Tag Archives: Umina Beach

Rocks Speaking Wisdom…Umina Beach, Australia.

Today, Miss was being plagued by a grouchy stomach, and left school early and we tried everything to try to get her through her afternoon nursing TAFE course and off to ballet tonight. It didn’t work, but here are some photos taken from our short walk along the beach. I’d hoped a bit of sunshine, vitamin D stretching her legs and the sea air might make a difference. An eternal optimist, I will keep trying.

Umina Beach. These photos were taken on the far left, which doesn’t appear in this photograph.

However, before we head off to the rocks, I wanted to set the scene and share a few views of the bigger picture.

Anyway, we came across a few uplifting words on rocks, and thought I’d pass them on. I hope they give you a bit of a smile.

To finish up, here we are in shadow.

The Miss and I.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share…15th May, 2022.

Welcome To Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This weekend I have the absolute privilege to share something incredibly precious and rare with you…sunshine. Unfortunately, I suspect it’s but a rare intermission in between our months and months of rain, but that makes it all the more special and I guess I should’ve been out there today to make the most of it.

However, I went for a magnificent bushwalk yesterday to my favourite little spot overlooking Pearl Beach and across to Palm Beach and all of Pittwater. While, it’s not Sydney Harbour, the views are almost as breathtakingly beautiful and from my vantage point, I feel like I had to all to myself. I didn’t need to compete with all of Sydney for a vantage point…only the birds!

Looking towards Umina Beach. We live in between the beach and the white sphere about a third of the way in from the right.

How was your week?

Mine was good, but fairly busy juggling family commitments, while getting stuck back into reading two novels by Australian literary giant, Ethel Turner, which are set in World War I and so also crossed over with my research there. I managed to finish: The Cub, which was published in 1915 and sees seventeen year old John leave for Gallipoli after his older brother who enlisted in England, was killed in action fighting in France. However, this forms only a fraction of the story, and the thread is picked up in the second novel in the series: Captain Cub. However, the books focus more on the home front than the war itself and the sagas of two families.

The reason I was binge reading Ethel Turner last week, was that I’d booked into an Open Day at her former home Woodlands in Killara, and I was trying to wake up my dormant brain cells so I could sound at least somewhat knowledgeable when I introduced myself to the speakers there, which included two of her Great Grandsons. However, it didn’t really work because all that happened was that I had all this Ethel Turner stuff in my head in a jumbled fog, and nothing was coming out in neatly defined packages, and especially not the whole grail where you can sum her prolific and profound writing output up in a single word and be the ultimate unrivalised genius on the subject. Or, at least that’s what distilling facts into a single word is supposed to do. Personally, I don’t feel it would do her justice, but when you’re trying to enter the realms of the academic elite, you need to play by their rules not your own.

Anyway, in the end I decided not to go. It was going to be at least a one hour drive, and they were expecting huge crowds, terrible parking and I couldn’t help conclude that I could well pick up covid. After two years of caution, it seemed stupid to throw caution to the wind. Moreover, I saw the doctor on Friday and in what sounded like a prophetic warning, she told me that more people have died from covid in the last six months in Australia than the previous two years. So, while the politicians might be telling us we’ve switched the clock back and returned to an almost normal, the stats and medical folk are telling a different story.

Meantime, while I had my nose stuck in The Cub from 1915, our daughter, “Miss”, posted a clip on Tik Tok and unlike any of my posts here on WordPress, her clip went viral and as far as I know has now had 2.5 million views.

Well, you might ask what attracted such a response, and fool like me, you might actually believe that her video was especially meaningful and required many hours of careful planning, creativity and construction. However, you’d be mistaken. It was a very spontaneous and erroneous piece which she’d put together during her Nursing TAFE course. The school has a small quasi hospital set up and she filmed the patient dummy in bed, and then turned to film her friend swinging in the swing chair. It lasts all of a minute, and while funny and quirky, doesn’t justify that many views, especially when my philosophical musings which really might improve someone else’s life, barely attract enough traffic to fill a lane let alone a super highway. I have been wondering lately what it means to live in a society where people can read, but choose not to. This could sadly be the result.

The Lockheed Hudson A16-112 built 1939 and received ex-USA on 5th December, 1941. Photo: Geoff Newton.

So, meanwhile Geoff headed North to Newcastle to attend the Central Coast Air Show. Here’s some footage from Seven News: https://www.facebook.com/7NEWSsydney/videos/371368371635055

Lastly, I thought you might appreciate checking out last week’s contribution to Friday Fictioneers. Our photo prompt this week was a single long-stemmed rose, inspiring various interpretations of love, marriage, relationships. I found them very thought provoking. Here’s a link to my story: Musings Of A Rose, and it will take you through to the rest: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2022/05/12/musings-of-a-rose-friday-fictioneers-12th-may-2022/

This is another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer at: https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Beached After the Floods.

Alleluia! I couldn’t believe it was actually sunny today, after what seemed like an eternity of rain. Indeed, I’m sure Noah had it easy!

At least, it eventually stopped raining and Noah’s Ark came to rest.

Desperate for a bit of sunshine, I headed down to the beach for a walk after dropping Miss at the dance studio this afternoon. Not only that. I wanted to check out our beach after all this rain and heavy flooding. It’s like an ephemeral, living, breathing canvas constantly painted and washed away by the waves and forces of nature. Geoff had told me the water was brown, and that it was almost like you could plant spuds out there, and a friend had seen a dead horse on the beach on her morning work.

The Hawkesbury Nepean River Catchment..

