Another new year and still more CoVid but adventure is just around the corner. Hola Espagne!

I haven’t felt the urge to write because life has been quite routine for months. The year started with an air of optimism and I decided to go on a yoga retreat as something new. It was a great experience and very grounding and relaxing. Lots of nature, not too much talking and a lot of chanting. I have never been one for chanting but I finally saw the benefit. It is verbal meditation I suppose or prayer. The chanting did seem to lift our vibration and was very calming. Never knew what we were saying mind you but the sounds were good. While there we experienced a dramatic hail storm that was extremely loud and wet!

After that there was a wedding and then life resumed its usual pattern of child minding and social interactions. I had a significant birthday which I decided would be a Festival of Kath rather than a grand party. I had lots of lunches and dinners and quality time with family and friends.

I have completed a couple of virtual Caminos these last two years and thoroughly enjoyed revisiting my original Camino Frances experience as well as completing the extension to Finisterre and Muxia and back to Santiago.

I have found walking virtual places very motivating and reminiscing over familiar experiences through the photographs was uplifting in these trying times. Camino for Good was my preferred virtual hike because it was founded to raise money to support owners of the Albergues who were struggling through CoVid. The app and website felt very like a real Camino.

Anne, my friend from the Portuguese Camino, and I finally got organised to take our trip to Queensland. We both had an ambition to travel to the very tip of Cape York Peninsula and through central Queensland to visit dinosaur country and various gorges. What a great time we had. I didn’t track our trip on this blog because I didn’t know what to expect as we were in a camper trailer which was shared with my brother and my nephew. I did track it on a travel app Polarsteps. http://polarsteps I liked the way it mapped our travel but it didn’t lend itself so much to writing. You can find the trip under my full name Kathryn Leong.

However during the year my English friends invited me to join them on another walking adventure. We had planned to walk the Ruta de La Lana from Alicante to Burgos back in 2019 but when the world was overtaken by CoVid all travel was halted. We all went into hibernation. This year they visited Italy and decided that it would be fine to reinstate our plans and go to Spain. Ever one to say yes and think about the details later, I agreed. So here I am one week out from a hike through the Spanish countryside which is quite literally aflame. The world seems to have devolved into constant chaos but we are hopeful that as autumn arrives so too will milder weather and a cease to forest fires across Europe.

Ever the optimists and with Andy’s dogged planning skills we will make it happen. I am booked to fly on the 30 th August to Madrid and then train to Valencia. The others will arrive on the 1st September. A few days exploring Valencia and then we start walking. We are prepared to be flexible, in fact already we are finding alternatives on our route. This is not a well travelled road like the traditional Camions and consequently accommodation is a bit limited. Being a group of four has made it difficult to just wander into towns as we have done previously.

Anyway let the next adventure begin.

1st June Wimmera wandering

Could we have planned any better? My friends and I took off for a magical mystery tour around Western Victoria on the 17th May in a Maui Camper van. We returned on the 27th, the beginning of Melbourne’s fourth lockdown. Ugh!! What can you say? It is frustrating after Melbourne had been really coming out of hibernation and starting to blossom again, only to be cut off by an unexpected frost, lockdown 4. It made me think of the ice maiden days in France that I experienced in May 2018. We had been enjoying glorious warm spring days until we arrived in Le Puy, May 12 and it began to snow! My French friends told me they never plant anything until after the ice maiden days 11,12,13, May.

Anyway back to the trip. I had taken the risk of having my first vaccination on the Sunday before departure. I was sick of waiting for the local GP who was only getting 50 doses a week; so after Yum Cha in the city on the Sunday I rolled up to the Royal Exhibition Building mass vaccination centre and received my jab. No queues, smiling service and out in the minimum time. I figured if I felt sick I would just sit quietly in the van and take some Panadol. I did not anticipate a bad reaction and fortunately I was fine. Barely a tender arm.

First jab completed, yeah!

The next morning we collected the van and drove tentatively home to Kew to pack. Getting the hang of the longer wheel base was the first lesson, parking was the second. We had a daunting amount of stuff but it all fitted and we were on our way soon after. Our first destination was Lorne. We stopped at Torquay for lunch and managed to turn the front chairs around and set up the little table. It was tricky and the last time we ever bothered!

We immediately became part of the camper van crowd. Another van parked close by revealed a smaller weekend style of travel and the young couple with their dogs, were eager to share their experiences. Like us they were from Melbourne and just enjoying a break after last year’s lockdown. Finally arriving at Lorne Foreshore Caravan Park after hours, Bill backed the van into place while Irene and I guided him.

The van has a shower and toilet but we are all too nervous to use it and terrified of emptying the toilet cassette. We got set up so quickly that we were all very impressed- so much easier than the tents we normally use. Bill was delighted with the convenience of the rubbish bin at his elbow while he peeled vegetables. We quickly slipped into a little routine with each having a task but not underfoot.

Next stop Apollo Bay and lunch of Scallop Pie and Chai Latte, not in the van. Now it was my turn to drive. With trepidation I took the wheel but soon felt comfortable. It was easy to drive, just needed to remember the long wheel base when going round corners. I got a lot of practice as I drove through the Otways winding roads! Our destination was Port Fairy. I missed the turn-off to our selected Caravan Park and then found the only other access was a road under repair which was closed! We set off for another campsite but it was closed too. We were getting a bit desperate but I had seen a Big 4 as we came into town and though rather characterless, we were glad to stop there. I backed the van successfully into place. When we left this Caravan Park the manager gave us a bottle of wine! Friendly anyway.

The next day Irene and I finally broached the toilet cassette. After reading and re-reading the instructions, we managed to remove, empty and replace without incident. I think our greatest fear was being splashed of course. Task completed, we walked into town and had lunch ( Scallop pie again and a small Vanilla Slice) followed by a look around. That is, Irene and I browsed the shops while Bill connected with a former colleague with whom he had worked on the renovation of the local hospital. On this trip we did many diversions past country hospitals that Bill had worked on. ( He is a retired Architect). When Irene and I returned, Bill and Mick were still sharing coffees. Mick was able to fill us in on Port Fairy, the economy and its development. It was a most enjoyable day.

