Do I Need a Coat?

It’s cold!

July 12, 2014

July 12, 2014

Until about two weeks ago, I could be heard saying that winter in Melbourne is just like summer in Scotland.

Overall, I still believe this to be true, apart from those periods when the extremes happen in either city — like now.

Currently, we are having a cold snap. And Glasgow is having a warm spell.

July 12, 2014

July 12, 2014

This is my first winter in Australia for nine or ten years, and I’ve been making comparisons between the cities. The greatest difference between a Glasgow winter and a Melbourne winter is in the plant behaviour.

Gardens shut down in Glasgow’s winter.  The worms hibernated, the weeds died, the gardeners put their tools away, and nothing flowered. This has been normal for me for the last five years, so I was surprised by the abundance of native flowering plants I see on my walks around my neighbourhood.

Red Hot Pokers

Red Hot Pokers

Winter flowers 013

Although, there was one special kind of winter ‘flower’ in Glasgow — snow blossoms.

Snow Blossoms

Snow Blossoms

I loved the snow and hoar frosts  that transformed the city on rare occasions.  They totally made up for the general drabness of Glasgow’s winter, but weren’t something you could count on.

Queens Park

Queens Park

It would be most unlikely to see snow blossoms where I now live, but I’ll settle for the Australian wattle trees which are currently bursting into bloom, and spreading a splash of bright yellow across the land.

Wattle

Wattle

My biggest problem with the Melbourne winter, is the inconsistency of the weather.

Winter flowers 012

The forecast can be wet, windy and cold, but then the sun will shine, the wind dies down, and I have to peel off the layers of clothing to be comfortable.

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Donning hats, coats, scarves, and gloves in Scotland was commen sense, but if I venture out here rugged up like that, it’s just as likely to suddenly warm up, and I’ll end up carrying the extra layers.

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I wish there was a reliable way of knowing whether I’ll need a coat today.

Grief – The Unexpected Visitor

Sisters and Friends

Sisters and Friends

It’s my sister’s birthday today.

We were born seven years apart, which may be why we always had a good relationship.  By the time I was a teenager, she was living away from home in the city, and then she travelled, got married, and set up home with her husband in Bendigo, a three hour drive from the suburbs of Melbourne.  So, we weren’t physically close like many sisters are, but she was always in my orbit, and I’m sure I was also in hers.  We’d call each other every month or so, and visit for a day or two when we could. We’d often make the effort to visit on our respective birthdays, and we ALWAYS had a good time when we were together.

When we were very young

When we were very young.

This post is my way of visiting her today, because she died in January 2011.

She was my go-to person when I needed advice, or support.  She was the one person I could talk to about anything that was concerning me, and I’d know she’d listen, pay attention, and be interested.  That’s a gift she gave to me.

Thanks to my supportive husband and family, and the fact we were living overseas when she was diagnosed with cancer, I was able to make three extended visits to be with her in the nine months she was ill.  If  I had still been living in Australia, I would have visited more often, but they would have been brief snatches of time between work and other obligations, so although living thousands of kilometers apart when she was dying was difficult at times, and scary, there were benefits.

Those extended visits of four to six weeks were wonderful.  We talked and talked, about cancer, treatment options, dying, death, the after life, religion, funeral planning, and our usual favourite subjects, relationships, my writing, her art projects, flowers, photography, our family of origin, and the families we had created.

By the time she died, I felt we’d both said everything that needed to be said, and although I knew I’d grieve, I expected to be able to deal with her death reasonably well.

My parents died suddenly when I was in my early twenties, and I was still being surprised by bouts of unexpected grief up to forty years later, so I’m aware this is part of the grieving process, but I also thought I’d gained a wisdom with my added years which would help me accept my sister’s death. So, it was a shock earlier this year, to discover myself crying at unexpected intervals, the tears prompted by a fleeting thought, the words of a song, or a sunset viewed from our new home, but most of all I think they stemmed from the fact that I was home at last,  and she wasn’t.

So much has happened since she died.  I know she was excited about my writing, but I was okay knowing I wouldn’t be able to hand her a copy of my book before she died.  I was also aware that the life I’d planned when I returned to Australia, one that would include regular days spent together because we were both retired, was not going to happen, but I coped well with that, too.

It’s the little things I want to tell her that bring on my grief.  I want to tell her what’s happening with my kids, where I’m living, what my next book is about, and all the details of the garden I’m planning.

There will always be things I want to talk to her about, but those unexpected tears will come less and less as the years go by.  Time is a wonderful healer.

Happy Birthday, Helen.  I miss you.

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Home Among the Gumtrees

This time last year, in a post titled, What a Difference a Month Makes, I blogged about appreciating the Scotland I would leave behind when we moved back to Australia.

The approach of summer meant we’d be having more visitors, but I also eagerly anticipated my daughter’s upcoming visit to make her movie, The Pull in our house. The exciting news this month is that her movie will be included in the Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto this June.

The Pull poster

The Pull poster

On reflection, it’s clear that twelve months ago was when I became very busy – a busyness that lasted well into this year, but life has settled again. I’ve readjusted my time to factor in small bites for writing, which has given me the freedom to embrace the wonderful breadth of my life here.

We have been here nine months now, and I’m amazed out how much pleasure I still get from the little things, like waking to the laughter of kookaburras,

Kookaburras and cairns March 2014 003

the warbling of magpies – they sound far prettier than Scottish magpies – listen here, and even the raucous screeching of the cockatoos bring a smile to my sleepy face.

I feel my transition is complete, but life is a continuum of changes and that’s certainly true for what’s happening to our home at the moment. We have begun the process of creating a new garden, one I hope will attract some of the small, timid birds that live in the nearby gully, as well as continuing to provide food and water for the varieties we already have, such as this one – the crimson rosella.

Crimson Rosella

Crimson Rosella

In the meantime, I continue to enjoy the way the light affects the bay, changing it’s hues from silvers, to pinks and various blues, Full Moon Jan 2014 469 Full Moon Jan 2014 672 January 2014 001 the magnificent sunsets,

May sunset 2014 004

the light show at night,

Night Lights Photo by Cindy Townsend

Night Lights
Photo by Cindy Townsend

and the early morning moonlight reflecting on the sea.

Full Moon Jan 2014 680It’s good to be home among the gum trees.

A SuperB Secret Event

In February, I celebrated my first birthday back in Australia after ten years away, and it was all that I hoped for.

I had a lovely dinner with my family, and presents from them all. I felt spoilt, which is how I think birthdays should be, but I have to confess, the icing on my cake was the present my two daughters gave me:

My birthday present.

My birthday present.

I was over the moon because one of my favourite things to do is to spend time with my girls.

The secret destination was an added bonus, because they know what I like and what I’m interested in, so I was sure it would be a fun day where ever we went or whatever we did.

I’ve had over a month to enjoy the delicious anticipation of this event, waiting for the time ‘that is convenient to all’ to arrive, but the anticipatory amps went up when I received this invitation on my Facebook page:

Invitation to a Super Secret Event

Invitation to a Super Secret Event

It was booked.

I spent the next couple of days fighting the urge to guess where we’d go, because I didn’t want to guess.

I wanted a pure surprise – and that’s exactly what I got!

If I had planned this day myself, I couldn’t have thought of better places to go and things to do.

It was a SUPERB day out.

We set off early for the 45 min drive to our first destination.

I couldn’t believe where they were taking me – back to the place of my earliest memories, the area I lived and played in for the best part of my first six years.

I was stoked. They permitted me to make a small diversion so I could show them the home I lived in all those years ago.

And then we went to Sherbrooke Forest.

Many a family outing was spent in this forest when I was small. I remember searching for glimpses of wildlife, finding a lyrebird performing a mating dance, and looking for fairies.

Before we set off on our walk, I was given the activity for our time in the forest:

Photography Bingo

Forest Bingo

The wondrous thing about this was that not only was I visiting this magical forest from my past, I was also going to receive photography lessons from my expert daughters.

Bonus!!

My photography teachers doubling as models.

My photography teachers doubling as models.

So, let me take you on a photographic tour of my Forest Bingo in Sherbrooke Forest:

Super Special Event April 2014 009

A cute snub nosed puppy ent.

A Fairy garden in an old fern stump. See the fairy above it on the right????

A Fairy garden in an old fern stump. See the fairy above it on the right????

My youngest daughter being a model for me.

My youngest daughter being a model for me.

Cockatoos (wildlife) in sports mode.

Cockatoos (wildlife) in sports mode.

Wildlife in sorts mode

Wildlife in sorts mode

Wildlife in sorts mode

Wildlife in sorts mode

Water in motion

Water in motion

Ghosting

Ghosting

Close up

Close up

Playing with White Balance

Playing with White Balance – orange

Playing with White Balance

Playing with White Balance – pink

Playing with white balance - green

Playing with white balance – green

Sherbrooke Forest scenic photo

Sherbrooke Forest scenic photo

I loved the forest, the photography lessons, and the company.

We had so much fun, but the day wasn’t over!

Next, my daughters prepared a yummy picnic lunch for me.

Unfortunately, at this point, the rain set in, and we eventually gave up on the next part of the day’s plan, but I still intend to do it another day – another post.

But wait! There’s more: We drove to the city to visit The Beatles in Australia exhibition at the Arts Centre:

The Beatles in Australia Exhibition

The Beatles in Australia Exhibition

It is fifty years this June, since I was lucky enough to see The Beatles perform live in a small venue.

It was a momentous event in my life, and visiting this exhibition brought all those wonderful memories rushing back.

I love the way music triggers emotions from our past.

After dinner, we all went home exhausted, but I was VERY happy.

Thank you to my lovely daughters fora fantastic birthday present.

A memorable day, filled with memories from past memorable days.

To finish, here’s a few more pics taken in the beautiful Sherbrooke Forest:

Sherbrooke Forest

Sherbrooke Forest

Sherbrooke Forest

A Crimson Rosella

Sherbrooke Forest

An Australian King Parrot

Desert Magic

I found this timelapse video by Jody Brown on Stumble Down Under’s blog, and loved it so much, I’m sharing it for my American and UK friends.

 

Photographer Jody Brown lives in Warburton, WA, one of the most remote communities in Australia and he spent six months documenting the amazing scenery of Central and Western Australia for this video.

The best holiday I ever had was a three month drive around Australia in 1985 with my husband and three of my children. I loved the entire journey, but Central Australia, the northeastern, and northwestern parts of the country were my favourite parts of the trip.

