Tag Archives: travel

Weekend Coffee Share- 5th August, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share! Why don’t you pull up a chair and I’ll get you your choice of tea, coffee or water for the more adventurous.

How has your week been? I hope it’s gone well. If not, my thoughts are with you. Life seems to be more about ups and downs, than smooth sailing.

As you might recall, it was my birthday last Sunday and the family went out with my parents for dinner at the Central Coast Restaurant & Bar. Unfortunately, thanks to the big cough, I haven’t been able to do much since. I consider these celebrations “postponed”. They will happen.

chocolate eclairs

However, a friend and her daughters put on a tea party for me. Her 10 year old daughter made chocolate eclairs from scratch and arranged them on the plate in the shape of a butterfly and dragonfly. Not only was I very impressed, it also touched my heart. It was so unexpected. A real touch of human kindness, and I feel such gratitude.Rowena & Amelia

 

This week, it was Education Week in our schools and both the kids’ schools held an Open Day, where parents could visit. Due to my flu, Geoff stayed home and drove me up to our daughter’s school which is an hour’s drive away. Her school put on an Art Show as well as a musical concert. My daughter sang in the choir, but there were also performances by the Indigenous choir and didgeridoo group. We never had any Indigenous culture in the schools I went to growing up, and it’s so important.

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Visiting my daughter’s classroom these days, is very different to when she was at our local school and I was in and out of her classroom almost every afternoon. I did the publicity for the Parents & Citizens Association (P & C), helped with the class reading and knew many of the parents and most of the kids personally. Our daughter changed schools after being accepted into an Opportunity Class for gifted students. This was a blank slate. You’d expect that with changing schools. However, usually you live in the area and there are those interactions or ties to the local community. We’ve had none of that, and didn’t realize how important all of that was to me, until we’d left. You’d think as the parent, that it’s not my concern. That it’s my daughter who is at the school, not me. However, there have been those family emergencies. Not knowing anyone who could pick my daughter up if required. There wasn’t that network we fall back on as parents. Thankfully, we managed to connect to some extent through kids’ birthday parties and my daughter also catches the train to school with a few local kids and we’ve got to know their families in the same way we would at the local school.

So, I was really looking forward to Open day and having the chance to meet up with my daughter’s teacher, meet other parents and see my daughter’s work. I love seeing all the kid’s work on the wall and intrigued by some of their learning techniques. Being a class for gifted children, their teacher has some great ideas which get me thinking for my own writing and organization. I have also found that the school also knows how to communicate things with kids, and I’ve picked up a few good ideas on these open days before. So, it’s not just a day for me to meet, greet and have lunch with our daughter, it’s also a learning experience.

Wednesday night, we had Open Night at my son’s high school. This was quite understandibly quite different as the students don’t have a set classroom and move around the school. I did get to speak to some of my son’s teachers in a casual setting, which was great. I think it’s important that the school knows you’re an invested parent. That you care about your kid. This is harder to relay in high school when your physical presence is most definitely NOT REQUIRED by your teen. That reminds me, I’ve been meaning to get involved with the P & C since he started last year. I’m getting there…

Having the flu and a very nasty cough, I haven’t been out and about this week.

 

That hasn’t stopped me from travelling online. Indeed, I’ve spent the last few days in London. While I was sorting through some books at home, I dug up a book about London from the 1950s and there was a three page letter with a recommended itinerary in the front. I thought I’d get onto Google maps and try to retrace the writer’s footsteps. I believe the author was a male writing to a woman and that the letter may date back to the 1950s. I spent a week in London myself back in 1992. So, I’m also trying to retrace my own footsteps and feel am having better luck with the stranger. I don’t remember terribly much. Not because I was under the weather in any shade or form. It’s just that 25 years and alot of flotsam, jetsam and dead cows have passed under the bridge since then. So, stay tuned.