That evening there was a lot of laughter as I tried to dismantle the table for Bill and Irene’s bed. I just couldn’t dislodge the pole and then I was laughing so much I was completely useless. Bill came to the rescue and showed me how.

Next stop was Budji Bim Cultural Landscape, the only UNESCO World Heritage property listed for its Aboriginal cultural values. It features the earliest living example of aquaculture in the world, with a history of eel farming and agriculture, dating back over 6000 years. This was such an interesting place and we undertook a guided tour. It made me ashamed of how inadequate and biased our Australian history teaching has been.

What we are finding is that we are taking our time to get going in the mornings, so our idea of arriving early at our destination has not eventuated. Plus it is a bit too cold to sit out and have our nibbles and drinks after 4.30 pm. The van is more comfortable. We are also beginning to realise we might have underestimated our distances and time to complete our journey. There is so much to see and we aren’t stopping at every curiosity as we might, if we had unlimited time. We stopped nonetheless to see the Crags as recommended by Mick. We were heading to Dunkeld for lunch the next day at the Royal Mail. It is so lovely being out in the country, feeling free and secure in our little mobile home. It is so very convenient and easy. We are getting in the habit of being tidy, everything in its place and everything close at hand. We often book ahead while travelling but mostly there are plenty of spots to camp.

The Crags

Dunkeld however was full when we arrived. Consternation! Where to stay? Just as we were driving out the manager rushed out to stop us. There had been a last minute cancellation. How fortunate, because this camp ground was a total delight. There were bath mats in the showers!! Flowers and toiletries and a hairdryer in the facilities made us feel like friends. The other aspects, camp kitchen and bbq’s were all excellent and charming. The manager told us they had been so busy that they were desperate for a break. Victorian’s had been making the most of their freedom and the Royal Mail was doing a roaring trade. Once again Irene and I browsed some delightful shops. I bought a lovely possum/merino poncho that looked so elegant. Not in the budget, but too enticing to resist and I justify the purchase by the fact that I am helping the economy!

Our next stop was Halls Gap in the Grampians. We had intended to do a hike but in the end we decided to explore the local wineries instead! We have hiked in the Grampians before so this was a new aspect not previously explored. Halls Gap was full of people because there was the Gap run on Sunday. It was freezing overnight but delightfully sunny during the day.

We were surprised that there was no cooked rotisserie chicken to be had in Halls Gap. It seems such a basic take away food ( for us city slickers anyway) which would be so saleable to the huge camping population of Halls Gap. (At least three camping grounds.) A business opportunity for some enterprising person surely. But not our concern because we were departing for our true destination, the Art Silo trail and the Little Desert-The Wimmera-Mallee country.

Our first stop was Murtoa for the ‘Stick Shed’. Is it an Australian thing to name such an imposing building with an underwhelming name? I was quite frankly in awe of this former grain store. The ‘sticks’ were unmilled mountain ash from East Gippsland. The building was constructed in 1941 to store the glut of grain caused by the collapse of markets during WW2.

The inside is so impressive and evoked a sense of grandeur I have experienced in some Cathedrals. Whether it was the rough supports or the flexible purlines that tighten to support the building when it is windy, or just the sheer size (270metres long x 60 metres wide and about 19 metres high at the ridge) the building seems to have a soul. I could imagine a concert in there, though acoustics are probably terrible.

From here we visited Rapunyip, then Sheep Hills before heading west to Geroke, Karniva and Dimboola for the night. Dimboola has always had a sort of exotic attraction for me. There was a play and a film set in Dimboola but also its name personified life deep in the Wimmera. I don’t know what I expected but it did not disappoint. I was surprised that there was a Wimmera River, which flows through Dimboola. It was blessed with lots of bird life as a result and a rustic charm. Sydney Nolan was stationed here during the Second World War as guard to rations for the Army and painted in the front office of the store.

Dimboola has a grand hotel which was being renovated and an old National Bank now converted to The Imaginarium, an eclectic gift shop. We found everyone to be wonderfully friendly and welcoming. The little Desert was another mystery to me and we enjoyed a nature walk through a small part of it before stopping at the pink lake, Lake Lochiel. The Caravan Park Manager had showed us photos of the lake looking fluorescent pink last year. He smiled ruefully as he told us, ‘No one got to see it because of CoVid!’ Since restrictions have lifted though the town has been doing well. At this Caravan Park we had an ensuite!

Our next silo was at Brim, then Rosebery, Patchewollock, Lascelles and finally Sea Lake.

Seeing all these amazing painted Silos and the stories about their making was so very interesting and inspiring. They tell the stories of the people of the Wimmera-Mallee and the artists. We wondered if their was any preservation process for the art or will they eventually fade or be worn away by the elements. Bill suggested perhaps they got a coat of Teflon! Another surprise was the other salt lake, Lake Tyrell, just out of Sealake. The reflections here were impressive despite the bitter cold and grey sky. I thought it would be worth returning in summer to see the sunrise or set and to use the Sky Lounge. The sky lounge were seats for observing the stars at night and had illustrations of the constellations seen by and used by the local indigenous people for understanding the seasons etc.

We opted to stay at Green Lake out of town because the Sealake Caravan Park looked too bleak. Green Lake is a freshwater lake filled by rainwater but surrounded by trees and sandy shores and delightful. That is, until we collected the branch of a tree with the airconditioner on the roof of the van! It was just a crack but that is what you have an excess for in the insurance. Still it dampened our spirits somewhat as we were just two nights from returning the van unscathed.

Our last day saw us visit Nullawil Silo, the MaryQuant exhibition in Bendigo-a stressful but successful parking exercise for me and the van- overnight at Heathcote and home to Melbourne and the beginning of lockdown! What a wonderful trip. We had so much fun together. I finally saw the western part of Victoria and learned how to manage a mobile home. Parking issues aside it was a real impetus to plan a trip around Australia next year. I will do a towing course first though!

