It’s Spring over here, and it’s amazing how our ongoing lockdown has done wonders to cause of wildflowers to go ballistic. There’s such a diversity and abundance of wildflowers this year, although it certainly helps to go bushwalking. We usually have so much on, and this almost forgotten phenomenon known as a “social gathering” that we don’t get out there as much. So, lockdown isn’t all bad, and it’s certainly led many to discover a new-found love of nature and the outdoors.
Today, Geoff and I drove past the Waratahs you’ve seen in previous posts, to find the turn off to Warrah Trigg which has a breathtaking lookout over the Hawkesbury River and across to Patonga on your right and Palm Beach on the left.
There were a few walkers out today, and a few boats out on the water, but not many. We largely has this magnificent place to ourselves.
The walk to the Warrah Lookout is about 500metres one way, and trust me one way was very tempting. While it’s not a long walk, it carves down through the side of a very steep hill. That’s all very well when you’re heading down, but blue murder heading back up, especially considering I only have 50% lung capacity. As we’re heading down, Geoff did ask me a few times whether I wanted to call it quits and head back. “Remember, you’ll need to climb back up!” I did make a joke about being air-lifted out. I wasn’t entirely sure it was a joke.
However, years ago, I had very good advice about breaking tasks down and taking lots of breaks to overcome a challenge. So, I had this real confidence that if I kept stopping and pacing myself that I could make it back up. It was just a bit unfortunate that on this walk the toughest uphill sections and some stairs, would be right at the end. What a relief it was to see our little red car down in the carpark below.
Meanwhile, as I said there was such an abundance of stunning wildflowers, a magnificent floral scent and the sound of buzzing bees. There were absolutely masses of golden flowers Eutaxia obovata but known as “egg and bacon”
There was also this stunning red grevillea, Grevillea speciosa, where its red tendrils dangle like spider’s by what appeared to be a solitary stem. They’re quite captivating.
This character, the Banksia, is not as glamorous as the more colourful flowers, but has plenty of personality.
Well, I hope you enjoyed our walk to Warrah Lookout as much as we did. It certainly helped me detox from lockdown, and also beavering away on my entry for a short story competition.
I don’t know whether I should be apologizing for taking an extended blogging break, or whether you’ve all been grateful for a reprieve. Only so many hours in a day and all that. I get it. Truly, I do. Indeed, that’s why I’ve been missing in action for awhile and have been blogging much more intermittently this year. Real life has overtaken me, and I’m also striving towards what must be a writer’s Holy Grail…finishing a book and getting it published (or indeed, self-publishing).
My contribution to the the great libraries of the world, book shops, op shops, and no doubt recycling bins; is a compilation of short biographies of Australian soldiers who served in WWI and fusing family background, battle details, letters home and diaries where available with a focus on the psychological aspects of war and the inner man. How did they survive physically and mentally? Of course, so many didn’t make it and instead “went West” as the saying went. So, death and dying is also a significant aspect. I’ve been working on this for about 18 months now, especially since the horrendous Australian bushfires and their choking smoke forced me underground, only for Covid to send me back into my bunker not much later. Indeed, I’ve been calling this my “Covid Project.
Meanwhile, there’s been a lot going on.
On Monday, I attended my dear friend, Lisa’s funeral. We’ve only been friends for just over six months, and yet we connected very deeply and neither of us thought our friendship was going to be that short. Lisa’s been fighting a very aggressive form of breast cancer for eight years. She’d had three brain surgeries, and after the cancer started eating through her spine, there was more surgery and she had a rod put in her spine. She was married with three boys, and the youngest was only two when she was diagnosed and he’s now eleven. Sometimes, people turn to survivors like Lisa, and be inspired by their strength. After all, they’re a personification of the miraculous. They can also became what my mother calls “a case” where they suddenly become the pet project and helping them out seems to become more about people gaining Kudos that actually helping the person themselves. You can also feel sorry for them. However, when we first met Lisa, she looked relatively well and she had the most beautiful smile. We went on picnics, kayaked, saw in the New Year, the visual overrode the intellectual knowledge that she was already on borrowed time, although I was somewhat prepared to lose her. I made a conscious decision to love her, be close without holding back, even though I knew it was going to hurt like hell. However, we both needed each other and I’m glad I was there to help lift up the last six months and help her feel loved. Indeed, when a friend went to see her, she said she felt “overwhelmed by love”. A friend and I spoke at her funeral, and although we didn’t know her for long, we knew her well. At least, the Lisa she was then which is after marriage, kids, cancer…quite a lot of life.
Have you found that it’s hard to know quite what to do and where to turn after the funeral is over? That’s what I felt last week. There was a part of me which thought going back in time to before we met would be the answer. However, you can’t do that and I don’t want to wipe out our friendship or forget her. I’ve put her photo in a frame. That’s a start. I wrote a song, a poem. I think about her much of the time, and I baked her boys a cake. I can’t change the world, and as Benjamin Franklin and other before him in various variations wrote: “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.
