April 24, 2023, prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less), write a story about the color of hope. Who is in need of hope and why? How can you use color to shape the story? Pick a color, any color. Go where the prompt leads!
“One day, I’ll jump off The Gap,” Martin muttered throwing up half a bottle of vodka. Equally drunk and disillusioned, no one battered an eyelid.
Now, they’d all gone to uni, while Martin still drifted in between the lines and beyond a diagnosis.
“Take these,” his GP said.
“How many at once?” He’d been tempted but didn’t ask.
Today was it, but first his last supper… fish and chips from Doyle’s.
Sitting in the park… perfect blue skies, Sydney Harbour, rainbow lorikeets flying and chirping in the sun.
Nothing had changed. Yet it had.
Martin caught the bus home.
The Gap is Sydney’s infamous suicide spot. Located on the Southern Head of Sydney Harbour it is part of Watson’s Bay, which is an absolutely beautiful location with a beach and stunning harbour views. I recently caught the ferry to Watson’s Bay and walked up the hill simply to photograph The Gap and as I stopped in Robertson’s Park across the road, a large flock of rainbow lorrikeets was flying through the park and the air was filled with their chirpy singing. I guess people don’t talk about The Gap too much, but I’d never heard anyone mention there were rainbow lorrikeets there and I truly wondered how anyone could come here, experience these birds and then end it all. Of course, that’s a rather simplistic view and to be honest, I am fighting to save my life instead of trying to cut it short. However, I have experienced acute ongoing anguish and the temptation to somehow eject from it all. Yet, at the same time, these days I try to encourage others and try to take the edge off their load where I can. Then again, I’m a little more mature these days and have what I think is called perspective.
Dr Jane Harper usually refused to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, but tonight she needed answers. After two years as San Francisco’s Assistant Medical Examiner, she was struggling to remain professionally detached and wanted to scream from the rooftops to save their troubled souls. Today she’d read a heartbreaking note by a young jumper: “‘I’m going to walk to the bridge. If one person smiles at me on the way, I will not jump.’” Clearly, no one did. She wanted to do so much more, but drew a large heart on a park bench.
I’ve never walked across the Golden Gate Bridge, or even been to America. So, I’m going to translate this scenario to somewhere I’m more familiar… Sydney’s The Gap. In particular I wanted to share the story of Don Ritchie who was known as “the watchman of The Gap”. A former life insurance salesman who in 45 years has officially rescued about 160 people intent on jumping from the cliffs at Watsons Bay, mostly from Gap Park, opposite his home high on Old South Head Road. Unofficially, that figure is closer to 400. Apparently, he would approach them with his palms facing up and he’d smile and say: “Is there something I could do to help you?” His willingness to help knew no bounds and he was known to invite them back to his place for a cup of tea and a chat.
Last year, a local Rotary group was paying for locals to attend a suicide intervention course, and I went along and am glad I did. On one hand, there can be dreadful despair, but on the other hand, there is hope and we just need a bit of a helping hand or a reminder to of that to keep going.
Sorry to hit you with such a tough topic but ignoring despair, sticking our heads in the sand and not knowing how to respond isn’t the answer either. If you are finding things a bit tough, might I suggest you look at my previous posts covering my ferry travels around Sydney. They’re much more upbeat.
Wow! I can’t believe I actually went somewhere. In fact, I’ve even been to somewheres. It’s been an exceptionally busy week, but so very rewarding.
I’m going to get the ball rolling, by sharing what I’ve been up to first.
Firstly, on Thursday and Friday last week, I attended a Suicide Intervention Course called ASIST, which is put together by a telephone crisis service called Lifeline. The course usually costs $600.00 but they were offering it free of charge to locals thanks to Rotary sponsorship. I know that doing two solid days of this must sound incredibly heavy. There were parts where my hand turned noticeably red, and I gathered I’d got a bit too worked out. However, my overall feeling was that doing the course was more uplifting than heavy going since the training helped me feel much more capable and empowered.
