Chilli Pie on TV

However,  every town has to have its personality. It’s claim to fame. For Umina Beach, this comes in the form of pastry chef, Ron Bruns from the Bremen Patisserie and his infamous pie… the Flamin Ron, the world’s hottest chilli pie. While I know Ron quite well and love his almond croissants and bee sting cake, I’ve never even considered dipping my little finger into one of these pies, let alone tried to eat one. In case you’re wondering whether this pie is as ruthlessly hot as it claims, you actually need to sign a legal waiver beforehand. So, that’s warning enough for me. However, despite local horror stories, there are still mighty warriors willing to take on the Flamin Ron challenge blow the consequences. This includes Richard, who tells a wonderful  tale

Woy Woy Air Strip

Woy Woy Air Strip extending down to Umina Beach with Lion Island right in front of the runway. 

While I was putting together this post, I did some historical research, hoping to find some historical detail of interest. After all, if you’ve been following me throughout this series, you’ll know how much I love jumping into my time machine, travelling back in time beyond the present day. It’s somewhat well-known around here that there used to be an air strip through town. I couldn’t have told you exactly where it was. However, that’s what Google’s for and the old newspapers.

This brings us to the Woy Woy Airstrip, which was built during WWII along with an aerodrome. The runway extended from Woy Woy down in a straight line along what’s now Trafalgar Avenue into Umina Beach, ending about a street away from our place. During WWII, the air strip was even used by US bombers. You can read more about it here  at All Things Woy. 

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Imagine this crashing into your roof. Luckily, no one was home when a Tiger Moth crashed into a Umina home in 1950. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

However, our street wasn’t always a street away from trouble. On the 4th November, 1950 long a few life times before we moved in, a Tiger Moth plane crash landed into a house at the end of the street. Of course, 70 years down the track, having a Tiger Moth crash land in your street sounds particularly exciting (especially after being in lock down for at least 6 weeks!!), although I should also point out that the pilot was injured. The plane crashed into the roof, and as the pilot wandered out in a dazed state, he fell 15ft  off the roof. Fortunately, residents Mr and Mrs Henson were away visiting their daughter in Sydney at the time. The plane crashed right on dinner time, and it’s almost certain they would have been killed. So, there’s something more I learned on my travels during the Blogging From A to Z Challenge.

Couple Ocean Beach best

Sunset at the beach

Well, it’s now time to leave Umina Beach behind and get a bit of shut eye before our adventures start up again in the morning. Indeed, I might need to stay home for awhile after all this travel is over. What I would give to sleep in my own bed again, instead of tramping along the road from hotel to hotel.

Oh, that’s right. I haven’t been anywhere at all. It’s just me, myself and I stuck inside these same four walls along with Geoff, two teenagers and three dogs.

Humph! We’re definitely in need of a holiday!!

How are you holding up in isolation? Where would you like to go? My list is just getting longer and longer. However, due to my health, my movements are particularly restricted. So, right now even being able to walk into a local shop to buy some chocolate has become an impossible dream. That said, I’m certainly not going without. Hoarding chocolate hasn’t become a crime.

Take care & stay safe!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Survivors of The Storm.

“Luck is a very thin wire between survival and disaster, and not many people can keep their balance on it.”

Hunter S. Thompson

Last night, thunder rumbled, lightening flashed and a certain little black dog (AKA Lady) had jumped up on my lap, a blithering mess. She’s terrified of storms. The rain was pelting down and a quick dash out to the back room which had leaked like a sieve a few weeks ago, confirmed my husband’s repairs had worked. It was watertight and we could at least breathe a sigh of relief on that front.

“I pass my life in preventing the storm from blowing down the tent, and I drive in the pegs as fast as they are pulled up.”

Abraham Lincoln

Meanwhile, I was pleased I’d gone back to photograph the teepees which had sprung up on the beach over the weekend, because they had a snowflake’s chance in hell of surviving the storm. (see my last post). I had hoped to get back down in the morning to photograph them under better light, but there was no chance they’d survive this storm and the ravages of the angry waves. Disappointing, but photography is like fishing and you also have the ones which get away.

“A few minutes ago every tree was excited, bowing to the roaring storm, waving, swirling, tossing their branches in glorious enthusiasm like worship. But though to the outer ear these trees are now silent, their songs never cease.”

John Muir

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Oh me of little faith! Somehow two of the teepees which were evidently made of much stronger stuff, were still standing. They’d survived and I was pretty stoked to have a third chance to photograph them, this time in much better light. Indeed, the sky and ocean were a brilliant blue and the beach was sparkling at its postcard best.

