Tag Archives: Newcastle

Weekend Coffee Share – 2nd June, 2019.

Welcome Back for Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Hope you like your banana cake served up with a side serve of chewed up tennis ball and a pair of beady-eyed dogs glaring at you to throw the ball. I also offer apologies for the other dog, Lady, who’ll be glaring at your cake and looking like she’s posing for Vogue Magazine with those puppy dog eyes.

DSC_4132

I’m sorry I missed you all last weekend. Last Saturday, I drove our daughter up to Newcastle for the regional school aerobics championships. This was the first time I’ve seen our daughter competing, and I was getting my head around it all. There were similarities with the dance and the dance eisteddfods she’s done, and yet this was new territory. Stylistically, it is reminiscent of jazz dance and the sort of aerobics I used to do too many moons ago. However, these girls had speed, agility and nose-breaking high kicks which placed it in a different league. That’s where the similarities with the dance ended. The girls were wearing white Reeboks instead of dance shoes and were referred to as “athletes”. Their team came first, which means they’re off to State. That’s all very exciting, although I am wondering how any child of mine could even make it into the school team. When I was at uni, I wrote an article entitled “Unco Aerobics”. In keeping with my poor sense of direction, I ended up facing the class instead of the front.

While we were in Newcastle, we headed off to The Junction, which is quite an upmarket, arty part of Newcastle. That could also read “expensive”. However, Mum’s cousin and her husband owned a Mexican restaurant down there called Munchos which was a real institution in Newcastle. Unfortunately, she passed away and Mum’s aunt and uncle passed away before that and so Newcastle has this sense of making a pilgrimage and this now focuses on the family restaurant, Talulah, where I found an old, dying piano out on the footpath this time and it really spoke to me about all these family members who have passed and all the times we had together.  I still remember Mum’s uncle returning from a spear fishing trip with a lobster when I was a child and how he drove this very shiny red and black taxi which lived in the garage under the house. What happened to all of that? How can entire worlds just disappear like that and why do I feel like the last one left standing when I’m not. Surely, I’m not the only one who feels like they’re living among the dead, not in a morbid way but with the memories which quite concrete. Something I can touch. Someone I can hold and still feel their vibrant laughter.

DSC_4140.JPG

Anyway, on this visit we ended up having afternoon tea at the cafe across the road as I was wanting cake. I needed cake after that dreadful getting lost driving to Newcastle experience and you can’t keep pouring yourself into your kids as a parent without refueling yourself. Moreover, I make no apologies for turning to food to do that. I had a variation of Creme Brulee and Miss was hungry too. So, there went the budget enhanced by a few superb finds at the local Red Cross Opportunity Shop.  It’s okay. We could survive on dry Vegemite toast. However, our teenage son disagreed.

Speaking of our son, he placed at the school athletics carnival last week. He was in the 400 metres relay which came in second. This came as a complete surprise. Our kids have never come home with a ribbon before and while our son does a lot of long-distance hiking with scouts, he’s on the computer every waking minute he’s not at school or in an arranged activity. So, it was a bit of a surprise to find out there’s a hidden athlete in there somewhere. I did ask him if he was off to zone and his reply was priceless: “Hope not!” His enthusiasm was clearly underwhelming.

I’m still beavering away on my research and book project. However, while I’ve made some enormous leaps forward, I can’t help feeling that I’ve headed backward. That perhaps if I’d written this story at the start with the little I had, I’d have my story done and dusted by now instead of feeling lost in a research wilderness. Have you ever felt like that? I’m sure the story I write once I finally put pen to paper will be a much more textured and complex tale than something I’d have rushed off. However, I was hoping to be further down the track.

By the way, my concept is to write a series of short biographical stories about a few of our stand-out ancestors. It was supposed to be fairly straight-forward because I’ve already researched the bulk of them. However, I decided to launch off with our first arrivals in Australia and that came down to Richard Keep on Geoff’s side who arrived in Sydney in 1808 and John Paton who arrived in 1818 on mine. Unfortunately, being right back at the beginning of our Australian story, they’re the ones I knew least. So, there’s been a lot of hard work and trying to get my feet into where they’ve come from, their crimes, the voyage to Australia, their time here and their legacies. That’s a lot to cover and then condense into a short story or two. However, I am making progress and I’m loving the journey along the way. An added bonus with John Paton has been the infusion of Scotland’s national poet, Robbie Burns who was living just down the road in his parents’ day and it also turns out that his first illegitimate child (he had a few) was with his mother’s servant by the name of Elizabeth Paton. I haven’t found a connection yet and our Patons were landholders. However, the plot has thickened. Indeed, that’s part of the problem. It’s become so thick I can barely move.