One of my favourites. The dog is superb with its wet nose.

14 th May, Life rebounding with CoVid suppressed

I feel like it has been months since I wrote this blog. My life seems to have moved into overdrive with so much activity and planning going on. I have lost the knack after a year of CoVid quiet or more honestly perhaps, I have lost the taste for being over committed. Finally I may have conquered my FOMO habit. It has only taken me most of my life!

I have always felt that my ability to do a lot of activities was a testament to my ability to be flexible and spontaneous and achieve goals; to say yes to any invitation unless it was really impossible to attend or achieve, made me a good manager and made me feel like I was living life to the fullest. I would rearrange or time shift so I could do whatever was on offer. I was addicted to the adrenaline when I was young but then it became a habit and eventually created stress that was not exciting but draining.

This month I have been going out to plays and shows, galleries and parties. There have been birthdays to celebrate, as well as family get togethers. School holiday activities with Ziggy, winter bowls has started, as well as taking Ziggy to soccer training, life drawing, and general life matters to maintain. Life seems to have eaten this month in a whirl of pleasure and planning. I started to feel like I was losing control at home. The apartment was low priority. Paper piling on the desk. My steady study of French and Spanish went out the window. I barely had time to read for book club. I was watching more TV so sitting up later. I had appointments with doctors and financial planners. I started a new exercise program. I got tired! Very tired. I began to prioritise and start saying NO or not today. I chose to not rush. I drew up a weekly schedule! Is it working? Well I have managed to clean the house, work through the piles of paper ( I am a dreadful collector of information!), disposed of a few more clothes from the wardrobe, a tent and potentially a few bolts of fabric that have been clogging up the bedroom. I have continued to prioritise my time for less stress and more down time. Will it last? It is a work in progress. Life activities fluctuate and I will continue to roll with the ups and downs but also practice saying NO or Not Today.

My son and daughter in law are in the market for a house. Their priorities have changed too and so I have spent some time rearranging my finances to release some money to help them. It was something I wanted to do but was a bit scared about. I didn’t want to leave myself too short to live my life or end up a burden in a few years. Helping them now when they need it was better than leaving them something when I die. That might be useful if I drop off my perch tomorrow, but not so much if I live into my 90s! It is times like this that I desperately miss my husband. Having someone you love and trust with whom you can discuss and clarify issues is so special and plain helpful! The sole responsibility weighs heavy sometimes.

It seems so much harder for young ones to get into the market. When we were young we had a little bit of help with purchasing land from my husband’s father but in general our generation didn’t receive much financial assistance if any, from our parents. We mostly started small and worked up to the home we finally wanted. In those days though salaries were better in relation to housing costs, jobs were full time and plentiful and our expectations were different. We were all mad on DYI even when we were ignorant! Life was a lot simpler. Anyway their first attempt at auction was a great learning experience. The chosen property went for $300,000 over reserve! The market is hot and they were naive but have learned quickly and have recalibrated expectations. Hopefully they will get someplace by the end of the year.

A few friends and family have had some health crises this month. An unexpected heart operation, a visit to the hospital for blood clots after surgery, a mystery bite that caused a friend to be hospitalised, have all caused concern and prompted me to be a bit less cavalier about a chest spasm I experienced while minding Ziggy. I had an ECG and all is working well and my overall health is excellent which is reassuring. I had not expected otherwise but as we get older ( like used cars) things start to wear out! The cardiologist expressed the used car analogy. He said if I was a used car I would get a good rating from an RACV assessment as a solid purchase! Brmm brmm!

The winter bowls pennant competition has commenced and I had hoped to have had some coaching but the coach has broken his leg and I was more preoccupied with my family issues. The first couple of games were pretty ordinary. Our team lost and I was disappointed with my game. Last week started in the same vein. The team from Albert Park were wanting a fast game and when I found my team mate had the same colour bowls, I rushed to change mine and continued to feel rushed. I felt like giving up and having a good cry! When the game finished we were told we still had pairs to play. My team mate Christine and I groaned. Out we went after a brief break. We had a competitive game finally and we came from two down to win by three points! We were ecstatic. That was worth a bottle of champagne!

I have started taking Ziggy to Soccer training on Wednesdays at Kensington. I leave at 2.45pm to collect him from school and then we zoom home to change refuel and head off to training. I don’t get home till after 7.00 pm. It is a fun time and my own understanding of soccer skills is improving. They have good coaches and the kids are keen. I get to know the parents so it really is enjoyable even though it is jolly cold! There are no toilets, so one day when it was very cold I had to go to the local swimming pool to use their facilities. It was so warm inside I wished Ziggy was doing swimming training!

I have started at a new gym. I had continued to support my old gym through CoVid on Zoom and then their shift to a new place in Camberwell out of loyalty, but I was continually battling with a tight thigh and hip. Everything was different. It didn’t seem to be working for me anymore. The circuit training had always been so personal and effective but I finally decided that continuing the same routines was not helping and it was time to change. I decided to try the new super gym down the road. It was close and had lots of classes, as well as the circuit and weight training and cycling. I was really interested in trying Yoga again and Pilates to stretch and gain flexibility. I have tried reformer Pilates, Barre Pilates, Yin Yoga( bliss), Hot Yoga( Vinyasa), Body Balance (yoga, tai chi, Pilates) and loved them all, but gosh they have stretched me literally and figuratively. Another reason why I am tired! I haven’t had time to do the usual weights, and cardio stuff yet. I looked at the fancy machines and felt horrified. The work outs on machines seemed so anonymous, everything I abhorred. However all the teachers have been so friendly and excellent and some of my classes have been very small and personal. I have spruiked the place to a few dog walking people and other gym friends so now there is a nice group of friends going there. It has meant I have received a great deal! Same cost as I used to pay and the stretching has meant no more sore thigh either! It was time for a change but when you have a relationship that change is harder to make.