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So, after writing about transience and the force of the storm last night, now I’m addressing survival. What does it take to survive and still be standing (at least metaphorically speaking) at the end of the day? Is it luck? Resilience? God’s on your side? Or, good planning? We’re a scouting family and there’s a strong case for being “prepared”. In the case of the teepees, strong construction won the day. When it comes to myself and protecting my fragile lungs, I take 1000mg if Vitamin C on a good day and 3000 on a bad one. I also go for a “daily” walk, although “daily” could be interpreted more along the lines of “intermittent”. Of course, my intentions are good but life seems to grab me by the short and curlys and the sun sets on yet another day with a swag of things undone. After all, more humble humans like yours truly, can’t tick all of the boxes all of the time and some days I’m just glad to tick “still here”.

Perhaps, I’m just more human than most…

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“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”

-Vincent Van Gogh

Indeed, perhaps you like me will relate to this addition I came across on the beach this morning. Of course, it’s open to interpretation. On one hand, you could say it it was a retake of Stonehenge in Australian driftwood. You could also say that it’s something that’s gone splat. I’ll leave it up to you.

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An ordinary Summer’s day.

Anyway, it was really wonderful just to walk along the beach in the glorious sunshine after last night’s storm, which was barely visible on the beach. The storm had passed.

It was another day…

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I hope you’ve enjoyed walking along the beach with me. I wonder what tomorrow will bring.
Best wishes,

Rowena

Santa’s Australian Post-Christmas Escape.

You couldn’t blame Santa for needing a bit of a break after supervising all his elves and dashing round the planet on his sleigh. After all, he must have the most stressful job on Earth.

So, here he is hiding out at Lennox Head, South of Byron Bay on Australia’s East Coast catching some waves.

Of course, I had to join him. While I’m not much chop as a surfer, today must have been my lucky day because I not only managed to stand up, I also stayed dry. That’s quite an achievement.

By the way, I should mention that I’ve enjoyed feeling 21 again on this holiday. I’m not looking forward to returning to responsibility when the kids go back to school at the end of January. It’s been absolute bliss drifting along for a bit and not needing to be anywhere at a particular time. No lines etched in the sand. They’ve all been washed away.

Have you ever been surfing and do you have any stories to share?

Best wishes,

Rowena

At Home in Byron Bay on Australia’s East Coast.

Ever since I first stepped foot in Byron Bay, it’s felt like home. Not that I’ve ever been able to live here in a physical, geographical postcode sense. Rather, I’m perpetually “just visiting”, and my sense of belonging is more metaphorical. More about finding my tribe here, rather than owning real estate. After all, I am beyond the flow and it’s perfectly normal to think outside the square here. To extend your horizons so far beyond the norm, that all your inhibitions melt and flow away. There’s no ridicule. No one’s laughing at you. It’s creativity personified and you can be whoever you are with that same liberating freedom, as diving off a bottomless cliff and finally learning to fly.

Kombi Byron Bay

In it’s heyday, Byron Bay was Kombi paradise with rows of Kombis parked beside the each with boards on top.

At least, that’s how it used to be.

Every time I come up here now, I see less and less of old Byron as the surviving remnants of her golden hippy era, are increasingly consumed by “progress”. Indeed, these days Byron is starting to look more and more like Sydney’s Double Bay and dare I use the word “posh”. I don’t mind posh and posh has its place. However, for those of us who actually remember old Byron (and even I came along fairly late in the piece), posh can go someplace else. Instead, I say bring back the Kombis all lined up along the beachfront with their surfboards perched on top…trophies celebrating freedom, sun, surf, sand and eternal Summers. The gateway to the inland hippy heaven of Nimbin, Byron was full of hippies, rainbows and a Mecca to the thriving counter-culture.

Byron Bay unicorn

That’s the Byron I first visited in around 1994. At the time, I’d sold out on my creative side and had gone fully corporate myself working as a marketing executive in the Sydney CBD and living nearby in a trendy, converted warehouse apartment in Sydney’s Broadway, a stone’s throw from Glebe. I’d graduated from Sydney University. Hung out in cafes writing and performing poetry while searching for the meaning of life. That’s before I headed off backpacking through Europe on what was meant to be the last hurrah before finally growing up and settling down to a real job, a career, a husband, mortgage, kids and a dog in the burbs. Implicit in all of this, was that I would personify the values of my parents, my school and the almighty North Shore. Of course, that had absolutely nothing to do with running away to Byron Bay and doing the happy dance barefoot on the beach.

That’s probably why I experienced such a jolt when I first came to Byron Bay. That despite having all the trappings of the corporate life, it wasn’t me. Or, at least, it wasn’t fully me. I was staying at Jay’s Hostel in Byron Bay and a group of us hung out together in the way that travellers do, almost bonding immediately in a way that’s impossible back home. I bought myself a hippy dress, hung out at the beach and in cafes philosophizing about life the universe and everything. No doubt, I also scribbled away in my journal, and wrote poetry. I felt so alive.

I don’t know what happened. However, it was like I’d been struck by lightning while I was in Byron Bay. When I arrived back in Sydney, my life there both at work and at home felt strangely unfamiliar. It was like I’d stepped into someone else’s life. It no longer made sense.

