out on a limb

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branchFrom time to time I dabble in short story writing. For the past few years I’ve entered Country Style Magazine’s short story competition. The theme for 2015 is ‘branching out’, and I’m stumped!

Last year, inspiration came to me via a dream. But so far this year my dreams have been the crazy fare of perimenopause… no writing material!

Adjacent to our Sydney apartment balcony is a huge eucalypt. I gaze at its long pale branches in an attempt to invoke wisdom. The tree is a source of food & shelter for numerous birds and butterflies, but has yet to proffer creativity!

I know the muses are hanging around, not goofing off in Ibiza: they’ve been amusing me with blog post ideas but enigmatically silent on ‘branching out’, even during 3 am wakefulness when bright writing ideas usually coalesce necessitating employment of scribble-in-the-dark-decipher-later skills.

When I think of ‘branching out’ the only things humming through my brain are misheard Rick Springfield lyrics

“…Speak to the sky trees and tell you how I feel
and to know sometimes what I say ain’t right,
It’s all right
cause I speak to the sky trees every night…”

interspersed by lines from the poem Trees by Joyce Kilmer

“I think that I shall never see

A poem lovely as a tree…

…Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.”


If you are an Australian resident and so inclined, details are:
Country Style Magazine Short Story Competition. Concludes on May 29, 2015 at 23:59 (AEDT). Entries no longer than 1500 words and previously unpublished.

Otherwise for both Australian and non-Australian residents is the 2015 ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize. Single-authored short story of between 2000 and 5000 words, written in English. Stories must not have been previously published or be on offer to other prizes or publications for the duration of the Jolley Prize. Entries close at midnight 1 May 2015



with love from King Street

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Romantic that I am, for Valentine’s Day I gave the G.O. a print-out of a news article… Johnny Cash penned quite possibly the greatest love letter of all time because it reminded me of us, and a box of his favourite Ferrero Rocher chocolates.

The article details the top 10 greatest love letters and John’s love letter to June Carter.

We get old and get used to each other. We think alike.

We read each other’s minds. We know what the other wants without asking. Sometimes we irritate each other a little bit. Maybe sometimes take each other for granted.

But once in a while, like today, I meditate on it and realise how lucky I am to share my life with the greatest woman I ever met. You still fascinate and inspire me.

You influence me for the better. You’re the object of my desire, the No. 1 earthly reason for my existence. I love you very much.”

The thing is, I would’ve printed the article and given it to the G.O. anyway. Ditto for the chocolates.

The G.O.’s gift to me was better: a no work Saturday. We slept in, drank coffee and wandered up King Street to see what we could see at Newtown Community Markets. The G.O. bought me a bunch of flowers. He does that from time to time. Rainbow roses on this occasion. My favourite colour.

Happy Valentine’s Day from King Street, Newtown.

timeless . . .

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It’s always a good day when the G.O. doesn’t go to work on a Saturday; it doesn’t take much to transform the ordinary into extraordinary. That’s what happened last weekend.

We didn’t set an alarm. We got up late, drank coffee and instead of cleaning, grocery shopping or errands we decided to set off to the Blue Mountains west of Sydney to follow the crumbs in a trail of family history research I’d unearthed.

Our route past Victory Motorcycles and its lure even though he’s not in the market to buy was too strong for the G.O. to ignore, plus the traffic on Parramatta Road was barely moving so a 15 minute browse wasn’t going to make much difference.

We headed for Wentworth Falls for a late lunch at the deli-café Fed, which we’ve enjoyed before. Shortly after we arrived and were strolling down the street, a large strikingly orange butterfly flew straight up to the G.O. and fluttered determinedly in front of him. We looked meaningfully at each other, both with the same thought “we’re on the right track”.

