New beginnings…….

We are deep in the good vibes of summer.  Summer is never coy in Australia and this summer has been no exception with a band of unrelenting heat-waves which set temperatures soaring to record numbers.  Now I have no hunger for coquettish summers but I can tell you, the blistering furnace of heat during the last couple of weeks really did knock many, including myself, for six.

For me, summer is usually filled with consistent swells and the clean lines of traditional boards, sunshine, mangos and cherries (my favorite spoils of the season), frangipani flower and skies which are bleached a paler shade of blue.  This year however, Australia really did have its day in the sun as everything seemed to melt  beneath our feet.

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See!  I told you it was hot!!

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Once again my jumpers, jeans and wetsuits were all traded for a lightness of season and as I packed up my wetsuits I realised, the next time these steamers see the light of day it will be in a very different ocean, in a very different state…….

2018 was a mix of the confounding and the brilliance in its yield of absolute unknowability.  People entered my life, returning in the various forms they have now morphed in to, I was challenged and equally inspired and I lived a living which teaches you a little of everything and anything.  And now in 2019, what is it I predict. Well, absolutely nothing as I do not etch my year to stone but mindfully intend to keep doing my best with what I have when I have it.

2019 has also bought with it a major move and it seems through choice or circumstance, any steadfast fixture in your life will change.  It’s a difficult process as sometimes you go back to a place you have once been, even if ever so briefly, to find the place you are returning to has changed……. but not as much as you have.

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Zoe, lovely and ever helpful on packing days…….

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Two shipping containers!  Really!!

Throughout my life, I have often come and gone with ease by not making any great attachment.  Leaving can be difficult for different reasons but there is a part of me that likes to go just the same.  Moving on drives my curiosity and my sense of wonderment.  It always spurs me forward even though I have no surety of what awaits.  Perhaps though, I am content with the idea of everything passing for a later return just as the waning of this summer.  It’s end also being the promise of its return.

When I initially knew of this move, my immediate thoughts went to my ocean.  I believed I would die, just a little, but of course I knew I would not.  To think like that is deeply impractical and it does no one any good.  Do I wish I could have stayed in Newcastle forever?  Perhaps!  But that was not to be so I will hold my time of Newy up to the light like a beautiful piece of sea glass and stay a little longer with all of the good of which there has been plenty.

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I am not one easily seduced but for me, there is always the seduction of an ocean and I can find that anywhere I live but leaving this time also meant leaving a job which I have loved.  A place of work and volunteering that offered a strange and unique gift.

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I read somewhere years ago to ‘find your tribe’ and in circumstances most fortunate for me, I had that wonderful gift for just on three years.  I never really understood the analogy of a tribe until my days meshed with some generous and epically wonderful folk and days became joyful beyond any expectation this girl had.  And work, which is never work when you are doing something you absolutely love, wormed its way into becoming a passion.

In a Newcastle suburb, an open and profound offering of friendship, kindness, a sense of belonging and respect took hold and my time there, so deeply appreciated has left an indelible mark upon my heart.  Humanity, in its blessed munificence, is a strange thing but perhaps these are the journeys we are meant to take when we dare to find the courage to do so.

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This was a difficult goodbye (oh heart, what is this feeling) but there is only so much time you can spend grieving that which is gone.  You can however, hold to a city or to a place or to a time and even to some folk who live there.  Nothing is impossible.

As I drove out of Newcastle for the last time, headed on a road that would lead me through the outback before reaching my final destination, I rested my head against the driver’s window when stopped at the lights.  I tried to take in a little more of the place before the traffic lights changed and the city and my time there rushed away.

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I thought of all the things I loved about living in Newcastle and New South Wales, some people, about the incredible experiences and opportunities afforded me but most of all I thought of how truly fortunate I had been and how truly fortunate I still was……..