In hindsight, it’s no surprise. I was working long hours stuck in an office without any windows doing number crunching and database analysis of all things. How does a poet end up doing that? That is probably my greatest folly. The job description had changed, but I persevered trying to get some stability on my CV. They might as well have handed me a shovel, because I was rapidly digging my own grave. Coincidentally, it was while I was in this job, that the unchartered harbour in my head (known medically as hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain) was starting to make its presence felt. I was becoming seriously ill, although I wrote it off as stress at the time and moved to Western Australia.

I didn’t make it back to Byron Bay again until I came up here with my now husband, Geoff, in 1999. Geoff’s mother was living at nearby Nureybar with his sisters’ family and I was on my best behavior. It was very different going back to Byron Bay with him. He works in IT, and it’s not that he isn’t creative, but he didn’t connect with it in quite the same way I did.

Over the years since then, we’ve generally come up to stay with his sister at least once a year as a family and we’ve explored Byron Bay and the lighthouse with the kids. This has also been a very different experience…ice creams up at the lighthouse, stopping down at the Railway Park in town for the kids to enjoy our climbing tree…a fig tree which was damaged in a storm and fell over onto its side. By some miracle, it survived and grows along the ground, enabling even young kids to climb up into its branches and explore. The tree also has a special place in the local community. We’ve seen ribbons and scarves tied around its branches. A milk crate suspended upside down by a rope. A few times, a local woman known as “Mamma Dee” has done community art projects in the park. She had a heartfelt concern for young people and wanted to fill the park with love and connection and for young people to believe in themselves. Too many young people she knew had taken their own young lives, and she doing what she could to make a difference. Well, at least, she touched me. We’ve also met Christian groups giving away free food in the park and across the road, the Adventist Church runs a soup kitchen. All these things are acknowledgements of the darker remnants of old Byron…the many lost, broken and searching people who flee to Byron Bay in search of answers to life’s imponderable questions or to simply simply escape.

During these years when the kids were young, my sister-in-law would often mind them to give me a break and I’d disappear over the hill and into Byron. Once again, I’d found my wings and had that same sense of creative liberation, I’d experienced on my very first visit. Byron Bay was very much “my place”.

Fast-forwarding to 2020, we’re back at Nureybar again for a family holiday. It’s been three years since we’ve all be up here for an extended family holiday together. Geoff and the kids came up without me two years ago when I was sick and Geoff and I were child-free last year, when the kids were away at the Australian Scouting Jamboree in South Australia. So this means, the kids are three years older since we were here last, and the family dynamics have changed quite a lot. Indeed, the kids are no longer kids, and have evolved into teens. Indeed, our son is about to embark on his second last year of school.

So, instead of finding myself shooting off to Byron Bay solo, it’s been me and my girl…Miss 13. This has launched me into yet experiencing yet another perspective of Byron and I am a 13 year old girl buying bikinis and reporting everything back to my friends back home. Well, maybe not. I did turn 50 last year and I clearly can’t squeeze my feet back into a 13 year old’s shoes or even her bare feet. I would’ve loved to take her back to my Byron Bay, which was much more philosophical and reflective than commercial. She remembers some of it, such as the ladybird shop which used to pump clouds of bubbles down the main street. However, even the graffiti on toilet walls was good up here and it’s all but gone.

Yesterday’s trip to Byron Bay culminated in the Twilight Markets which are held in Railway Park around our climbing tree. We were wandering around and I bought a cards with prints by local artists. My daughter wanted to buy this candle thing where you poured scoops of wax beads into a glass container to make your own candle. I bought our son a kangaroo skin bracelet. We spotted Nutella donuts and they were an immediate must have just in case they sold out. Yum!!! They were divine. However, while we were soaking up the ambience and running back and forwards to the ATM across the road, the clouds were playing nasty tricks in the sky and it seems that all these national prayers for rain to extinguish the bush fires and ease the drought, were suddenly answered while the prayers of the market stall holders hoping to make a living, went unanswered. The heavens opened. Just a little at first and the stall holders valiantly persevered. The band moved back undercover and played on. The food vans stayed put. However, the rain had other plans and I just managed to buy some CDs from the band before they packed up and called it a day. The food vans were made of tougher stuff and we bought a plate of gado gado and by this stage, there was no hope of eating it under our tree. Rather, we hot-footed it back to the car as fast as we could with a plate of foot threatening to escape. While sitting in an almost generic white Subaru Forrester might seem rather ordinary, it was strangely atmospheric. We put on the new CD and as the rain fell all around up, we were making memories. It was so much fun and I felt 21 again.

Despite the rain, we headed back down there again today. Needed to stretch our wings.

