French Sundays

I remember when shops in Sydney and the suburbs were closed from 12 noon on Saturdays and didn’t reopen until Monday.

There were no shopping centres open on Sundays. No grocery shopping at 10pm weeknights, let alone on a Sunday. Thursday nights was late trading. Every other days, shops closed at 5.

Somehow we coped.

Lots of friends at school had retail jobs which were set Thursday nights and Saturday mornings – the “extended” trading days.

Young people, those without part time jobs, hung out at the shopping centre on Thursday nights. It was very quiet walking through Sydney shopping malls on a Saturday afternoon or after 5, even in the main shopping district. Everything was closed.

Slowly, hours have been extended.

Now most supermarkets are open till 9 or 10pm on weekdays, and both days of the weekend. Likewise shopping centres are open on weekends. Sundays have become the main grocery shopping day. Hanging out in shopping centres seems to be a national pastime, something families do.

The convenience of shopping whenever we want has meant we don’t need to plan ahead. Of course, it’s helpful for shift workers, like nurses and such. The extra opening times has created more part time jobs in retail.

But the cost?

  • There’s no quiet time.
  • There’s no dedicated time for families.
  • We’ve become a nation of shoppers.
  • “Going to the shopping centre” is a family activity.
  • We are fatter and in debt.
  • Lost income. Now we are an “open all hours” country, loading for working on weekends is being cut. If there’s no such thing as weekends or family time, why should employers pay more.

I was struck by how quiet Sundays were in France. Trucks are not allowed on the highways on Sundays – the roads are kept free to visit families.

Here’s a post from an English ex-blogger who has moved to France.

I know we can’t step backwards, and change expectations. Though, while I do like the convenience of shopping, I could readjust.

So do I shop on Sundays and check the workers get the extra loading, or do I go back to a slow Sunday?

What’s your view on Sundays? Do we shop too much? Should we have a day of rest, a day to go slow, to visit family?

Go to the country for rest!

Why do doctors not order an extended stay in the country for complete rest anymore?

Was this something only for the upper classes, anyway?

I ask because I am reading Lillian Beckwith’s The Hills is Lonely (1959), the first volume of A Hebridean Omnibus. It opens with her standing on a jetty, awaiting a boat to take her to an island. She is buffeted by a storm, and wonders why she isn’t at home, in town, drinking tea. Her answer: her doctor ordered rest in the country. It’s not as if she does nothing when on the island. She goes galavanting across the moors, learns to milk cows and assists when an influenza epidemic hits the island. Still, she was following her doctor’s orders: rest in the country.

Rest in the country has always sounded divine. But without milking the cows by hand. When my children were young, I dreamed of getting an illness, one without pain, one that would allow my mind to still operate sufficiently that I could read, for which I had to be hospitalised for rest. Meals brought to me. No responsibilities. No cooking. No cleaning. Bed rest.

Bed rest, even better than that, would be a glass-enclosed verandah to catch the sun. Lying on a cane lounge, wrapped in blankets, a book in hand. But as modern hospitals do not have that, I would have been happy with a private room. Quiet and rest.

Quiet and rest! I remember reading books where the central character was sent to the Swiss Alps and ordered to rest in a sanatorium. It sounded like heaven, even as a child.

Rest, but without TB please

Even as a child, I sensed such a choice was not for the like of me. My class battled on, with flu, with TB, with back pain, to scour and scrub and serve and work. No work = no money. Even if the doctor said the choice was death or rest, we worked on. The immediate needs of income for food and shelter took precedence over the long-term, possible death.

So even if my doctor said that I had to go to the country for complete rest, it wouldn’t be an option. Where? How? Thank heavens for books. I can read and I can dream.

Did I drop anything?

A few weeks ago, I was in a dilemma.

Taking up exercise because it is good for me, left no time for rest and chores. I was thinking of dropping French. Not because I don’t enjoy it. I do. I love it. But because it was the only thing I could possibly drop.

