Easter Adventuring – driving north

We normally stay at home over Easter; the traffic, the crowds. 

Traffic escaping Sydney over the long weekend is mad and we don’t want to be stuck in it. After all we have enough breaks to be luckily enough to travel at other weekends. 

A friend posted this on her FB – leaving Sydney on the Thursday before Good Friday

Still, we planned a trip so we would avoid the traffic of Easter. Indeed this was our first Easter trip away in over 15 years as Easter fell in the middle weekend of our two week break so we couldn’t avoid being away at Easter if we were going to be anywhere but home for any length of time. 

The main purpose of our trip was to visit my mother who lives in the hinterland of the Gold Coast. We could fly up and it would “save” time. But saved for what? Chores at home?

It takes about 10 hours of non-stop driving to get to my mother’s place. We actually prefer to drive and break the trip with an overnight stay somewhere, exploring different regions and towns, and stopping for lunch along the way. 

Mr S is a man of habits. If he had his way, we would stop at the same lunch stop every trip. Once he has a place burned in his mind as being “our stop”, it is nigh on impossible getting him to change. Yet, conversely, when we exploring new places, he loves it. 

Our drive north was via the inland road, the New England Highway. It’s our tradition to stop for a lunch of tea and egg, mayo and lettuce rolls with something sweet for dessert. Mr S makes a thermos of tea and I pack the food, a tablecloth and my fine bone china mug. If I’m going to drink tea, it will be from something nice!

As highways are upgraded and towns by-passed, it becomes harder to get Mr S to stop at nice places. He just wants to keep driving and limit tea stops to roadside rest stops. It is not nice siting on the side of the highway with traffic roaring past and with very little to look at. These stops are utilitarian, rather than part of a sightseeing trip. 

Luckily the New England Highway is still mainly single lane and still goes through towns and villages, offering much to see and interesting places to stop. 

We stopped at Muswellbrook, on the Upper Hunter, in a well-maintained park next to the old railway station. It wasn’t actually very quiet as several long coal trains rumbled by. But in between it was peaceful. And it had various things to look at – a tree with aboriginal markings, gardens, a mural on reconciliation, war memorial, the old train station, playground equipment with families playing on them, information on various old trees in the area. Definitely worthy of a stop and a nice place to have a cuppa. 

Mr S in front of the tree with aboriginal markings and the mural in the background. The observant may notice Mr S wears a cap adorned with my favourite anti-hero.

It’s always sad to see so many family names repeated on war memorials in country towns. So many family lost multiple family members.

The war memorial at one end of the park. The blue sky hides the fact that it was a little cool, perfect tea drinking weather.


Satiated, we had a slow drive by of some of the interesting building of Muswellbrook. 

Another of our road trip traditions is to listen to BBC radio plays. We have the complete three series of Dad’s Army, various Agatha Christie adaptations and other plays. We have audio books too but much prefer full cast radio plays.  It really makes the road trip so enjoyable. 

As we set off late, we arrived at the historic guesthouse in Armidale in the New England Highlands where we were booked in for two night just as dusk was deepening.  

So are you a road tripper? Do you have traditions? 

If you make the trip between Sydney and the Gold Coast, do you have any favourite rest stops to recommend? Share away. New England or Pacific Highways? Which is your pick?

Oma Kardashian

I shared the photos sent from my father’s side of my family with my only cousin and aunt from my mother’s side of the family. 

My mother’s mother was in several shots. 

We have built up a wealth of mythology about our Oma (German for nanna). She definitely was a classic. A unique woman, she had an illegitimate child (possibly half Jewish) before the war and then married and had my uncle (now deceased) and my mother. My mother has written here how Oma made their experiences seem like an adventure and made sure they did not go without. 

Oma moved to Australia as a divorced woman in her 50s without any English. She gained employment. She learnt English and ended up able to do crosswords in German and English. She was fiercely independent. 

Now, with the photos we’ve discovered a new trait. And given her a new nickname. A nickname that couldn’t come in time. There are now so many Omas in our family. My mother. My aunt. My cousin. My sister. All Omas now. 

The nickname came as a result of the poses she pulled in the photos with the English family. 

Here she is. Classic Kardashian pout, in her colour coordinated outfit. She wouldn’t let the Pommie family outshine her. 


And not for her to be hidden in the back row. She would out front in a statement pose. 


Then my aunt and mother shared the story of my sister’s christening. At that time in Australia women still had to wear a hat to church. So Oma went out and bought a hat. Of course it had to be a hat bigger than anyone else’s. Of course she had to outshine the English. A tall, white hat. A look-at-me hat. 