More fun lay ahead, which started out trying on sunglasses and outfits at a vintage shop. How do you like our red sunnies? We didn’t buy them. I could hardly get multi-focals for the pair I tried on, but they were a lot of fun. We explored shop after shop and worked our way up to the beach. Still wet and overcast, we didn’t even consider swimming, but we did enjoy listening to the band at the Byron Bay Hotel who was playing Eagle Rock. We crossed the road and walked down onto the beach where we spotted something like 200 surfers hit the surf and formed a circle. Initially, I’d thought it was a surf school, but then I wondered if it was a funeral or memorial. There’s always something at Byron Bay you can’t quite explain and I just remembered that included a guy we spotted on the street corner known as “Cool” who was about 70 and swirling a hoola hoop while singing along and shaking maracas with a difference…one was a pineapple and the other was a banana.

Our holidays aren’t over yet. So, I’m interested to see what else Byron Bay and this incredible region have in store.

I’ll come back and add more photos once we’re back home. Our Internet connection is not the best here and is frustrating to say the least.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Last Weekend Coffee Share 2019

Welcome to the Last Weekend Coffee Share for 2019!

My apologies for taking an unscheduled blogging break over the last couple of months. It hasn’t been intentional, and I haven’t fallen off the perch. Rather, I’ve been deeply immersed in a research project which could well turn into a few books, articles and goodness knows what. I’ve also been having serious breathing difficulties from the bush fire smoke. However, that’s cleared up lately. Well, at least it has for me. So much of NSW on fire and it’s absolutely devastating.

As you may recall, I’ve been working on writing up some historically based family stories and while I’d been trying to work through them chronologically, I ended up taking a serious detour and researching a few family members who served in WWI in the Australian Army. Their service records were rather scant and so I’ve filled the gaps by reading letters sent back from the front by other soldiers and I slowly started getting the picture…along with being seriously distracted. I periodically try to remind myself that I’m a writer first researcher second. That while research for research sake can be edifying, that my mission is words on the page. With so many material being available online these days, I find it very easy to move dart around and not actually document my findings as I go. Of course, that’s way more methodical, and like tying  lead weights to your wings , which really slows down the flow. Yet, somehow when you’re writing history, you need to do both. Multitasking has never been my thing. Anyway, that sort of explains where I’ve been.

Geoff Amelia Jonathon

This brings to up-to-date. Time to wish you all a belated Merry and blessed Christmas. What did you get up to? Christmas is such a varied time for people and it can magnify that sense of grief and loss along with feelings of self-doubt and criticism.

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Caught Santa red handed leaving sticks for the pups.

We had a wonderful Christmas Day. We attended Church on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, we opened presents at home. This year we had our first ever fake Christmas tree, which has taken some getting used to but it was better than nothing and the real real was very expensive this year thanks to drought and bush fires. Our kids are now 15 and 13 and so Christmas has matured with them and we enjoyed something of a sleep-in. We drove down to Sydney to my aunt’s place for Christmas lunch, which the kids invariable spend in the pool. I always pack my swimmers just in case but never get in. I’m too busy listening to family stories and talking. Naturally, food is also a priority and this year I took down my Caramel Nut Tart, which really was a sensation. We also had traditional Plum pudding, hard brandy sauce and custard. It wouldn’t be Christmas without it. This year Mum wasn’t feeling well and didn’t make it to the big family Christmas and Dad left early and had clocked off by the time we reached their place. It’s hard to get everyone coordinated.

Since Christmas Day, I’ve gone into some kind of comatose inert state. All that end of year stress has wiped me out and I feel exhausted and the cogs need to start unwinding and returning to normal. Doing my research or curling up with a book is ideal for this time of year. I’m sure some of you must relate to that!

This brings me to the New Year and that dreadful process of setting goals, making plans and hoping that you’ll wake up January 1 as someone else…an entirely new and improved version of you! It’s never happened before and yet I live in hope. The only trouble is that some of my goals, objectives and fantasies clash with each other. I want the house to organized and clean without spending my entire life doing housework. Indeed, my main goal is to get a book published next year. That one has carried over since forever. Indeed, I might actually get somewhere if I do go with keeping the house clean. It does seem to be more achievable and if you saw our place, you’d be shaking your heads…”Are you really sure about that?!!” I think if I got everyone else to move out, I’d probably succeed on both fronts but I’d be absolutely miserable. As they say on Facebook, life is complicated.

We need to be more organized next year. Our son is going into year 11, which is his second last year of school. So, this place needs to transform from Chaos central into a well oiled machine.  I’ve bought myself a diary and calendar. He’s actually reorganized his room after weeks of refusing to tidy it up. So, that’s looking very promising. We still need to get rid of a lot of stuff.

Anyway, that’s enough talk about being organized. We’ve also been enjoying the festive spirit. Last night, we saw Jumanji with friends and had dinner at a local Chinese restaurant we hadn’t been to before. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the movie and was mainly going to hang out with my friends. However, I really got into it and it was probably good for me to give a movie all my attention instead of half watching it while I’m researching or writing on my laptop. Dinner at the Chinese restaurant felt like a trip down memory lane. It’s been close to 20 years since I last had dinner at an authentic Chinese restaurant and by that I mean one with the red covered menus and serves Fried Ice Cream. I was full to exploding and yet I had to share a Fried Ice Cream with Geoff for old time’s sake. It was divine.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve also been going to trivia nights with a friend and we’ve won a couple of meals and drinks. The categories don’t really suit me. I’m great at history (no surprises there!), but am hopeless at sport and music questions and bomb out completely. However, as a team we perform well and have won a few dinner vouchers and Geoff and I went out for dinner there last Saturday night.