I’ve made a decision. I am not dropping French.

I can let housework drop. Not that I do much anyway.

There’s only three more French lessons this term. They will be on a hiatus for most of next term as our teacher will be travelling. Then I leave for my European trip.

So I will have most of next term with Saturday mornings free of French lessons. I will see how I spend my Saturday mornings. Probably slothing around.

I am going to have to spend a large part of this weekend doing household chores I didn’t do last weekend while I was galavanting around. Actually I haven’t had time or energy to do all the household chores that need doing in the last few weeks. But those chores are always and repeatedly there and they don’t “spark joy”.

French lessons do spark joy. So they are staying.

My usual walk

I have a “lap around the block” that I like to do about four times a week. It’s about a 45 minutes walk – longer in the heat. The family call it “my usual walk.” Such as, “when will dinner be?” or “are you ready to eat?” “After my usual walk.”

My usual walk makes for a great divider between work and home, so on work days I do it of an afternoon or evening. On holidays and weekends, I do it whenever the mood strikes or the weather allows. Not that the wet stops me. There’s an added beauty of walking through the Bush in the wet. (It’s not bush walking, given there’s a wide concrete path, but the path skirts through the edge of some bushland. And most is on suburb streets.)

On my usual walk I daydream and let my mind wander; it’s good for both de-stressing and reducing my flabdomen.

Even while I let my mind wander, lots of things catch my eye. Animals. Flowering plants. Birds. Lizards. Eels. Trees.

One of my favourite gardens always has different flowers in bloom. Even in the heat.

Look: parasols for plants. A novel way to protect a flowering plant in 38° heat.

I rarely walk with headphones on – I like to listen to the birds as I walk through a bit of the local bush.

This bridge crosses a little creek. I’ve seen eels in there – but not since a big flood washed them away. There used to be a family of ducks, but not for several years. They probably were killed by cats or foxes.

There’s often little kids with their parents investigating around the creek, or throwing sticks in and watching them float away. It’s also dog heaven, running across the ford.

I know the river dragon thinks it is his creek. When he jumps out from his camouflaged position on a rock, scatters across my path and plops into the creek, I squeal. Always.

One day I heard some scratching in the leaf litter next to the path. And there, right on the path was an echidna. I look for him all the time. But have only had one other sighting. (I did see a family of three deeper in the bush.) I am sure the little fellow is OK – his thorns would protect him from predators.

There’s always parrots or cockatoos or kookaburras. My favourite are the crimson rosellas.

I love the little finches that scatter and hop about through the low shrubs. Less common is the lyrebird that I have seen a couple of times. Being a ground dweller, I do worry he will be victim to cats and foxes.

Recently I heard an Eastern Whipbird. I actually saw him while he was making the unique call. At the end, he flicked his head back. (Worth listening to.)

I was excited to see what I thought was a new bird. Turns out it is the juvenile Eastern Koel. Not rare at all. (Apologies for the poor photos. I am walking with a phone and not camping out with a camera with a zoom lens after all.)

Of course, the dreaded brush turkey has made it to Sydney. They make a huge pile for their eggs. The male tends to nest to keep the eggs warm. I say dreaded as once they invade your garden, you’ll never get rid of them. And their size protects them against all predators. Here’s one roosting near his nest. A photo of the nest doesn’t show how truely huge the nest is – about three metres across. So I haven’t bothered with a photo. It’s just a pile of leaves anyway.

I also love looking at the trees. The changing texture as the gums drop their bark. While the trees are ever green, they are sort of deciduous – dropping their bark every year, revealing a smooth tree trunk. I’m not sure if I prefer the red trunks or the white of the ghost gums!

Either way, I do like how the bark sits around the base of a trunk like the tree has stepped out of its pants and left them on the ground.

Then there’s my favourite tree. It is hanging on despite most of the soil around its roots having been washed away. It looks as if a few little rocks are all that are left under one root. Bits of the tree have fallen off. Yet it lives on.