Our home beach looks out onto Broken Bay just North of Sydney, and this is where the mighty Hawkesbury-Nepean River system meets the sea. The Hawkesbury-Nepean is the longest coastal catchment in NSW. The Hawkesbury river flows 470 kilometres (from south of Goulburn near Lake Bathurst to Broken Bay), draining 21,400 square kilometres, or 2.14 million hectares, of land. This river catchment is very prone to flooding, and much of that detritus gets washed on our local beaches.

The beach was closed today on two counts – rough surf and poor water quality. Yet, there was still a dog out there running through the surf and enjoying a vigorous swim. It’s humans didn’t seem too concern about the dog being out there, but perhaps they are of that school that you could get hit by a bus and taken out at anytime, so why not take a few risks and carpe diem seize the day?

One of the first things which stood out to me, was the huge amount of foam down on the beach. In parts it was like clouds of whipped cream. However, as you can see, there was also filthy, brown foam which brought back the harsh realities of flooding. I didn’t want to touch the stuff, although I did video it drifting in and out, and seemingly breathing with the waves. It was rather mesmerising.

To be honest, I was a bit shocked by the amount of stuff on the beach. There was a massive mountain of wood, which looked like it might’ve been the work of a bulldozer, although it might’ve been the sea. There were a few spare tyres, including a complete wheel for a Volkswagen that seemed to be in good nick. I was pleased to spot a friend of mine who is the local Lifeguard. There’s not much he misses down on the beach by day and is a better source of goings on than the local rag. It turned out that the dead horse had been moved off the beach after some discussion of a not too serious nature to cremate it. He also told me that a cow had been washed up on the beach a few days ago. It’s sad that so many animals have been lost in the floods, the financial impact on multiple communities is staggering.

Atlas salvaging a coffee table off the beach.

Meanwhile, there’s been a bit of salvaging going on. He’d seen a couple of blokes roll away a keg of beer which had washed up, and while I was there a bloke salvaged a reasonable coffee table from the rubble and was strutting down the each with it over his head. He even stopped to chat for a bit, and I marvelled at his strength. He was chatting away with the coffee table held up over his head like Atlas. Meanwhile his partner/wife wasn’t wanting the coffee table to come home. Here was yet another project, and something else taking up space. In case you didn’t know having a cluttered house is almost a capital crime. When I arrived home, and filled Geoff in on all the goings on at our beach, he reminded me of a story he’s heard at the sailing club. Some blokes had been out in a tinny (small motor-powered dingy) when they saw a small bar fridge floating down the river. They managed to capture that and bring it on board and it was full of booze much to their delight. It sounds like the locals have been busy.

Here’s the lifeguard heading down the beach. This end of the beach is pretty clear and loo9ks like any other sunny day.

I wasn’t looking for anything to salvage, and was more interested in taking photos, along with getting my walk and a bit of sun. However, I also called my parents from the beach and had a bit of a chat with Dad. It’s a shame he couldn’t see the beach and enjoy it with me, but we had a good chat anyway, and I’ll forward them my photos. I also videoed the foam almost breathing as it drifted back and forth between sea and sand.

I’ve photographed reflections of clouds in the beach many, many times, but reflections of clouds of foam is something else.

Meanwhile, what has been washed up onto our beach is not even a fragment of the bigger picture, especially the decimation of Lismore in Northern NSW. Lismore frequently floods and has had some bad floods in the past. However, this flood is by far the worst, and just to give you an insight into the damage, all the books at Lismore Library have been lost. While it was hardly the State Library or the historic library at Alexandria, as a book lover that particularly disturbed me. I have so many books and each of them is precious and for an entire library to be lost…It’s just impossible to fathom, and yet there are so many people who’ve lost the lot. Ordinary people just like you and I.

Sending my love just isn’t enough!

If you been affected by the flooding, my heart goes out to you.

Love,

Rowena

Waking Up In Carrigaholt, County Clare, Ireland.

You can call me “bonkers”, “insane”, “weird” for heading off on another Virtual Adventure via Google Earth, but I don’t care. I’m “creative”. Moreover, after making a concerted effort to change and overhaul myself on the weekend, I’ve actually concluded that more people should embrace their dormant creativity, instead of supressing it beneath a veneer of glorified efficiency. That’s right. Let it all hang out.

There I was trying to get “alles ist in Ordnung” (everything is in order) when I cut my finger and found myself shut in a treatment room for three hours at the hospital. Of course, this was the very embodiment of Ordnung what with perfect white walls, no pictures, and not even a piece of paper, let alone a desk full of paperwork all out of place. Humph. That was a stark warning to be careful what you wish for!

This was where I landed when I returned to Carriageholt today. It’s on Church Street just down from the corner of West Street. Funny. Our main street in Umina Beach all the way over here in Australia is also called West Street.

Anyway, let’s just say I needed to unwind after the trip to the hospital, and after enjoying my recent virtual explorations of Cork City, I set out again. This time I decided to visit Lisheenfurroor near Carrigaholt in West Clare, where my Great Great Grandfather, Edward Quealy (1843-1917) was born.

It was a totally random idea, and I had no idea what to expect. I never do. Google Earth just drops you off somewhere in your intended destination like a body thrown out of a speeding gangstermobile. Once you’ve come to your senses, you need to get your bearings, work out what’s what, and which way to turn. It turned out there was a lot of green grass in Lisheenfurroor, and so I kept walking, walking, walking tracking along the edge of some body of water until I stumbled across the enchanting village of Carrigaholt, and I was smitten.

