Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Australia Fair...

I landed in London at 5.30am this morning after a lumpy, bumpy looooong flight....so happy to be back, to see Paul, to cuddle Alice. But so very sad to leave those 4 beloveds behind. It's something that may be difficult to understand if you haven't experienced it firsthand....but I've lived with the peculiar pain of having a split heart for almost 12 years. Far from getting easier, it worsens with every visit. It used to be just Esther that I missed so terribly. Then came the babies...and it was awful to leave them, but at least it was just me feeling bereft when they were tiny. Now they are older, it's just dreadful. We all love each other so...have such amazing times together...and parting again is like a little death. It sounds melodramatic I know...but 12,500 miles is such a very long way. Still, I am so fortunate to be able to visit. My Mum's aunt emigrated to New Zealand just after WW2 with her young family...and was never seen again by those left in England. Just a letter every month. So I'm lucky - I do know this.
Australia is such a beautiful country. It's colours, to me, are blue & pink & gold...with a particular green splashed in too. Here are a few pictures to begin to show you what I mean...

This is the beach that is 5 minutes from Esther's home...

The rockpools were warm as bathwater...

The sand was so hot that I had to stand in the water!

Steve Irwin, the Crocodile Hunter who died so tragically a few years ago lived nearby...& this commemorative statue of him and his children (with the obligatory 'croc'!) stands on the headland overlooking that gorgeous beach...

These were taken on the unexpected serendipity of a rainforest walk that my oldest nephew discovered for us in the hill town of Maleny...

Lorikeets gathered, brightly coloured & always in big groups, in the trees...

and we searched in vain for the duck-billed platypus that lives in the river...

on Valentine's Day, Esther & I and her youngest son went for a walk at Point Cartwright...we walked alomg the coastal path to the lighthouse. In the centre of the photo above is the message we saw that day, trailing from the back of a small plane....it read 'Kirstie, will you marry me again? Love Jason' - how romantic! It flew around for about 15 minutes and we so hoped to see Kirstie!! We didn't...but I hope that she saw her husband's grand gesture of love!

On the rocks at the lighthouse...

33c is 91f for all of you who work that way! Pretty ordinary temperatures for Central Queensland in summer....

The children found a very creative way of recycling their father's old work boots!



In Esther's front garden...

It's almost 6pm as I write. I am determined to stay up until 9.30...it's the only way to get my poor, disrupted body clock back on track! I have been busy all day...walking Alice on the hill (it felt so good after 30 hours in cramped plane seats!)....doing laundry...sorting post...and meeting my youngest sister & her darling son William at the local pool to catch up on the last 3 weeks. Tonight, Paul and I will share a glass of wine and our first meal together in almost a month. The birds are singing an early spring song. In my garden, there are purple & yellow crocuses blooming and the bees have started to collect pollen again. The church clock is mended at last and the bells ring out every quarter hour, a sound I've missed so much.
There is so much to look forward to, and it feels very good to be home.
But still, in my head I see bright hard sunshine & hear humming crickets & exotic whooping birds calling. I see the golden, flossy heads of three children I love as though they were my own and hear their laughter. And I see my darling sister's wide, warm smile and feel her arms around me, as they were such a short time ago.
It will take a little while for me to fully be home I think...

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There will be more from my trip soon...so much to share with you! Thanks for the lovely comments on my recent posts too....it means a great deal to know you're there! xo

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Sultry Summer Days...

It feels so strange to be writing that title in February...but the are no other words for the weather here, so there it is! As I write, it's 9.20am...I've just dropped the children off at school, the youngest to daycare...and it's already 33c. The rhythm of the days is different here, as in all hot countries I suppose. The children all know the routines...sunscreen is liberally applied before each outing and hats worn too. I know this from previous visits...the sun here is unrelenting. We have some (a few!) hot days in England...but nothing, ever, is like day after day of burning heat. Burning here is a serious thing...not the pink, slight soreness of an hour too long in the warm gold of a British summer...too long here means hospital! You don't mess with the Aussie sunshine - especially when you have pale winter dried limbs like me! So I'm slapping on the factor 50 along with everyone else and hoping for a golden glow at the end of my visit to prove that I've been away!
Yesterday we drove up to my favorite hill town of Maleny. The road there is twisty as you climb into the green bounty of the farmland...there are shouts from the back seats " look left!!" " look right!" as the gorgeous views of verdant valleys and rolling hills emerge...we saw the mountains too - Glasshouse Mountain is close...and there was the most beautiful blue haze over the highest points. Maleny is renowned for it's dairy farms...fewer now, as everywhere...but still plenty of cows and goats to be seen, shaded under trees. My oldest nephew discovered a special walk through the rainforest...a river running alongside the boardwalk through the green trees that hummed with birds and insects. Maleny is also known for it's population of duckbilled platypus'...and we so hoped to see one. But not this time! We contented ourselves with playing Poohsticks from the bridge and spotting creatures & fungus in the shady gloom. A beautiful start to the day. Then it was a walk into town...the temperatures a blessed few degrees cooler in the altitude...lunch and then the treat of a wonderful ice cream cone to be eaten as fast as possible before the journey home! Esther & I chose pink grapefruit sorbet...absolutely refreshing & totally delicious.
We got home in the late afternoon...everything still and lazy in the heat. The blinds were pulled against the sun, the ceiling fans were switched on and the children watched a movie dressed in as little as possible! Bliss.
I spoke to Paul this morning...all is well at home and Alice is fine. It's cold, though...and he has a bad chest. I wish he was here in the sunshine. I'm just going to put on that sunscreen before taking a walk down to the local supermarket. The route takes me along a path by the beach. The small white yachts will be out, the yellow buoys that mark the shark nets will be bobbing a few hundred metres offshore and I'll have to keep my sandals on to protect my feet from the burning white of the sand. All I will see and hear is the tumbling blue of the bath water warm Pacific Ocean. I feel so very far from home...and yet I AM home at the same time. Enjoying every last minute of my final week-&-a-bit.
Thanks so much for all your sweet comments on my last post..It's wondrful having you with me on my travels! Sending much love for the new week ahead xoxo

Monday, 13 February 2012

G'day from Down Under!

