Yesterday, I visited my parents for the first time in a year. Geoff was going down to work, and so he dropped me off on the way, and I was expecting to be there for a good six hours. Well, I can assure you that even after not seeing me for a year, my Dad didn’t think he could talk for that long, although their was the possibility my mother could, but she sleeps irregular hours and so she was also a bit of an unknown quantity. The other thing I came to consider, is that they’ve had very little face-to-face contact with anyone since Sydney went into lockdown last June and so even having their dearest daughter land on their doorstep for the day might’ve been overwhelming, and my Dad recently had an operation as well and so isn’t in prime form either. I guess it suffices to say they’re in their late 70’s and have slowed down a bit.
I packed a book and my journal and looked forward to playing the piano. However, it was a glorious sunny day and they have a magnificent cottage style garden which is quite a camellia wonderland. Indeed, now in the depths of Winter, the camellias are in flower and were absolutely beautiful. As you walk down their driveway, there’s what I think is a Ted Craig Reticulata which is 15 centimetres in diameter and absolutely magnificent. To use a classic quote from Kath & Kim, it’s shouting out: “Look at me! Look at me!” it’s hard not to.
Their garden also has quite a few deciduous trees and there was some stunning yellow Autumn leavers out the front and the neighbours have a towering Liquid Amber which is now mostly a skeleton of branches and all those leaves have fallen somewhere and been swept or raked away. I dare say, many of them have dropped in my parents’ garden and while I was there, I found myself sweeping the front steps until I found myself down on the driveway. It was alright when I started out. I seemed to be making progress. However, a wind had come along and it was literally snowing leaves and they were almost falling faster than I could sweep them away. Of course, I started to see a sort of futility in all of this. Do I end up becoming a sweeper just to keep up with the never-ending tide of leaves or do I simply leave them be? Well, it’s easy for me to say, because I don’t live there and we don’t have any deciduous trees here, except our jacaranda but it rains purple flowers instead. That’s why I guess sweeping up all those Autumn leaves was such a thought-provoking novelty. It’s not something I usually think about.
Anyway, I wanted to share that going round and working on your parents’ garden can be a great way of spending time with or around them while not being underfoot or tiring them out too much. My uncle showed me the way here. He used to go round and work on my grandfather’s garden. This way you can have a chat and a cup of tea, do some gardening. Have another chat and maybe even talk about the garden or they could sit out their with you too.
By the way, I should also mention that I took over some Date and Apricot All Bran Muffins which they love. Home baked treats also keep to make a visit special.
Are you into gardening at all? Or perhaps you have elderly parents. What enhances your visits? It would be great to share some ideas and special memories.
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.
Never thought I’d be posting a photo of the front door of the Leaning Tower of Pisa. However, last night I jumped on Google Earth, and to be perfectly honest, I wasn’t a case of: “Hey presto, watch me pull the Leaning Tower of Pisa out of a hat”. However, I did get there eventually and as John Lennon famously said: “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” I must remind Geoff to get that inscribed on my grave. That is my life.
Anyway, if you have ever travelled anywhere via Google Earth, you might’ve had this experience. You type in where you want to go, and instead of landing straight there, you wake up in some random back street, and unless you cheat and re-do your search like I did after wandering around Pisa for an hour, you need to somehow get your bearings and head off. My usual modus operandi is to look up, which you’d think would work when you’re looking for a tower, and when you see the LTOP , there isn’t anything in the background ie it’s not crammed into a suburban block dwarfed by office blocks like special landmarks in Sydney. No, it has it’s own space. It’s own expansive patch of green under the sun, which it doesn’t seem to share with anyone.
Well, that is until you get there, and find the most exquisite church next door, and ponder how it is that this one patch of ground under this sun has been blessed with such exceptionally amazing architecture, especially when your own little patch is let’s just say: “left wanting”. Of course, it helps to be in Italy. However, as Trent so kindly told me, the Leaning Tower of Pisa is actually the bell tower for the Cattedralle di Pisa. By the way, it, too, is on a slight angle.
I’m not going to repeat what can be so easily sourced on the web about the history of these buildings. However, I thought I’d let you know how I randomly came to be wandering around Pisa. After all, when you last heard from me on my Google Earth travels, I was travelling from Cloyne to Middleton, County Cork, Ireland. Since then, I’ve been hanging around the very picturesque village of Overton in Hampshire where my 4 x Great Grandfather, Geoff Merritt was born. He married Bridget Donovan the Irish Famine Orphan from Midleton in Sydney in 1853 so there is some logic to these seemingly random travel destinations of mine. However, it wasn’t family history research that took me to Pisa. Rather, the photograph posted for Friday Fictioneers yesterday was of the LTOP and I thought I might as well head over and have a look because no inspiration was coming at me straight away.
