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



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.



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.

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!


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.


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