Tag Archives: Palm Beach

The Saint & His Shadow…Bilbo Continued.

Writing about Bilbo yesterday has brought back so many precious memories. While it’s easy to canonize the dead and turn them into a saint, they’re still human. Or, in Bilbo’s case, canine but believing he’s human, and he was always treated as such.

Newton Feet Jan 26 20147

One for all and all for one…our feet at the beach taken January, 2014.

For much of the day, Bilbo could pass for a glorious designer floor rug sunning himself in the backyard or sleeping under my desk. However, he had his triggers like the rest of us and the posty was the most predictable one, along with anyone riding a bicycle or walking past with a dog. As a younger dog, he was also a real villain on the lead and he must’ve thought our local footpath was a racetrack to the beach. I’m most surprised we didn’t become air born. He was also particularly protective of the kids. At least, that’s what I blame for his metamorphosis into a lunging, barking, snarling menace when the school bus pulled up. Indeed, it got to the point where we couldn’t take him. He was vicious. He also wasn’t happy when my friend Clare used to pick up the kids and take them to school, while I was recovering from chemo. She did that for at least a couple of months, and yet his manner never changed. He stuck to his guns.

Bilbo feel the fear

Bilbo wasn’t overly inspired to fight his fears.

It’s hard to understand how such a placid, loving dog could change so much. However, like the rest of us he’d also been traumatised by my severe health battles, and we couldn’t explain things to him. Like us, he also knew he was fighting against an invisible force, and he rounded up his own list of suspects however misguided. He’d spent many nights comforting me, and knew something awful was out there somewhere. However,  I couldn’t tell him that with an auto-immune disease, the enemy was within.

Bilbo Lady Ro kayak

Anyway, looking at the photo of me with Bilbo and Lady in the kayak last night, reminded me of another one of Bilbo’s epic stories. A few years ago, my parents had this idyllic place on the waterfront at Palm Beach. It was on the Pittwater side where it was flat water and very tidal. The bay would fill up and empty like a bath with methodical clockwork which we couldn’t ignore. Indeed, we were very much controlled and directed by the tides, and at their mercy. That was fine because we adapted to the rhythms. At low tide, you could go for a walk and at high tide, you could head out on the kayak or the Laser, the little sailboat the previous owners had left behind.

The very first time we headed out on the kayaks was unforgettable. Not just because we were out on the water. We were some distance from home, when we spotted a Border Collie standing on the shore. At first, we were merely excited to see another Border Collie, as you are when you see another dog that looks like yours. However, as we got closer, it soon became obvious this Border Collie was also watching us. Indeed, he was following us along the bank.

Oh no! Our precious, docile floor rug had decided once again, that the sky was falling. It was the end of the world, and he had to save the day. The only trouble was that being totally averse to getting his paws wet, he couldn’t leap in to save us. He was painfully stuck and doing all he could…barking!

Amelia & Bilbo

By the way, I should also point out that Bilbo had gone to great lengths to get out. He’d shewed through the side gate and gnawed through a paling and he’d also run through quite a few backyards to reach his lookout post.

Oh dear! Geoff was off to the local hardware store to buy tools and carry out repairs. Mum and Dad had only just bought the place and we didn’t want to be known as “The Wreckers”.

Of course, this wasn’t Bilbo’s only tale of mass destruction. I might’ve mentioned this before. However, I was in hospital for about 8 weeks when I was first diagnosed with my auto-immune disease The kids were staying with my parents and Geoff kept working while I was in hospital so he could take time off when I got home. Again, not being able to explain things to the dog caused issues. Indeed, it’s hard enough to explain things to the dog at the best of times, let alone when you don’t know what’s happening yourself!!

Well, like so many of us, Bilbo took matters into his own hands. Or, in this scenario, it was more of a case of chewing and digging his way towards enlightenment. He started digging and chewing through the computer network cabling under the house, which was clearly getting in his way as he dug wombat holes perilously close to the foundations. It appeared that he only stopped when he started on a power cable and might’ve had experienced more than a slight tingle.

