About as bogan as a fourteen year old mother of four…….

Loaded up with things too precious to leave to the removal, I drove out of Newcastle.  My bones called for the ocean but I did not look back.  Instead, I focused on the drive ahead which would take me along the Golden and Mitchell Highways’ toward the outback.

The days’ heat had already begun to take hold and by dusk it had fatigued with a weariness you feel almost down to your marrow.  We had our eyes on the west but still stopped at small rural townships along the way.  In these places, some of which seemed to carry the immense weight of sadness and neglect to them, I was challenged to consider why the residents have stayed.  Towns that seemed years ago to have been a world of hard work and prosperity now have very little to show for it.

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After just over 3 hours of driving, we pulled up outside the White Rose café in Dunedoo.  This is one of those rare old milk bars.  The kind that used to be around in all country towns during the 50’s and 60’s.  Stepping through the doors of the café you are met with an assortment of tables and sturdy hardwood chairs, a curved metal counter, polished glass and milkshakes made the old way by plunging a long handled dipper into a vat of ice cold milk.

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The food was okay but not great and the wait can be long but perhaps the cafes’ charm is that it succeeds on nostalgia, kitsch and as an air conditioned comfort stop for a hodgepodge of travellers.

Fueled by a steak sandwich and a GI Blues milkshake, it was back on the road where I occasionally stopped to stretch my legs or take a photo.  I was also not adverse to stopping roadside, eroding tiny parts of the landscape as the stock pile of water and ginger beer I had on board quickly diminished.

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The sun continued to beat down, dry grass crunched under my feet and the land was parched.  It was a hot and tiring drive along the baking sheets of tar with little relief except for the ginger beer.  That was until we pulled up in Nyngan…….

Now it seems we like things BIG in Australia.  The Big Pineapple, The Big Banana, The Big Prawn, I think you get the big idea.

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Nothing like a big, sunshiny yellow banana to make you feel good 

And where better to erect a Big Bogan other than right on the edge of the outback in Nyngan New South Wales.

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Should you ever find yourself skulking along Bogan Way, or around the banks of the Bogan River or just mossying along Bogan Street which, by the way, are all smack bang in the Bogan Shire, you will happen upon this iconic structure.

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Dwarfing all around, this impressively tall thong wearing stubbie holding statue – who looks uncannily like Hulk Hogan – is about as Australian as it gets from his Southern Cross tattoo and huge-ass esky right up to his mullet.

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Hulk Bogan…….

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Big Bogan

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Little Bogan

I seemed to get my second wind in Nyngan.  Perhaps it was the break from the weariness of the road or perhaps it was just because I had a soft spot for this fun but often scorned and ridiculed effigy.

Late afternoon, and after clocking up just over 9 hours on the road, we headed to the copper town of Cobar for the night.  The 130k run from Nyngan to Cobar was slow going as unpredictable herds of feral goats (more than I have ever seen in any one location),  a random old sheep or two and the occasional kangaroo grazed or moved about right by the road side.

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Cobar eventually came in the relief of a cold shower, cold beer and a Chinese meal at the local bowls club where it seemed half of the population of the town had gathered for happy hour.

Later that evening and back in the motel room although bone tired, I could not sleep.  I felt so very far away and the ghosts of the life I had lived in Newcastle from the beautiful ocean waves, my favorite coffee haunts, the lanes and street art, the sea caves and everything and everyone else in between bled through.

The air conditioning unit above the bedhead hummed and I eventually fell asleep knowing that morning would bring with it the blank slate of another day.  I had wide open spaces, the languid pace of the road, blood red soil and forgotten townships to slow me right down and the thought of it all filled me with a freedom and longing only this kind of travel can bring…….xx

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A Pride and Prejudice death stare, old girls and spunk rats…….

It’s spring and with this lovely season comes the bonus of day light savings.  How wonderful to think that every day from now until April 2019, a rebellious sun will defy its own bedtime to linger longer in these beautiful Newcastle skies.

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Hello spring…….

It has been an exhausting few weeks which accounts for my tardiness in writing this post.  I have been distracted and made somewhat distant by things designed to break your heart in a thousand tiny ways.  Perhaps I take too much time trying to make sense of my world knowing I am often looking for explanation where there is none.  Yet amongst the chaos and uncertainty, there have been some wonderful moments of kindness, a few short road trips, the deeply bonded gift of lasting friendships more precious to me than all the stars in the darkest of nights, plans afoot and ocean waves.  Procrastination and inspiration it seems, make for strange bedfellows!

