Category Archives: Lifestyle

Organising myself into 2017

 

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A perfect place to knit and read

I looked at my 90-year old father on this New Year’s Eve and mused that he could possibly, although highly unlikely have made 70 New Year Resolutions. What a challenging concept. Why would you want to change yourself that much? So why am I bothering this year? Only because this year’s decision could be fun and thus more likely to succeed. In 2017 I am resolved not to more organised but to be less disorganised in my life.

‘Good luck’, said Andy, ‘that means we will have to get rid of all horizontal surfaces in the house.’

I muttered that he might be my first project, which made him hurry past the cluttered, untidy bookshelves and back into his study. ‘There’s opportunity on them there shelves,’ he hollered from the safety of his ‘cave’.

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A quilt project on spare bed

He is right of course, as I work under the philosophy that all flat surfaces, i.e. the tables, couches, benches, floor and beds should be covered because what else is a flat surface for. The only time our house looks remotely like the pages of an interiors magazine is when I go away for a holiday and leave him at home. He probably has a blissful time and able to find everything he needs but within an hour of my returning everything starts to look as it did before I left. knitted-trim-quilt

I do have a history of clutter. I remember my grandmother advising me not to leave my new baby on the floor as I would never find her again and my brother-in-law once asked me whether I had just moved into the house in which I had been living for 2 years.

It isn’t that I am untidy, it is just that I have a lot of projects on the go at any one time: I am making a recycled jumper quilt, knitting a baby rug, knitting some washcloths out of gorgeous brightly coloured cotton, sewing a balloon skirt, altering an Italian cotton skirt as well as reading numerous books and magazines and that is before you open the food cupboard and fridge where I am making ginger beer, sourdough and jams.

However, I do acknowledge that just occasionally, having a system or plan to work with can be of assistance in achieving my goals.

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Painting, boring but great effect

To start the momentum of this 2017 New Year Resolution I needed a significant project and what better task than to tidy up the dark area outside my laundry where I store my gardening equipment. Naturally I don’t start small and the easiest most effective way of making it look better is to paint it white. I am full of admiration for all those house painters who finish their jobs so quickly. What a tedious and time consuming job the painting of my slats has been and a very fiddly task particularly when negotiating the copper piping that leads to the hot water system. It wasn’t just a matter of slapping on a coat of white paint because the slats had many coatings of timber oil that had gradually darkened over the years. So I had to wash them, paint them with primer and then 2 coats of white paint on the inside and 2 coats of pale yellow on the outside to match the rest of the house. I was going to just do white but it started to look like a gingerbread house and very tizzy so I went with the yellow that blends with the corrugated iron and timber walls near by.

Andy just looked at me as if I was crazy, ‘Why change what works?’. This man could live in a cardboard box and be happy, as long as it had a wine bar. Interior design really isn’t his thing, nor does he ever feel the need to change the look of his environment. Once it is painted, leave it that colour and then you don’t have to think about other design considerations such as matching up the trim colour.

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My projects on ‘Our’ workbench

I really didn’t mind as this area is my space and I am Head Gardener so I get final say in what goes. He has his ‘cave’ where he sits contentedly surrounded by his books, computers, drones, electronic gear, shredder, printer, and I get the rest of the house including his workbench which is usually covered in my current outside project like the ‘weed tea’ being irrigated by the aquarium aerator so that it doesn’t stink the house out and the wreaths made from the wisteria vine, and the baskets made from palm inflorescences. Somewhere underneath all these things sits the hedge trimmer and the tree saw.

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First attempt at weaving palm inflorescence

But getting to the back of the house and my garden space, this I could do.  I moved the potting bench away from the walls, threw down an old sheet and up the ladder with paint brush in hand I went. Each day I could see the space lightening up. Even the Master and Commander noticed the increase in light. This is a work in progress and now I have the walls painted I can begin to declutter the workbench and floor. By declutter, I don’t mean throw out, as I never toss anything away until I am totally convinced I won’t use it again in some form or other. To me declutter means being organised.

 

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Storing garden gloves and florist wire

Pride of place is the back of the slatted door. If nothing else is achieved this year, I believe I can meet my resolution just on the back of this door. How good is this solution for garden gloves? So simple but it has taken me years to think of this. Check out my solution for storing all the small bamboo sticks that you collect with orcids and how to store the craft and florist wire. I will have no excuse not to wire the roses I am drying onto one of the wreaths sitting on the bench.