Geoff arrived home after work, after driving round to see me in hospital and visiting the kids at Mum and Dad’s (which had become his nightly routine) to find out he had no connectivity. Fortunately, the reason we had such an elaborate home network going back about 12 years ago, is that Geoff is a senior network engineer and back in the day when Novel mattered, he was a Certified Novel Network engineer. However, that didn’t mean he wanted or needed to rebuild our home network even though he could, and Bilbo’s timing couldn’t have been worse. Moreover, Bilbo’s complaints to management had clearly gone much further than the usual puppy antics of chewing shoes and disemboweling the stuffing out of his bed. Let’s just say Geoff wasn’t happy and while he was re-installing the network, he also blocked the said pup out from under the house.

Bilbo Jonathon & Amelia Rabbit Ears

However, to be fair to the dog, he’d gone from having me and the kids at home much of the time where he was with us constantly. He was one of us more than the rest of us could ever be, and was the glue at the heart of our family. To go from that, to suddenly  being alone without rhyme or reason must’ve been a huge shock. So, I don’t blame him for staging a four-legged protest. I wasn’t too happy with the situation either.

Bilbo Rabbit Ears

The strange thing about all of Bilbo’s antics and so many of our own, is that once we’ve worked through the initial response and allowed the dust to settle, we actually find these catastrophes funny. They make us laugh. Indeed, life would be so uneventful without the things which give us nightmares. I’m not sure how he psychology or mechanics of all of this works, but perhaps someone out there can enlighten me.

Wet Bilbo

It didn’t happen overnight, but Bilbo eventually conquered a degree of his fear of the water. I look at it now and think how hard it would have been to swim weighed down by his heavy coat.

Meanwhile,  if you’d like to read about laughter’s capacity to get us through the toughest of times, I encourage you to read this very uplifting though very difficult post from Aimee Foster who lost her baby girl when she was a day old: Why It’s Essential to Find Humor At Your Darkest Hour. 

Bilbo watchin the sun set Palm Beach

Do you have any funny dog stories you would like to share? Or, perhaps you’re more of a cat person. Or, perhaps reading this has reminded you of a cherished person you have lost? I would love to hear from you in the comments. 

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

W – Whale Beach, Australia…A-Z Challenge.

For those of you who’ve ever been to Whale Beach, I can hear you calling loud and clear: “What are you talking about? That’s not Whale Beach!!”

However, today I decided to challenge your sense of the perspective of place. Instead of just viewing Whale Beach from it’s classic postcard perspective with its rocky headlands at each end and the sandy beach in between, we’re tracing snail trails across a rock pool on the Southern headland. I’ve always loved tracing and photographing their curly trails. They’re so creative, and seem to reflect my state of mind. There’s no such thing as a straight line from A to B.

ferry

Palm Beach Ferry

After that brief explanation, I’d like to welcome you back to Places I’ve Been, my theme for the 2020 A-Z Challenge and as you already know, we’re heading off to Whale Beach.

Whale beach Map

A Map of Northern Sydney with Whale Beach top right.

It’s a bit of a complicated trip, and we’ll be catching  the ferry from Ettalong to Palm Beach, which will take us across Broken Bay with stunning views across to Lion Island. From Palm beach we’ll be getting a lift to Whale Beach, which is not the easiest place to reach via public transport. However, that’s also part of its quaint appeal. It has a very relaxed village feel, and doesn’t get the crowds during the Summer peak.  Indeed, many of the dwellings here are weekenders and while these blow-ins might live someone else, they’re largely considered locals, at least among themselves.

Whale Beach

Whale Beach looking North. CC BY-SA 4.0

I know “Whaley” very well. Indeed, it’s been my home. Our family used to have a house on Whale Beach Road, just across from the beach. Well, there was the slight matter of needing to climb up 200 stairs to get back to the house. That could be very challenging. Yet, there was a spot roughly halfway, where you could turn around, pause, and point out the view and distract your friends from your acute shortage of breath. It was often my salvation, not that I was that unfit even back then. Let’s just say there were a lot of stairs and they did go straight up!!