There is difficulty in acknowledging I have also been a little stressed of late.  I have come to realise though, it is not the stress which is most wounding but my reaction to it so given this, I have taken to drinking water laced with apple cider vinegar shotted with turmeric and ginger along with green smoothies.  They are by no means pleasant elixir’s, but learning to be a responsible adult by looking after oneself and eating healthily is ………all well and good until it hits 10 pm and there’s no gin or dark chocolate left in the house!

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I know my best does not come easily.  It takes an awful lot of work yet I still very often fail spectacularly when it comes to looking after myself.  There is no pride in saying that, its just the hand I have been dealt just as it is no secret that I often make poor decisions (some nutritional and many under the influence of gin) when what I really need do is permit myself a little self compassion.  Such a simple desire but as with most things, it is easier said than done but I’m working on it.

 Seal Rocks……..

Occasionally when I post my photos, I am immediately transported back to the early 70’s.  Sharing my photos reminds me of a time when a relative or family friend who had just returned from an exotic holiday (and yes, Surfers Paradise was a wildly exotic destination in the 60’s and 70’s!) would turn up in the evening with a projector under one arm and small rectangle boxes filled with Kodachrome slides in the other.

There is no doubt many of these nostalgic old images have been lost forever yet I still remember that large bulbous glass lens so hot to the touch, those tiny coloured slides, the whirr of the projector and the beam of light which I always thought was made of stardust.  Little did I know back then, the gossamer haze which fascinated me so was nothing more than dust particles floating in a beam of artificial light.  But one can dream a little when you are lost to a more innocent time of abandon.

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A collection of slides, the precious ghosts of someone else’s memories…….

I woke early one morning, grabbed my nipper board and underwater camera and headed up to Seal Rocks, a small coastal settlement on the mid north coast of New South Wales.  Surrounded by state forest, Seal Rocks is little more than a scattering of houses and a stunningly beautiful beach.  Unpretentious, this spectacular part of the world is achingly beautiful and somewhat isolated which is why I love being there.

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 And on this day, as luck happens, the beach was completely deserted………..with the exception of a few locals.

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This was one of those near perfect days where the aquamarine water shimmered with sunlight and schools of small fish.  While sitting out on my board lost in thought and watching for distant whale spouts, a fin, not half a metre from the front of my board sliced through the calm.  My heart raced like that of small deer and momentarily I wished I had worn a brown wet suit, then a pod of exquisitely winsome creatures broke the surface………

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I think I reeled off about one hundred and one photos in the space of a couple of seconds but these gentle creatures were far to quick for the old cameras aperture.  I slipped from my board and dived deeply to watch these most beautiful of aquatic mammals swim above me and then as quickly as they had appeared…….. they were gone.

I climbed back on my board and wonder-stuck, just lay there.  As the wind began to pick up and the chop gathered I turned and paddled back to shore.  After dragging the nipper up the sand, I stripped out of my wetsuit and stood for a while letting the warm sun flood my soul and dry my hair.

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This is about as close to a selfie as you are ever going to see of me…….x

Dry and happy and in search of coffee, I walked up the pot-holed gravelly road to the small general-store-come-post-office located near the headland.  I could not smell that unmistakable aroma of freshly ground beans and once inside, could see no espresso machine.  I skulked around looking at the kitch on sale, flicked through a local tide book and tried to find a best before date on a packet of twisties before casually asking the woman behind the counter if they served coffee.

She looked up from the paper, slid her readers to the end of her nose and eyeballed me with a death stare to rival Julie Bishop.  Suddenly, I felt as though I was standing before the most priggish librarian ever imaginable while holding a stack of trashy Mills and Boon and asking if she knew who wrote Pride and Prejudice!!

I took her reaction to be a resounding NO! on the coffee front.  I said something off the cuff which actually made her laugh and just as I was about to leave the store, she offered me a cup of instant.  I wandered across the road and sat on the grassy knoll of the headland nursing my mug of graciously accepted Pablo thinking how lucky I was to be in this place which I loved so much it actually hurt my heart.  My alone time, sitting on that greenest of grass was nourishing and I have to say the coffee was also pretty darn good although I am still not sure if was the coffee itself or the location.

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How’s that for feigning charming ignorance!  Of course it was the coffee……. 🙂

Buoyed by the strong bitter brew, I started on a walk up to the Sugarloaf Lighthouse.  Constructed in 1875, this magnificent structure standing watch over the Pacific Ocean, is the perfect place to watch for migrating whales.   I often crave the silence of solitary walks and the walk to the lighthouse, on a track which winds around She-Oak, Black Wattles, Gymea Lily and towering Gums, resonated like a tuning fork with me as all was blissfully quiet save for the occasional call of the Green Catbird.