This had been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share.

xx Rowena

Like A Fish Needs A Bicycle…Friday Fictioneers

The train pulled into Heidelberg Hauptbahnhof. The knot in her stomach was now tied around her throat. She couldn’t breathe. Some huge, cosmic vacuum cleaner had sucked out all the air. There was nothing left. Anonymous, invisible, lost without being lost, her heart was churning like a clunky washing machine. Her mind was detergent. How could she fall in love now? With Europe at her feet, she needed a man like a fish needs a bicycle

“Mark, I’m in Heidelberg. I..I..I.”

Clunk. The coins devoured with gluttonous greed, he was gone.

Humph, turns out fish might need bicycles, after all!

……

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. This weeks photo prompt was kindly provided by © J Hardy Carroll. 

A Walk in Dulwich Park, London.

Tonight, my dog Lady and I went for an extraordinary walk, touching down in Dulwich Park, in South London to catch up with fellow blogger and author, Geoff Le Pard and his furry friend. I even found a cafe and met a few dog walkers to boot. How good is that?!!

This all came about after reading Geoff’s latest post: Milling About…Finding A Home, which talks about how he and his wife found their home in Dulwich Park, South London. I must be a bit low on patience this week, because I decided I’d had enough talk. I wanted to get to London myself> Walk the streets, museums, galleries and park my butt in a cafe. Not in a creepy, cyber-stalking kind of way. It’s just that I’d had enough of looking through the window. I wanted to be there instead.

So, I found a local park with a cafe frequented by mild-mannered local dog walkers. Now, I’m just waiting for Geoff. If I’d got onto this earlier, I could’ve been there in time for the Bloggers’ Bash. BTW, it’s just like me to run late!

However, there’s just one small problem with getting to London.

As you’re probably aware, I live in Greater Sydney, Australia. So, I’m hardly living next door. Moreover, as much as I’ve wanted to visit London and check out Geoff’s haunts, there’s been a small hitch. While they might have sent convicts out to the colonies at Her Magesty’s Pleasure, they’re not footing the bill to send us back. Indeed, I’d probably need to rob a bank to fund my ticket. However, knowing my luck, instead of running off with the loot, I’d pluck this card out of the pack: “Advance to jail. Go directly to jail. Do not collect $200.”

Reg Spiers

Aussies have done outrageous things to overcome the “tyranny of distance”. In the mid-1960s, Australian athlete Reg Spiers found himself stranded in London with no money to buy a plane ticket home. Desperate to get back to Australia in time for his daughter’s birthday, he posted himself home in a wooden crate and travelled as freight. You can read the full story here: The Man Who Posted Himself Home to Australia. It’s great reading.

While Reg might have been given a hero’s welcome, I decided to Keep it Simple, Stupid (the KISS Principle) and let my fingers do the walking. I travelled to London via Google maps. While I know this could be construed as cyberstalking, I picked a park on the map, found a cafe and thought this would be quite appropriate for a cyber coffee catch-up. I even took a photo…just to prove I was there.

As much as I love meeting fantastic people, especially fellow writers from all around the world through blogging, I often lament the ultimate Aussie devil… distance. That as much as our global isolation has made and shaped us as a nation, that I feel like sticking an outboard motor to the bottom of Tasmania and giving us a bit of a nudge North. Travelling to Europe is so expensive when you have kids, mortgage and an auto-immune disease to factor in.

So, while I’m waiting for Geoff, Lady and I went for a walk in the park. There were so many large, leafy trees and I certainly picked out a few oaks. It is Summer in London and while it’s partly-cloudy today, it is 20°C. Humph. Hang on a minute. We’re in the middle of Winter here in freezing conditions rugged up like Eskimos and it’s 16°C here. I’m feeling a bit ripped off. Well, at least, I’m catching up with Geoff and going on one of his many tours of London. So, the weather doesn’t really matter, does it?! After all, nobody goes to London for the weather!!

So, now that I’ve got the hang of Google maps, is there somewhere you’d like me to visit? Wow! This is starting to sound quite exciting…like climbing to the top of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree and finding yourself in the midst of a magical land. Where will I be going next?

As for me, I’d like to invite you to walk across the Sydney Harbour Bridge. It really is an amazing experience.

Happy travels.

xx Rowena.

 

 

Tasmanian Farewell – Friday Fictioneers.

