Where Are You Going?

Paradise island sunrise

Paradise island sunrise

After much encouragement, I took the plunge and left Australia for the first time since my return eighteen months ago. My husband was giving a series of workshops at a college on the island of Male, the capital of The Maldives, and knowing what the island was like, I really wasn’t interested in joining him. However, images of clear turquoise tropical waters, and a free weekend on the Paradise Island resort eventually won me over and I agreed to go.

Island in the sun

Island in the sun

Where the ocean meets the coral reef.

The resort lived up to, and beyond expectations. Tourism was a late comer to The Maldives, and as a result, they’ve done it well. There are no high-rise beach front properties, and only the uninhabited islands were developed, which ensured existing island villages were not destroyed in the process.

Paradise Island

Paradise Island

The view from our beach hut

The view from our beach hut

After one night in a beach villa which was nestled among the natural tropical plants of the island, and a short stroll to the beach, we were upgraded to a water villa, situated along a boardwalk above the lagoon, with a private balcony and stairway to the pristine water below us.

Water Villas

Water Villas

Our weekend retreat was pure relaxation and indulgence. I reclined on the private outdoor cushioned lounge, napped, read, and swam or snorkeled in the warm sea. Then, I’d rinse the salt water off with a plunge in the outdoor bath, and begin the cycle all over again, interrupted only by meals and an occasional walk.

Male was very different, but unexpectedly fascinating. It’s a city of approximately 150,000 people, crammed onto a small island with a perimeter of roughly 5.7 km.

The view of Male from our hotel

A view of Male from our hotel

Another view from the hotel

Another view from the hotel

The lagoon that once surrounded the island has been filled in to make room for more buildings, roads, and people, and the reclaimed land is held in place by concrete walls and water breaks reinforced with concrete bollards.

Concrete border

Concrete border

The artificial beach on Male

The artificial beach on Male

There are two swimming areas for the locals, one a small artificial beach, created for the purpose, and the other is a protected area, the same as those provided for the boats that bring essential supplies to the island.

Boats - Male

Boats – Male

Maps - the island of Male and the island of Male's airport

Maps – the island of Male and the island of Male’s airport

The country’s airport is on a nearby island, and transfers from the airport to the city, or between any of the 1,190 other islands is by ferry or speed boat.

The airport ferry terminal

The airport ferry terminal

Airport to Male ferry

Airport to Male ferry

Male as seen from the airport

Male as seen from the airport

I spent an hour or so each day walking around the island. On my first day, all I saw was concrete and bitumen, but with each new day, I began noticing the trees growing out of nothing, providing snatches of green, shade, and occasionally flowers.

Sultan Park

Sultan Park

The city has one small park called Sultan Park, a small oasis of green, but apart from the few cemeteries, there really isn’t much room for trees.

A Male cemetary

A Male cemetary

The people, like the people in other Muslim countries we’ve visited, are lovely — hospitable, friendly, and generous.

Two times I was approached on my walks, each time by a different man, but both times they greeted me with the same line, “Where are you going?”

As a white woman walking alone, I’m wary of such approaches. I didn’t feel afraid for a moment, but I’ve been caught out before by men in strange countries coercing me into accepting help I didn’t want, which resulted in me then having to deal with the uncomfortable expectation of payment, so with both these men, I simply smiled and truthfully stated I was exploring the island, declined their offers of water, or a tour on their motorbike, and kept walking.

April was a frantically busy month for me, and that’s my excuse for failing to learn the basics of Dhivehi, the Maldivian language before I arrived in Male. However, while we were there, I learnt that Maldivians don’t have words for those we consider essential to politeness. In Dhivehi, there is no word for ‘thank  you’, or ‘please’, or ‘hello’, or ‘goodbye.’

Can you imagine living without those words?

How does a culture do without politeness?

I’ve given it some thought and come to the conclusion that it probably began because the people once lived in small communities on each of the tiny islands. In places where everyone knows everyone else, maybe appreciation and gratitude were a given.

In most cultures, a person would feel unappreciated if they were not thanked for anything he or she did for someone else. I like the notion of not having that expectation, of assuming that whatever we did was truly appreciated and acknowledged at all times.

And perhaps, just like I don’t greet my husband with a hello each time he emerges from his office, that is how it used to be for the islanders. If I leave my husband in the living room watching television, I don’t say goodbye. Maybe living in a small community on an island is similar to living in a family home, leaving no need for such words.

Still, Male is not a small community, and I struggled to see how a city of that size could manage without a hello or a goodbye, until I was told that when greeting someone, a Maldivian will ask, ‘Where are you going?’