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Garden glove storage

This is a good reason not to throw anything out. Three years ago, I had used the plastic piping in the garden to secure stakes over which I had thrown bird netting to protect some fruit trees.

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Storing florist wire

I plugged the piping with an old broom handle that I had also refused to discard.  I own up to asking the assistant to cut the broom handle as I felt he should be involved with the project and I sense a reluctant tinge of admiration for my ability to upcycle most things. Not that he would admit it mind you.

In the meantime, I go out each morning with a cup of coffee and just admire my handiwork  and eventually, as I do have all of 2017 to be organised, I will get around to tidying up the pots and bags of compost. You don’t want to rush a genius.

Then I hear a voice from the driveway where my father is practising his golf swing.   ‘Dull women have immaculate houses.’

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Never too late to improve your swing.

My father is right, I realise.  Go out and enjoy yourself and don’t try to be someone you are not. Rather than making resolutions each year, perhaps it is better to strive to improve on the present while enjoying and liking who you are.

 

 

 

 

 

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Wooden boats on our creek

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“There’s nothing-absolutely nothing-half so much worth doing

as messing about in boats.”

Kenneth Grahame’s words from my childhood sprang into my mind as clearly as if I was sitting reading Wind in the Willows rather than watching children messing around with small wooden boats. It was an unseasonally hot spring day and I was enjoying my last lunchtime in Paris munching a baguette while sitting next to the Grand Bassin in the Jardin de Luxembourg. The murmur of lunching office workers drifted past on the breeze interrupted by the occasional shout of glee from a group of young men kicking a ball around on the terrace behind me. More interesting were the manoeuvres taking place around the pond in front of me where our future naval commanders ran while they shouted encouragement to their yachts which were skittering across the water.

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Armed with just a small pole some of these children nearly fell in with their enthusiasm to push their boat off from the side and out towards the Armada assembling at the centre of the pond. This flotilla of boats, about 24 in all, sailed under different flags including the pirate flag. There were shouts of delight as they watched them sailing in a gentle breeze, lean over with the gusts and then go about. Arguments would develop when one boat rammed another, and competitions were hosted to get to the other side.

Watching these children at play reminded me of summer afternoons spent playing in the lagoon on Cylinder beach on Stradbroke Island with my son and daughter. Their source of entertainment were two wooden yachts. These gorgeous boats were handmade, with fabric sails hoisted by string and tied with small hooks. They sailed beautifully and were in constant use over the summer holidays.

Playing in the lagoon at Straddie

On the flight home I racked my brain trying to remember where these may have been stored because they are not the sort of toy to give away even after a child has progressed to other toys. Sadly, I think they were left at the beach house when my parents sold it and I hope another child had the opportunity to sail them on the lagoon over their childhood summers.

Thirty years later my son has two little boys just entering the right age to use small boats like these so I decided I would find wooden boats for them. This is not as easy as it sounds because plastic boats are cheaper and computer toys more popular. ‘A heritage toy that is out of date,’ one store assistant told me. A phrase came to my mind, ‘Slow Toy’ which after much research, I discovered was a movement started by Thierry Bourret in 2011 to offer children toys that encouraged them to use their imagination and that stood the test of time.

Angus playing in lagoon on Straddie,

After much searching online I found the maker of these wooden boats in France with a retail outlet in Lille. I almost leaped on a plane straight away but was held back by my husband who fortunately was soon spending a few days in Lille so he was tasked not to come home without two small wooden boats in his suitcase. As soon as he had finished his meetings, rather than play tourist, this wonderful man dragged his travelling companion around the streets of Lille until he found the shop and had then had the joyous task of choosing the hull and sail colours. We are now the proud owners of two little timber boats and they will never be given away. The Tirot business was started in 1946 in Brittany and is continuing to produce wooden boats that really do float and catch the wind in their sails.

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I was so excited when I picked up the two beautifully wrapped packages, I kept poking the paper like a child. No way was I going to wait until Christmas to give the boys their boats. They came over the following weekend and I loved watching their faces when they unwrapped their presents. I found very old photos of their dad and his sister playing with their boats in the lagoon and together we planned a boating expedition to our local creek. Now I will have the next generation messing around with boats.

