Still exercising?

I haven’t been doing my exercise since I’ve come back from travelling.

But it is not for motivation or for want of physical activity.

Australia is burning.

It’s not even summer yet and we have out of control bushfires and catastrophic fire conditions.

Sydney is in a basin in which smoke settles.

My suburb is in the northern suburbs of Sydney, quite close to the bush that is the end of greater Sydney. So we often get smoke haze even if smoke hasn’t settled in the Sydney basin.

Morning. Sunrise. The smoke makes it a scene from a post apocalypse film.

I think I started with a minor head cold.

The smoke haze added the double whammy.

On the train to the city for a work meeting just over a week ago, I was coughing like I had the Black Death. Kindly, a fellow passenger offered me his water bottle. Saved me. Thought I wasn’t going to stop coughing. Thought I was never going to breathe. Thought I’d have a heart attack.

Then I had a similar attack four nights later. Mr S gave me his asthma puffer. Two puffs of Ventolin and then a puff of a preventer. It calmed me down.

Actually I’ve had over two weeks of disturbed sleep due to coughing in total.

After a week of the coughing I went to the doctor. No infection. Just irritated lungs; all the nerves are firing.

Doctor prescribed the magic of codeine and a Ventolin!

I feel fine. And then the magic wears off. I’ve cancelled going to the theatre. Can’t guarantee that I won’t be the patron who disturbs everyone with a deep, spluttering cough.

I did one session with Olga, the Russian PT, heavily doses up on codeine and Ventolin. She sent me home the week before I went to the doctor. “Not exercising with no voice. It will go to your chest.” Well, it did but without any help from exercise!

Thank heavens I’m escaping to the northern hemisphere for a bit over summer. I don’t think we will have clean air for a long while.

Looking across the street. The grey sky is smoke.


When I was a kid I loved Sydney summer storms. Lightening. Thunder. Hail. Torrential rain.

Now I’m a responsible house owner, not so much.

But still, they are thrilling.

Except I think climate change hasn’t just affected temperature. I think the frequency and timing of our storms has changed.

I’m under the black

And this is what gutters look like under the black. They can’t cope.

Before the rain came the hail.

Neighbours were running out to put blankets on their cars. We have a special silver padded cover. Meant to provide hail protection. I think it works.

Chance of a thunderstorm again this afternoon. May have to put the cover back on.

Sweary Schiller

My knowledge of German literature is close to nothing. But I’m pretty sure Schiller didn’t use cock, fuck and cunt in his works, didn’t litter them through his plays.

I went to see Sydney Theatre Company’s version of Mary Stuart. I hadn’t done any reading before I saw it, didn’t even know it was an adaptation of Friedrich Schiller’s play – not that would have meant much to me.

The staging, the acting, and the balance between the two queens, all were great.

The playing of Elizabeth reminded me of Blackadder’s ditzy, spoiled, self-centred, nasty, small-minded Elizabeth. Not sure if Schiller’s Elizabeth is thus and Blackadder was inspired by Schiller or if STC’s Elizabeth was inspired by Blackadder.

What didn’t gel, what struck me as discordant, was the repeated swearing among more formal language structures. Now, I’m not anti-swearing. I swear frequently and with zest. Here the swearing was inapposite, inapt and ill-judged. It was as if someone had popped frequent obscene words in Shakespeare to make it modern, hip and full of passion.

When I read this was an adaption of Schiller, the discordant nature made sense. I am sure Schiller was able to capture emotion, passion, pain without swearing.

It just doesn’t work.

I get the desire to take a feminist angle, to overlay modern sensibilities, but the swearing didn’t fit.

Structurally, I think the play could be edited a bit more. And not just take out most of the swearing. Ninety minutes in and I was like, “Get on with it already. Chop her head off.”

Now I want to see a different adaption of Schiller’s work, in English.

PS: as we walked in, Mr S wondered aloud, whether the dog that was famed to have come out when Mary Stuart was beheaded would appear on stage. The dog was in several scenes. Such a cute and happy dog. Her tail was wagging as she was walked off.

Got a position on offensive language in live theatre?

(Adding to say, just watched Tim Minchin on YouTube and he sung a song with swear words. It fits. I laughed at the song. Not at the use of the swear word. They, on their own, don’t make me laugh. I don’t find bunging in a swear word funny. But I don cringe, if it fits.)

The sea was angry that day, my friend

What’s more iconic about being a Sydneysider than going to the beach?

It’s a great way to spend a couple of hours – a swim, a walk, a laze on the sand with a book. I don’t like to stay for too long – my fair skin doesn’t like it. Sometimes I think the drive just isn’t worth it.

And what to do when the beach is closed?

North Curl Curl can be pretty rough at the best of the times. Deep currents and wild surf last weekend meant the beach was closed.

No point sitting in the sun on the sand if you can’t cool off in the waves!

So we walked up the track on the headland. Despite coming to this beach several times every year for ages, I can’t recall the last time I walked up the headland to the ocean pool. If ever.

On seeing the obelisk, I asked Mr S if he knew what it was – after all he surfed at this beach almost daily as a youngster. Nup. Further on there was a sign. Great, that’ll stop Mr S exploring too close to the edge of the cliff.