I assume they part with phrases such as ‘I’m going home,’ or I’m going to school’ but my lessons in their language didn’t get that far.

Those men who I suspected were asking me where I was going, so they could offer to take me there and then demand payment from me, were simply saying, ‘Hello.’ I feel I owe them an apology. They did ask me where I was from, and other idle chatter, so it’s likely they were simply being friendly.

The Maldivian Flag

The Maldivian Flag

Paradise Island sunset

Paradise Island sunset

All up, I’m very glad I agreed to visit this interesting country.

Bats!

Yarra Bend Bats

Yarra Bend Bats

Recently, my walking group visited a section of the Yarra Bend Park inhabited by bats, or to give them their correct title – Grey-headed Flying-Foxes. A large section of the trees bordering the Yarra River is thick with them. I’ve never seen so many in the one place before.

Grey-headed Flying Foxes

Grey-headed Flying Foxes

It’s difficult to capture the enormity of the numbers when I could only photograph a small group of the trees at a time, but according to The Australian Bat Society webpage, the numbers have reached as high as 50,000 in recent years.

At first glimpse, it looked as if the trees were full of crows, or ravens, but the noise gave them away. Even though most of them were sleeping, those still awake didn’t worry about keeping quiet. In a large group, they sound like parrots but with a higher pitch and a distinct screechiness. They’re certainly not the most considerate of neighbours. You can hear a recording of one on the following YouTube: https://youtu.be/pc1wUKIxwSQ

Now, imagine that sound coming from a few hundred bats to get an idea of what we were hearing.

The first bat colony to take up permanent residence in Melbourne established itself in The Royal Botanic Gardens in 1986. However, by 2000, their numbers had grown so large that they were causing significant damage to the garden’s heritage listed trees. Wildlife groups rose to the occasion and helped relocate them by making loud noises at dusk and dawn. The damage to the Yarra Bend trees is also obvious, but the constant new growth compensates for it.

Bats sleeping in a dead gumtree

Bats sleeping in a dead gumtree

It really is a sight to see and hear, so if you live in Melbourne, I’d recommend you visit and take a look. We plan to return at dusk one day to watch them wake and fly off on their nightly search for fruit, nectar, and pollen.

Grey-headed Flying-Foxes sleeping/

Grey-headed Flying-Foxes sleeping

Yarra Bend Park is the largest area of natural bushland close to Melbourne’s centre, and it is easy to access the bat’s domain from The Bellbird Picnic area.

And for more interesting information about bats, go to the Australian Bat Society’s webpage.

Beginnings

New Year's Day sunset, 2015

New Year’s Day sunset, 2015

My first day of 2015 didn’t begin well. I’d woken too early, so I was tired and couldn’t seem to find the motivation to do any of the things that usually make me feel better. Instead, I felt grumpy and dissatisfied with those aspects of my life that weren’t the way I wanted them.

It’s strange, but it was as if the universe was adding fuel to my mood when for some inexplicable reason I dropped my yoghurt container as I was preparing my breakfast, and big white splotches of yoghurt splattered all around my kitchen — on the floor, the backs of the chairs, the newspaper, and the bench tops.

Later, my full water bottle slipped out of my hand and created a minor flood in the same kitchen. I had to hurriedly mop that up as my husband was waiting in the car to be taken to the airport and catch a flight.

On the drive to the airport, my mood deteriorated further as I focussed on the most negative aspects of my life. All was doom and gloom, and if beginnings were any indication of how things might progress, 2015 was destined to be a bad year for me.

Fortunately, I know a beginning’s mood doesn’t predict what lies ahead.

But beginnings have always been important to me. As a kid, first days of school held hope for new achievements, and perhaps new friends, and the first day of the summer holidays always held anticipation for lots of sun, water, and fun. My first day as a trainee nurse, the beginning of the process to fulfill my dreamed of vocation, was momentous.

But beginnings took on a different importance when I became a midwife.

I believe that one of the most miraculous events in this amazing experience called life, is birth — the beginning of a new person’s life — and as a midwife, I had the privilege of being present for many ‘birth’ days. Each one was special in it’s own way, and it was always an honour to be able to play a part in such an emotional, spiritual, physical, and transforming experience. The beginning of a new life often marks the beginning of a new family, or a new father, mother, perhaps new grandparents, aunties, and uncles. And each new life brings new love.

Last Saturday night, I was woken at 3:40 am by a phone call. Phone calls in the middle of the night usually don’t bring good news, but when I worked as a home birth midwife, they generated excitement because they signaled that another little person was readying to come to the light and take a breath.

I answered my early morning call in the same way I used to when I was called for a home birth, saying, “I’m on my way.”

You see, I knew it was my son Ben calling to tell me his partner’s waters had broken.