Stumbling across Carrigaholt was particularly exciting. While it’s always interesting to finally see something familiar in person for the first time, it’s quite something else to follow where the wind and the road take you, and stumble across somewhere entirely unknown (at least to yourself!) and make a FIND!!! Indeed, I wish I could dig out my old backpack, and head straight over there now, although I might take our Summer with me. While it’s a hot and sunny 28°C here and perfect beach weather, it’s a bitterly cold 8°C in Carrigaholt today. That’s enough to put your average Aussie into immediate shock and hibernation.

As I said, I first came to Carrigaholt via Doonaha travelling mostly through farmland dotted with a few houses. My eyes lit up when I spotted a village ahead, and what turns out to be Carrigaholt Bay on my left. A blue fishing boat is moored there, and I have no idea whether it was just parked there for that brief moment in time, or whether it’s a more permanent fixture. However, for me it’s just as much a part of Carriagaholt as Keane’s across the road.

Bridge across the River Moyarta, Carrigaholt.

I cross over the Moyarta River (which flows into the estuary of the famed River Shannon) here via a quaint stone bridge with hanging baskets of flowers (such a lovely touch!). Although I was traveling via Google Earth and depending on someone’s questionable photographic skills, they did manage to capture the reflection of the sky on the river, and I felt a strange sense of satisfaction capturing it myself (even if photographing a place via Google Earth is a bit desperate!!).

Next up, Keane’s is on your right and someone’s been frozen in time sitting at the table out the front. Meanwhile, here’s some traditional Irish music playing there in NYE 2018: https://www.facebook.com/KeanesBarCarrigaholt/videos/1995778177174507

Carriagaholt Post Office

Coming to the intersection, briefly take a turn to your left to fully appreciate the local post office, which looks like it’s straight out of a fairy story to me with an assortment of brightly-coloured chairs out the front. It puts our local post office to shame, and I can’t help wondering if Postman Pat works there…

By the way, I’ve just spotted something which yours truly with no sense of direction would appreciate in one sense, but totally struggle to make sense of…a map.

Then, across in the distance, is Carrigahalt Castle. I am told: “This five storey tower house was built in about 1480 by the MacMahons, the chiefs of West Corkavaskin on the Loop Head peninsula. The castle, which offers commanding views of the Shannon Estuary, has quite a turbulent history. It was occupied by Teige Caech “the short sighted” McMahon in September 1588 when seven ships from the Spanish Armada anchored in the estuary. Even though the MacMahons offered no aid to the Spanish the tower house was unsuccessfully besieged by the Sir Conyers Clifford, the Governor of Connacht. The following year the castle was captured by the Earl of Thomond, Donagh O’Brien.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like I can get any closer via Google maps,, although photos abound on the Internet. This is as good as it gets, and going to the castle isn’t part of my journey.

Despite missing out on the castle, I’m already charmed by this place. It’s the first Irish village I have ever seen, and it doesn’t really matter that my first impressions aren’t in person. Our Australian borders have been closed for almost two years and as a parent with kids and health and budget restraints, getting there in person hasn’t been a possibility anyway. So, I am totally excited to be doing this, and I’m imagining all these people behind closed doors with accents like my favourite Irish actor James Nesbitt (even though as I just found out he’s from Northern Ireland and has a different accent entirely).

In this brief time, my heart is already fluttering. I can barely contain my excitement as I come across a heartwarming and unique character village. I love a bit of colour, and Max Bites with its canary yellow walls and red doors was like a magnet. I believe it sells takeaway food, and that’s where the downside of travelling via Google maps truly sets in. I’m currently nibbling on an Arnott’s Scotch Finger Biscuit with a cup of decaf tea, while the dog has migrated from my lap to sit on my husband’s feet.

A few doors down and a rustic stone wall leads to a captivating and intriguing pale yellow cottage with mauve doors with some kind of decorative wreath. Even more intriguing, mysterious Gaelic words adorn the walls, and I’m convinced fairies must be living inside. In a way it seems a shame to resort to an online Gaelic to English dictionary to demystify their cryptic code. However, my insatiable curiosity and nosiness proves too much. I have to know.

Here’s just a few of them:

Nóinín – Daisy

Caisearbhán – Dandilion

Fiúise – Fuchsia

Airgead luachrameadow-sweet 

Although it’s tempting to cross the road, please hold your horses and bear with me just a bit longer. You won’t be disappointed. There’s another beautiful cottage, which I’ve simply called “Heart Cottage” where the door and window shutters have been painted red, with a white heart. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if this could be our centre of government?! A place where love rules the world? It all seems so simple to me. So, why is there so much hate, disagreement and exclusion? Humph! Instead of going green, it seems I’ve put on my rose-coloured glasses since arriving in Carrigaholt, and I’m not taking them off any time soon. I’m living the dream.

Okay, so now we’re going to cross the road, and doing a bit of a U-turn. Our first stop is Carmody’s Bar. Their FB page says: “Carmody’s Bar is a family run bar that has been in the family for well over 150 years, (which means it was here when my Edward Quealey left about 1881). We are known for regular traditional Irish music sessions and sing songs. Great Guinness, friendly customers and a great welcome for everyone.” Here’s a taste of what we’re missing out on:

https://www.facebook.com/CarmodysBar/videos/2026645187498940

However, we’re not going to linger in our disappointment. Our next stop is Long Dock Traditional Irish Pub and Restaurant where Tony, the Chef/Proprietor gave me a quick lesson on how to cook mussels and I encourage you to check it out too: https://loveloophead.com/food/restaurants/the-long-dock/?fbclid=IwAR0bmwcmIgRr0wlHCUThDlwndJRt_SqMtqrklVBwlszr9ZGv76P1TsNPp3g

Before I head off, here’s a few more pics around Carrigaholt before I head off:

So, now I’m pining for Irish music and a bowl full of freshly cooked mussels and some way of beaming myself up to Carrigaholt. I am going to post this on their Facebook page and hope to connect. So, might I encourage you to come back to see how the comments evolve.