Cobber = Old Australian slang for mate

Down the stairs, we found a great spot in the shade of the cliff. The photo doesn’t give depth, but it was as if we were in the midst of the waves. We could see the surfers take off.

The ocean pool was so refreshing – and quite thrilling when big waves hit the side of the pool. I didn’t capture some of the biggest ones, but you can see the spray tower over the people.

I did hope we wouldn’t face a repeat of the Tassie incident! That’s always in the back of my mind when I’m near big waves with only one way out.

It was definitely worth the drive – even if the beach was closed. The fresh scent of the ocean. The clean and tingly skin after a swim.


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:

Hornsby garden

Mr S and I like to go for a walk in new places. One weekend at the end of April (I wrote it them but forgot to post) I remembered somewhere I’ve been meaning to go a decade: Lisgar Gardens. Full of camellias. Lush with trees and ferns. Building on it started one hundred years ago. 

I especially love the steps leading into a garden. So evocative. And what about the tree growing from a rock. It looks as though it is melting over a rock.

The garden is on several levels, falling down a deep slope. Along the path, among the boulders and trees, were lamp posts. Mr S said we were entering Narnia. Too scary!!!

We ventured beyond the garden boundaries, down the steep valley to the creek below. The track was really not a track. “Should we walk here?” I asked Mr S. 

“Looks like leech territory to me,” he replied.

Yes I squealed. Rightly so as it turned out. Four, yes FOUR, leeches I found in one shoe.  Blerk!!!

“Leech Hollow”, Mr S named it. (The valley, not my shoe.)

Up we went, back along the track, returning to he civilised garden. 

A beautiful public garden. Well worth a visit. Next time we will bring a thermos of tea. And we will be back in camellia season.  

A Sunday drive 

We took an American relo to Katoomba. It’s been many a year since I visited the Three Sisters and walked up and down Katoomba’s main drag. 
My God! The crowds! Masses and masses of tourists!!!  Go away already. 

No. I’m not a tourist. I’m a… Well I’m not a local but almost. I’ve been coming here since forever. I lived for a while at the base of the mountains in Dag City. I have had friends who lived in the mountains, and still have. As a teenager, we’d make the trek up on a Saturday night for something to do. I’ve done many short walks around the Blue Mountains. 

But I have not been up to Katoomba for so long. A couple of weekends ago I visited a friend in Leura, which is one stop down the mountain towards Sydney. We called in a couple of antique shops but didn’t go into Leura. 

Still, even the crowds cannot take away from the majesty of the Blue Mountains. 

Panoramic view

And I can see why they come. It’s awe inspiring. 

Three Sisters and a cousin

Honeymoon Bridge into cave under Three Sisters

The street art was eye catching. 

I love this one. A 1940s truck driving into the present. Reminds me of the student who asked what it was like living when everything was black and white – if the footage and photos are in black and white, real life must have been. 

Unfortunately the food was meh. I should have gone the soup. The ricotta vegetable slice was tiny and the accompanying slice of bread blah and the salad just a little pile of leaves. Yes, I should have had the soup. When it’s 7°C and there’s still snow on a roof and on a yard, go the soup. 

I think we may have to spend a week up here, exploring and walking and snooping around the shops. 

I even think I may have to work on Mr S. I think I could retire around Leura or Wentworth Falls. It’s the bushfires that scare him.  

Long weekend. 

Happy birthday, Queen. Thanks for the day off. 

Mr S has enjoyed watching the pomp and ceremonies in London on his computer. 

I’ve been otherwise engaged. 

On Saturday I continued my STC subscription and saw Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. Brilliant production. So glad I got to see Robyn Nevin – she was ill and theperformance  cancelled when I went to see her in Suddenly Last Summer. 

John Howard’s (not our ex-Prime Minister) performance was powerful. 

Great costumes. Not sure about the American accents, though. 

The day was a sparkler. Look at the diamonds glistening on the harbour. 

Yesterday I mooched around, wrote a witty post but lost it, read the paper, watched Poirot. 

Today I am off the the Hunter valley. No it is not holidays yet. I have a conference there. Supplies for tonight are packed. Bubbles and nibbles. Strange I know, to take wine to the Hunter but we won’t have time to shop nor visit wineries. 

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. 

Sunday in the Blue Mountains

Just back from a most gorgeous day. 

A friend picked me up in her convertible and we escaped the haze from the back burning that is taking place across Sydney. 

The air was crisp and sweet and clear. 

We stopped by a couple of antique shops on the way up to a friend’s weekender. 

A house among the trees. And birds. 

On the back verandah for drinks and nibbles, watched by kookaburras who wait any dropped morsels. 

Inside for a fabulous feast of pumpkin soup, mushroom strudel and salad. And then dessert! Oh, dessert. Choices. If only I had room for more than two. I’ll start with Persian orange almond cake. The sticky date with double serve of butterscotch sauce. 

A quick sing through of happy birthday to me, off to watch the hosts feeding the birds, while admiring the bush, especially the mountain devil, flowering at different stages. 

All too soon we had to join the other Sunday drivers on the road back down to Sydney. 

Back to the haze from back burning which you can see, sitting like a brown smudge low on the horizon.