Months ago, when Ben and Amanda invited me to be involved in the pregnancy and the baby’s birth, I felt blessed. Not only were they giving me a longed for grandchild, but they were also enabling me to fulfill my dream to be present at the birth of that child.

But this was Amanda’s second baby, and because I knew her and her history, I believed this babe would be in a hurry to enter our world, which made me scared I might miss the birth. Time would prove my fear was valid.

My phone records tell the story:

First call at 3:41, lasting 31 secs. (To let me know the waters had broken.)

Second call at 3:50, lasting three minutes. (To say the hospital had told them to stay home until contractions began. We agreed I’d drive to their home, but if they needed to leave before I arrived, Ben would text me to let me know.)

Text message at 4:33 saying, ‘Hospital’ (I had only just passed the last exit for the hospital, and had to continue to the next one, turn, and go back.)

I arrived at the hospital about 4:50 to 4:55, just after they got there. (Yes, I broke the speed limit, but there were very few cars on the road.)

Baby was born at 5:07. (The midwives almost missed the birth because Amanda was so calm. I suspect they had no idea how imminent the birth was, they didn’t have time to do anything but quickly don gloves and catch.)

It was fast, too fast – not for Amanda, who was relieved the pain was done with — but for Ben and me, who hadn’t really come to grips with what was happening.  Yes, I made it in time, which was fantastic, but there was an element of shock for us. I remember mothers I had cared for in the past who laboured fast, telling me about the shock factor, but I never really understood it before.

As is often the case in the initial minutes after a birth, no one thought to see what sex the baby was until a midwife asked if we already knew, prompting us to take a look.

A boy.

I have a grandson, Jasper.

Jasper. 8lb 2oz (3685g)

Jasper. 8lb 2oz (3685g)

Apparently, the clinkers were right! (See previous post for an explanation: Reflections)

A mother's love

A mother’s love

A new family

A new family

A new dad

A new dad

Jasper cried readily and all seemed well to begin with, but a fast birth can be a bit of a shock for the baby as well as the adults, and he lacked the energy needed to feed, so towards the end of his first day, he was admitted to the Special Care Nursery. Apparently, despite his healthy weight of 8lb 20z (3685g), his behaviour suggested prematurity.

So, although all seemed well at his beginning, it didn’t stay that way. On day two of his life, he was still too tired to suck, and had to be fed by tube, and when he did wake enough to feed, sucking at the breast was too tiring.

As is often the case, everything seemed worse on day three when his mum was discharged, meaning she had to leave him overnight while she went home to sleep, and our hope for him to be breastfed was diminishing because the nursery staff bottle fed him.

However, everything seemed to click into place on Day four and he was finally discharged on Day five, fully breastfed.

My siblings all became grandparents over twenty years ago, and I was desperate to join their ranks. I loved being a mother, and wanted what I considered the natural extension of that role, to become a grandmother, but as the years ticked by, I’d pretty much given up hope that it would ever happen.

But I was still curious about it. Grandparents I knew, raved about how wonderful it was, how inexplicable the feeling, and what a blessing it was.

We already have a child in our life, Amanda has a five year old who calls us Nana Juli and Papa Tony. She brings us endless joy and we adore her as if she was our own grandchild, so when Ben told me that Amanda was expecting his baby, I wondered if it would feel different.

One grandmother told me she loved knowing that her expected grand baby contained a part of her DNA, but that doesn’t seem important to me. I see my own DNA as a type of record of my genetic history, coming from ancestors I never met as well as my own parents. It’s not special.

I know to many people, a highlight of having grandchildren is that the family name is being carried forward into the next generation, but I don’t see why should I care if my husband’s name is carried on. And I doubt I’d feel differently if it was my father’s name, because it doesn’t identify my mother, or my father’s mother. Besides, my mother’s maiden name was her father’s name. Her mother’s identity fades into oblivion with each added generation, and given enough time, so will her father’s. When I took my husband’s name in marriage, I knew that names are simply the labels we use for ourselves in this life. So, now I am a grandmother, I can honestly say that I don’t love Jasper anymore than I love his big sister, but I have discovered one pleasure in being related to the little chap. It occurred to me when I saw the following status that my son posted on Facebook:

This little guy is so amazing! Falling more and more in love every minute.

And this image posted by his partner, along with her words:

Words cannot express how much love I feel for this little guy and his daddy xxx

A father's love Photo by Amanda Buckingham.

A father’s love
Photo by Amanda Buckingham.

This is where the magic lies – in that mysterious unconditional love that we have for our children.

If a stranger came into our lives, demanded we feed him, wash him, and care for him in every way, while never giving us anything in return, I suspect we’d rebel, hate him, and tell him to get out of our sight.