Irene, Bill and I have been planning a road trip around western Victoria in a campervan. We are excited and I feel it will be a good rest. I love to be travelling and freewheeling without too much booked so you have flexibility. We have discovered however that much is booked up ( post CoVid escapees,) and so we have recalibrated our trip from north west commencing to south west, so we can join a tour at Budj Bim National park to see the UNESCO world heritage listed historic eel farming by Indigenous Australians. We are then heading to the Little Desert, the Grampians and the Silo Trail. I am so happy to be travelling again. The weather has moved from glorious Autumn to chilly winter. It will be cold while we trip around. I am taking my warmest sleeping bag!

Today at the dog park one of the young women said she hadn’t slept well. When we enquired whether it was work or personal she revealed that she had an ethical issue at work and her eyes welled up with tears. She is in research and had counselled a student not to include as a contributor someone who had not actually participated in the preparation of the paper. Her boss had another agenda and chastised her but she explained her reasoning and felt there was an ethical issue. We supported her point of view and believed she was correct. She had been brave to stand her ground at work but had started to doubt herself. She is a young woman amongst older workers. They should be defending the integrity of the research. When we walked home together we discussed some strategies to support her arguments that might smooth the issue positively for everyone. When I left her at her gate she asked if I could hug her. I felt privileged to be asked. It was good to have all the different ages at the park contribute their perspectives in accord with her take on the integrity of the matter and I felt glad to be able to support her confidence in herself. The dog owners are as varied as the dogs, but a rich source of good sense and support. It is an enjoyable time in my day-despite Alf’s constant barking if the big dogs get really boisterous! Women supporting women, dogs full of mischief and energy. A great way to start the day.

A brief lull in the morning runs! Right to left, Lexie, Carlo, Moby and Mac at the back.

Hopefully I can post some pictures of our trip next week.

4 th April Easter Weekend

So it is Easter and chocolate abounds, time on the couch is making me round! Crummy poetry not a patch on Paul Kelly whose show I had the pleasure of attending on Monday a week ago. What an interesting man. He talked perhaps more than I expected rather than performed poetry or sang, but I still found him inspiring. I came away with a new perspective on poetry and a desire to read more. It was a fun evening sitting in the forecourt of the Malthouse theatre ( very glad of my warm coat!) with Jane D and some strangers with whom we chatted amiably. Poor Wendy had bought the tickets but due to work pressures could not attend and so we were the lucky recipients of her tickets.

Prior to this event I had a delightful couple of days catching up with my friend Pam at her Strathbogie Farm. She and her husband had bought this property about 10 years ago and slowly planted trees and gardens, built sheds while they lived in a caravan when they visited. Eventually they built a simple but welcoming homestead style home and acquired two alpacas. Despite a mix up in dates we eventually got away together and spent the two days walking and talking nonstop. We had not seen each other for more than two years! There was a lot to cover. She has acquired a new groodle puppy Scout, who I adored and the whole thing was just wonderful. I so miss the quiet of the bush, though really it isn’t quiet because there are so many birds and sounds of nature like swishing tree branches, bleating sheep and wind through the grass. They are such calming sounds and in tune with your body. While Pam took the Scout for a walk I found a huge granite boulder in the sun and just sat watching the butterflies and soaking up the sun in a peaceful meditation.

I admire Pam and her husband Brian having the courage to create a new life in the country. They haven’t fully shifted there yet but will when Brian retires in two years. They will flip their lives to live mainly in Strathbogie and have a small place in Melbourne for visiting friends and family. They are younger than me and share this dream of a tree change. They are realistic about farming and its difficulties and they will not have to make a living from the farm. It is a lifestyle choice for retirement. I see a lot of work ahead but also a sense of achievement for them both and continuous learning which challenges and rewards.

One of the things about retirement is finding a meaningful purpose to your life. Sometimes just pleasing yourself can seem selfish and even pointless. Most of us have responsibilities with grandchildren or volunteering or a desire to learn new skills which give purpose to our lives. Otherwise you can feel you are just filling in time waiting for the end. ( I was quite surprised when an older friend in her mid 70s made this remark about a crowd of people at a concert!) Finding the joy in living is so important in our later life and challenges which are meaningful, like a tree change,certainly offer that opportunity.

I certainly had a lot of fun with Scout and I was intrigued by the Alpacas and thoroughly enjoyed feeding them and allowing them to sniff me from head to foot. When Pam returned from taking Scout for her walk, even though she was leashed and nowhere near the Alpacas, the older alpaca made this strange scary call through her nose as warning. They are great watch animals! Pam and Brian keep them separate from the sheep agisted in the paddocks because they round the sheep up in a protective circle all the time! They also have very clean toilet habits and only defecate in a couple of spots in the paddock which makes collecting their manure for compost very efficient!

I took this video for my Swiss French friend to hear the sound of the Australian countryside. I forgot about the munching of the Alpacas!

When I returned to Melbourne I was quickly into the swing of city life again with a bowls semi-final. The club’s level in the ‘ bowls league’ was depending on our scores. I felt pretty nervous about the whole thing initially. I arrived at the wrong club in Elsternwick at first but had been warned about this possibility so quickly realised and relocated to the correct club. The Elsternwick Club. This was the most serious competition I had attended so far. There was even a check of the bowls labels! It was a tense game and we had supporters cheering when we rolled well. A completely new experience for me. The Elsternwick team were very accomplished players so eventually they got the better of us but it was a battle every end. They were great to compete against and really friendly. In the end the competition between clubs was a draw and we had to go back out and play until there was a clear winner. It was decided on two points! That was the end of our season and I realised how much I have come to enjoy the game and the new people I was meeting. There is a break before the winter pennant comp. begins so I have some time to really focus on improving my consistency.

The grand Elsternwick Club

I decided to get a few friends to go to the Comedy Festival. I have started to go every year to a few gigs, increasing more every year as I get to know the comedians and also try new people. It is so much fun and I get to visit different quirky places in Melbourne that I have never been to before. It is usually very cheap too compared to mainstream theatre so you can go to several without spending a fortune. I have become a little ruthless about group planning now. I send out the suggestion and whoever responds within 48 hours is in and I book. It has meant a mix of companions which is also good. I have learned that if you wait for everyone you end up missing out!

