Tag Archives: John Cleese

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.

DSC_1193

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

V- Tasmanian Vineyards.

Welcome to Day 18 of the Blogging A -Z April Challenge.

As you could imagine, finding something for the letter “V”, can be quite difficult. However, while we were in Tasmania, we actually visited a VINEYARD, Wines for Joanie, in Sidmouth. According to Wine Tasmania CEO Sheralee Davies, we’re were in good company:

“The latest tourism figures show that more than 262,000 visitors called in to a cellar door during their stay in Tasmania last year, 21% of all visitors and an increase of 22.5% on 2015.”

So, today we’re driving from Ulverstone via the Batman Bridge where we spent ANZAC Day, and heading for Sidmouth, 35 minutes from Launceston in the Tamar Valley.

While we’re getting there, I thought I’d also let you know that Tasmania has four designated wine trails:

However, I should warn you that if you’re any kind of wine connoisseur or expert, I’m not the most appropriate tour guide. I don’t really drink wine. Indeed, I don’t like most wines, unless they’re really sweet and I used to be known to add Diet Coke to port in my university days. While Geoff does enjoy a bit of wine and has been nurtured by my father who is an absolute wine connoisseur with a very well-developed palate, his mother was a card-carrying member of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. So, our expertise on the wine front is exceptionally limited.

“I can certainly see that you know your wine. Most of the guests who stay here wouldn’t know the difference between Bordeaux and Claret.”

― Basil Fawlty, “Fawlty Towers”

However, I do have my uses and, therefore, make a great designated driver. Well, somewhat good, because I still want to have a taste.

Strangely, I enjoy all the pomp and ceremony of a wine tasting. Moreover, being a lover of history and people, I am also interested in what possessed someone to turn an apple orchard into a vineyard and pin all their hopes and dreams in what to me, seems like a very risky venture. Why not become an accountant? (not that I followed that “guaranteed path” either!!)

I thought this, blurb from another Tasmanian vineyard, Sinapius, summed this up pretty well:

“Sinapius is about being; one of a kind, butting the trend, forging our own path, and not conforming. So who would be crazy enough to plant vines at 7700 to 11110 vines per hectare, with a fruiting wire at 40cm above the ground, and in a cold challenging climate such as Tasmania…..

We are!

With a true passion and respect for the environment, our wines are aimed to reflect the ancient soils from the region, each season, and the uniqueness of our special site in Piper Brook, Tasmania. We are not winemakers at Sinapius – we are wine growers as for us, there is no separation between vineyard and winery. Each vine is treated with the individual attention it deserves and provides us in return with a small yield, but with maximum intensity. With minimalist winemaking intervention, each wine represents a true expression of our terroir.”

Another thing I love about vineyards, is the relaxed, beautiful scenery where you could have a couple of glasses of wine, cheese and bickies, and simply fall asleep basking in the muted sun.

That’s if I wasn’t darting all over the place taking photos. You know me. My eye rarely falls asleep, especially travelling. We have more stop-starts than a learner driver.

Anyway, as I said, today we’re off to Wines For Joanie. However, out of all of Tasmania’s vineyards why  are we going there?

Well, the answer is simple. My mother’s name is Joan and when she was younger, she was known as “Joanie”. So, when we spotted the sign while driving from Devonport to Scottsdale via the Batman Bridge, we had to stop and buy her a bottle. To be perfectly honest, we were going buy a bottle no matter what, but, we enjoyed our tasting and bought a bottle for Mum and for Dad. Don’t ask me what we bought. My Dad’s the wine connoisseur, not me. Indeed, he considers my wine education an epic fail and he now refuses to even pour me a glass of wine, because I never finish it. I can have “some of Geoff’s”. I was much more interested in photographing the tasting, the former apple packing shed and their cottages. Wow! I’d love to stay there.

As an aside, have you ever wondered who writes wine reviews? It seems to me that most, if not all of them, are written by experts with very refined palates. That’s all very well for their own. But what you’re average Joe or Joan who doesn’t know riesling from chardonnay?

Moreover, why do wine reviewers always have to use such ridiculous language? Surely, their English teachers must’ve castigated them for regurgitating the thesaurus, just like mine did?

Whatever happened to the KISS Principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid!)?

Why don’t you ever read: “This is vinegar. Best drizzled over hot chips. Stop being such a cheap skate and buy something decent next time”. “More floral than a bunch of roses”. “Contains the ashes of my mother-in-law. Strain before use.” “More oak than an oak tree.” “Worse the cough syrup”? “The best thing since rocket fuel”.

Or, perhaps I’ve just tasted some funny wines.

I like how Paul Coelo put it:

“Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.”