Anyway, dealing with my grief took me to my usual haunt…the op shops. Never knock a bit of retail therapy. As long as it doesn’t take you too far into debt, it can work miracles and if you’re going round the second-hand charity stores like me, you can save a small fortune (not that you’d be able to afford all of this stuff new.) I am particularly thrilled with my new to me fleecy-lined, purple jacket. I also managed to get my mum a beautiful designer top for her birthday.
By the way, I almost forgot to mention that we had to buy our son his first suit to wear to the funeral. I had hope to buy him something smart from the op shop. However, he insisted on something new, and who doesn’t feel fabulous in something special that’s new? He looked incredibly handsome, and I was so proud of him, especially because he’s spent his whole life with his own serious ill mother, and the parallels to our situation were obvious. Why not me? I wouldn’t say I have survivor’s guilt. It’s more a case of survivor’s question marks.
Yesterday, Geoff and I went for a walk. Naturally, I needed to lighten my mood and walking is a true-blue healer. Moreover, we went for a bushwalk where there are some absolutely breath-taking coastal views. So, we were immersed in nature. The sun was shining, although being Winter here, it was a little chilly, but we certainly weren’t rugged up. Indeed, I think it was about 16-18 degrees Celsius. Not bad for Winter, hey?!! One of the highlights was finding a flannel flower, and it looks like there’ll be a carpet of them in about a month’s time. So, I’ll have to keep an eye out. While you’d think I’d be back at this spot at least once a week given it’s alluring beauty, I usually only get here a few times a year. As usual, life gets in the way.
I should mention that I have two dogs up on my lap- Lady and Zac. Nothing like a drop in temperature to attract the dogs to a warm lap, and having my keyboard perched on their backs doesn’t seem to bother them – or the constant clicking. They’re also keepin me toasty warm.
How have you been? I hope you’ve been well. I look forward to hearing from you and catching up.
I’m hoping I’ve made the deadline this week. It’s actually Monday night here in Sydney, which might not sound like much of a weekend coffee share, but when you’re busy over the weekend, Monday can be a good time to decamp.
So, how are you? How has your week been?
Mine has been wet, with intermittent sunshine. I’m not sure whether you’ve heard about the flooding through NSW on Australia’s East Coast? We’re right where we are. However, reports show that in the last week, the entire NSW coast has been drowned by at least 200 millimetres, and in some places, more than 400mm of rain. To put that in context, Sydney averages 132mm of rain for the whole month of March. Flooding stretches 600 kilometres from Sydney to the Northern Rivers. The other difficulty, is that some of the areas experiencing the worst flooding, were also hard hit by the bush fires and the drought before that. That a pretty brutal trifecta that the Little Aussie Battler might laugh off in public, but it’s “hard yakka” and the farmers need every bit of help they can get. That is along with the animals. I heard a heart-breaking story of a Taree farmer losing 200 head of cows and has had a few of them turn up all over the place, including the beach. The cows are apparently having a rough time. Having their hoofs submerged in the flood waters has water-logged their hoofs and it’s hurting them to walk. I saw where they’re been laying down carpet in the paddocks to help them. Extraordinary, isn’ t it?!! Here’s a clip: https://www.manningrivertimes.com.au/story/7179146/carpet-needed-for-cows-at-oxley-island-video/
However, it hasn’t been all rain.
There’s been a dazzling fusion of sun, rain and incredible clouds, which is the perfect prescription for photography. I was actually quite lucky to get these photos, because if I hadn’t been babysitting my friend’s son and had promised to take him to the park, I probably would’ve been shut away inside at home doing my research without any conscious awareness of what was going on outside and I would’ve missed all this incredibly majestic beauty. It was one of the best sunsets we’ve had in a long time. Of course, the trouble with exceptionally magnificent skies like this, is dangerous storms, exceptionally heavy rain and even hail. I’ve been caught in all of the above before so I know all about it. The only trouble was this time I had my friend’s son in tow. So, he was told he had about 15 minutes at the park, and we might have to leave very quickly and make a run for it. One half of the sky was a very deep purple, and a series of huge, double-decker cumulous clouds had invaded the other half. Then, I spotted the rainbow arching over a mountain of cloud rising over the beach. Magic. I didn’t have my SLR with me, but the photos from my phone were still incredible.
We have just gone into the last week of the school term. So, it’s been Open Week at my daughter’s dance school. She recently turning 15 and she’s pretty serious about it. So, she’s getting to the pointy end of things. So, it’s been amazing to watch her and her classmates dance. She also had an audition where we were able to watch her perform, and that was a treat as well. We’re also very grateful that she’s been able to return to dancing in public and almost “back to normal”. I still don’t take it for granted, even though we’re having an amazing run.
Speaking of Covid, Geoff and myself along with our 17 year old son are getting vaccinated with the Astra Zeneca vaccine tomorrow. I was feeling very excited. Then, our daughter said her friend’s mum has been feeling really sick afterwards. So, now I’m feeling like I should double-check. Oh, no I shouldn’t. “She’ll be right, mate”. What choice do I have? Being immuno-suppressed and having lung fibrosis, I can’t risk catching Covid. Then, it could well be all over red rover.