So, there I was roaming through the streets of Pisa and the markets with no tower in sight. I returned to sender, and this time, I was right at the base of the tower and almost had my nose up against the wall. Wow! It was sensational. Who would have thought you could have such a sense of really being there simply by using Google Earth while you’re still sitting in your chair here in Australia. It’s incredible. It’s really opening my eyes.
Anyway, the highlight of the trip was actually switching over to Youtube and climbing up the tower. I was researching the Statue of Liberty about a year ago and had no idea that you could actually climb up inside her (which I must say felt rather weird and creepy to be honest, and then exciting). This was much the same experience. Didn’t know you could climb up the LTOP either and as I climbed the stairs, I thought of my seriously reduced lung capacity, claustrophobia but on the other hand my sheer determination and iron will. Yes, I could see myself getting halfway up and major trouble setting in on so many different levels. It was just was just as well I was safely back home sitting in my lounge chair back home with Zac the dog on my lap. (If you’d like to climb the tower, here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wNbpbn9E2dc
By the way, I don’t want to leave you with the false impression that there’s no ordinary among the extraordinary in Pisa. So, I thought I’d share the Via Delle Sette Volte with you, which reminds me of a tunnel we had back at Sydney University. While it’s not as exquisite as the better known Pisa landmarks, I’m sure it’s walls have told many stories throughout the centuries. Pisa is that sort of place. Only it’s history isn’t all confined to the past. It’s ongoing, and still being made today. After all, does history ever truly die?
Have you been to Pisa and climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa? Or, perhaps you’ve visited the Cattedralle of Pisa. I love to hear from you. BTW this is also a contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Dan Antion at No facilities https://nofacilities.com/category/thursday-doors/
Best wishes and thank you for reading!
PS I was intrigued by the inconsistent quality of the photos on this trip. Some of them were really good, and others barely passed muster and certainly would’ve been deleted if I’d taken them in person on my Nikon SLR. However, when you consider they were taken on my phone from my computer screen and I’m all the way over in Australia, they’re all pretty exceptional.
“Idiot! You absolute idiot! Most people climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa to appreciate its exquisite, historic architectural beauty and mind-blowing views.
Instead, you go there to deal with all your phobias at once…claustrophobia, acrophobia, agoraphobia, and heaven help you if you come across a spider, because your arachnophobia will be the death of you.
However, the book said you could do anything. Carpe diem seize the day. Keep breathing. Yet, you know you’re going to die in that tower, and nothing can save you.
“How many stairs to the top?”
Once again, living with myself was my toughest battle.
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields https://rochellewisoff.com/ Every week, we write 100 words or less to a photo prompt and the results always astound me. I’ve found it incredibly worthwhile.
I wasn’t quite sure how I was going to respond to this week’s prompt. In some ways, being confronted by such a well-known public landmark made it harder.
Lately, I have been going on little trips via Google Earth. It was been absolutely mind-blowing particularly as I’m still largely in lockdown avoiding covid for medical reasons. So, I decided to head to Pisa, and have a look around the tower. Well, despite clicking on the tower itself, I didn’t land there, and spent quite a time poking around all sort of alleyways and still not finding what I’d assumed would be unmissable. I went back to my search and really tried to be more specific, and this time when I came to, I was standing right in front of the tower and tilting my head right back to get a look at the top. Wow! I turned around and there was an another possibly more exquisite site – the Cattedrale di Pisa. How could one place be blessed with such incredible architecture on one spot? I guess it helps being in Italy!
I had a bit of a wander around Google, and came across a video of climbing up the tower. Aha! Now, I had my angle. However, where I started out was a bit different to where I ended up, and that was with those famous words of “The Little Engine That Could”: “I think I can! I think I can” as it tried to climb of the mountain. I thought of trying to climb up all those stairs with my dodgy lungs with 50% capacity and I was locked in this battle between “I think I can” and “No I can’t!!” That got left out as well, and as often happens, the story took on a life of it’s own.
