Tag Archives: tea pots

Morpeth Revisited

If you are trying to resist an over-active sweet tooth, Morpeth is fatal.

Same goes for bread.

If you are trying not to be tempted by fashion, art, vintage books, baby dolls, teddy bears and luscious designs, Morpeth is also fatal.

If you long to return to yesteryear with gorgeous cobbled footpaths, streets wide enough for a bullock train to turn around and stunningly rustic historic buildings…Morpeth is impossible to resist.

To top it all off, I know the brochures all talk about the aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafting down the main street but all I could smell when I first stepped out of the car was cow. I won’t be specific but there was that gorgeous country cow smell which for me, is almost more fragrant than a rose.

Morpeth is my kind of place. In fact, I even saw a few signs around town which had my name on them…For Sale…For Lease…For Rent…

I’m sure it’s a sign.

I’m sure it was a sign!

I could so easily move to Morpeth even though I do love our stunning beach with breathtaking views across Pittwater to Palm Beach Lighthouse and beyond.

It’s interesting because of all the things I did see, there was one notable thing I didn’t see in Morpeth… technology shops. They might have been there but I didn’t see any computer shops or shops selling fancy TV remotes you need engineering degrees to operate. Yes, Morpeth definitely seems like my kind of place.

I’m not going to pretend to know Morpeth well or have any inside knowledge of the place. I’ve only been there twice but my grandfather’s grandmother, Charlotte Merritt, was born there back in 1864. While in some circles that could almost make me a local, they didn’t stay very long and never became part of the social framework. I believe her father was some kind of itinerant labourer who moved around a lot.

My Great Great Grandmother, Charlotte Merritt, who was born in Morpeth in 1864.

I ended up in Morpeth for the first time almost by accident about a month ago when we were visiting nearby Maitland. I was a bit curious to see where Charlotte Merritt had come from and friends of mine live in Morpeth and told me all about fudge and ginger beer tastings, Miss Liley’s Lolly Shop, a teddy bear shop and all the cafes. It sounded like a veritable of kaleidoscope of tempting possibilities. We were off.

Morpeth is a historic village located in the Hunter Valley North of Newcastle, Australia. It was founded in 1821 and is a historic river port. It’s 168 KM North of Sydney and roughly two hours drive depending on who’s driving and the traffic conditions.

This is my second visit to Morpeth and this time, I am here all by myself and the world, or should I say Morpeth, is my oyster.

Display upstairs at Campbell’s Store.

If I had to use one word to describe Morpeth, it would have to be “enchanting”. It has that real feel of being in a magical childhood setting like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and I almost expected the oompa loompas to turn up any minute. Or perhaps, I was Alice in Wonderful and the white rabbit was about to turn up.

As much as I could wax lyrically about all the stunning, gorgeous wonderful things I saw in Morpeth, I was a woman on a mission. Both Mum and Geoff had requested more coconut ice from Campbell’s. My son had requested “souvenirs” and I was there with the explicit purpose of visiting the annual Morpeth Weird & Wonderful Novelty Teapot Exhibition and the Morpeth Tea Cosy Challenge. The local newsletter, The Morpeth Whisper had also featured a Leaning Tower of Pisa Tea Set, which I wanted to check out and I was also keen to have more of a lingering look at the very enticing clothing boutiques in Swan Street.

Something told me I should have robbed a bank before I went to Morpeth. There was just so much temptation on so many, many fronts. I had to take a deep, deep breath and muster all the self-restraint I could find and I still have more than just a few confessions!

Me with the tea cosys

I started out at the Morpeth Tea Cosy Challenge. This display was simply inspirational, magical with over 400 entries were on display. Most of the designs were knitted and there were amazingly intricate, detailed and imaginative worlds made out of wool. We’re talking flowers, birds, dainty little tea parties with teeny cups and saucers and even a red back spider. Personally, when I was at school, I struggled to knit the compulsory 20 cm x 20cm woollen squares we had to make for the annual clothing drive. I couldn’t imagine how anybody could produce these amazing creations without a magic wand or a pair of magic knitting needles!

Aren’t they just amazing!