I am making good progress on my WWI research and writing project. I now have the foundations of an introduction and a reasonably detailed plan. I also have a lot of gaps. However, at this stage I’m just wanting to get enough together to apply for a research grant. This first stage of the production line, is looking at the Australian Home Front from the announcement of war to the final return of the troops in 1919.
Anyway, that’s enough from me. As I said before, I hope you’re having a good week and don’t find yourself in lock down wherever you are.
Last night, I watched Oprah’s infamous interview with Harry and Meghan. Harry and Meghan who? Of course, I don’t need to spell that out, do I?!! We all know exactly who I’m talking about.
Before you even ask where I sit on the matter, in typical Australian style, I’m going to state it straight up front. I support Harry & Meghan, and I also like the Queen.
I also want to say that back in 1981 when Prince Charles became engaged to this shy kindergarten teacher, Lady Diana Spencer, who was literally hunted by the press like the last deer on Earth, I was an impressionable 11 year old. The wedding took place the day before my 12th birthday, and I asked my mum and dad for the commemorative stamps. Meanwhile, I was frantically cutting up any magazine or newspaper clippings I could get my hands on, and was cutting and pasting them in a dedicted exercise book. While this may seem crazed and obsessed to the younger generation who didn’t live through the Diana era, it was all rather normal at the time. It’s what we did, along with wearing Lady Di blouses with the bow around the neck. I even remember that Gran had carted one of my poor friends off to the hairdresser to get a “Lady Di haircut”. My friend wasn’t really the Lady Di Haircut type, and has devoted much of her life to down to earth community service through Scouts. So, that gives some idea about just how crazed and obsessed we were about Diana. Certainly not everybody, but it was a phenomenon.
However, our generation didn’t just live through the royal wedding. We were also there when adorable Prince William was born, and particularly tuned in when Charles and Di brought him out to Australia in 1983 when he was just 9 months old. Back then, they were the ultimate “happy family”, weren’t they?!! Then, of course, Harry arrived. However, slowly but surely we were finding out that someone else had never left. Someone we didn’t even know. Shocking stuff. We see Diana in tears, or sitting alone outside the Taj Mahal. We see Diana and Dodi al Fayed on a luxury yacht. Or, maybe I wasn’t really paying all of that so much attention by then. That was 1997, and I was ten years out of school and had problems of my own. I had been living in Western Australia when I’d found out that I had hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) which had somehow been there since my traumatic birth like a secret inner labyrinth. In July, I had surgery and flew back to my parents’ place in Sydney to recuperate. On 31st August, 1997, Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed died in a horrific car crash in Paris while being pursued by the paparazzi. I remember the precise moment I heard the news. I was standing in one of my favourite ever book shops, Gleebooks (in Sydney’s Glebe) with a friend and he turned to me and said “Diana’s dead”. There was this moment. An understanding that the world had stopped, albeit only briefly, because in so many, many ways, Diana Princess of Wales somehow made the world go round.
I have tried to explain this Diana fever to my kids a couple of times. Of course, they couldn’t understand. I’m not even sure if I understand how one woman could have had such incredible appeal. We didn’t know her, but we loved her. Would we have laid down our lives for her? Probably not. However, would we buy a magazine with her photo on the cover? Most definitely, and I, too, am guilty as charged.
Of course, the greatest tragedy of Diana’s death was that her young boys lost their mum. That somewhere amidst this whirlwind of fashion, glamour, he said-she said, her ground-breaking acceptance of people living with HIV and how she put her own life at risk to prevent the use of landmines, we lost sight of the fact she was made of flesh and blood, and she was Mummy to these two young boys. Indeed, she was the only mum they had. We might have walked with them in our hearts as we watched those two young boys walk bravely behind their mother’s coffin with their father and uncle, but we didn’t know them at all. We weren’t there to pick up the pieces and help them get through it.
However, maybe each of us can do something to help Harry now. Help Harry who is now a grown up and has found his true love and soul mate in Meghan Markle, along with Archie and their baby girl whose on the way. The collective, or indeed the “unroyal we” over in the UK have a debt to that man. It was all very well for Charles and Diana to have had the mandatory two sons – the “heir and the spare”. However, they, we, whoever, can’t just throw him away now that William and Kate’s kids have knocked him off his perch. I’m not fully privy to the full scope of his charity work. However, Harry had clearly carved out a niche for himself with war veterans and the Invictus Games. He is really down to earth and lovely. So approachable. I’ll pinch one of Slim Dusty’s songs at this point: “I’d love to have a beer with Harry, cos Harry’s my mate.”
So, this means I’m pretty unimpressed (understatement) that they’ve cut off Harry’s personal security. Given the position he was born into as the son of the future king, compounded with all the hype surrounding Diana and all he went through surrounding her untimely dead, and how the tabloids are still hunting him and Meaghan like sport, this is something the UK needs to take care of. You can’t love him as a cute little boy and feel overwhelmed with grief when he lost his mother, and then throw him to the wolves. That’s what happened to Diana. After her divorce, her security was withdrawn and we already know what happened there.