You can call me “bonkers”, “insane”, “weird” for heading off on another Virtual Adventure via Google Earth, but I don’t care. I’m “creative”. Moreover, after making a concerted effort to change and overhaul myself on the weekend, I’ve actually concluded that more people should embrace their dormant creativity, instead of supressing it beneath a veneer of glorified efficiency. That’s right. Let it all hang out.
There I was trying to get “alles ist in Ordnung” (everything is in order) when I cut my finger and found myself shut in a treatment room for three hours at the hospital. Of course, this was the very embodiment of Ordnung what with perfect white walls, no pictures, and not even a piece of paper, let alone a desk full of paperwork all out of place. Humph. That was a stark warning to be careful what you wish for!
Anyway, let’s just say I needed to unwind after the trip to the hospital, and after enjoying my recent virtual explorations of Cork City, I set out again. This time I decided to visit Lisheenfurroor near Carrigaholt in West Clare, where my Great Great Grandfather, Edward Quealy (1843-1917) was born.
It was a totally random idea, and I had no idea what to expect. I never do. Google Earth just drops you off somewhere in your intended destination like a body thrown out of a speeding gangstermobile. Once you’ve come to your senses, you need to get your bearings, work out what’s what, and which way to turn. It turned out there was a lot of green grass in Lisheenfurroor, and so I kept walking, walking, walking tracking along the edge of some body of water until I stumbled across the enchanting village of Carrigaholt, and I was smitten.
Stumbling across Carrigaholt was particularly exciting. While it’s always interesting to finally see something familiar in person for the first time, it’s quite something else to follow where the wind and the road take you, and stumble across somewhere entirely unknown (at least to yourself!) and make a FIND!!! Indeed, I wish I could dig out my old backpack, and head straight over there now, although I might take our Summer with me. While it’s a hot and sunny 28°C here and perfect beach weather, it’s a bitterly cold 8°C in Carrigaholt today. That’s enough to put your average Aussie into immediate shock and hibernation.
As I said, I first came to Carrigaholt via Doonaha travelling mostly through farmland dotted with a few houses. My eyes lit up when I spotted a village ahead, and what turns out to be Carrigaholt Bay on my left. A blue fishing boat is moored there, and I have no idea whether it was just parked there for that brief moment in time, or whether it’s a more permanent fixture. However, for me it’s just as much a part of Carriagaholt as Keane’s across the road.
I cross over the Moyarta River (which flows into the estuary of the famed River Shannon) here via a quaint stone bridge with hanging baskets of flowers (such a lovely touch!). Although I was traveling via Google Earth and depending on someone’s questionable photographic skills, they did manage to capture the reflection of the sky on the river, and I felt a strange sense of satisfaction capturing it myself (even if photographing a place via Google Earth is a bit desperate!!).
Coming to the intersection, briefly take a turn to your left to fully appreciate the local post office, which looks like it’s straight out of a fairy story to me with an assortment of brightly-coloured chairs out the front. It puts our local post office to shame, and I can’t help wondering if Postman Pat works there…
By the way, I’ve just spotted something which yours truly with no sense of direction would appreciate in one sense, but totally struggle to make sense of…a map.
Then, across in the distance, is Carrigahalt Castle. I am told: “This five storey tower house was built in about 1480 by the MacMahons, the chiefs of West Corkavaskin on the Loop Head peninsula. The castle, which offers commanding views of the Shannon Estuary, has quite a turbulent history. It was occupied by Teige Caech “the short sighted” McMahon in September 1588 when seven ships from the Spanish Armada anchored in the estuary. Even though the MacMahons offered no aid to the Spanish the tower house was unsuccessfully besieged by the Sir Conyers Clifford, the Governor of Connacht. The following year the castle was captured by the Earl of Thomond, Donagh O’Brien.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like I can get any closer via Google maps,, although photos abound on the Internet. This is as good as it gets, and going to the castle isn’t part of my journey.
Despite missing out on the castle, I’m already charmed by this place. It’s the first Irish village I have ever seen, and it doesn’t really matter that my first impressions aren’t in person. Our Australian borders have been closed for almost two years and as a parent with kids and health and budget restraints, getting there in person hasn’t been a possibility anyway. So, I am totally excited to be doing this, and I’m imagining all these people behind closed doors with accents like my favourite Irish actor James Nesbitt (even though as I just found out he’s from Northern Ireland and has a different accent entirely).