Yesterday, we drove down to Sydney for Miss to compete in a lyrical troupe dance at the Sydney Eisteddfod. Because we’ve seen the dance before and it was going to cost $50.00 to attend, we decided to go out for an early dinner at an adjacent Vietnamese restaurant instead. We had been there almost precisely a year ago when she competed in last year’s Eisteddfod and we hadn’t been able to get back due to covid lockdowns and being cautious. So, this felt like quite a treat and I was so excited to enjoy scrumptious crispy chicken and prawn pancake known as Bánh xèo. it was so good. We also managed to check out an exhibition of street art, and we also came across two of the massive inflatable gnomes which are in Chatswood at the moment, and we also found an exquisite bakery and bought a chocolate mouse cake shaped like a very cute puppy dog and a mango coconut mouse cup. Yum.
Today, we ended up pointing the car in the opposite direction and driving to Newcastle for Miss to compete in the School Aerobics Championships where she competed in cheer and aerobics. Everybody did really well and they all made it through to the State competition which will be held in St Ives, Sydney in a month’s time. If they get through that, it’s off to the Gold Coast for Nationals.
Afterwards, we drove down to The Junction, a popular part of Newcastle where Mum’s cousin’s family owns a wonderful restaurant, Tallulah, but it had just close when we turned up, and so we headed across the road to the Grumpy Baker. Well, the baker might be grumpy, but we can assure you, none of the patrons were grumpy indulging in their scrumptious sensations. Even their sausage rolls had been elevated to highly delicious heights and we were most disappointed that we missed out on seconds after someone else bought the last two from under our noses. Golly, it all made a very strong argument for heading back North up the freeway.
Things had never been easy. However, bushfires, covid, and now the floods had all but wiped out Jim and Sally’s small-time pineapple farm. While the tourists were back, they drove straight past heading for the Big Pineapple. Now, down to their last gold coins, hope was almost gone. Yet, despite being rabid atheists, they fell to their knees in prayer.
Miraculously, Bill responded, proposing they could sell his dope crop via their roadside stall.
Finally, they’d seen the light!
It was only meant to be temporary, and apparently the cops were turning a blind eye.
Thought I’d better share a photo of Queensland’s iconic Big Pineapple with you. It is 16 metres (52 ft) high and was originally opened on 15 August 1971. It is situated on a 165-hectare (410-acre) site.
I wonder how many Australian families have had their photos taken in front of the iconic Big Pineapple. I know Geoff went with his family and here’s a photo with my family including my grandmother. I think my grandfather took the photo, and clearly we didn’t have a great camera.
What you can’t see in that photo, is that I was probably wearing my Mickey Mouse thongs. So, I decided to include this photo and thought you might appreciate the photo of my brother and I patting the kangaroo. I was very proud of my Mickey Mouse thongs, and would still be wearing them now if I had my way.
Anyway, this has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by our intrepid leader, Rochelle Wishoff-Fields at https://rochellewisoff.com/
Today, Miss was being plagued by a grouchy stomach, and left school early and we tried everything to try to get her through her afternoon nursing TAFE course and off to ballet tonight. It didn’t work, but here are some photos taken from our short walk along the beach. I’d hoped a bit of sunshine, vitamin D stretching her legs and the sea air might make a difference. An eternal optimist, I will keep trying.
However, before we head off to the rocks, I wanted to set the scene and share a few views of the bigger picture.
Anyway, we came across a few uplifting words on rocks, and thought I’d pass them on. I hope they give you a bit of a smile.
“The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever.”
– Jacques Yves Cousteau
Last Wednesday, Geoff and I drove down to Sydney Harbour to welcome back our No. 1 son, who’d been away for ten days sailing on the tall ship STS Young Endeavour from Geelong to Sydney. Indeed, we were waiting at the Coal Loader Wharf near HMAS Waterhen with our eyes peeling looking for the much anticipated ship, when a massive rainbow appeared. I couldn’t believe my luck. I have been in lockdown at home for the best part of six months and right on my release, a rainbow appears, I have my camera, and better still, the Young Endeavour appearing right on cue and I managed to capture it sailing across the rainbow. Better still, our son was perched right at the very top like an oversized crow as they came in. Oh! Be still my beating heart!
Just to recap on the journey, he’d been away on a nine day trip from Geelong to Sydney which, as he said, was pretty much the “Sydney-to-Hobart Yacht Race in reverse minus Tasmanian.” They sailed out of Geelong on Monday the 20th March. On Day two, they sailed out of Port Phillip Bay, across the notorious Rip and soon they were taking on the even more notorious Bass Strait before heading up the East Coast. They stopped off at Refuge Bay, Jervis Bay and Watson’s Bay along the way before spending their final night anchored near Taronga Park Zoo listening to the elephants.