Coming back into the suburban street, one garden ornament often catches me out. I forget it is there and every so often, I notice it. I think I miss it as I am often looking elsewhere – at the nearby brush turkey, at kids on bikes, at an occasional car – or struggling up the hill. When I do notice it, I always smile.

I’m always pleased when the flowering gum I pass is in bloom.

Likewise I love when the hedge of gardenias are in bloom. The scent always reminds me of summer.

Pink bottlebrushes sing to me in a way the red ones don’t.

In other seasons, there’ll be a carpet of cherry blossoms confetti.

I don’t do the walk as much as I’d like when it gets dark early. It is a bit creepy walking down the track that crosses the creek. A young girl was abducted there one afternoon – so it doesn’t have to be dark, I suppose. Luckily she escaped when someone else walked by.

Mr Sans and I like walking with a torch in the dark along the path as it has no street lights. Despite evidence of an excessive number of possums living in our suburb – think jackboots on our roof – I haven’t spotted any when we wave the torch up the trees.

I also haven’t seen any wallabies – though Mr Sans says he has. Reason enough to keep walking this route. I may see one someday.

If I time my walk right, I can come up the last hill, just as the sun is setting and get these views:

Unconscious Mindfulness 

Many months ago I was driving to work and passed this absolutely amazing tree on a street where the traffic is very slow as we all wait through several changes of lights to get onto a main thoroughfare. The shrub was in flower with these huge, pendulous, drooping flower spikes. 

The whole shrub was covered. The beauty of it struck me. I had to share with someone who would appreciate it. I called my walking buddy. (Don’t worry. I have hands free in my car.) 

“I am looking at this amazingly beautiful shrub on the side of the road. We need to walk to it this afternoon and see it. I have never seen it in flower before.”

To her credit, my friend does not blink at unexpected phone calls from me about a plant, or any matter. Not does she roll her eyes at my random thoughts, expressed loud. 

So in the hot, steaming afternoon of a Sweltering Sydney Summer, we trudged up to the plant. 

I was still impressed. My friend less so. She has one in her garden. 

To give you the scale of the tree, here is my friend standing by the tree. 

Turns out they are commonly used for street planting in Brisbane, being tropical loving plants. They are becoming increasingly common in Sydney. Buckinghamia celsissima. But this one, being such a wonderful specimen,  had never put on such a display previously. If it had, I would have noticed it. 

I can’t wait until next year. Hope it flowers as spectacularly. 

Captain Cook says, “Ta da.”

Walking through the city to attend a meeting on a bright, warm autumn morning, I see that even Captain Cook was revelling in the sunshine. 

Standing on his plinth in Hyde Park, looking towards the harbour, he raises his arm and looks as if, with a flourish of his hand, he is saying, “Ta da, here it is. I give you, the best harbour in the world.”

Imagine a man from a village in Yorkshire sailing around the world into the relatively unknown? How brave! How awesome!

My friend called on me to take some mindful photos of this beautiful day. It was in reaction to news I had to share with her that I am old. How you say?

Last night I watched a female comedian, Judith Lucy, who said getting old happens overnight, when people start calling you ma’am, instead of miss. And first thing this morning, walking past a hotel in the city, the concierge said, “Good morning, ma’am. Have a lovely day.”

Arghhh! I’m a ma’am. I’m old. Judith Lucy was right. 

So let’s be mindful and focus on the positive. I am a naturally mindful person. When all this mindfulness malarkey appeared from everywhere to assist happiness, I thought it strange. What? You’re telling me people don’t notice the unusual leaf? The way the light plays on the footpath? Don’t look for the tweeting bird hidden in the shrubbery? Don’t see and hear what’s around them?

How strange to have to consciously make yourself notice things. 

But in the interest of helping others see the beauty of the morning, here’s some more shots. (Are you a mindful person? Do you see it as part of your path to happiness?)