After eating lunch then wandering through the shops we set out for our destination, Leura Memorial Gardens with vague instructions to go to row 7 in the Rose Garden. The gardens were beautiful, the afternoon was sunny, as we headed down through unnumbered & unnamed tiers of gardens to a bridge and chain of ponds. It was peaceful (in between noisy gunshots from the neighbouring rifle range…) and pleasant but frustrating as we attempted to discern our treasure without the help of signs that made any sense. We searched to no avail but consoled ourselves that we were close, with handfuls of sun-warmed wild blackberries growing at the perimeter, and the agreeable company of King Parrots and wild ducks. We encountered only 2 other lots of visitors, each of whom were helpful but had no more idea of the site that we were looking for than we did.

The search, and the story, will keep for another day while I make further enquiries.

So as to make the most of the rest of the day the G.O. who has spent much more time in the Blue Mountains than me suggested a tour of the sights. Even though it was late afternoon we had plenty of time and daylight left so we drove to Wentworth Falls Lake & Wentworth Falls lookouts -new to me- where we walked around the vantage points, and on to Katoomba, Echo Point & the Three Sisters I’d visited previously.

Having in mind a specific purpose for the trip we hadn’t come the slightest bit prepared so did no proper bushwalks, nor browsed any galleries. But seduced by the fresh air and scenery we lingered.

Most stunning of all was the drive out along Narrow Neck, which in his words is the “most special out of a few special places” for the G.O. Prevented by locked gates from driving its full extent, we walked for a while in the late afternoon sun along out-of-the-way dirt tracks and climbed to vantage points to take in the views of the Jamison Valley to the east and the Megalong Valley to the west.

The sun hovered in the bright hazy sky for much longer than it seems to do in the city. Time seemed to stretch. The G.O., not wearing a watch thinking it was about 4.30 pm was surprised when I suggested as it was 7.30 pm we should start heading back. But still we couldn’t leave so we detoured via Mount Victoria to the grounds of newly restored Hydro Majestic Hotel to watch from the escarpment the sunset over the Megalong Valley.

Heading home at 8.30 pm we pronounced it a successful day regardless, and dubbed it the Oli’day in memory of the G.O.’s friend Ollie, who so loved the Blue Mountains and so loved her friend, the G.O. It was for her we made the trip and we are quite certain the orange butterfly was her message to us, so we’ll keep looking.

“Once we discover how to appreciate the timeless values in our daily experiences, we can enjoy the best things in life.” Jerome K. Jerome

on the other side is a rainbow

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My favourite colour is rainbow. It’s also apparently in favour with our home at Taylors Arm, the house of many colours. That the G.O. selected the hues, and painted the walls before I ever thought of setting foot in it gives me a wonderful sense of meant to be. Indeed walking into that house for the first time felt like coming home. I wonder if other people’s homes have favourite colours?

It’s also evident in the garden, which began its existence back in the 1930’s with Ollie & Vin, tended by ensuing caretakers, evolving into hardy but colourful surrounds. At night if I can’t sleep instead of counting sheep, I wander its circuit in my mind.

A walk through the garden last weekend…

our house of many colours

Being absentee householders & gardeners can be challenging but we’re approaching our goal and ticking off projects. Over our summer break as well as the G.O. gifting me & the house for Christmas the set of wall ducks he’d been wanting! we hung yet another retro flower picture and Sheila’s calendar on the kitchen walls, did the usual maintenance and gardening, erected awnings over the west side windows, signed the contract for the shed & carport to be built, and installed a gas stove.

We’re not looking at our house and future full-time life in the country through rose-tinted glasses, we’re fully aware of the realities of our polychromatic plans.

from the air: looking from the coast out to Taylors Arm
from the air: looking from the coast out to Taylors Arm

“Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high,
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue,
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true…” The Wizard of Oz

ssss. . . sweet nothings

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I could cover it off by simply re-blogging one of my very early posts, dear holiday houseguests, from December 2011… but more than a fortnight has passed since the same houseguests’ most recent visit, and my temper is still snaky…

There was some improvement in their style: Stepson wielded a tea towel as sidekick to his washer-upper father; and I didn’t have to yell “don’t run through the house” (1) or remind “put the toilet lid down” (2) more than a dozen times during their 2 night/44 hour stay.

