Picnics and Raby Bay.

I have lived by Brisbane’s Moreton Bay now for twenty five years. Previous to that, we moved around the country every three or four years to chase the big jobs – as in BIG. Putting roots down in Brisbane was never in the cards. 

The suburb we settled in enjoyed cooling breezes off the Bay which is a must to combat the summer humidity, and the local school had a swimming pool. Australia is a big island with most of the population dotted along the coast. Teaching kids to swim at an early age is not negotiable. Mine took to water like ducks.

A canal estate development and harbour were built from the reclaimed mangroves that lined the coast bordering my suburb. Raby Bay was filled with massive homes and shiny 4wheel drives and included tennis courts and private moorings. What was once known for its seagrass meadows, supporting the local dugong population, and roosting sites for migratory wading birds, was virtually demolished. I hated it, and to be honest, was peeved that the boats moored at their back doors were worth more than my house. No kidding : the brick letterboxes were worth more than my house.

It is interesting to note that in recent months the canal waters have become so clear that you can see all the rubbish sitting on the sand. Our enforced isolation  means that dolphins and turtles have been spotted frolicking in the waterways, and the seagrass is even growing back luring the dugongs.

I’ve enjoyed a few picnics by the water in recent days. On a clear day you can see across to both Moreton Island and North Stradbroke Island from Raby Bay. I’ve even thrown a line in. Thank goodness there was cheese and wine in the fridge at home.

Picnics in parkland by the water are one of the good things that I have taken from these weird times. It had been a long time since I last sat on a rug and did nothing but take in Nature.

Sometimes good things do come out of weird times.

Two Things : Magabala Books and the Little Library.

It was recently announced that Magabala Books won the Australian Book Industry Small Publisher of the Year Award.

Based in Broome, Western Australia, Magabala publish Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander authors, artists and illustrators from all over Australia. An independent, not-for-profit Indigenous Corporation, Magabala is governed by a dedicated Board of Kimberley Aboriginal cultural leaders, educators, business professionals and creative practitioners.

Magabala publishes up to 15 new titles annually across a range of genres: children’s picture books, memoir, fiction (junior, YA and adult), non-fiction, graphic novels, social history and poetry.

What I found interesting was that Magabala also delivers a range of social and cultural initiatives, including providing books to parents in correctional centres so that they can record the stories for their children whilst in isolation. What a wonderful concept!


Restrictions were eased last weekend allowing parks and playground equipment to reopen. This called for a dose of disinfectant to the Little Community Library located in our local parkland which has been much utilised over the past months with our Council Libraries closed and only re-opening last week (for ten people at a time).

Many thanks to the Rotary Club of Capalaba who came to the rescue with much needed children’s books to restock our Library in the park. Little People aren’t fond of ebooks or kindles……as it should be…..

A Different ANZAC Day

Today’s ANZAC Day Dawn Service has been a very different one with self isolation the order of the day. No gatherings at local Cenotaphs, no Gunpowder breakfasts, no soldiers marching proudly along the high street with their service medals on their chest.

This morning we took to our driveways and balconies together listening to the service on our devices from the Australian War Memorial in Canberra, together listening to the Ode, the bugles playing across the suburbs. Together we said Lest We Forget.

Despite the social distancing there have been aspects of this ANZAC Day that have made it special. Different though special.

Teddy Bears in windows were accompanied by red poppies crafted by Little People as part of homeschooling. There was evidence of poppies tied to letterboxes and one front garden was a sea of poppies made from red plastic plates. Not solemn perhaps but a simple lesson in how to pass on our history.

Last night I participated in an online clay poppy candle holder class and slept under the stars in the back yard as a fundraiser for Wounded Heroes who at a grassroots level assist our most marginalised exservice personnel and their families.

The local Museum has not only shared the history of our early pioneers who went to War, but also recipes that were favourites in days such as ANZAC Biscuits and Damper On A Stick which I’ll be having with barbeque.

Stories shared online have been numerous with so many causing a tear in the eye. The 100 year old Kokoda Track Digger who has never missed an Anzac Day being given a personal drive by in a WW2 jeep, the Changi Concert Band pianist who at 98 played alongside a professional brass band at his nursing home, and Captain Tom Murray. Captain Murray who not only raised millions to assist battling Brits, and who received a letter of thanks from 104 year old Vera Lynn. Pass me the tissues, will you please.