What about you? Have you sampled any Tasmanian wines? Or, perhaps you’re from the industry and could add something useful to my mumbo jumbo? You’re more than welcome to add even lengthy comments as I am well and truly out of my depth.

xx Rowena

PS: I was literally about to click on “post” when I had another look at the Wines for Joanie’s web site and read their story. They have actually posted a lovely “video” about their story, telling why they bought the vineyard and I chuckled to read that Prue is actually an accountant by trade. Anyway, I know you’ll love seeing this and my kids who love vlogging and have been telling me to post video, will think I’ve actually listened! The Story Behind Wines for Joanie. This really should go at the beginning but this was when I found it.

References

http://winetasmania.com.au/

https://www.winesforjoanie.com.au/

http://sinapius.com.au/

Why Stay Calm, When You Can Really Panic???!!!

Keep Calm and Carry On might work well if you’re a rock or the proverbial brick. However, if your passions are somewhat more easily aroused and your blood starts to boil and explode despite going to your happy place or bathing in the Pool of Siloam, welcome to the club. Feeling rather aroused, agitated and more of an Incredible Hulk than a Bruce Banner, I have tried going to my happy place of calm. Indeed, I’ve tried locking myself inside and throwing away the key. However, I keep returning to turbulent seas, which are much better depicted by  Munch’s The Scream. Indeed, if only I could scream, I’d feel better.

The reason I’m feeling all wound up and tense is that our daughter will be having tests next week to investigate some issues with reflux and being underweight. She will be having a barium meal and endoscopy to check things out. These tests aren’t difficult, traumatic or life-threatening and neither are the potential issues we’re investigating. Miss is largely well and energetic but she barely eats and is about half the size of many of her average-sized peers. If this is who she’s meant to be, that’s great. I would love to be almost that lean and she can be the real fashionista. However, there are a few ripples that concern me…as well as my gut intuition.

Dr Suess

All the same, I’m still wound up and agitated about it all and feel like something sinister is running after me and I just want to whack it on the head and destroy it completely…a bit like Basil the Rat in the final episode of Fawlty Towers.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mv0onXhyLlE

I'd love to put an ad in paper and get rid of my health issues.

I’d love to put an ad in paper and get rid of my health issues.

Where is a good cannon when you need it?

Of course, it didn’t help when the doctor’s secretary called out of the blue offering me an appointment “tomorrow” and then the doctor telling me he can do the endoscopy next week. I know I said it was urgent before Christmas but after being in the deep freeze for so long and not thinking about it, suddenly it’s all systems go and I’m struggling to defrost. Despite my best efforts to self-calm, I am well and truly freaking out!!

You would probably imagine that after all my medical issues and treatments, that our daughter’s tests would be a walk in the park. I’ve had brain surgery twice, chemo, an arterial blood test. I have lung function tests where they even block off my breathing for a second or two. Hey, I’ve even given birth to two children, albeit via the zip. I also had blood transfusions every 3 weeks for 5 years where they probed around through dry river beds and often had a few jabs before they found a decent vein…ouch! I also had my teeth cleaned at the dentist lately, which was probably more painful than any of this. My teeth, like the rest of me, are over-sensitive.

Oh yes! When it comes to medical trials, I’ve definitely earned my stripes. I am very, very resilient!!

However, there’s a huge difference between being the patient and being the patient’s Mum.

No parent likes seeing their child experience any kind of discomfort or pain but for me, there’s also this sense of responsibility. An awful, sinking feeling that I’m leading my precious, baby lamb to the slaughterhouse, especially as we’re not even 100% sure that there’s a problem. Of course, that would be the ideal outcome. We don’t want them to find anything. However, that also raises the question of whether the tests were needed in the first place and whether I’m putting her through all of this for nothing.

If only I could add this to the barium meal, Miss might drink it.

If only I could add this to the barium meal, Miss might drink it.

I mean getting a child to swallow the barium meal when she’s been known to refuse to chocolate cake is going to be no mean feat. Indeed, Dad will be coming with us for moral support. It reminds me of an old ad for Quik we had as a child: “Drink it Freddy! Drink it!” www.youtube.com/watch?v=-P-OFW3ZDB4

Am I just being an overstressed, over-anxious Mum? Am I so used to being overweight that seeing ribs on someone else seems odd and verging on starvation just because I’m so well padded?

Moreover, while we’re on the subject of overly anxious parents, Munchausen by proxy syndrome (MBPS) comes to mind. MBPS, which is also known as “medical child abuse,” involves the exaggeration or fabrication of illnesses or symptoms by a primary caretaker. It was named after Baron von Munchausen, an 18th-century German dignitary known for making up stories about his travels and experiences in order to get attention. “By proxy” indicates that a parent or other adult is fabricating or exaggerating symptoms in a child, not in himself or herself.

