Tag Archives: Pittwater

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 Morning After…a Walk Along the Beach.

“You see but your shadow when you turn your back to the sun.

Kahlil Gibran, Sand and Foam

Last night, as we watched the full moon rise over a sprawling landscape of twinkling lights, I felt such a mixture of hope and dread, like you do when, for whatever reason, you become intensely conscious transience. As much as you desperately try to hold onto the known, the familiar, the beloved; you know your efforts are futile. Change is in the wind and you’re losing your grip. Like that mysterious world at the top of Enid Blyton’s: The Magic Faraway Tree, you don’t know what’s coming next. Whether it’s better or worse, or just different. All you know is that you can’t turn back. That door is shut. Indeed, it’s so firmly shut it’s like that world never even existed and has escaped to the realms of dreams, legend…fantasy even.

I AM FOREVER walking upon these shores,
Betwixt the sand and the foam,
The high tide will erase my foot-prints,
And the wind will blow away the foam.
But the sea and the shore will remain
Forever.

Kahlil Gibran, Sand & Foam

Even though I’ve conquered many hurdles, especially in relation to my health, I’m definitely no Captain Courageous. Oh no! I can withdraw inside my cocoon just as much as the next person but I’m also starting to figure out what works for me and that if I don’t want to wallow in the mud, there are things I can do to lift myself out.

When you lose something precious, it is all too easy to forget what you still have. What is left. It’s understandable that I’m upset about losing our escape hatch at Palm Beach but we actually live 700 metres away from the beach, an absolutely smashing beach. Umina Beach fronts onto Broken Bay, just North of Sydney and has a postcard view of Lion Island, Pittwater and across to Palm Beach. Indeed, I can even wave to the Palm Beach Lighthouse and I swear that sometimes it even waves back.

Walking, I find, is also very good for clearing out the soul and after several weeks of rain, the sun returned yesterday and gave another encore performance today. Knowing that Winter is just around the corner, I’m grabbing these sunny days with both feet and getting out to the beach…carpe diem: seize the day!

Wally the Wandering Wombat and Ernie at the beach. But where's Bert?

Wally the Wandering Wombat and Ernie at the beach. But where’s Bert?

So after school drop off this morning, I went down to Umina Beach not only for a walk but to do a photo shoot.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been involved in a project to promote awareness of my auto-immune disease which involves photographing Wally the Wombat whose wanderings from the UK and around Australia are being well-documented. Dermatomyositis can affect children as well so I headed off to the beach to photograph Wally with Ernie from Sesame Street.

Memorial to the lives lost in the Christchurch Earthquake. On the 3rd anniversary of the earthquake, a single red carnation on each chair in remembrance of all those who died. Photo: Joyce Majendie

Memorial to the lives lost in the Christchurch Earthquake. On the 3rd anniversary of the earthquake, a single red carnation on each chair in remembrance of all those who died. Photo: Joyce Majendie

I also took along a cane chair.

I am currently putting together a farewell to Palm Beach series based on the image of the empty chair. The empty chair has been used to symbolise loss and grief in various works and Geoff Le Pard reminded me of that when he told me about a memorial to the victims of the Christchurch earthquakes called 185 Empty White Chairs with a chair to represent each person who died in the quake. I Googled it and was quite moved by the memorial and loved how they’ve used such an eclectic array of chairs, including a wheelchair, which have all been painted white. It was very evocative.

Vincent Van Gogh:

Vincent Van Gogh: “Van Gogh’s Chair 1888”

So here’s to new beginnings…I think! That and being thankful for all that we do have, even at timesof loss and transition when it’s so easy to forget.

xx Rowena

Umina Beach looking across to Lion Island and Palm Beach.

Umina Beach looking across to Lion Island and Palm Beach.

Chair and foam

Chair and foam

The tide shows no respect for what's been left upon the shore.

The tide shows no respect for what’s been left upon the shore.

Palm Beach Perspectives, Sydney, Australia.

Everything we hear is an opinion, not a fact. Everything we see is a perspective, not the truth.

-Marcus Aurelius, Roman Emperor (161-180 CE)

Known as Summer Bay to lovers of the TV Drama series Home & Away and “Palmy” to those in the know, generation after generation have made the long drive up to Palm Beach often returning with sand-encrusted butts, sunburn and shocking tempers in a stinking hot car full of flies. Of course, that’s turning the clock back to the inimitable 70s when going to Palm Beach for us, meant piling into the family’s beloved HG Holden which had painfully hot upholstery and no air-conditioning. Ouch!

Palm Beach is located 41 kilometres North of Sydney’s CBD. However, I can assure you that if you’re catching the legendary L90 bus, welcome to eternity. Indeed, the journey takes around 2 hours. If you were traveling in Europe, you could well have traversed a few countries in that time. Moreover, bus is the only form of public transport. At least historically speaking, trains have been resisted.