Have you been doing much reading lately? I’ve been reading Fled by Australian authorMeg Keneally and am really loving it. Meg Keneally is the daughter of legendary Australian author, Thomas Keneally who is best known for his story of Oscar Schindler, Schindler’s Ark. Father and daughter have been collaborating on the Monserrat Series and this is Meg’s first solo novel and she has another on the way.

Fled tells the story of Jenny Trelawney…”Highway robber. Convict. Runaway. Mother. She will do anything for freedom, but at what cost?

Jenny Trelawney is no ordinary thief. Forced by poverty to live in the forest, she becomes a successful highwaywoman – until her luck runs out.

Transported to Britain’s furthest colony, Jenny must tackle new challenges and growing responsibilities. And when famine hits the new colony, Jenny becomes convinced that those she most cares about will not survive. She becomes the leader in a grand plot of escape, but is survival any more certain in a small open boat on an unknown ocean?”

Meg Keneally’s debut solo novel is an epic historical adventure based on the extraordinary life of convict Mary Bryant. I heard Meg discuss the novel recently at the Sydney Writers’ Festival where she explained her decision to fictionalize the story as she felt it wasn’t right to put her own words and opinions onto the real Mary Bryant. I would highly recommend this book to lovers of history, and I gripping sea voyage.

Anyway, it’s now almost Monday night and I’m chomping on my dinner while I try to polish this off. It’s one of the advantages of living a day ahead of some of you folk.
This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to come along and join us.
Best wishes,
Rowena

 

Reference:

https://www.allenandunwin.com/browse/books/fiction/popular-fiction/Fled-Meg-Keneally-9781760680275

 

 

Hope For the Lost…?

Sometimes, I wonder if there’s any hope for the directionally challenged, especially those of us with “geographical dyslexia’ who head the exact opposite direction like someone reversing their letters.

Last weekend, my doubts were only confirmed when my daughter and I managed to miss the freeway exit for Newcastle, the second biggest city in NSW and hardly somewhere you could miss. Obviously, the sign was hardly insignificant or hiding behind a tree either. Yet, we achieved the seemingly impossible! We missed it.

Before I go any further, I should emphasise that we were heading for Newcastle just North of Sydney in Australia and not Newcastle Upon Tyne in the UK, or Newcastle Ontario and if you want to be really clever or completely lost you could even end up in Akhaltsikhe (Georgia), Nove Hrady (Czech Republic), Jaunpils (Latvia). Those would take my capacity for getting lost to new, inconceivable heights!!

While it’s all very funny to joke about how women can’t read maps or might hold the street directory “upside down”, for those of us who literally get lost in the shower the difficulties, stress and consequences of venturing further afield are daunting and even prohibitive. Indeed, as a sheep who’s been lost many times over, I’m often left calling out for a shepherd and lost beyond the powers of prayer. It’s no wonder that I have three sheepdogs at home and perhaps if I sat one of them in the front seat, they might be able to get me where I want to go. I’d just have to hope a ball or stick didn’t fly past or we’d end up in serious trouble. They wouldn’t stop.

Rowena & Amelia red car

Shame you can’t drive along with your navigator sticking their head out for a better view.

Anyway, I was put through my paces again last Saturday when I had to drive our daughter to Newcastle for her regional school aerobics competition. Theoretically, Newcastle is “just up the road” and about a 1.5 hour’s drive. Moreover, I’ve been to Newcastle quite a few times. So, finding my way around shouldn’t be a problem and yet it was. No matter how hard I try, I just can’t be like my Dad who only ever has to go somewhere once and can find his way back without any assistance at all. He might not have been to Newcastle for over ten years. However, I still remember him driving straight to Mum’s Aunty’s place which wasn’t right smack bang next to the GPO either. His navigational skills are legendary.

Papa and Chev

My proud grandfather with his Chev in 1938. 

 

However, Mum’s father’s sense of direction was also legendary but for all the wrong reasons. He not only seems to be the source of my spatial dyslexia he also refused to follow the map and had to find his own way. Once, after we’d moved house my Dad posted him a map with red arrows marked on it. Yet, he still managed to get lost. Thought he’d use “DIY navigation” instead. Go his own way. Dad was beside himself. Why couldn’t he follow the arrows? Jeepers! What’s a shepherd supposed to do when the sheep exits stage left instead of right and won’t heed the warnings? Just to add a bit more texture to this portrait, my grandfather was actually a Church Minister so goodness knows where he was leading his flock or if they were ever heard from again. Naturally, I jest on that front because in every other sense of the word, he was a true shepherd. Just don’t ask him to follow a map!

Bert & Marj State Border 1938

Pictured with his sister Marj (I think) on the South Australian & NSW Border back in 1938 when he drove to and from Dalby Queensland back home to Hahndorf, SA. 