Meanwhile, there’s so much to love back here at home. I enjoyed a lovely walk along the beach and chatting with my friend who is the local lifeguard. Our daughters met when they were babies at playgroup and have been best friends through high school together.

Things could be worse!

Me at Ocean Beach, Umina.

If you live in or near Carrigaholt, I would love to hear from you or from anyone who has been there on their travels.

Love and best wishes,

Rowena Curtin

Umina Beach, Australia

Weekend Coffee Share – 31st January, 2022.

This whole concept of trying to get in the zone before school goes back is failing miserably. I sat in my chair at my computer without any sense of where to start and what to do next, and the dog sat on my lap which only compounded my sense of being lost in the wilderness, when I suddenly remembered I had my weekly Coffee Share to write. A quick check revealed I still have an hour to go. How lucky am I. Being on Summer time, I’ve gone forward an hour, and Natalie has lost an hour. Happy days!

Waiting to get tested. It was only 30 minutes but still there are other places we’d rather be…

Well, after much soul searching during the last week which mostly revolved around a close covid contact and our son’s return from youth camp, I am feeling a sense of relief. As you can see from the opening, I’m not quite on top of things, but I’m not travelling backwards at the speed of sound either.

Indeed, I feel I’ve moved forward somewhat from when I posted this during the week:

The most important thing is that we were covid clear. I was still fighting the pseudo-covid virus and annoying vertigo, but not being covid meant we could get some milk, Geoff could do a critical IT upgrade at the hospital and I wasn’t left wondering whether I should go to hospital or not. As I said, happy days. On top of that, our daughter is getting back on track with her dance after a difficult year last year, and in their production of Swan Lake, she will be covering Odette and playing a Big Swan. It’s so exciting. She was also accepted into a separate choreography piece, and I’m not sure what that’s about but she’s in.

Meanwhile, I’m working towards the “kids'” upcoming birthdays. Our son will be turning 18 in March and our daughter will be turning “Sweet 16” (I sometimes wonder about that, but most of the time she’s sweet enough). As you could imagine, I’ve taken loads of photos over the years. I’m wanting to produce some printed photo books. However, they have around 30 pages, and although you can add extra pages, you don’t want something the size of an old-fashioned phone book. It has to be manageable. So I think the 30 pages is good, and I’ll just break them down into categories and do a couple. However, producing a photo book is much more complex than I thought, especially if I’m producing the photos he wants to see, which might be very different from the photos I would choose for myself. There are also ethical dilemmas, and on this front, I’m running with the Golden Rule. I know I’m very good at over-complicating things, but this time I’d seriously under-estimated what was involved and I’m seriously hoping the special deal they have running doesn’t run out before I’ve got it sorted. I guess that also tells me what I’m doing this afternoon.

Lastly, in terms of research this week, I’ve been doing a bit on my Irish family history. This time, I’ve been looking at the Curtins from Cork City, County Cork. I’ve mentioned them last week I think. It’s now starting to look like John Curtin’s siblings survived the Great Hunger and childhood. Or, at least some of them did, which is good and we probably have rather distant family who are still there. Small steps. Meanwhile, I walked around Cork City via Google Earth. It was fun, and I covered quite a lot of distance in my lounge chair without wearing out. Hopefully, I’ll be able to get over there in the not too distant future!

Btw here’s a link to a post I put together for Thursday Doors:

Well, how was your week? I hope it’s been good and I look forward to hearing about your adventures over tea or coffee.

Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/ I can’t offer you any fresh baked snacks, but I can share a slice of paradise:

Best wishes,

Rowena

My Lockdown Walk – Ocean Beach, Greater Sydney.

Lock down is a rude shock. There we were on top of the world thumbing our noses at Melbourne (and most of the planet), miraculously invincible. Now, here we are in lock down with the Delta variant spreading through Sydney, and I’m sure it’s not just Melbournites who are glad to see us get our comeuppance. It’s the world. It’s alright. I can handle the rotten tomatoes. I know I let my pride get ahead of me. Or, should I say Sydney. However I’ve never under-estimated Covid, and I’ve been pretty committed to social-distancing and isolating even beyond requirements. Indeed, My husband and I are among those rare Australians who have had both of our Astra Zeneca shots and have served the two week waiting period as well. Yet, that’s still no iron-clad guarantee and our kids aren’t vaccinated. So, I’m not about to go fraternizing with Covid any time soon. Indeed, I’m curled up in my PJs with the dog sleeping on my lap, and working on my research/writing project. Aside from the unfortunate situation that I have to physically stay away from people, I’m okay with it.

Well, that depends on how long this lasts. I sort of bought the NSW Premier’s announcement that lock down would last for two weeks. Then, I remembered my last dance class and that “just one more, another one, one more” and before I knew it, I’d done 50.”

Please don’t let us pend 50 weeks in lock down. I might have written enough books to fill a library by then.

Anyway, the good thing about being in lock down here, is I live just a short walk from the beach, and we’re allowed to exercise. By the time I got moving, it was after sunset and even the golden after glow had sunk well below the horizon. I didn’t have my SLR with me and the aren’t the best photos I’ve ever taken, but they’re atmospheric.