On the other hand, if you are coming from the Central Coast, Palm Beach is only a stone’s throw away. You can catch the Palm Beach Ferry from either Ettalong or Wagstaff, which is an absolutely stunning 30 minute trip. When that gorgeous Australian sun is illuminating the ocean like a magical diamond carpet and the wind isn’t too strong, you’re in absolute paradise. On the other hand, when there’s heavy rain, strong winds, the ferry is heaving up and down through what feels like treacherous surf and you’re about to throw up; you feel like you deserve a bravery award once you reach the other side. Yes, at times like that, you even wonder if you’re about to become a modern version of the Swiss Family Robinson or remake Gilligan’s Island. Melodrama aside, the crew are very adept and the ferry is cancelled during particularly rough weather.

Palm Beach is an absolute kaleidoscope of perspectives, like any place, once you scratch beneath the surface. Obviously, creating that sort of mosaic, isn’t possible here so I’ll stick to the bigger picture, providing more of a broad-sweeping overview which a few “local” insights.

Geographically-speaking, Palm Beach has two quite opposite perspectives: the surf beach and Pittwater. The beach equals waves and swimming while Pittwater is “flat” and better suited for sailing, kayaking and other water sports.

Palm Beach- surf side

Palm Beach- surf side

Starting off with the surf beach, the first thing you’ll probably notice is that the sand is deep gold in colour. The next thing, is the surf. At the Southern end, the waves are relatively gentle and you have “kiddies’ corner”  where families with young kids hang out. There’s also an ocean pool where you can swim laps. The beach then stretches around towards the Northern end with it’s famous surfing breaks and culminates with the Palm Beach Lighthouse, which lies perched on top of the headland like a crown. If you are fit and energetic, you can walk up to the Lighthouse. I haven’t been up there for years and I’ve heard the path has improved but it used to be more of a climb than a walk.

The majority of swimmers are clustered “in between the flags”. The red and yellow flags mark where it’s safest to swim and is patrolled by the Surf Lifesavers. So, if you find yourself getting into difficulty, you can easily be spotted and rescued. I can assure you that as a teenager, my friends and I did consider needing a bit of CPR but never actually implemented these plans. We were all “talk”. That is, except when it came to talking to the lifesavers. These Adonises were in a league all of their own.

In a scene reminiscent of hundreds and thousands sprinkled on top of bread and butter (fairy bread),the crowds pour into Palmy from Christmas through to the Australia Day weekend at the end of January, which signals the return to school and the end of the precious Summer holidays. Then, the masses jostle for a precious rectangle of sand to park their towel on the hot,hot sand under the scorchingly hot Australian sun.

Although people living overseas have asked me about the hole in the ozone over Australia, it doesn’t look like all the sunbakers roasting themselves into early-onset melanoma have heard anything about it. When we were young, we used to to cover ourselves in baby oil or get sprayed on the beach by coconut oil, which was the height of sophistication back in the 70s and 80s. There was no such thing as a “fake tan” back then. Just sunburn, peeling skin, freckles and the odd genetic mutant who could actually pull off a tan.

Many years ago now, I used to hang out on the beach where designer sunnies were de rigeur and it certainly wasn’t the sort of place you’d turn up with hairy legs and arm pits which could fuel a forest fire. You didn’t just practice “the strut” at Palmy either. You had to have that down pat beforehand so Palm Beach could be your catwalk. Even better, if you also had the fingernails to eliminate your competition!

Geoff arriving home from a sail.

Geoff arriving home from a sail.

While the beachfront is renowned for flashing incredible wealth in a subtle, understated way and very much being “a scene”, the Pittwater side of Palm Beach is like it’s alter ego and incredibly down to earth  Understandably, there generally isn’t that fashion element you get over at the surf beach. Getting covered in sand and mud, we save our good clothes for back home or dining out and only wear our glad rags out there. It’s water shoes, wet suits, swimmers, grungy t-shirts and thick smears of sunscreen and broad-brimmed hats.

Although my tour of Palm Beach is rapidly drawing to a close, there are still two places I’d like you to visit.

Here I am enjoying a deep-fried prawn from the Fisherman's Basket.

Here I am enjoying a deep-fried prawn from the Fisherman’s Basket.

Firstly, there’s the infamous Palm Beach fish and chips shop, which has gone by various names over the years. It’s located on the Pittwater side, just across from the ferry wharf. People come from all around Sydney and the Central Coast to feast on these fish and chips, which surely must be among Sydney’s best?!! You can either eat-in or take them across the road and eat them in the park while checking out the sailing.

Secondly, there’s Alf’s Bait Shop in “Summer Bay”. Personally, there’s such an incredible cringe factor and like Neighbours, Home & Away is best exported but the show has been a fabulous ambassador and no doubt sold Australia to thousands of tourists. Palm Beach really does look incredible. That said, they usually present a glamorized, postcard perspective. After all, it does rain in Palm Beach and it isn’t always sun and blue skies!