There seems to have been so much more this ANZAC Day – or maybe we’ve just had more time to listen. There have been concerts streamed, there has been poetry and artwork shared, there has been so much connectedness involved.

For those who have gone before us, and for those who follow : Lest We Forget.

1 Year Anniversary

I was never one to pursue dreams nor chase rainbows. Not ambitious and never goal orientated. I’m more one of these “one foot in front of the other and just keep moving forward” people.

So I retired not because I had reached a certain age nor a certain stage of independence but because getting out of bed to the alarm became a chore. That first cup of tea at 5 in the morning lost its flavour. I couldn’t taste my toast and Vegemite. I was functioning on automatic pilot and had been for several years. Didn’t make me any less interested in my work performance; it just left me empty.

So I did attend a couple of financial seminars, read a few books, and tried to become a little more savvy about taxation, franking and dividends in the last few years of my working life.

Essentially I did not take one word of advice from any financial advisor or bank manager who all recommended that I continue working for another 8 years minimum. I actually closed my account at the bank which I had been utilising since primary school days after being lectured by a pup. Pleasant pup, but a pup nonetheless. Don’t nag me about financial management until you’ve paid off your own property and covered the kiddies tertiary education thanks Sonny Jim.

So it was damn-the-experts and go with the gut. I just quit. Never once have I looked back nor regreted the decision. One of my greatest pleasures is watching everybody go past on their way to work each morning as I sit with my pot of English Breakfast…..It really is the simple things.

Breakfast in the garden

There are simply too many positives to share here, too many experiences that I would not have enjoyed had I still been tied to a desk.

Today I read some research that said “ Retire at 55 and live to 80; work till you’re 65 and die at 67. New data shows how work pounds older bodies.” And “Ten working years could cost you twenty years of your Retirement”.

Feeling vindicated even if its all lies.

There are two big Life Lessons I have gained over the past twelve months:

  1. Financial Advisors work for you, you don’t work for them. And bolt when they start throwing around psychology.
  1. Every day is a gem. Celebrate each and every one. Even that first beautiful cup of tea at 5 in the morning.

Raising Gypsies

Did I tell you I enjoyed Chicago at the theatre last weekend?

It was beaut to see Tom Burlinson again as Billy Flynn. Burlinson had success as a young man when he played young Jim Craig in the 1982 Australian movie The Man From Snowy River and Tommy Woodcock in Phar Lap in 1983. He then seemed to fade away singing the songs of Frank Sinatra in nightclubs over the years.

Also lovely to spend time in Sydney with the daughters before they both headed off again. You see, I’ve raised gypsies……..

My youngest flew out to India for work purposes for six months yesterday. (My apologies for my behaviour : I may have been just a tad fragile.)

My eldest is off shortly with her military boyo to be stationed in a remote region of Australia for two years. So remote that it will be an easier option to fly to India for a visit. And it’s a Dry Community. Good luck with that, Pocohontas……….

Stuff your eyes with wonder, he said, live as if you’d drop dead in ten seconds. See the world. It’s more fantastic than any dream made or paid for in factories. – Ray Bradbury from Fahrenheit 451

No, there were no tears and I have been positively positive. Disgustingly positive really. And envious of course. I was already tinkering with a holiday to Arnhem Land in autumn so that’s now a done deal. My only concern is for the Labrador, Bentley, who is unused to crocodiles and dingoes, and is stone deaf. I’m fearful that if he meets a snake he will want to make it a playmate. Same with a dingo: he’s such a good natured pup with an inability to read social queues.

As for the Indian adventurer, just as well she’s vegetarian and did a spell in Beijing last year.

We’ve agreed to meetup in Darwin next August, to coincide with the Northern Territory’s Federation Day ( read : Cracker Night) and Darwin Cup. The gambler’s gene did not come from my side of the family though the need for a new outfit for the occasion certainly did. I’m currently researching a side trip to the Tiwi Islands.

Since retirement I have been regularly asked when I will be selling up to be closer to the girls. Makes me laugh each and every time. 

Safe travels, Cat Balou. Looking forward to belly dancing classes upon your return.

Plants For Wounded Heroes

I’m no Green Thumb. I lack the necessary patience, though I do enjoy having natives in the garden to attract birds, bees and bandicoots. Hailing from parents who lived through the Depression I also enjoy produce from my fruit and vegetable gardens. Little effort required and the pumpkin vines are currently taking over the tiny back lawn.