Oma Kardashian. Gone over 25 years ago. Still making us laugh. 

Who’s that?

A cousin who lives overseas recently sent me some photos that she had unearthed from her mother’s (my father’s sister) collection. 

Some people in the photos were instantly recognisable. That must be dad. That must be dad and his siblings. That must be nan when she was young. Look at her gloves – what the groover she was. 

That must be dad’s family at the seaside in Wales. I mean who visits the beach (we don’t do seasides) in Australia dressed up like that? And rides donkeys?


But who is that? And that? And this little round thing?


My father died when I was a teen. He left us years earlier. I don’t have much to do with his side of the family for multiple reasons. Even if I did, there are not many people who would know who the people in the photos are. My aunt is 80 and has Alzheimer’s. There’s only one other sibling still alive. She is significantly younger and may not know the people either. 

Then I helped my mother with a couple of entries on her blog. We uploaded some photos. Again of people I didn’t know. 

All this got me thinking. What is the point of family photos?

Are they just for those who take them, and their immediate family, to recollect or celebrate events in their lives? To act as decorations around the house?

Are they records for family history? 

Are they for future historical and cultural references?

Should we keep old photos? Should we bother keeping all our own photos? What now that we take thousands on our phones? Should we treat photos as ephemeral?

Is it better to have one photo with a record of who is in it and where it was taken and other contextual information than thousands of unknown people and places?

Now that I know who some of the people are in my mother’s photos, the photos mean more to me. But will my offspring care?

 

Oot and aboot

Wanna go see whale rock?

What’s that?

A rock that looks like a whale. 

OK. 

While the rain held, we went off in search of whale rock. The online guide listed the usual safety precautions – water, clothing, maps. Even bush on the edges of suburbia can be dangerous. 

We walked into the bush, down a wide, cement roadway, big enough for firefighting trucks. At the bottom of a slope we could see directional signs. None listed the sought-for whale rock. “I wonder which way we need to go?” I asked Mr S. As I spoke, I turned and there was whale rock. 


For size comparison, here is s shot with a disguised Mr S (though I admit there’s not a lot of hiding one can do in a hippy tie-dyed shirt).


Definitely worth the 5 minute walk from the road! Yes, that quick. Why all the safety advice? Ridiculous! WHS gone mad. Anyway that wasn’t enough of a walk, so we ventured in further. Because of all the rain we had (thanks Cyclone Debbie) the creek was over the path. At the first flooded crossing we debated: should we turn back or just walk through? “Ah fuck it. Let’s just walk through it.” So we did. Several times on the way into the bush. And on the way back. 

At least the water was running which meant we wouldn’t get leeches. Unlike our walk the day before!

A couple of weeks earlier we had gone in search of our secret waterfall in another part of the same national park. But we were thwarted by the rain which turned a track into a pond. 

With still water and boggy ground all around, we were in leech territory. In that brief walk I scored two leeches but they mistakenly suckered onto my shoes. Mr S, who’d ventured further and made it to the waterfall, did his bit for wildlife rescue and fed a few leeches. 

A week later, and the day before Whale Rock, we went off to the waterfall again. Stocked with necessary supplies – a stash of salt to battle the leeches – my friend and I lady-stepped over the water-logged paths while Mr S schtomped through. And ended up to his knees in logs and twigs and leaves which had been washed into a pile that Mr S thought was a solid pathway. 

It doesn’t look clearer than the above shot but trust me, the path was now passable.


Mr S made a hasty recovery. We all made it to the waterfall. Our party of three in tact. 

Hard to believe that these are all within 15 minute drive from our home. (This is the designated comfort zone prescribed by my friend and endorsed by Mr S.)

At the outer reach of the 15 minute zone, is Fagan Park, developed on an old orchard site. We visited here one day in the last two months. While most people clustered around the children’s playground and the interesting “gardens of the world”, Mr S and I picnicked at the old homestead which was open for its only Sunday of the month. Maybe Mr S and I are unusual but we love old places. The homestead a host of farm sheds used for fruit packing and equipment all full of objects from the early settlement, many lovingly restored. The water pumps work. The gardens are peaceful. The actual home has been furnished from the period. 

One of the volunteers was a 90 year old whose extended family owned the farm before donating it to the council for a public park. She recalled not being allowed in the main house as a child, being forced to stay in the separate kitchen with her brother. What a connection! To talk with someone who still volunteered and worked in the garden that she played in as a child. 