 

While the spatially challenged were at the mercy of the street directory back in the day, we now have a host of gadgets and apps at our disposal and we have no excuse for getting lost. However, so far I’ve refused to get GPS because I don’t want my navigational skills to get worse. I believe wholeheartedly in the powers of neuroplasticity and that if I get lost often enough, one day I’ll be found. Well, actually it would be far better if I could find my own way there.

So, I decided that if I had any chance of turning myself into a navigational superhero, I needed to apply the Scout’s motto and “Be Prepared”. Friday night, I got the street directory out. Photocopied the route and highlighted it with a bright orange fluoro marker. You couldn’t miss it. I also sat our daughter down and went through the map with her. After all, she was going to be Navigator-In-Chief. We both knew where we were going. We’d been to this part of Newcastle before and it was quite familiar. The venue was also across the road from a huge Westfield Shoppingtown at Kotara and if we lost everything else, we couldn’t miss that. We could not go wrong.

However, as we found out, there’s a huge difference between seeing something on a map and seeing it on the ground where you have all sorts of landmarks which bring these streets and turn-offs to life.

Newcastle Link Road

How could we possibly miss a sign this big, bold and clear?

Before we had a chance to apply our knowledge of the Newcastle map itself, we missed the turnoff to the Newcastle Link Road off the freeway. I definitely remember seeing the exit and the sign beforehand. However, then I saw this little goat track off the freeway and couldn’t see the overpass and so I didn’t turn off. The next thing we were heading towards Hexham with no U-Turn and no side streets. We were stuck on a trajectory which was taking us all the way to Queensland.

Well, it would have if we’ve driven another ten hours down the same road. I’m not intending to exaggerate, catastrophize or in any way beat up just how far we’d deviated off course. However, I did need to pull over. Stop hyperventilating and work out how on earth we were going to shift the earth round and off its axis so we could approach Newcastle from a different angle. Actually, I think that should read something like turning the map around,  but I’m not good at regrouping. I had my route all planned and mapped out in bright orange. It was gouged into my neurones for eternity. I just hadn’t factored in that we could miss a major exit and all the signposts which went along with it.

Unfortunately, it took a while for our daughter to appreciate the true nature of the crisis. That she was driving with Mum not Dad, and I was in throws of having a fully fledged catastrophic meltdown. That soon there was only one direction I could drive, and that was home.

Phew! She woke up. Next, she did what every sensible teenager would do She went for the map on my phone. While this might not be as good as the street directory for giving us the bigger picture, it does have a blue dot showing where we are and talked us through where we were and where we were going. It overcame the hurdle of coming at it from a different direction as well, which isn’t done easily with your old-fangled street directory. Indeed, I might even be a convert. If we’d been using Google Maps, we would not have missed the exit. It would have been clear.

By the way, if you ever see a red Alph Romeo wandering around the road like a lost sheep, be afraid. Very afraid. Or, if you’d like to be constructive, you might just tell me where to go. I’d be most thankful!

How are you when it comes to reading maps and getting around? Do you have any epic sagas of getting lost and battling with the compass? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share -18th June, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Rather than joining me for coffee at my place, today I thought you might like to join me down at the San Antonio Bakery in Kirribilli. It’s right across the road from the stairs taking you up onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge. By the way, you might want to bring a bit of sun and the Northern Hemisphere Summer with you. It was a cheek-smacking 15°C (59° F) there today. Mind you, I must have Viking blood because yours truly sat outside this afternoon to soak up the Kirribilli charm, although I did wrap myself up in one of their blankets. By the way, the food there is amazing and I’ve indulged in a few of their delights. Today, I had a sort of nut crumble topping on a Nutella tart. The texture of the topping was fairly complex with a combination of seeds and nuts. The pasty was perfect and you can’t go wrong with Nutella.

Harbour Bridge Stairs

A wet day in Kirribilli. You can just make out the steps leading up onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

While I was there, I pulled out my notebook and simply started jotting. Kirribilli is a rather rustic part of Sydney with Victorian terraces heading down to the wharf and Sydney Harbour. If you were had bionic strength, you could throw a stone from Kirribilli Wharf straight through the Opera House windows if you were feeling like getting arrested and being rather unpopular.

As I said, I started jotted. A cold wind was blowing straight off the Harbour and round the corner blowing the Autumn leaves in the trees across the road. I was quite mesmerised by the fluttering leaves, although perhaps that was because the rest of me was snap frozen.

Of course, any sensible soul would’ve sat inside, but I wanted to experience Kirribilli. Be a part of it, and feel its breath blowing against my neck, even though it was freezing and giving me a different kind of goosebump experience.