Our first show was ‘ A bookish comedy’, which was held at the Storyville just off Lonsdale street. It was a hoot of a night and the comedians really appreciated our responsiveness! A compliment came from one young comedian who said it was the grey heads in the crowd who actually got the joke! Some of the comedy focused on books that had been read, so Jane, Janine and I from a book club where very vocal. We had a ball and finished the night with noodles in the QV quadrangle.

I have another four shows to attend yet so I am really looking forward to them and feel that I am contributing to helping Melbourne and it’s artists get back to the vibrant city it was before CoVid hit. The next is Aarti Vincent at the Club Voltaire in North Melbourne. Another place to which I have never been. It is an adventure finding these places in your home town!

The Storyville bar with its Alice in Wonderland down the hole theme.

So with Easter being fairly quiet, as in no trips or hikes, I have been to the movies with my Art buddy Anna to see the Courier. A very good movie set in the 60s about the missile standoff in Cuba. It was very suspenseful. I booked Yum Cha for Sunday with my sons and Ziggy, who was full of excitement about his Easter egg bounty and being caught by Clare in the wee hours of Sunday trying to see the Easter Bunny! The timing wasn’t quite convenient for Clare and Marlo to join us which was disappointing, but with the end of daylight saving they were conscious of not disturbing Marlo’s sleep patterns too much. Jonathan had good news he has got the Design/Production job he applied for and starts on Tuesday after Easter. A great weight has been lifted.

Nick was disappointed to learn the radio therapy had had no effect on his AVM and so he will have monitoring. He is remaining positive and has decided to live life to the fullest and focus on continuing to collaborate with his new art friend to produce some interesting work. I was disturbed because it is a time-bomb in his head but I don’t want to add to his stress by expressing my anxieties. At this stage we can’t do anything else but keep living to the best of our ability until a treatment is found.

Every day is a bonus. Look at Carla Zampatti, she woke up to a normal day, went to the Opera and happened to fall hard coming out. The next thing she was in hospital never regaining consciousness and died a week later. Life is unpredictable so we need to treasure what is here and now and not waste energy on worrying about the future or bemoaning the past.

16th March I am woman, hear me roar.

Yesterday’s was the Women’s March4Justice held in every capital city and many provincial cities and towns around Australia. Here in Melbourne it was held in the Treasury Gardens and was attended by about 10,000 people, predominantly women, but also men. They came in black with face masks and represented all ages from young to old. It was inspiring to see the number but also damning that we are still fighting for equality and respect. The Prime minister Scott Morrison declined to address the Canberra crowd but stated in parliament, “ this is a triumph of democracy when we see these things take place. Not far from here, such marches, even now are being met with bullets, but not here in this country.” (The Age, ‘Morrison pushed to act as ‘winds of change howl’,’15th March, p4.)

What a patronising statement. I hope his wife Jenny gave him an earful but I have my doubts. This man hears nothing and he is the father of daughters. Shame on him. The violence against women continues unabated and the language around this implies that women are to blame. The report Respect@Work by the Human Rights Commission was damning about Australia’s record on sexual harassment in the workplace. Once a world leader in the field we are now way behind. This report has sat gathering dust for 12 months without any response from the government. The prime minister wonders what the fuss is about! One of the best comments I heard all week was an English female MP who suggested men have a curfew! The discussion is always about women protecting themselves but not ever about men behaving better! Enough is enough was the message on many placards and women and their allies will no longer go quietly. At the rally Helen Reddy’s feminist anthem ‘I am woman, hear me roar ‘ was invoked and the crowd roared. Now we want to keep that momentum moving with action and real change. Watch out ScoMo, women vote!

Afterwards along with Janine and her sister Mardi, and a passionate Irish woman named Carolyn who we met at the rally, we debriefed over coffee. It was invigorating having the discussions and trying to figure out how we can make an impact too. I at least have had discussions with everyone I have come across since. This is everyone’s issue.

Before all this exploded life was full of LIFE again. Post lockdown and no community transmission of CoVid has liberated us to enjoy some of the culture for which Melbourne is famous. I went to the Triennial at the NGV with my friend Irene. We saw some amazing and thought provoking art. It inspired me to get painting again and also to make a few more visits to the gallery to see some of the classical art. Many of the triennial pieces were juxtaposed with classic art or had superimposed video works for modern interpretations. These contrasts invoked a deeper curiosity about some of the work.

This was a big day because I returned to the city the same night to attend a real live performance at the Melbourne Theatre Company of the play Sexual Misconduct of the Middle Classes. It was a #me to theme. Very topical and very well presented.

I had responded to the advertising and bought a ticket very early but I didn’t quite register the month of the show. When I arrived on a Tuesday in February I was surprised to see the theatre closed. On examining my ticket I realised I was a month too early. The advantage of going alone was nobody got to see my red face! I just turned around and went home. It had been my first train ride for awhile too! Sometimes I am just too enthusiastic.

The lifting of restrictions also meant we could take our planned trip to Dinner Plain in the high country. I had booked a lodge for five friends and myself so we could do some bushwalking. We were all so excited to be getting out of the city into some bush. I am very fond of Dinner Plain which is a small mountain village outside the National park and near Mt Hotham. The homes are somewhat controlled in their design so they blend into the environment. It is pretty quiet but the hotel has a couple of spas out the back in the open which we used after our walks. It was so indulgent but worth the relaxing effects on our rusty walking legs. We had planned three dinners in and one out at the hotel to celebrate Bill’s imminent birthday. Everyone cooked delicious meals with a rather strong emphasis on pulses. Consequently some of our walks became very fast jaunts between trees! It was totally delightful to be in such fresh air and the quiet was also soothing. The weather was sunny but the breezes were very cool and on one of the walks my hands were white with cold until I walked for a good half hour. I hadn’t taken a warm enough jacket for maintaining body heat while lunching. The grass on some of the paths was over my head or in my mouth. We were conscious of being alert for snakes because one of the workers at the village had remarked that there had been more snakes around this year. Perhaps another response to fewer humans in the environment during CoVid! I was glad of my gaters after I heard that.