Violin & concert violinist music

The other news is that I performed at my end of year violin concert. This year I played Where Is Love from the musical Oliver. We chose this piece because it wasn’t going to over-stretch me and I was really busy at the end of the year and not in good shape to conquer something challenging. The plan was to play it as a duet. However, the day before I received a text from my teacher saying she was in hospital with a kidney stone, but that I “could do it”. Humph! Fortunately, I was playing the melody for all but one line of the piece and so a tweaked that and said my prayers. The violin can be a  very disagreeable instrument prone to terrible squeaks and it doesn’t care that you have an audience. It likes to remind you who’s the boss. With this in mind, I gave my performance a brief intro and said that I usually go for safety in numbers, but that hadn’t worked out this year. I also mentioned that many of us have asked “Where is love?” or “Where is hope?” “Where is good luck?” Some times, you just need to open your eyes, turn a corner or keep your fingers crossed…like I’m doing now.” Phew! At least I had the audience on side. It didn’t really matter how I played now, although it did and I was told I gave my best performance yet. What a relief.

I’m sorry my thoughts are all over the place tonight. It’s been such a long time since I’ve even checked in on my blog and I had a lot of catching up to do.

Anyway, 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 and Happy New Year!

Rowena

Ghosts on the Run…Friday Fictioneers 7th June, 2019.

When the Ledoux Family rented out their home in Antibes, they had no idea a couple of famous ghosts would move in along with their heads.

Louis and Marie-Antoinette had evacuated Notre Dame toute de Suite after accidentally sparking the fire which almost turned their beloved Lady into a pile of ash.

Of course, it wasn’t Versailles. However, they loved the beach and their new found freedom. Louis could barely keep his hands off his beloved Queen in her alluring bikini, although didn’t like wearing budgie smugglers* at all!

“Mon Cherie, nobody would ever think to look for us here.”

…..

Don’t ask me where the inspiration for my take on today’s prompt came from, except to say that I was quite taken by the stairs at the front and floating to the top. Stairs like that are not kind to me. By the way, Budgie smugglers is an Australian slang term for men’s tight-fitting Speedo-style swimwear and the term received a lot of press thanks to our former Prime Minister Tony Abbott who was often photographed wearing them. He is a volunteer lifesaver.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s prompt was provided by C.E. Ayr. Thanks, C.E.

We’d love you to join us. Every week, Rochelle posts a photo prompt and we respond in 100 words or less and I’ve been quite amazed at what we’ve been able to accomplish in so few words. Makes me ponder the need for the novel.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share…3rd February, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, you’re in luck. You can have a slice of piping hot Peach Upside Down Cake with a scoop of creamy Vanilla ice cream with your choice of tea, coffee or whatever. I don’t know what possessed me to go baking tonight when the kitchen was already a bomb zone and the dishwasher is broken and the teenage substitutes are unreliable at best. Indeed, I suspect they have a few faulty circuits. However, being Sunday night, I felt the call of the Sunday roast, which thanks to still going through the Christmas ham, I decided to make a special dessert instead.

Peach Cake

Peach Upside Down Cake…Yum!

Last week was momentous. One by one, the rest of the family fell like dominoes returning to the real world. Tuesday, Geoff was back to work. Wednesday, our son was back to school and is now in Year 10. Our daughter had the longest reprieve. She went back to school for only one day on Friday and then she was off for the weekend again. It’s a tough life.

Jonathon & Amelia

Back to school 2019.kwr

By the way, it was funny seeing photo after photo of kids of all ages, shapes and sizes heading back to school. Themes and variations. Parents should warn their kids that if they don’t smile at the camera or worse still, they frown, cry, snarl or make a stupid face, it’s going to spread like gastro all around the world wide web and haunt them forever. Facebook never forgets. It bringing these things back from the deepest depths of its memory and no parent can resist clicking share and making the bad photo do the rounds again.

Zac & Amelia reading

Even the poor dog has homework. However, he soon nodded off and went to sleep.

Anyway, we got through the first week of term one. I can tick that one off. How many to go? Can I stick my head in the sand now? Or, do I really have to face another school year.

Last night, I revisited my parents’ old holiday house at Sydney’s Palm Beach going through masses of photos and posted two of them:

Girl on the Sand

Above: Footprints Running Through Sand

Driving Through the Clouds

Making Tracks.

Meanwhile, I participated in Friday Fictioneers again. This week’s photo prompt featured a tee pee, and took me into the realms of Native Americans, which was right out of my league as an Australian who has never been to America and has a healthy respect for Indigenous cultures. I wanted to show respect and came very close to skipping this week. My piece was called: Natural Justice and also raised some interesting issues about how to view historic literature through our modern day concepts of equality and social justice.