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We are so lucky to have a creek at the bottom of our street which curves its way through acres of parkland and bush reserve. Although a lot of the banks are covered in weeds which local groups are trying to eradicate, there are now areas which are accessible for parents and children to paddle and play in the water. Armed with our boats, the three of us walked down to the creek looking for a sandy beach area where we could launch our vessels. It had rained recently and there was lots of water swirling across the pebbles and around the reeds growing down to the edges.

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The warm afternoon air was tinged with the smell of ‘curry grass’ which grows in large clumps by the creek while above us in the trees, Lorikeets squabbled and fed on the eucalypt flowers.  It was too early for most walkers and we had the creek to ourselves. Only the ducks watched as we wobbled our way over the rocks and onto a small pebbly beach beside one of the bicycle crossings. There was just sufficient breeze to send the little boats off into the centre of the creek where of course Nanna had to wade and return them. We made ports, dams and moated castles for the pirates to raid. Large juicy tadpoles were collected and let loose in the dam to be bombed very inaccurately using bright blue Quandong berries as catapults. I had two junior admirals telling their midshipman what to do. Their laughter at Nanna getting wetter by the moment was like water music.

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There was so much to do, with digging and sailing, exploring and swimming. Two-year old Tommy had no fear of the water and would head out to the middle of the creek very happily falling into large holes and almost disappearing below the surface with me hot on his heels. It was then as I bent to retrieve this sodden child I noticed a long snake swimming across the creek towards us. I grabbed the struggling toddler and using as calm a voice as I could muster I asked 5-year old Harry to climb onto the bank. ‘What’s a bank, Nanna?’ he asked.

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This was when I realised the snake had changed direction and was being swept towards Harry. With Tom on my hip and moving as fast as my water filled Wellingtons would allow I scooped Harry up telling him to lift his legs above the water. Both the children sensed something and were still and quiet as we watched the snake swirl past on the current and swim onto the creek bank where it slithered into the grass. The mood of the afternoon had changed dramatically and we decided we would feed the ducks instead of playing pirates. I hadn’t quite anticipated that type of excitement when I had suggested an adventure but it provided much discussion at home with Harry’s mother telling me that he kept asking about what snakes ate, where they lived and where they slept.

It was a lovely afternoon with a ‘Slow Toy’. We exercised our imagination, made up stories, created scenarios and used the sand and pebbles on the creek bank to build our castles. I cannot wait to do it again but this time Grandpa can come as Game Warden.

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Remembrance Day 2016

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Never forgotten

Each night I get a dose of what my husband calls ‘war porn’.  No, I am not into video battle games or S&M in the bedroom this is what I see when I turn on the television and watch the evening news whilst preparing dinner.

The kitchen commando is particularly sensitive to what he perceives to be constructed war zone scenes and the excessive zeal of news correspondents dressed in combat gear.

I engage him in discussions on what he thinks is appropriate reporting, interrupted by the occasional critique, hurled like a missile at the computer screen.  His opinions I suspect are still based on experiences from the Vietnam War.

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Finding a Great-Uncle

I accuse him of being an armchair critic, safe in our bunker, whilst we watch whole communities disintegrating under enemy fire in far off sandy places. We see families wandering dazed from the bombardments their cities are being subjected to, with children being plucked out of rubble and raced to emergency vehicles. This is what he describes as soft war porn, ready images of the distressed individual, or the fighter wandering into the haze firing at unhittable targets. He dislikes the hyperbolic language used to present the ‘news’ for our voyeuristic delight.

More boring and less dramatically reported are the conditions that our troops are experiencing, the dust particles that tickle the nose, the energy sapping heat that makes you irritable, tired and less patient, the constant tension from always being alert to your alien and rarely welcoming environment.

Remembrance Day is a trigger to reflect on the service our men and women give to us in Australia and elsewhere defending and supporting the values and morals which makes this democratic country a safe haven in which to live.

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Reflecting on their sacrifice

Of course they are paid to do this, but when deployed they don’t leave if the conditions become uncomfortable and unsafe. They cannot turn away from the ghastly sights that unfold in front of them. War is brutal and horrible, there is no escaping from that fact. They don’t have a ‘trigger warning’ allowing them to distance themselves from this harrowing place they find themselves in. They cannot choose not to participate because it might cause them distress. They learn to deal with the issues, develop resilience and keep going in an environment that is often debilitating and toxic. But then they return home to a totally different world and sometimes find it difficult to convey to their families and friends the shattering effects it has on their mind and body.