It’s easy to sit here in my armchair all the way over here in Australia and have all the answers to their problems, and I’ll acknowledge that even writing this is distracting me from getting my own stuff sorted out. However, I felt I had to stand up and be counted.
Meanwhile, I haven’t commented on the race issue. Discrimination is a horrible and often insidious thing, and as a person living with a disability, I experience that myself. Half the time people don’t even know they’re doing it, and there’s no point turning a relaxing, friendly situation into a confrontation. However, I am also realizing racism is one of those things it’s very hard for me to get as a white woman. I can try to imagine what it would be like to be a “woman of colour”, but I don’t know. Yet, I can listen. I can think about the words I hear, and look around the world I live in and decide whether they ring true. I can also try to find bridges across these seeming divides, and find a humanity with more in common than all that tears us apart.
I also know how hard it is to reach out for help. What it’s like not to be heard, and go back deep inside our bunker to try to regroup. Work out your next move. However, I’ve never had to do that under the glaring, incredibly critical judgement of the media spotlight, and I’ve never been vilified like Meghan Markle simply for being there. Or, as she put it, just “breathing”.
As an Australian, I am part of the Commonwealth (despite being a Republican). I decided to write this post as a one woman protest. It’s time to treat these two precious, lovely people as human beings. That the press has no right to push anyone over the brink and to crucify people just because they’re royalty. Moreover, they equally have no right to vilify anyone, overtly or more subtly, due to their nationality, race or tone of their skin. Just leave them alone.
In all of this I am reminded of one of my all time favourite quotes:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke
I understand this is a controversial subject, but I’d appreciate your comments. You are more than welcome to disagree, but please keep your comments kind.
Happy Birthday to my 17 year old son , and Happy International Women’s Day. I’ve just woken up to wih my son Happy Birthday, and I’m not planning on staying up for long, and my stomach feels like I’ve swallowed Draino and my back feels like it’s been run over by a truck. I could say, that’s the power of positive thinking. That that’s me looking on the bright side. Well, I am looking at the bright side because I’ll feel bettter after a bit more sleep. I might also feel better if I wasn;t trying to type with a chewed up tennis ball under my right wrist too. There’s also an expectant do parked in front of my chair, too. That’s Rosie and the other two, Zac and Lady, are parked right in front of the door. I don’t know whether they’re hoping I might actually levitate out of my chair to take them for a walk. If so, they’re dreaming.
17 years ago today, I became a mum and my husband and I became parents. I don’t think we truly understood what that meant at the time, even though we knew their were huge responsibilities and sleepless nights with our little bundle. I think beyond all of that, our fundamental feeling was profound and overwhelming joy. I’d had an elective caesarean. So, there isn’t a lot to say about that, except Geoff still hasn’t recovered from the stress of trying to juggle the video camera, SLR etc and actually seeing the baby. It was exciting times. Our hospital was also still using cloth nappies. I have no idea why because i was 2004 and they’d changed to disposables by the time our daughter arrived just under two years later just so she could always be first with the birthday, although she was the youngest and clearly number 2.
Meanwhile, I used to taken International Women’s Day a lot more seriously and have even gone into the local march and was on the organising committee. Today, I think International Women’s Day can also be able having a rest, taking it easy, and making birthday cakes.
Last week, I ended up heading down to Sydney for my first medical specialist’s appointment since covid and in just over a year. This was a big milestone in terms of feeling safe and being able to take what now amounts to an almost negligible risk, and also in extending my personal freedom.
We went out for lunch in Kirribilli afterwards, and also walked down to the harbour to fully soak in the magnificent views of the Sydney Opera House and the sheer imposing grandeur of the Sydney Harbour Bridge which truly towers over the top of you their almost stretching a protective arm around like like a father towering over a small child.
Walking back up the hill, I spotted a pair of boots sitting on a street corner.
Not only that, the boots were around the wrong way and looked plain odd, which of course told a story they wouldn’t have told if they’d been around the right way.Of course, I have no idea what they were doing there.
Whose boots they were.
That turned out to be part of their appeal, and their inspiration.
After all, they made a perfect analogy for how we respond to people who don’t quite fit the norm.
So, how are things at your end?
Before I head off, I thought I’d just update out on the vaccine roll out there. Well, to start that story off, we’ve had over 42 days without any community transmission here in NSW, which is wonderful news, and further praise for our response to the virus. Without the imminent virus threat, we’ve been able to wait to get the vaccine through the proper government approval processes, which also means vaccination is only just kicking off here. Vaccination began on the 22nd February, and they’re still just starting to vaccination health and aged care workers who are in category 1a. We fit into 1b of people with health conditions, and last night I heard that we’ll be eligible from March 22nd. That’s only a few weeks away as along as all goes to plan. I still don’t know how I’ll go with getting the vaccine via my local GP. They have nothing written up about it on their web site, but I should have faith, shouldn’t I?!! I shouldn’t panic. Freak out or desperately long to have some peace of mind?!!