On our return bowls got busy and I played in a few comps culminating in a tournament. This is when bowlers from everywhere play random teams at our club for prize money. It was a fun but tiring day. We started well but as the day wore on and the competition got stronger we could only claim the satisfaction of providing enough competition to stymie a complete walkover. I am competitive while playing and realise I need to practice more to improve. Still we met some delightful people and had a fun day despite the persistent rain.

Katrina ( my team mate) playing against the women champs and the guys from Chadstone who were very eager and serious about the prize money.

Lastly we have had some family catch ups and I have been going across town to watch Ziggy play soccer. A week flies past before you know it.

Little Marlo is now 5 months old. Nick is having tests to see how he has recovered from the Arteriovenous Malformation treatment, Jonathan and Clare are looking at houses to buy. We are starting to plan a walk in Western Australia and hope we can do it. Easter and school holidays are approaching. My garden is flourishing after my battle with caterpillars last year and I am bursting with delight over my perpetual spinach. Small things are still appreciated but now we have to engage with the big issues again. It is a struggle sometimes but change requires steady persistence. We have to keep trying.

18 th February Free again

I was quite devastated by the sudden lockdown we had last week and felt quite disoriented. I was surprised by how emotional I felt about it. We had planned a family lunch on the Saturday which of course had to be postponed. Ziggy couldn’t stay over and my trip to Dinner Plain with friends was potentially off. I felt so sad and sorry for the restaurants and shops who had been planning Valentine day and Chinese New Year celebrations.

Such a sudden shut down seemed so much harder. I felt confident that the outbreak would be controlled but … doubt was also there. Finally some serious talk of quarantine facilities being constructed like Howard Springs in the Northern Territory, and like all states had in the distant past. Considering it is twelve months since this pandemic started, it seems a no brainer that this would have been a good solution to securing quarantine ages ago. The review into the first massive failure of hotel quarantine highlighted staff movements being an issue, along with staff training yet we still see breaches, albeit quickly contained. Quarantining people in a big city seems totally illogical. Too much movement too many people too many opportunities for escape. I know we are continually learning but being nimble is not good enough when we come to a halt every time there is a breech. It succeeded this time but at what cost to the economy?

We had begun to feel pretty normal again but it is a reminder that lucky as we are, the virus is still lurking around. I can see it now, a quarantine complex built and opened just as the pandemic passes! That seems to be government’s usual way of responding to emergencies. Complacency will undermine all our hard won freedoms. Such quarantine camps could be used to bring back overseas students sooner and when the pandemic is passed they could operate as specialised induction camps to Australia or training camps for groups. They don’t have to be white elephants until the next pandemic.

During the lockdown I went on a TV binge and finally finished the series Spiral and started Bridgeton. I had that empty feeling you get when you finish a good book or great series. It has become such a part of your life that you need to adjust to its absence. I also reconfirmed my belief that sitting up till all hours watching TV is not great for your mental health. I just got tired and unsettled. I couldn’t focus on anything. I didn’t even read because I kept falling asleep!

I was still doing the gym and walking the dog but I felt weird. I have reverted to my old habits of early gym, dog walking, breakfast, French practice and then reading or going to the studio to paint. I have to remind myself sometimes that just being alive takes time. Washing cleaning, cooking, going to the physio or the blood bank, planning holidays, catching up with friends. Life is busy and full and being engaged with interests and other people IS life.

So we end this week with our plans intact. Family lunch, Ziggy staying over, packing for Dinner Plain and hiking in the mountains. All is well with the world again.

January 20th 2021 Back in Melbourne

My summer holiday has ended and I am back in Melbourne. The weather is cool though sunny, and I need to readjust to the changeable weather and pick up my responsibilities again. Alfie has returned and so my walking routines are being reestablished.

I found waking at 6 am this morning a bit depressing because the sun was only just rising. In Queensland waking to bright sunlight at that time just made me feel great. We do have the gorgeous gloaming as compensation and I have been walking later instead.

I feel rather disoriented somehow. Slipping back into routines isn’t that easy and maybe I just don’t want to. Post holiday blues? I have gone to the gym only once so far though I have been nursing an annoying twinge in my thigh and modified my activities accordingly. Eventually I decided to visit the physio which seems to be helping. I have special exercises to complete which will loosen the muscles and while I need to do them it seems difficult fitting them in every day.

I caught up with Janine and Jane for coffee which was a lovely welcome back and as usual we just didn’t have enough time to talk! Then it was time with Ziggy. I had Friday and Saturday till lunch with Ziggy. We swam in the pool downstairs and played in the park and did creative activities. He found Jonathan’s memory book from school in the book case and after browsing the years, his question about why there were no brown children in the class photos was so telling of how our world has changed. His school is very multicultural with all ethnicities and colours.

He was a delight to have and is back to sleeping in the spare room again. When he told me he wanted to make pancakes for breakfast for my birthday present I expected to be asked where all the ingredients would be found. But no; he knew where everything was in my kitchen, even the flour and the measuring cups. He only asked me how to turn on the gas stove. I was very impressed with the results and we ate them all! He is a very competent chef in the kitchen at 8 years old and I was so proud. He is very observant- like most kids he is a sponge! A great credit to his parents and their enthusiasm for cooking, and patience in the kitchen!

My beautiful Daughter-in-law Clare, Marlo and Ziggy.

Saturday morning was more swimming and dog walking then we went for lunch with his parents and Marlo and uncle Chico (Nick). He was so pleased to see Marlo and so confident in handling him. It is very endearing to see how he is forming a very loving and gentle relationship with Marlo. Marlo is also very aware of his brother even at only 3 months. I missed him very much when he returned home. Actually I think the source of my post holiday blues is getting used to being on my own again. I have got used to having company all the time.

I had a successful night at Life drawing which left me feeling a real sense of improvement and progress in my ability. Having barely lifted a pencil since before Christmas I felt pleased with my efforts. The group is very supportive and they could see my progress too.