The Spirit of Tasmania was boarding. With two cats perched on the back window of the Ford Laser, their Border Collie in the back, two lifetimes packed in the boot like a Chinese puzzle box, Jane and Dave were economic refugees moving to the Mainland.

Jane popped a couple of sea sickness pills. It was her first time, crossing treacherous Bass Strait. She was sick, before they’d even set sail. Even this massive North Sea Ferry, could become another Titanic.

Yet, with barely a whitecap, they had a perfect sail.

“It’s a sign, she smiled. “We’re making the right move.

…..

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers. PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz

In January this year, our family caught the Spirit of Tasmania from Melbourne to Tasmania return. We were taking the kids down to Tasmania for them to see and experience where Daddy is from. You can read abut our trip here.

My husband is Tasmanian and his family have lived there since as early as 1828. During the late 80s early 90s during a nasty economic recession, Geoff and his then girlfriend left Tasmania bound for the Australian mainland in search of work. The rest of his immediate family had already left.

It’s a bold move to leave everything and everyone you’ve ever known, to move way. Pack everything up, and throw your stability into the wind.

I’ve done the same thing myself a couple of times in my lifetime. It didn’t seem such a big deal at the time, because I always had my parents to go back to. They were my anchor…my foundation and they’ve always called me home. I can’t imagine what it would be like going one way, with no prospect of return, especially moving to an unknown country on the other side of the world like my ancestors have done. I would love to know how they felt. Were there any regrets and where was truly home?

Best wishes,

Rowena

Do the Milkshake!

Yesterday, my daughter had a friend over and we ended up walking down to a local cafe for a milkshake with the dogs in tow and then onto the beach.

However, these weren’t your average milkshake. Indeed, if you tried doing the milkshake after one of these, your stomach would start to quake. These wacko jacko milkshakes are called Crazy Shakes, and have everything stuck on top but the kitchen sink.  The kids ordered a caramel shake and this came with an entire cinnamon donut parked on top  along with pretzels, popcorn, a caramello koala, a lollypop, possibilly some kit kat, caramel topping and goodness knows what else. Just like our local pie shop makes you sign a waiver before you try their scotchingly hot chilli pies, this place should do the same although I’m not sure how the waiver should read: “Warning: too much gluttonous pleasure contained in this glass?” Or, this milkshake could exceed your annual calorie intake? I’m not sure. I didn’t order one for myself, and ordered a chcolate muffin instead. As nice as it was, it really was “Plain Jane” next to the milkshakes, and I sprinkled some of the kids’ popcorn over the top.

It’s interesting how food trends have changed over the last couple of years. I didn’t bat an eyelid when I saw popcorn or pretzels in the milkshakes. What has become an indulgent take on the norm, would have had you locked up for your own good, a few years ago. That is, unless you were pregnant and could blame it on the cravings.

Anyway, shouting the kids these milkshakes made me feel like the fairy Godmother. “Bad cop” was nowhere in sight.

As I mentioned, we had the dogs with us and they loved being at the cafe. We were sitting outside, which was glorious. Although it’s winter here, sun and blue skies had broken through what had been a week of heavy rain and grey clouds and those warm rays of sunshine felt sooo good! Anyway, Bilbo wandered around the coutryard on border patrol and decided he loved the cafe life when he was given some leftovers. That’s right. It’s perfectly acceptable for dogs to dispose of those delectable leftovers as long as they don’t help themselves off the plate.

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Walking off Indulgence.

After their milkshakes, we strolled down to the beach and walked for a bit. Our struggling beach has been battered further and the erosion and removed more sand and tree cover. While it’s great for those gaining water views across the road, as much as water access would add value to their properties in theory, having your house washed away isn’t quite the same thing. Fortunately, unless there’s a very strong storm, that’s not on the cards…yet.

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Our Beach in Winter.

It was fun walking with the kids and getting to know my daughter’s friend better. While not being gossippy, I’ve found her friends are much more chatty about what’s going on at school and I at least gain some idea of what’s going on. That doesn’t mean that I have my finger on the pulse but at least I might be able to find a pulse if it’s needed.