Well, what do I have to worry about anyway? It appears covid isn’t here and yet, when it gets out of its box, it truly takes off and as we all know, you can’t tell you or someone else has it and it turns out this early barely detectable stage is when it’s most infectious. It doesn’t do a lot to ease my concerns. However, I’m not really complaining about taking measures to stay safe, because I’m still here and a year ago I had a chest infection, breathing difficulties and was concerned hospital would be full of covid cases and it would be too risky to go. Thankfully, that never happened here, and friends of mine who are even more vulnerable than I, are still around. I say that not to show off, but to show what is possible. We should never give up on what is possible, because sometimes, it can actually come to pass, and the worst case scenario passes us by.
Humph. I’m not sure whether I should spend so much of our coffee time talking about covid. There’s so much more going on, but at the same time, i is having a daily impact on our lives. I’ve decided no to go to a physical Church service until I’m vaccinated, because people are singing and not wearing masks. Indeed, our Church has taken a stand against it because they feel the Church is being discriminated against when restrictions aren’t so stringent in other places, especially sporting arenas. However, singing has been shown to be a super-spreader. So, their decision counts me out. Moreover, when you’re having to make decisions all the time about wearing masks, hand sanitising etc, it’s hard to ignore covid’s omnipresence in our lives, and for that longing to boot covid out once and for all to reach fever pitch.
I hope you and yours are doing well and keeping safe. What have you been up to this week?
In January my husband and I had to rush my Dad to emergency. We had to take a strange route to avoid traffic. We also had to keep him calm. He was ironically excited in his delirium from level 10 pain. We thought he would need to stay a few days but in reality the […]
“You must live in the present, launch yourself on every wave, find your eternity in each moment. Fools stand on their island of opportunities and look toward another land. There is no other land; there is no other life but this.” ― Henry David Thoreau
Covid is no longer just a thing belonging to 2020. Rather, it’s leaped out of the bag, looked back at us dumbfounded humans and chirped: “Catch me if you can!” Unfortunately, at this point in time, Covid has the upper hand and has taken off down the street before we’ve even put our joggers on, let alone done up our shoe laces. It is affecting everybody differently in all sorts of ways, and it seems quite trite to complain about not being able to travel when much of the planet is chronically ill and so many people have died and they are sorely missed.
Yet, at the same time, what about us in the land of the living? What are we supposed to do? Do we still carpe diem seize the day to our very utmost within the limitations we are personally experiencing? Or, perhaps we even break the rules, and there have been some spectacular examples of this in the news. Or, do we retreat?
Retreat, at least in my mind, is different to giving up, and is a legitimate response to covid, especially if you’re living in a country where it’s rampant, and even more so if you’re in a high risk category. My approach varies, mostly in accordance with the infection rates. I’m trying to be flexible, but one thing we did take a hard stance on was travel. We’d planned to visit Geoff’s sister and family near Byron Bay, which is about a 10 hour drive away. We usually go up once a year. However, right when we needed to make a decision, the numbers were starting to rumble, and since we didn’t have to go right now, we decided to put it off.
However, this hasn’t stopped our friends from travelling. Or, from posting their holiday snaps on Facebook. I’m not going to lie. It hurts. I also wanted to have fun, good times and swing from the chandelier. Moreover, just to add salt to the wound, we’ve spent most of Geoff’s two weeks of annual leave doing jobs around the house. Yes, they’re long overdue, and some would argue that improving the house and giving us a great start to the year might be worth more than a fancy holiday. Moreover, it is strangely satisfying to be dropping car loads of stuff at the charity shop, instead of going shopping and bringing a car load home. Yet, at the same time, there’s that old phrase:
“All work and all play
makes Jack a dull boy”.
Yes, I was definitely losing my shimmer, and needed to claim it back.
Well, this isn’t always as easy as it sounds. We have dependents. Yesterday, we drove dependent from camp no 1 to camp number 2. Afterwards, we went on a detour to Newcastle to go out for lunch together, and then on to catch up with my cousin and family, we covered about 500kms.
However, although we were moving and we were in the car and covered quite a distance, that’s not what I consider travel. It was more what I would call “work”, “duty”, “obligation” even though we made the most of the long drive and added in some fun for ourselves.
We hadn’t even left Newcastle to drive home, when our daughter rang from camp and said she wanted to come home. She’s been on this camp before. She doesn’t get homesick, but she is a teenager, and it appears she had outgrown the camp. We left her there overnight, and I ended up driving up today and picking her up a day early. It made no real difference to me. However, I wasn’t just going to drive an hour up and then drive an hour straight back. I warned her we were going on a detour to Norah Head. She’s used to me and my detours which usually involve food and photography.
Norah Head was probably about a 30 minutes drive South from the camp, and in my head, I decided it was going to be our surrogate for missing out on our trip to Byron Bay. You see, Byron Bay has a light house and Norah Head has a lighthouse, and while it might not have been a perfect correlation, I could almost make it fit.
As it turned out, visiting the lighthouse at Norah Head actually had a lot of advantages over visiting the light house at Byron Bay. It was much, much closer to home and only an hour’s drive away. it’s much less crowded. Lastly, we could easily get a parking spot, and parking was free…Win! Win! Win!