However, while so far I’ve given you what pretty much reads as the glamour tour of Palm Beach, I can’t help feeling that Palm Beach is a little over-rated, especially given the cost of real estate. Even though it is part of Sydney, Palm Beach is actually very isolated and lacks most of what I would class “essential services”. There are no proper supermarkets and you have a ten minute drive into Avalon, which can extend to 20 in traffic. It is impossible to find a parking spot, which has meant that we’ve gone down for fish and chips and have driven off. I don’t want to knock down paradise and put up a parking lot. However, you do need to eat and get out of the house. That is also made difficult by the very narrow, twisting roads which lack adequate footpaths/ Indeed, in spots being a pedestrian is almost asking to get run over. As I was walking back from the bus stop the other day, I really felt like I needed to breathe in to distance myself from passing traffic.

Consequently, you can feel a little trapped and claustrophobic on the “insular peninsula”…especially when we have stunning beaches back home which are close to the shops, train and bus at such a fraction of the cost of real estate here.

Actually, thinking about Palm Beach’s location, it’s almost like someone was playing pin-the-tail on the donkey and stuck the pin almost off the side of the map. Even though it’s located in Sydney and not in the outback, it does feel strangely isolated both from services and people. So many of the houses are empty.

I am a bit down on Palm Beach at the moment because my Dad has sold the house here and we’re moving on, which is a serious wrench.

So rather than writing home about all the things I love about the place, I am also trying to remind myself of all the other equally beautiful places elsewhere and think about the flip side of the travel experience. For the last few years, we’ve immersed ourselves here but perhaps now it’s time to explore further afield and explore with a broader brush. When it comes to the Pittwater side of Palm Beach,it feels like we’ve explored each and every single hair on its head…especially when I’ve photographed it in such incredibly, minute detail and it feels like I know each single hair on its head, even though we’re still finding new critters.

So, soon I will be seeing our time in Palm Beach from another perspective…the past. I don’t need to leave it behind completely. After all, it’s only a short 30 minute ferry ride away but we planted roots here even if they’re uprooted and not severed completely, it still hurts and I feel a bit lost and disorientated. That said, once school goes back next week and we’re back to the grind at home, it will be a different story.

We’ll be home.

This has been P for Palm Beach Perspectives for the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge. How are you going with the challenge? Thank goodness, it is Sunday tomorrow and we have a break!

xx Rowena

Autumn Leaf, Pittwater, Palm Beach, Sydney.

You don’t expect to see autumn leaves on a sunny Sydney beach.

Then again, you don’t expect autumn either…just perennial blue skies!

However, while out walking the dogs today, I found a smattering of autumn leaves along the sand, looking rather out of place…at least to me! Yet, they were so beautiful.

I wonder where their journey will take them as they’re pick up by the ocean currents and taken to other worlds!

Even though I’ve already posted Life Lessons as my L for the A-Z Challenge, I though I might just sneak in L for leaf.

xx Rowena

PS: This post received a shout out over in Spain…how exciting! Check it out here: http://howtofeellikecatalan.com/autumn-is-here/

Kayaking with Two Dogs

There’s a good reason why I’ve never seen anybody else kayaking with two dogs on board. It’s absolute madness.

Welcome to another sunny day in Sydney’s gorgeous Palm Beach. Just to fill you in a bit, it’s now autumn and the air is starting to chill. The ocean water temperature isn’t too bad and you can still wade through the water in comfort. That said, we’ve turned up the solar heating on the pool and are praying for summer’s artificial return.

After both kids had declined to join me, Geoff helped both of the dogs onboard and we were off: Lady in the front and heavy Bilbo in the middle facing me with his claws all but wedged into the kayak. If you haven’t followed Bilbo’s adventures before, let me just say that he’s NOT into adventure and his bucket list only includes walks on dry land where he doesn’t get his paws wet. Lady is considerably more adventurous and will swim and has also taken “liberties” as the hunt for local rabbits continues. In case you’re thinking rabbit hunting is a local “sport” Lady was originally from a farm and chanced across a dead rabbit while we were staying at Palm Beach, which is much better known for it’s fish and chips and fasionistas. She still hasn’t forgotten and her desperate quest for more rabbits continues.

Even if you haven’t been kayaking, I’m sure you’d still appreciate that staying afloat requires a healthy respect for the laws of physics. The most obvious being staying in your seat while you’re out in the water. Keeping the weight evenly balanced would also be a good idea and you certainly don’t need to be Einstein to work out that leaning to one side with your tail in the water, is an invitation to capsize.

Welcome to kayaking with two dogs. Being a Border Collie, Bilbo is supposedly representing the world’s smartest breed. Although 50% Border Collie and 50% Cavalier King Charles Spaniel which comes in at something like number 42 on the list, Lady does seem a little. Humph…Let’s just say that for what she might lack in the brains trust, she certainly makes up for in looks and I’ve never met a dog before who wags their tail with such incredible enthusiasm. She is one very, very happy dog…even though she hasn’t found a second rabbit.

Given this combination, I could at least hope for two dogs who might think before they do something stupid.However, as it turned out, we were challenged right from the start.

Freaking out due to the instability of the kayak and the prospect of heading out to “sea”, Bilbo all but sat on my lap down the back of the kayak while little Lady was down the front. I’m probably not even capable of adding up Bilbo’s and my combined weight and even if I could, I certainly wouldn’t be advertising it here. Let’s just suffice to say, that Bilbo must be close to twice Lady’s weight and to counterbalance my weight as “the human”, he should have been down the front. He wasn’t and if you’ve ever tried to shift a terrified dog whose absolutely petrified of getting his paws wet, you’ll know that he was going nowhere!!