But what is rankling me will be forever known as “The Great Sugar Debacle”. It started quietly and caught us unawares. Granddaughter was coming solo to Taylors Arm with us for 6 days pre-Christmas so we suggested packing a water bottle for car trips, pillow, swimmers, and a book for entertainment in light of absence of internet coverage.

That was accomplished but also in her bags were 3 x 3 packs of chocolate flavour Up&Go (3) “liquid breakfast” drink, and 2 largish packets of lollies. I put a single 3 pack in the back fridge and left the rest in the bags.

Granddaughter is lovely and like most 11-year-old girls naturally has aspirations to behave much older than she is. We enjoyed her company and she enjoyed not having parents and 2 younger brothers cramping her style. An unfussy person in every way she hung out with us, herself or took advantage of the single item of modern technology, the TV, which at least has free-to-air channels including ABC3 Kids via the satellite dish.

The only things inexplicable were Granddaughter’s sudden bursts of manic activity or chatter particularly late afternoons. An easy houseguest, Granddaughter availed herself of the contents of the fridge & pantry, ate with us, ate well, and as we have little junk food-drink in the house, appeared to not overindulge her stash of lollies or when visiting her great-grandmother the endless supply of biscuits & sugary tea. She consumed a single Up&Go, preferring to join her grandfather in whatever he was having for breakfast, or a small bowl of rockmelon. Neither of them were interested in my breakfast of muesli (4), homemade plain yoghurt & local banana.

Initially we didn’t realize the moderate amount of sugar as we gauged it was cumulative in effect & desire. It’s consumption earned Granddaughter the nickname “Sugar” and better supervision of her intake. Which she took on board with good grace and improved self-moderation.

Fine until the rest of the family arrived on Boxing Day, descending upon the house with numerous plastic shopping bags (5) containing several more multi-packs of Up&Go, breakfast cereal – Coco Pops, Nutri-Grain & Fruit Loops, a six-pack of Powerade, 2 x 2 litres of fruit juice, 2 litres of raspberry cordial and copious packets of lollies & biscuits which were deposited on the kitchen table (6).

The G.O. made the new arrivals a late lunch of Christmas leftovers sandwiches before they proceeded to dive in to their sugary haul, dipping into the bags which I left unpacked in situ as we were eating at the outside table, or snacking on biscuits conveniently toted around the house by Daughter-in-law along with her bottle of Powerade.

Dinner was simple but homemade, Christmas leftovers: local pasture raised ham & roast chicken, pasta salad, mango salsa and green salad. Everyone enjoyed it (7) except Youngest Grandson who wanted lollies or dessert -got neither (8) , and Daughter-in-law who gratefully liberally applied to her food the bottle of fancy BBQ sauce they’d given us as a gift the previous year.

Next day the weather was miserable but we were out & about so a visit to the bakery made an easy lunch, and being a sensible woman I’d booked us into our local Pub With No Beer for dinner, which the houseguests prepared for by consuming more biscuits & lollies.

At the pub (which does have beer and thankfully, wine & spirits) the G.O. and I relaxed, had a few sanity restoring drinks and lovely meals. Despite the dreary weather the kids played in the Cubby With No Cordial, had a red “fire engine” fizzy drink each, ate their dinners except of course Youngest Grandson who wanted lollies or dessert -got neither. The parents couldn’t have cared less about food or drink… OMG the pub has WiFi… they were glued to their latest iPhones.

We'd rather a visit from George-Junior the Carpet Python than sugary junk food toting houseguests
We’d rather a visit from George-Junior the Carpet Python than sugary junk food toting houseguests

As the miserable weather settled into possible flood rain the decision was made by Stepson to decamp early the following morning as they’d, in his words “hate to be stuck in the boondocks”. I was sympathetic, I’d hate it too if they were stuck.

That morning the houseguests packed while ingesting Up&Go’s and breakfast cereal. I assisted by roving the house discovering discarded items, and restoring to the plastic shopping bags the remains of the sugar haul, assuring the houseguests probably unnecessarily “we don’t eat this, take it home”.