However, Norah Head isn’t just about the light house for me. It’s also about the memories. I first went to Norah Head as a very young child with my family, and I had a vague memory of have gone to the lighthouse before when I went up to Norah Head for a slumber party when I was 12 at my friend’s place. That was repeated the following year, and we slid down the sand dunes on big green garbage bags, and also had her birthday cake in the dunes. It was such a special thing to go on a holiday with friends when I was 12, and I’ve never forgotten it.
I returned to Norah Head about 10 years ago for the first time since school, and couldn’t find the sand dunes anywhere. I wanted to show them to the kids. However, it turned out they’d regenerated the dunes and they were now hiding under thick scrub and even rather tall paperbark trees. It was hard to understand how they could’ve grown so tall in such a short time. I popped back about 6 months ago and wandered around taking photos. It still had that special sense of magic and all those memories.
Anyway, today I wasn’t on my own. It was me and my girl and we kicked off our adventure with lunch at the Surfside Cafe.
Then, we drove round to the lighthouse. Although the lighthouse itself is very striking and had strong appeal, I was actually more drawn towards simply watching the mighty waves surging into the rocks which such incredible power. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
We actually spotted a couple getting married on the rocks down below surrounded by their attendants and family. The waves weren’t quite breathing down their necks, but they were close enough, and from certain angles through the lens, they certainly seemed precarious enough.
Next, we retraced our steps and walked down a long and very steep flight of stairs to the rockpool. I wondered whether I’d be able to make it back up. However, being able to get up Neil’s stairs encouraged me, and I thought if I just took my time and had a few breaks, I’d be right. Well, I wasn’t quite right and my heart was racing but I made it, and it was certainly worth the effort. It was really quite festive down on the beach and there was so much colour what with the coloured beach umbrellas, assorted swimming costumes, towels etc. It was beautifully sunny as well and the sky was an intoxicating bright blue and it was like one of Ken Done’s beach paintings, and boy was I glad to be amongst it!! Yahoo!
I hadn’t been back to the rockpool since I was there as a 12 year old snorkelling with my friends, and as I followed the beach around, I had no idea that I’d come across the most wonderful view of the lighthouse. An angle I hadn’t seen before and it was rather breath-taking. I’m sure you’ve had that experience yourself where there’s a place you really love, but you know it from that postcard perspective, but then you see it from an entirely different angle, and it’s like it’s been reborn. Moreover, when you’re really into photography like me, these fresh perspectives are even more valued. It’s like you’re seeing this place for the very first time and your gobsmacked with awe and wonder.
I could’ve stayed there for hours, except my passenger was getting tired and needed to get home, but not without picking up my Danish pastries from the bakery.
Clearly, I highly recommend you check out Norah Head some time, which as we all know, is not all that easy atm, but in the meantime, at least you can enjoy my photos.
As the saying goes “you can’t even give a piano away anymore”, especially when it’s over a hundred years old, out of tune, verging on decrepit, but with just enough life left to hope someone else might take it on. For the last five to ten years, we’ve been trying to give our piano away. Although we’ve had a few nibbles over the years, there have been no takers, and it just kept sitting here covered in picture frames, and an accumulation of household detritus and dust.
“Some people are aware of another sort of thinking which… leads to those simple ideas that are obvious only after they have been thought of… the term ‘lateral thinking’ has been coined to describe this other sort of thinking; ‘vertical thinking’ is used to denote the conventional logical process.”
However, as we found out, it’s all about the packaging. Or, perhaps I should say, how you package it. While no one wanted the entire piano, we finally managed to get our friend Neil interested in the parts. Indeed, he ended up towing most of the piano away in pieces over a few trips, and we were particularly excited to be able to keep the strings in tact, even if Geoff did have to saw through more than 10 centimetres of solid wood to pull it off. Neil’s already mounted the felts in his loungeroom where they’ve become an curious discussion point, and there are plans for a seat out of the wood. Meanwhile, I’m wondering how the birds and possums are going to respond to the ghostly sounds the keyless strings will be playing out in the bush until he works out what to do with it.
Meanwhile, I have to tell you how much we enjoyed deconstructing this humble 100 year old piano. I know that sounds absolutely terrible, especially when I’m from a family of accomplished pianists. Indeed, it felt very much like a chainsaw massacre, especially after we found out much of it had been glued together, and the only way to get it apart, was to saw it to pieces.
However, ironically pulling it apart emphasized the beauty of its parts, which had become lost in the whole, especially once some of the keys weren’t working, and the cost of restoration was never going to pay off.
Indeed, it was quite incredible to appreciate just how much work, skill and attention to detail had gone into constructing the piano, and I guess we felt a bit sad that it had ended up being a useless lump of furniture and a burden. Indeed, it went further than that. The piano had actually become a significant roadblock, stopping us from renovating our loungeroom and getting it to a state where we’d be comfortable inviting friends over and dare I say it (drum roll) ENTERTAINING!!
So, I guess you won’t be surprised when I tell you that this situation with the piano has become a great analogy for explaining how to deal with a large persistent problem. Somehow, we need to find a way of carving it up into smaller components which will be much easier to deal with so we can clear the decks.