The desert fascinates me, the colours, the changes, the waterholes, the wildlife and the crowded starry skies. It truly is a magical place.

I hope you all get to go there one day.

 

 

A Walk into History

I like to explore my local environment, and now my life has settled into a less hectic pace, I’m spending more time walking around my new neighbourhood.

There are many miniscule moments that give me a buzz of pleasure because they remind me that I’m really here, living in Australia again. I planned to list some of those magic moments in this post, but then, another blogger I follow – An American in Norway – blogged about a walk she took one day (Click here to read her blog), and it inspired me to head off on one of my walks armed with my camera.

We live close to the Arthurs Seat National Park, and I often walk along it’s bush tracks to explore. The very first time I ventured into the park, I was rewarded with laughing kookaburras, cockatoos nesting in a hollowed out old gum tree, and an abundance of small birds in the densely wooded gully.

Kookaburra

Kookaburra

On another walk, I came across a kangaroo and an echidna.

And always, there are the gum trees, – or eucalypts as they are known in America – the she oaks, and wattles.

I love that when I wander through this park, it is blatantly obvious that I am in Australia.

Our bush is unique.

Southern Australian Coastal Bush

Southern Australian Coastal Bush

This time, I took a turn along a different path in search of something new to photograph and was rewarded with a pleasant, but unexpected discovery – a cairn which was built to commemorate the place where Matthew Flinders stood and surveyed Port Phillip Bay way back in 1802, over thirty years before Melbourne was first settled.

Kookaburras and cairns March 2014 023

Kookaburras and cairns March 2014 024

I stood where he stood, looked over our beautiful bay, and wondered how difficult it was for him to reach this spot.

There would have been no cleared tracks for him to follow. I imagine he needed tools to help hack his way though the thick undergrowth, and large rocky outcrops would have made his climb even more difficult.

Perhaps the local aborigines guided him to this place with the great view?

What wildlife did he see? Snakes, wombats, koalas?

What were his thoughts?

Was he missing his cold and green land? Or the new wife he’d left behind against his wishes?

My Australian history lessons have faded from memory, but Flinders is commemorated with many statues and cairns around the country, and there are many places (towns, islands) and streets named after him.

Despite knowing some of these places well, I’m ashamed to admit I’d forgotten his significance to our country, so when I returned to my home, I Googled him.

He was born in England in 1774.

When he was a young boy, he read Daniel DeFoe’s novel, Robinson Crusoe and was inspired by the story to live a life of exploration, so at fifteen, he joined the Navy.

Here is a list of the facts I found most st interesting:

  • He made three journey’s to Australia, each lasting longer than the previous one.
  • On his final trip, he circumnavigated the continent, successfully proving that Australia was also an island.
  • It was also on his final voyage that he went ashore in the newly discovered Port Phillip Bay, and climbed to the top of Arthurs Seat, on April 27th, 1802.
  • Drawing on an old British custom of marking historical points with a cairn, he left a scroll with his ship’s name on it in a small pile of stones at the the peak.
  • He later reported back to Governor King that the land had ‘a pleasing and, in many parts, fertile appearance.’
  • He campaigned to have our country called Terra Australis (the Great South Land)and eventually he referred to it as Australia.
Three ships in the shipping lane in Port Phillip Bay

Three ships in the shipping lane in Port Phillip Bay

My walk was very different to Cindi’s stroll through the Norwegian woods, but I was well pleased with where it led me, none-the-less.

I was impressed by what I read about Flinders, his diligence, intelligence and high morals. He had reputation as a man who treated his crew and the local aborigines well.

We should be proud to have such a man in our history.

I think that, like me,  he enjoyed Australia.

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Kookaburras and cairns March 2014 032

Thank you Cindi, for leading me to a history lesson.

Repatriation Can be Hard

It is now over five months since we arrived back in Australia, an event I looked forward to immensely, especially after my sister Helen died in January, 2011. Her death was like a reality check that made the world feel larger and the time and distance between those near and dear to me became magnified into scary proportions.

As a daughter, sister, friend, daughter-in-law and nurse, I have observed first-hand how the dying lose interest in worldly affairs and possessions, but what does become important to them is their family and close friends.

We don’t know how many years we have on this planet. It’s remotely possible I could live for another thirty-plus years, but as Helen’s death so clearly demonstrated, I can’t count on that, so it suddenly seemed insane to be spending most of my time so far from my children and other family members.

Five months ago, I righted all those concerns. I am here and all is well with my world.

Or is it?                      

Perhaps not! I am often stressed, overwhelmed and befuddled.

I expected certain stresses on my return to Australia, there are legal and financial issues to deal with as well as the usual considerations needed when you move anywhere.  However, I coped well with my move to America, and later Scotland, so I expected this move to be a breeze.

Instead, it appears to have turned my brain to mush,

I’m having trouble remembering the things I should be doing, and that lovely sensation of feeling as if I have oodles of time is like a distant memory that I’m beginning to doubt was real.  There have been moments when I’ve convinced myself that I have early Alzheimer’s.

I asked other people I know who repatriated before me about their experiences and their responses have varied. It seems the shorter the time overseas, the less stressful the return, but some of them, like me, found the move back more difficult than they expected. An American friend used the word ‘grief’ in her explanation of how she felt when she moved home after a few years living in a foreign country. Initially, I rejected the possibility I could be grieving for my expat life. This is where I want to be, I love it here.

But on further reflection, it occurred to me that maybe I am suffering from a degree of grief.

I’m grieving for my lost, peaceful, and self-indulgent expat life.

When I moved to Florida and later, Glasgow, I didn’t know anyone. There were no friends, no relatives, no former work colleagues, and for the first time in many years, I didn’t have a job to go to. My husband and daughter were pretty much all I had to worry about. I couldn’t remember a time in my adult life when I’d felt so time-rich.

I focussed on finding and setting up a home for us, and exploring my new environments at leisure.

Since I’ve been back in Australia, as well as finding and setting up a new home, I’ve been busy catching up with former co-workers, friends, family – even cousins I haven’t seen for years – and of course I’ve spent large chunks of time with our children. We’ve celebrated four family birthdays, Christmas and New Year, made changes to our new home, I’ve been the driver for an injured son and my frequent-flyer husband, and I’ve helped three of my children move house.

It appears that the main reason I was desperate to come home – to be physically closer to family and friends – is largely responsible for the increased stress levels I’ve felt since I’ve been here.

I’m not complaining, I’m truly happy to be surrounded by these people, but I thought it may be of interest to those of you who still have this experience in your future. I probably wouldn’t have paid attention to my own advice when I was champing at the bit to get here, but you might be smarter than me, so here’s my advice to you for when you move back to your homeland —

  1. Expect to be busier.
  2. Don’t plan to write a book, like I did! Unless you’re better at time-management than I am.
  3. Go easy on yourself and enjoy the process.
  4. Don’t try to do everything at once.
  5. Go with the flow.

I’m working on taking my own advice, but it can be difficult.

One Last Look at 2013

The first Full Moon of 2014

The first Full Moon of 2014

Before January 2014 and all talk of resolutions and goals disappear, lets take a look at  the resolution list I made in January 2013.

1. Move to Australia to live. – Very happy that this one is now off the list.

2. Find a new home in Australia. – Also happy to have found the home we did!

3. Publish Absent Children - That was enormous!

4. Successfully market Absent Children  -How to define success? Millions of sales? Or hundreds. I didn’t get near either of those marks, but despite my avoidance of marketing over the past few months, I haven’t given up yet!

5. Complete first draft of Crystal.  Failing at this has provided me with far more frustration than anything else. I desperately want to finish it, partly because having a second book up there is a marketing tool, but mainly because until it is finished, I can’t know if it works as a story.

6. Meditate regularly (stealing this one, but it has been an intention for two years now, time to make it a reality.) - I began well with this, and felt I benefited, but when life became chaotic, meditation was one of the first things to go. Silly, because I probably needed it more than ever over the last six months. 

7. Maintain good relationships with family and friends  – I believe I’ve succeeded in this one.

8. Read for pleasure as well as work. – I have done this, although perhaps not as much as I’d like to. An important part of my writing life involves critiquing and beta reading for others, and there have been times when I’ve barely managed to keep up with those in recent months.

9. Create two new blogs – one on birthing practices and one on writing- Rethinking this as it still hasn’t happened. I hoped to have blogging down pat by now, but to do it well requires more technical know-how than I’ve been willing to learn this year. I hope I can make time to change that, and when and if I do, I plan to merge the writing blog with the birthing one… maybe.  

10. Enjoy myself. - Overall, I did enjoy 2013 immensely. There were many highs –

  • while still living in Scotland we had visits from Aussie and US friends and family,

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  • visited my brother and his wife in their UK house sit,

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Norway Chile and Florida, January 2013 030 Chile and Florida, January 2013 017

IMG_3007 Chile Jan 2013 036

Since returning to Australia, the good times have continued -

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January 2014 016

  • catching up with friends, seeing heaps more of family,

Full Moon Jan 2014 510  Photo by Cindy Townsend

Photo by Cindy Townsend
  •  and celebrated Christmas in our new home.  

Full Moon Jan 2014 635

I’m so lucky to have had such a great year, but there have also been a very stressful times; many big decisions made, lots of  money spent and at times, simply too much going on, so this year, I’m shying away from listing goals.

I need to consolidate my new life here before embarking on even a ‘Catherine, Caffeinated’-style of goal setting.

Maybe I’ll make a list next month, or in June? Perhaps December? Or not at all.

Are you a fan of New Year Resolutions?

Fire

Fire Jan 2014

Photo by Cindy Townsend

I’ve often wondered how I would react if I lost my home in some natural disaster – hurricane, tornado, or fire. It’s one of those questions which fortunately, most people will never know the answer to, but whenever I’ve watched news reports of people who have been evacuated because of a natural event, I’ve always been able to relate to how frustrating it must be for them to be unable to get to their home and discover if it is still standing.

Yesterday, I found myself in that position.

It was the first of four days of predicted high temperatures, and true to form, there were many fires scattered around the state and country. One was very close to our home, but I was not home at the time and the first I knew about it was when my brother called me to ask if it was near me.

By that stage, all access roads to the area were closed as there were multiple spot fires resulting from the main one. I was stuck at my daughter’s home, wondering how big the fire was and if I should be concerned. My niece alerted me to the Country Fire Association’s great Fire Ready App where warnings and alerts are posted. It advised that residents around the area should evacuate.