However, my reasons for being in Sydney today weren’t social. After crossing the lung specialist off the list for the next three months, I was off to the gastroenterologist to see if he could do anything to get rid of The Cough. Well, he was full of ideas and conferred with the lung specialist on the mobile and they managed to cut it down to an endoscopy and colonoscopy. It’s not til August so I don’t need to get too excited about it yet. Some people go on a cruise, I’m cruising on off to the hospital. One thing I do know, is that a friend’s wife with MS died of bowel cancer because the early signs were dismissed. It’s important to keep in mind that things can always get worse and not to be complacent or in some kind of la-la land of uninformed positive thinking.

Anyway, aside from all that medical stuff today, there have been some great highlights during the last week.

Firstly, on Saturday my husband and I drove our daughter and friends up to perform in Starstruck at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre, about 1.5 hours North of here. This showcases school talent in the performing arts, and our daughter appeared in two dance numbers with the Year 7 dance troupe. I have to be honest and say that during their performance, I only had eyes for her. She was like a twinkling star, and as much as their was that immense pride in watching her perform, I was also dumbstruck. She didn’t get any of this from her father or myself. Sometimes, you’ve got to wonder whether God can be a bit random in how he allocates gifts and interests. That, or he has a very good sense of humour!

scouts prepared

 

Also on Saturday, we dropped our son off for an overnight Scout Camp and something like a 17km hike. That meant he was sleeping in a tent in this freezing Winter weather, which as my Dad would say, puts hairs on your chest. They had to carry everything in, and everything out so it was quite a credit to him. The hike ended at the local tip and the backpack went straight into the car and tales of aching feet, back, neck began to unfold. Clearly, he went to great lengths to avoid going to his sister’s dance concert, and we’re proud of his efforts.

Meanwhile, with our daughter at an evening performance and our son away at camp, Geoff and I ventured out for dinner at Mum’s cousin’s restaurant Talulah at The Junction in Newcastle. This place has become a bit of a rock to me when visiting Newcastle and I think I’ve been there about 3 times in the last couple of years. I remember going up to Newcastle for family get togethers. My grandparents initially lived there, and then we went up to see mum’s aunt and her family and there were 21sts, weddings, birthdays, christenings and unfortunately too many funerals of loved ones who died before their time. The family home was sold years ago, so the restaurant gives me some kind of bearings, and there’s an old piano in there which I wrote into a story a few years back. I don’t know if it came from the family. Or, was simply found beside the road, but it’s over 100 years old and it tells a thousand stories, despite staying silent. There’s also a Cenotaph outside the restaurant where a soldier stands to attention. He looks like he’s standing over the place and looking out for us. Goodness knows we’ve needed it at times. Apparently, the pigeons poop all over him, and doesn’t show him an ounce of respect.

I’m not real good as a food writer, especially when I don’t take notes at the time. However, each mouthful had such a burst of flavour and the meal was very refreshing. The ambiance was also fantastic. Quite aside from the fact that we’re family, Talulah feels like a stylish yet casual family home with appealing paintings throughout and fresh, modern decor. It’s a fun place to be and I could feel the stresses of life fall away, although I was also rather conscious of a growing list of “absent friends”. You can read a review Here

Before I move on from Talulah, I just wanted to share about our navigation difficulties, which you could say are something of a feature of our marriage. Geoff drives the car. I navigate. Unfortunately, this division of labour is driven by necessity, not ability and I have no shame in admitting that I could get lost in our own driveway. However, when it comes to navigating our way through Newcastle, I’m back being a kid in the back seat of the Holden and Dad’s driving through the streets without a map saying he only needs to go somewhere once and he can find his way back again. Of course, this boast was filled with bravado and a bit of cheek, but it was true. Moreover, it did sting a bit as I couldn’t direct Geoff to Talulah using Google maps even though I’d been there three times before. Geoff turned down Darby Street and from there, we zigzagged back and forth desperately hoping to see a spark of familiarity but seemingly driving deeper and deeper into the maze. Both of us were getting frustrated and it came very close to simply driving home, but we persevered. Quite frankly, I don’t understand why they don’t have signs set up specially for my visit…”Rowena turn here!” It would’ve made it so much easier.

In terms of blogging, I posted two more family history stories. Firstly, there was Fire in North Sydney…Grandma & the Mosman Bomber. The next one focused on my difficulties to finding my 3rd Great Grandmother, Maria Bridget Flanagan’s, name of birth: Digging Up More Family Bones. I’m hoping that by posting this info in my blog, that I might flush out the answers.

Getting these stories written up, is feeling great. I’m gaining more confidence in my ability to weigh up quite a mass of data, and actually get a story onto the page. As far as I’m aware, the data is well researched and documented, which is just as important in my mind as a good story.

Lastly, I wrote a story revolving around food for this week’s contribution to Friday fictioneers: Madame Cuisinier.

Well, I’m sorry for talking at you for so long. Clearly, there’s been a lot on and all the chatter in my head has spewed onto the screen. Thank you for listening and being there for me tonight. It’s much appreciated and I look forward to popping round to catch up on your week.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share August 20, 2016.