  1. Kids running through a 1930’s house built on raised “stumps” and full of old furniture-stuff creates an effect similar to earth tremors.
  2. Leaving the toilet lid up creates the possibility of a close encounter between a bare bum and a frog. Hilarious if it’s not your bare bum.
  3. Daughter-in-law works for the manufacturer. Linked product review dispels any illusions Up&Go is healthy.
  4. Homemade muesli ingredients: Organic if possible – oat bran, pepitas, sunflower seeds, mixed raw nuts, shredded coconut.
  5. The G.O. suggested as there are no shops (10) at Taylors Arm they come prepared with kids’ necessities and not to worry about food for meals as we had plenty of food but limited space in the fridges.
  6. Rendering unnecessary the tin of homemade Christmas biscuits I’d baked: usual Snap Biscuits recipe plus chopped dried sour cherries, macadamia nuts and white chocolate nibs.
  7. Eldest Grandson ate everything on his plate & licked it clean.
  8. Therefore no-one got dessert, which comprised leftover components of the deconstructed trifle I made for the G.O.: homemade custard; Aeroplane jellies – port wine with vodka poached cherries & passionfruit with vodka poached mango; Pandoro; tinned peaches; and Sara Lee vanilla ice-cream.
  9. The G.O. assisted with tidying up, collapsed on the verandah futon and didn’t move for the rest of the day. I did four loads of washing and drying (11). Wine o’clock was early but reverted to wine spritzers with homemade fizzy water.
  10. The new managers at the pub now sell their own homegrown eggs, meat, produce and a few basic grocery items.
  11. 5 houseguests = 6 bath towels even with the parents showering only once, plus 4 sets sheets & 10 pillowcases.

Great things are done when men and mountains meet . . .

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Our three week holiday break managed to exceed world speed records for time passing. Each day no sooner did I get out of bed seduced by thoughts of a quiet early morning cup of coffee on the verandah than it seemed like 3 pm, or later swiftly came around.

Eleven days raced by as we steered our way through tidying, gardening, houseguests, Christmas preparations-day-visitors, house projects before we came up for air and paused on New Year’s Day. It wasn’t until the first Saturday of 2015 we managed a day-trip, just the two of us.

It’s become a bit of a tradition, that first Saturday, for us to go to Dorrigo Country Market. Even though it’s not at its best during the holiday period, it’s a great excuse for us to drive and spend a day up the mountain at one of our favourite places.

Dorrigo is a small rural town located on a plateau in the Northern Tablelands a 100 km drive from Taylors Arm via Bellingen at the top of the stunning [steep, windy] Waterfall Way. It’s known for potatoes & beef. We like the old-time country feel the town has retained. We traditionally stroll a circuit of the streets around the central Main Square but our must-visits are Dorrigo Antiques for browsing, Juan’s Cafe Del Fuego The World’s Smallest Motorcycle Museum for a chocolate milkshake and Dorrigo Bakery for a loaf of old-fashioned soft white bread.

Nearby are Dorrigo National Park & Rainforest Centre + Skywalk, part of Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area, and Dangar Falls.

But, thanks to Kate, this time we had a new place on our day-trip agenda. Kate’s directions “To find Griffiths Lookout turn sharp left onto Maynards Plains Road when you reach Mountain Top on the Waterfall Way, then take a left turn onto Mountain Top Road after about 1 km. Go all the way to the end” were spot on. Despite her description of its amazingness, we were amazed.

Griffiths Lookout, Dorrigo NSW Australia... the Whip Mountain near Taylors Arm is in the middle far distance.
Griffiths Lookout, Dorrigo NSW Australia… the Whip Mountain near Taylors Arm is in the middle far distance.

Great things are done when men and mountains meet.” William Blake

take me to that special place

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Our Christmas Turkey (lower LHS)  guardian of the gifts
Our Christmas Turkey (lower LHS) guardian of the gifts

Our bags and bits ‘n pieces are packed. Work is almost done for the year. Gifts wrapped in brown paper and shiny ribbon wait beneath our well loved Christmas tree, discovered under the house. Each year we decorate it wondering about its provenance.