Compounding trouble, Lady doesn’t like to sit at the best of times and being in the front seat beyond my grasp, she could pretty much do whatever she liked. This included standing instead of sitting and even when she was sitting, sitting right on the edge of the kayak with her tail dangling in the water. As you could imagine, this was just asking the kayak to capsize.

Consequently, with Lady hellbent on destabilizing the kayak and Bilbo being so anxious that any instability sent him all but jumping onto my lap, even I was feeling sea sick. With all this commotion, even I was staring longing at home base hoping Geoff wasn’t faraway. Obviously, I didn’t need a crystal ball to know capsizing was more than a just a possibility and I could well be in need of a net.

All those dramas aside, it was a real hoot kayaking with the dogs. There were waves and shouts of admiration from the neighbours and I was pretty chuffed. After all, how often do you see someone kayaking with a dog onboard, let alone two and I really love my dogs. No doubt, there were a few fans taking selfies with us as this incredible spectacle passed by.

That said, it was tricky just trying to move the paddle with Bilbo hovering right over the top of me. I was almost whacking him in the head. Almost whacking him in the head while Lady was either standing up, sitting on the edge and all but disco dancing in the kayak creating waves and definitely poking her pink little tongue out at physics.

Yes, it was definitely time to start meditating and being mindful…ha!

However, the dogs weren’t my only challenge. There was also the tide. We live in a tidal zone so while you can throw around phrases like: “the tide waits for no man”, we know exactly what that’s all about. You have to have enough water to get out and enough water to get back. Get the timing wrong and you’re beached…just like a whale.

Fortunately, we made it back with plenty of time to spare. However, the next day when I was only out with Lady (Bilbo rejected a repeat invitation), I pushed my luck a bit too far and we got beached about 100 metres away from home. After several failed attempts to budge us with the paddle, Lady was thrown overboard and Mister was recruited to save his Mum. Yes, it was time for him to implement all that Sea Scout training and earn his keep. Mister sat bow which pulled the stern up out of the sand and then I managed to paddle further out and with his help, make it back to the boat ramp. Phew!

Lady walking home.

Lady walking home.

It seems like the dogs aren’t the only the ones who need to take a few lessons in physics. It looks like I could well be the next in line.

By the way, you might enjoy another post about the dogs out on the kayaks: Mutiny on the Yellow Kayak https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/mutiny-on-the-kayak/

K is for kayaking on Day 11 of the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge. How are you going with the challenge? Found it much easier today without the research load. Thanks dogs!! It’s been fun revisiting our fantastic, inimitable adventure.

xx Rowena

Homeward Bound: Palm Beach to Ettalong.

No doubt, all weekends away end up feeling like Cinderella’s horrific crash landing after the ball. You’re back in rags, your coach is a pumpkin and both you and Prince Charming are so quite what you used to be.

My weekend in Palm Beach was no different and once I’d polished off that divine chocolate cake and all that luscious chocolate sauce, I was on borrowed time and the clock was really ticking.

Tick-tock..tick-tock…tick! TICK! BZZ!!!!!! Game Over!!!!!

space_invaders_wallpaper_game_over_by_shadowbott-d5rxcn6

However, as the rain and wind whipped around, a lingering doubt emerged. Could the ferry service actually be cancelled?

If so, how on earth was I going to get home?

No ferry would stretch the 30 minute journey home into an extremely long, arduous, meandering journey involving 2 buses, 2 trains and not only a packed lunch but also dinner and possibly even a midnight snack.

This was obviously a serious concern!!

However, as if I would travel all that way when I could just stay another night and wait until the storm cleared! Yeah, right!! I could just imagine how well that would go down! There I was living it up in Palm Beach while Geoff had been at work and taxiing the kids around and then he’d be having to take time off work as well to get them to school. Yes, I’d be extremely popular!!

Indeed, it could even be grounds for divorce!

We’ve been on some pretty ragged rides on the ferry before, crossing the high seas where the waves loomed like skyscrapers overhead and our beloved ferry felt more like Scuffy the Tugboat, seemingly tossed like a salad in the ferocious  surf.  Of course, the kids who have a real penchant for melodrama, were freaking out about sinking, drowning and, of course,  even dying while the ferry plowed on through the drenching rain and heavy winds. Ghostly white and sitting on our laps wrapped up in our arms, the kids are vowing never to catch the ferry again. That was a few years ago now before they became intrepid sea scouts!

The ferry service was cancelled for the rest of the day after that.

I was concerned about the ferry being cancelled on Sunday too.  Sure, I know we’re not crossing notorious Bass Strait of Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race fame but the weather still gets wild enough. Wild enough to cancel the ferry. That’s right. There comes a point when even the most intrepid Palm Beach Ferry Captains hang up their hats and stay on terra firma.

However, I’m in luck. The ferry is running and although the weather is a little rough and wet, it remains quite civilised.