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Gosford Sailing Club.

For Thursday Doors, I featured Gosford Sailing Club. Both my husband and son are sailing members and I am hoping to be able to start sailing soon myself.

Well, how was your week? I hope you’ve had a great one.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Byron Bay Continued…Walking Through Bangalow’s Past.

Our adventures around Byron Bay continue today as we visit the village of Bangalow. However, this journey is going to be a little different. You see, instead of simply walking up the hill and seeing what’s there now and exploring all the irresistible nooks and crannies, I’d also like you to think of yourself slowly walking through the doors of perception into a kind of time warp. Indeed, if you look at the main street, you’ll observe a red phone box, which for our purposes will act as a form of tardis. So, please step onboard and welcome to Bangalow past and present.

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The Magic Red Time Machine AKA Red Phone Box.

Self-described as “a bit above Byron”, Bangalow is a historic rural town located 13 km west of Byron Bay, 758 km north of Sydney and 165 km south of Brisbane. Moreover, just in case you have absolutely no sense of direction or geography whatsoever, we’re in Australia. I try never to take that for granted. Just because I know where I am, it doesn’t mean you’re in the know.

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The map above shows Newrybar where were staying with Bangalow at the centre and Byron Bay top right.

As you may be aware, Geoff and zipped up to stay at nearby Newrybar with his sister  last week, while the kids were away at the Australian Scout Jamboree and I’m now endeavoring to drag you along with me in a virtual blogging sense.

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However, rather than confirming how well I know Bangalow after coming here nearly every year for the last 20 years, this visit actually showed up my ignorance. Have you ever had that experience when you think you know a place, but then you suddenly see it from a different light, and you realize that you barely knew it at all? Indeed, you might even call this place home or your home away from home, and yet there are these mysteries. Those walls and corridors which are silent, and yet they speak. The trick, however, is finding a way to tune in and actually listen to their stories. Chip away at the layers of paint to find out what’s hidden underneath and the old newspapers are very good for that.

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Modern newspaper headlines outside the newsagency. I’m intrigued by “Ghost Hunters on a Mission”!

My ignorance suddenly jumped out at me when I met a member of the Bangalow Historical Society while I was photographing the museum (which used to be a brothel in nearby Brunswick Heads and it was transported to its current location.) I’d noticed that one of the shop fronts was clearly dated 1911 and I had wondered whether there was any significance to the date. As it turned out, a dreadful fire destroyed three wooden shops:


Fire at Bangalow.

All that remained of that range of comparatively new buildings from Garvey’s hotel property to the Commercial Banking Company’s premises in the main street on Friday morn ing was a strongroom, two chimneys, a tankful of boiling water and a confused mass of burning remains. Miss Dye first gave the alarm about 4.30. She states that she was awakened by the sound ,of burning timber, and, looking out of the window, observed flames rising from the building on the opposite side of the street. Calls awakened the Messrs Savage, who spread the alarm, and the ringing of the Convent and Pub lie School bells aroused the whole town. The building discovered to be on fire was owned by Mr W. Barby. It adjoined Garvey’s Hotel, and consisted of Mr W. Martin’s hairdressers, tobacconist, and fancy goods shop and billiard room, Messrs Ferguson and Torrens’ office, and Mr W, H. Perry’s tailoring establishment. Between this building and Blackwell and Sons’ store was a lane only 9ft wide and the flames quickly spread to their premises. The next building was the Commercial Bank, but be fore the fire reached it, the manager had time to remove valuable documents to the E.S. and A. Bank on the opposite side of the street. Fortunately the morning was calm, otherwise the houses on the opposite side of the street must also have gone. Savage’s new shop caught fire, but wet blankets and a copious drenching of water saved it. The telephone lines were fused, and telephonic communication was suspended. The damage is estimated at about £5000. Mullumbimby Star (NSW : 1906 – 1936), Thursday 10 August 1911, page 8

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Another detail I noticed walking up the main street on this visit was the War Memorial Clock outside Bangalow Post Office. It was unveiled on ANZAC Day 1937, just two years before Australia and the world were back at war. In place of numerals to mark the hour, the words “Lest We Forget,” are placed around the dial.Although I hadn’t really noticed and embraced it before, this time I paused to remember those who had made the ultimate sacrifice and all those young lads, especially from our country towns who went to serve our country.

bangalow war memmorial clock

It’s interesting how these small details you can easily miss walking up the street, open a window in Bangalow’s past. Yet, of course, I’m not here to provide a comprehensive history of Bangalow. Rather, I’m here to share MY Bangalow, which is no doubt a different Bangalow to the one someone else experiences. After all, each of us is selective, plucking out the things we love and are relevant to us, while ignoring and perhaps even being totally oblivious to the rest. We couldn’t possibly take it all in and wouldn’t want to either.