Whale Beach trike

Trike Heading Out To Sea, Whale Beach (looking South). 

My parents bought the place at Whale Beach, while I was still at uni. Unfortunately, I didn’t drive. So, unless I was with friends, I had to catch the dreaded 190 bus from Wynyard Station, which grunted along for at least 90 minutes from point to point, and that doesn’t factor in the steep walk from Surf Road straight over the top of the hill to reach Whale Beach Road. It might not be one of the world’s tallest peaks, it was a pretty decent climb.

Whale Beach Estate 1928

However, since my parents’ sold the house about twenty years ago, we won’t be revisiting the old house, and we’ll be heading straight down Surf Road to the beach. Indeed, I forgot to tell you we have a surfboard on the roof and we could even be driving a Kombi. Not a splitty, because that’s well beyond our price range, and I suspect we’re driivng something rustically unreliable. After all, that’s the less than romantic reality of being a true Kombi owner these days.

 

 

Whale Beach is a surf beach, especially at the Northern end where there’s a cool rip called “The Wedge”. I’m not even going to pretend that I know what that’s about. However, I have photographed quite a few surfers down there over the years. Watched them sitting on their boards bobbing up and down like corks waiting for the wave, while their faithful mutts sit on the beach waiting. At least, that’s how it used to be back in the day. Dogs off the leash are probably incarcerated now. Hey, even the humans are in trouble these days thanks to the coronavirus. A couple of footballers made headlines and were fined for flauting social distancing today. However, even I’m getting itchy feet and I have more incentive than most for staying put, and that doesn’t include sitting on Whale Beach and contemplating life, the universe and everything. Rather, these days have to revamp the walk and talk into some kind of walk and think. Is it possible? I’m not convinced. It’s certainly not easy to walk and write, although I could possibly argue that writing is work and the beach is my office, just as long as I stay away from Bondi!

Whale Beach Feet

Anyway, let’s rewind a little. As I said, my parents owned the house while I was at uni. So, of course, there were parties, usually with a ratio of way too many blokes to girls. There was love and heartbreak, not just for myself but also my friends. There were lonely stretches staying there for weeks at a time all by myself, but resulted in prolific writing and no doubt long hours talking on the phone. However, every night as regular as clockwork, a light switched on at the Southern end of the beach. The light fell right across the breakers and snaked around with the waves. It was absolutely magnificent and a memory which almost defined my soul and brought me such peace. Joy doesn’t need to cost the earth or be high tech.

Whale Beach also became a place of solace. Somewhere we could take friends who were going through tough times, and even combusting with self-inflicted angst. We’d walk along the beach or walk around to Palm Beach. It was a place of gentle, compassionate healing and casting all your cares off the cliffs and out to sea. For many of us, myself included, there was a Christian spiritual aspect to this, but I can’t speak for the rest. People from many walks of life came to the house, and had their own beliefs. It was not not a place of judgement, at least, from my perspective.

Rainbow Lorrikeets

A Pair of Rainbow Lorrikeets Having A Cup of Tea on the Balcony.

Before I head off, I just want to tell you about some extra special visitors to the house. There are the birds, especially the Rainbow Lorrikeets. They’re absolutely beautiful and ever so friendly with their sweet chatter.

Whale Beach is why we live at Umina Beach. It’s Whale Beach on a beer budget.

Have you ever been to Whale Beach? What did you love about it? Mind you, from my point of view, what is there not to love?

Best wishes,

Rowena

Beached Yacht, Ettalong, NSW, Australia.

This afternoon while walking the dogs, we spotted the wreck of a yacht beached upon the sand. Of course, it immediately caught my attention, and I wished I’d brought my camera with me. Wrecks make for great for photography. So, after our walk, I dropped our son and his mate home, and headed back with the camera and Geoff. We’ve been living here for over 15 years, and this is only the first yacht wreck I can recall. Initially, I didn’t know how long it had been out there. The entire hull was missing, while the mainsail was still tied around the mast and our son, (AKA Popeye Junior) noticed the pump was still in situ. Seems that wasn’t enough to save it’s life, or perhaps there was no one on board to perform CPR when tragedy struck.