Most of the tea cosies were either for sale or sold. There were so many exquisitely pretty designs to choose from but I opted for something quirky instead. I bought two tea coseys. One was the Queen of Hearts and the other one was Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee. I’d had a rough time with our son last week and as I headed North along the freeway to Morpeth, I really did feel glad to get away and have a break…even if it was only for one day. So the Queen of Hearts sort of resonated with me…as did Tweedledum and Tweedle Dee. I couldn’t quite recall what the Queen of Hearts actually did in Alice in Wonderland at the time but she certainly had a very stern look on her face and she had a stick with a heart on the end in one hand. She really looked like a force to be reckoned with. I could use a bit of assistance. Both of kids can join forces against me and make life quite difficult at times so Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee seemed quite appropriate for them. I’m hoping the Queen of Hearts will sort them out!

The Queen of Hearts with Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee.

Once I arrived home, I actually remembered what the Queen of Hearts actually said. That was “off with their heads!”

Oh well!

The New Baby.

I wandered out of the Tea Cosy Exhibition and into the baby Doll shop. Cathy Brady meticulously transforms doll parts into incredibly life like works of art or is it real life? This is a highly skilled and painstaking process taking 180 hours of work over a three week period…almost like a long labour. I personally thought these baby dolls were a vast improvement on the real thing. They’re low maintenance. They don’t cry. There are no dirty nappies. You can put them down and they’ll still be there when you come back. These dolls are also so lifelike that they do indeed have personality. But they can’t love you. Hug you. They’re not quite the same as the real thing but a very, very close impersonation. You can visit the dolls at http://www.cathybradyartist.com/realistic-baby-dolls-for-sale

Cathy Brady- the Artist at Work.

Next, I wondered downstairs to the teapot exhibition. Now, I have a funny feeling I missed out on some of these. I did see a lot of teapots but most weren’t handmade. I am wondering how I managed this considering that was the main reason I went to Morpeth but there was just so much to see, perhaps I was a little overwhelmed. I ended up buying Geoff and I the leaning Tower of Pisa for our upcoming 11th Wedding Anniversary. I thought it summed our relationship up pretty well. We’ve had some tough times. We’re leaning a bit to one side but we haven’t toppled over. We’re still standing almost tall.

The teapot Exhibition

I wondered across the road into Miss Lily’s Lolly Shop. Even an adult feels quite childlike going into a candy store. I found some beautiful looking lollies that looked like polished stones. Unfortunately, I’d run out of cash and went on so many deviations along the main street that they had shut by the time I got back so that leaves something to look forward to for next time.

My New Suicide Shoes

Further up Swan Street, I saw the most deadly pair of heels in my size. I don’t know what was going through my head because given my muscle disease, I only ever buy sensible shoes. But I was in holiday mode. I was feeling frivolous and for once, I wanted to buy a pair of sexy shoes. So what if I couldn’t walk in them? I could always use my walking stick although that would look a bit silly. I’m sure it’s not written in the rule books but you can’t wear a pair of staggering high heels and use a walking stick! They’re diametrically opposed opposites. But they were only $30.00 and they have a solid block heel and surprisingly, I could actually walk in them after all. When I told Mum about them, she told me they could be my “under the table shoes”…uncomfortable shoes which you wear to a venue and discreetly take them off under the table. Sounds good to me although I suspect we’ll have to park right next to the table.

Writer At Work.

With so many nooks and crannies to explore, I wasn’t that interested in eating even though, yet again, there was so much temptation. I stopped for lunch at Cups N Crepes and had a banana smoothie, a cappuccino and a sumptuous Mars Bar and Caramel Cheese cake, which was delightfully mousey and melted in the mouth. It took me awhile to get through the smoothie and so I ended up writing for about an hour. I love writing in cafes and just letting my pen run wild. Shame I didn’t have the laptop though. I wouldn’t have to type it all up now.

Orange Trumpet Vine

While I was writing, I was almost mesmerised by a carpet of bright orange flowers (the Orange Trumpet Creeper) trailing down a boutique across the road. Growing on a rusty tin roof and back dropped against the deep blue sky, the composition was perfect. I zoomed in. I zoomed out. Just fabulous!

I also watched to get some shots of the bridge. The white wooden bridge over the Hunter River is a prominent feature in Morpeth. I was actually hoping to walk across but there was no footpath. I had to make do with photos from the bank.

The wind was incredibly strong and the river was so choppy that you could almost go for a surf. Okay, you know I’m exaggerating but you get my drift. I wanted to capture the raw energy of the wind in my photos. There is a very tall gum tree near the riverbank and its leaves and branches were exploding in a cacophony of sound as they thrashed away in the wind. There was such brute force and spirit but photos just didn’t do it justice.

Time was starting to get away from me by now.

Next stop, was Arnott’s Bakehouse, home of the famous Morpeth Sour Dough. I am a bread lover from way back and I was like a kid in a candy store staring at all that beautiful bread. At the time, I didn’t really have much of an idea about sour dough and was a bit wary to be honest. I chose a wholemeal loaf, which looked scrumptious and relatively “safe”. I really do recommend checking out their website at www.morpethsourdough.com.au. There are too many stories for me to encapsulate them here but this story was so funny, I’ll provide a direct link: http://www.morpethsourdough.com.au/media/14444/wish~july%202009%20v1.pdf

I don’t know if this is sacrilege but I brought my sour dough home and covered it in butter and Vegemite. The remaining loaf was converted into French toast for Sunday lunch and it was definitely scrumptious…a far superior product to my previous efforts. I’ve got a feeling I can buy this bread locally and if it wasn’t close to midnight, I’d be in the car and on my way!

I knew I only had a day or actually it was only three-quarters of a day in Morpeth and the Cinderella hour was rapidly approaching. Perhaps, I should have just felt grateful for the time I’d had but it was very hard to leave when I was having so much fun!

I had to be back by 6.30PM at the very latest to pick the kids up from after-school care. You don’t want to be the bad mother who arrives late and keeps everybody waiting even though the staff are well aware that “things happen”. I want to be responsible but at the same time, I feel like being wicked. I definitely have a bit of bad attitude what with buying the Queen of Hearts “off with their head” tea cosy, the suicidal high heel shoes and not caring about how late I arrive home… not to mention how much money I’ve spent. I know I’m over-compensating for something! Do you think I could blame the prednisone again?

Last stop Campbell’s where I stock up on Coconut Ice, Peanut brittle musk sticks and some boiled lollies for the kids. It sounds like I’ve bought a lifetime supply but I’m sure they’ll all be gone by the end of the week!

The clock has now struck four o’clock and contrary to my expectations, the car hasn’t turned into a pumpkin and my clothes haven’t turned into rags. There is no mad panic around me. It is all a matter of self-discipline. I can be strong and go now or I can push the envelope a little and hope the accelerator will do the trick. After all, it’s not every day you get to go to Morpeth and Geoff could possibly pick them up if I’m “stuck”.

Photographing the shadows on the cobbled footpath.

I walk out of Campbell’s and notice the shadows on the cobbled footpath. My camera is in the car. I was going to going to head off but just one last photo, then I’ll hit the road. Make it ten.

I somehow managed to get lost leaving Morpeth and was heading North towards Raymond Terrace. I also got stuck in heavy traffic but I still managed to pull up at after-school care at 6.00pm with half an hour to spare. I walked in to catch the kids in the middle of a fight. Another child had taken my son’s bag by mistake and later on that night my daughter had a bit of a tummy bug. I always expect payback. I can’t expect to have pure unadulterated fun without repercussions.

I’m hoping to get back to Morpeth again soon to do their walking tour. It looks fabulous. Stay tuned.

One final note…this morning when the musk sticks ran out, the kids I should go back to get some more. It was then that my son remembered the huge rainbow lollipops he’d seen at Campbell’s.

“The size of those rainbow lollipops!” he gasped. “I don’t care if I die. I just want one of those rainbow lollipops!!

“Make that two,” gasped my daughter.

“They have rainbow lorikeets in them,” my son exclaimed. “That’s why they’re not healthy. They have feathers in them.”

I don’t know where he got that idea from but it’s definitely “creative”.

I am already planning another trip. I still haven’t done the walking tour and I would mind a long lunch with some friends either.

Do you have any tales about Morpeth?

xx Ro

Driving Myself Crazy…Day trip to Morpeth, Australia – Part 1

Yesterday, I did something almost devilishly wicked. I booked the kids into after school care and went on a day trip to Morpeth in the Hunter Valley, almost 2hours drive each way from home. It was one of the best things I have ever done!! It felt like Alice’s journey into Wonderland. Morpeth is that kind of place.

I don’t usually do this sort of thing. The only time I ever run away from home, is to go to the Sydney Writer’s Festival once a year. That said, I do have a lot of medical appointments in Sydney and I have been known to get a little “lost” coming home but we’re only talking a minor deviation…not an epic adventure!

Mind you, I have to be honest and say that the main reason I don’t escape isn’t ideological. I have a bit of a thing about driving. I wouldn’t call it a phobia because to my way of thinking, a phobia involves an irrational fear. My fears, on the other hand, are perfectly logical… rational even! I get lost easily and the same kind of spatial issues which make it difficult for me to follow maps, also make it difficult for me to park my car. For some reason, I can’t work out where my car is in space and I usually leave room for an entire Olympic swimming pool both front and rear. I’m not great at reversing and I also get lost easily as well. On top of all of that, I get extreme fatigue which strikes at unpredictable moments. So while I can be full of beans and bouncing all over the place one minute, the next I could conk out completely and need to go to bed immediately…not great when you are driving long distance. You could say that it’s deadly even.

So as you can see, my fears are more than justified!

On the other hand, I want to explore and experience the world and not be stuck in such a small, minute part of it. In my early driving days, probably just after I got my P’s, when I had even greater driving anxiety, my Dad asked me: “Does your licence say you can’t drive anywhere? Well, no one’s stopping you. You can drive anywhere you like!” Dad’s words often come to me while I’m driving and somehow empower me! I can go anywhere! Do anything! I just need to convince myself!

But the local geography around here doesn’t help the situation. You see, we’re surrounded by water and there’s a steep hill with a bit of an annoying road between here and the freeway to Sydney. I broke down on that road once and subconsciously, that hill has become some kind of barrier, a boundary, a line in the sand I don’t cross. It’s even come to define me: “I don’t go up the hill”.

Of course, it’s only now that I’ve been up the hill and beyond that I’ve realised just what a mountain the hill had become… a complete blockage to growth and exploration.

After all, mountains are meant to be climbed not just left in the way! They should be stairways to heaven and the stars not roadblocks stunting our dreams.

I had already conquered the mountain recently and had almost driven to Newcastle. I was almost sure I could reach Morpeth.

Campbell’s Store, Morpeth. This is home to fudge tasting, coconut ice, peanut brittle as well as the MorpethTea Cosy Challenge.

I first visited Morpeth about a month ago. It wasn’t a planned trip and I met up with my cousin with husbands and kids in tow, which made it very difficult to explore Morpeth in any depth i.e. look at anything much or spend a lot of money. I did manage to buy a new dress and a shawl literally trying them on over my jeans on the run. We also managed to taste test the ginger beer and the fudge. We actually saw a lot but I also saw so many beautiful things in all those tantalising old shop windows that my eyes almost popped out of my head. I had to go back…alone!

Home to the famous Morpeth Sourdough

I also had another imperative…visiting the annual Morpeth Weird & Wonderful Novelty Teapot Exhibition and the Morpeth Tea Cosy Challenge, which is held in the last two weeks of August.

You see, I collect antique and vintage teacups and saucers, plates, table cloths. I love an authentic retro tea party. Not a high tea and not something stiff and starchy either. I just miss cups of tea with my grandmothers. More than cups of tea, I miss their love, their warmth, their smiles and almost getting lost inside their huge, warm hugs! There is nothing else in this universe quite like a grandmother’s love. I can almost feel their love when I surround myself with all this old world finery. Both of my grandmothers had collections of bone china tea cups and it was tradition to choose your own cup. My grandmother should have had her kettle wired into her doorbell because as soon as anyone walked in the door, the kettle went on and we all had tea. I bought a number of exquisite Shelley teacups with money from Mum’s parents. My grandma would have loved them but she would have put them safely away in her sideboard. She never ever used her special things.  I use some of mine but I do reserve the Shelley ones for rare, special occasions. Some of them are over 80 years old and have become fragile little old ladies. Of course, I don’t know if tea cups actually develop osteoporosis but they can’t take calcium supplements either so I just have to be careful.

With so much to look forward to, you can understand why I was so determined to overcome all my driving hurdles and just get to Morpeth.

But fear is a strong thing. If you have read my post about the bird flying into my house, you would already know that I have some huge issues with fear. I’m not just talking about anxiety but serious jelly-legged, hyperventilating, debilitating fear. It’s the sort of fear that leads to total avoidance and locking yourself up in an awfully restrictive cage…a cage you really need to break out of quick smart before it becomes your home, your comfort zone and you even forget how to fly.

But then I heard about brain plasticity. You are not set in stone. You can even re-invent yourself. The more you do something, the better you get at it. You might not get rid of your weaknesses altogether but with a bit of effort, you can certainly make them better. Now, if you didn’t have to live with your weaknesses, if there was any possible way of getting rid of them, if you could just somehow open the door of your cage and somehow spread your wings and fly free across the open sky, wouldn’t you just do it?!!  Wouldn’t you move both heaven and earth to experience the liberation of unfettered flight?!!

I would and I have.

I put my key in the ignition. Turned the key. Moved my foot off the brake and shifted it onto the accelerator. I was a little nervous but I wasn’t afraid because slowly but surely, I’ve been unconsciously building up to this moment by going on more and more driving excursions, building up what is referred to as “resilience”.

My main strategy for handling the long drive was to break it down into smaller, less daunting chunks…a series of small drives instead of one very long and winding road. There was the stretch up the hill. My next stop was Ourimbah. The end of the freeway represented another break in the journey and then there was the drive up the New England Highway into Maitland and then the turn off to Morpeth. It also felt good checking out the road signs and slowly but surely watching the kilometres count down.

When I left home yesterday, I had no idea whether I could actually make it to Morpeth but I was so determined to get there. At the same time, I was kind to myself. Said that I just needed to try. I didn’t have to get there. If I didn’t make it, it wasn’t the end of the world. There was always next year.

But all the positive thinking in the world can’t make something happen and I am also responsive to that. The night before, it was looking like my trip wasn’t going to happen. After a difficult afternoon with our son, I crashed in bed almost unable to move. Then the weather went haywire. The rain was pouring down. There were strong gusting winds and Geoff rang to say that a tree had even fallen across the railway tracks and he was going to be late home. It was really looking treacherous outside  and there was no way I was going to drive through that. I was starting to wonder whether I should just have a quiet day in bed and rest instead! That’s what any sensible “sick person” would do but not this little black duck.

But when I woke up yesterday, it was all sunshine, blue skies and I was out of here. All the doors opened up. All the obstacles disappeared. It was meant to be!

I pulled up in Morpeth quite chuffed. I wouldn’t say jubilant because the drive was that easy that it barely rated as a challenge in the end.

Stepping out of the car, that unmistakable smell of fresh cow manure hit me in the face like a fragrant rose. I was in the country. I felt like I’d climbed to the top of the Magic Faraway Tree. Walked through the back of an old wardrobe and found myself in mystical Narnia. I was Cinderella dancing at the ball.

That’s right. I was Cinderella. I might have driven kilometres away from home but I was still on a relatively short leash. I had to pick the kids up from after-school care by 6.30PM and had to allow for contingencies.

Carpe diem …seize the day. Today is my day and I am going to seize each and every single second and squeeze it til it’s dry.

Go Ro! The world is my oyster and I am its pearl!

Wish me luck!

xx Ro

PS: I will take you on a tour of Morpeth in my next post so please stay tuned.

PPS: I should point out that although I’m a wary driver, I’m no recluse. I do spend a fair amount of time “working from home” doing my writing and more recently painting but most of the time, I’m out and about. When it comes to going to Sydney, catching the train just makes good sense. Sydney traffic is just dreadful. The roads are so choked up that they’re little more than car parks. I honestly don’t know how anyone gets around without taking a packed lunch and a good supply of water just in case!