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Personally, I’m drawn to Bangalow’s historic architecture and quaint village feel as well as its artistic and creative flair…and of course the monthly markets when they’re on. As a visitor, it can be a bit hit and often more miss, as to whether the markets are on while we’re in town. Food is another drawcard and I always head up to the Choux Choux Cafe and love their Chocolate Saffron Chocolate Mouse Cake. I also buy a few Yum Cha treats at Red Ginger and sip on complimentary Chinese tea, while I write in my journal.

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Doing what I do best in Bangalow…Iced Coffee, chocolate cake and my journal at Choux Choux Cafe.

Bangalow has also been my escape hatch, especially when the kids were younger. Geoff’s sister used to do family daycare and would mind the kids while I escaped to spread my wings. Back when they were small, these escapes were my salvation. My creative side was actually able to draw breath and I know that I’ve already mentioned spreading my wings. However, when the bird escapes from her cage, that sense of freedom and being able to enter an artistic realm can not be under-estimated. That’s not to say I don’t love my kids and that we didn’t do creative things together. I don’t believe a parent should have to apologize for having a breather. Indeed, I believe it’s healthy. A short leash can have a stranglehold.

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You never know what you’re going to see round Byron Bay and Bangalow. I spotted this ute pull up across the road while I was at Choux Choux and was rather gobsmacked spotted a flamingo in the back of the ute. A loving Dad, it was a gift for his daughter’s birthday.

Yet, when you visit Bangalow today with its relaxed boutique village feel, it’s hard to believe that the notorious Pacific Highway used to roar through town and the very buildings where you now relax over a chai latte or peppermint tea, once rattled as the semi-trailers and trucks ploughed through. That all changed on December 14, 1994, when the Bangalow bypass was officially opened. The highway now bypasses most of these smaller coastal and country towns and while it’s dramatically reduced travel times and created quieter and safer local hubs, the trip is nowhere near as interesting as it used to be. It’s an A to B run with a fast food stop along the way. Or, for the wanderer at heart, detours off the road most traveled.

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The CWA is the Country Women’s Association and has been an institution in Australian Country Towns for generations. Well known for their cookbooks and baking competitions.

 

 

My explorations through the newspapers also reminded me of Bangalow’s dairying heritage. A relic of it’s dairying past can be seen at The Buttery,  which in keeping with the changing times, is now a drug rehab centre. This newspaper description from the Farmer and Settler , Friday 22 July 1927 recreates  this Bangalow well:


BANGALOW.

Bungalow, in the early days the centre of the ”Big Scrub, is to-day a district of broad pastures and successful dairy farms with over 40,000 milking cows on its 8,000 acres, Laid out In 1891 by Surveyor J. B. Kelly, it was first known as Byron Creek. The first settlers in the district, who arrived about 1882, wore Messrs. Robert Campbell and J. P Garvan, Mr Campbell’s farm, known as ‘Granuaille,’ consisted of 640 acres, and the town of Bungalow stands on part of this land. Mrs. P. Garvey called the town Bangalow, because of the many palms of that name in the district, and it is known by that name to-day. After finding that sugar-cane growing did not pay, because, of the long haulage to the mill, the early settlers turned to dairying only forty two years ago. A co-operative butter factory was started In Bungalow In 1892, but with the introduction of hand separators the cream was sent to the factories of the . North Coast. Co-oporatlve Co. Ltd., at Byron Bay and Binna Burra. Just before 1900, cow that returned £5 per year, was considered a falr animal, but to-day If she does not give a return of £12 per annum the owner Is likely to dis pose of her. Tho soil of the Bungalow district Is of porous, volcanic diameter. Watered by many small streams and receivlng an average of 70-lnches of rain annually, successful pastures of paspalum and clover are grown, and in many cases the land is ploughed and sown to winter grasses. Illawarra milking shorthorns are, .the most popular dairy breed, due to their steers bringing high prices, but at the present time the Jerseys are coming into general favor, and several fine herds of this breed are found in the Bangalow district. Pig raising, as a subsidiary industry of tho dairyman, is Increasing in the Bangalow district at a 25 per cent, rate every year. In addition to the pigs shipped to tho Byron Bay ‘Norco’ bacon, factory, thousands of pigs are sold at the Bangalow yards each year. No particular breed’ is favored, and the great majority are cross-breds of Tamworth, Berkshire, Improved York, and Poland China breeds. Only bacon pigs are produced In this district.”

 

 

Speaking of pork, these days Bangalow Pork is famous. As their web sites explains:

Bangalow Sweet Pork is supplied by small Australian Family Farms. We promote the use of Sustainable Agricultural Practices so that our farms will continue to provide fabulous fresh produce for generations to come. The Welfare of Animal is an extremely important part of our program as any stress at any time during the life of our pigs can greatly affect the quality of our product. So for Bangalow Sweet Pork to provide the best quality Pork available it is extremely important that our animals live a healthy and happy existence. We have been proud leaders in our industry and since our inception our product has been Antibiotic Free and we DO NOT use any Hormones on our farms.

bangalow flying glass sculpture

Before we leave Bangalow, I just wanted to make one last stopover, which I plan to visit some time in the near future. While I’m not hugely into science fiction, I have a huge imagination and when I spotted these incredible glass sculptures at Zakay Zakay Studio & Gallery, I imagined shrinking myself, climbing inside and somehow taking flight and flying high above the world in this magical glass pyramid along with all of it’s dazzling lighting effects. Hey, would you like to join me and where would you like to go? I’m taking requests.