I don’t know much about yachts, but this one looked a little on the mature side and, as I said, the hull was missing. Indeed whatever had happened to it, it was clearly an “insurance job”, although my husband joked to other walkers that it would be a “challenging restoration project”. As a car enthusiast, my husband has a few of these in our backyard.

Of course, the questions were mounting. Where did it come from? How did it get there? As boat owners ourselves, I naturally felt sorry for whoever owned it. While it wasn’t the latest and greatest, the little blue yacht could well have been someone’s pride and joy. Equally, it could well be like most of the boats out there on their moorings. I might onlyly get out once a year, and spend most of it’s time entertaining the sea gulls.

It was right on dusk when we turned up, and there was the usual scattering of dog and power walkers moving a long the beach and adjacent promenade. Many stopped and paid their respects to the poor little yacht, taking photos and also wondering what had happened. There was a night of strong wind and rain two days ago, which could’ve washed it up , but where did it come from? Where is home?

Eventually, we spoke to some walkers who’d seen it out sailing on the weekend. They’d also been there earlier in the day and had seen the hull washed up on the sand at low tide. However, the tide had come in since then and reclaimed it and as the tide rushed in, I couldn’t help wondering what if anything would be left of it tomorrow.

I’ll have to pop back and see and keep my ears open. There’s no such thing as private around here, and no doubt words gone round the sailing club…or maybe not.

Has anything mysterious happened near your place lately? Please share in the comments.

xx Rowena

Ettalong Beach is located 86 kms North of Sydney and is a half hour ferry ride from Palm Beach where they film Home & Away. You can see Whale Beach Headland, Palm Beach and Lion Island in the background of the featured image as you scan from left to right.

Map from Ettalong Beach, New South Wales 2257 to Palm Beach, New South Wales 2108

PS I forgot about a possible Home & Away connection for our beached yacht. Do you think Alf sunk the boat and has gone missing? Not sure of any of the other current characters, but Alf has to be immortal by now.

Home & Away

Home & Away

Lugubrious Dark Gully, Sydney.

Yesterday, we levitated out of our post-Christmas slumber to go sailing with my Dad. His yacht is moored at a mysterious location known locally as: “Dark Gully”. Before you start thinking he’s a pirate or smuggler of sorts, Dark Gully is in Palm Beach, a place made famous overseas by the hit drama series: Home & Away.

map-palm-beach

Map of Palm Beach, Sydney. The Left or Western side is Pittwater with still water and the right or Eastern coast has waves.

dsc_5425

Mind you, just because Dark Gully gets its name from being sheltered from the sun, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its mysteries. Top of the list, is a sandstone cave which has a window and a door. Of course, it doesn’t take much imagination to view this mysterious hide-out as an Aladdin’s Cave. A treasure trove overflowing with some kind of stash more interesting than broken boat parts, tangled fishing lines and last year’s empties. Unfortunately, despite extensive surveillance while we were living in the area, I’ve never witnessed even the twitch of a twig outside that place. I swear they come and go by moonlight and yes, the moon is on that side of the hill.

By the way, speaking of not seeing things in the area, the late George Michael lived just over that hill and I didn’t see him coming or going either. Not that I was operating some kind of amateur surveillance or stalking operation down there. As far as I was concerned, the water was always an empty, black ink. Of course, I sort of knew there were flying mullet, stingrays and sharks lurking beneath the depths, but I never saw much action on top of the water. There was just the huge yacht which moored a few metres away from our boat ramp  every Christmas. Humph… there could well have been activity there. However, I was too busy photographing the moon to notice. Yes, that’s right I was stalking sunsets and moon rises with my camera, not celebrities I didn’t know were there.

Next up…sailing at Dark Gully and you can also read about exploring Dark Gully and Palm Beach in this previous post: Exploring Palm Beach…Our Borrowed Backyard.

xx Rowena

Look What I Caught!…Yacht at Sunset Palm Beach, Sydney.