And yet, that’s all Jasper does, but we still adore him. He doesn’t crack jokes to make us laugh or cheer us up, he doesn’t hold intelligent conversations with us, he doesn’t even pretend to be interested in us. It’s all about Jasper – me, me, me. Such selfishness!

And still, we love him.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone felt unconditional love like this for everyone else? Then, peace on earth would truly exist.

So, I’ve come to the conclusion that for me, what’s special about becoming a grandmother is seeing my son experience that endless and unconditional love we felt, and still feel, for him. I’m sure the years ahead won’t always be perfect, there’ll be days when Jasper makes us angry, or upsets us with something he does, but they will all be evened out with the amazing joy he’ll bring into our lives, and those times when our hearts take flight with the simple immensity of our feelings for him.

I love that my son is experiencing this, and will go on experiencing it with all the ups and downs of parenting. And that maybe one day, his son Jasper, will also feel that love as he gazes at his own newborn.

A baby reminds us that love is limitless.

What a wonderful world.

Daddy’s boy, Jasper.

Isn’t he sweet?

Our beautiful boy.

Listen to John Lennon singing, ‘Beautiful Boy’ 

A happy new year to you all!

Reflections

Sunset Reflection

We celebrated Christmas early this year because a few family members will be away on the day. Two weekends ago, my siblings and their families came to our home for our usual Christmas get together. It was a beautiful day, very relaxed, with an abundance of delicious food, lots of chatter, children, and presents.

The gang with the oldies hidden at the back where they belong.

The gang with the oldies hidden at the back where they belong. Photo by Cindy Townsend

This weekend, we enjoyed an early family Christmas dinner with our children. Once again, the weather was perfect, the food plentiful, and the company great.

IMG_6013

Christmas Dinner Photo by Cindy Townsend

I don’t belong to any religious group, so for me, Christmas is about traditions, and giving, and the love that seems to infuse the atmosphere at this time of the year – people shopping, looking for the perfect gift for their children, friends, and family, strangers wishing you a Merry Christmas with a smile, the decorations, and the cheery Christmas songs ever present in the background. It all makes me happy.

Over the years, as my children grew up, we established some family traditions that have become an important part of our our Christmas dinner – Bon Bons which require us to wear silly paper hats, the pudding cooked in the cloth and served with brandy custard, the candle in the centre of the table, glace fruit, and Cadbury’s fruit and nut mix with added bullets, M & Ms (red and green), and the obligatory ‘guess the colour’ clinkers. This year, the clinker colours were used to predict the sex of our soon-to-arrive grandbaby – I think a boy won. Not long now until we discover if clinkers have super-predictive powers.

Clinkers - Green for a boy, pink for a girl

Clinkers – Green for a boy, pink for a girl

Another important tradition we include in our Christmas gatherings is to play John Lennon’s song, Happy Christmas (War is over), with the volume turned up so we can all sing along.

“So this is Christmas, and what have you done? Another year over, a new one begun.”

The end of a year prompts me to reflect on the past twelve months, and although I don’t blog often, I do enjoy being able to look back over the year’s posts to be reminded of some of the small things I may have forgotten if I relied on memory alone.

However, today I found an interesting post in Anushka’s blog, Into Mind, suggesting we reflect on the past year by answering the fifty questions she’s posted. I liked the fact that they weren’t questions about what I did, or where I went, who I was with, or what I got. They were questions about how I felt. It was insightful to look at my year this way and sometimes challenging, but generally satisfying. And it was useful to seriously think about my answers and what I’d like to address differently next year.

The best question was no. 21 –

  • What was your most common mental state this year (e.g. excited, curious, stressed)?

The answer to that one was easy, because the repeating underlying theme in my life is elation. I’m thrilled each time the fact that I’m here in Australia is reinforced. The time spent with my family, the friends I’ve reconnected with, the wildlife in my garden, the magnificent sunsets, and my home, are among the many reasons I get a buzz these days – I dreamed of this for so long when I was in Scotland, and now it is real, but the best part is that the reality is so much better than what I imagined.

I feel blessed.

However, reflecting on the year has also helped me see a way forward, because in all the busyness of my life here in Australia, I’m not making enough time to write, and that doesn’t feel right. I want to amend that in 2015, but I don’t want to lose the positives that this year has brought me. It won’t be easy, because my life already feels full, and there’s the added bonus of an expected new member to the family – my first grandchild – to consider, but it’s important to try.

Maybe I’ll discover that I don’t need to write anymore, or perhaps I’ll find a way to have it all. Why not?