 

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Villers-Bretonneux

In his tragic warrior, Ajax, the Greek tragedian Sophocles portrays the psychological wounds inflicted on Greek warriors after fighting in the Trojan War.   Twenty-five hundred years ago Ajax struggled to deal with the guilt over atrocities inflicted during that conflict.  This is often thought of as the first example of PTSD.

Living your life doesn’t mean that you spend your time in rosehip jelly, insulated from what we don’t want to see or hear about.  I watch friends coping with family  members suffering from PTSD and it isn’t easy. We aren’t living in a simulator where if it becomes too terrible we can turn it off and walk out of the room. No-one should have to deal with these ghosts by themselves.

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Today I will reflect not only on those who served and didn’t come home but on those who have returned and are dealing with life after what they have experienced. That can be just as challenging. No-one is ever the same when they return from the ‘Theatre of War’.

A father comes in many guises

Father’s Day in Australia really isn’t a big deal in our house. Of course I’ll have my father to lunch if he isn’t playing bridge or golf with his mates or lunching with his wife of 61 years. Our children might phone in to say hi, but if they don’t, their father isn’t going to be cast into the doldrums feeling neglected. He knows he is loved.

I, like other women I know, have played father to my children. Whether it was because of long hours at work, divorce, or death there have been many times when I have had to play the traditional role of father as well as mother.

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A competitive father and disgruntled daughter

I have kicked the football, thrown the cricket ball, discussed dating and sex education and offered the ‘don’t drink and drive’ advice often to a withering scowl. I have learnt to communicate in grunts and lived with nocturnal teenagers.

Web-The-Craigs-1My husband was in the reverse situation of playing mother to three boys and a girl. He adores them all and is immensely proud of his brood of 7 children and 10.5 grandchildren.

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What do you mean I cannot raise my daughter like the boys? It worked for these three fellows.

He is the first to admit that bring up a girl in a family of boys was a challenge.  He isn’t the most demonstrative of men, (read that as hugging), but he can cook a mean brownie to take to the school rugby and is prepared to defend his daughter’s honour, even when she doesn’t want him to.

Whether you are a father or mother, being a parent is equal parts fun, hard work, lonely, terrifying and exhilarating. It isn’t a role for that can be discarded when you are tired, busy at work or disinterested. It is a job that demands everything of you, it is draining emotionally and physically and you should not expect devotion; that is for the dog. Affection must be earned.

You will never stop being a parent no matter how old you grow as my Grandmother told me when she was 100 and still worrying about her girls. My father at 90, is not above giving me advice, nor is he above competing with his grandchildren when he can.

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Showing off

Fatherhood is fun but the competitive nature of the man keeps coming out. He has to climb higher trees, do what his kids do and do it better. For some obscure reason lost in the Neanderthal mists, he continues to compete despite the handicaps that age eventually imposes on his body. I doubt if we women are any less good at accepting age gracefully.Web-Canberr-trip-1998-3-(1)

I trained as a midwife and thought I was prepared for motherhood, but nothing prepares you for that gut wrenchingly complicated feeling when you hold your baby for the first time. As their stepfather says, ‘If you thought too deeply about fatherhood, you mightn’t do it.’Bill with newborn Angus

As a father (and mother) I accept that we are to blame as we started it all. Yes, I realise that you blame me for your separation anxiety dating from when you were forced to leave the home that you and your mother shared but you had to make room for the others. My fatherly advice is ‘Get over it.’

This is our father’s day message to you, our children. You are the most awesome, overwhelmingly frustrating and challenging thing we do in our lives and you changed us and our lives from the moment you arrived. We have adored being a mother and a father however, there are some points that we hadn’t anticipated including:

  • Never having a moment of privacy again and no, you cannot always cross swords with me when I am having a pee!
  • If you want to share my bath you had better stop complaining that Chanel No 5 is too girlie. There is a perfectly good shower over there that you can have on your own,Version 2
  • Our dog appreciates the delicious well-balanced meals I cook every evening even if you don’t so if you don’t like what I’ve cooked, help yourself to cereal and milk,
  • No, I don’t eat cold toast because the butter doesn’t melt; my toast, like all my food is always cold by the time I have cut yours up,
  • Experiencing that feeling of rejection when even at 4 years old you let me know that you prefer the company of your friends to me,

    Bill playing with Angus on Main Beach

    A new take on dermabrasion

  • being prepared to look like a fool in public and being chased around the house wearing a hat made from newspaper shouting Ninja at the top of my voice, but why do I always have to be the baddie,
  • Never catching a fish off the beach again because I am untangling little people’s lines

    Beach fishing for Gus and Jemma

    What do you mean that I never catch a fish?