Picnicking under the she oaks

Mr S impressed with the working water pump

Room of one of the single farm labourers from early last century. Vastly different from the main home.

Tractor shed

Walking into the homestead site


There weren’t many days with skies as blue as this, so we were doubly lucky to chance upon the monthly open day of the homestead. 

Still, there’s a beauty in the rain as the drops on this she oak show. This was taken in my usual lap around “the block” that passes through the edge of the national park. 



There’s a peacefulness in walking on a known path. You don’t have to concentrate and your mind can wander. You can’t think about other things. Conversely, there’s a mindfulness in walking in the new and unknown. You have to concentrate on the path, you are continually looking at the new sights, your mind is processing all the new information. This means you cannot be thinking of all the humdrum of life, you can’t be planning and strategising and going over things and conversations. This is especially true when the path is a rough bush track. 

Both types of walks are good for the mind and soul. As well as the body. And fun as well!

A few plays and movies

As well as a concert and an opera, in February, March and the start of April I saw a couple of plays and movies. The latter at the cinema, not just on tele. (I know. I lead an exciting life.)

I subscribe to the Sydney Theatre Company and see about six plays a year. I’ve seen two thus far. 

Play 1: The Testament of Mary based on the novel by Colm Toibin. I loved the book; one of my keepers which I reviewed earlier. The play was equally moving. It was impressive that the actor sustained the energy for basically what was a monologue.  Mary’s voice and her equivocating on the supernatural nature of Jesus is just as strong in the play. Before the play we had lunch at the Dance Cafe. Great venue – in the middle of one of the long wharves. And the food’s quite good too. 


Play 2: Another deeply moving play, The Bleeding Tree. With only three actors, it felt like there were more characters on stage, as the actors took on other voices. The mother and her two daughters kill the father as they suffered DV for years. The neighbours turned a blind eye to his death/murder, as many had to the DV. I normally do a matinee but for this play we went to a Saturday night performance. The city lights were awesome. We ate at a busy Italian before the play. I had the yummiest pizza with arancini balls to start. Of course I had to have a glass of prosecco. Or two. Afterwards we walked along the harbour. The city was pumping that night and everywhere was full.


Movie 1: Les Innocents. A French movie that was part of the French movie festival. I went with the young and lovely Sarah. (Such fresh and glowing skin!!!) Of course we ate and talked and had a cocktail and talked. Oo la la. (That was what the cocktail was called, apparently. Or maybe that was just for the festival!) I love unique tales that show me something I knew nothing about.  Polish nuns raped by Russian soldiers and tended by French medics at the immediate end of WWII was definitely new for me. 

Movie 2: I got free preview tickets to see Their Finest. (Love how I have scored free and discounted tics this year!!!) Bill Nighy was brilliant. Who knew he could sing? Highlight for my friend and me was hearing him sing Will Ye Go Lassie (Wild Mountain Thyme). The movie was a sweet and somewhat melodramatic love story set in WWII. My only caveats was the incidental music, which I found annoying, and something else which I have forgotten and as I only saw it a week ago, it couldn’t have been a big caveat. The country scenery was beautiful. Before this film, (you can guess the trend here) I also ate – at a Lebanese restaurant with the softest falafals I’ve ever had – and talked a lot. No drinking, though. I was driving.


On the small screen, I have watched quite a few films and series:

  • Sisters with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Funny and silly. Good to while away 90 minutes. 
  • Captain Fantastic. Father raises his children in the woods and then has to leave as the mother dies. I loved the challenge to what is normal. Worth watching. 
  • No Offence. Series 2. I love, love, love this series. Fast talking with northern English accents, it can be hard to follow. Crime with black humour, this was written by the fellow who wrote the first series of Shameless. Same take on the world. 
  • Vera. Another English crime series. Vera looks like a bag lady. I didn’t enjoy it so much after her first offsider left. 
  • Gogglebox. I love watching people watch TV. I like all the watchers. Well picked Gogglebox producers. I like how I get an overview of the shit on tele without watching all the shit. It’s like getting a dose of pop culture without suffering.  I mean who really wants to watch the stupid cooking shoes (only The Great British Bake Off is worth watching.) And any of the real housewives series is absolute shite. The reaction from the Gogglebox people makes it all funny. 
  • Distant Voices, Still Lives. Apparently this is considered a masterpiece. From England it tells of a working class family from Liverpool ruled by an abusive father. It wasn’t just the bleakness that lost me. It was so disjointed. Shhh, but I used the fast forward button. 
  • The Guard. An Irish black comedy with Brendan Gleeson. I do like black comedies and this one was brilliant. Gleeson was in the black comedy, In Bruges, that I liked too. 