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I gave fair warning to all pedestrians of Newcastle…..x

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Over the coming weeks it will no doubt be a chaotic time with little more than a moment to spare, the unpacking of literally hundreds of boxes – for all my perfectionism I still prefer my life lived with a little imperfection of organised clutter and lopsidedness, antiquated books and beautiful vintage china – trying to make the house a home as 5 years of rental neglect has not been kind to it nor the garden, finding my feet (and my place) and allowing those curious textures of everyday life to appear.

I will also share the road trip, countless moments I do not want to lose because the soil was so breathtakingly red and indescribable and the outback so remotely beautiful it almost broke my heart.   There are other snippets too such as the beast of a lizard which damaged my car, the roo’s bigger than I have ever seen and the hundreds of feral goats on the side of the road from Cobar to Broken Hill which never once startled as the occasional road-train hurtled by.  All moments dichromatic but no less wonderful……

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I never set out to have a blog and since those early days of 2014 I have shared much in the warmth and generosity of the countless places I have visited and the unselfish respite this beautifully wondrous world of ours offers.  So my blog will continue on as I do.  Ever evolving, ever moving, ever resilient and always ever grateful.

Here’s cheers to new beginnings and what they bring……..xx

Footnote:  Incredible ‘melting ice-cream truck’ sculpture created by Glue Society and installed in Sydney 🙂

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

Fact: There is monkey business in Penang…….

Winter has well and truly settled itself in around Newcastle.  Some days this city seems empty when the rawest of cold hits but I somehow like those often deserted and sunlit streets.  This is a city I love and have come to know well.  A city of unrestrained chaotic redevelopment both good and bad, of near perfect days and complicated nights and best of all, a place of infinite possibility.

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And with these wintery days came a bug which saw me struck down enough to seek the haven of my bed.  It seems it was one of those ‘take a breath and slow down’ bugs.  The sort of bug we sometimes catch which insists with its coming, take some time you got this.  Really you do. 

While hold up in bed sharing my comfy real estate with the little cat for good company I longed for the ocean, read a couple of pages of some old books, willed myself to feel better and sipped pale green teas.  I scribbled some notes, ran a little mantra through my head every now and then, slept, and slept, and slept some more.

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Fact:  I like monkeys.  I like them very much!

There was no reasoning for this but I woke early one morning and decided I wanted to see a monkey.  And that my friends, is not a statement you will hear me say often if I can help it.

I find monkeys incredibly endearing but years ago I had an encounter with a pretty scary monkey in Ubud which, not wanting sound too dramatic, is an encounter not easily forgotten (and that was well over 20 years ago).  And no, before anyone jumps to conclusions I did not feed, get too close, entice, smile at or do anything to elicit his very grumpy monkey attack.

But as I said, I like monkeys.  Not only are these charming creatures wildly photogenic, they are also complex and fascinating little souls of deep intelligence whose courage is only matched by their reverence.  And so very much like us, they too also experience a range of emotions from love and grief, happiness and compassion, trust and fear to surprise.  They are entertaining – NOT in an horrific circus way – and they are curious and mischievous.  They can also be, as anyone of us could, opportunistic, vain and a little aggressive……… as I was about to find out again.

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Adorably sweet…….x 

Hailing a cab, which is scandalously cheap in Malaysia, it was off to the Penang Botanic Gardens.  A stunningly beautiful and peaceful oasis and home to both the Long Tailed Macaques and the Dusky Leaf Monkey.

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I came across my first monkey within moments of alighting the cab.    It was a good start as the monkeys seemed mostly content to just sit about minding their own business, groom each other, look incredibly cute, snuggle their young (even more incredibly cute if that were possible) or eat what they had foraged from the trees.

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Unconditional love…….x

Serving as a big green lung for Penang, the Botanic Gardens are lovely with walking  tracks, trails and paths which take you through lush rain forests, around clusters of bamboo, past lily ponds and waterfalls, over old bridges and around topiary trees and the very peculiar Cannon Ball trees.  As it is also home to the monkeys, you get to see them in their natural environment, climbing trees and structures, playing, living in their family groups, interacting and being highly social.