  • Feeling utterly desperate when you are lying in a hospital bed running a fever,
  • Being appalled at my wish for you to grow up so that we can talk as adults,
  • Knowing where to find a hairdresser when the home dye job turns green,
  • Wishing you hadn’t grown up because you are drinking too much of my whiskey,
  • Being impressed when you turn up with a replacement bottle,

    Andy teaching Sophie to tie a bow tie

    Its easier when I do it on myself

  • Being furious that you don’t share my opinion but delighted that you have an opinion,
  • Being enormously proud of your every achievement,
  • Being asked for advice on your love life, knowing that you probably won’t take it and realising that we are the same – human and fallible.Old memories 6

 

For our family, father’s day is just another day to talk with each other, toast our strengths and peculiarities and take pleasure in each other’s company.

Hello Possum

Possum sitting in bird feeder

 

Dame Edna may have popularised the greeting ‘Hello Possums’, but in my bed, no thank you.

I grew up in a wonderful family that embraced animals as members of the family and allowed our dogs and cats onto our beds at night. The coolness of a winter night was often measured in cats: a one-cat or two-cat night. Competition was high between the sisters and I can remember waiting until my little sister was asleep to creep in and lift a cat off her bed and into mine. We never rolled onto them, even the new-born kittens survived without being squashed.

A father I know recalls when kissing his young son goodnight, being asked to also kiss his son’s friend and discovering that each night a baby possum had been crawling under the covers and snuggling up to the small boy.  I am amazed that a small possum would sleep next to a child without scratching but I guess it was a nice warm non-threatening environment as long as it din’t mind being squashed occasionally.

They are such voracious feeders and devour my flowering plants regularly.  They are an absolute pest in our garden and I have pulled down the passionfruit vine in defeat and planted a jasmine across my railing in an attempt to deter the hungry mammals from carousing on my deck each night as they munch on their passionfruit cocktails.

In desperation, we have strung wires above the deck railing  to deter them from using our handrail as their footpath. Our barrier would make a European border patrol proud but hasn’t acted as a deterrent.  The possums regarded the high wire as an opportunity to practice their circus act and still manage to leave their horrible stinking trails along the railing.

Colin viewing the world

Alert to the situation

Possums aren’t cuddly although they might look cute when curled up in my bird feeder with their large pink domed ears and matching pink nose. The smaller ring tail possum fights for dominance against the brushtailed possum on our verandah each evening. That is the only place I want to see or hear them.

Fortunately I am married to a man who tolerates our cat sleeping on my side of the bed only because Colin ‘chat bizarre’ has learnt that sleeping on your master’s chest leads to being catapulted violently across the room.

However I am becoming less tolerant because a hot husband snuggled up to my back and a warped cat snuggled up against my tummy raises the temperature in bed to intolerable levels on other than absolutely freezing nights, of which there are few in Brisbane. In fact last night was so warm I opened the windows and the door to the verandah to avoid suffering heat stroke or a night-long hot flush. I was absorbed in reading about beautiful gardens in Australia but slightly unnerved by the bronze snake fountains and decided to roll over and join my sleeping husband.

As I snuggled up against my dozing companion a movement of the bedroom curtains caught my eye and a tug at the blanket that had fallen off the end of the bed. ‘Come on puss’, I said reaching over the end of the bed and came eye to eye with a brushtailed possum climbing up the blanket. We both bounced off the bed with me tripping over the blanket whilst flapping my arms and shooing it out of the room. My intruder didn’t seem to very perturbed; it ambled slowly over to the doorway, turned and looked at me as to say, ‘I’ll be back,’ before it walked the length of the verandah and jumped off into the banana trees. Too late, Colin arrived at the scene, nose up, sniffing possum smells.

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‘Possum, what a quaint endearment,’ said my husband cuddling up to me. ‘No you deaf fool, I was chasing a possum and much use you were in defending my honour as neither you nor the cat came to my rescue.’ Snores and purring were the only response.