Well, I'm finally here in Australia after all sorts of delays. In all, the journey took 30 hours and I didn't feel great by the end of it...but seeing Esther & my youngest Aussie nephew at the Sunshine Coast Airport made up for it all! The children didn't know that I was coming...so picking the older two up from school on Friday afternoon was a joyful- if loud - experience! It's amazing how quickly all the family routines become familiar. Bedtimes, shower times, breakfasts...all fall quickly into place and it's as if I've never been away- which is just how I love to feel. Esther & I just seem to pick up the conversation as though we only s each other yesterday instead of 6 months ago, and nothing about it feels strange...except for the fact that Paul & Alice aren't here and it's hot & sunny in February!
The jet lag took a couple of days, but I'm writing this on a bright and sun-filled Monday...the air outside is full of strange insect sounds and unfamiliar birdsong. Technicolor parrots swoop overhead and bright, opalescent butterflies are commonplace. The sunshine is unrelenting and a fierce hard yellow rather than the soft gold tones I'm used to at home...
Everything is extraordinary...and yet familiar too. I'm so lucky to be here & I'm trying to make the most of every minute!
Esther & I are going to the movies together this afternoon...if you know me, or read this blog regularly, you'll know that I'll be in heaven!
I'm taking lots of pictures to post on my return...my phone doesn't have roaming, and it's all too complicated on an unfamiliar computer. But I'm having a fabulous time, and sending love to you for the week ahead!xo

Monday, 6 February 2012

The view from my window in February...

These pictures were taken yesterday morning...after the first snow of the season...
it wasn't too deep...in fact, by the time I took these at around 8am it was already starting to thaw...

Paul & Alice went up into the hills, where it was very thick still, with the drifts that our little dog loves so much!


The church clock is still not mended, so the hands stand permanently at 12 o'clock...it shouldn't be too long now, I hope. The snow is almost all gone here already...in fact, it's raining this afternoon. But it was beautiful while it lasted. My favourite time was late on Saturday night. I looked out of the front window at about 11pm...

Magic! I believe that however old you are, you never lose that little thrill at the sight of fresh snowfall...even if the novelty is lost shortly afterwards, when real life has to go on!
But still....for a little while....there's nothing like it...

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It's hard to believe that by the end of the week I'll be basking in the heat of Australia....!

Hope that you had a great weekend xx

Thursday, 2 February 2012

A weekend by the sea...

We like to go away somewhere around the time of our wedding anniversary...which is also Paul's birthday. Alice has to come too...or it wouldn't be a celebration, would it?! Last January we were in beautiful West Wittering, Sussex...with it's miles of sandy beach. This year was a bit more pebbly...but equally lovely. We chose Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast. I've been a few times before as my Mum is from that county and many holidays were spent near here when I was a child. We rented a tiny 1-bedroomed cottage almost on the beach so that we could just get up and get out there in the morning. But first...a spooky little video of part of our journey there!
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If you live in the UK, or even know it quite well, you'll know the nightmare that is the M25! If not, then I should tell you that it's a notorious motorway that runs in a ring around the whole of London. We have been stuck for 3 hours on this road...going absolutely nowhere...and most people who've driven on it have a horror story of some kind - so you can see why this was such a bizarre experience! It was a bit like being in one of those movies where everyone else is dead & the main characters only slowly realise that something's wrong....!
So, a good start.

Aldeburgh beach is almost completely shingle, which didn't go down terribly well with Alice (hard on the paws!) She managed ok though...

This is her & Paul early on Saturday morning...ooh it was chilly! A good excuse for lots of stops for hot tea & toasted crumpets! Award winning fish & chips went down very well later on too!
Aldeburgh is very famous for being the home of the late composer Benjamin Britten and his partner, the singer Peter Pears. On the beach stands a (to me) gorgeous sculptural tribute to Britten by the renowned artist Maggie Hambling. I'm surprised that this artwork is so controversial...it's often vandalised & covered in graffiti and has aroused strong passions in many of the locals...

this is the view looking towards the sea....

and the other way...We thought it was beautiful!
Loved our stay. I really feel drawn to this part of Britain - perhaps it's in my genes?!
On the way home we took a detour to another place I remember well, Orford...Paul had never been...

Bleak day, but a wonderful East Anglian church...

Famous restaurant...all fish, freshly caught on the two boats they own...( we were there in the morning, so didn't eat!)

and we took a walk down to the working quay, where Paul bought his favourite freshly smoked kippers (& one for my Dad, who loves them too) from Pinney's Smokehouse

before coming back and taking a stroll in the grounds of what is left of Orford Castle. The village was completely deserted - like the M25, it felt like it was ours for the day! One of the joys of travelling out of season...
Thank you so much for your sweet thoughts and comments after my last post. My voice came back the next day, but the cough remains...it's taking ages to disappear! Still, I feel much better and ready to face the new month...which is set to get better & better for me. Next week, I'm off to spend the rest of February in the summery heat of Australia when I visit my beloved Esther and her children! Paul & Alice will be staying here in the cold...how I will miss them! But I'm SO excited too!! It's impossible to imagine on this minus temperature night that in a few days I will be warmer than I can dream of!
I'll share it all with you.
xo