I’m not going to tell you which ones of these films you should see, cause it really depends on what you like. But if you want me to pick one for you, tell me what sort of films or series you like, and I’ll tell you which one is for you. 

Anyway, you can see I’ve been busy in things beyond work. And I haven’t even written about our “out and about” adventures!!!

An eclectic music week

Do things. Fun things. 

Say yes to new things. 

Don’t just use weekends to catch up on sleep. 

My new mottos meant one week was a really busy week in March. Busy and eclectic. 

Ages ago I bought tickets for my sons, Mr S and me to see Spiderbait. It was the 20th anniversary of one of their albums. Actually not my favourite album but I hoped they’d play some of my favs in the encore as they were going to play the album as the set. Of course, they played around – it wasn’t just a “studio” sound. For a three piece band they bang out a big sound. 

Spiderbait has been a family fav and now my boys are adults, they still love Spiderbait. A top family fav is when the female sings, and they didn’t disappoint with Calypso. Click on the link and enjoy. If you watched the movie, 10 Things I Hate About You, you may recognise the song. Of course if you’re an Aussie and listen to JJJ, you’d know the band well. 

Spiderbait, live at the Enmore Theatre.


Interesting tidbits of the family going out to a concert together: we went to an Indian restaurant before (working parents shout of course). Oldest boy, who now lives in the inner west and not “the burbs”, wouldn’t let me order Butter Chicken. “You can have that in the suburbs. In the city you have to try something different and not just take time to read the menu and pretend to be considering something different.” Uh!!! Trendy, bloody, inner city dwellers. Hipsters!!!

Second lesson was for my boys. A lesson in sexism that women routinely face. We were standing up the back of the venue, near the entrance from the foyer (where people, mostly men, kept going to buy overpriced, imported beer [hipster influence again]). It was a standing only concert. Men kept pushing past me. Oldest son wanted me to move as I was being pushed – not aggressively but continually. He thought it was because I was in a natural pathway. I pointed out that the pathway would be wherever I was as I was surrounded by tall men, my own and other concert-goers. Who would the walkers squeeze/push/make move? The tall men or the relatively slighter and shorter woman? 

Anyway, a review of Spiderbait doesn’t make my week eclectic. So off to something different. 

Earlier in the week I went to my first opera. Tosca by Opera Australia. In the Opera House. I got tickets from a foundation that aims to encourage people to go to the opera. They subsidise tickets for $20, instead of the  full price of $230. 

I was wary. I have never gone before. Wouldn’t risk $230 on something I might not like. $20 is worth the risk. Well, I loved it. I would go again. I will go again. Next year.  So the foundation worked. It’s got a new convert. 

Of course, the experience was entirely different. As was the audience. Older, for starters. Not that the Spiderbait audience were spring chickens. Many being around 40 to 50. Less leather and chains and tats at the Opera. 

Sparking wine on the forecourt, watching cruise ships sail past. 

Cruise season has begun. Not my scene. Too much like a floating RSL club.

Fancy a glass? Why yes, thank you.



Interval, looking at the lights and the raw industrial majesty of the Opera House design. 

Look up!


Despite two late nights in the week, and one being a week night, I wasn’t exhausted. These things energised me. Doing fun, and new, and novel things build you up, give you a purpose beyond work. A purpose for work. How else will you pay for tickets?

How are the margins going?

One term in with my margin ruling, and my absence from blithering away on my blog may indicate how well I’ve done at blending work and LIFE. 

It’s actually been the most stressful term I’ve had. Ridiculous bureaucratic changes with Orwellian doublespeak and unrealistic timelines; “tools” that don’t work and are introduced without training. Training for other things that is provided by people reading scripts but who can’t answer questions that are off-script. I’m not the sort of person who can smile wryly and say it is what it is and just work around inane bureaucracy. I have to point out pompous, stupid, pointless decisions and processes. 

So yeah. I haven’t really cut back on hours but I have ruled a clear margin. No work emails at home. No work emails on the weekend. No work emails after hours. Full stop. Period. 

And I have noticed the difference. 

My week at work has varied from 42 hours to over 55 hours. It not just the hours, of course. It’s the stress of decision making, leading change, dealing with above mentioned idiotic bureaucracy, and the pace of work. And naturally, I don’t stop thinking about how to manage things and go over plans in my head after work. 

But the other thing is I have made sure I have done the things that sustain me and build me up. Things I enjoy. 

So enough of the whinging, I will be back to review the term’s fun.