My International Women’s Day lunch

I have to tell you about my lunch which makes me proud to be a daughter of a most exclusive group of women.   Four women in their very late 70s or 80s who have been friends for decades have a regular lunch date and when one of them cannot come they often include a daughter which this time happened to be me.Version 2

These wonderful women have such a variety of skills and talents and their lives have been packed with experiences. They have lived and worked overseas, been married, raised families, have successful interesting children and grandchildren and even great-grandchildren. They keep their brains alert with playing card games including bridge. They have been to more places than I have including the Amazon, Nepal, India, and Africa as well as the more traditional destinations of Europe and America. I cannot keep up with the number of books and journals that they read and their social life, as my husband says, ‘Would kill an ox.’ They are resilient and independent despite their age. You might expect their conversation to revolve around family, children and grandchildren etc. Perhaps it might include their ailments and the limitations of age. Forget it. Not once did they discuss illness, problems or the vicissitudes of life of which there have been a few.

These women are alert, intelligent and curious about life. The conversation around our table was vibrant and stimulating. I would go on too long if I gave you all the topics we discussed over our lunch but just to give you a quick overview I’ll start from where the discussion brought up David Morrison AO because his family and career were known to this circle of women. This naturally brought up the topic of gender diversity, its impact on professions such as theirs and how they managed. We segued smoothly into a discussion about minority groups and activists and how they are represented in mainstream media and society including films and television shows. The recent Sydney Mardi Gras came up in conversation with much laughter at the suggestion that perhaps they should have a float for the traditional (unnoticed older) heterosexual members of the population. This led to a discussion on government policies and the influence of minorities in decision-making and  the consequences of this on the Australian community. As women we all expressed concern about what comes across as a lack of strategic thinking in our politicians who seem to make decisions based on broadly watered down community consultation and what it takes to keep as many people happy as possible.  From here we moved onto what we expect of government, the quality and capabilities of our politicians in general, their leadership characteristics and the evolving role of our leaders, including the Prime Minister and whether a Prime Minister should attend or participate in the Gay Mardi Gras. Thus we discussed the LGBTI landscape and the Safe Schools education program and what its impact might be on families and society. These women have experienced good and indifferent education policies and we all would prefer it if the Education departments didn’t experiment on our children. This led onto their concern over what is commonly being perceived as a ‘witch hunt’ of Cardinal Pell, again known to some of these women from an earlier life. We reflected on the role of social media in society, the relevance of religion and how attitudes towards individuals have evolved in the workplace since when they first started working in the 1950s. And this wasn’t all we chatted about.

It was the most delightful and intellectually stimulating conversation I have had for a while. These gorgeous ‘old’ ladies expressed their considered opinions, listened to each other, and participated in a lively thoughtful discussion without once maligning or being hurtful about anyone. I cannot wait to be invited to join them again for lunch.

Raindrops of fantasy

Last week I awoke to a feeling of absolute delight. I could hear heavy succulent raindrops splattering on my tin roof. This rain would certainly be heavy enough to get through the leaf litter and into the soil. As we lay listening, to ensure he didn’t feel too neglected I enticed my knowledgeable husband into a discussion on the meteorological conditions that influence raindrop size. Scintillating I know, but I am a keen gardener. Enough said.

Web,-Watermark_Raindrops-on-CitrusI love rainy days because they tempt me to bring out my wet weather gear that doesn’t get a lot of wear in our dry climate. The garden skinks and spiders are brushed out of my Wellingtons, the umbrella mechanisms are tested to ensure they haven’t rusted out and my raincoats get aired and the dust shaken from the shoulders.

Sophie & Angus on Home Beach – Version 3I think raincoats can be such a fashion statement but here in Brisbane they aren’t commonly used other than by primary-aged school children wandering around in bright high-vis yellow plastic coats Paddington Bear style. We usually have wet weather in summer so wearing a coat just adds to the discomfort of wearing clothes. There is something to be said for living in a nudist colony in the sub-tropics.

As I child I loved dressing up, so it is with glee that at the first sign of rain I slip into my full-length waterproof coat with its pleated hood around me. There is something about an elegant cape that triggers fantasy and imagination in most adults.  The reversible coat is forest brown and shiraz red which does tempt Captain A to comment that I look like an ageing Red Riding Hood in camouflage whilst I feel as if I could swish across time zones fighting evil dragons rather than just wolves in the forest. Leaving my childhood I can always turn to another favourite Susie in raincoat hood fashion model.  I could wear a light trench coat that reminds me of Audrey Hepburn. It is very practical even when riding a bike but the problem occurs when I arrive at my destination because Brisbane hasn’t yet embraced the concept of cloakrooms where wet coats and umbrellas are placed.