In a couple of days we’ll make the drive north for holidays at our home at Taylors Arm, sweetened by the knowledge we won’t be city-bound again for a few weeks. Holidays for the G.O. & I means free time together & at home, beaches, day trips and relaxation.

Holidays at Taylors Arm also means no internet access so I won’t be visiting virtually during those few weeks but my thoughts will touch on the blogworld from time to time.

As well as the festive season -our tenth Christmas together at Taylors Arm, it’s my third blogiversary. To celebrate, I’m sharing a meditation I wrote that takes you to special place of your own choosing.

The words of the meditation are printed on a photo of the hills we see from the back of our home at Taylors Arm.
A very special place for me.

Wishing you all the very best with love and light and happiness.

♥ EllaDee

take me to that special place

 Click on the image to enlarge and/or print A4 size.

a good missus

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"First Impressions" Sandstone relief sculpture symbolises the origins and settlement of the colony. Playfair Street, The Rocks, Sydney, NSW Australia
“First Impressions” Sandstone relief sculpture symbolises the origins and settlement of the colony. Playfair Street, The Rocks, Sydney, NSW Australia

One of the quainter ways the G.O. expresses his appreciation of me is the by the reassuring accolade “you’re a good missus”… However, I’m not even remotely in the league of one of his great-great-great-great grandmothers, Harriet Hodgetts.

While the convicts of the Second Fleet were waiting to depart England the Home Secretary, William Grenville sent a letter to Lieutenant John Shapcote aboard the Neptune advising due to vacant berths there was some capacity for prisoners wives to have passage to the colony. Ordinarily not allowed, however Thomas Hodgetts and his wife listed as Harriet Hodgetts were beneficiaries of this circumstance. Harriet was one of six free women allowed to travel in this instance as convict spouses to New South Wales.

Her husband Thomas Hodgetts was convicted of theft in 1788 and sentenced to death, the sentence being commuted to seven years imprisonment and transportation to New South Wales. Thomas and Harriett Hodgetts arrived at Sydney Cove, Port Jackson, New South Wales, Australia in June 1790 on ships of the Second Fleet. Thomas as a convict on board the “Scarborough” and Harriet as a free woman on board the “Neptune”.

If the times and life Thomas and Harriett left behind in England were harsh, their journey to the other side of the world was more so, with the mortality rate of the Second Fleet the highest in the history of transportation to Australia. The ships were contracted to private businesses who kept the convicts in awful conditions, treating them brutally. Of the 1026 convicts due to disembark in NSW 267 died. Of those who managed to complete the journey 486 were described as lean and emaciated many needing medical attention, with 124 dying shortly after.

Thomas and Harriet are described in the book The Brave Old Pioneers. A History of the Hodgetts Family In Australia.

“Convict Thomas Hodgetts & his wife Harriet, who was one of the first free women to come to Australia, survived the notorious Second Fleet to become respectable citizens and pioneers in a strange and challenging land.”

Such was the beginning of Thomas & Harriet’s new life together. They remained in Sydney until Thomas’ sentence expired in March 1795, thereafter he was free to work and apply for land grants. In July 1800 they moved to Norfolk Island, returned to Sydney in July 1805, in 1810 moved to Pitt Town on the Hawkesbury River, and finally to Tasmania in 1819 where they remained. During this time Thomas and Harriet had 10 children.

Thomas died suddenly in 1823, age 62 leaving his wife, eight children and fourteen grandchildren. Harriet stayed on at the farm at Longford where she died at 85 years of age in 1850.

The life Thomas and Harriet began anew was up summed by Tom Keneally in his book The Commonwealth of Thieves: The Story of the Founding of Australia.

“Male convicts were suddenly told that they could bring their wives on the voyage, if they chose, but only three women and three children turned up at Portsmouth by 21 December. Three of four other women embarked in the following days, interesting volunteers, lovers of various convicts, willing to take the step, on the eve of Christmas, into the void.