Once at the lighthouse, life takes on an ordered simplicity.  Everything is white, neat and deeply tranquil.  These buildings are not just dazzling white plaster, glass and wrought iron as each building, beautifully preserved, has a story of humanity attached to them.

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I enjoyed this day so much.  It was one of those ‘spur of the moment’ days where everything just seemed so perfect in its allowance of me to not lose perspective over how truly fortunate I really am.

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Possibly my most favorite sign ever!  Oh be still my aging childless hipster heart…….

This is just a little of what happened on this precious day and how wonderful the dolphins, you will have to imagine for yourself.  Leaving Seal Rocks was difficult and I won’t pretend otherwise but believe me when I say it is one of the best places on earth.  Just watch for old girls and spunk rats and for the love of Pete, don’t ask for coffee.

Footnote:  This was my 155th published post. Who would have thought……..xx

Newcastle, New South Wales…..

It is the month of February and here in Newcastle it is a time of heat, of big waves, of blazing sun rises, of fragrant frangipani, long days and of pale hot skies. I have unpacked my bag, recovered from jetlag induced by an almost 26-hour trip, the little cat is settled and very happy and I have filed away four months of memories but best of all, I am home and I find no words sufficient enough to express how truly lovely that feels.

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I have always had a belief with travel and that is, I try to never go back to a place I have loved or enjoyed because in going back it will never quite be the same and it will somehow disappoint.   That however, cannot be said of my return to Newcastle. All of my life I have searched for a place that was home and for a feeling of belonging.  There has been a consciousness for me in knowing that Newcastle is my home and it is the one place I have long wished for.  Some say your home is not a place but it is people however for me, home is an existence of where I can set my roots and it is where my heart is.   When you love somewhere, its beauty becomes deeply buried in your soul and you have a terrible ache when away from it which was exactly what I felt when in America.  For all of the places I have lived or travelled to, and there have been many, I was homesick for the first time in my life.

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My attachment to Newcastle comes from its ability to have wrapped itself around me. It has enveloped me in its charm and loveliness and this city continues to show itself many times over why I love it here.  The moment I arrived back, I walked out into the summer sunshine of this old coal and steel town and I knew that this was where I was truly meant to be.

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My blogs will now include quite a bit of this lovely city and for those unfamiliar with Newcastle, I will give you a little bit of run down on it.  Newcastle is Australia’s second oldest city with a 200-year-old past including maritime, indigenous and convict history.  It is famous for its coal and steel and it is the largest coal exporting harbor in the world. In 2011, Newcastle was named by ‘Lonely Planet’ as one of the worlds top 10 cities to visit.

I find Newcastle to be a laid back and very uber cool city but as with most places, its past suggests it hasn’t always been like this.  Perhaps to say it was once a little rough around the edges would best sum it up.

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This area holds to some of the most stunningly beautiful coastline and ocean swells and it can proudly boast to having some of the hottest surf spots around and these places are where I love to be.  Newcastle is also bursting with museums, iconic pubs, art galleries, markets, a great live music scene, bars and incredible national parks.  It has culture, cafes, festivals, ship wrecks, restaurants and beautiful and historic architecture.  Sydney is almost a 2-hour drive away and the Hunter Valley – which is one of Australia’s major wine producing regions – is less than a scenic hours’ drive.  It would also appear that even the local Emo’s and Goths, notoriously joyless and difficult to please, appear to be very happy here too which is about as best a recommendation as you can find.  From the heathlands to the ocean shore, there is something restorative to the soul for everyone.

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For me, one of the ultimate joys of Newcastle is that every single bit of it is accessible via the old foot falcon….my preferred mode of transport. Where else can such history and beauty be well and truly under foot.  Newcastle is also very push bike friendly.  A push bike and me, well that’s about as safe as a circus clowns’ cannon, but for those who love to cycle there are miles and miles of on and off-road pathways, tracks and trails all over Newcastle and its surrounds.

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I am so incredibly fortunate to live by the port and I love the late quiet at the end of the day when I can watch the small independent fishing boats leave their shelter and head out to open sea. In the early morning dawn, I watch for their return and this routine has become one of my most joyous of pleasures. I guess in the big of the world you can find small contentment sometimes.

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Newcastle, you sure know how to win a girl over……

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It seems to me, among the many complications of life, there is a tenuous aching pull to be where we belong and we are all certainly worthy of belonging. Sometimes you need to let go, be and just belong…..xx

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap…..