However, when it comes to attracting medical attention, I don’t need anymore.

I don't think hospital was on Dr Suess's list.

I don’t think hospital was on Dr Suess’s list.

Moroever, I’m with Dr Suess. When he wrote: “Oh the places we can go!”, he wasn’t talking about hospitals or doctors’ waiting rooms!

All these things aside, our daughter’s refusal to eat does put quite a lot of added strain on family meals. Under duress, she’ll eat a Weetbix for breakfast. For years, her sandwiches have come home from school untouched, day after day, year after year. She eats an amount of food the equivalent to two match boxes for dinner and often complains about feeling full or sick. Even as a baby, she refused to eat and her weight has hovered around the bottom 5-10% most of her life. The fact that she has remained on the same trajectory and is relatively healthy and active are very encouraging but there’s still this nagging doubt.

I just need to make sure. Know I have covered the bases but not put her through exhaustive, unnecessary testing. Despite my uncertainty, I do think that when you have concerns as a parent and that uneasy feeling in your gut, you need to put some trust in your own judgement and intuition. Investigate. Ask questions. My daughter’s doctor also thought there was enough evidence to take the next step and refer us on. After all, these symptoms are concrete, measurable and aren’t the product of my over-active imagination…the stuff of a medical, fantasy novel published by Hypochondriacs Anonymous. To be honest with you, I’d much rather be a hypochondriac than really be sick.

To some extent my approach, has been informed by my own experience. When I was around 25, I was diagnosed with Dandy Walker Syndrome (DWS), a variation of hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain and had brain surgery to insert a shunt to treat it. Our best guess explanation for DWS was my difficult birth. There were times where I’d had various tests and we came close to working things out but we always missed the next definitive step, which would have given us the answers.

I have often wondered how different my life would have been had the Dandy Walker been diagnosed as a child. Growing up, I always felt “different” and I think I always knew there was something and I really did try to work out what was going on. I turned to psychology to try to unravel these inner mysteries when in fact, the problem was organic, structural and all in the plumbing. I was teased and bullied and all but destroyed at times and it would have been helpful to have understood what was going on. Since I had the surgery, my coordination also improved and I could have been spared a lot of heartache.

On he other hand, I was very independent and  I traveled quite a lot with that harbour in my head. I traveled quite a lot within Australia, usually travelling on my own but meeting up with others on the road. All this travel culminated in a trip to Europe in 1992, after my parents gave me a 12 month open ticket for my 21st birthday. I stayed in Europe for 9 months, mostly living and working with a family in Heidelberg in Germany. To be quite frank, I doubt my parents would have funded that if they’d known about my head.

No! No! No! That would never have happened. I would have been way too precious. Wrapped in more layers of bubble wrap than a fragile porcelain doll, I would have been protected, sheltered and to be honest…as stunted as a bonsai. Not that all parents of children with disabilities closet their kids and when they do, perhaps not without due cause but having a shunt in your brain is a fairly major thing for a kid and they are renowned for blocking and being temperamental…particularly in years gone by. We’re not talking about having a broken toe. Brain stuff is at least potentially major.

I know my life would have been very different.

Perhaps, it is this awareness that even serious medical conditions can bubble along seemingly under the surface for many many years while only causing intermittent trouble, that has caused me to be vigilant with my kids’ health. That’s not to say that intuition is always right and that your worst fears will turn into reality but it is a reminder. Serious health complications can have relatively subtle symptoms (at least at the start) and prevention and early diagnosis can be life-saving.

That said, as I head towards our daughter’s medical tests, I am hoping that it’s all nothing or just something simple and easy to accommodate. I’d much rather be an anxious mother than having a sick child. Wouldn’t you?!!

By the way, thank you so much for listening and I would welcome your thoughts.

xx Rowena

PS I’d like to share Ronovan’s post on boosting your positivity. I need to revisit this myself: https://ronovanwrites.wordpress.com/2015/02/18/positivity-negativity-be-gone/

 

 

 

 

Ain’t No Way to Treat a Lady!

Indigant! She was absolutely indignant. There were no smiles for the camera and certainly no smoochy kisses as we gave Lady her first bath and I started recording the moment for posterity. Just the deeply wounded downwards glare which concealed an inner growl: “That ain’t no way to treat a Lady!”

Lady had to have an instant, immediate bath. It was a definite case of do not pass go. Do not collect $200. I couldn’t risk her running into the house and sharing her joy. We’d never get rid of the stench! There was no time to take her off to the Palm Beach dog salon for the full shampoo, blowdry and pedicure! If Lady snuck into the house, my father would metamorphose into John Cleese and I could already hear him now: “Sybille!”