“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.”
I can’t tell you how excited I was to see him, the boat, and to finally be a physical part of his experience after being unable to see him off in Geelong. The ship was due in at 10.00am and knowing the Navy, it would be 10.00am sharp, and they certainly wouldn’t be running on Byron Bay time (which is little better than a hair past a freckle). However, my watch hit 10.00am and there was still no sign of the Young Endeavour. The anticipation was absolutely killing me. Thank goodness the rainbow was there to distract me, and we were just hoping the rain would hold off long enough for us to see them come in.
Then, apparently just a minute or two after ten, the ship’s canon sounded, and STS Young Endeavour finally came into view. There he was – one of those large black birds perched right at the very top of the mast with the daring of a movie stunt double. I couldn’t wait to see him. Give him a hug. Have him back.
However, there was a spanner in the works. An unfortunately all too familiar spanner, which I’d naively thought had been wrestled and dealt with before they’d climbed on board. Three of the “youthies” (as the young people were called) had tested positive to covid despite having had a PCR test and a RAT before leaving (covid seems to be more effective than the devil at sneaking into unwanted places and wreaking havoc). Apparently, the news went up to the Navy “higher-ups”, and after being isolated on the bridge for four hours they were given a “VIP” escort to the big navy base at Woolloomooloo. While it was tough for those whose voyages were cut short, it also hit the remaining youthies really hard. In only seven days, they’d all grown incredibly close. There was no “us and them”, or being focused on No. 1. They’d become a unit and they were welded together like an unbroken chain.
Of course, I wasn’t there, and it’s an interesting experience writing about someone else’s journey as though it was your own. However, even as a parent of a now 18 year old where the umbilical cord was cut years ago, we’re still Mum and Dad. We’re still interested in what he’s up to, especially when he’s been on such a privileged adventure, and as the Captain mentioned in his first Captain’s Log, we had all become “armchair sailors” back home.
Besides, we’d also gone through the last two years alongside them. I don’t need to explain what this has been like to any of you. We’ve all been living through it. We also had the worst bushfires in living memory just before covid along with it’s choking haze of smoke which travelled the globe several times over before finally breaking up. We haven’t been able to plan, hope, leave the house although many of us tried to make a positive out of a negative and had our “Covid Projects”. On a much more serious note, people have died. Now, places are recovering from devastating floods and there’s the invasion of Ukraine.
So, without going into all our son and these other young people have been through over the last two years, let’s just say that their arrival home, especially surrounded by that massive rainbow, just screamed positivity. Indeed, you can see, I’ve doctored the photo of the ship surrounded by the rainbow, and added the words: “There Is Always Hope”. I’ve come a very long way to reach that point. Indeed, with our son perched high up on the mast, me being there to greet him after more than six months in lockdown, and capturing the photo of a lifetime, it was an incredible triumph.
“My soul is full of longing for the secret of the sea, and the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me.” – Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I was pleasantly surprised by how chatty he was, and his incredibly enthusiastic and visually graphic storytelling abilities. After all, teenagers aren’t renowned for sharing all the lurid details with Mum and Dad and perhaps there was still a lot he left out. Usually, we’ve ecstatic to get a grunt.
In my next post, I’ll share a few points from his trip, and you never know perhaps he or one of his fellow youthies might share their experiences directly on Beyond the Flow. I live in hope.
Miracles do happen! We are experiencing two consecutive days of sunshine and I’m almost beside myself after that eternity of rain. I’m surprised I’m not outside soaking up some rays, but I have a few things to do, and even in Autumn the midday sun can be a bit much, and I’ll head out later this afternoon.
So, what tickles your fancy? Tea, coffee or something more exotic?
How was your week?
Last week, was pretty incredible for me.