Sunset Palm Beach Wharf...so pleased that bird dropped into the shot!

Sunset Palm Beach Wharf…so pleased that bird dropped into the shot!

A friend from Church drops me off at the wharf with 15 minutes to spare where I can enjoy watching some people fishing while the sun sets. I am reminded of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. However, the keen fisherperson is a woman and she knows her stuff. With the precision of a plastic surgeon, she wraps up a cooked prawn in some plastic netting salvaged from a bag of fruit and pushes the hook through. That prawn won’t come off without a fight, so the fish will have to work a bit harder tonight if they want a free feed!!

At 6.15pm, this is the last ferry and in contrast to yesterday’s rowdy party atmosphere, the ferry is almost empty. There’s just a few weekend stragglers on board and pure silence. You could even meditate it was that quiet. Talk about a contrast!! We all sit inside…even me who is all but always out there on deck pushing the limits with my camera. Too wet, too windy and way too bumpy tonight. Time to take it all in through the rain-stained window.

The View through the Window- Palm Beach Ferry.

The View through the Window- Palm Beach Ferry.

As the ferry started approached Ettalong Wharf, I was looking out for Geoff and the kids and really looking forward to their enthusiastic greetings: “Mummy! Mummy!” and finding out how their scout camps went. These are the sort of exciting moments you live for as a parent: warm, gutsy hugs, smiles, laughter and a thousand stories all spilling out at once. That’s the thing about going away. As much as you protest against the homeward journey, we all know: “There’s no place like home!!”

The Palm Beach Ferry returns to near deserted wharf at Ettalong as the weekend draws to a close.

The Palm Beach Ferry returns to near deserted wharf at Ettalong as the weekend draws to a close.

However, when the ferry pulled into the wharf, there was no one there. The wharf was empty, deserted and not even a sign of our car anywhere. No enthusiastic waves. No hugs. No Mummy!!! Just the sun setting over a deserted beach and the sounds of the wind and the surf.

I knew I was being a bit ridiculous, especially after it was me who actually went away for the weekend. However, there was this residual small voice which I’d thought had disappeared long ago:

“Nobody loves me!”

It’s not that I’m looking for sympathy or even a chorus of: “where were they? Why weren’t they there to pick you up? How dare they!” I mean…it’s not like I cried or anything. However, after building up the big greeting all the way home and really looking forward to seeing the rest of the family, I did feel a bit sad, forgotten and (drum roll)  ABANDONED!!

Serves me right for going away for the weekend without them. This was karma and a taste of what it’s really like to be alone.

As it turned out, the family wasn’t far away and had got held up at scouts. Geoff and the kids had been unloading boats, kayaks and all sorts of paraphenalia from their weekend competing at the Sirius Cup at Sydney’s Balmoral Beach. That’s all. Nothing sinister!

Mister poking out his tongue while scouting at the Sirius Cup, Balmoral Beach.

Mister poking out his tongue while scouting at the Sirius Cup, Balmoral Beach.

Mister had had great fun and made it into the finals for the C2 at the Sirius Cup, which means a 2 person canoe. We were so proud..particularly as he’d overcome his fear of sharks and other nasties and gone for it!! Miss had done really well at her Cub leadership course too. However, there are unfortunately no photos.

A reflective moment during scout camp.

A reflective moment during scout camp.

It’s been a fabulous weekend. Absolutely fabulous!!

Geoff even managed to watch the Grand Prix! Unfortunately, it wasn’t Australian race champion, Daniel Riccardo’s day.

Boo who! Tomorrow…it’s back to yet another manic Monday morning. I’m going to need a pretty strong coffee to get me going. It’s going to be like raising the Titanic.

The Monday morning salvage routine is going to be tough!!

The Monday morning salvage routine is going to be tough!!

xx Rowena (and a few extra kilos after that chocolate cake!!)

 

Therapeutic Indulgence: A Rendez-vous with Laksa and a Saucy Chocolate Cake.

In my last post, I confessed to running away from home for the weekend for some seriously self-indulgent R & R after a rough week of medical tests for our daughter .

While Saturday saw me catching the ferry to Palm Beach and time traveling back into my early 20s, on Sunday I caught a lift to nearby Avalon for a seriously indulgent feast. That’s right…food glorious food! So you can go stick your green smoothies and assorted super foods where the sun don’t shine. I’ve now subscribed to the pleasure principle and I’m in hot pursuit of some seriously indulgent foodie treats!!

Yoda has relocated to Sydney's Avalon Beach.

Yoda has been relocated to Sydney’s Avalon Beach.