In this brief time, my heart is already fluttering. I can barely contain my excitement as I come across a heartwarming and unique character village. I love a bit of colour, and Max Bites with its canary yellow walls and red doors was like a magnet. I believe it sells takeaway food, and that’s where the downside of travelling via Google maps truly sets in. I’m currently nibbling on an Arnott’s Scotch Finger Biscuit with a cup of decaf tea, while the dog has migrated from my lap to sit on my husband’s feet.
A few doors down and a rustic stone wall leads to a captivating and intriguing pale yellow cottage with mauve doors with some kind of decorative wreath. Even more intriguing, mysterious Gaelic words adorn the walls, and I’m convinced fairies must be living inside. In a way it seems a shame to resort to an online Gaelic to English dictionary to demystify their cryptic code. However, my insatiable curiosity and nosiness proves too much. I have to know.
Although it’s tempting to cross the road, please hold your horses and bear with me just a bit longer. You won’t be disappointed. There’s another beautiful cottage, which I’ve simply called “Heart Cottage” where the door and window shutters have been painted red, with a white heart. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this could be our centre of government?! A place where love rules the world? It all seems so simple to me. So, why is there so much hate, disagreement and exclusion? Humph! Instead of going green, it seems I’ve put on my rose-coloured glasses since arriving in Carrigaholt, and I’m not taking them off any time soon. I’m living the dream.
Okay, so now we’re going to cross the road, and doing a bit of a U-turn. Our first stop is Carmody’s Bar. Their FB page says: “Carmody’s Bar is a family run bar that has been in the family for well over 150 years, (which means it was here when my Edward Quealey left about 1881). We are known for regular traditional Irish music sessions and sing songs. Great Guinness, friendly customers and a great welcome for everyone.” Here’s a taste of what we’re missing out on:
Before I head off, here’s a few more pics around Carrigaholt before I head off:
So, now I’m pining for Irish music and a bowl full of freshly cooked mussels and some way of beaming myself up to Carrigaholt. I am going to post this on their Facebook page and hope to connect. So, might I encourage you to come back to see how the comments evolve.
Meanwhile, there’s so much to love back here at home. I enjoyed a lovely walk along the beach and chatting with my friend who is the local lifeguard. Our daughters met when they were babies at playgroup and have been best friends through high school together.
Things could be worse!
If you live in or near Carrigaholt, I would love to hear from you or from anyone who has been there on their travels.
“It’s no use going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”Lewis Carroll
I wonder if there is truly anyone whose life is exactly how it was back on New Year’s Eve 2019 we entered into 2020? I remember that night so well watching the Sydney fireworks on TV at a friend’s party. We had such high hopes for 2020. After all, it was meant to be the year of perfect vision – not the beginnings of a terrifying global pandemic which is still haunting us two years later.
Indeed, that also leads to the next question about whether we have changed. Or, to be more precise how much have we changed both as individuals and communities in all sorts of ways since covid first appeared?
There’s been a lot of talk about how vaccines are changing our DNA. However, I haven’t heard anyone mention how we might be reprogramming our own brains through the various covid or lockdown projects many of us are undertaking, and how the very structure of our brains could well be altered as a result – again in good and bad ways.
My world has been affected more than many because I wasn’t in paid employment when Covid hit due my lingering health issues, but I was more or less at a point where I was considering looking for some part time work. Before lockdown, I’m been beavering away on my blog and had various attempts at writing books, and have been trying to find my thing. With our son booked to go on a six week history tour of Europe and visiting the battlefields of France where his Great Great Uncle paid the ultimate sacrifice just three months before the end of WWI, I started retracing his steps and putting together his story. I also picked up on my Great Great Uncle Jack Quealey who I knew very little about and I had so much trouble nutting his story out, that I had to reach him through the letters and diaries of other soldiers. Before I knew it, researching our family members had expanded into a massive, obsessive research project. I saw no problem in that. Only good. Covid was the enemy, and I was going to have something concrete to show for it. Indeed, as lockdown continued, and it was still unsafe for me to venture out, and lockdown started up again, this project had totally overgrown it’s boundaries and it had become all consuming. While my friends were out there exercising with equal zeal, I was researching, writing, transcribing letters for hours and hours, days, months. Indeed, I didn’t mean this to happen, but along the way, I stopped playing my violin, my keyboard and even writing my blog. I also kept putting off exercise. Well, exercise is hardly my best friend, and it is a bit like swallowing that vile teaspoon of cod liver oil, especially before I get out there and actually see the roses and our stunning local beaches and coast.