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There are signs posted everywhere throughout the gardens requesting you DO NOT FEED the monkeys.  It’s not good for them and it is not good for us as it makes the monkeys trusting, dependent and in turn aggressive.  Remember, these are wild animals.

Fact:  It is my fate to have to occasionally spend time around stupid people!

It seems there will always be the one or two who completely ignore all rules or signage and case in point was the person who on this day who not only fed the monkeys (in a self-absorbed act to attract more monkeys around him for his #shit-for-brains photo opportunity), but then teased the monkeys by withholding the food to make them jump.

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Fact:  Monkeys do not tolerate stupid humans!

Now I had a couple of things to tick off my fabulous-to-do-list-for-the-day which also included Monkey Tree and Monkey Beach.  I know, call me theme predicable on this day but I never do things by halves, yet facing off against a small pack of very pissed off marauding monkeys led by the least jolliest of alpha males I had seen all day was certainly not one of them!  I somehow knew too I was about to re-experience a particular moment.  You know that moment.  It is the moment where you realise you are in a new, exciting and undiscovered place yet the experience you are about to have has an old familiar ring to it ……….and not in a good way!

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As a ranger approached #shit-for-brains, the monkeys legged it………in my direction.  Quietly, I stepped off my intended path and although I kept my eyes downcast I kept them well and truly on the wily old jackanapes who was leading them.  This alpha male wasn’t quite done with humans just yet as he did, after all, have a score to settle and he wasn’t about to lose face either with his dedicated band of monkey followers.  Plus he probably now viewed all humans as nasty food withholding, self centered pricks and thoughts of exacting a little monkey revenge would no doubt top off his morning.

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He changed direction and picked up a speed while heading right toward me.  Then, as expected, came the very familiar and not easily forgotten raucous screech.  A banshee like scream that will chill your blood followed by the baring of large, sharp yellow teeth.

Fact:  Monkeys are no longer cute once you see their teeth!

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I rest my case…….

This was going to be a make or break moment but I knew I had to be the one to decide the outcome of this confrontation.  Being 157cm I managed to pull myself up to an intimidating 160 cm, I know, super daunting to a monkey (I hoped) and just as impressive to me as I was wearing flats a the time.  I stood my ground and faced him down while unfurling my hands to show open palms, my years of watching David Attenborough doco’s finally paying off.

He showed his teeth again, loped forward then stopped.  We looked at each other for a moment almost considering our next moves then he slowly turned and stalked off leaving me with an impressive view of his monkey overlord arse.

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If this little dude had thumbs there would be serious snapping………

And me, well I owned it.  I walked off feeling pretty chuffed.  I think I may even have high fived myself or at the very least skipped.

I did actually skip……… and it was in the direction of the strongest cocktail available on the island of Penang!

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Truth:  GO SEE MONKEYS in the wild.  They are brilliantly amazing 🙂   Just don’t be a stupid, inconsiderate human jackass when you do…….x

Please note:  incredible ‘monkey baring teeth’ photograph taken by A. Wilcox.

Audrey Hepburn, fresh linen and frogs, and the markets of Vietnam …….

As I write these posts of Vietnam, I often sit on our balcony at home in Newcastle.  This is the smallest of the two balconies but it is one of my and our dear little noble cats’ favorite spaces.  The area, no bigger than a tiny bathroom, is a place I have somehow managed to fill with pots of herbs, fruit, fruit trees (believe it or not, ) and flowers.  My lovely frangipani, that quintessential scent of summer, is in full bloom and the yellow skinned fig with its sweet amber flesh is fruiting yet it is the mint and coriander, the basil and the limes which keep my thoughts to Vietnam.

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Part II – The markets of Vietnam…….