Amongst them was Harriet Hodgetts, wife of a 24-year-old blacksmith-cum-burglar from Staffordshire, Thomas Hodgetts. She had followed her husband down from Staffordshire to London, where she lived with their three small children in acute squalor in Whitechapel. It seems that the church wardens and overseers of the parish of St Mary’s Whitechapel took an interest in her case and were anxious to get Harriet aboard, since she had no other prospects at all.

That made her fit for New South Wales. Her revenge was to live till 1850 and to give birth to nine colonial children.”

With grandchildren of his own the G.O.’s family has 8 generations born in Australia descended from Thomas & Harriet.

Generation 1: Thomas & Harriet’s eldest living daughter Mary Maria (1795-1844) married Thomas Graham (1794-1862), son of the G.O.’s other 2 convict ancestors Eupham (sometimes referred to as Elizabeth) Graham and Matthias (often referred to as Matthew) Lock and who were described in one bit of research as “Australian Royalty“.

Generation 2: Frederick Albert Graham, son of Thomas Graham and Mary Maria Hodgetts was born at Wilberforce in 1841. He married Annie Maria Organ (1842-1905) in 1862 at Bukkulla. They had 12 children. Frederick died in 1924, age 82 and is buried at Inverell, as is Annie Maria.

Generation 3: Ernest Richmond Graham, son of Frederick Albert Graham and Annie Maria Organ was born at Inverell in 1885. In 1906 Ernest married Amanda Maria (sometimes recorded as Marie) Kachel (1886-1968) of German free settlers, who the G.O. remembers and refers to as Old Mummy. They also had 12 children most of them known to the G.O. Ernest died in 1960 age 75 and is buried at Urunga with Old Mummy.

Generation 4: Thelma May Graham (1906-1992), is the G.O.’s grandmother. May is buried at Coffs Harbour with the G.O.’s grandfather, Vincent who died in 1963 age 59 years.

There is some mystery attached to this story. One of the crimes Thomas was convicted of was reported as stealing a cotton gown valued at ten shillings, being the property of William and Ann Duce at Wednsbury in Staffordshire, purportedly his in-laws as there are suggestions that Thomas may have been married to a woman named Ann Duce at the time of his conviction, and had 3 children, who did not accompany them on the voyage. Harriet’s name has been recorded variously as “Duce”, Henrietta Ann (Harriet) Luce and Harriet Henrietta. Her headstone records her name as Henaretta Hodgetts.

In A Great Second Fleet Mystery-the Hodgetts Family Nola Mackey, a Historian whose husband’s family is also descended from Thomas and Harriett Hodgetts writes:

“Similarly I have been able to identify his wife, Ann, and their reputed children. By tracing these forward in time, I found no evidence they emigrated to Australia at a later time. In fact they remained in their native place and some of them can be found in the census records, some sixty years later.

It has been suggested Thomas’s wife Ann, changed her name to ‘Harriet’ and came to Australia leaving the children behind. As I can now prove this was not the case, it raises the question, who was the woman who came on the Second Fleet, and later claimed to be ‘Harriet Hodgetts’ the wife of Thomas Hodgetts?”


With the advent of the internet and various ancestry and genealogy websites, depending on the depth of research you want to undertake, web searches can offer up information previously only obtainable via considerable effort, research and cost. It was during a period of Google-based family history research on my mother’s family which morphed into the G.O.’s paternal grandmother May’s ancestry that I stumbled across what many Australians consider family history gold – convicts. Should you endeavour to undertake this type of research be prepared to get side tracked and spend endless time clicking on links and sources leading you to snippets of various information which do not necessarily exactly correlate necessitating the approximation and cobbling together of a story. With more material coming to light be prepared for revisions, updates and sometimes conflicting & varying information and versions.