Well, if you know anything about neuroplasticity, you know that the wiring in our brains isn’t set in stone. It is fluid – ever-changing. So the more you do something, your brain responds by building bigger fibres…whether these are good, bad, or indifferent habits. It’s part of the reason why practice makes perfect. It’s also the same with emotions. If you keep getting angry, the angry cable in your brain will just keep getting bigger and bigger unless you start bringing your anger in line.
This is all very simplistic. I’m not trying to be a neuroscientist. I’m just trying to give you the general gist.
Anyway, just before Christmas the penny finally dropped. Sydney had just completed an incredible four month lockdown and with my auto-immune disease and acute lung complications, I had to stay low. Moreover, after our fearless Prime Minister and his cohort, our new NSW Premier, decided to “let it rip” to save the economy, I burrowed deeply underground hoping the storm would pass by overhead and leave us alone. However, that hasn’t happened and now to quote a friend “it’s EVERYWHERE!!” Omicron is like the common cold on steriods. I’ve also decided it’s the fulfillment of all my grandmother’s most vivid nightmares of germs…germs on the toilet seat, germs on the public phone. She would’ve been beside herself through this covid crisis and her handbag which always seemed to have a bag of lollies (for herself as much as for us), dainty hankies which were useless when she cried in Church, she’d now be armed with industrial strength Spray & Wipe. The sort of stuff that dissolves the surface of your benchtop, your toilet seat, as well as a layer of skin.
To be perfectly honest I’ve found it much easier to hide than deal with all of that.
However, after two years of hiding, and after two years of fighting for the needs of vulnerable people with disabilities and chronic health conditions to be acknowledged and safeguarded and two years of detailed, obsessive but incredibly fascinating and productive research, I am not who I was before. I know I am seriously out of kilter, and all sense of balance has gone.
The other aspect to all this hiding away is that my social life is all but dead. For the hardcore introvert, that could be a blessed relief. However, as a fairly extroverted extrovert it has fairly major ramifications. I don’t know what it is to go our for dinner with friends anymore, and I’m glad I managed to get out for dinner with Geoff a few times before omicron flared up. I’ve become a prisoner inside my own body let alone the house.
After spending so much of the last two years reading, writing and researching and very little time socialising, exercising, or even doing such basic things as catching the train and using cash, I know I’m nothing like who I was before. I don’t know if I can or choose to go back to sit on the same seat on the bus I was occupying before. Or, if I want to get off. Or, Indeed, in so many ways I know I already have.
Of course, I know I’m far from alone in all of this. That many of you who are in the same boat, and you’re also asking: “Where to from here?”
The honest answer for me, is that I just don’t know.
My daughter goes back to school next week, but of more immediate concern, it seems covid has snuck under the front door and I’m not feeling well. Our son went to youth camp and we pretty much expected him to bring it home. I did try to get him tested before he came back, but that fell through. I tried to usher him straight into his room, but he was full of stories and so full of life. Meanwhile, our daughter’s best friend was also positive and just about everyone we know aside from my mum and dad has it or has been exposed. Dad is waging his own war on covid and he he won’t catch it, and it won’t catch him. A true introvert, he’s determined.
“When I used to read fairy tales, I fancied that kind of thing never happened, and now here I am in the middle of one!” – Lewis Carroll
So, where to from here? In the immediate sense I’m off to make a cup of decaf tea before heading to bed. Anything more than that, will have to wait until tomorrow.
Meanwhile, I’d love to hear your thoughts about what lies ahead and I should just mention that the first quote from Lewis Carroll comes from a book I’ve just started reading: Tea & Honesty with Jules Sebastian – wife of international singer and musician Guy Sebastian and now an author in her own right.
Well, I am going to launch off the New Year with a huge philosophical question: why do I always leave writing my coffee share posts down to the last second where I’m racing the clock and nearly missing out by a hair’s breadth?
I don’t know. Indeed, now more than ever, I have no excuse. The air is covid soup out there, and so I’m either at home or walking around in nature, although I must confess I went to the opportunity shop last week albeit wearing a mask and avoiding all human contact because right now we know EVERYONE has the plague, even if they haven’t fully appreciated it themselves. I guess that also includes me, and my cough, but I always have that so it would be hard to know. Although I’m triple vaccinated and take my daily dose of 1000mg vitamin C, I fully expect to KNOW if and when I get covid on account of my crappy lungs.