Today is Australia Day/ Invasion Day depending on your thoughts about the matter. It annoys me that we cannot settle on a different date because in reality, today was the establishment of New South Wales not Australia. We did not become a united country until Federation anyway so the 26th as Australia Day is really a misnomer. Even America doesn’t consider the arrival of the Mayflower as the commencement of the country, so why people cling to this date as impossible to shift bemuses me. There was an excellent opinion piece by historian Jonathan King about solving the problem. He suggests shifting the day to May 9, the opening of Federal Parliament by King George which was when we really became one country instead of a group of colonies. His article can be found here:

Another article about Australia Day or Days is this one:

It has only become rusted on since the bicentennial! As a child growing up I don’t really remember any great fuss about Australia Day which is evidenced by the different days celebrated, most Australians weren’t too particular either. I think that a day which symbolises invasion and European superiority is no longer appropriate. If Australia stands for being an inclusive nation then it is time to acknowledge the past damage inflicted by colonisation and find a day that really stands for all Australians. It is time for a change. The selection of four women as representing Australians of the Year, Senior Australian of the year, Young Australian of the year and Local Hero shows we can change and move with the times. The topics that they were representing were quite controversial, a survivor of child abuse, an indigenous educator, menstruation support for girls around the world, and a community worker in domestic violence. Voices being heard at last.

I have been bingeing on the French police series Spiral. It is very gritty and the protagonists are very human-so different from the American shows. The justice system is very different and ethical issues are very present so it has got me hooked. No slick clothes, personality differences, not too many niceties and I am improving my French( hopefully). The trouble with bingeing is it seems to make me unsettled. I guess I am too used to routine! Sitting up till 3.00 am because I was indulging my curiosity for the next and the next episode just threw me out. I still couldn’t sleep in which I think is actually a good thing, but I was tired!

Tomorrow I will be playing in a lawn bowls competition and that will be fun. It takes time to get your head around all the different aspects of your life when you come back from a holiday. Appointments and meetings all have to be scheduled which is a bit daunting really. Finding a speeding fine in the mail didn’t help either! A few kms over the limit driving to the airport seemed so unfair when there was no one on the road. But the limit is the limit even if it really makes me boil.

I slowed right down and now I have to wind up again. In fact I don’t think I have shaken off the CoVid Slow yet either. HaHa!

8 th January Sunny Southport

I have been happily staying with Tim and Donna since I returned. All has been easy. The sun has been shining and I have been feeling relaxed with early morning swims and walks and of course some shopping. My excuse is that I am helping the economy and I could not resist a bargain that will fill a hole in my wardrobe.

The weather has turned cool and wet and I am glad I put in my hoodie!I am relishing being on the balcony watching all the activity on the Broadwater. It is endlessly fascinating. I have seen a group of dragon boats and outriggers practicing. I met a woman once who was a breast cancer survivor and she rowed in a dragon boat competitively as a form of empowerment. She was impressive. They conjure up a dramatic image of power and speed. Then there are the jet skis that zoom around, a bit like marauding mosquitoes! They are always doing donuts and and zig zags. When the weather was good the yacht squadron was out and sailing into the open water off Main beach, their spinnakers bright against the sky and water.

Other times it is luxury yachts gliding out through the breakwater, all glamorous and sleek or humble fishing boats laden with nets and lines. Closer to shore are parasailing and wind surfers. The water is rarely empty or still unless the weather turns grey and wet like today.

On the foreshore they are having a Craft beer and jazz festival. The sound check yesterday was very clear from the balcony so we may get some cheap entertainment. The festival is promoting 260 craft beers!The lockdown of Brisbane will be a blow to the event I am sure .

CoVid safe Queensland has taken a hit with a quarantine hotel cleaner identified with the virulent strain from the UK. Consequently Greater Brisbane, Ipswich, Redland Bay and Logan are all going into a 3 day lockdown. My visit from Sunday is now off and I probably won’t get up there at all. It is disappointing and I hope not a cause for Victoria to ban the state like NSW. It would be funny if having fled from NSW to ensure a return to Victoria, the ban moved to Qld and I will be stuck here instead while the ban on NSW is lifted. It is a lottery really.

Anyway I am still enjoying the freedom of being somewhere different and being with my family. This water view is soul healing that is for sure.

With bad weather setting in today I have taken out some watercolour pens and will try this medium. I will probably make a mess but have a lot of fun in the process.

Everyday brings something new. The shock of the American Capital being under siege has sent concerned ripples around the world. CoVid mutating to an even more virulent strain is causing border lockdowns, extra testing sites and uncertainty. 2021 is supposed to be better but still there is turbulence and chaos. Did we really believe that things would be miraculously improved from New Years Day? I return to my mantra – Day by day!

5 th January Southport Queensland

I arrived in Ballina, the town where Flat Rock Tent park is situated, with the disturbing knowledge that the Victorian border had closed to New South Wales while I was crossing the border. My family had warned me but I was determined to go and now I will be stuck indefinitely unless I can return to Queensland. The Victorian government had given a 48 hour window to return to the state. This was a deadline I could not make.

Irene had already checked flights out of Ballina so the only options were to apply for a border pass back into Queensland immediately in case Queensland also shut its borders, or stay indefinitely. The last option was quite appealing to me after being locked down in Melbourne! Irene and Bill could not pack up their large tent in less than a day and the drive is more than 16 hours non-stop, so they would in all likelihood still not make the cut-off time of 11.59 on the 1st of January. All flights from Ballina were booked out too. They were staying and they would just move to an apartment when life in a tent got too much.

I wanted to stay as much as I wanted to be free to return to Victoria in a couple of weeks. What to do? I decided to be sensible. I didn’t want to be cut off from my grand children and family again for possibly months so I applied for a border pass to return to Southport, Qld. In reality, as good an option in terms of beach holidays as Flat Rock. Thank goodness for the internet. I applied on line and was told it would take about three days to get the pass. Okay that meant at least a few days with Bill and Irene. I would view this as a side trip instead.