Anyway, when I reached the beach, I noticed clumps of foam were washing back and forth with the waves, and looked like clouds floating on the sand. It was so atmospheric. Have a told you I love clouds? That I’ve landed in a lot of trouble photographing clouds, particularly dark and menacing storm clouds. Well, these pseudo clouds were safe. It was just a shame I didn’t have the SLR with me, although I doubt it wouldn’t been able to perform miracles on the beach after dark.

Well, at least I managed to get some exercise, and stretch my outlook beyond the confines of the house. Hibernation is so alluring, but so is being out in nature and perhaps I can get back down there in daylight tomorrow.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 26th May, 2020

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I’m not going to lie to you. The weather today is absolutely appalling. That’s not just because I’m some wussy Australian who can’t handle  the rain…or the cold.

Well, maybe I am.

However, it’s beyond my control. My DNA’s been reprogrammed by the heat and rain is such a rare thing here at times, that I almost don’t know what it is when I see it.

Moreover, I’m not alone in this either. Lady, our Border Collie x Kelpie wanted to go outside tonight but as soon as she stuck her nose out and saw the rain, she changed her mind.

Well, we had some big news here. Last Monday schools here in NSW were literally ordered back full time by the Minister for Education , just like a frigging dictator. There’s been little thought or accommodation for people in high risk categories. We’ve simply been told that zoom won’t continue. Unless you provide medical documentation, your child will be marked absent and consult your school principal. As you can see, it really annoyed me, and put me in a really dreadful position of having to choose between my kids’ education and potentially my own survival. However, the incidence of the virus here in Australia is seemingly so low, that I do think and hope that the risk is minimal.

So, we’ve had to get the household adjusted and prepared for back to school. It’s all been made much easier by having Geoff working from home. He’s showing no sign of needing to go back to working in the office, which is great.

Meanwhile, I’ve been trying to get our for some exercise. I can’t quite recall whether it’s only been the one walk. However, last week I went on a wonderful walk   to the Mt Ettalong Lookout which is about 10 minutes drive from home and on the way from Umina Beach to Patonga. From the road, it’s pretty unassuming. So much so, that it’s simply known as “the water tower walk” locally. However, it has breathtaking coastal views over natural rock lookouts and you almost feel like an intrepid explorer looking over the headland out to sea. I also loved the trees and wildflowers, which really came alive to me. I call myself a tree gazer. I find so many shapes and forms in their exquisite boughs and branches and I was there right on magic hour right before sunset when the magic was at its best. You can read more about it HERE.

Matchsticks

What with the whole Covid 19 situation, I’ve found myself in a fairly reflective mood at times. In fact, I’ve caught myself going through my misery list a few times. You know that list of losses and everything that’s gone wrong and been totally unfair. Well, I pulled myself up on it and decided to reflect on the first six months of 2020, through the framework of Acknowledgement & Gratitude. Acknowledgement recognizes those disappointments and setbacks without dwelling on them. You’re just visiting, and in the case of the Monopoly board you’re not going away to jail and staying there. I was quite surprised that my gratitudes outnumbered and also outweighed my acknowledgements by more than two to one. Indeed, that proved to be a very useful exercise and I encourage you to check it out here: Acknowledgement & Gratitude- 2020 Revisited.

I also got back into flash fiction this week, contributing to Friday Fictioneers. My flash this week as: Inside-Outside.

So, how are things going over in your neck of the woods? I hope they’re going well and you’re all keeping safe.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Stunning Water Tower Walk: Pearl Beach, Australia.

It’s hard to believe this breathtaking bushwalk is simply known locally as “the Water Tower Walk”. That sounds so plain Jane and understated. I’m not even sure there’s a sign, although it’s probably on the map.  That said, you either have to be local and in the know…or lost…to find it!

Rowena Mt Ettalong Walk

Here I am snuggled into the bushes with my Nikon photographing the view.

Yet, this walk is literally awesome, packed with knockout views, especially for the contemplative soul. Moreover, you never know what you’re going to stumble across on  the wildlife front. Much to our surprise,we’ve actually seen an echidna, which we didn’t even know were living in our local area. We’ve also seen a flock of stunning black cockatoos, although I only heard them this time.

Since we’re in varying stages of being cooped up in lock down like a flock of old chooks, I thought I’d invite you on a virtual bush walk. This way, you can ease into my shoes and hopefully get a sense of the magic.

However, before we get started, I’d better give you some directions. As it turns out, a quick Google search for a map actually told me its official name is : The Mt Ettalong Lookout Walk and its official address is 135 Patonga Dr, Pearl Beach NSW 2256. Well, that’s all well and good if you want to write it a letter. However, if  you’re in the car and looking out the window, you just need to look out on your left for the water tower. Take it from me, you can miss it and if you reach the Pearl Beach turn off, you’ve gone too far. The water tower is camouflaged in the scrub.

BTW, to help you get your bearings, I thought I’d better remind you our seasons are upside down for most of you. That means, we’re heading into Winter here in Australia. Now, I’m constantly running out of frigging daylight, because I stay up too late and miss half the day. So, this will tell you that we’re arriving about half an hour before sunset when the light is at its magic best, although there were definitely spots  where the light was gone, and needed the morning sun.

Track Mt Ettalong Lookout

From the road, this half hour walk appears pretty understated. There’s just the water tower and a bit of bush. Definitely no multi-story car park, luxury hotel or other travesties you expect anywhere worth visiting. Just nature. However, walk further down the track, and you’ll soon see stunning water glimpses through the gum trees  on your right.