As my Dad looks like Basil Faulty, I’m careful not to press all his buttons at once! Dad has a very sensitive sense of smell and with the dogs not being allowed in the house, I really didn’t want to stretch the friendship. I have learned my lesson. You can’t get anything passed Dad’s very acute sense of smell.

Many, many moons ago, there had been the Schnapps Incident. As a fairly mature twenty something, I’d invited a group of single friends around for a Valentine’s Day dinner party at home while Mum and Dad were out. Two of my friends were drowning their sorrows with shots of Schnapps which all ended very badly when the bloke exceeded an elegant sufficiency and in his disoriented and inebriated state had managed to relieve his agony beside my parents’ bed, all over the fine cane lattice furniture. Although my friend, not the one who’d been sick, cleaned the muck off with an old toothbruth and we’d doused the place with industrial strength chemical cleaners, my Dad still walked in the front door and it was like the tale of Goldilocks and the Three Bears: somebody’s been sick beside my bed.

No! I couldn’t take any chances with Lady. After all, we’re lucky that Mum and Dad let us bring the dogs with us at all!

Lady having a bath. Clearly, she's far far from impressed!

Lady having a bath. Clearly, she’s far far from impressed!

This, of course, meant that Lady’s dignity was mortally wounded as we tied her to the flag pole. With the Australian flag flapping overhead, she received the hose treatment. While this might sound a bit cruel, the same dog had just been running through seawater and I doubt there much difference in temperature. Besides, it was a bright sunny day and Lady was until recently, a farm dog. Surely, she wasn’t used to the salon treatment in between rabbit hunts?!! As much as Lady was a cute little dog who would fit in very nicely with the local designer dogs the Avalon Café set, she was made of much tougher stuff! She more than knew how to look after herself!

DSC_5358

That said, I knew she wouldn’t like the smell of Dad’s shower gel.

Being on holidays, we didn’t have any pooch shampoo so I sent our daughter upstairs to get my Dad’s shower gel. It was a strange choice because we had our own Pantene shampoo but this was a crisis and my poor humble brain was very much in survival mode and I wasn’t thinking clearly.

I don't think washing dead fish smells out of stinky dogs was quite what the manufacturers of Dove had in mind!

I don’t think washing dead fish smells out of stinky dogs was quite what the manufacturers of Dove had in mind!

If you have already read about Lady’s handling of the dead rabbit, you won’t be surprised about the dead fish incident. In fact, you’ll probably blame me: “Really, Ro! What did you expect?” The dog is a veteran hunter. You can take the dog out of the farm but you can’t take the farm out of the dog. She is who she is, after all!

I guess you could just call me naïve. The last time I ventured onto a sheep property, I asked my friend if the sheep bite. That story circulated like wildfire. I was living in Geraldton in Western Australia at the time and they were in fits of hysterics about the girl from Sydney. It had been said that you could take the girl out of the North Shore but you can’t take the North Shore out of the girl. I’d actually thought I’d done a pretty thorough cleansing at the time and had well and truly moved on but apparently not.

Anyway, all this drama which resulted in Lady having a bath was all over a fish…a very simple fish.

You see, when my daughter and I were out walking the dogs today, Lady found a dead fish floating in the water. After the rabbit encounter which I mentioned in my last post, I had simply assumed Lady wanted to eat the fish. I thought it was species known as Leather Jacket which was safe to eat and so I helped her get it out of the water. I couldn’t see any harm in her eating the fish.

So I guess you could say that by providing assistance, that ipso facto makes me an accessory but I plead ignorance. I strongly deny any sinister involvement. As I said, I thought Lady was going to eat the fish. I never thought for a moment that Lady would use the dead fish as a kind of roll-on deodorant or eau de cologne.

As it turned out, that fish was also deader than I’d thought. It had already begun its deadly metamorphosis…especially as it had been drifting along baking in the hot, midday sun. So by the time Lady found it, that dead fish was so dead that it was starting to come back to life again.

You could just imagine the smell!

A very cheeky, stink dog posing as a dead fish...Lady before her bath.

A very cheeky, stinky dog posing as a dead fish…Lady before her bath.

Even after what must have been half a bottle of shower gel, Lady still reeks of dead fish. Somehow, I hope it filters out somehow before the long drive home. Two adults, two kids, two dogs in an overloaded car, there’s no room for the stench of dead fish!

Otherwise, I might just have to pinch a bit of my mother’s Chanel!

Surely, that’s how you really treat a Lady!