Anyway, I’ve become so distracted that I’m distracted from my distractions, and even spent two days entering my family history stuff into Wikitree like a woman possessed. To be honest, I can’t really explain it, but there I was populating cyberspace with all these people who were strangely represented by little Lego people in my head and their little Lego city started out as Surry Hills and Paddington in urban Sydney, and spread out over the Blue Mountains to a place called Rylstone near Orange. It’s a place I’ve never heard of before but it was interesting reading the little newspaper clippings I came across about their life out on the farm there, especially after they’d come out from Ireland.
In a sense it’s not surprising that my need for people interaction, family and friends has become rather warped when I’m an extrovert living underground. We just had Christmas at home with the four of us and were even counting the three dogs this year. Yes, that means there were actually seven of us for lunch and almost enough to constitute a “party”. My parents decided not to attend the big family Christmas to be on the safe side, and by the end of me trying to convinced them to go, Dad won out and we stayed away too. I couldn’t be sure our kids didn’t have it, and I didn’t want Dad’s siblings who are mostly over 70 catching it and going down badly.
However, we made our own day, and we razzled things up a bit with a genuine German Gingerbread House from our local German bakery, and we went driving around looking at the Christmas lights. These were people’s houses so mostly they weren’t as spectacular as what Natalie had to share from Toronto, but there were a few houses that really made a valiant effort. Indeed, they were completely over the top in a way that had to be be seen close up to be fully appreciated.
Not only did we cancel attending the big family Christmas, we also cancelled our annual family holiday to Byron Bay to see Geoff’s sister at Nureybar two doors down from Liam Hemsworth btw. We couldn’t be sure that we wouldn’t be taking covid with us and that area is heavily anti-vax and into natural therapies and it really didn’t feel like it was going to be a true holiday. That we’d be having to be so vigilant, we were better off at home. However, we will take a rain check.
So what with going without the big family Christmas and the holiday to Byron Bay, it sounds like we’ll soon be wearing hessian sackcloth and truly going without. Some would say there’s growth and something strangely cleansing about all of this. You know, leading the simple life and all that. I’m not so sure. I get onto that devil of envy Facebook and see friends smiling away and having real holidays. Am I smiling back at them? What you you reckon? I haven’t stayed away from Facebook completely but it’s definitely not my friend right now.
Meanwhile, outside beckons. Not in a pleasant way though. It’s telling me to go for a walk. Exercise. That’s wonderful when I get there. However, it’s rather cosy at home in the air-conditioning and it’s muggy out. You can almost see the steam rising off the lawn. There’s good reason to go into a sort of comatosed limbo right now and wake up in March when it’s not so hot, muggy, and this covid peak they’re promising is gone. I can go into a crowded room of friends again with a mask and smile, hug and drink champagne without keeling over dead.
So, I’m probably not the best entertainment right now. However, I can recommend a good book. I loved reading Amanda Lohrey’s: The Labyrinth, and I’ve started reading Kay Warren’s: Choose Joy. I really should’ve been delving into that, because I’m been choosing to grumble instead. Well, grumble might be understating things a little but you get my drift.
Anyway, Geoff and I have been going on quite a few walks and even a trip to the Mt Penang Parklands, although the photos are still on my phone and in the pipeline, as the saying goes.
Well, I have to admit I’m proud of myself. I’ve been typing like crazy against the clock and thought that my hour was up but I still have 45 minutes to go. Well, of course, I still need to add a few photos and pretty it up a bit. I’ll even add a few links. Gee, you’re going to get all the bells and whistles now when I thought I might need to cut it short and come back later to finish it up.
This means I can now share my top ten songs for transitioning from 2021 to 2022:
I also shared a few insights into what Christmas 1921 was like after such a strange and challenging couple of years. Of course, we think we’re badly off and the world’s never known anything like this before, even though we’ve all heard of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919 and there was something about two world wars as well. However, why let truth get in the way of a good story? Anyway, I shared a letter English-Australian author Ethel Turner, wrote to Australian children in 1921 and a fundraising drive she organised, while also writing a post setting the political and cultural context. Our 2021 wasn’t so bad after all.
Anyway, I have vowed to be more organised next week. Actually do my Weekend Coffee Share on the weekend instead of Monday afternoon Sydney time.
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!