If we were having coffee today, I’d throw you a cushion and invite you to join me on the couch for some home made banana muffins. I almost didn’t mention the home made bit. Or, that I made them from scratch. After all, that goes without saying. I don’t know how to make banana cake without real bananas, and I don’t want to find out.

How has your week been? I hope you’ve had a good one.

Have you been watching the Olympics? I’ve been winning heaps of Gold Medals from the couch. Don’t you love it? After starting at the top of the medal tally, Australia is now 8th…not bad given our smaller population. Obviously, my use of the remote has made all the difference!

DSC_2859b

Glebe Street, The Junction, Newcastle.

The highlight this week was driving my daughter to her violin rehearsal in Newcastle. It was held at The Junction Public School, which is in an older boutique part of town and is absolutely delightful. I love the quaintly painted timber cottages with their picket fences and frangipani  trees, which are currently naked and undressed. I’d love to come back and see them in full bloom. They’d be stunning. Not that they weren’t photogenic as they are.

DSC_2858

Talulah Bar, The Junction, Newcastle.

With three hours up my sleeve, I parked myself at Talulah Bar, a fabulous Cafe/restaurant/writer’s retreat.  After feeling  lost in Newcastle driving into Newcastle, I felt I’d  found myself here. Before your mind start wondering and you’re picturing me downing cocktails at 10.00 am, I was strictly on the caffeine and nothing else. In fact, I didn’t even think of alcohol. I’d had enough trouble finding my way around Newcastle sober and I definitely don’t drink and drive. Nothing like a rustic cafe to pull out your writer’s notebook and feel inspired. I was particularly inspired by an antique piano in the corner which had those old brass candle sticks stick onto the front. It seemed strangely haunting and I started writing a short story. I might have to turn it into a piece of flash fiction so I can get something finished and come back to it later. Anyway, I ordered sweet potato falafel for lunch, which was a fabulous twist on an old fave and that 3 hours flew by and I was needing to get back to the school without dessert…damn!

On the way home, we went on what proved to be a huge detour via the Bloch’s Dance shop in Charlestown, on the Sydney side of Newcastle. Again, we got thoroughly lost but found it eventually and I managed to try on my beautiful pink satin ballet slippers, matching pink tights and dance leggings…all but a leotard. Definitely no leotards! I was in seventh heaven, even though I wondered whether I was too “mature” for all of this. I didn’t care. If I was going to do ballet properly, I needed those pink satin shoes. They had to be satin. You can read more about it here.

Speaking of ballet shoes, I suspect these could be my mid-life crisis vehicles and in my defense, a pair of pink satin ballet shoes is much cheaper than a new red Porsche!

DSC_2842

Thursday night, I had my second adult ballet class and headed off wearing my new shoes, stockings and black leggings. I think I’d probably look like a basketballer next to a real dancer but I didn’t care. My shoes were a hit, although my ballet teacher showed me how to do up my ribbons properly at the end. I should’ve known you don’t have huge pink bows out the front, looking very much like clown feet on an adult. Rather, you tie them in an elegant knot on the side of your foot and tuck the ends in. So, I guess next week, I’ll at least look like a real ballet dancer. Or, will have the shoes done up properly. You can’t become a ballerina overnight, even with those years of ballet as a child.

Margot Fonteyne

Dame Margot Fonteyn…what dreams are made of!

In between what felt like driving somewhere over the rainbow this week, I also finished reading a great book…Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies. Have you heard of her? She’s an Australian author. This book is about a murder at a school function. Right from the start, we know there’s been a murder but we don’t know who is murdered or who done it. So instead of the story starting off with a body, we’re drawn into a tangled social web and we know all the players and I certainly knew these people. By the way, I should mention that she even had a “Rowena” on the P & C (Parents and Citizens)…just like me. that intrigued me as there are very few Rowena’s around and it’s very much MY name. Thief!

DSC_2417

The final countdown is on for my daughter’s performance at Sydney Opera House on Monday night. She’s playing in a huge multi-school string ensemble with her school. Even though she’ll be a speck in the crowd, for us, she’s a star and might as well be playing solo. She has essentially picked up the violin this year and they’re playing at about a grade 1-2 level and so I’m really proud of her and myself. I drive her up to her lesson every week and as most parents testify, their kids don’t practice with a bit of “encouragement”. It might not be the Olympics but it’s a huge effort.

To that effort, I’d just like to point out that while she might be swanning off to the Opera House, you wouldn’t believe the organisation involved in getting her to the Opera House with the school and then get my son, husband and parents organised. I have a disabled parking permit so we can get free parking at the Opera House, which is great. I also have a companion card and I requested disabled seating and the only spot they had left was a wheelchair spot so they’re providing me with a wheelchair. This all feels a bit fake but I wasn’t doing so well when I booked the tickets and what with crowds and stairs to contend with, I chose to play it safe. I’ve also had to sew up the hem on her skirt, which was a bit tough with my bad eyesight. That’s what it means to be a real stage Mum.