Photography is like fishing.

Sometimes, everything goes your way and it’s like the heavens are twisting and turning, metamorphosing into the most magical images right before your eyes and you just can’t believe your incredible good luck!

Conversely, there are those incredible disappointments when you return home empty handed, hopes dashed against the proverbial rocks.

Of course, this pain is much more intense when you’re traveling and can’t wait, go back or replay. It is what it is.

Or, if you’ve experienced some kind of technical “blip” and screwed up. This is far worse because instead of thinking about what might have been, it was and it was your own stupid ineptitude which killed the moment…just like flushing a tropical fish down the proverbial toilet. You could see and almost taste perfection and then all you had left was the ashes. Ouch! Such pain! Of course, images of Munch’s “The Scream” come to mind here and almost do it justice.

Anyway, today was my lucky day! While we were catching the ferry home, it was like a miracle. The entire sky was lit up with incredibly photogenic sunburnt orange. Indeed, it was so intensely beautiful, that it almost didn’t look real. I mean, you’d have to think the sky had been photoshopped if it wasn’t there right in front of your very own eyes. I took a swag of shots including this slumbering yacht parked at Sydney’s Palm Beach. It was all completely unplanned and pure luck…or perhaps, serendipity.

Needless to say that my trigger finger is suffering from extreme over-use. I just couldn’t stop carpe diem seizing the moment.

Surely, I must’ve died and gone to heaven only now I’m back home and tomorrow will be a very rude shock…

Monday morning!!

Oh! The cruelty of it all!

Think I might just close my eyes and “Play it again, Sam”. After all, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever”! (John Keats)

xx Rowena

The Nikon Bride. Day 2: Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge

There is a fine line between being passionate, enthusiastic and obsessed or even (dare I mention the dreaded word) addicted.

Some would say that taking photos at your own wedding definitely crosses that line and would suggest putting the camera down and focusing on my new husband instead of staring down the lens at whoever it was.

Perhaps, they’re right.

“I’ve been called many names like perfectionist, difficult and obsessive. I think it takes obsession, takes searching for the details for any artist to be good.”

Barbra Streisand

Indeed, close friends did jest that they half-expected me to have a camera concealed in my bouquet. These days that could well be de rigeur but rewinding back to 2001, such  digital technology was very rudimentary . All our photography was done on film.

As crazy as it might appear, you are who you are. Once you become a photographer, professional or otherwise, your camera lens becomes a second set of eyes. A way of viewing the world. So, to go through our special day without viewing it through my lens, would have somehow not been me. I wouldn’t have experienced our wedding in quite the same way.

“What moves those of genius, what inspires their work is not new ideas, but their obsession with the idea that what has already been said is still not enough.”

Eugene Delacroix

By the way, I should also add that I made Geoff stop of at the Palm Beach wharf for more photos well after midnight and the next day, we dressed up in our wedding gear again and took photos at Palm Beach late afternoon. I think we must have flagged down a passer-by to take a joint shot. I’ve never considered how that must have come across. I mean…I’ve never been asked to take a photo by a stray bride and groom like that myself in all my years of lurking around photogenic locations with my camera.

Call me passionate, enthusiastic, obsessed, addicted or all of the above. Yet, even if I’m crazy or even a little dangerous at least, I am unashamedly me.

I was nominated by Geoff Le Pard fromTanGental for the Five Photos Five Stories blog Share: http://geofflepard.com/2015/06/10/five-photos-five-stories-day-two/

I would like to nominate Paula from14 Weeks Worth of Socks  at http://14weeksworthofsocks.com/ . Paula lives in New Zealand and writes a great travel blog with stunning photographs.

The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

I am enjoying thisw challenge and so far it’s taken me on a journey revisiting how my love of photography has unfolded over time, rather than featuring my best or even favourite shots, although the two photos I’ve posted so far are sentimental favourites.

Do you have a passion for photography and how did you get started?

xx Rowena.