Mt Ettalong Lookout through trees

Further along, you’ll see a little track across to a series of natural rock lookouts. By the way, there are no safety railings to spoil the view, until you reach the lookout at the end. So, you need to watch your step and be careful. Otherwise, it will be you being rescued and appearing on the 6.00 pm news…or worse!

“There’s nothing wrong with enjoying looking at the surface of the

ocean itself, except that when you finally see what goes on

underwater,you realize that you’ve been missing the whole point of the

ocean. Staying on the surface all the time is like going to the circus and

staring at the outside of the tent.”

― Dave Barry

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The View from the first lookout over Pearl beach and across to Lion Island and Broken Bay.

 

“We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a

drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be

missing something.”

― Mother Teresa

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Pearl Beach viewed from the Mt Ettalong Walk. During these times of social distancing, I’feeling particularly struck by images of the lone individual., as captured in this photograph, which would improve in the morning light. 

Alongside the view, you’ll also spot a few wildflowers. If I came here more regularly, I’d have a better idea of what to expect. However, since I only come here randomly once a year or so, it’s always a bit of a lucky dip. This time I spotted a star-shaped purple flower which I couldn’t identify, as well as the stunning Fushia Heath (Epacris longiflora). There was also a touch of wattle, and some Banksia seed pods still clinging tenaciously to the branches with others being trodden under foot.

Tree beside the path

“Trees are poems that the earth writes upon the sky.”

― Khalil Gibran, Sand and Foam

You could come here just for the ocean views, and be in heaven. However, the trees were almost equally magnificent. Please don’t mistake me for a tree hugger. I’m more of a tree gazer, photographer and philosopher. I’m currently reading Julie Baird’s sensational book: Phosphoressence. She’s introduced me to the Japanese concept of “forest bathing”, or shinrin yoku. Unconsciously, that’s what I was doing on this walk, although I’ll take the liberty of translating it into the Aussie vernacular and call it “Bush Bathing”. Mind you, that’s something you need to approach with extreme caution in a more literal sense in the Australian bush. There are not only the legendary snakes and spiders you’ve no doubt heard about. The leaves on many of these plants have adapted to rough conditions and are tough, scratchy and even vicious. So, they’re clearly not something to embrace in a literal, physical sense and most definitely not naked. Indeed, this could well explain Australians’ bizarre toilet paper hoarding fetish during the coronacrisis. There was no way we were turning to our native flora as an alternative.

tree

 

“One touch of nature makes the whole world kin.”

― William Shakespeare

Anyway, back to the trees. They were absolutely breathtaking, and I often struggle to understand how a simple tree could be so majestic and awe-inspiring. Meanwhile, I almost felt the size of an ant, dwarfed by this kaleidoscope of twisting, turning branches back-lit by the setting sun.  Their arms are reaching up into the omnipresent sky like a classroom full of kindergarten kids, where each of them has the answer to the question and desperately want to be picked. Moreover, being on top of a headland, these trees have wrestled with the wind and their branches have warped and twisted into an array of chaotic, misshapen forms, and I can almost hear the music playing, enchanting the branches to dance.  Of course, the effects of the late afternoon sun known as “the magic hour” by we photographers,  further illuminates their magnificent splendour. Gazing through my lens, I zoom in and absorb it all. It’s food for my soul.

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A jumble of branches.

Or, perhaps I’ve just been in lock down for far too long, and I’ve almost forgotten that the sky is blue. Or, that the sky exists outside at all, and hasn’t become a ceiling. That carpet hasn’t suddenly replaced the grass, and the world isn’t a square box after all.

I wish I could actually take you on this mesmerising journey in person with me. However, I’ve done my best to try to record it for you and, as I said, to ease you into my shoes. So, when I wasn’t standing stationary sticking my camera up a gum tree or gazing like stout Cortez across the sea, you would hear my footsteps rhythmically crunching over a carpet of crushed rocks and decaying detritus left, right, left, right. The track was uncharacteristically damp, because we’ve actually been getting some rain lately, and there’s a slighty musty smell of decaying leaves infused with eucalyptus, that scent we know as “Australia”.After all, this is our scent, our fragrance, even our deodorant. (Actually, we don’t go that far with the eucalyptus. Or, at least I don’t. Cough lollies are my limit.)

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As you can see, this spot is almost pure nature. Nothing’s been planted in neat little rows like peas in a pod. Rather, there’s raw, chaotic diversity and a freedom of spirit without pretence. I felt a million miles away from home, and any thought of covid 19 which has been stalking all of humanity around the entire globe. After all, there was no need for social distance. It was just me, myself and I, the birds, the trees, the awesome profound views across this vast stretch of water, the enormity of huge timeless boulders all  around me as well as the dramatic drop over the edge. This doesn’t quite count as a cliff, but if you fell down there, you might never get up, especially if no one knows you’re there.

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However, regardless of how deeply I was “bathing” in these scenes and senses, reality was always going to stick it’s ugly head in.  With the setting sun, came responsibilities. Dinner wasn’t about to cook itself and fly magically onto the table. Moreover, I also had a zoom meeting to attend. Indeed, it was going to be rush, rush, hustle bustle when I got home.

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However, at least I’d got out. Spread my wings. Broadened my horizons. Finally, done some exercise. Moreover, once the Palm Beach Lighthouse was lit and the street lights were coming on, it was time for me to go home. After all, even a child knows they need to be home before sunset.