Hope you’ve had a good week and I look forward to hearing from you!

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster. You can click the Linky  to read the other posts.

xx Rowena

 

 

Lost & Found in Newcastle.

On Monday, I had the joy of being lost and found in Newcastle, finding out what it’s like to go off the grid and follow my senses. See where they’d take me.

Have you tried this yourself lately?

Letting yourself go, casting your goals, focus, and planning all to the wind and seeing what happens? Rather than planning your life down to the millisecond, shifting gears and exploring the spaces in between the lines and finding out where you end up?

As much as we might ignore the space in between the lines, the gaps between numbers and words, they’re there for a reason. After all, without these spaces, nothing makes sense. So, you could say that space is just as important as the words and all the stuff we cram into each day.

While you probably feel “too busy” to go off the grid, maybe you’re too busy not to. Perhaps, it’s long past time to stop the clock! Not unsurprisingly, if you’re living for work, you can end up struggling to live.Yet, what does it take for us to change?

Personally, driving Mum’s Taxi often takes me off the grid, launching me into all sorts of adventures. Adventures more along the lines of catastrophe, drama, and nail-biting stress as I get lost, run late and also have to round up recalcitrant kids. I’ve definitely had easier jobs…including brain surgery but I was the patient, not the surgeon.

However, taxi driving has its rewards.

On Monday, taxi duties took me up Newcastle. My daughter had a 3 hour rehearsal at The Junction Public School, which left me free to explore. Although I have friends and family in Newcastle, I didn’t get my act together and decided to wing it. Let adventure find me.

Well, after loads of “adventure” trying to find the school, I parked the car and set out on foot. I had directions on how to walk to the beach but spotted a cafe across the road. It was love at first sight. The way you feel when you spot your one true love across a crowded room and know they’re the one, as you share that stolen glance. Yet, at this stage, I didn’t know why. That connection is beyond explanation…almost spiritual. Meant to be.

DSC_2858

Just like those crowded room experiences, my cafe radar has let me down before and I hate paying for food I could’ve cooked better myself at home. I’m particularly fussy about my pet fave, chocolate cake, conducting full length interviews trying to find “the one”. Quite often, I bow out and order something else. I know what I like. There is no compromise! I’m a chocolate cake connoisseur!

So while I was checking out the shops, I decided to ask a local where to go. They confirmed my suspicions and recommended I go to  Talulah, which it turns out, is Mum’s cousin’s restaurant. What a coincidence! I’ve heard about Talulah at family weddings right from conception to birth and now, we were about to meet for the very first time. How exciting!

DSC_2849

The view from my table.

 

Is that what guided my footsteps there? Some sense of family? I don’t know. It’s on a corner block and there’s a soldier standing right out the front, which certainly commands wistful attention. Yet, how did I know from across the road, without even seeing inside, that this place would be so very me? Me… in such a personal way, before I even stepped in?

This happens to me a lot. That sixth sense, and a feeling of being led somewhere by forces unknown. Be that a guardian angel, God, subliminal messaging or plain good business. After all, if you want a restaurant to succeed, you’ve got to get them through the door. Food is secondary.

I walk through a series of cosy outdoor lounges heading out to the bathroom before I find a seat. This is when my camera finger first starts to switch as I spot two vintage ballet pictures on the wall. After my first adult ballet class last week, these stand out like neon signs. As crazy as it sounds, I have to take a photo. It’s like I’ve just walked in and found my own personal secret hanging on the wall and it feels so uncanny. How did they know?

DSC_2842

Dancing in My Dreams.

By the way, if word gets out that I’m taking photos in toilets, I’ll soon be heading off on an entirely different journey off to the psychiatrist! This will make particular sense if you’ve read The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion!  That said, being creative I’d soon slip through that legal loophole and be back out on the streets. Not guilty!

DSC_2851

Anyway, I set up camp with a short story magazine, my notebook and a cappuccino. It’s a gloriously sunny, Winter’s day and I’m captivated by the autumn leaves still falling from the skeletal tree out the front. Deciduous trees can have it rough in parts of Australia better suited to native evergreens. The poor tree’s brain tells it to lose its leaves, yet their thermostat fights back. So instead of naked tree skeletons during Winter, these poor confused trees are still losing leaves in Spring.