Moon Rising…Love and Loss.

Today, marked the end of an era.

Or, should I say, yesterday.

The clock has not long past midnight. No matter how much I try to pause time, it is now officially Wednesday. Tuesday is well and truly done and dusted. It’s been put to bed. Tucked in and even had its goodnight kiss…and a story!

So, what we’re really talking about is yesterday…Tuesday 5th May, 2015.

Yesterday, my parents sold their place at Palm Beach and our home away from home has gone.

Of course, we can still visit Palm Beach and it is only a 30 minute ferry trip away but it won’t be the same. I certainly felt I belonged there. That somehow I’d absorbed, even inhaled, that magnificent view across Pittwater, especially at sunset when the rose-orange lights swept across the water. That the outside had moved inside, becoming a part of myself.You know how it is when everything around you takes on a sort of spiritual significance and what you see, feel, hear, touch and small somehow get etched into your soul? It doesn’t happen every day.

Therefore, not unsurprisingly, I feel like I have left such a huge part of myself behind. That I am now some modern reincarnation of Keat’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci whose been relocated to the beach, where I’m left roaming along the mudflats with the soldier crabs.

After all, it’s hard when you’ve put down roots. When you pull them out of the ground to move on, you can’t but leave bits of you behind, which you can never get back. They’re tied to the soil, buried and have become a part of that place.

Once upon a time, I would have been totally and utterly devastated. Sunk into a full-blown catastrophe and threatened to lock myself in my room for eternity. Indulging and indeed fuelling my angst, by playing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and reading Keats. He was quite a jolly fellow after all, wasn’t he?!!

Although I’ve matured a little, I have been locked in a fierce debate with myself. I know that I should be grateful for the time we had there. Two years in Palm Beach, albeit part-time, is an absolute dream come true but it’s awakened something in my soul, which doesn’t want to be extinguished. It’s fighting like mad to survive and yet I just don’t understand what it is. Emotions never talk in neon signs and the views of the heart are often cryptic and difficult to interpret at best!!

I hoping I can still hold onto this and somehow take it forward.

However, this closure has reminded me of that age-old question: Is it better to have loved and lost that never to have loved at all? Is it better to stay safe or to have a taste of heaven and then have it suddenly snatch away?

It’s such a wrench…especially when you have lost someone you love more than life itself and for whatever reason, there is no return.

My approach has always been to move on. Find someone else. Take what you enjoyed about this place and enjoy it where you are. We actually live ten minutes walk to a glorious beach and we’ve brought the kayaks and Laser back home so we can still do our water sports. That said, I’ll really miss the friends I have made over there and what it meant for me to have an escape hatch. Moreover, we all know that the rebound often just compounds the hurt!

Geoff and Miss watching the moon rise.

Geoff and Miss watching the moon rise.

Tonight, it was a glorious full moon. We’d dropped Mister off for his Scout hike and stopped in at the lookout to turn around and chanced upon this…the moon rising over the Central Coast, just North of Sydney. I’d never thought of the rising moon as being symbolic of hope and new birth before but that was it’s message tonight. It reassured me that everything is going to be okay. It’s not the end of the world. You’re not going to die.

Indeed, being a bit philosophical about this difficult change, I am aware that by spending so much time in one place, we’ve actually narrowed our horizons quite significantly. Instead of looking out and seeing the world, we’ve been swimming round and round inside a very small pond. Although we still haven’t explored every nook and cranny, the rest of the world awaits. Indeed, there is even so much to explore right at home, which has been simply overlooked. There are also so many other places and I’ve never seen myself as a John Howard-like character. Our former Prime Minister has been spending his annual holidays at Hawk’s Nest ever since the Big Bang. As much as I love the comfort of the familiar and being a quasi local, I’ve always seen myself as more of an explorer.

And so I have quite mixed feelings as one chapter closes and another begins. It’s time to carpe diem seize the day, instead of being afraid.

Bring it on…but please give me a little head start. I’d like to be prepared!
How have you dealt with difficult transitions in your life? Please share
.

xx Rowena