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3.39 am crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge
3.39 am crossing Sydney Harbour Bridge

The days counting down to our anticipated long weekend away weren’t promising. Quite unwell with a throat infection, by day I tried to convince myself staying home and doing little was self nourishing, and by night I coughed. Neither the G.O. or I got much sleep. On Friday morning I dragged myself to work via a doctor’s appointment and pharmacy for dreaded antibiotics and cough mixture. But there was nothing else for it; despite rest and a repertoire of natural remedies I was getting worse, not better. I spent a bare hour at my desk preparing for 3 more days absence.

the dawn of my birthday
the dawn of my birthday

On the way home sitting in the train I thought to call the G.O. to tell him I’d escaped, noticed my phone battery was very low and my keys absent from my handbag. And concluded my mind also was absent. Trying to explain the situation to him briefly to conserve battery took quite some doing. We agreed as I had a spare key but no front door or lift swipe that I’d see if I could find the building manager or a neighbour home and get them to let me onto our floor. No luck.

rustic BYO breakfast
rustic BYO breakfast

I called the G.O. again and he reported he was on his way home but would return to work. I waited on a sunny bench in the park for an hour which did me no harm at all. When the G.O. arrived sanity had prevailed en route and he announced he was finished for the day. He considered packing the ute and leaving early for our drive north but lack of sleep and imminent peak hour traffic swayed him to get a good nights rest. We were in bed asleep by 7 pm.

home sweet home
home sweet home

But we were up and on the road early, crossing the Sydney Harbour Bridge just after 3.30 am and by the dawn of my birthday were well along the highway. We stopped for BYO breakfast & cups of tea at a rustic roadside area, and made it to the M.I.L’s in less than 6 hours. After a brief chat with the M.I.L. and quick grocery shop we arrived home at Taylors Arm around midday to a messy garden that needed rain and a house that could do with a tidy up, but we were happy to be there to do it.

welcoming Daylilies
welcoming Daylilies

A couple of industrious hours and a well-earned shower later my birthday proper started with a glass of wine & opening of a cat adorned birthday card plus delightful, colourful gifts amassed by the G.O., and culminated in a seafood barbeque dinner.

birthday gifts - before
birthday gifts – before

On Sunday we pleasantly pottered, put up the Christmas tree and were visited by a Blue Tongue lizard and Soossie Cat. On Monday we had business to take care of in town, and the garden got a welcome few hours of enjoyable evening rain. All too swiftly Tuesday morning came around; time to head back to Sydney via a stop at Dad’s.

birthday gifts - after
birthday gifts – after

I had prepared for the drive which we have done super-numerous times, by downloading our first ever audio book onto my phone for the diversion of listening to Diana Galbaldon’s Outlander (#1) which I’ve read and we recently watched the TV series set in Scotland, enjoyed by the G.O.

the G.O. master barbequer
the G.O. master barbequer

At Dad’s we handed over his cakes, a bottle of his favourite oysters we’d picked up at Sandy’s Famous Seafood and a bag of Christmas gifts for the family. Dad handed over a card decorated with rubicund poppies (a flower loved by both Mum & me) in which he’d penned “sentimental 49th birthday wishes” accompanied by gifts of 2 old books; Mum’s Commonsense Cookery Book c 1963 and Nanna’s Advanced Commonsense Cookery Book -Mum’s handwriting on the flyleaf, a gift from Dad, Mum and me c 1968.

sentimental birthday gifts
sentimental birthday gifts
romantic seafood dinner
romantic seafood dinner

It was generous of Dad to confer these books to me. Mum’s Commonsense Cookery Book in particular bears the marks of being long used… and worrying evidence of contact with a stove hotplate!

The start of the final year of my fifth decade was simple, sentimental and splendid. My sister marked the occasion by sending me Kimberley Coffee Company teas she’d bought on her recent trip and a National Parks & Gorges calendar to tick off the months until my next birthday at which time all going to plan we will be on the threshold of stepping aside from our city-working-week-world into the next stage… of country living and caravan-on-the-road travels.

Blue Tongue lizard stops on the step
Blue Tongue lizard stops on the step
Soossie Cat visits
Soossie Cat visits
Christmas tree Soossie Cat inspection
Christmas tree Soossie Cat inspection
M.I.L's birthday gift
M.I.L’s birthday gift
good bye ruby tuesday rose
good bye ruby tuesday rose

just what I wanted, needed

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The Screaming JetsMany weeks ago, before we embarked on pre-festive season efforts, on a typical post-work-week quiet Saturday night at home there was an email in my in-box promoting The Screaming Jets 25th Anniversary Tour.