Amelia looking out to sea

One last point before I head off about this playdate. At 11, the girls are almost old enough to have gone to the cafe themselves and yet they’re not. Not so much because of them as they’re quite capable of ordering, but because of those despicable characters we know are out there and we somehow need to be vigilant without growing out kids up in a dark cupboard. I’m glad they were still happy to have Mum and big brother in tow. We had a wonderful time.

xx Rowena

 

Bush Rescue…Flash Fiction Carrot Ranch.

Bob saw the helicopters hovering over the lookout again.

“Blimey, another bloody tourist’s lost,” Bob announced, taking his eyes off the footy. “All our taxpayer dollars going up in smoke. They should pay. This isn’t a free country.”

“Daddy! Daddy!” The kids puffed. “Jet’s stuck in a tree.”

“How on earth did the dog get stuck in a tree? You gone mad?”

“Hamish threw his tennis ball over the edge, and Jet flew straight after it.”

“Bob, told you that dog’s a maniac.”

“So, all those helicopters are out saving our dog????  Thank goodness, he doesn’t have a collar.”

Jonathon at Three Sisters

Surely, this smiley face would never throw his dog’s ball over the edge!!! Of course, this is fiction but…Our son at the Echo Point Lookout, aged 6.

 

June 8, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story that involves playing an outdoor game, like tetherball, hoops, tag. It can be made up, traditional, cultural or any kind of twist. Go where the prompt leads.

Kids at Echo Point Katoomba

The Kids at the Echo Point Lookout, Katoomba in 2010. Mr was 6 and Miss was 4. Her hair still didn’t reach her shoulders. 

This story is set at Echo Point in the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney. There’s a spectacular lookout there which has views across to the famous Three Sisters and the expansive Grose Valley. I’ve had this idea for a story since we were there a few years ago. It’s quite common for bushwalkers to get lost in the region and big searches have been mounted to save them. This incredible story of Jamie Neale who was lost in the Blue Mountains for 11 days factored into my story and is well worth reading: Lost Backpacker Survives Blue Mountains Ordeal

Now, bushwalkers are urged to take EPIRBS with them.

Anyway, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see a ball obsessed Border Collie like mine, jumping off a cliff to fetch the ball.

Bilbo with ball

Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

By the way, I take our dogs down to our local beach for a run and Bilbo goes crazy chasing other dogs’ tennis balls. Most of the walkers down there, expect a crowd of other dogs to hang around when they throw it to their own. Some of them, however, are not quite so understanding when Bilbo starts barking at them for them to throw it for him! He keeps telling me that he’s a highly skilled athlete, and not an addict. However, I tend to disagree…

xx Rowena

The Walk, Sydney.

Last Thursday, I ran away. Absconded.

Well, to be precise, I walked. However, “walking” doesn’t sound as good.  It doesn’t conjure up that same sense of theatre. Lacks drama. Walking also sounds, dare I say, rather “pedestrian”.

After going down to Sydney for a doctor’s appointment, I decided to pop into the Koi Dessert Bar in Chippendale. Koi was roughly “on the way home”, even if it was in the diametrically opposed direction. Koi is co-owned by Reynold, the Dessert King of Masterchef 2015. So, I was more than willing for my sweet tooth to lead me astray. Mum was taking care of the home front. So, I was a free agent. Cinderella dancing away at the ball with no thoughts about midnight.

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After catching the train from St Leonards to Central, I was walking to Broadway via the Devonshire Street Tunnel. This long pedestrian tunnel houses buskers, the homeless, beggars, along with a vendor selling The Big Issue. The tunnel itself has been there since 1906, but the characters keep changing. Today, I was mesmerized as the notes of a saxophone rose above scuffling feet into some kind of heaven. At least, heaven in a dingy tunnel. I didn’t feel like dancing, but I certainly felt my spirit soar.  It felt like the scene out of a movie. Indeed, I made my own so stay tuned.

I walked on, emerging into daylight and city streets.