Wandering round the blogging traps lately, the last two years have taken their toll and there’s no real confidence that things are going to be any better in the New Year. We’re on a journey of uncertainty, and looking into more of a snow globe scenario than into a crystal ball. However, that doesn’t mean it’s all hopeless. Or, that the last two years have been all bad, and covid hasn’t been a blessing – as well as a curse. That there hasn’t been joy. Indeed, as pollution cut back, our natural world even improved .
However, so many are cut off from those we love, and that is truly hard. So many of our young people, have had the rug pulled out from beneath them. My kids are caught up in that, and their friends.
It’s important to acknowledge these struggles. Not just keep going without allowing ourselves to grieve, withdraw, rethink. It’s perhaps a harder route, but we’ll be stronger and wiser for it – and a much better friend.
Anyway, these songs start off with a bit of a good riddance to 2021, and bring some hope and encouragement for the New Year.
So, here goes, and please let me know if you have any suggestions:
1) Let It Go – Frozen
2) I’m Still Standing Elton John
3) Standing With You – Guy Sebastian
4) The Prayer By Andrea Bocelli performed by Guy Sebastian and Bella Taylor-Smith
5) You Raise Me Up
6) The Beatles – With A Little Help From My Friends
7) Bruno Mars – You Can Count On Me
8) Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow
9) Louis Armstrong – When You Wish Upon A Star.
10) Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World
So, as we continue to grapple with the puzzle that’s life on Earth, I’ll not only wish you and yours the conventional “New Year”. I’ll also pray that God’s richest blessings will be with you, and if your hearts are hurting, weary or confused (which is certainly where I put myself right now), that you will experience His peace which surpasses our understanding, and has the power to renew even when all seems lost.
How are you? Hope was your week? I hope it went well.
My week has rushed by in a blur, and it feels like I’ve done nothing, achieved nothing and have simply been hovering in suspended animation. That’s not depression talking, butt more a state of conscious forgetfulness. Where was I last week? What happened’/ sometimes, it’s also a case of : “Who am I?” and it’s just as well my name is written down somewhere close by to remind me.
The reality is that I was actually rather busy. We are a family of four humans and three dogs. My husband works in IT for a university in Sydney with a hospital attached and has been the only network engineer available to go on site because his colleague is unvaccinated. Two people is pretty understaffed anyway, but with the overseas students being axed for the last two years, the universities have been a severe casualty in so many ways and the axe has been falling everywhere. We also have two teenagers – our son is now 17 and has always been known as “Mister” on here but he turns 18 in March, and has rather outgrown it. Miss is now 15 and working part-time at McDonalds and still dancing up a storm. So, we’ve been busy with end of year dance concerts, Geoff has end of year Christmas parties this week and I actually managed to post 17 Christmas cards.
Are you sending actual physical Christmas cards this year? Do you write a Christmas newsletter? These have always been big traditions for me. However, I don’t believe I sent more than a couple of Christmas cards over the last two years and I might have forgotten to email out my Christmas newsletter last year.
I’ve pulled my socks up this year, because I’ve realised that these Christmas cards are doing so much more than simply adding to Hallmark’s coffers every year. They help us to stay connected to a host of people who still mean the world to us, but we don’t see very often. They’re particularly important with people who aren’t online or Facebook. I don’t tend to ring people just for a chat anymore like I used to either. Here in Sydney we’ve had that massive four month lockdown. We live a bit North of Sydney in what in termed Greater Sydney. Now, Geoff is usually commuting to Sydney five days a week for work and I’d be down there at least once a month. However, we’ve only been down there once since the end of June and that was to see my parents and brother. We didn’t go anywhere else. We’ve also been laying low at home, and haven’t been back to physical Church so that’s a whole different swag of people we’re not seeing. So, the Christmas cards and the newsletter feel particularly important this year. We need to connect!
The weather has been pretty lousy lately but it’s a bright sunny day outside, and here I am indoors tapping away. The beach is only a few blocks away too. However, I have a support worker here today, and will have to wait til she leaves at 5.00pm. Meanwhile, there’s a pavlova cooling in the oven for our son to take to his Venturer meeting tonight, and then I’m onto preparing the fruit for the Christmas cake. I know it’s a bit late by most people’s calculations. However, Mum often rushed it through the night before Christmas so I’m way ahead.
Before I head off, I’ll leave you with a photo of the formal dress I picked up for our daughter for $20.00 at the opportunity shop last week. She doesn’t have a formal this year, but got all dolled up for photos with some friends who had their graduation formal. Here’s a pick:
Hope you’re going well and I look forward to hearing from you!