What I know is that my life is living proof that dreams do come true.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas with family and/or friends. Soak up the love and enjoy.

Merry Christmas Photo by Cindy Townsend

Merry Christmas
Photo by Cindy Townsend

Iphone Photos

The Night Noodle Market

Photo taken at the Melbourne Night Noodle Market in the daytime.

For some time, I’ve resisted using my iPhone for photos, choosing instead, to remain stuck in the misguided belief that I couldn’t clearly see an image on a phone screen, an opinion I believe comes from many years of using the viewfinder on my oldish digital camera.

But all that changed this week when I didn’t take my camera on a city walk with my walking group.

We began in Richmond and headed towards the city’s skyscrapers, walking alongside the Yarra. Melbourne is surrounded by green places, making the sight of the city skyline come as a surprise at times. It’s hard to believe there are so many pleasant spots close to a major city.

Some of my walking companions

The first photo I took wasn’t as successful as the ones above, but it was the one that first prompted me to pull out my phone. I nearly trod on a beautiful parrot that blended so well into the green grass that it was almost invisible. The movement as it pecked at grass seeds caught my eye and as soon as I saw it, I wanted to photograph it. At first I thought it was a budgerigar, but on closer examination, I discovered it was a Red Rumped Parrot.

I had to crop the photo because the original  looked like a photo of grass!

Red Rumped Parrot

Red Rumped Parrot

You can see a better image of a Red Rumped Parrot here.

I love that such striking and colourful birds can be found in the city’s gardens and parks. A little further down the track, there were Galahs to photograph as well, so out came the phone again.

Galahs

Galahs

The more I used the phone to take photographs, the easier it became. I did need to stand in the shade to clearly see and frame the image I wanted to take, and I often lingered so long taking photos that I fell behind my fellow walkers and had to run to catch up to them, but I didn’t mind.

My walking companions escaping!

Getting closer to the city.

In the city

And closer

We have arrived.

We have arrived.

And still the greenery continued.

A city Walk November 2014 046

I was excited when we came upon the Federation Bells, created in 2001 by by Anton Hasell and Neil McLachlan to commemorate the centenary of Australia’s federation. I’d never seen them before.

The Federation Bells

The Federation Bells

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to wait for their scheduled ringing, but next time I go to the city, I’ll make sure I get there at the right time. They can be heard daily between 8-9 am, 12.30-1.30 pm, and 5 pm-6 pm.

We walked past the Night Noodle Market, visited the Immigration Museum – which I highly recommend – went over and under the Yarra bridges, and sat on the grass under a shady tree in Southbank to eat our lunch.

I’m impressed with the quality of the images – I generally don’t Photoshop because I’m just clicking away for memories, not art – and these are fine as far as I’m concerned.

Apparently, I CAN take iPhone photos!

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

Flinders Street Station, Melbourne

Unfortunately, using the iPhone to take photographs has’t resolved my tendency to sometimes produce images with muddled horizons that make them look slanted.

Sandridge Bridge

Sandridge Bridge

But I did master zooming in!

Underneath Sandridge Bridge

Underneath Sandridge Bridge

I was impressed with how clean it was everywhere we walked, especially the river, and then I saw this rubbish trap.

Yarra rubbish

Yarra rubbish

What a brilliant and effective idea!

I Love Melbourne

I Love Melbourne

I feel lucky  to have been born in this country, and that Melbourne is my home town, I love its green places, quirky buildings, art, and ambiance.

And I love my iPhone!

Two Years

There are exciting plans afoot in my world. When we bought this house, the garden looked like someone had dumped a mass of plants in one section, and then never moved forward with the plan they had for those plants. It certainly wasn’t what I had in mind for our garden, and so I looked at it as a blank canvas I could use to create a garden I wanted, one that would attract the local birds, bees and butterflies.

The basic clearing and landscaping has now been done, but I’m restraining myself from planting until my studio is built. We’ve been waiting a long time for this, and today, the builders are here – so that’s exciting.

I’ve always enjoyed gardening, loved spending time with dirt and plants, but I really have little knowledge about it. I want to change that. I plan to learn as I go, and as part of that process, I’d like to use this blog to post photos of the changes, so I can check back from time to time to see what was happening at a certain month or season in the years to come.

Today is a good day to mark this change, because it is the two year anniversary of my very first post.

Yes, it is now two years since this humble overview of my transition from living overseas for ten years to moving back to my homeland began.

I planned to blog about my feelings in my last year in Scotland and my first year in Australia, and I guess that’s more or less what I’ve done. I’m glad I did it, pleased I have this record of that period in time, but it’s over now and I’m ready to move on to establishing the rest of my life here without those reflections.