On the iconic quarter acre block that I grew up on, the so-called Australian Dream, (long since battle-axed for the prolific development of McMansions) we grew all our own Veges as well as having the backyard chook shed for eggs and a couple of additions to the table at Christmas. Chicken in the Basket was a family favourite, though after having just read Tom Clancy’s The Teeth Of The Tiger, I don’t think I’ll ever think about that meal in the same way.

The parental vegetable garden was a staple right until the end. Indeed, my father’s casket was covered with home grown spinach and tomatoes which I cooked up at the wake with garlic and pasta complementing the depletion of the contents of the wine cellar.

Since my retirement I’ve taken cuttings of plants which I have nurtured and then sold at a local market on a semi regular basis. Preloved books also find new homes and I am lucky in that several friends donate saleable items. This is my form of aerobics : stretching, bending, reaching (some groaning) and Vitamin D.

Rosemary plants are popular sellers

All monies raised go to Wounded Heroes which assists our exservice men and women at a grassroots level. This non Government funded organisation finds crisis accomodation for our vets, funds accomodation and fuel for medical appointments, and assists with real hardship cases. Recently, an exserviceman with a young family was diagnosed with his third bout of cancer. Wounded Heroes came to the fore with funds to assist with travel costs and parking fees. The day after Anzac Day a young exserviceman committed suicide. The Government covered the funeral cost, but it was Wounded Heroes that paid for the casket to be transported 1000 kms away to his home town. With a volunteer escort. Respect.

Succulents also sell well

So I play in my garden and sell a few plants. Sadly, I am unable to replicate the beautiful Bat Plants despite numerous attempts. This is a real shame as I always wanted to be called Bat Woman. Even had a little leather number on the drawing board.

NOTE:

I am not responsible for any actions which may occur when someone tells me “ there is nothing to do”.

Kangaroos, Not Llamas

Whilst I was on house and dog sitting duties earlier in the year, I received a text from my gallivanting daughter and her partner. The photos showed Josie being chased by llamas and her text simply said, “Mo, we are having the time of our lives”.

Possibly one of the best things that a mother can ever hear from her child……

I successfully saved the lives of numerous plants too.

That morning we went on a drive north of Maitland along the Clarencetown Road, in an area densely populated by kangaroos lazing under the shade of towering Gums. My eyes glazed over after spotting a sign on the gate of a country property announcing Belgian Chocolates For Sale. Now honestly, I ask you, wouldn’t that pique your interest too?

Investigation required a drive up to the homestead where another sign welcomed us to Destiny Haven, which we were to learn was “a residential life skills training program for women to find freedom from controlling issues, such as addictions, self-harm, abuse and childhood trauma”.

Part of this process includes providing the tools to make these women employment ready by way of a social enterprise program in conjunction with the rehabilitation process.

The women living at Destiny Haven for up to 12 months receive counselling and other therapies, whilst learning the skills to make delicious chocolates, Christmas puddings, jams and honey from fruits grown on the property, as well as jewellery and tote bags.

How does learning how to make chocolates or marmalade make a person more job ready ?

By learning the skills to follow a process; of following instructions, of reading requirements, and being disciplined to finish the task. They also gain self esteem from the the successful completion of a project, organisational skills and seeing the results of commitment to the task. All good stuff.

We were shown around the Showroom with a full explanation of the services that these brave women facing their demons receive, and their enjoyment in producing such beautiful products for sale. We even sampled a selection of the Belgian Chocolates. Aggggghhhh – I was in Heaven.

Chocolates, puddings, candles. Truly girls – does it get better?

The Destiny Haven retail outlet, at 3931 Clarencetown Road, Brookfield, NSW, is open Monday to Saturday 9am to 6pm. Sometimes, these products are also available at local markets, and at other times service organisations organise bus trips to this nurturing facility.

Destiny Haven is a Not For Profit organisation with no Government funding and all funds raised from products go back to assist women in need.

The chocolates were just delicious as was the Mawberry Jam, a mixture of mulberries and strawberries.

I was totally blown away by the behind-the-scenes activity at this beautiful rural property. And you know what? We may have only seen kangaroos, and not llamas, but I thought we too were having “the time of our lives”.