For a couple of hours, I kept checking the site, as well as Facebook where locals were updating us on what they could see of the fires, until eventually, the CFA site informed us that all the fires were contained and the roads would open within the hour.

Getting home was slower than usual, as some local roads were still blocked, but I’m very glad I had a home to get to. I knew when we moved into our lovely home, nestled on the side of a hill and backed by a national park, that the fire risk would be greater than it has been in any other home I’ve lived in. I was, and still am willing to take that risk because it is a beautiful place to live.

Unfortunately, the initial blaze sparked another large fire in the wonderful restaurant at the historic Heronswood Property a little further down the hill from us. The Thatched Cafe was destroyed, but thankfully the Homestead is okay.

I hate to think how their magnificent heritage gardens fared.

Today, I packed a bag with my old non-digital photos and a few other documents to keep in the car so I don’t have to worry about being caught off-guard like that again. I also wandered around the streets near where the main fires were and have to add that I’m incredibly impressed that the firefighters managed to save the houses that were right next to the flames. They do an incredible job and I’m very grateful for their service, along with the constant updates I received on the  CFA Fire Ready App. I’d highly recommend everyone living in a fire risk area to download it.

Today, throughout Australia, there are still many fires burning. My thoughts go out to the hardworking firemen fighting them, as well as those who have lost their homes and those who wait for news, unsure of the fate that awaits them.

I’m very aware how lucky I am.

 

A New Year, A New Routine (Or, The Problem With Goals)

julitownsend:

Wise advice about New Year Resolutions from blogger Catherine, Caffeinated!

Originally posted on Catherine, Caffeinated:

As much as I detest New Year Eve’s with all its enforced fun and depressing reminders that yet another year has gone by and you haven’t achieved all the stuff you swore you would, it does have two things going for it: it comes with fireworks, and it throws open the doors on another fresh, exciting 365 days in which anything could happen.

someecards.com - I can't believe it's been a year since I didn't become a better person.

I had a bit of an epiphany in 2013 about how I go about achieving my goals. (Or not.) I’ve read a lot of books about goal setting and positive visualization and the law of attraction, and the more scientific consensus seems to be that rather than visualizing yourself having achieved your ultimate dream—sitting under an oak tree with Oprah while she insists that everyone in the world runs out right now and buys a copy of your book, for example—your time would be better spent…

View original 1,343 more words

Reflections and Resolutions

This month, I’ve missed blogging on the full moon, acknowledging the summer/winter solstice (depending on which hemisphere you’re in), and I’ve failed to wish you all a Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas or whatever other celebrations may have occurred in your life.

Is it too late to do all that now?

Probably. So, to prevent falling further behind, I’d better wish you a very Happy New Year now.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

But before we dive into 2014, let’s take a last lingering look at 2013.

If you Google major world events for the year, you may be tempted to end it all before midnight. There is little to celebrate in what the world news offers us. Click here to see for yourself if you wish.

Image representing Google Search as depicted i...

Image via CrunchBase

Instead, I thought it would be fun to focus on some good news stories, but finding those is a little more difficult with a simple Google search, especially if you look for stories that weren’t prompted by a bad news story to begin with. There are stories about a woman’s kindness towards the man who robbed her, young boys standing up to bullies, and  others about positive actions prompted by someone’s cancer. They are all admirable and show the better side of human nature, but why is it difficult to find a good news story that isn’t the result of some disaster or drama?

Maybe it’s because we are wired to be aware of danger. It’s a survival mechanism and news sources are aware of this – they know the best way to get our attention is to feed us bad news stories. Unfortunately, these days that often results in many people feeling afraid and believing the world is becoming less safe.

I’d rather focus on the positives in life, and a good starting point to do that is to avoid paying too much attention to television news. Instead, I try to notice the goodness around me – the checkout girl at the supermarket as she cheerily chats to shoppers, and the store assistants who are prepared to give that little bit extra to help you. I’m often aware of mothers and fathers listening, playing and talking to their children, explaining something, or having fun with each other, loving. I see it on Facebook, people caring about others – brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, grandparents, friends, acquaintences and animals. I read about it in blogs and novels and watch stories about kind people in movies.

In general, people are good. Once in a while, you may come across someone not so good, or someone who is angry and unpleasant, but most of the time, if you pay attention you will find that people want to be nice. They care, they love, they give.

I’ve had a wonderful year. I’ve been treated extremely kindly by family and friends, but also by people I’ve only come to know in the virtual world, people I’ve never met. There is kindness and love everywhere, good deeds happen on a daily basis in a normal everyday way.

My resolution for 2014 is to keep choosing to notice the goodness in the people all around me because it makes me feel wonderful.

What about you?

My wish for you all is that you, too will choose to notice and enjoy the goodness in our world.

Let’s all work to make 2014 one of the best years yet.

And So This is Christmas – John Lennon

John Lennon rehearses Give Peace A Chance by R...

John Lennon rehearses Give Peace A Chance by Roy Kerwood (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being in the Present Moment

House Sit Garden

House Sit Garden

Eleven weeks have passed since we returned to Australia. Life has been far from normal, but it’s been fun. We’ve House Sat in two beautiful homes caring for lovely dogs and gardens, spent a few nights with each of my brothers and been well looked after by their wonderful wives, plus, we’ve stayed a few nights with our children.

House Sit Dogs and Gardens

House Sit Dogs and Gardens

It was all very enjoyable, but now I have moved into our own home and I’m loving it. I am not, however, loving the unpacking. It was fun at first, but the novelty wore off and now I’m tired of dealing with the mess of packing boxes, partially assembled furniture all over the place, and working out where all our bits a pieces should go in  a new setting.

Unpacking

Unpacking

Mess

Mess

More boxes

More boxes

I’ve made massive progress, but I haven’t finished yet. This presents problems because I want it done but I don’t want to do it!

One of the reasons I’m taking too long to complete the task may have something to do with the amount of time I spend gazing out the window at this -

The View

The View

Or this -

Sunset Filtered by the Gum Tree

Sunset Filtered by the Gum Tree

One night, while delighting in the changes to the landscape as the sun sank slowly beneath the horizon, I realised how in the moment I was. When I look at this beautiful view, I forget about the unpacked boxes, the garden that needs to be created, the unfinished novel, and everything else I should be doing. I just absorb what I see and enjoy it.

Subtle Shades

Subtle Shades

There have been a number of studies showing the benefit of nature on stress levels, (click here to read an interesting article about this on The Dirt blog) and I’ve been aware of the positive effect nature has on me for some time, however, when I was pondering on this fact later that night, it occurred to me that since arriving back in Australia, I am living in the present far better than I have been for the last couple of years.

I’m no longer dreaming about the type of home I want to live in when I return to Australia, because I’m living in it now.

I no longer think about plans to invite my children to family dinners because we now get together to eat often.

I no longer long to spend more time with my brothers and their wives, because I am doing it, as well as all those other things I wanted to do  but couldn’t when I lived in Glasgow and Boca. They now happen with ease – catching up with Australian friends, bush walks among the gums, waking to the sound of warbling magpies, screeching cockes, whistling thrushes and laughing Kookaburras.

It’s wonderful to know I can stay here and that I don’t need to pack up and move on to somewhere else any time in the near future.

I wonder how long it will take before I start thinking about trips back to Scotland and America again?

House Sitting

A visit from a family of Cockies

A visit from a family of Cockies

Before we returned to Australia, I searched for another house sit to give us a base to work from as we house hunted and re-established ourselves here. We had a positive experience with house sitting last December, (click here to read that post)  and knew it was a cheap and comfortable option worth pursuing, far better than expensive short term rental choices, or depending too heavily on family and friends.

Lorikeet

Lorikeet

This time, we again found something near to perfect for the dates we needed. The home we are currently ‘sitting’ is nestled between a koala sanctuary, a beautiful beach and The Coolart Homestead and Wetlands on the Mornington Peninsula. Gardens in the area are largely native, and there is an abundance of eucalyptus trees, banksias, wattles and she oaks, plus plenty of local fauna and bird life to fulfill my need to immerse myself in Australiana.

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Warratah and Echium

Gum Nuts

Gum Nuts

An added bonus is the lovable dog we have to care for in this beautiful and comfortable home.

My Fun Companion

My Fun Companion

I’d recommend house sitting to any expat returning to their homeland, or even if you’re at the other end of the adventure and have an upcoming move overseas, or interstate, or anywhere unfamiliar. House Sitting is a great way to experience an area and discover if it is right for you before you buy.

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My brother and his wife also House Sit as an inexpensive way to holiday somewhere new and different. They’ve House Sat in Queensland, Tasmania, and England and are currently looking into another UK experience, as well as one in America. Each Sit has been a positive experience for them as well.

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About House Sitting:

  1. There are many House Sitting sites online to choose from, so the best option is to Google House Sitting along with any specifics you want, such as a particular area.
  2. Depending on what your needs are, there is a fee for House Sitters to join these sites and I imagine those fees vary from site to site. We needed two separate House Sits within one year, so happily paid the annual fee of $95.00. Considering what the alternative cost for ten week’s accommodation would have come to, the fee was great value for our money!
  3. Naturally, there are safety measures to protect Home Owners and House Sitters. References are usually requested from House Sitters, and a profile of yourself is necessary. Understandably, if someone is going to entrust their home and pets to you, they want to know as much as they can about you before handing over the keys.
  4. The benefits work both ways. For Home Owners, the service is free and you have the security of knowing that your home is being lived in and cared for while you’re away, but it also eliminates the need to find suitable care for pets, something that can be both a trial and expensive. I imagine an even bigger benefit for the Home Owner is the reassurance they must feel leaving their pet/s in their own home which no doubt would reduce the animal’s stress levels.

House Sitting Sites (Click on the name to be taken to that page):

The first three focus on Australia, but I accessed them all from the UK. I’ve no doubt you will find many other sites unique to the country you live in, where ever that may be.

Walking Among the Wattles.

Walking Among the Wattles.

We chose Happy House Sitters mainly because we found the house we ‘sat’ in December via the email notifications I received of homes available in the area we were interested in. It’s free to join and receive email notifications, but the fee applies when you wish to connect with a Home Owner.

Galahs

Galahs

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If you give it a try, I hope it works as well for you as it has for us.

Are You Having as Much Fun as I am?

Are You Having as Much Fun as I am?

If you’ve already tried House Sitting, I’d love to hear about your experience. Please comment below.

Hello Australia!

Gum Trees by the Dam

Gum Trees by the Dam

I AM HOME!

It is just over two weeks since we arrived in Australia, but it feels more like two months. We’ve really jammed things in, especially considering how exhausted we were after the last few days in Glasgow.

What a month we have had!

But now we are home… and homeless… but not for long! We’ve been living like like gypsies without a van, moving from home to home so as not to overstay our welcome anywhere, but this week we moved into the house we’re minding for the next six weeks. It’s lovely to finally unpack the suitcases and know I don’t need to pack them again for a while.

After landing and reconnecting with family, my next priority was to find our future home. I threw myself into the search, spending hours scouring online real estate sites, making appointments and then viewing properties. However, five days of intensive searching and viewing, left me at the point of despair. Prices seemed to have risen dramatically in the last two years, something I didn’t expect. House after house was a disappointment.

On day six, all that changed.

We inspected another property that I thought looked interesting when I drove by it the day before, and our first impression lifted my spirits immensely. But, it seemed too good to be true, so we had to go back for a second viewing two days later before we made up our minds and the deal was clinched. On Tuesday, we made an offer, on Wednesday, it was ours!

Our first visitors

Our first visitors

It doesn’t fulfill every requirement I wished for, but it comes close enough, and suddenly those other things I wanted seem unimportant, or we’ll find ways to manage them. My main wish for any house we bought, was to be able to look out the window and see gum trees, and thankfully, this house gives me that, but…

It has more!

It has sea views!

Sea View

Sea View

I’m amazed we managed to find a home within our budget that has magnificent sea views.

More sea

More sea

Am I dreaming?

Apart from finding such a wonderful home to live in as we settle back to life in Australia, coming home has held endless pleasures for me -

  1. Spending time with my children, family and friends,
  2. Driving through the magnificent countryside (everything is very green!),
  3. The blue skies (sometimes interrupted by clouds and rain, but not for long),
  4. Warm days with temperatures in the high teens and twenties,
  5. Soft white sandy beaches with glistening water in various shades of blue.
  6. The Australian native trees,
  7. The noisy and colourful birds,
  8. The people who smile and say g’day when we pass in the street,
  9. The shops filled with the old familiar foods,
  10. The ease of buying my favourite black goods – Vegemite and Darrell Lea Licorice.
  11. The wonderful familiarity of the way everyone speaks.
  12. However, an unexpected bonus that I hadn’t thought of before is the feeling of permanence. I don’t have to worry if something I buy is perishable, or if it will fit in the suitcase because this time… I am not visiting.  I am here to live.
Vegemite and Darrell Lea Licorice

Vegemite and Darrell Lea Licorice

Beach

Beach

Garden

Garden

Wattle

Wattle

Bottle Brush

Bottle Brush

I LOVE being HOME!

Goodreads Giveaway

A little off-subject here, but if you like something for nothing, you may be interested in an opportunity to win a paperback copy of Absent Children by entering the Goodreads Giveaway.

Only four more days left to enter, so if you’re interested, click here or go to this link:

http://www.goodreads.com/giveaway/show/62690-absent-children

Good Luck!

Goodreads Avatar

Goodreads Avatar (Photo credit: minifig)

Goodbye Scotland

Well, the time has come and we have finally left Scotland. In six hours, we leave the UK.

Scotland, I want you to know, it’s not about you, it’s me. You are a beautiful country filled with wonderful people and I still love you, but it is time and I have to go HOME. The Pull is too strong! Thanks for all the good times. xxxx

Speaking of home, I had to post and watch this one more time, simply because the words speak to me and echo exactly how I feel about my homeland: – I Still Call Australia Home – To listen and watch, click on the title or here.

Thanks to the Outback Singers for this version, and to Peter Allen for writing the words and music. Thanks also to Qantas for taking me home and finally, thanks to Australia for being there.

See you soon.

Missed Deadlines

Somehow in the midst of my current chaotic situation, I missed the full moon!

The Moon

That’s right – I missed my own deadline. And that, my friends, is something I recommend we all do from time to time, particularly when stressed, because it’s wonderfully freeing. The fail has happened, I can’t fail more than I already have – how great is that?

With all pressure gone, I took my time to get this to you.

I’ve sorted through mountains of papers, most of which could have been thrown out weeks/months/years ago, and as I progressed, I wondered if I’ll ever overcome this tendency to accumulate useless pieces of paper.

I’m the type of person who  wanders around hardware stores, loving the way they have everything in a special place, cataloged and easy to find.

Interior, Tweedy & Popp Hardware Store, 1916 N...

Interior, Tweedy & Popp Hardware Store, 1916 N 45th St, Wallingford neighborhood, Seattle, Washington. Seattle’s oldest extant hardware store, founded 1920, in the same location since 1949. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve also been known to spend too much time in office supply stores, looking at various containers to keep things in.  I’m not predisposed to keeping things tidy beyond a certain point, but I do dream of orderly file cabinets and shelves. I dream of knowing exactly where to go to find that travel brochure we brought home from our last trip, the one that I put ‘somewhere’ out of sight because I needed to clean up for some reason and I was busy with living,

And then there’s the man I married – hi Tony!

Order to him is piles of papers where ever he leaves them. He knows where to find what he needs, but the problem I have with his system is that when he no longer needs something, it just remains in a pile untouched. Until we move and I throw them away.

Throwing away ‘stuff’ is another liberating activity.

Some of the papers I’ve thrown out belonged to me, and among them there have been many memories. Maps and brochures from places we’ve visited, and stories written by my writing friends. It is lovely to glance at them and remember when…

One of the piles of papers to be discarded.

One of the piles of papers to be discarded.

But, if we weren’t moving, I would never have looked at them. Is this a benefit of moving? Maybe.

When we sold our family home in Australia, my daughters took endless photographs of the important memories they wanted to keep and I thought that was a great idea, but photos of stacks of brochures, maps, and printed papers won’t provide me with memories, so I’m letting them go.

The important memories are in my head.

But I still yearn for an orderly life.

In my orderly life, I would place those pamphlets on a special shelf until we are settled back from our holiday, and then I’d use them as prompts to create some type of record of where we went and what we did, something that would be easy to flip through and read.

And those printed stories and paper bills – I’d allocate special shelves or drawers for certain months, and then every three to six months, I’d clean out the the old to make room for the new. How sweet that would be!

It would, however, involve more deadlines. Perhaps not so sweet, but I won’t worry about it because it won’t happen. There is always a far more important desire that takes priority in my life. It changes from time to time, but somehow, the orderly life never seems to hit the top of the list. Maybe I like the dream more than the reality.

In two more sleeps, we leave our Glasgow home and as I sort and toss, filming of The Pull is coming to a conclusion. It’s been a fun ride watching movie magic in the making, and today I’m going to share some of it with you. Click Here to see a preview!!!! ;-)

Enjoy.

Australia, I will see you at sunrise in one week and one day. Looking forward to it very much. xxxx

Moving Panic

How To Stop Panic Attacks

I’m having fleeting moments of panic when I think of all the little jobs I’ve yet to do before the big M day. The only solution is to get serious about this moving business and begin working at it. In an attempt to prevent my head from imploding, I made the following list for myself more than anyone else, but it may prove handy for others planning an international move. I’m sure most people would have done a lot more by this stage, which is why I was too embarrassed to make it public until I could cross off at least a few of the items.

  1. Book move and fill out formal paperwork
  2. Complete customs forms
  3. Send Invitations to Farewell Party
  4. Prepare for Farewell Party
  5. Farewell Party – that was great fun!
  6. Notify Dentist

    notify_me

    notify_me (Photo credit: Inspiredhomefitness)

  7. Notify Doctor
  8. Cancel house insurance
  9. Cancel car Insurance
  10. Notify Gas and Electricity
  11. Notify water
  12. Notify telephone, television and broadband company
  13. Notify bank
  14. Notify postal service
  15. Arrange mail forwarding
  16. Notify city council
  17. Notify milkman
  18. Notify change of address with Australian companies – rates, water, taxes, MCC, insurance, shares
  19. Sorting through papers, clothes and other items we no longer need and giving them away – aaaagh!
  20. Marketing book – what book?
  21. Writing – what’s that?
  22. Blogging -struggling.
  23. Keeping up with everyday activities like cooking, eating, cleaning, washing, ironing – struggle getting bigger every day.
  24. Super clean of house after furniture gone – frightening prospect
  25. Super tidy of garden – what if I leave this to last, and it pours with rain????
  26. Notify friends and family of move.

It actually doesn’t look that bad when I list it like this. Of course, the other small disruption I have going on is that my daughter and her friend are staying with us at the moment, and they are extremely busy making a movie, The Pull. Read more about it here. Many of the scenes in the movie are set in our home, so some days are far more discombobulating than others – the days when the crew are filming in my kitchen or living spaces. It sounds like the worst of possible times for this to be happening, but in reality, I think it is providing me with a wonderful distraction. Watching how low budget movies are made is fascinating, chatting to the crew and cast is fun, and overall it’s exciting. Far better than stressing or losing my head!

Countdown

Have a peek at the countdown calender on the left? You’ll have to scroll down – it’s below the Absent Children image.

It says that in 28 days, I leave Glasgow.  That’s right, there are only 28 days of living in Glasgow left.

This time next month, I will be living in Australia!

I’m ridiculously excited about this!

Irrational Fear

When this goes live, we will be on our return flight from a short trip to Norway, a trip which almost didn’t happen.

It’s a little embarrassing to talk about this, but let me give you some background first.

Two of the reasons I was excited about moving to Scotland relate to those two friends I mentioned in the last post, Judy and Monica. They have both died since I left Australia, but as they played such a big part in my life and my children were best friends with their children as they all grew up, I’ve tried to keep in touch with their children.

What does this have to do with moving to Scotland?

Well, one of Monica’s daughters lives here, and one of Judy’s sons lives in Norway. I knew I’d finally be able to visit them both in their homes, something which until then, had been too difficult and expensive.

It’s been great to be such a big part of their lives in the last few years. We’ve had many visits with Monica’s daughter and her family, and we’ve been able to see her children grow into beautiful teenagers.

We visited Judy’s son and his family the first year we were here, the next year they came to stay with us in Glasgow, then we saw them in Australia the third year, and in Oslo again last year. So, I really wanted to have one more visit with them in Norway, before it became that place too far away. But something was stopping me.

Irrational fear.

For some crazy reason, as the reality of living back in Australia drew closer and closer, I developed an irrational fear, a fear that I will never get to live in Australia again. Maybe my fear is there because I want to live in Australia so badly that I’ve created a type of superstition around the event. I can’t imagine why, but it’s like this, I’m scared I will die before I get there, or some enormous Icelandic eruption will prevent me from getting there before I die of old age, or something else… Insane, I know.

But here’s where the really irrational bit comes into play:

Do I stay away from the most dangerous form of transport known to mankind – the car? No, I’m happy to drive or be driven anywhere.

Do I shun full fat foods and take drugs to lower my cholesterol? No, I eat what I love and refuse the drugs.

Do I do worry about flying to other countries? Er…yes!

I haven’t developed a fear of flying, I’ve developed a fear of planning to fly!!!

So, I kept deferring making the arrangements, committing to dates, or contacting the people I hoped to visit. Basically, I avoided organising my trip to Norway.

The first time this irrational fear arose was in February this year. I really wanted to visit Iceland before we left Scotland. It seemed silly not to go while we were living so nearby, but I let the time roll on, too afraid to commit to going.

However, eventually I took a deep breath, put on my brave face and committed to the trip. That was when all my silly fears vanished. We had a fantastic few days in Iceland in April and we’ve now had a lovely holiday in Norway, but all this has prompted me to reflect a little deeper than I normally would on the subject of fear.

Biologically, fear is a basic survival mechanism to alert us to prepare for flight or fight in the face of real danger, but those types of danger are rare in our civilised society. Our dangers are far more hidden. I’d be very unlucky to meet up with a tiger and be eaten in Glasgow, but there are numerous ways I could suddenly be thrust into danger in today’s world – car accidents, plane crashes (there, I said it), and illness, but fighting or fleeing won’t help those situations. Perhaps this why we develop other things to be scared of?

Monsters under the bed, spiders, ghosts, moths, mice, birds, never getting to live in Australia again! :-)

I don’t consider myself a fearful person, nor do I think of myself as superstitious normally, but I can remember past situations where a fear has influenced a decision I made, either I did or didn’t do or say something based on the irrational fear, and it is those occasions that bring me the greatest regrets in my life.

So, I tell myself this, I tell myself it is better to take the action I irrationally fear than to succumb to it. Hopefully, this attitude will lead to many good decisions like the trips to Iceland and Norway, and few regrets.

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Oslo May 2012 055

Is this good advice I give myself? What do you think? Has fear ever prevented you from doing something you now regret? Or maybe your fear isn’t irrational and it serves you well. Let me know.

By the way, I don’t fear planning to go home to Australia!

Give me a home among the gum trees!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MLWzPQmd5sc

Choices

When I return to Australia in September this year, it will be the first time there won’t be a dog waiting to greet me.

Kara, Hutch and Claude

Back in 2003, we left three of the family’s dogs with my daughter who continued to live in our home. Three friends. Claude, the renowned beagle of Mt Eliza was very ill when we left and I knew we were saying goodbye to him. He died about a week later, but, Kara, a big, hairy German shepherd with a gentle nature, and Hutch, the kelpie-like mutt who lived to fetch balls, sticks, or anything we cared to throw, were both still young.

I’m not sure if it occurred to me that Kara and Hutch would also be gone by the time we returned to live in Australia. Our future felt so unknown at the time.

Kara died in 2008, and this month, Hutchie left us, too. It broke my heart on many levels, but also brought to mind my grief for the other friends who are no longer there for me to visit. Two of my closest friends, Monica and Judy, already had cancer when we left, but I kidded myself that they were both doing well, the cancer was in remission and they would still be around when we returned. Monica died the following year, but Judy hung on for another two years.

Judy, sitting, and Monica, standing, with my daughter at a farewell lunch.

My third and lifelong friend, my sister Helen – my confidant, adviser, mentor and almost mother substitute – was healthy when we left and I never allowed myself to consider she might also be gone when I returned. But she is. She died in 2011, nine months after her cancer diagnosis .

My sister Helen in Glasgow

When we left Australia, we didn’t know how long we would stay away. We tossed out vague references about allowing three years to assess how we felt but rarely mentioned the possibility of stretching the stay until Tony retired in ten years time. Our friends didn’t want to hear that.

Now, facing no dog to greet me, and massive holes where good friends and family were, I find myself asking the question, would I have made the choice to leave what I knew and loved if I had known my friends would no longer be there when I returned?

What if…?

What if I had chosen the well travelled road?

The Road Not Taken

by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear,
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I,
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Pollock Park

Pollock Park

I can never know the answer. Robert Frost was right when he points out, how way leads on to way. There is no going back to choose the other path, and I guess, like Frost, I tell this with a sigh, but only fleetingly.

Because we lived overseas, my sister spent a full month living and travelling with us in Florida, and another here in Scotland. They were joyful months filled with fun, endless chats and doing things we never had time to do together when we were both working and raising families. If I had stayed in Australia, I would still be working.

I also had the privilege of being able to be with each of my friends in their final days, to spend quality time with them and help care for them, to be the midwife as they made a transition, not into this world, but out of it.  It was an honour  and a gift to be able to spend precious time with them without the normal workday constraints.

I can only guess what my life may have been like if I had stayed, but ultimately, despite moments of sadness, I’m glad I chose the less travelled path.

Currently, that path has me in Scotland’s Summer and last week, the slightly warmer temperatures encouraged me to choose to go for a walk and take some photographs. The Scots know how to make the best of a small city garden and the conditions here bring the gardens alive with beautiful flowers in the summer.

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I agonised over the decision to leave Australia, but returning is a given. That’s because my heart has made the choice for me, and when the heart decides, there’s no argument.

Do you have a hard time making big decisions? Do you follow your heart, or let your head get in the way?

Now Available in Paperback as well as on Kindle!

Absent Children  is now available in paperback!

Amazon reviews:

Leaves you with a warm glow

Jessamy and Luke are meant to be together, but life has dealt them a harsh blow and they have different ways of coping with it. The author skilfully shows us both sides of a marriage where the couple is trying to cling on to hope. A meeting with an inspirational person and some important news help them on their journey. And of course their faithful canine companion, Claude! I wish there were more Claudes in the world, and I’ve been listening to my own dog lately to see if he makes any sense! Nothing so far!

An emotional, feel-good story that stays in your mind after you’ve finished it.

A lovely story about the cycle of life

A lovely book with realistic characters who experience the ups and downs of life, both individually and eventually, together. My favourite character was the beagle Claude, who supported the family throughout, but spoke to Jess with the wisdom of one older than time. Keep the tissues handy.

Absent Children is a compelling story

Fall in love with Jess and Luke as they reconnect and recommit to their marriage. Absent Children makes you think about pregnancy and birth, love and marriage, parents and pets

Confronts everybody’s worst fears

I am not a critic but I know what I enjoy, I loved the story, a great read about a frightening subject.

Emotional

A cleverly written story, from multiple perspectives, of a sometimes harrowing personal and emotional journey. Hopefully it will add to the homebirth debate and raise awareness of the issues.

A Potential Lifechanger

This is a wonderfully entertaining story about characters struggling to cope with the difficulties life is throwing their way. Townsend knows how to keep a plot intriguing by adding in the right mix of conflict and gradual resolution. Jess, Luke and other characters are all believable and richly drawn. One special delight is Claude the beagle who is Jess’s very special companion. Oh, and the novel is set in Australia which adds to its charm.

In addition to telling a terrific story, Townsend manages to present in a realistic way the pros and cons of home birth. Although well past that stage in my life, had I read a book like this when pregnant, it would have at least made home birth something I would have considered. I love books that both tell me a good story and also leave me feeling I have learned something new about the world and our human condition. And that is what I feel Townsend has accomplished with Absent Children. A terrific debut.

Hope and Inspiration 

Tragedy can, and does, ruin relationships and divide families. Absent children is the story of a couple who can’t communicate their guilt and pain, and it looks as if there’s no way back. The author takes us into the thoughts and fears of each, a device cleverly sustained over the progress of their own story and its context against the background of their families. The scope of events widens out as the book progresses, and this results in a most satisfying whole. A constant in the book is Claude, a dog with opinions of his own, who loves his humans and is a low-key observer of events. Sounds unlikely? No, it works, and feels totally natural. In fact the way the book is written brings the reader effortlessly into the family, and all the little everyday detailing is well observed and convincing. It feels like real life, with its highs and lows, its hope and inspiration.

For  Amazon UK, click here,  and here for Amazon Us or Australia.

What a Difference a Month Makes

I received an email from a friend this month with a link to this video. As this is a ‘full moon’ blog, I thought it would be a good place to share it. Read the written information underneath the clip before you watch it by clicking here.  Or go to: http://vimeo.com/markg/fullmoonsilhouettes

Isn’t it beautiful.

Was it only one moon ago that I was lamenting how sloooowly time was moving?

Wow!

Where did that month go?

Time flies, eh?

Why is this so?

JSM

I asked Julius Sumner Miller the same question and you can see what he said by clicking here or going to this link: http://tinyurl.com/oxp9rxb

A wee trip down memory lane with nothing to do with time flying, except, was it really that long ago that we watched him on television?

Despite being devoid of an answer to my question, the fact remains that in three short months, I’ll be busy packing up our lives for one last time. In the meantime, we have guests visiting next week, and then another staying for a month after they leave, and to top it all off, in August our youngest daughter will be visiting us and taking advantage of free accommodation in Scotland for one last time. Yay!!!!

At this point, I’m focussing more on what I’m leaving rather than what I’m heading towards. I am still looking forward to living in Australia again, but I’ve spent the last two years thinking about that and now is the time to treasure what is here.

Like Spring!

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Now, how is autumn shaping up in Australia? I notice a few occasions when we share the same high and low expected temperatures at this time of year, but that will soon change. It will soon be winter in Melbourne with cool and wet days, and it will be summer here with predominately cool and wet days.

Oh…hang on…

Ameristralia

julitownsend:

Loved this – good for a laugh – so I thought I’d share it with you. Have a look at the video about Australian invading NZ on the Facebook page (Cossette has included the link in her text) as well. Very funny.

Originally posted on Stumble Down Under:

Last month, I blogged about the best of both worlds – the parts of Miami I wish I could bring to Melbourne and the parts of Melbourne I wish I could bring to Miami. I might soon get my wish.

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Time

Tick…

11 O'Clock Tick Tock

11 O’Clock Tick Tock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Tock…

Tick…

Why, oh why has Time suddenly changed its behaviour and begun to drag by? I swear that second hand isn’t moving.

I remember thinking that the time it took to get from one Christmas to the next was immeasurably long when I was young, but as an adult, that changed. Nowadays, it often feels as if Time is in some kind of race and it can’t wait to get me to the finish line. But not this year…this year, I swear it has slowed down.

Am I becoming a child again?

Okay, so I’ve had to extend our departure date by three weeks, but even so, these last three months have felt like six, and in my mind, that means we should be moving back to Australia next month.

But, no! I still have over four months to wait!

It doesn’t make sense.

Maybe this is a good time to reflect on how I am faring in the goals I set for myself in a January post this year. Here’s the list:

1. Move to Australia to live – Duh! Rub it in. FAIL

2. Find a new home in Australia. – Once again, that’s not going to happen until we get there.

3. Publish Absent Children – Ah, success!

4. Successfully market Absent Children – Not yet.

5. Complete first draft of Crystal – Not quite

6. Meditate regularly (stealing this one, but it has been an intention for two years now, time to make it a reality,) – Yes! And it is good.

7. Maintain good relationships with family and friends – Yes, but that’s pretty much a given. I shouldn’t be so blase about it as it is the most important goal on this list.

8. Read for pleasure as well as work – I’d have to confess I’m struggling with the pleasure side of things, apart from the fact that much of the reviewing/critiquing I’ve been doing of late has been really good reading.

9. Create two new blogs – one on birthing practices and one on writing -  the writing one is meandering along and not doing well. Birth one is another big FAIL.

10. Enjoy myself – Largely, I am enjoying myself, but I’d be enjoying myself a hell of a lot more if the time would begin moving at it’s normal rate again!!!!

I did that to cheer myself up, but there is more red writing than green, so it hasn’t worked.

Does anyone out there have any ideas about how to make Time move forward at a normal rate? I’d be delighted to hear of any suggestions you have for me. (Nice ones, please. :-))

While I Was Sleeping

The digital version of Absent Children was already for sale on Amazon when I woke up this morning. It only took two hours for them to approve it! So fast. Wouldn’t it be lovely if the paperback could appear that quickly? But, I have more work to do before that happens.

In the meantime, the digital version is available on Amazon, where ever you may be in the world.

Absent Children by Juli Townsend

Absent Children by Juli Townsend

Click here to go to the UK Amazon page for Absent Children. Or, go here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Absent-Children-ebook/dp/B00C1QKVFK/ref=sr_1_3?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1364393588&sr=1-3

I suspect it will automatically take you to the appropriate page for the country you’re account is linked to. Let me know if I’m wrong.

I read somewhere that you’re a writer until you sell a book. That’s when you become an author.

I hereby announce that I am an author! (It’s still okay if it was me that bought the book, isn’t it? )

English: leaves of the Vicoria Regia on tribut...

English: leaves of the Vicoria Regia on tributary of the Amazon, appr. 50 mls down-river of Iquitos, Peru (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I thought a picture of the real Amazon was appropriate here. It reminded me of a country I left out of my count. How could I possibly forget such a trip?

The Change in Me

world map (Photo credit: nsikander28)

I’ve visited thirty countries in the last nine years, many of them in Europe, a fact that has finally settled my discontent about not getting to see Europe. A feeling that was still with me when I left Australia to live in Florida.

I believe most of us stay essentially the same throughout our lives, and I am no exception, but I also think that living overseas has changed more about me than what may have happened simply with the progress of years.

This post is about those changes.

First: I have a new empathy for anyone who sets up home, temporarily, or permanently, in a new country. Although for me it was fun, in retrospect, I also see the challenges. It’s not easy.

Second: I discovered I could make new friends, something I’d doubted when I left the secure group I’d had around me for years before we moved away.

Third: You are reading it – there was a time I was fearful of putting my words out in the public arena.

Fourth: I am no longer registered to practice midwifery. Remember the blog about the psychic? Click here to see it. Seems she was right about the new everything, and despite my refusal to accept her prediction of a new job…

Fifth: I am now an author and my book is about to be published.

Absent Children by Juli Townsende

Absent Children by Juli Townsend

I will post again when the book goes LIVE for Kindle on Amazon. If you are waiting for the paperback version, a little more patience is needed, but I will announce the paperback release via this blog as well.

In the meantime, for more information about Absent Children, or if you’d like to read comments by readers of Absent Children, go to the My Books page in the toolbar, or click here, or view it in my julitownsendwrites.com blog by clicking here, or go to my Juli Townsend Author Facebook page, here.

If you read my book, I hope you enjoy it, and tell me about it.

Scenes from White Night Melbourne 2013

Melbourne put on a stunning show last Saturday night. It made me even prouder of my city than I already am.

I now know what I want to do on February 24th, 2014 – attend Melbourne’s White Night and experience it first hand.

Click on the link to Stumble Down Under’s blog to see her stunning photographs of the night. I had to share:

Scenes from White Night Melbourne 2013.

The List

Lately, with the months ticking away, I’ve been thinking more and more about what I will miss about Scotland when we leave, and this has set in motion thoughts about what I missed about Australia when I left there, and what I missed about Florida when we moved to Scotland. I decided to list the things I miss from each of those places, and have a go at predicting what I may miss from here.

Keep in mind that whenever I leave a place, I miss the friends and family I leave behind, but I’m going to keep this post simple, so it’s about the other things I miss.

Let’s start where it all began -

What I missed when I left Australia:

1. The beautiful gum trees in all their varieties and the scent of eucalyptus.

A White barked gum tree

2. The friendliness of strangers, the smiling faces in the shopping centres.

3. The noisy colourful birds.

4. The ability to visit a friend unannounced.

5. Shops, schools, doctors, dentists, friends, beaches and buses, all within walking distance of where I lived.

6. The soft tones of the Australian accent.

What I missed when I left Florida:

1. The hot humid weather which meant I knew exactly what to wear to be comfortable almost every day.

2. The dramatic thunderstorms and brief torrential downpours.

3. Eating dinner outdoors almost every night, watching the wind make patterns on our lake.

4. Looking over our tropical garden to the lake and the reserve beyond.

The Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow shrub in our garden.

The ‘yesterday, today and tomorrow’ shrub in our garden.

5. Swimming in the warm waters of the ocean and our swimming pool.

6. Our lovely home and magical garden.

What I think I’ll miss when I leave Scotland:

1. The thrill I get when big fat snowflakes flutter out of the sky.

2. Walking in the snow and feeling the snowflakes land on my nose.

3. The way my world can be transformed into a white wonderland when the snow stays for a few days.

Looking out my bedroom window.

Looking out my bedroom window.

4. The beautiful hoar frost on the trees.

A frosted tree at Glasgow University.

A frosted tree at Glasgow University.

5. The crunch of autumn leaves underfoot.

6. The long slow approach of spring, becoming more outrageous as each month passes. First the snowdrops hint of it’s approach, then the crocus announce, ‘not long now.’ Next come the fields of bluebells and daffodils before the grand finale when the trees dress themselves in magnificent shades of bright new greens.

Crocus in the Glasgow Botanical Gardens

Crocus in the Glasgow Botanical Gardens

Wild bluebells

Wild bluebells

Daffodils

Daffodils

7. The ability to visit anywhere in Europe, inexpensively and quickly.

8. The lilting Scottish accent and the quirky dialects.

In truth, I’m not sure I will miss any of these things when I return to Australia. These are the things I love about living in Scotland, but I doubt I’ll be hungering for them much, because I’ll be in my country with those things I began missing almost ten years ago.

And now, the final verse of Dorothea McKellar’s My Country -

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land -
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand -
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

uluru-ayers-rock-australia-1680x1050[1]

Uluru

Home to Scotland, One Last Time

I am now back in Scotland, after a wonderful extended stay in Australia, a detour to Chile and a fleeting reunion with friends in Florida.

The time in Australia went by too fast. We had two birthdays to celebrate, a houseguest from America and a visitor from interstate, plus Christmas and all the busyness involved it that. It was fun, but I felt deprived of time. There wasn’t enough time to catch up with my friends and family. And there is never enough time to spend with my children. Still, we did our best with the time we had.

Coffee with our American guest and one son in Federation Sqaure, and who should happen by but our daughter and her boyfriend. A BIG wonderful surprise fpr is all.

Stopping for a coffee with our American guest and one son in Federation Sqaure, and who should happen by but our daughter and her boyfriend. A BIG wonderful surprise for us all. We don’t get those types of surprises in Scotland.

My gorgeous girls

My gorgeous girls

Christmas was a wonderful, drawn-out affair, beginning early – on December 15. Unfortunately, my boys were visiting on different dates from different states, and we only had one night where the whole family was together. I cooked a special Christmas dinner that night. It was pure pleasure to see my kids sitting around the table, chatting, laughing and enjoying each others company. I’d like more meals like that in the future.

Crazy fun family photos.

Crazy fun family photos.
Photo: C Townsend

On Christmas day, we enjoyed our Australian Christmas morning drinks – a tradition that goes back thirty or more years, to when our children were small. The home we lived in for twenty-eight years was blessed with wonderful neighbours. Those neighbours were our friends, and their children were my children’s friends. As our children were always keen to show each other their Christmas goodies, my friends and I decided to formalise the event, and have a bit of fun ourselves. Christmas morning drinks became the highlight of my Australian Christmases, and something I will always remember fondly. Sadly, Monica and Judy, the mothers in those families, have died since I left Australia, so it is a real treat for me that when we have an Australian Christmas, Judy’s son and his wife continue the tradition. It is made all the more special by their small children. Beautiful evidence of the cycle of life.

Two of Judy's sons, their partners and their children.

Two of Judy’s sons, their partners and their children.
Photo: C Townsend

The cousins

The cousins
Photo: C Townsend

LIttle children are so easy to please.

Little children are so easy to please.

2012-12-24 18.43.31

Next, we returned to our house-sit to have Christmas dinner with our American visitor.  He had to leave us that afternoon to fly to Sydney.

As my youngest daughter was working at that time, we had the ‘real’ family Christmas dinner at dinner time.

Merry Christmas, Ben. Wish you were with us.

Merry Christmas, Ben. Wish you were with us.
Photo: C Townsend

Our final Christmas gathering was on December 30th – yes, we made Christmas last for over two weeks! This time, it was the extended family gathering, with my siblings and their families. The group was smaller than usual because my eldest brother and his wife were in the UK, a niece and her family now live in Coffs Harbour, and one of my sons  was working in Esperance,, but it was still wonderful to see everyone.

My extended family Christmas.

My extended family Christmas.
Photo: C Townsend

I was reluctant to  leave Australia. However, once Tony dragged me onto the plane and we were on our way to Santiago, I realised that this was the last time I would be leaving Australia to go home. That was a good feeling.

Santiago, Chile was also busy. We were there for an annual conference Tony has been involved with for many years, which inevitably meant we spent a lot of time catching up with people from all over the world, as well as fitting in some sightseeing.

Chile January 2012 022

A viewpoint in Valparaiso, Chile

I adjusted to the time change only a day or so before we left for the next leg of our journey – a fleeting visit to our friends in Florida. Once again cramming as much in as possible into a small space of time.

Catching up with friends

Catching up with friends

Including furry friends.

Including furry friends – I’m referring to the dogs. My people friends aren’t furry!

When we lived in Florida, both these beautiful dogs would stay with us when their owners went away.

When we lived in Florida, both these beautiful dogs would stay with us when their owners went away.

Despite the six weeks of sun, it was good to finally get home to cold Scotland and stop rushing around.

I have unfinished business here; a house to pack up and friends to say goodbye to. I’m sure these next six months will fly by.

It will be nice to once again live in Australia, and visit other places.

Are you homesick for anywhere?

Dorothea McKellar understands. Here’s the fifth verse of her poem, My Country.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold -
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

The filmy veil of greenness that thickens as we gaze.

Happy Australia Day!

Happy Australia Day to all my fellow Australians, wherever you are.

Australian Coat of Arms (adopted 1912)

To many Australians, today is tinged with mixed feelings. Unfortunately, the date commemorates Captain Arthur Phillip‘s claim on the land in the name of the British King, George the Third.

English: The Founding of Australia, 26 January...

English: The Founding of Australia, 26 January 1788, by Captain Arthur Phillip R.N. Sydney Cove. Original oil sketch [1937] by Algernon Talmage R.A. ML 1222. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

For the Australian aborigine, this was an event that eventually led to the destruction of their way of life, and many, many deaths among their people. In protest, there are many aborigines who call the day Invasion Day, and mark it as a day of mourning.

These pictures are from an article about the I...

These pictures are from an article about the Invasion Day rally and march at Let’s Take Over (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I believe most Australians are proud to be Australian. It would be wonderful if we had a day that we could all celebrate that pride, but change doesn’t happen easily. A few alternative dates have been suggested, but none have received unanimous approval.  A poll was conducted in 2004, asking if the date of Australia Day should be moved to one that is not associated with European settlement. The results show my thinking is in the minority – 79 per cent of respondents favoured no change, 15 per cent favoured change and 6 per cent were uncommitted.

So, with no other option, I choose to celebrate this day despite it’s origins. Instead, I see it as a day to take pride in my country, rather than a day of commemoration for an event that I had no control over. As the day falls in the Australian summer, it is an ideal time for big outdoor, public events with the obligatory fireworks, but many Australians celebrate with friends, having a BBQ, a drink, a yarn and a laugh.

australia day 2010

australia day 2010 (Photo credit: Jon Ovington)

The following link is to a song that has pulled my heartstrings for the last ten years. To me, it is what being Australian is all about:

On my recent visit home, I was disappointed to discover Qantas no longer play this just before touch down in Australia. It used to be the favourite part of the flight home.

A list: My top ten for 2013

A belated Happy New Year to you all from Chile.

I’m reblogging this from a fellow writer – A list: My top ten for 2013.

I don’t do resolutions, but I love how the new year prompts us to think of fresh starts. In Australia, the long summer holidays are happening now, and so the beginning of the school year is in February, I always began my new school year with good intentions, which is pretty much what we do with New Year as adults.

So, here’s my top ten for 2013:

Warning: Not a lot of thought has gone into these and they are in no particular order! :-)

1. Move to Australia to live.

2. Find a new home in Australia.

3. Publish Absent Children

4. Successfully market Absent Children

5. Complete first draft of Crystal.

6. Meditate regularly (stealing this one, but it has been an intention for two years now, time to make it a reality,)

7. Maintain good relationships with family and friends

8. Read for pleasure as well as work.

9. Create two new blogs – one on birthing practices and one on writing.

10. Enjoy myself.

What are your top ten for 2013?

Our Home Away from Home at Home

Novelist, Thomas Wolfe once wrote: “You can’t go home again”

I’m sorry, Thomas – I disagree.

As we planned to spend all of December in Australia this year, we decided to investigate house-sitting. I posted information about ourselves on a House Sitting site, including where and when we were hoping to find a house. Only one showed up that suited both our requirements – close to our previous Australian home and for the entire month of December- so that’s the one we chose. Fortunately, the house owners also selected us as the successful applicants.

It has worked well,  given us space and prevented the worry of burdening any possible hosts.

We moved into the house on December 1st, and since then,  it has become our home away from home. We have a canary, who is a joy to listen to, and two affectionate cats to care for. It’s been fun, but has prompted the question:

What does the word home mean to me?

When we first settled into the house, I walked around the neighbourhood. I’ve never lived in this town, and yet it is vaguely familiar to me because I have driven through parts of it many times. It is also a seaside suburb of Port Phillip Bay, as was the home we lived in for 28 years before moving to America.

Port Phillip Bay, Victoria.

The first day I walked to the beach and gazed out over the bay, towards our old hometown in one direction, and the city of Melbourne in the other and I was overcome with an overwhelming feeling of joy.

Melbourne Dec 2012 020

Did the feeling stem from the fact that I’m in the country where my parents were born and where I was born? The place that gave me my values and a joyful childhood? Or is it because it is the birthplace of my siblings, the place where I grew up, made many friends, met my husband and raised my children?

I don’t think so.

I think something greater is at play here.

I felt very at home in my house in Florida. I feel at home in my house in Glasgow, and now I feel at home in this stranger’s house in Australia, but the difference is that here, when I step outside the door, I still feel at home.

I feel at home in the shops, in the  countryside and in the city; everywhere.

The accents sound right, the plants are familiar, the smells are known, the noisy birds delight me and the water tastes like water!

IMGP1460

Noisy but colourful Lorrikeet in our house-sit back yard on Christmas Day.
Photo by A Townsend

Aboriginal spirituality is inextricably linked to land. The Australian Aborigine believes that we are each linked to the land we were born in, and that when we leave it, part of our spirit remains to be reunited on our return.

The Aboriginal flag

In the words of aborigine, S. Knight – “it’s like picking up a piece of dirt and saying this is where I started and this is where I’ll go. The land is our food, our culture, our spirit and identity.” 

Or as Senimelia Kingsburra from far North Queensland says: “Spirituality is about tapping into the still places I go to when I’m on country and I feel like I’m part of all the things around me,”

Aboriginal author and Yorta Yorta woman Hyllus Maris (1934-86) expressed this connectedness with the land beautifully in her poem Spiritual Song of the Aborigine.

SPIRITUAL SONG OF THE ABORIGINE

by Hyllus Maris.

I am a child of the Dreamtime

People Part of this Land,

like the gnarled gumtree

I am the river, softly singing

Chanting our songs on my way to the sea

My spirit is the dust-devils

Mirages, that dance on the plain

I’m the snow, the wind and the falling rain

I’m part of the rocks

and the red desert earth

Red as the blood that flows in my veins

I am eagle, crow and snake that glides

Thorough the rain-forest that clings to the mountainside

I awakened here when the earth was new

There was emu, wombat, kangaroo

No other man of a different hue

I am this land

And this land is me

I am Australia.

Ormiston Gorge, Central Australia.
Photograph by J Pisapia

I am not an aborigine, nor am I black, but her words resonate with me, but I know other Australians who feel connected to other places. Maybe I lived as an aborigine in a past life.

Some say, Home is where the heart is. I know the importance of being close to those you love, and my desire to be closer to those people is a big part of my enthusiasm for moving back to Australia, but I think my spiritual connection to the land and the feeling of being whole again when I am here, is what really makes Australia home to me.

What does the word home mean to you?

To Dorothea McKellar, it meant this in the fourth verse of My Country:

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die -
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Photo by A Townsend

Photo by A Townsend

Merry Christmas

Wishing you all a wonderful 

Christmas eve and a fantastic Christmas day.

May you be warmed by the love

surrounding you, filled with good food and glowing

with smiles.

Merry Christmas from Melbourne, Australia

Past Christmases

Florida

Christmas 2008 063

Christmas in Florida, 2008

Australia

Australia 2009 033

Christmas in Australia, 20079

Christmas in Australia, 2009

Glasgow

Christmas in Glasgow

Christmas in Glasgow, 2011

Townsend Family 2~email

Lastly, it wouldn’t be Christmas if I didn’t include my favourite Christmas song by my favourite Beatle.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z8Vfp48laS8

2013 beckons, let’s make it better.

Travel Weary

I still have much to learn about blogging, a fact which has been re-inforced this month because I failed to upload this entry automaticcally. As usual, this post was meant to coincide with the full moon, but it had also been programmed (obviously unsuccessfully) to upload when I was travelling.

Travel has become a common occurrence in my life over the last few years, particularly the years since we moved to Glasgow.

I was recently asked what the child I was would think of the life I am now living. The answer that leapt to mind was that she would be dancing with delight, laughing with excitement and  jiggling with the anticipation, eager for it all to happen. I know, because as I’ve travelled the world, there have been many times when I’ve been reminded of that child and her dreams.

Here is a list of a few of those places and what triggered my early desire to visit them:

1. Germany – it was the language I chose to learn in school.

2. The Dead Sea – I wanted to experience sitting in water. 

3.  Switzerland – thanks to Heidi.

4. Disneyland! – What child of the 50’s didn’t dream of visiting Disneyland?

5. Ireland – because of my heritage.

6. Big Ben – I’m not sure why. Maybe because it was in London, and London sounded exciting.

7. A tropical island – I had a romantic notion about sun, sea, sand and islands, it still holds.

7. Liverpool – thank you, beloved Beatles.

8. Jerusalem – a fascination with religion.

9. The Eiful Tower – doesn’t everyone need to see this?

10. The Grand Canyon – as above.

11. Uluru – not overseas, but a helluva long way from where I lived, so I think it’s fair to include it in this list.

12. Europe – history

13. Africa – elephants, zebras, giraffes, oh my!

14. Sand dunes – wide, desolate and amazing places.

15. The pyramids of Giza – Amazing structures I learnt about at school.

Thanks to Tony’s eternal desire for travel, I’ve ticked all those boxes and seen many other magnificent sights along the way.

I’ve travelled to the south, north, east and west of Australia, America and Europe. I’ve been to Africa, China, the Middle East and many small islands.

The move to Scotland opened up Europe for me. A major advantage to living here are the cheap, short flights to another country. To an Australian, where just about everywhere is a long way away, the realisation that we can board a flight in Glasgow and land in another country after an hour’s flight is mind-blowing. We’ve made good use of this opportunity, taking many small trips where we’d spend a few days or up to a week in one place. No travel fatigue of ‘not another cathedral/palace/castle/museum’ for us. We’re back in Scotland before it kicks in.

I know there are many magnificent, quaint, historical and/or incredible European cities, I’ve still to see, but guess what? I don’t care.

In September, Tony and I spent a week in Spain and Portugal. I’d visited both countries before, but in different areas. This time, we stayed in Cadiz in the south of Spain, and drove through Portugal to Sintra. A magical place. I went for the warmth. What I call summer, didn’t happen in Scotland, so I craved blue skies and heat from sunshine. It was wonderful, but it brings me to the point of this post – I still enjoy visiting new places; however, I no longer yearn to go anywhere but Australia.

I’m all travelled out, and yet… I’m planning trips for after we move back to Australia. I want to drive from Perth to Broome, and I’d like to ‘do’ the Nullabor again, see the Flinders Ranges in Wildflower season and drive up the east coast to visit friends and family. There are still places I want to go, things I want to see, but mostly, they seem to be contained in that wide brown land. And that is possibly the reason I’m very excited to be currently travelling – I’m en route to my country.

What would the child you were, think of the life you’re now living? I’d love to hear your responses to that question.

Now, for the third verse of My Country:

My Country by Dorothea McKellar

A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops
And ferns the warm dark soil.

See you very soon, my lovely. :-)

Months and Leaves Fall Away

The Australian climate and flora doesn’t lend itself to autumn in the same way Scotland and much of the northern hemisphere does. Most Australian trees are evergreens, although the original settlers, no doubt hungering for the familiar, imported deciduous trees to plant. Thanks to them, the odd tree ablaze in autumn’s colours can be seen scattered throughout the southern states of Australia.

When we moved to Florida, I delighted in living in a sub-tropical climate where the differences between the seasons is even less obvious than it is in Melbourne. However, I often thought it would be fun to experience the four distinct seasons I’d read and heard so much about.

This was one of the reasons I was excited about our move to Glasgow, where I expected a ‘proper’ spring, summer, autumn and winter. Although Glasgow’s climate is more moderate than many of the northern hemisphere’s cities, I now can say I have lived where the seasons are similar to those often portrayed in many books and movies.

Spring is amazing; the poetry about clouds of golden daffodils and songs delighting in the lusty month of May all ring true. I love it and completely understand why poets and songwriters use this season as a muse.

I quickly forgive the cold of winter when the first fat snowflakes fall from the sky. To wake and find the world painted white overnight is always a thrill.

Summer… Well, Glasgow fails summer. The less said the better.

Until this year, autumn has been a little disappointing. The leaves weren’t colourful enough, the sky not blue enough and the days kept getting shorter and colder. However, this autumn, Glasgow has put on a spectacular show for us. Did I not notice the leaves in my first years in Glasgow, or were they less impressive? The answer is a mystery, but thinking about it made me aware that I won’t be here next autumn. This is my last October in Glasgow! That blows my mind, so a few days ago; I grabbed my camera and set out to capture some of the beauty. Click on the photos to get full size.

 

As I deliberately scuffed through the dried leaves covering the ground, shuffling them around and hearing the crunch underfoot, I had a flashback to an Easter when I was eight years old. My best friend at the time lived in a house with a big Liquid Amber in their front garden, and in autumn its fallen leaves blanketed the ground surrounding it. One Easter, I joined my friend for an egg hunt at her home. The Easter bunny had hidden his eggs in the garden and we delighted in searching the dried yellow to brown leaves to discover many colourful foil-wrapped chocolate eggs. A great memory.

  

Easter in autumn? Yeah, I know – crazy hey?

Living in Scotland has given me a greater understanding of the beginnings of those celebrations that began before the world knew it had another half – a place where the seasons would not fit the events.

Upside-down, wrong-way-around Australia. Easter in autumn, Christmas in summer, Halloween in spring.

Easter eggs // OstereierIt makes sense to celebrate Easter in spring. It’s a celebration of the rebirth of Jesus. In this climate, spring is all about the rebirth of the plants that have been dormant in the winter, and it’s a safe time for the animals to have their babies. Yet, in Australia, we celebrate Easter in autumn. Not that I cared; my focus at Easter was about chocolate eggs.

Boogie BoardChristmas in Australia usually involves a hearty traditional English roast, followed by plum pudding and a nap. As children, we’d spend the rest of the day outside, riding our new bikes, or playing cricket with Christmas cricket sets. Maybe a trip to the beach and a swim might be on the agenda; a chance to test out the bucket and spade set, or ride a new boogie board. I didn’t mind the inappropriate hot meal designed for a colder climate. I still cook it wherever I am in the world, and I love hot Christmas days.

My children enjoyed dressing up and trick-or-treating for Halloween. The
celebration is so old that it’s difficult to define how, when or why it began,
but it has always gone hand-in-hand with All Hallows Eve. In ancient Scottish
lore, this time was the marker for the end of the summer; a time to put the
animals in the barn and finish the harvest in preparation for the chilly
winter. Totally inappropriate in Australia. Read more about Halloween by clicking here.

English: The pumpkin patch fills up during the...

This autumn has been glorious, but it doesn’t last long. Very soon, I will open the curtains one morning and the trees will be bare. My best autumn will be behind me. Next year, I’ll be warmer, but without the wonderful display. I’ll be in My Country.

I took lots of photos, if you wish to see more, click here.

Do you remember the second verse to My Country by Dorothea McKellar?

I love a sunburnt country,

A land of sweeping plains,

Of ragged mountain ranges,

Of droughts and flooding rains.

I love her far horizons,

I love her jewel-sea,

Her beauty and her terror –

The wide brown land for me!

Arid pastoral (sheep grazing) land with the So...

It’s spring in Australia now, and in a couple of days, the kids will be out trick-or-treating.

My Country

September is almost over. This time next year, I hope to be living in the country of my birth, Australia.

After nine years as an expat, I no longer want my possessions to be split between homes on opposite sides of the globe. I want to find my pate knife with the ceramic Christmas tree handle when I look for it, instead of wasting ten minutes searching before I remember it is part of my Australian home, 16,965 kms (or 10,542 miles) away.

More importantly, I want to be able to give my children hugs on their birthdays. I want to celebrte Christmases with them in person. I want to be physically nearer my extended family and those friends I’ve known for years. I will miss my American and Scottish friends, but it will be fun to visit them.

This blog is about repatriation, but let me begin by telling you where my expatriate life began. It may never have happened if I hadn’t visited a clairvoyant.

Yep, you heard right, I went to a psychic!

What possessed me to visit a psychic?

About ten months before we left Australia, and six months prior to any thoughts of moving to another country flitted across my mind, I dreamt I should visit a medium.

I take my dreams relatively seriously, but  there was no sense of urgency, so the memory of the dream lingered with the intention to find a medium when I had time. Many months later, my daughter told me about a clairvoyant one of her friends vouched for. Not a medium, but near enough to keep me happy.

By the time I visited her, Tony (my husband) had applied for the job in Florida, but I didn’t expect him to get the position, and if he did, I wasn’t convinced I’d join him.

On the day of my appointment, I happily knocked on the clairvoyant’s door with a hand devoid of rings. I was determined not to give her any clues about myself, convinced she’d assume I was a miserable and lonely, old woman. I expected her to tell me I would meet a tall dark stranger.

She asked me if I had any specific questions. I told her about my dream and explained it was the only reason I was there.

I said nothing else. She began slapping Tarot cards on the table.

No, she didn’t have a crystal ball. :-( 

Within seconds, she said,

“Whoa, you have so many changes ahead. New home, new furniture, new place, new job. Amazing, a whole new life.”

Somehow, she’d read my mind, picking up on all the furniture purchases I’d made, along with the renovating and painting I’d completed in the previous two months. I was impressed, but I didn’t have a new job and there was no way I was going to begin one. I loved my work with a passion.   

As my allotted hour continued, she told me more, much more.  I barely spoke to her, just listened as she mentioned my children and the cancer diagnosis of two of my close friends, giving details about both. She never questioned my marital status, it was a given I had a husband. 

By the time she told me I’d be reluctant to make this big move in my future, I was convinced of her authenticity.

Then she added the words that sealed my fate.

“This change is going to be extremely good for you in so many ways; just wonderful. Don’t resist it, go with the flow.”

I did, and she was right.

Living life as an expat is a fantastic adventure, but my spirit never belonged to another country. On each visit to Australia, Peter Allen’s song, I Still Call Australia Home, and the words of Dorothea McKellar’s poem, My Country, filled the empty nooks in my mind. Now that resettling is uppermost in my thoughts, the second verse of My Country keeps repeating in my head; reason enough, methinks, to revisit the complete poem in this blog – a verse a month. 

Way back, a looong time ago, when I was in primary school, everyone had to learn this poem, which is probably why I still remember segments of it. My classmate’s childish voices chanting the words,  “I love a sunburnt country” are locked into my brain at a deep level, but I’d forgotten this first verse:

My Country, by Dorothea McKellar.

The love of field and coppice,

Of green and shaded lanes.

Of ordered woods and gardens

Is running in your veins,

Strong love of grey-blue distance

Brown streams and soft dim skies 

I know but cannot share it,

My love is otherwise.

                                            

Photo taken from The Burns Museum gardens, Scotland.

I am fond of this green land, but it is the next verse of McKellar’s poem that resonates with me. (Read it in next month’s blog! Or listen below.)

I was amazed to learn that Dorothea Mckellar began writing this when she was nineteen, living in London and homesick. I know how that feels.

Do you have poems or songs that remind you of home, wherever that may be? I’d like to hear about them, whether you’re an expat or not.

Below is a YouTube link of McKellar reading her own words. The images are wonderful, including the odd fun shot, an example of Australian larrikinism. Enjoy:

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