September sunset

September sunset

I understand that gardening in Australia will be of little interest to you if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, and many of you might not be interested in gardening at all, or my feeble attempts at mastering it, so I completely understand and honestly won’t mind if you unsubscribe.

Your visits and comments to my blog have made me happy, but most of all I’ve enjoyed ‘meeting’ many of you and learning about your lives in different parts of the world, and I imagine I will still do that.

Thank you flower

I have no idea how often I’ll be posting, but it may be sporadic – posts could be months apart, or daily – depending on what’s happening in my life, and in my garden.

The last two years have been fantastic, with a lots of ups, downs, and big life changes. I anticipate the next two years will be less dramatic, but who knows…

Life is a series of changes, and a lot can happen in two years. It will be fun to watch them unfold.

Returning to Australia, One Year Later

Twelve months ago today, we stepped off the plane at Melbourne Airport to begin living in Australia again after ten years abroad.

I’ve chosen a few random photos from each month over the past year, and posted them below to mark the event.

September

McCrae Beach with kids.

McCrae Beach with kids.

Weird Weather in Somers

Weird Weather in Somers

October

Gumnuts

Gumnuts

November

Visiting family in Barkers Creek

Visiting family in Barkers Creek

Barkers Creek Garden

Barkers Creek Garden

Birthday Parties!

Birthday Parties!

Home

Home

December

Wonderful Sunsets

Wonderful Sunsets

Housewarming Gift

Housewarming Gift

Watching the ships sail by.

Watching the ships sail by.

IMG_3911

Beautiful Skies

January

Dinosaur Park

Dinosaur Park

February

Visiting Cockatoos

Visiting Cockatoos

March

Dinner time for magpies.

Dinner time for magpies.

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree...

Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree…

March 2014 006

More beautiful skies

PS Zeva and train

Train ride!

April

Sherbrooke Forest

Sherbrooke Forest

May

The View from Seawinds

The View from Seawinds

Early morning moonset

Early morning moonset

Seawinds Flower

Seawinds Flower

June

Tasmania

Tasmania

July

Melbourne from the Shrine of Remembrance

Melbourne from the Shrine of Remembrance

Another sunset

Another sunset

August

Reflections

Reflections

One of the old Gundagai bridges with cow.

One of the old Gundagai bridges and a cow.

One sister at the Blue Mountains, NSW

One of the Three Sisters at the Blue Mountains, NSW

Waterfall, Blue Mountains, NSW

Waterfall, Blue Mountains, NSW

Coffs Harbour, NSW

Coffs Harbour, NSW

Wild weather at Coffs Harbour

Wild weather at Coffs Harbour

Kiama, NSW

Kiama, NSW

Bateman's Bay

Bateman’s Bay, NSW

Lakes Entrance

Lakes Entrance, Victoria

Lakes Entrance

Lakes Entrance

Lakes Entrance

Lakes Entrance

And that brings us back to September again!

Let’s Inspire Each Other

Inspire

Whenever anyone has told me I inspired them to take some positive action in their life, I felt rewarded and highly satisfied. It’s a good feeling, and one that is easy to pay forward.

Some time ago, I was told about how one woman’s day was brightened when my brother–in–law waved to her from across a busy road. She obviously admired my brother–in–law because she recounted the event to his wife years later. It had changed her mood that day, and made her feel better about herself. It really brought home to me how easy it is to make another person feel better about themselves, or to brighten someone’s day in some way. It’s so simple that most of the time, we’re not even aware it’s happening.

Recently, I was nominated for the “Very Inspiring Blogger Award” by Hugh, of Hugh’s Views and News, which was very nice of him, but the best part of this award was the reason he nominated me. Here it is –

Juli was the very first person to send me a message saying “well done” after I declared to all my classmates that I had Dyslexia.  Her message gave me the confidence I was looking for to get serious about blogging.

I know I typed those two words because I meant them, but I had no idea they would add to Hugh’s confidence. I didn’t do anything special, I was in the right place at the right time to be the first to give Hugh what he was bound to hear from others anyway. Once again, I was reminded of the privilege we all have, every single day, to be able to make someone else feel better in some way. And it’s so easy – an email, a phone call, a comment on a blog or Facebook, or maybe just a smile at a passing stranger.

Thank you, Hugh for honouring me. You’ve inspired me to respond to your award.

Blogging is a curious past time, because you begin to consider some people you’ve never met, as friends. I find I read many posts purely for this reason – I want to know what’s going on with my blogging friend.

Hugh is one of my newer blogging friends, and I don’t want to disappoint him, but recently, I’ve not been involved enough in the blogging world to give justice to the requirements  of this award. Still, I’ll do what I can.