DSC_2845

The Piano

That’s when I noticed the old piano sitting in the corner. We have an old piano at home, which I’m finding out is something of a museum piece. These days, you can’t even give an old piano away. This piano is even older than ours with brass candle sticks on the front and ornate detailing in the wood. While it feels like murder and an act of cruel betrayal, I’m getting to the point where we’ll be sending our piano to the tip. Throwing out even a mediocre piano, feels like murder. I come from a family of pianists where pianos were precious. Yet, I’m almost as fussy about pianos as I am about chocolate cake. It needs to make way for the new.

DSC_2847

Anyway, this piano starts speaking to me and I’m writing a macabre short story about a piano left outside beside the road. The candles are flickering on and off in the morning mists. A crow lands on the candle stick, turning it into a perch and it goes on from there.

I don’t usually write fiction so I was pretty stoked and thought this cafe made the perfect writer’s den…very inspiring!

DSC_2855

Being so engrossed in the piano, falling leaves and the soldier, time was slipping away. I was waiting for the lunch menu to start but before I knew it, I was needing to rush and only had time for a main, missing out on my much wanted dessert. I ordered sweet potato falafel with salad. I love falafel and sweet potato and was interested to try this twist on a familiar dish. It was great and also came with a salad I really liked.

By the way, I apologise if you were wanting a more detailed interpretation of the meal. I always struggle with that. Writing about food is incredibly difficult without sounding like a wanker (excuse the French) and I’m better at describing how it made me feel, than the taste. All I’ll say is that this complex mix of beautiful flavours more than exceeded my expectations and I’d love to take the chef/cook home. I’d graciously resign.

By the way, I’d even let them drive Mum’s Taxi. Aren’t I nice?!!

Meanwhile, I’d exit stage left and put my feet up. Putting your feet up can be incredibly difficult but someone’s got to do it.

It might as well be me!

Have you been to Newcastle and have any favourite spots? Or, have you discovered any fascinating nooks and crannies lately? I’d love to hear your tales!

Meanwhile, it’s time for me to pick up my daughter and head home. You can read about my efforts navigating through Newcastle here: Driving To Newcastle: Mum’s Taxi Seeks Gold.

xx Rowena

Telulah is located at 52 Glebe Road,The Junction, Newcastle (corner of Kenrick Street and Glebe Road).

Driving to Newcastle …Mum’s Taxi Seeks Gold!

Shame I didn’t have the meter running yesterday. Mum’s Taxi clocked up some serious K’s (kilometers) driving to Newcastle for my daughter’s violin rehearsal, especially returning via the “scenic” route. However, being only ten years old, of course, she couldn’t pay the fare.Perhaps, she could find me a gold medal? I certainly deserved it!

Milly Violin

Before I delve into our travels, I should clarify that I was driving to Newcastle, Australia and NOT Newcastle in the UK… or anywhere else for that matter. Although I can get catastrophically lost, the last time I checked, the car can’t fly or swim. So, no matter how badly we got lost, we were still confined to the Australian continent! Phew! That’s a relief. Wandering into another country can get dangerous, and I’d hate to cause an international incident in addition to the usual road rage.

Newcastle is 168km North of the Sydney CBD and 110 KM up the freeway from home. As we have family in Newcastle, I’ve been up there quite a few times, but usually as a passenger. We were actually on the outskirts of Newcastle on the weekend, but that didn’t prepare me for finding yesterday’s rehearsal at The Junction, near Newcastle’s CBD.

All went well until we took the Newcastle turn off from the freeway and we pulled over at a servo (petrol station) to consult the map. My daughter had been on her iPad so far, which of course, does nothing to hone your map reading or navigational skills. I wrote out a list of streets for her to find and walked her through the route on the map. For some reason, I’d assumed she’d inherited her father’s sensational spatial skills and not my Blindis Mappis, or map blindness.

Big mistake. We’re driving along in very unfamiliar territory when she tells me she can’t read maps. That she couldn’t find where we were, where we were going or the all important Crudace Street where we need to turn right.

Meanwhile, I was peering through the windscreen trying to read street signs needing a magnifying glass. Of course, I only picked up the street names too late. Don’t you hate that?!

U-turn-permitted-cropped

Mind you, that’s why the U-Turn was invented. Indeed, my husband’s done quite a few U-turns over the years thanks to my navigation and I’m not mentioning a certain trip to Canberra, which nearly ended in divorce!

But, as I’m sure you can appreciate, the U-turn is a last resort. Missing your street can be incredibly stressful, especially when you’re on a main road. Moreover, although the sign should have been bigger, a miss always feels like a personal fail…a mistake. Nobody likes making mistakes, even when you’re used to it.

Abandoning the map, I get my daughter reading street signs. We never found Crudace Street but instead, she’s calling out names of streets further down our list. I don’t know what’s going on but Newcastle’s on the coast and we’re running out of road. Surely, we’re not going to drive into the sea looking for this !@#$% street??!!! Suddenly, I see our destination, Union Street, out the window. It wasn’t the route we’d planned, but we’re there.