I also think our handling of the piano problem also shows how persistence can backfire. Sometimes, we need to stop persisting and give up. Stop putting up with a burden, problem, difficult person or situation and decide that “enough is enough”. It is going, going, gone!
Do you have any special memories of the piano? Or, perhaps you have a few horror stories instead. It’s a shame that the piano no longer holds it’s place at the heart of the family home with people gathered round to sing and play together; and also how it’s demise can also be attributed to the clutter Nazi’s who on’t let another gather dust. It is OUT!
Today, the forces of chaos which govern my scrambled egg existence, conspired together to prompt me to sort out my Grandmother’s recipe for Honey Biscuits. I am an Australian of German descent on my mother’s side, and my grandmother’s Honey Biscuits were as much a part of Christmas as my mother’s traditional English-style Christmas cake and my Christmas pudding. The biscuits were round with half a blanched almond stuck in the middle like the star perched on top of the Christmas tree. They lived inside big glass jars from another time zone, which always seemed strangely magical (even when they were empty).
These Honey Biscuits were very special, but they were also my grandmother’s thing. I’ve never seen my mother make them, although she’s always been an accomplished cook and was famous for her Sponge cakes, which were typically served with lashings of passionfruit icing and a thick layer of whipped cream.
Not having the recipe until after my grandmother passed away, I found an alternative in a German cookbook my grandparents had given me. These were very nice, definitely German, and were reminiscent of the Honey Biscuits, but were definitely NOT THE SAME!!
I don’t know if that really matters. Or, whether it’s just the spirit of the thing that counts. Moreover, I guess you’ve got to ask at some point whether you really want to keep on eating food from 200 years ago every Christmas just to satisfy tradition. Or, do you try something new? Indeed, do you make Christmas food that you and your current day family actually likes, and is more in keeping with your usual fare?
Being a lover of history, ceremonies and traditions, I’m all in favour of going retro one day a year and having the same old same old. Without the carving of the Christmas ham and the lighting of the Christmas pudding along with my aunt’s Mango and Avocado Salad with cashew nuts, it just wouldn’t be the same. Actually, you can add scorched almonds and shortbread to the list. However, what I really love about Christmas lunch is catching up with the extended family after another year and seeing how everyone’s changed. Or, indeed, how some have stayed the same. I come from a large family too, so that makes for added excitement, a swag of personalities and stories. Moreover, there’s always one of two who enjoy too much Christmas cheer.
However, this year our Christmas will be rather different, as we will be hosting Christmas Day at our place with only my Mum, Dad and possibly brother coming over. This has sent us into quite a tailspin and we’re currently in the throws of carving up an old piano and trying to vacate the loungeroom to get the new floating floor down in time. It’s a nightmare, but at least I now have a pile of cookbooks ready to exit the house.
It was sorting through these cookbooks, which took me back to my grandmother’s Honey Biscuit recipe. You see I found a recipe book from Hahndorf, the German-Australian village in South Australia which my grandfather and three generations before him called home…”Recipes From My Grossmutter”. I also found “The Barossa Cookbook”, which was published at the end of WWII. The Barossa Valley is best known as a wine-producing region, and it’s not far from Hahndorf. So, when it came to sorting out this recipe, I thought this cookbook was almost a sure fire bet. After all, it’s one of those community cookbooks where people contribute their favourite recipes, and their names are printed down below.
Fortunately, although I’ve never made my grandmother’s Honey Biscuits, I do have her recipe and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen her make them. However, while this sounds like I’ve got it sorted, the handwritten recipe didn’t inspire me with confidence. Had she left something out? It was also written in pounds and ounces, which always does my head in, and is almost a sure fire recipe for catastrophe.
My Grandmother’s Recipe for Honey Biscuits
1/2 lb Honey
1 lb Sugar
4 teas bicarb soda
a little acid
a few drops of lemon essence
Flour – flour enough to roll out.
After she lists the ingredients, she seemingly inserts herself into the process, and it soon becomes clear that my grandmother is leaving the main road and making her own way cross-country. There’s what the recipe says, and then there’s HER WAY which she introduces as “I use”. She then proceeds to halve the recipe, which seems fair enough, as I reckon the full amount would keep the entire Von Trapp family in biscuits from one Christmas to the next.
However, it’s the next bit which really captures my attention: “I beat the egg whites till stiff, add sugar and beat for awhile then add the yolks and beat again.”
Why does she separate the eggs and beat up the egg whites by themselves? This is what you do for making sponge cakes. However, as I glanced through the other recipes for Honey Biscuits in the Barossa Cookbook, nobody else mentions that. So, why did she do it? Was this her special secret for producing feather-light Honey Biscuits? Or, was she just making more work for herself?
I don’t know, and that’s one of the reasons I’ve decided to post her recipe on the blog. I need help. Do any of you know why this is so? If so, please explain.
The other thing I’d like to address is what constitutes your authentic German-Australian Honey Biscuit, and how does it compare to the German original? Or, is there a German equivalent?