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Goodness knows where you’ll end up traveling inside this thing.

Anyway, I hope you can appreciate these various incantations of Bangalow and tomorrow I’ll continue the tour and take it into the modern era for Thursday Doors.

Have you ever been to Bangalow? What are your special memories of the place? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

More about the Featured Image:

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Surviving the Australian Sun…

Perhaps, you’ve heard that Australia is currently experiencing a dire heatwave. Indeed, it’s been coloured-in bright red on the weather maps, and threatening temperatures of over 40 degrees and everything but hell fire and brimstone.  Well, that’s if you believe the weather reports. However, where we live the reality has been much closer to 30 degrees, and dare I say, an English Summer.

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Arriving at Ocean Beach.

While there are those sun-seeking Australians who head straight for the beach when the temperatures soar, these days I prefer more of a hibernation approach and only hit the beach around sunset. Moreover, although I considered getting into my swimmers and going for a swim, I opted for a “photographic walk” instead. In case you’ve never been on one of these, a photographic walk is taken peering through the lens and is a rather stop-start experience. Nothing that’s going to raise your heart-rate. Rather the aim of this exercise is to stimulate your creative juices. It works wonders for me and I always see in a much more focused and intense way exploring the world through my camera lens, than my own eyes. Moreover, I don’t like getting wet. I know that might sound rather hypocritical after teasing my dog for not getting his paws wet. However, at least I’ll dip my toe in and once I’m wet, I love it.

Ocean Beach

Ocean Beach looking out towards Lion Island and Palm Beach headland.

Besides, I also wanted to explore the beach and all it’s nuances through the lens. Our local beach has copped a beating over the last five years. Or, is it more of a case that that our coastline is a rugged wilderness at the mercy of storms, tides and shifting sands and any semblance of smooth calm is nothing more than a postcard illusion? After all, the ocean isn’t a swimming pool, is it!  It can’t be contained.

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Fishing

That’s part of the ocean’s rugged beauty. That every day, even every minute, it’s different…an ephemeral force of nature. The people on the beach are also ever-changing. Ocean Beach with its Surf Lifesaving Club, is usually a swimming beach with fishing usually based around the point at Ettalong. However, the fishers were out in force when I was there yesterday.

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Love at Ocean Beach

Indeed, they weren’t the only ones. I’m sure it won’t come as any great surprise that we get overrun during Summer by this supposedly great force known as “tourism”, but could be better termed “an invasion”. This also justifies a hibernation approach, and the benefits of sunbaking inside at home with a good book and the air-conditioning on. Indeed, you could call it enlightened self-preservation.

Rowena Shadow with wave

The closest I can get to a selfie with my SLR…self portrait at Ocean Beach.

Yet, I still had this unmet urge to carpe diem seize the day and actually make it to the beach on such a beautiful day. How boring to simply stay at home and let it float by without having lived it. Been a part of it.

As soon as I hit the beach, my mojo returned and as my toes sunk into the sand, my eyes were darting left and right scouring the sand and waves for something different, striking or eye-catching. Some days, that something hits me right in the face such as finding a group of Tibetan monks going surfing. We’ve also found the wreckage of a small boat and rows of trees yanked out of the dunes by the roots by a callous storm. There’s always something, even the fleeting watermarks in the sand.

Lines in the sand

Have you ever traced the watermarks in the sand and wondered where they came from? Where they’re going? Or, what they’re trying to say? Instead, I’ve watched my castles fall down and cursed the ocean for washing my efforts away.

However, my first impression was that there was nothing special and the beach was looking pretty ordinary, especially as the waves were flat. However, I found my eye drawn into the watermarks along the sand, which seem to tell a story of goodness knows what or where. Something beyond my human understanding.

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Perhaps, the seagulls were also discussing the mysterious secrets contained in a grain of sand.

Once you attune your eyes to appreciate grains of sand, your awareness of your surroundings becomes much more sensitive and acute. Even the common sea gull appeared extraordinary. Had character. Or, perhaps it was the extraordinary golden light which wove its magic? Certainly, this magic had certainly captivated the clouds. They were absolutely magnificent. It was a perfect sky.

Sunburnt Sunset Ocean Beach

Even the clouds were on fire.

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How have you been spending the Christmas break? I’d love to hear from you. 2018 is about to pass through the hour glass and I guess I’d better start thinking about some resolutions for the New Year before 2019 also washes out into the ocean.

Best wishes,

Rowena