Matchsticks

 

Well, I hope you enjoyed our virtual walk. Have you been out on any special walks recently? Or, do you have a favourite walk which you would like to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Meanwhile, I hope that you are well, and keeping safe both from the virus but also all of its associated stress and the effects of isolation, job loss and just sense of things being turned upside down and inside out.

Best wishes,

Rowena

U – Umina Beach, Australia…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome back to Places I’ve Been, my theme for this year’s Blogging From A to Z April Challenge. Today, we’re off to Umina Beach, which isn’t very far away for me at all. It’s actually only 700 metres down the road.

Indeed, Umina Beach is home. Geoff and I moved up here almost 20 years ago to buy our first home. Despite what we thought would be a quick renovate and flip, we’re still here. In fact, we haven’t finished those renovations, and what we did manage to get done back at the beginning, needs to be re-done. After all, fixing up a fixer-upper is a lot like painting the Sydney Harbour Bridge. By the time you finally reach the finish, you need to  start painting at the beginning again.

Zac at the beach

Zac at the beach a few weeks ago.

Geoff and I didn’t plan to leave Sydney, or even buy a place in Umina Beach. We’d started looking around real estate in Sydney, but came up to Umina Beach to visit our niece and this place was for sale two streets away. This massive decision was all very spontaneous, although you could also say it was meant to be. However, as we’ve found out, this decision was a lot more far-reaching than deciding where to camp for the night. Although Sydney’s only an hour down the road and Geoff commutes there for work, it’s not the same as actually living there.  It’s taken me quite a long time to call Umina Beach home, and I still consider myself a Sydney person. This region is considered part of Greater Sydney. However, when I was alone at home with the new baby and Geoff was commuting to Sydney and away most of the day, I really felt that distance. However, through getting involved in Church, playgroups and community action groups, that started to change. By the time the kids started school and I was also working part-time for a local IT company, I felt a lot more settled. Through living there, we’ve managed our mortgage on one income, without being enslaved to the mighty mortgage which is the norm in Sydney. It’s naturally a lot more relaxing around here with the beach at one end of the street and flat, inland water suitable for sailing and kayaking down another. Can’t complain about that!

 

Lady at Ocean Beach

Lady at Ocean Beach, NSW.

So, after that rather lengthy introduction, you must be wondering if we’re ever going to make it to the beach. My apologies. I can take all of this a bit for granted what with living here all the time. However, before we hit the beach, I need to make a quick distinction between the name of the place and the names of the beaches around here. The place is called Umina Beach, but the beach itself is divided into Ocean Beach, which is just down from our place, and Umina Beach to the West. However, it’s all one expanse of golden sand and a fabulous place to go for a walk. There’s even a designated dog beach.

Nippers Running

Our son racing at Nippers, a junior form of life saving. 

In so many ways, the beach is our cultural hub and a true blue melting pot where lifesavers, swimmers, walkers, dogs, kids and seagulls all congregate, exercise and relax. We’ve taken the kids down to the beach from the time they were born, and held them into the frolicking waves, until they were old enough to hold their hands and eventually join Nippers, along with many of the other local kids on a Sunday morning. Now, our daughter goes down to the beach with her friends and Geoff and our son prefer sailing. I have done some swimming, but am better known as walker and dog walker, although there can also be a bit of talk with that as well.

The set of photos above were taken in November 2007 celebrating Geoff’s Birthday.

Our beach has had some rough times over the years. Rough storms have removed tonnes of sand, ripped out rows of native trees and extensive remediation works have been undertaken to halt the damage. The road around the beach front was even closed off for awhile there, as there were concerns it too could fall in the drink. I don’t think this situation has really stabilised but it might’ve improved.

Geoff & Rowena

Just off Umina Beach, there’s the Umina Precinct Park, which as a dream come true for the local action group I belonged to when the kids were small. Back then, even getting a local park with a fence seemed like an impossible pipe dream. However, council came onboard and the project snowballed into a regional park and tourist attraction. This was well beyond our wildest dreams, and I should remember this when a situation seems hopeless. Never give up!

Flamin Ron the World’s Hottest Chilli Pie on TV

However,  every town has to have its personality. It’s claim to fame. For Umina Beach, this comes in the form of pastry chef, Ron Bruns from the Bremen Patisserie and his infamous pie… the Flamin Ron, the world’s hottest chilli pie. While I know Ron quite well and love his almond croissants and bee sting cake, I’ve never even considered dipping my little finger into one of these pies, let alone tried to eat one. In case you’re wondering whether this pie is as ruthlessly hot as it claims, you actually need to sign a legal waiver beforehand. So, that’s warning enough for me. However, despite local horror stories, there are still mighty warriors willing to take on the Flamin Ron challenge blow the consequences. This includes Richard, who tells a wonderful  tale

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Woy Woy Air Strip extending down to Umina Beach with Lion Island right in front of the runway. 

While I was putting together this post, I did some historical research, hoping to find some historical detail of interest. After all, if you’ve been following me throughout this series, you’ll know how much I love jumping into my time machine, travelling back in time beyond the present day. It’s somewhat well-known around here that there used to be an air strip through town. I couldn’t have told you exactly where it was. However, that’s what Google’s for and the old newspapers.

This brings us to the Woy Woy Airstrip, which was built during WWII along with an aerodrome. The runway extended from Woy Woy down in a straight line along what’s now Trafalgar Avenue into Umina Beach, ending about a street away from our place. During WWII, the air strip was even used by US bombers. You can read more about it here  at All Things Woy. 