I thought the Honey Biscuits were a form of Lebkuchen. However, Lebkuchen is more of a spiced biscuit based on ground nuts, where the Honey Biscuits are only lightly spiced, use flour and are as the name suggests, honey flavoured. Apparently, the Honey Biscuit is an adaptation to the Australian context, where German immigrants couldn’t access spices easily back in the day, and in a sense developed their own baking dialect in the same way they came to speak: “Barossa Deutch” (Barossa German). That said, there are variations of Honey Biscuit which are a lot more spicy, and more in keeping with their authentic, German roots.
So, there is this sense of recipes migrating from the mother country and being translated and adapted to the new one, with Australian-Germans putting their own stamp on this old tradition. On top of this, you have people like my grandmother who did their own thing, experimented and adapted. For me, this is very much in keeping with the same pioneering spirit, which saw my ancestors embark on ships for an unknown country on the other side of the world and take a chance.
So, which version of the Honey Biscuit is the real McCoy? Which should I bake and carry forward to my own children?
I wasn’t sure. However, an inspiring solution hit me in the face this morning, after I’d had time to sleep on it. That just like Refrigerator Biscuits where you can make variations from the one basic dough, you can also make a batch of Honey Biscuits where some taste more like honey, and others are more richly spiced. After all, nothing is set in stone – even traditions. They can always be taken forward and adapted with themes and variations.
Have you ever tried making Honey Biscuits and how does your recipe compare to my grandmother’s recipe? Meanwhile, in addition to baking the Honey Biscuits, I’m going to have a go at making authentic German Lebkuchen from a recipe over at Daring Gourmet. She even making her own candied peel and spice mix, so it could be a bit much on top of getting the house ready for Christmas, but isn’t Advent the season of insanity where we always do, spend and eat too much? It’s too late for me to challenge that this year, but January is only round the corner along with an end to 2020. I know for many, that will be the be st Christmas present of all!!
How are you? How are you really? Are you fine and everything’s going along with the flow? Or, are you a bit like me and a few of your own cogs aren’t quite moving smoothly and those around you are doing it tough?
That’s where I’m sitting at the moment. I haven’t got my own house in order, but I’m being much more constructive helping a few friends who are doing it tough and it’s so much easier to see the necessary steps for them, but so much harder for myself. I’m staring too close to it and it’s gone a bit blurry. Actually, it’s not really my stuff I’m trying to get sorted. It’s my son and his choices for his last year of school. He wants to do sound engineering when he finishes up and has a good aptitude for it, and he’s gaining good experience at Church, especially when you consider other options have closed down. He wants to put his foot down on the accelerator and get on with it. I’d just like him to slow down and finish school. Have another year before he heads out into the big wide world. I am trying not to blow up like a firecracker and am saying very little, while I try to do my research and get my head around what he wants to do.
Meanwhile, I took my elderly neighbour to the specialist today. He was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, which had got into his bones. He’s 90 so we know he isn’t going to last forever, but we love this couple dearly and they have always been a second set of grandparents to our kids and were such a help when they were small. Now, it’s our turn to look after them. They said they were right, but I said it’s always good to have someone else to listen and take notes. Moreover, as you’re probably aware, I’ve been through a bit medically so I’m well versed on these things. Well, at least, I knew to take pen and paper and write everything down. I could work out what was important later. It was also good that I could drive them there, and take that pressure off. It was only later on tonight that the reality of his situation really sank in and how incongruous it was that we were talking through cancer treatment very matter of factly. No tears. No emotions. It was business. This is what needs to be done. However, there are emotions and it’s only now that I’ve stopped for the day and am unwinding for bed, that the reality has sunk in. By the way, it’s no trouble to be there for them. It’s just what you do. Besides, my grandparents’ neighbours took very good care of them We were living 1000kms away and couldn’t be there for them in that day to day way. In fact, I don’t think I ever drove any of my grandparents anywhere. So, this is rather nice and while we were waiting, I listened to his stories. They both lived through the London Blitz and were also sent away to the countryside as children were. They’re a fascinating couple, and they walk down to the local shops together, and are so sweet. You rarely see a couple still living at their age, let alone walking around and still living in their own home.
Tomorrow night, we’re going to a friend’s birthday party and I’ve offered to make the cake. I’ve been having better luck of late, H owever, I’m concerned about how this cake is turning out. I’ve made a caramel mud cake with caramel icing. I’m hoping it’s okay. My friend lives in a pole home perched high upon pillars like telegraph poles and set among the gum trees. He calls his place: “The Treehouse” and its beautifully decorated with vintage and antique ephemera and he’s a fabulous host, especially when you bring the food and cake. So, so his cake, I’m wanting to build a treehouse. Fortunately, I have a mould for a small chocolate gingerbread house. I haven’t used it before but I’ve poured in the chocolate and I’m just wanting for it to set. I’ve also got ini Violet Crumbles and chocolate sticks and I’ve going to set up an invading hoard of Tiny Teddies. It’s going to be a lot of fun assembling all these ideas. I’m just not quite sure how we’re going to transport it there and whether to assemble it there. Finger crossed it works out well.
Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing on with my research and it’s taking shape, which is a relief. I have so many stories but am getting them structured and it’s all heading the right direction.
Anyway, I’d better head off and get to bed. I hope you’re going well.