 

I remember as a child walking home from school in the rain, bare foot in the gutter, making dams with my heels, and feeling the cool water surge across my toes. Absolute bliss!  Wellies may not be my fashion statement choice but they do serve a purpose. My large yellow boots were a lifesaver when wandering through the flooded streets in Venice during a snowy November. The pavements were so cold it was warmer wading and my only challenge was preventing the bow wave from washing the cigarette buts and rubbish into my boots. Now, in Brisbane these boots have Susie in St Mark's Sq, in wellies – Version 2been relegated to the shed where they make a foray into the garden more pleasant after heavy rain and hopefully, are a deterrent to the odd snake. Captain A who feels I am reverting into fantasy, has developed an inclination to spray what he perceives to be escapee caterpillars from Alice in Wonderland. I put up with their discomfort but I have to agree with him that they are cumbersome and inelegant and I shouldn’t be seen out in them. Definitely not car to bar shoes!

Thus, if it continues to rain during the morning will I use an umbrella but which one?

My first choice would be a small flip-up umbrella that inevitably does flip but upside down in any breeze.  I cannot count the number of small umbrellas I have left around the world, because I avoid putting a wet item into my handbag which already contains camera, iPad, iPhone as well as lipstick and sunglasses. Small folding umbrellas are workable only in very light showers and once our tropical downpour starts the only option to prevent drowning through inhalation of raindrops is to use the large golf umbrellas that have become corporate billboards. Compromise has been reached in our Andrew with umbrella in LAhousehold with me carrying the small umbrella when on my own, but when sharing the large size, it is Captain A’s responsibility. I am not sure he agrees with me but it is that or we both get wet. I remind him that we once witnessed a discussion in a Gentlemen’s outfitters shop in London where a customer deliberated between two umbrellas each costing over £400. And that was at the lower end of the price range. I really do think a pocket handkerchief and a snazzy umbrella contribute to the male sartorial style and have suggested Captain A consider it his fashion statement or weapon as John Steed did in The Avengers.

A tightly furled umbrellas is particularly useful in claiming space in a crowd in addition to tripping the odd irritating passer-by. When I see a phalanx of umbrellas charging towards me from across the street I am tempted to run in the opposite direction. I am surprised in our risk adverse society that we don’t get issued with a warning and instructions on what not to do with an umbrella. Even when it is a dismal wet day I will wear sunglasses so that the points from someone’s umbrella don’t remove my eyes. I think I should also carry a bucket.

BBC 4 umbrella sculpture

Umbrella sculpture outside BBC4, London.

The water has to run off these umbrellas somewhere but why does it have to be down my back. Recently while I was waiting at the pedestrian lights in the city, minding my own business and keeping dry under my dinky umbrella I felt water trickling down my back and into my shoes. My neighbour was completely oblivious of the damage being done to my attire much less my sense of wellbeing. At least I didn’t have a carry bag full of purchases also getting wet.

My saddest umbrella experience was occurred during a stormy afternoon when along with everyone else I was doing last minute Christmas shopping hoping I could get it all done and meet the next day’s deadline for postage home. I had a cache of bags with all my purchases clutched tightly under one arm to avoid getting wet, a shoulder bag slung over the other arm and with my free hand I was carrying an opened umbrella bent against the wind. I got to my destination, sat down and as I moved the bags containing my gifts out of pedestrian way, I thought they felt very light. I had been totally oblivious that the rain was dripping off my small foldup umbrella into the bottom of the carry bags which being paper, and once damp, tore apart and allowed all my carefully chosen presents to fall out. I think I was more upset about the time wasted than the money.

Umbrellas are an appendage we don’t know what to do with. Next rainy day, watch people shut their brolllies, shake the water off and then look around wondering what to do with them when they enter a shop? The drops make the smart marble floors as slippery as an ice-skating rink and the pile of brollies is very tempting to sort through as they leave and I am sure you won’t mind if I take the one that hasn’t got the broken strut.

Playing in raincoats – Version 2
We need to encourage more workplaces and shops to install the clever apparatus that encases the wet umbrella in a plastic bag and perhaps we could put the odd damp child in there as well and contain them. That is one thing to be thankful for, I don’t have small children to entertain on wet days. Been there done that!