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Imagine this crashing into your roof. Luckily, no one was home when a Tiger Moth crashed into a Umina home in 1950. This file is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license

However, our street wasn’t always a street away from trouble. On the 4th November, 1950 long a few life times before we moved in, a Tiger Moth plane crash landed into a house at the end of the street. Of course, 70 years down the track, having a Tiger Moth crash land in your street sounds particularly exciting (especially after being in lock down for at least 6 weeks!!), although I should also point out that the pilot was injured. The plane crashed into the roof, and as the pilot wandered out in a dazed state, he fell 15ft  off the roof. Fortunately, residents Mr and Mrs Henson were away visiting their daughter in Sydney at the time. The plane crashed right on dinner time, and it’s almost certain they would have been killed. So, there’s something more I learned on my travels during the Blogging From A to Z Challenge.

Couple Ocean Beach best

Sunset at the beach

Well, it’s now time to leave Umina Beach behind and get a bit of shut eye before our adventures start up again in the morning. Indeed, I might need to stay home for awhile after all this travel is over. What I would give to sleep in my own bed again, instead of tramping along the road from hotel to hotel.

Oh, that’s right. I haven’t been anywhere at all. It’s just me, myself and I stuck inside these same four walls along with Geoff, two teenagers and three dogs.

Humph! We’re definitely in need of a holiday!!

How are you holding up in isolation? Where would you like to go? My list is just getting longer and longer. However, due to my health, my movements are particularly restricted. So, right now even being able to walk into a local shop to buy some chocolate has become an impossible dream. That said, I’m certainly not going without. Hoarding chocolate hasn’t become a crime.

Take care & stay safe!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Tough Questions About Self-Isolation.

There’s no doubt that here in Australia we’re poised on the edge of a precipice. It’s now a question of how long the corona-crisis will last, and how we can best protect ourselves and our communities.When it comes to this, the anticipated duration makes quite a difference, because you prepare for a marathon in quite a different way than a sprint. Unfortunately, it looks like we’re in for a marathon. So, perhaps isolation in its severest form, is something only to be pursued when there is no choice.

The message has been very clear that social distancing is the obvious response to the Coronavirus. Moreover, it’s a no-brainer for people like me with rotten lungs and compromised immunity. However, what that self-isolation entails is somewhat semantic and more a matter of isolating from people. In other words, you don’t necessarily need to stay locked up in your box at home to be isolated. You could be on a boat. Walk well away from people or go and camp out in the bush. Indeed, I saw quite a few different ways of being outside yet self-isolating while I was down at the beach.

 

So, although I’m largely self-isolated at home, the main reason I decided to go for a walk along the beach was to exercise my lungs and try to build up some strength and resilience. My lungs are quite weak at the moment just from my regular lung condition, but they do improve with exercise which clears them out a bit (even though it makes me cough like a trooper). After all, I need to be in the very best health I can muster in case I catch this thing and being under the weather beforehand, I’m playing a losing battle.

Fortunately, our local beach, especially late in the day, is relatively unoccupied. This is quite a contrast to Sydney’s Bondi Beach which was packed on Friday and Saturday with idiot Australians just begging to catch the damn thing. Indeed, as you may have heard, Bondi Beach was shut down on Saturday as a preventative measure. If people aren’t going to think, then law enforcement needs to do the thinking for them.

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Even parts of our beach were looking over-populated. I walked the other direction which was sparsely occupied. 

At our beach today, there were still a few people down between the flags. So, I drove down to a more remote access point where I could stay within my protective bubble of space. No patting dogs or talking to dog walkers and thank goodness I only saw one friend a few metres away who well understood that I could only wave and keep moving. This was all very out of character for me, because I’m usually an absolute social butterfly given half a chance. I had to hide myself away.

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Idyllic and away from the crowds.

I was pleased I went, and immediately felt the psychological benefits. While being locked away inside much of the last couple of weeks has felt okay when I’m there, I felt so liberated to be at the beach again and out of the house.  Indeed, basking in the sunshine, inhaling the sea air and watching the ocean, I felt a surprising sense of exhilaration and well-being. A certainty that this was good for me and to keep looking for safe ways of getting outside, especially at the moment. We live a bit outside of Sydney and while this provides no certainties, it does provide more secluded exit points.

At the same time, I understand that leaving the house at all, goes against the strictest interpretation of advice.  However, if you’re only in self-imposed isolation, there’s no reason why you can’t go bush. You just need to hope you don’t start a movement.  After all, it’s people and public places which are the problem, not the trees.

Of course, once the virus spreads further, I will be bunkered down like a soldier in their trench, except I won’t be throwing any missiles, pineapple bombs or other incendaries over at the enemy. I certainly won’t be hopping over my trench pursuing it with my rifle and bayonet drawn either (been doing too much WWI research). Rather, my strategy is focused on withdrawal and getting myself as fit as possible by eating plenty of fresh fruit and veg, taking my vitamins and getting what exercise I can.

Family photo

Family photo taken 18 months ago.

Unfortunately, my greatest threat is my family. While my husband is now working from home, my son has been home with a cold and our daughter is still going to school and seeing a few trusted friends. She has been self-isolating from the family for some time. So, unless whatever she has can escape under her door like some bubonic slime, we’ll be safe. I’m sure if you have teens you’ll know exactly what I mean. Anyway, as you might have read in my previous post, that’s why we bought a caravan so we can isolate within our family.

I don’t know what the way forward will look like, but for the time being it looks like we need to pull together by staying apart.

How are you and your communities getting on? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes and blessings for protection,

Rowena