It is funny how our minds work when faced with these dilemmas. My logical thinking said go back because the indefinite time could really be months depending on the success of the governments in suppressing the Virus and the politics of border closures. Your family needs you and you have a dog and commitments in Melbourne. On the other hand I would not be stranded in a foreign country paying hotel fees just interstate with friends in a roomy tent by the ocean. It isn’t as if I haven’t been away for long times before, but this is unplanned unlike the other trips. Also interactions with the family have only just resumed normality. I would be missing time with Ziggy and Marlo which I will never recover. The children grow up so quickly. The mental gymnastics were quite ridiculous. I am retired and I can stay as Bill and Irene are but I knew I would return. I am famous for my flexibility yet I am a planner too. My spontaneity is rarely whimsical, I am a Capricorn after all!

We went off to dinner at the Thai restaurant in Lennox Head with some other friends from camping and had a very quiet New Years Eve Celebration-back at the tent by 10.30pm. The restaurant was buzzing but not a lot of social distancing happening. We were outside and the staff were run off their feet. On returning to the campsite we decided that erecting my tent was pointless because I would only be staying a couple of nights so I slept in the antechamber of Irene and Bill’s Taj Mahal tent. The air mattress fitted perfectly into a corner.

I slept soundly despite my deflating air mattress and woke to the best sound in the world. Rolling surf, a dawn bird choir of kookaburras, whip birds, frogs and various other bird cheeps and trills and the unmistakeable scurrying of bush turkeys. This was what I had wanted so badly – nature around and close. It feeds the soul.

In the morning I discovered my border pass had arrived by email. What efficiency-under promise and over delivery. Now I could enjoy my three days here which I did. I was able to experience all my camping thrills in three days. Catching some waves on Bill’s boogie board, shopping with Irene at our favourite shops in Lennox, followed by fish and chips on the foreshore and conversations with some young Argentinians from Sydney. Then the inevitable summer storm drenching our neighbours but only producing a good water spout off Bill’s masterful tarp over the Taj Mahal. The wind changed and the surf was rough and the bluebottles blew in. Bill and Irene were stung but I fortunately avoided that mishap. It was then time to leave and catch the early bus from Ballina back to Southport. At my window in the bus was what I thought was a dead Dragonfly. How beautiful they are with their gossamer wings and iridescent bodies. As we drove along I realised it was not dead but half frozen, so by the time we got to Byron Bay I had captured it and was able to release it into the warm outside where it flew off quickly. I felt I had done my good deed for the day. Dragonflies symbolise change and transformation, good luck and living life to the fullest. Maybe this will be a lucky year after all.

I left my smaller tent with Bill and Irene so if they want to make some quick excursions they can use that tent.

Back in Southport I met up with Donna and we had a small shopping expedition to Pacific Fair. I wore my mask the whole time ( one of the few doing so) while I wrestled with the call to get CoVid tested. I had been in Victoria on the 21st December which was the date when cases of CoVid were identified. Even though I had been here for 9 days already and was symptom free the Qld government was calling for everyone to get tested. I went the next day and once again was impressed by the efficiency, and pleasantness of staff. It was an hour and a half waiting during which time we were given information about the process and CoVid itself , along with bottles of water, and we were able to log our personal contact information by QR code so when we reached the top of the line to get temperature tested the information was on the computer. Then it was show your Medicare card, followed by questioning by a nurse and then about five minutes later the actual test. Uncomfortable for 30 seconds and I was free. It was 2pm. Again the results were promised within 72 hours at the latest but arrived the next morning at 4.40 am by text! Brilliant. Now I am free to go out and about and visit Brisbane with a clear conscience. Holiday happening again!

If I had any lingering thoughts about staying at Flat Rock, a photo on Instagram of Ziggy and Marlo laughing together was the clincher. If I have learnt nothing else in 2020 it is how precious our friends and family are. I loved my visit with Bill and Irene and in normal times I would be there still. It just isn’t normal anymore or not yet at least.

The most precious grand children.

31st December Ending 2020

It is just about 6.00 am the sun is shining and I have been awake since 5 am. The sun rises very early in Queensland! yesterday was grey and humid with a massive tropical storm. From my bedroom window I can see rain over the mountains on the horizon. I have decided after careful deliberation and research to go to Ballina to camp at Flat Rock by the sea. I was hesitant because of the CoVid outbreak in Sydney which was growing and spreading beyond the north shores and Greater Sydney. The complications of needing a border pass to return or find ourselves in a hotspot which would require quarantine on return was ever present in my mind. Added to the variables is the fairly wet weather that has been forecast for the area of which yesterday’s storm was just the beginning.

Leaving the relative safety of the Gold Coast and the comfort of an apartment, for a tent by the sea needed a lot of thinking. The family here think I am a bit nuts but I will take the bus to Ballina this afternoon and remain flexible. What was the old saying? Alert but not alarmed. I had my first surf yesterday-delicious. The northerly wind had blown in the stingers but not where I was so I am seeing that as a good omen. I relish the lazy time by the sea and ever the optimist, hope all remains safe.

It has been great to see my family and in all honesty I probably should stay longer, but after the year of lockdown I want to be out in the open, free to swim in warm water and breathe in the sea air for a piece.

NSW has been touted as the gold standard of contact tracing and containment yet not as restrictive as Victoria so I will trust they are on top of it and carry on with the expectation that I can return to Victoria without a problem when my holiday ends.

I will be arriving quite late at 6 pm and we have a New Year Dinner at the Thai restaurant in Lennox head at 8.00 pm so it will have to be a quick tent installation so I have somewhere to sleep tonight. I am quite excited by the prospect of the bus trip. It is something I might do overseas where having a car is less usual for me. It is different and very inexpensive although much slower. An adventurous way to end the year! My brother usually very kindly drives me to Flat Rock, but with the complications of border passes and consequent traffic delays it was not something to be considered this year.

Happy New Year to everyone and let’s hope it is both Happy and Healthy and Prosperous in 2021!