The excitement and dramas began last Monday night when we received a surprise call from our son onboard the Young Endeavour. He wasn’t allowed to use his phone onboard and they had no WIFI access, so we weren’t expecting to hear from him at all while they were away. Of course, that should’ve alerted me to something being wrong. However, he was in good spirits and it wasn’t one of the “Navy Higher-ups” calling on his behalf to say he’d fallen from the top of the mast and was incapacitated. However, the news wasn’t good and I should’ve been expecting the clanger. That morning, they’d all had covid RATs, and three of the youth crew known as “youthies” had tested positive and had to leave the ship. Fortunately, they’d already arrived in Sydney and were docked off Watson’s Bay at the time. So, although their journey was cut short, they did manage to complete the journey from Geelong to Sydney. The news hit the crew hard, as even in those brief seven days they’d bonded really well and had become one. Obviously, there was also the question of whether the rest of them would come down with it either onboard or when they arrived home. Golly, don’t you hate how covid just has to go and rain on your parade?!! Meanwhile, there were even implications for us parents. We wouldn’t be allowed on the base to greet the ship and be a part of their disembarking ceremony, although we could watch them land from the nearby Coal Loader Wharf which had a breath-taking view across the Harbour towards Balmain and Birchgrove (we were out of sight of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House.) My parents and our daughter were all planning to be there. However, Dad is having an operation today and had to pass a RAT and be well) and our daughter has a lot of school assessments and dance commitments. We’ve managed to avoid covid so far, and were hopeful that him being triple vaxed and the power of prayer would spare him (and it did). Meanwhile, we cleared out the caravan in case, but he’s mostly been confined to his room.
Of course, for a storyteller like myself, the return of the sailor was a bonanza and fortunately he was really chatty and didn’t object to a gazillion questions from mum, while I was hastily writing down everything he said as close for word to word as I could. I’m a pretty rapid notetaker so I was more than up for the task. Then, we rang my Dad who sails and so was well versed to ask him pertinent sailing questions and I jotted all his replied down there. By this stage, I had pages of notes and was feeling pretty chuffed. However, this was only the beginning and I’m now behind and have pages to type up. I had another win when he got onto Google Earth and took me on the journey from Geelong to Sydney and telling me stories of what happened along the way. Unlike his mother, he has really good navigational skills, and he was very specific abut where they’d stopped. Btw I thought you’d love to hear that they were moored near Taronga Park Zoo on their last night, and he could hear the elephants trumpeting, especially at 8.00am for some reason and he could also see the seal show.
However, the return of Popeye the Sailor wasn’t our only news this week. We actually had quite a busy weekend. On Saturday, it was Open Day at the dance studio and they gave us a sneak peak into the excerpt of Swan Lake they’ll be performing at production later this year. Miss also performed her new ballet solo for the first time, and it was also her first time wear her new tutu. I was absolutely dazzled, although it seemed strange because I’m so used to the old ballet solo and it’s a very different look. It will be really good to see it when she competes in the competition in a few weeks’ time up on stage and under lights.
That afternoon, I drove up to Long Jetty about 30 minutes or so away where my cousins were holding their studio opening. Gina and Katie are sisters. Katie’s business is Mudita Collective https://www.mudita.com.au/. I must admit it’s funny seeing my younger cousins all grown up and a real businesswoman. This is how she describes what she does: “Inspired by nature’s earthy tones and bohemian vibes, Mudita bursts with femininity and whimsical feels. All of our fabrics are ethically sourced and produced by talented artisans.” Meanwhile, I quite fancied this article from her blog about salvaging your old clothing and turning it into beeswax wraps. I see so much beautiful fabric at the charity shops in clothing that’s too small for me. It’s often really cheap, and I have bought a few pieces with grand ambitions of rebirthing them. So, perhaps making these beeswax wraps might be the way to go. You can read about it here: https://www.mudita.com.au/blogs/mudita-blog/upcycle-your-old-clothing-with-beeswax-wraps
Meanwhile, Katie’s sister, Gina’s business Ginagee Creations has a completely different vibe. This is how Gina describes herself:
“Ginagee creations is a reflection of my creative journey. This forever evolving array of hand-crafted pieces started from a very young time in my life where I was drawing, sewing and crocheting. The more I created, the more I was able to learn and grow as I explored new techniques and ancient crafts. I have not stuck to one particular idea or craft. I am constantly expanding and trying new things to make unique creations. Combined with a deep passion for mother earth, I also source as much sustainable, local, recycled, second-hand materials as I can, so I leave less impact on this precious land. It also allows me to bring a second life and a story into my handmade treasures.” https://www.ginagee.com.au/
Yesterday, the action continued when I went for a picnic on the waterfront with some friends. It was wonderful to see them again.