As difficult as the following post will be to write, it will neatly tie up all of the loose and very frayed edges for those following the blog.  In the post ‘One story ends….’, October 21st, I wrote that ‘an awful lot has happened and a lot of awful has happened too’ and that I was bringing the blog full circile so here we go…..

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It is always so much easier to see the beginnings of something new as wonderful and exciting however it is far more difficult to witness its ending.  And as we have found, not all endings contain grace for they can be overwhelming, soul destroying and calamitous to say the very least.

I will get straight to the point as there is no way to sugar coat what has happened.  We were forced to leave the USA!  This devastating and harrowing decision was taken entirely from our control and it has absolutely destroyed us and our lives.  We were to be in the US for three years however we were only able to spend 18 very wonderful and amazing months there.

The most heartbreaking of all has not just been that we were only afforded three weeks initially in which to pack up our entire lives but devastatingly, we were forced to leave both of our beautiful companions (our cats whom we transported from Australia to the US) behind for 6 months.  For us, this was akin to a parent being compelled against their will to leave their children behind and I cannot ever imagine that any parent would willingly do so.

I have always believed that for every problem there was a solution but life sometimes just goes and shows you otherwise.  My belief was also too that everyone is and should always be in a position to make choices and decisions for themselves and no one, regardless of who they are, should be compelled to make a decision with regards to you which ultimately sets a course to purposefully destroy your life.   To have some level of care and understanding is what it means to be human when you are perpetrating situations such as this on another being.

The decision placed us under the most extreme stress and pressure and no leniency was shown.   I truly begged for consideration for both Gus and Zoe.  Nothing else mattered to me but the welfare of these two most innocent and dearest of souls but any request or suggestion of another solution was flippantly and sniggeringly  dismissed by conceit and arrogance. The time frame, the decision itself and the devastation of leaving behind our cats sat on the surface of our very being like an ugly spreading bruise.  Jesus Christ!  Did not one of those involved ever consider for a single moment that we were human beings and that it was near impossible to deal with all which was being dumped upon us.

In a daze of attempting to comprehend and fight this unlawful decision, we were overtaken by sheer exhaustion from lack of sleep and worry and it was difficult to even begin to grasp the magnitude of what was occurring.  Days slipped relentlessly by and in those days I seriously questioned the morality and the reasoning of those who chose to involve themselves in it.   Confronted with the impending disaster I focused on how unremarkable the circumstances were which had led to all of this.  And as mediocre as those conditions were, the unthinkable was still happening and pushing us along at breakneck speed.  There were no tradeoffs and there were certainly no winners and there is no other way to describe dealing with this entire process other than to say it was like hitting soup up a hill with a fucking cricket bat!

Any fight in which you find yourself should be fair and righteous but in all faith, I will honestly state, that as much as you cry, rage, suffer and try your very best to battle on, your dealings with some is not unlike scrapping with the dirtiest, meanest, lowest and most underhanded coward you will ever encounter in your entire life.

We staggered under the weight of sorrow and frustration at the decision to return us to Australia.   It all began on Thursday 28th of May 2015 however the plotting started long before that, possibly around January 2015!   The 28th was the day the decision was handed down and the fall out and the impact of it unbelievably continues to this very day.  It has felt as though there has been no hope and no possibility when doors are slammed shut and people refuse and continue to refuse to answer most, if not all of the questions which have been posed to them.   They have completely wiped their hands of any wrong doing and accountably, as is their usual exoneration to anything they are involved in, just as one would flick lint from the sleeve of a very good suit jacket.

Most  shattering of all has been that our beautiful and gentle boy Gus died a painful and very distressing death and we were not able to be there with him.  Our other dear little cat Zoe almost died too and was required to be removed from the cattery where we were forced to abandon them.  She was placed under constant veterinary care, had a feeding tube inserted and although her prognosis was very poor originally, she received the best possible care therein allowing her to thankfully recover slowly.  Once again, those involved did not and do not care and will not answer questions posed to them regarding any of this.  They have chosen to completely dismiss this of all things as though it has not even happened.  We were forced to leave two very health, happy and beautiful companions behind and one has died and the other suffered terribly also.  I make no bones about it when I state that the suffering, pain and distress both Gus and Zoe were forced to endure is heinous beyond measure!

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This is my favorite photo of Gus.  I loved him very much and I still miss him terribly…..

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The sweetest and dearest of little souls, Zoe….

When something of this magnitude happens it will make you weep from a very private place which has been pushed so deep inside yourself you will begin to believe that you are unable move forward.  We are not placed on this earth to judge people, to interfere and nor are we here to change or alter the lives of others for the worse.  We are not here to demand and implement the persecution of others just as we are not here to set our sights to destroy the lives and reputations of another single being.