The Screaming Jets, an Australian pub rock band are regulars on my playlist. The G.O. doesn’t mind their music but played at a much lower volume than is my preference.

In recent years we’ve tended less to go to big concerts and crowded venues. And because of his tinnitus loud music isn’t the G.O.’s thing. But a local gig at The Factory Theatre, Marrickville, $45 tickets and all work no play makes life very dull indeed, inclined the G.O. to agree to my suggestion that a Saturday night out was do-able.

Of course when it came around, the G.O. had worked 6 days in 40 C plus temperatures, I’d been busy with work and domestic stuff and what seemed like a good idea at the time now seemed to be just one more thing to do. And preceded by a last-minute email advising The Screaming Jets would be on stage from 9.45 pm it seemed way past our bedtime.

But it was the later start that saved us after our respective days of work & errands; allowing time for a late afternoon rest and a minor melt-down on my part as I was worried the G.O. was too tired, it was too late, too hot, too loud, too far… followed by an enjoyable mid evening stroll over to the Golden Barley Hotel for a nice dinner in the beer garden and a further short stroll through Enmore Park to the gig.

While quite at home in the city there are times I lack my particular “tribes” who are far-flung in terms of distance and/or lifestyles. My best friend Mrs S., a fellow Screaming Jets fan and her hubby were initially keen for a night out but couldn’t settle on arrangements. Nonetheless, as the G.O. and I sat ourselves down with a couple of Mythos beers at the bar amongst the blend of ages, types and fashions; it appeared dressed customarily in jeans, boots and black t-shirts, we were in the right place.

More apparent even after 10 pm when still with drinks in hand we made our way inside, the music started, the crowd chanted, photos & recordings were encouraged, and friendly hands extended to the stage were reciprocated by the band. Lead singer Dave Gleeson in between songs chatted to the audience, not necessarily politically correct but peppered by humour and social commentary, and we loved it.

I loved The Screaming Jets’ own set, and the few covers: Johnny Cash, Slim Dusty and Bon Scott era AC/DC, acknowledging the band’s roots. Encouraged by Dave the modest sized crowd sang, knowing every beat & word to every song.

After midnight, deaf as posts, we wandered home. I was elated. The G.O. was just tired but happy I was happy.

It was only after the weekend, reading The Practical Mystic’s post “The week leading up to a new moon (Saturday’s Sagittarius new moon) has a distinct flavour to it – influenced by the dark moon, we have a tendency to become quieter, more introspective and sensitive. The best thing to do, is as much as possible honour those feelings by clearing your schedule of all but the essentials and include as many self-nourishing activities as possible”.

Well, our new moon Saturday night out was quite the opposite of the suggested tendency but it was fun, and fun is what I most definitely needed. Accompanying me was an unselfish gift from the G.O. and me accepting such generosity does us both good.

This coming G.O. work-site-shutdown weekend is the culmination of the recent weeks of preparations, where we’ll travel to visit family tribes, deliver Christmas gifts to those we won’t see on the day, and make ready our house at Taylors Arm for the festive season and holidays.

As we go about, we’ll make a little time for ourselves and have some more fun. I could get used to it.


“Before silverchair came along The Screaming Jets were the most popular band to emerge from the Australian industrial town, Newcastle. More than silverchair, The Jets’ music is a product of that town. When the original band members were growing up in Newcastle they faced a future of either working in the steelworks and associated industries or not working at all. In a town like that the locals live hard, drink hard and want their rock hard.
The Screaming Jets gave them what they wanted.

Postscript: An interesting manifestation of Saturday’s Sagittarius new moon astrological conditions… but not what I wanted, needed is a throat infection. Nevertheless that is what I have. I am certainly “quieter, more introspective and sensitive”. So I’ve cleared my schedule of all but the essentials and am focusing on self-nourishing, and healing.