First and foremost, I recommend you check out Hugh’s posts. Most are amusing, all are entertaining. He also writes short stories that take seconds to read, but are often thought provoking, stimulating, and fun.  Go on, go have a look at his site by clicking here.

I was also nominated for this award in January 2013 by Cossette at Stumble Down Under. I can take a while to get around to some things! Sorry, Cosette.

Stumble Down Under was one of the first blogs that caught my eye when I began blogging, because Cosette was undergoing a very similar life change to mine, except in reverse.  She lived in Miami. Florida before moving to Melbourne, Australia to be with her partner. It amazes me how often her experiences are the exact opposite of what I lived through when we moved to Florida. It is proof of the power of the culture we grow up in, and how it can be difficult to accept a different one.

These days, what I love most about Cosette’s blog, are her informative entries on what’s happening around Melbourne. I first learnt about Melbourne’s White Night through Cosette, and this week she posted photographs and details from her experience with the Melbourne Open Doors weekend.  She inspires me to visit places and see things in my own home town and I love it. Have a look at her photographs of the places she visited last weekend by clicking here.

Now on to the rules for accepting the award.  Here they are:

1. Thank and link to the amazing person(s) who nominated you.
2. List the rules and display the award.
3. Share seven facts about yourself.
4. Nominate 15 other amazing blogs and comment on their posts to let them know they have been nominated.
5. Proudly display the award logo on your blog and follow the blogger(s) who nominated you.

Let’s do it.

Firstly, thank you to both Cosette, and Hugh for nominating me.

very-inspiring-blogger-award

Seven Facts about myself:

  1. I’m a Beatlemaniac, have been since I first heard their songs when I was fourteen.  Love their music, loved them, and always will.
  2. I planned to marry John Lennon – not until after his wife had tragically died too young, of course. What went wrong? I have no idea, but I’m really glad Cynthia didn’t die.
  3. I’ve achieved something I never believed I was capable of – written a fictional story. In fact, I’ve written a few. If I can do that, anyone can!
  4. My name is Julianne, which I like, but it always felt too formal for my lackadaisical ways, so Juli is what I’m called. If my parents had lived long enough, I wonder if they would be disappointed that their Julianne was such an informal person. I like to think they wouldn’t mind.
  5. I spent most of my younger years rejecting the so called feminine tasks of cooking, sewing, and cleaning. Now, I wish I was a better cook who could create her own clothes and keep on top of the housework.
  6. I tend to be a bit obsessive about things that I’m interested in – health, birth, diet, nature, writing.
  7. I love dogs and anticipate always having a dog as one of the characters in all my novels.

Now to the part I’m going to fail with. Fifteen is a lot of blogs. I follow a lot more, so I simplified the task by choosing those I still read fairly regularly. I’d recommend you look at any of them if the subject matter appeals to you. The first few are the ones I rarely miss reading any of their posts.

Blogs I enjoy:

  1. Hugh’s Views and News – see above.
  2. Stumble Down Under – see above.
  3. The Cranky Giraffe – G, or the cranky giraffe, is another blog I began following when I first started exploring the blogosphere. She writes about her life as a medical student in Canada, –  she’s a doctor now – her desire to specialise in Obstetrics and Gynecology, her family, her interests, and her past. Initially it was her involvement in obstetrics that attracted me, but she writes well on so many interesting topics, that I’m now just generally interested in whatever she has to say. I’m also a wee bit jealous that she chose to blog anonymously and wish I’d thought of that before I went public. However, as my reason for blogging was to develop an internet presence to help promote my writing, I guess that would have been pointless, but I love the freedom it gives G to write without knowing who her audience is.
  4. Table of Colors –  I also discovered Laila in my early blogging days and was instantly captivated by her beautiful images and intriguing recipes (See fact #5). Laila was born in the US, but lives in rural Finland with her children and Finnish husband. Her lifestyle is very different to mine, but that is why I love her posts. She writes about the customs and traditions of Finland – especially those associated with food – and her photos are always stunning. The images she takes of her cooking preparations look like something you’d find in a top notch foodie magazine, and the pictures of the finished products look good enough to eat. I also enjoy the photos of her children and their family adventures.
  5. An American in Norway – Cindi is, as her blog states, an American living in Norway. There were two reasons I was drawn to her blog. Firstly, I have young friends in Norway and have loved my visits to the country, and secondly, Cindi is an expat living away from her adult children, as I was. But it is her love of nature and her dog, her appreciation for her experiences, and her cheery writing style that keeps me coming back for more.
  6. Cathy @ Still Waters – Cathy is an Australian who lives near where I grew up, and I love her fun take on life, her photos of her garden and the Australian landscape.
  7. Leanne Cole Photography – I’m drawn to Leanne’s photography and her knowledge of photography. She also lives in Melbourne.
  8. Kirstin Lamb’s Blog – Kirstin is a writer who writes clever, amusing posts on writing that I connect with and learn from continually.
  9. Janeyinmersin – Janey is another expat Australian, living in rural Turkey. She writes about the community she lives in, and it’s customs which are far removed from those of her Australian upbringing.
  10. Grace and Space – Sheila’s musings on life and all it throws at her.
  11. Suzanne Egerton – Suzanne is a writing friend and Author of Out Late with Friends and Regrets
  12. Margaret K Johnson – Margaret is a virtual writing friend (I have never met her in person, but we exchange emails), and Author of The Dare Club and The Goddess Workshop. She’s also written many fictional stories for people learning to speak English.
  13. The Jolly Beetroot – Niki posts great recipes created using only natural non-processed foods.
  14. Expecting the Unexpected – Meghan writes beautifully about the tragic loss of her newborn baby girl, a few hours after birth.
  15. Must Be This Tall to Ride – Matt writes about recovering from the break up of his marriage, and fathering his young son.