We hit quite a few different markets whilst trekking through three different provinces of Vietnam.  Often times we jumped a bus to take us to a location such as the Cu Chi tunnels or to a beautiful city such as Saigon, now known as Ho Chi Minh City.  We drove past rubber plantations and vibrant green rice fields, through forests, small villages and muddy townships and through and past the lives of the locals.  The bus chugged and heaved and weaved its way along.  Sometimes up steep ranges, sometimes on deeply pot-holed dirt roads and often through the ever present throngs of speedy little step-throughs.

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To market, to market……..

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Other times, the markets were just on the doorstep of where we wandered.

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Most days, that big heavy sky would hint of rain and when it did open up, the warm scented rain often smelled so very much like freshly washed linen.

Vietnam is notoriously humid and when caught in the crush of hundreds of market goers it can make for a very muggy and rowdy experience.   At times, to avoid the crowds, we would take to the small narrow alleyways which skirt the markets.  Here, the chaotic noise becomes a quiet din, the less oppressive humidity is welcomed and it is here you will often find something quite wonderfully unexpected tucked away.

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The markets of Asia really are a social hub and the heart of any community.  These charming, over-crowded and lively places, where some of the most robust haggling will always take place, are where the locals and tourists gather together to ferret out a bargain.  Colourful and in-your-face, these places sell pretty much anything and everything from the freshest of meats and seafood, live stock to fruit, spices and herbs to clothing and silk.

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Be as you always should when travelling, considerate and respectful of culture as with most markets in Asia, you will be confronted by things which will assault your every sense and as I have said before, you may not always like what you see.

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Market food is always abundant and at times, it is raw.  In this case…..very raw!  I adore ducks, especially Indian Runners and the sweet little Pekings, so this for me was difficult

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The seller assured me these were not ‘meat’ ducks nor ‘meat’ chickens but egg layers for the buyer.  At that point, she could have told me the sky was purple and that all clouds rained orange confetti not rainwater and I would have wanted to believe her.

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Or perhaps not…….

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P.S. I love frogs too!

For the most part, women work the market stalls and be assured though often small and delicate looking in stature, do not be fooled.  These women are very capable, very tough and savvy and they mean business.

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I watched on as one tiny almost bird like elderly woman, wearing her grace and beautifully crisp linen shirt with Audrey Hepburn elegance, stunned a very large and very slippery fish with a blow to the head before deftly gutting and scaling the still live and wriggling fish in seconds.  Somehow, the act completely belied her delicate femininity and I can state with all confidence and honesty, that I could never look as graceful nor as composed whilst ever attending to making dinner!

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And once again, that big wondrous Vietnam sky opened up and again the rain was warm and again, it smelled so very like much freshly washed linen……..xx

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Mullets, the mutual love of a cat and blade running in Hong Kong…….

It has been a wonderful few weeks and the eternal optimist in me is filled with love and hope.  Its hard to know where to begin but most importantly, the Australian Parliament has finally signed off on the same-sex marriage bill.  This was an historic moment of not only love and compassion but one of equality, dignity and the acknowledgment of the most basic of human rights.  I often wonder how beautiful our world would be if we stopped negative and hateful judgment of others and instead respected and encouraged their journeys.

Although not compulsory, just over 12.6 million people cast their postal vote with 61.6% of people voting YES and 38.4% voting NO.  I have so much pride in our wonderful county.

A little random rainbow chalk bombing never goes astray…….

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Rainbow over the Newcastle Marina…….

The city I love and very happily live in, burst with pride and a thousand mullets when the SuperCars came to town.  Now this has certainly been a contentious event which saw mass disruption, chaos and the divide of residents who were either enthralled or enraged by it all.   Whether you love or loath the SuperCars being in Newcastle, there was always going to be an upside.  And that is, you get to channel your inner bogan for a few fabulous days and that my friends, is never a bad thing.

190,000 people descended on Newcastle with car enthusiasts, petrol heads and everyone else mingling blissfully together under the most perfect of summer skies.  Cold Chisel headlined and I very happily discovered you can recognise when a bogan has come of age as they turn up to a Chisel concert in a well ironed Bintang tee.  Happy days indeed.