My first stop was lunch at Yoda. Yoda is the sort of place you’d expect to find tucked away in an alleyway in South-East Asia. Yet, it has somehow astro-traveled to beach-side Sydney via the Millennium Falcon so now I can safely enjoy those authentic Asian flavours without catching some ghastly, turbo-charged, gastro bug. I’m not always an adventurous restaurant eater and often stick with what I’ve had before and really enjoyed. I don’t get to eat out all that often and so I don’t like taking chances. The food not only has to be good, it has to be something I love. L-O-V-E LOVE!! It also has to be better or different to what I cook at home and I’m a good cook. When we go to Yoda for dinner, I tend to order the Tea smoked duck with freshly spiced orange sauce & coriander salad or the Vietnamese chicken cabbage salad with peanuts, roast garlic & house dressing. These are both fabulous, authentic dishes. However, I thought I’d try something different and chose Laksa lemak which is a coconut soup with chicken, prawn, fishcake, noodles & cucumber/coriander salad. This was such a treat and I felt like I was casting a fishing line into the richly fragrant soup. Hey presto! I caught some octopus, fish cake and then a few prawns. It was such a treat and much more productive than any of our fishing expeditions where we’ve only caught fingerlings we had to throw back.The seafood was really well cooked and tender and the Laksa soup with it’s rich, aromatic flavours, was just divine.

However, the food wasn’t all I experienced at Yoda. As I shared in my previous post covering the ferry and bus ride over, when you travel alone you met such a smorgasbord of interesting characters.

Sitting at Yoda, the gentleman next to me struck up a conversation. I’m not saying he was trying to pick me up or anything like that. It’s just what Avalon is like…so community oriented and friendly that you don’t think twice about talking with total strangers. Anyway, my new-found friend is “batching” while his wife’s away for an extended time looking after her sick mum. This has left him in a bit of a spot. Should he spend month after month staying home in front of the box by himself or get out there and keep living? It’s a hard call. He kept saying: “you only come this way once”, which is so true. Nobody wants to waste whatever precious time they have left. From what I understand this means going out to see a few bands. Eating out. We all want to carpe diem seize the day but when you’re married and your partner is out of action for whatever reason, what are you supposed to do? Stop breathing? I don’t know. As an extrovert myself, I could sympathise.  We all have to get out, although that said, there are certain activities which should be curtailed.He told me his wife had called saying she’d heard he was at Palm Beach with a blond and he replied: “At my age, what did you expect me to have? A bucket & spade?” No to be fair, mentioning a blond conjures up all sorts of connotations where as if she’d been hanging out with a woman with glasses, for example, would it be so evocative? Anyway, he had a fine wit and certainly had me in stitches and I suspect he’s been up to no more mischief than wishing he was 21 again!

After indulging at Yoda, I headed across the road to Bookacino, a landmark Indy bookshop with a cafe out the back. For a die-hard bibliophile, Bookacino reminds me of exploring your grandparents’ home with all its nooks and crannies. Exploring row after row of titles, you never know what you might find and the new worlds those pages will open. Being an insatiable sticky beak, I just love it.

Of course, despite our cascading  columns of books and claustrophobically packed bookshelves, I can’t go into Bookacino without taking new “friends” home. After all, how could I ever leave a great book homeless and alone? Oh no! It needs love, family, a place to call home! This might sound like very faulty logic. After all, how could a book living in a crowded bookshop with thousands of friends, or possibly rivals, ever be considered homeless or even  alone? However, the heart tells a very different story. I hear its cries!!

This time, I walked out with The Art of Belonging by Australian social commentator, Hugh Mackay and a colouring-in book: The Impressionists. for our daughter.

Chocolate Cake heaven!!

Chocolate Cake heaven!!

Next stop was Cafe Ibiza. To be perfectly honest, I must confess that I wasn’t going there for health food. Rather, I was looking for the most indulgent, decadent chocolatey chocolate thingy that I could find.  Something so evil it would smash the evil calorie counter. What I found, even exceeded all of my superlatively luscious, chocolate fantasies. A simple chocolate cake warmed and smothered in chocolate sauce and as I ate the cake, the chocolate sauce became a sumptuous soup. I dove deep into its incredible depths and didn’t even rise to draw breath. Oooh! Death by chocolate never tasted so good!

Sumptuous Chocolate Soup

Sumptuous Chocolate Soup

After such indulgence, I’m of a view that “when you’re on a good thing, stick to it” and I’d much rather stick to an endless supply of chocolate sauce than a can of Mortein insect spray.

So now I’m on the search for the ultimate chocolate sauce recipe to hold me over until my return. It’s a matter of life and death!!

“The greatest tragedies were written by the Greeks and Shakespeare…neither knew chocolate.”
― Sandra Boynton

After such therapeutic indulgence over the weekend, I’ve decided that I need to throw caution to the wind closer to home and break out more often. After all, we only live once!

xx Rowena

Catching the Palm Beach Ferry – the Perfect Antedote for a Rough Week.

Last week might not have been the worst of times but it certainly wasn’t the best of times either.

No matter how medical tests pan out, they still put you through an emotional and organisational wringer. Moreover, I won’t even mention what we all could have accomplished if we hadn’t spent an eternity on hold… waiting. That just adds stress on top of stress because you can’t help thinking about what else you could be doing if you weren’t still waiting. After all, didn’t you know? Life’s a beach!

So far the test results are encouraging but we are waiting for the final results. Make that still waiting!!

Anyway, whenever you are going through a trial, you have to do the whole ying and yang thing and somehow balance up the good and the bad. You need to look after your mental health as much as your physical health…even when someone you love is seriously ill.

Ettalong Beach

Ettalong Beach

So after a rough week, we needed a great weekend. The kids were already been booked into scout and cub camps and were looking forward to extreme fun as well as pushing their physical limits.Geoff and I were off to Palm Beach together until fate intervened. Miss needed a taxi and so Geoff stayed home. I did reconsider Palm Beach but I really needed a break and we all know what the home front’s like. It’s a constant battle against an insatiable, demanding beast which is constantly sucking you dry. So as much as I hate to admit it, I took off on the Palm Beach Ferry looking forward to drifting off into a blissful state of suspended animation in Palm Beach and I wasn’t looking back.

Ettalong Wharf looking towards Booker Bay

Ettalong Wharf looking towards Booker Bay

Meanwhile, on the way to the ferry, Geoff’s short straw was cut even shorter when his mobile rang and he was off to work for a few hours. What have I mentioned about Mrs Murphy’s Law?

So there I was at Ettalong Wharf about to set off on my own private adventure, which, as it turned, it wasn’t going to be all rest and recuperation, after all.

What I love about traveling or going out solo is that you can meet an amazing cast of characters you’d never meet otherwise. When you’re with the family or group, while it’s fabulous to enjoy each others’ company and do things together, you also become insular. Immersed on your own private island. But Rowie was out of her chrysalis and my wings were just about dry. This repressed social butterfly was about to take off!!

Boarding the ferry.

Boarding the ferry.

Before even boarding the ferry, I met a wonderful group of 20 somethings who made me their  Paddington Bear.  I didn’t even need to lure them with marmalade. You see, with my broken foot back in the boot again and staggering along with my walking stick and my bag, I didn’t even need a sign saying: “Please take care of this bear”. It was pretty obvious I could use a hand. My new-found friends chivalrously carried my suitcase onto the ferry and even invited me to sit with them in the crew section, among the privileged few, which I might add, did not include the buck’s party wandering around the ferry wearing green aprons. Suddenly, I was part of a mobile party and it was such FUN!!!! Surrounded by a kaleidoscope of outfits, fake and real tans and short skirts. Actually, make that short short or some instances, even short short short. It was time to  Party!!!!

Traveling in style with my absolutely fabulous ferry friend, Emma. Happy Birthday!

Traveling in style with my absolutely fabulous ferry friend, Emma. Happy Birthday!

Fun and compassion…such a wonderful mix.When you’re having a bit of a rough trot, you don’t want all doom, gloom or even too much sympathy. There’s no better therapy than a laugh and experiencing an unexpected, spontaneous act of human kindness and the hand of friendship, especially from strangers from the distant galaxy of youth. It was just what the doctor ordered!

After all, don’t you sometimes get sick of being a grown up and I didn’t realise the Palm Beach Ferry could also be a time-machine.

Heaven!

Heaven!

But my new found friends, weren’t just about partying, looking good and having fun. They were such caring, compassionate and thoughtful people who really touched my heart. They had time for me. Included me.They even carried my bag to the bus stop, which also involved a lot of trust on my part as well. That’s gives an insight into the bond we’d forged on a very short ferry ride. I know this meeting wasn’t a random thing. That it was destiny. Meant to be. Serendipity.

At this point, we parted ways as I waited for the bus but the party continued. Another gaggle of twenty somethings were spilling over the footpath and onto the road. Putting my “mum hat” back on again, I felt like shepherding them off the road and back onto the footpath, although I said nothing. I don’t think you needed any testing apparatus to know they’d had more than a few drinks and I could sense the Palm Beach locals would be eying off this unruly mob thinking “@#$% Coasties!!” However, at least these characters knew how to have a good time and as long as they stayed off the road, they weren’t hurting anyone.They were all heading off to Newport Arms, which is abut a 15 minute bus ride from Palm Beach. The Newport Arms is one of Sydney’s most popular hotels or pubs and is quite legendary.

A disapproving Mrs Mangel from the hit drama series, Neighbours.

A disapproving Mrs Mangel from the hit drama series, Neighbours.

The bus pulled up and I sat opposite an elderly lady who was already sporting a few frowns and other disparaging expressions. If you ever used to watch Neighbours going way back to the beginning, there was Mrs Mangel and this woman was a white-haired impersonation a she sat in her seat so stiff and almost frozen,  The party revelers, including the bucks party, also clamber on board. By now, they were under the weather, rowdy and rambunctious. No sooner than the bus starts moving and the bucks start belting out iconic Cold Chisel songs, providing live, on bus entertainment. I loved it. Soaked up every minute of it. Great memories.

Cold Chisel: Cheap Wine & A Three Day Growth: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cFKxbr4_-Vc

Jimmy Barnes: Working Class Man: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tQl8_u-JKew

However, to say “Mrs Mangel” was looking “Uncomfortable” would be such an understatement. Evidently, she found the echoing sounds of fun and jovial happiness. as torturous as fingernails scratching down a chalk board. I could sense the pain in every cell in her body. It was etched across her face and she’s so incredibly uncomfortable. She yearned to get out of here. Get those louts off the bus so she could return to civilisation. She was really suffering in serious pain and looking across to me for some kind of understanding or even salvation. I haven’t made it to the hairdresser for awhile so the grey is showing but being more mature doesn’t make me a wowser. That said, I shouldn’t judge. I often struggle with loud noises myself but juxtaposed against everyone else on the bus, who were squeezing the fun out of life, it really looked like she’d swallowed a bag of sour lemons.