And during all of this, I could not help but wonder if what bought most of it on was the fact that some do not like to see others succeed at life, at great and rewarding friendships and at happiness and enjoyment!  Seeking boundaries in a friendship should never become a punishment to anyone who requests the simplicity of that.

I have also discovered something quite unique about this whole situation and that is – if you wrestle a pig in mud two things are guaranteed to happen:

  1. You are both going to get very, very dirty and
  2. Only the bow legged pig will gain any delight, satisfaction and glee from the encounter!!

In writing this blog post I have thought very deeply about forgiveness and I acknowledge that I may never manage the grace to forgive what happened to Gus and Zoe.  Rationally, we all know that bad things happen to people all of the time.  Perhaps then, should we look at it as acceptance.  Accept that something terrible has happened, accept the fact of hurt, accept that it cannot be changed and accept that sometimes you cannot make sense of why things happen or why people behave they way they do.  We all suffer varying degrees through out our lives but what your grand sense of humility will be in all of this is how you decide to forge ahead.

I am also back living in America.  My return is solely to care for Zoe as she cannot be returned to a cattery and nor can she just be given to someone until she can be returned home to Australia in January 2016.

My bachelorette fridge.  I do however believe, I covered the five food groups…

My return to Georgia was met with a thin whine of hysteria cautioned by one or two which they seeped throughout the community and this settled in as a witness to the very dark side of what I now refer to as ‘The Great Georgia Freeze’!    Originally most of our friends and supporters welcomed me back saying they were ‘thrilled’ at my return however ‘undermining’ caused the severance of some ties and support.  For a while I thought I would die from the harrowing rejection however, I did not!  This is because I know I am far far braver and far more resilient than any of those still hell bent on the continued destruction of our lives and of our reputations.  I can tell you that shit like this is very very hard but it would be far harder if you let them drag you down to their level.

I will also admit I have never been more hauntingly alone in my life than I have been by being back here but I am so grateful and very thankful for their silences, for the cold shouldering, for the lies they have spread (and continue to spread) about us to those witless enough to listen and for the very obvious slights on social media.   I knew that if I allowed a single one of those terrible disappointments to strip me down that I would be doomed, but I was not about to let small acts of ugliness dictate how I coped and that act alone my friends, is mighty liberating indeed!   The succinct expression of grace that we know we hold and want to continue to hold on to will always be your best moral compass in any situation. I have also had a handful of wonderful, true and beautiful friends who have stood by me regardless and their courage to be themselves, to hold dear their integrity and values speaks volumes of the people they are.

So how does one salvage ones dignity and be not coerced to live in quiet sadness when human endurance is pushed beyond all limits and the quotidian of life is not easy.  The answer.  Time!  The fact that time will heal and in that time will slowly come forgiveness.   My memory is vast and alive and it holds in it many beautiful thoughts and images and I will not allow what has happened to continually ooze forward and destroy any of that. For all of the frustrations and challenges, it still is a beautiful life.   We all suffer and we all deal with things in varying degrees but regardless of all that, we all will survive in the end.  For me, my heartache for all that has happened is immense but my ability for my heart to continue to hold kindness and goodness is far bigger and I will still jump into life with both feet and with the greatest of intent.

Sometimes, as difficult as it is, you just need to keep moving forward even when it hurts like hell to do so for you wonder where do you go and what awaits you there.  Life can be hard and sometimes you view it as unfair but somewhere along the way you find a balm of soothing comfort and for me, that was arriving in the beautiful city of Newcastle New South Wales.  This most  beautiful of blessing, I could not have imagined earlier.

So I throw caution to the wind now when there was a time that I actually believed it to be so very bad that even Jesus would have thrown in the towel and I am so thankful for my endurance, for my beautiful friends who have not cowered and for my recognition of my appreciation of the fragility of life as you come to know it.

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My beautiful Newcastle, New South Wales….

Dirty deeds and underhanded dealings will always be done by some but it is how we choose to rise above them and what they do that truly counts in the end.  Hold very dear your dignity for that honor which you display safeguards your beauty of courage, your compassion and your self worth always xx

 

Footnote:  There is nothing disparaging, defamatory nor harmful in my post or my former posts for that matter.  I, as do many people in this world believe in and fully support the freedom of speech and expression.  Please understand that this blog is my platform and I will write what I think, what compels me and what inspires me.  If for some reason, you do not like what I say then you have the choice to not log on to my site.  It is very, very simple!  Other than that, if you still have an issue then please refer to the previous blog post.