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‘I love ya Mossyyyyyyyyyyyy’……. 🙂

As the rains hammered down, we gathered at Roche Estate in the heart of the Hunter Valley.  Drenched to the bone, we hunkered down in our plastic rain ponchos and waited.  Then a slightly built man with grey hair and beard walked on stage.  It was Yusuf/Cat Stevens.

I do believe some kind of wonderful fell over the vineyard that night as the moment he began to sing, the rains stopped and they did not begin to fall again until after he left the stage.

That soulful voice, unchanged by the years, delivered messages of peace and tolerance, love and reassurance.  And those beautiful lyrics of yearning, question and hope uplifted the soaking wet 14,000 strong crowd.

He was haunting and humble and I fell in love with him all over again just as I had done in the 70’s.   I announced to my husband when I arrived home that I was converting to Islam.  He hid his shock at this revelation well I thought 🙂

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This beautiful image is courtesy of the Sydney Morning Herald…….

I wrote a blog post recently, published 1st October, with part of the title being There are some moments in life which bring a rare loveliness…….. In that post I wrote of how women can very often face the obstacle of other women who are driven by an unfathomable meanness to destroy and I have also written, again based on my own experience, of how unspeakably cruel some women can be.  When such brutal persecution is targeted toward you, it will leave an aching chasm which makes one so very wary.  Ever vigilant, you develop a caution toward others which makes it near impossible to foster any new relationships.  In that post, I also wrote of my great fortune in meeting some remarkable and inspiring women and it was one of those women who sat right alongside me during the concert.  There are few things which have as much impact nor define and sustain our souls than acceptance, friendship and happiness…….and the mutual love of a Cat.

So back to our last days in Hong Kong and what more can be said of the home of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, Chow Yun Fat and the amazing bamboo spidermen.  Yes indeed.  The scaffold workers of Hong Kong are dubbed ‘bamboo spidermen’.   The spidermen move about with such agility on what looks to be the most flimsiest of frame-work, all of which, is constructed entirely from bamboo.  It must take incredible skill and courage to erect these neat, intricate and very complex platforms and walls which hold hundreds of construction workers daily.  This very traditional building method, the use of long slender bamboo poles tethered together with Panduit ties, form the most amazing exoskeletons which are even used in the construction of the tall, ultra modern skyscrapers.  Again,  this is Hong Kong so effortlessly slipping between century old tradition and a very modern world……….

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The unassuming ‘bamboo spidermen’…….

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This bold city, which also has one of the lowest crime rates in the world, comes alive after dark.  When the sun sets, the neon lights rise to assault your every sense with a glowing radiance of colour and energy.  Hanging overhead from the decaying facades of old apartment blocks and shops, there is such charm in this cityscape and I love the way the light from these incandescent masterpieces’ hits a wet pavement to become so very like a watery work of art.

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Very sadly though, and this is due in-part to the sterility of the digital age, these wonderfully iconic pieces of signage, the inspiration for many futuristic sci-fi films including Blade Runner, are beginning to disappear.

A final snapshot…….

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Every jewel store in Hong Kong sells these sweet gold pigs which represent sincerity and honor………..and a whole mess of affluent cuteness

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Our time over in Hong Kong we boarded a boat headed to Taiwan, a little over 388 nautical miles away.  And I would just like to point out that to drink rum at 8 o’clock in the morning does not make you an alcoholic!  It makes you a pirate 😉

And suddenly, there was nothing between Hong Kong, Taiwan and me but that incredible expanse of the China Sea…….xx

There are some moments in life which bring a rare loveliness. Many of these you remember, some you think of long after the event and some you even write about…….

Winter seems long passed. It wasn’t a particularly cold winter here in Newcastle and  although we are now in the midst of spring, it feels more like summer due to the unseasonably high temperatures and hot winds which have been blowing in from the west.  I somehow feel as though we have missed spring.  Missed the lightness it brings and missed those moments when all seems at its loveliest.