Palm trees in Hyde Park

St Mary’s Cathedral with fountain in Hyde Park

St James station with spires of St Mary’s shooting to the sky

Up the mountain, and down, and up again, and down.


Mr S gets a great deal of enjoyment out of skiing. Sliding down the same slopes time and time again never ceases to impress him. He returns at lunch, and at the end of day, exhilarated.

Me? Well, I don’t like speed or heights. Going faster; mastering moguls; sliding off a steep, near vertical, slope – none of these excite me.

Mr S sees sore muscles as a sign of a day well spent. I see sore muscles.

Of course, it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Being a non-physical person means I don’t push myself, so don’t get stronger, so don’t enjoy physical activity, so I don’t get better, so I can’t ski as well, so I don’t push myself ….

I can ski. Have done it for a few years. And, I admit, on a nice day, it is beautiful. Exhilarating even. But I can’t see the point of doing it again, and again, and again. It seems mindless to slide down a slope when you’ve already seen the view.

But I went up again this year. Yeah, it was nice. But, frankly, on my own it was pretty boring.

I did think of doing cross-country skiing, which I’ve also done before.

In the end I enjoyed just being. I’ve never had a holiday flat to myself, with a lovely book, with no responsibilities.

Anyway, just wanted to share that I am not a totally slothful person and I did ski.

Wanna see me all prepped for the snow on a cold and windy day? I forgot my ski goggles, and skiing in wind and snow without goggles is just not nice.


I didn’t ski because

Because the weather was too nice. How could I miss sitting here, enjoying the view, drinking bubbles and reading a book?

View from my balcony:


View of my balcony with ice bucket provided free:


Because I had books to read and a tan to work on:


Because the weather was too poor:


Because I’ve done it before and I’ve skied enough in my life but I haven’t read enough books.

Cabin fever?


I’ve just spent a week “down the snow”. For most people this means skiing. “What! You’re not skiing?” Nah, not skiing. Very content to sit and enjoy the setting.

This is the first time that Mr Sans and I have come down the snow alone. For two days I didn’t even leave the room.

A week in a one room holiday flat together and I realised many things.

  • I enjoy Mr Sans’ company.
  • I enjoy my own company.
  • I can stay in the one room for days without going stir-crazy.
  • I like quiet. No TV in the morning. No arguing kids. No computer games. No other people.
  • Give me a book and I’m in heaven.
  • I need to have time away from people, from responsibilities, from noise.
  • I enjoy the time away from my children – not having to mediate arguments, not having to listen to their noise, not having to answer their demands, not having to deal with their mess, their selfishness.
  • I own too many things. I can go one week with just a few items of clothes, books, food and drink. Having a break from all the possessions, clutter, things that need attention, that take up visual space is great.
  • People really annoy me. Just watched a kid of about 9 mindlessly destroy a very cute snowman, that many people have stopped to take a photograph of. The mother of the vandal watched her kid. Said nothing. Did nothing. Didn’t make him fix the carrot back in place. Didn’t make him readjust the knocked off head. Actually mindlessly isn’t right. He had sheer delight in wrecking something. And the mother did nothing. In people’s defence, another kid came along and tried to fix it. Still mess, noise, destruction, selfishness. It’s nice to have a break from these things.
  • My soul feels restored. My mind at peace.

    And I am very happy that I am content in my own company and that I enjoy Mr Sans’.

    Four more days to go. The week has gone too quickly. Thankfully Mr Sans booked for 10 nights. I couldn’t imagine leaving for home today. I’m just not ready.

    This looks like heaven to me:


    Except for the hard work, I quite like the idea of a Little House on the Prairie break. Perhaps it is because my usual existence is so hectic, so frantic, so busy, so stressful, so full of responsibilities for others, that this break is heaven. But I do wonder how long it would be before I succumbed to cabin fever?

    How would you go in a one room holiday flat with one other person? How long would be long enough?