This reminded me of something an elderly friend once told me. She said that her husband had “decided to get old”. At the time, that struck me as odd. After all, he was in his late 80s and a returned serviceman, At that grand age, he was old. However, I am coming to realise that there is a difference between getting old and feeling old. Feeling old is a choice.My grandmother said much the same thing. That she’d look in the mirror and she didn’t know the old woman staring back at her. Quite remarkable really. At least, I used to think so until I started looking in the mirror and started seeing glimpses of photos I’d seen of my great grandmother looking back at me when I still feel 25 on the inside and I suspect I will feel forever young: www.youtube.com/watch?v=rQi8wEHMm5Y

I was barely on the bus and I was off, leaving the party behind as I headed for a weekend of silence, solitude and serenity alone at Palm Beach. Almost immediately, despite the animated screams from the kids playing in the pool next door (this time it was my turn to feel somewhat tortured), I fell into a deep, comatose sleep and began to dream.

Sunset, Pittwater, Palm Beach.

Sunset, Pittwater, Palm Beach.

When I finally woke up and the sun had all but set, I realised that the screaming had finally stopped. I’m not talking about the kids screaming in the pool but the screaming in my heart and in my head. I had only been vaguely conscious of the scream before but now that it had stopped, I could hear it so clearly and feel its pain. Yes, I’ve been screaming, silently, unconsciously screaming for some time but it was only now that it had stopped that I could ironically hear myself. The touch of human kindness on the ferry had released me. Set me free. Probably not forever, it was only intermission but it brought relief.

Now, I could feel myself slowly starting to stretch back into my full height, gaining strength and being able to stretch my wings enough to fly, instead of being curled up into a self-protective ball so I could just survive.

It was then I remembered a childhood song, which Google (my not so secret best friend) reminded me came from Romper Room: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aIRu8-5Nyek

Bend and stretch

reach for the sky

There goes Jupiter,

There goes Mars

Stand on tippy toes

Oh so high!”

I would love to hear how the love and compassion of a stranger has touched you. Please share!

Love & Blessings,

Rowena

A wet and misty day in paradise.

A wet and misty day in paradise.

 

Looking very much like a scene from a Northern winter, it's summer in Sydney...not quite your postcard perspective!!

Looking very much like a scene from a Northern winter, it’s summer in Sydney…not quite your postcard perspective!!

Happy Australia Day 2015! It’s overcast, wet and even the cricket has been delayed.

Just in case you didn’t check out yesterday’s post, this was yesterday:

Mister still roasting as a very hot Australian sun sets.

Mister still roasting as a very hot Australian sun sets.

 

People often tell you that tomorrow is another day and most of the time I’ve politely nodded while feeling highly sceptical, cynical and plain unconvinced. How could my entire world change completely overnight like waving a magic wand? Surely, there would just be more and more of the same and one day surely follows another. Why would it change?

Well, overnight, we have seen an absolute change in the weather here in Sydney. Yesterday, there was blue sky and the sun was blazing overhead like an oven. I’ve always meant to actually test whether you can actually fry an egg out on the raod on days like that but eggs are rather messy and I always seem to forget. I’m sure someone somewhere has tried and can tell me if it works but that would somehow spoil the magic.

While our last day in paradise has been spent indoors, I was watching a few yachts sail past and even a couple of what I could only call zealous kayakers paddle by and then I realised that they were out there carpe diem seiziing the day despite the rain. I didn’t know whether that was a good thing or just blind obsession but as much as I love going out in the kayak, I don’t like that sensation of having wet raindrops patter again your skin. It’s sort of creepy…as in scraping fingertails down a chalkboard kind of creepy. No, I’ll stay inside.

That said, I am considering a swim in the pool. It was so balmy warm last night. You see, it has solar heating and we haven’t adjusted the settings so it was like swimming in a balmy soup. Yes, it’s going to need a good dose of something when we leave. Unfortunately, at those temperatures it’s going to become amoeba soup.

We will be heading back home tonight. Tomorrow, will be our last day of school holidays where we will be quickly trying to adjust our body clocks to the inevitable early mornings and trying to get all our ducks lined up for the real new year.

At least, I’ve made a list.

Sadly, something tells me that we’ll be relieved just to pull up at school on time with hair done, shoes on and something in the lunchbox. We are still struggling to implement our scouting motto: “Be Prepared”!!

By the way, I still have the boot on my broken foot as we start the new school year and the operatic cough is starting to look like I’ve had whooping cough. While this might excuse me from being wondrously organised for the start of the new school year, that isn’t going to help the kids get a good start or perhaps aiming well beyond our station…actually, get ahead.

Wish us luck!! We really, really need it!!

xx Rowena