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My soft wool jumpers have been relegated to the back of my wardrobe for now, the days are longer and there is little need for my wetsuit as the water temps have risen to a very welcomed 20 degrees.  Happy days indeed…….

Earlier in the year I headed out on a road trip of sorts which took me inland of Newcastle.   There is something quite charming about heading out to the country as this trip took me over bridges and through our flawlessly beautiful Australian bush of towering Blue Gum, Wattle, Ironbark and Turpentines’.  Beauty existed quite comfortably right alongside a rough dirt track or a harsh bitumen road and perspective loomed around every bend.

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The drive is lovely on weekdays as there is little traffic so I let my eyes wander from the winter blue sky to the green pastures to the Kookaburras which sat on overhead wires.  This was a trip of local radio stations and of a road which ended in a valley lined by steep granite peaks, part of the Great Dividing Range which runs from the tip of northeast Queensland to the Grampians in Victoria.

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My destination lay at the end of this winding dirt track.  This was wine country, splendidly beautiful and unashamedly romantic, yet something had dogged my road trip and as I approached, I began to regret my decision to do this.  Out here, my heart suddenly held a fresher hurt and I knew the reason why……… I would be ‘living’ and working alongside five other women!

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Perhaps I had clung to the notion this trip would somehow heal my heart.  That amongst the vines and beautiful countryside lay some sort of restorative healing which would magically put distance between sorrow and myself.   Deep down though, I knew that there are some things which just cannot be fixed and this is especially true when your heartache is like that of a massive fist punch to the chest.

Though guarded, I met each of the other women as we began to gather.  Watching them, I could not help but wonder at how they all seemed nice but perhaps that’s the thing with nice.  Someone can be nice until they feel the need to no longer be nice and from experience, it can become not so very nice at all!

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The work in the vineyards captivated me. Perhaps it was in the gathering of the dusty purple grapes or the snip, snip, snip of the petite secateurs so deceptively sharp they can cut through wire or it was the deep satisfaction of time well spent.  Life seemed to tremble among the branches of those robust old vines and there is something quite soothing in the weathered patina, that worn surface of the big wooden posts which held up the trellised vines.  Save the snip of the cutters and the occasional call of a Bell Bird it was deeply serene.  It is a lovely way to work and it almost felt as though this is how the world of work should always be.

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Late afternoons in the vineyards is lovely. The sun lowers and the landscape and sky change.  The shadows become long and the kangaroos, those most beautiful and singularly exceptional of all creatures, come out and you realise these are the moments you wish you could pause and holdfast to just a little longer.

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In the evening we retired to the house for a well earned shower and where a warmth and experience began to unfold that would sustain me long after this ended.  There was also little connection to the outside world as mobiles, internet, TV and social media were all willingly surrendered yet they were replaced with serenity, good company, laughter and stories.  What I found most wonderful was that the beautiful lost art of conversation was rediscovered and there is a lovely moment to appreciate when you go from being strangers to feeling connected and relaxed.

Meals were shared around a large farmhouse table.  A simple table graced with comfort food, the sort of food which can nourish and is ready for sharing and where a simple glass of very good wine can change everything.  Moments such as these make you want to hunker down, build a raging fire in the open hearth and never leave…..

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When first meeting these women my head told me to be wary but after picking and a good evening spent in each others company my heart was in surrender mode.  Later in the evening when the other women had retired to the warmth of their beds, I sat quietly and jotted down some notes.  Small transcripts, honest and heartfelt of this experience.

The next day I woke early to a morning of light fog.  No one else was up so I took a walk through the vineyards and adjacent bush land.  Early morning it seems, will willingly reveal much.  The vines and the native bush are at their loveliest and the air is so clean.  As the sun rose the Bell Birds and Currawongs called and the kangaroos began their quiet movement into the day.