So, as you can see, I’ve been out and about a lot more this week, but with covid still around, this will probably be more the exception than the rule.
The white chariot headed out for a relatively short drive over to neighbouring Pearl Beach with young Miss at the wheel again rapidly accruing her driving hours. In case you missed the big announcement, about ten days ago Miss got her Learner’s Permit and now has mostly me bailed up in the front seat while she accrues her mandatory 120 hours of supervised driving. She seems to love driving, and mostly finds it very relaxing, and it must be such a great feeling to be driving herself to all sorts of places we rarely ever seem to get to ordinarily. We are going to know our local area like the back of our hand by the end of next week at the rate we’re going.
Today, she drove us around to Pearl Beach in between dance classes, which only allowed me to squeeze in a quick walk, take a few photos and to also check out the Little Book Library by the beach, which has long been an absolute treasure trove.
Indeed, that reminds me that the Peal Beach Annual Book Sale will be coming up soon on the Easter long weekend. This is a time to leave the family at home and to ensure the car is empty. For booklovers like myself, this is TEMPTATION and by my very own definition of evil last last when I was referring to the pokies, EVIL. It appears that even something good for you can become evil in excess (and especially when your house is already bursting at the seams with books!!)
Meanwhile, I was also curious to see how the beach was looking after the recent floods. The last time I was at Pearlie about a week ago, a great river had opened up and was carving a path from a back estuary straight through the beach. Indeed, it looks like it has always been there. However, I don’t recall seeing the beach carved up like that before. Then again, I don’t recall it raining like this before either. It’s been so intense and seemed to out last Noah’s 40 days and 40 nights by a country mile.
There was still a trailing snake carved deeply through the sand where the flood waters had been, but the river had almost dried up.
What I did find was one of these little “houses” made out of driftwood on the beach. Although it wasn’t anything like approaching a proper house, and was little more than a handful of sticks thrown together, it spoke promise to me…hope, optimism, new beginnings.
Then, I noticed a wedding taking place further down the beach. How exciting was that. Not only were the bride and groom celebrating their big day and promising to love each other through it all, they had a dry wedding and glorious sunshine. They must’ve been deliriously happy, amazed and grateful.
However, that wedding is but a bright spark in an uncertain world. Lately, I’ve really been wishing I could wave my magic wand over the Earth and just make everything better. End this dreadful invasion of the Ukraine. Magically restore homes, businesses and lives lost during our extreme flooding here in NSW and Queensland. Getting rid of covid is another aspiration. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a miracle worker?!!
Meanwhile, I’m back home and Zac is sleeping on my lap, and the troubles of the world seem very far away, and yet our son is coughing and our daughter is staying overnight at her friend’s 18th. Potential trouble is never far away, even if it doesn’t actually knock on your door. However, hope is also there as well, often to be found in the little things, especially at first, and so it can be so easy be missed.
How are you going in your neck of the woods? I hope you are doing well, and thank you for popping in.
I have no idea what to say about the arrival of 2022, except that it’s here and none of us have a crystal ball.
We had no plans, but weren’t disappointed, except in the music which accompanied this year’s TV viewing of the Sydney Harbour Fireworks.
Although we spent the night at home, we went over to Pearl Beach in the afternoon, and walked around the rocks. It had been an exceptionally hot day (especially after all the heavy rain we’ve had lately). So, by the time we arrived in the early evening, t was perfect. Happy Days.
However, covid had even made it onto the local rock face.
That might not sound like much, but people don’t write things on our rocks around here as a rule.
So, you could say that it represents a degree of frustration.
Or, perhaps it’s simply a statement of fact!
Of course, it’s probably not “a local” being this time of year, but some interloper from Sydney, although the people of Pearl Beach probably blame the uncouth hoards from “over the hill” (which includes yours truly).
However, if covid truly comes to town, Pearl Beach is prepared. I spotted this:
After dinner, as per usual, we watched the fireworks extravaganza on TV grateful for the extraordinary celebrations going ahead amidst uncertainty and stormy weather. Indeed, listening to the news tonight, I could be excused for thinking life was continuing on business as usual. At least, that’s what we’ve been told.
What did you get up to for New Year’s Eve? I’d love to hear from you!