Thank you all for many hours of good reading, and apologies to those I’ve missed.

 

 

Room for One More?

White Night Crowd

White Night Crowd

One could easily be led to believe their are too many people in the world today, with people fighting over borders, land, and who belongs to what in all corners of the globe.  And yet, our planet is large and I believe that if we invested our resources in positive ventures rather than war, we’d discover there is enough for all.

I wanted to write about all the good things that have been happening in my corner of the world lately, but the greater world news almost makes me feel guilty about my happiness. Many countries are caught up in wars, and too many innocent victims are injured or dying as a result of grown-ups acting like children – battling over possessions.

My deepest sympathy goes out to all those families in the midst of the worst war torn areas, and those caught unexpectedly with loved ones who have been hurt, or killed as a side effect of the mayhem.  I don’t want to take away from the magnitude of their pain, but I can’t change the killing and damaging behaviours of others, so I simply choose to do what I believe is the loving action in any situation.

Caring for our earth and being kind to others are loving actions. Killing and harming people are actions based on fear.

A friend of mine who is married to an Israeli with many family members living close to the Gaza border, wrote to me about a minor problem in her life that left her feeling disgruntled and sad.  In the midst of the bad news of the last few weeks, she realised the pointlessness of her sadness and wrote to me, saying –

The least I can do is add to the positive vibrations in the world and smile – Patti Daboosh.

I wholeheartedly agree!

And on that note, please indulge me as I share some of the things that have made me smile recently.

In my May post, I told you that The Pull, the film our youngest daughter wrote, directed, and starred in had been accepted by the Female Eye Film Festival in Toronto. Jenni and her editor/producer friend, Christa Markley, attended the film festival in June. They had a wonderful time and met some great people who made them feel welcome and special. The icing on the Film Festival cake was when she received the award for Best Foreign Feature. We were so happy for her.

See Jen’s Q & A after the screening of her film in Toronto by clicking here.

Best Foreign Feature Award

Best Foreign Feature Award

Jenni, Christa, and The Award. June 2014

Jenni, Christa, and The Award.

This month, I was thrilled to be invited to the premiere of another indie film, Pretty Good Friends, which Jenni starred in. This movie was directed by another young girl, Sophie Townsend – no relation – and Tony and I got a wonderful buzz sitting in a small theatre and seeing Jen on the big screen.

You can see the Pretty Good Friends trailer by clicking here.

Sophie Townsend introducing her film, Pretty Good Friends, starring Jenni Townsend.

Sophie Townsend introducing her film, Pretty Good Friends, starring Jenni Townsend. Photo by Tony Townsend

Tonight, we are attending a Wakakirri competition that our eldest daughter, Cindy’s primary school students are performing in. Cindy created, and has been heavily involved in almost every aspect of this production, and it’s something that the school children love to take part in. We’re really looking forward to seeing it for the first time.

The other big news is that our youngest son Ben, and his partner are expecting a baby. Another little person for this world, which brings me back to the title of this post. Is there room for one more on our troubled planet?

Absolutely! This baby is already loved, and there’s always room for more love, it’s infinite.

It’s fear we need less of.

If I was still living in Scotland, I would have enjoyed the fun Commonwealth games, but I’d be desperately sad to be missing out on sharing the celebrations of my children’s achievements.

Fortunately, I’m not living in Scotland. I am here, in Australia, and that makes me smile.

This was a happiness whose other name was home. —  Roger Cohen

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.

Winter flowers 011

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.

Winter flowers 010

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