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As I walked, a moment of sadness washed over me.  One very acute wave which I then dismissed with a vow not to think of it again while in the company of these uniquely diverse and glorious women.  The things which had so brutally punctured my heart in America and after, although most acute when I arrived had begun to lose its sharpness.  Perhaps I will always carry that time of sadness with me but I knew there to be good, kind and amazingly wonderful women still out there.

Women and girls very often face unimaginable obstacles but one of those barriers should never be another female. I have always believed a measure of a woman is in the worth of how she treats another woman yet some so easily devalue their worth through jealousy, malice and spite.  The basis of any human decency is not demean or attack another. No one ever deserves that sort of brutal antagonism yet for some it is far too easy to disrespect their intellect with a frail ego, self-loathing or they wallow in a sinkhole of negative arrogance.  When women support and encourage other women there becomes such potential for change and achievement and it is in these moments that truly wonderful things are made possible.

The Bell Birds lifted their song, the sun rose a little higher and I stumbled in a wombat hole but somehow, all seemed very right in my little part of the world.  Perhaps we all search for  acceptance from others and we can also look for an intimacy of sorts which can, when the time is right, strike the numbness from our hearts.

Not so long ago I was back in beautiful wine country with oenophiles and those just happy to taste a very good seasons’ harvest.  It was a lovely day being surrounded by people whose company I enjoy as they are passionate, inspiring, beautifully natured and open-minded.  When you are open and grateful, good things really do come…….xx

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“Don’t look back. You’ll turn into a pillar of shit!”…….

Don’t look back.  You can only look forward and look toward a place you do not know until you reach it.  Sometimes, as difficult as it seems, you must learn to leave what you have grown to love be it somewhere you have lived and where perhaps your yesterdays are all buried deep.  It is an odd feeling leaving.  You not only miss the existence of the life you have built for yourself but most of all, you miss the person you have been at that time in that place and you know you will never feel that same way again.

Perhaps there are times where the bottom is supposed to fall out of our lives.  We lose what we love, we lose our trust and faith and we lose the truth of what we thought we believed so very deeply in.  When this happens, you can find yourself in a very dark place and it is from here you have the choice whether to move on or not.

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So very Southern.  The glorious magnolia flower………

Our trip home, documented in the last 15 posts, was disconcerting at best.  Amazing yet heartbreakingly difficult all at the same time.  Our lives thrown into careless turmoil and all the while dearly missing our family Gus and Zoe.  How were we to know when we packed up our home and our lives in the beautiful state of South Australia (a wonderful posting, as every one of our postings have been) in November of 2013 to begin that remarkable journey, that it would end as it did.  That life would change in an instant!   A single very ordinary instant and that we would be made to forfeit all which we never believed we could forfeit.

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November 2013.  Our entire home and lives packed up in readiness for this wonderful adventure.  How could we have known it would end as it did………

Packed and ready to go………

Last moments in Sydney Australia.  Cheers to a wonderful adventure……….

There is the realisation that one grows from something like this, as well one should, and  you will learn much.  During the most harrowing of times, although I thought I had lost absolutely everything, I gained so very much more.  I only had to look for it.

I have learnt that I need not tie myself to the weight of other peoples’ worth for when they are not made of heart they hold no purpose in my life.  I have discovered the world has people in it who will want to destroy you at any cost however the dehumanising process they use will only make you stronger and your determined courage will see you take your rightful stand.

In times such as these you also come to know your worth and you learn not to allow it to be measured by anyone else.   That although overwhelmed by sorrow you won’t give up. You learn grief has no mercy but you endeavor to fight a good fair fight even against an opponent who will play the lowest and grubbiest of hands.  That something like this also shows you that different people will spurn you in different ways and this is especially true the sly and cowardly piss weak when they have backing and the promise of immunity.