 

My destination was only a few streets away. I was heading to the Koi Dessert Bar in Kensington Street, Chippendale. This is not any ordinary restaurant or cafe. Rather, it is home to Reynold, the Dessert king of Masterchef 2015. Moreover, so many of the current Masterchef contestants end up doing work experience at Koi, after they’ve left the show. I was hoping to experience a touch of Masterchef. I’d met Reynold on my last visit to Koi and enjoyed watching their open kitchen at work and was hoping to see someone and talk Masterchef.

Above: I met Reynold and watched him and the team in action at Koi last year.

However, neither Reynold nor any familiar faces were there. So, I didn’t feel I could gush like a Masterchef tragic.

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Dessert Heaven at Koi.

Rather, I had to choose my dessert…not an inconsiderable process. With so much yum on display, it creates that impossible choice. You know they’re all sensational, and it’s just a matter of personal taste. I chose the Nomtella…a dome with Espresso mousse covered in chocolate, and a mousy salted caramel centre nesting on a chocolate brownie base. I loved it, but found that half was enough. My sweet tooth hasn’t been quite so sweet lately and I blame the increased exercise for that. I bought an Orange Creme Caramel and a citrus dessert to take home and they were much more to my palate, which surprised me. They were truly sensational.

After leaving Koi, I ended up walking up Cooper Street into Surry Hills. I explored a few alleyways, chasing images of autumn leaves back-dropped against a deep, blue sky. I was swept off my feet by a special kind of Autumn magic, which was a world away from to do lists, action plans and responsibility. I still haven’t forgotten what it was like to wander the world as a backpacker, but now I have the love and security of home and my family to go home to. I only seek temporary escape. Not a one-way journey.

I don’t know what it is that keeps drawing me back to Surry Hills.

My Dad’s side of the family, Irish immigrants from County Cork mostly following the Irish Famine, settled in Paddington and Surry Hills and the family stove making business was at 90 Fitzroy Street for many years. However, that was long before my time and even my father’s. Yet, the stories were passed down. Indeed, there’s a photo of my grandfather and his Dad standing by their truck, which gives me that sense of belonging…origins. That at least a part of me, harks back Surry Hills, back when it was a surrogate Ireland and not the rough slum that it became.

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The J Curtin Truck with my Great Grandfather and Grandfather.

Moreover, although I’ve never lived in Surry Hills, I did live in neighboring Chippendale for a number of years. Lived in a range of terraces, and even a converted warehouse a life time ago.

Surry Hills is an eclectic, constantly changing place, and you never know quite what you’ll find or what to expect. There was a little cafe I’d found, which made the most scrumptious Coconut Chai Lattes, but it closed about 2 years ago. Gone, but not forgotten. On Thursday, I went to see what I knew as the art dungeon in Campbell Street, but it now sells shampoo and looks so sanitized. It’s such a travesty…a sell out. A place with so much character, gone.

Surry Hills is expensive real estate, and yet it retains its sense of grunge. Crumbling, run-down terrace houses can still be found, along with signs of Struggle Street. I can’t account for that. After all, I’m only passing through. Picking out bits and pieces through the lens, and immortalising what I’ve seen today on my hard drive. My perspectives or interpretations of an ephemeral, kaleidoscope world.That’s without even delving into its characters. I merely chat to a few people in shops, not knowing whether they’re local or not. Then, I go home.

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I was starting to fade.

Walking along Crown heading towards Oxford Street, was a long walk and I was starting to look out for passing buses….a magic carpet to carry me home. Or, at least, back to Central Station. My legs can struggle to keep up with all I see and it’s easy to conk out half way.

 

Yet, I kept walking until I finally staggered into Museum Station and caught the train to Central. I walked over to Country trains and slumped in my seat. Unlike most of the daily commuters, Too excited to sleep and pulled out the mag I’d bought in Surry Hills:

I was heading home.

 

Before we leave Surry Hills, I thought you might like to join me on some of my previous visits:

Window Shopping, Surry Hills.

Surry Hills to Gore Hill, Sydney/

Surry Hills…A Sense of Place.

Have you been on any epic urban walks that you’d like to share?

xx Rowena