I don’t know whether I was being too hard on Newcastle’s signage. However, despite The Junction’s popularity, I was surprised not to see one sign for the place. Isn’t that strange? Or, with my fixation on street signs, I might have missed them. Quite aside from the usual street signs and directions, I’d also been expecting a bit of a welcome. Wasn’t Newcastle expecting us? Hadn’t the Mayor stuck up a few extra signs for us, preferably in neon…such as: “Ro, turn here!..Left…right etc”

Apparently NOT!

Not unsurprisingly, as soon as we pulled up outside the school, I parked the car and wasn’t driving anywhere. I had 3 hours up my sleeve and set out to find a cafe on foot where I could write, read and chill out without getting lost.

DSC_2858

Hello Talulah. You wouldn’t believe I’d stumbled into Mum’s cousin’s restaurant. Unfortunately, he wasn’t there. Had lunch and wrote a short story and arrived back at the school in time to hear a full run through of their concert repertoire. It sounded heavenly en masse and I can’t wait…Sydney Opera House here we come! Thank goodness we know where that is! No navigation required.

Now that we’re back in the car, I can hear you pleading with me to drive straight home. Get out of there before we’re in a major accident, as our drive-by-feel tour of Newcastle continues. In that case, driving home would have been a no brainer. I just had to turn the car around, and drive out the way we came in. Simple Simon…even I could do that!

Except…(and as we know if there wasn’t an except, there wouldn’t be a story. I don’t need to write fiction to come up with plenty of complications!)

I wanted to buy myself a pair of ballet shoes and there was a Bloch’s store conveniently located in nearby Charlestown. We don’t have a local dance shop. So, you could say “it seemed like a good idea at the time”. However, this little excursion meant that we weren’t going back the way we came and trouble was looming. Just how lost could we get in one day?

You’d be surprised!

Spotting a huge Westfield Shoppingtown out the window, I didn’t even question whether we were at the right place and was very unimpressed to find out we were in the wrong suburb and Charlestown was still out there somewhere…lost.

Or, was it us?

By this stage, I was starting to wonder whether the ballet shoes were worth it. Somehow, I’d managed to live 36 years without a pair of ballet shoes. Yet, suddenly I had to get these shoes. There was such an urgency, a determination. I yearned to have my daughter with me when I bought them so we could do it together…the same way my mother came with me to try on my wedding dress. I wanted Miss to see me slip my huge clodhoppers into those dainty pink ballet shoes, pointing my toes and dancing away. Forget that I haven’t done ballet in 36 years. I had changed.

Charlestown Square

Finally found Charlestown Square shopping Centre.

Finally, we found Charlestown. Found Bloch’s and bought my shoes, satin ribbons, pink tights and some black dance pants. I was a real dancer and it was time to drive home.

Oh! If only I could slip into those same precious ballet shoes and tap my heels together saying: “there’s no place like home” and suddenly find us parked in the driveway at home.

Alas, no such luck! More caffeine required!

Worse still, we were on the slow road home, via the scenic route…the Old Pacific Highway. What with driving through 60kph zones, stop-start traffic lights and peak hour crawls, an hour’s journey stretched into two without even stopping to photograph the sunset over Lake Macquarie.

After all of this, I almost fell through the front door when we arrived home…a marathon driver falling over the finish line, dry retching and completely spent. While nobody would expect a marathoner to cook dinner straight away, I could forget that! Should’ve ordered takeaway. What with all these medals in Rio, surely they could spare a weenie gold medal for me?

I deserve it.

However, unfortunately driving Mum’s Taxi hasn’t become an Olympic sport.

Meanwhile, thanks to my daughter’s teacher, I at least had a thank you box of chocolates.

It was great to be appreciated!

Do you have any good getting lost stories? Of course, getting lost is an important part of travel and so many travel stories simply wouldn’t exist if we directly went from A to B!

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Local Earthquake

Yesterday, we experienced a 4.0 magnitude earthquake about 100km off the coast. This was obviously a mild earthquake and there have been a few jokes and wise cracks going around town: “Was it good for you?” “I didn’t feel a thing!”

We don’t get many earthquakes around here. Here, in case you weren’t aware, is just North of Sydney, Australia on the NSW Central Coast.

The 1989 the Newcastle earthquake occurred in Newcastle, New South Wales on Thursday, 28 December. The shock measured 5.6 on the Richter magnitude scale and was one of Australia’s most serious natural disasters, killing 13 people and injuring more than 160.

I felt the ground shake during the Newcastle Earthquake and that my mother thought I was thumping across the room at the time. Thanks Mum!

Anyway, today I came across this meme on Facebook an thought it was very apt.

Have you lived through an earthquake at all? Please share your experiences.

xx Rowena