I have learnt I needed to allow my hurt to leave as though casting a stone and that in the baptism of fire of how truly cruel and hateful some women can be, you just need to hold fast your grace.  Don’t ever allow those very disagreeable trolls who favor spite, unkindness, calumny and profound negativity to ruin your benevolence.  Believe me, they are not worthy of it………xx.

I have come to understand I will still struggle with moments of bleak resentment toward those who so brutally drove all that happened.  When my forgiveness wavers, I fret at my lack of compassion for them and this is only because it sees me momentarily lose sight to empathy and humility which I hold dear.

I am also able to recognise that although some have felt justified through misguided, outdated and restless social barriers they had the right to dislocate and make inconsolable, they in turn unwittingly unleashed the singular power of my self respect and this has driven me on.  Regardless of the heinous bitter and very nasty shit they have thrown my way, I am stronger and more resilient than ever.

Most importantly though, I now know when assaulted from all sides and unsupported by those whom I should have been able to turn to yet were exiled from, I learnt to rely only upon myself.  Big tip – Trust only yourself and believe in yourself always.

We met some wonderful people and their friendships will be with us life long.  We had the most amazing time in America, as we have done in all of our postings, and we are so deeply grateful of our time there.  We made the absolute most of every single opportunity to explore, to travel, to experience and to see and do……and believe me, we did 🙂   We took road trips of thousands of miles.  Driving through the golden forge of Americas’ heartland.  Through sleepy forgotten towns where a richness often lies in such brokenness yet these places become an awfully human place to exist.  To vibrant cities of architectural beauty.  Those magnificent steel and glass cities that sound of car and taxi horns and the thrum of a million people.  We rode trolley cars and trains.  Walked hundreds of miles on streets we could only have dreamt of walking.  We flew in American skies over patchwork pastures and smog settled cities.  In moments I remember the small things such as Dorothy’s ruby slippers, the dusting of snow Georgia received in our first weeks there, a terrace house in a neighborhood of Washington, glorious magnolia blossom, my first Georgia peach, blackened catfish and the very spot where Elvis fried up his peanut butter and banana sandwiches.

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Touch down in America saw us touring the incredibly beautiful city of San Francisco for a few days………..

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A wealthy neighborhood where the hand of a Buddha statue held a leather catcher’s mitt.  Where Martin Luther King died for his cause and where Presidents have been inaugurated.  Blue Ridge Mountains,  dear little chipmunks and ‘bandits’, diners and corner cafes, juke joints, those long long four lane concrete freeways, the slow drawl of the beautiful southern accent, water towers and the desolate painful trail of tears in Chattanooga.  Sugar dusted beignets at Café du Monde, Spanish moss and mocking birds.  Fresh home-made waffles and pancakes, fried chicken, pecan pie and corn bread.   Sometimes it was the America I had always imagined and often it wasn’t, but perhaps this is what it means to travel.

Our teeny tiny snowman made from a dusting of Georgian snow……….

I missed the hot clotted air and heat of the south which wrapped around me, tanned my skin and frizzed my hair.  The south has a heat which is indescribable yet it lets you discover your porch, friendships, lazy afternoons and a pitcher of anything icy cold.

Once back home in Australia, unsettled and with a sorrow I could not comprehend, I unpacked my bag and shook out a raging aching heart.  It may have been over but really, it was only the beginning…………

And here in Newcastle, as unforeseeable as it was at that time, my life is all I imagined it to be.  From the moment I arrived I knew I was home.  Nowhere I had ever lived before gave the warmth of knowing I was home and you know instantly where you belong and that is the true beauty of life .  At home and at one with that beautiful ocean and where optimism, one of humanities great traits, beguiles and where soul expanding moments continually happen.

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Don’t look back.  What matters is now.  Go only forward and go with courage and dignity and summon that great value of the human spirit which is to never ever give up……..xx

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Footnote:  “Don’t look back. You’ll turn into a pillar of shit”  is a line by Ellen Burstyn in the 1974 movie Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore.