A sleepy seal

It was one of those serene and surprising weekends. We were fortunate enough to be able to visit a charming little cottage by the sea. Its owners had kindly allowed us to stay in this place where their own children had spent many happy summers – long ago.

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As we embarked on our little trip, a mere hundred kilometres from the Mount, I did not expect that I would receive two surprises that day.

Daughter Number 2 was to arrive unexpectedly to share this weekend with us. Colin had kept that secret well! It was wonderful to see her especially as she was to spend a precious weekend with us by the sea.

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Seaside walks are a must, even in winter and we had a much needed chat-shop-coffee time. Our walk saw us reach the iconic bathing boxes of the Mornington Peninsula. These colourful sentinels look out over Port Phillip Bay. Blue, yellow and green boxes create a novelty appeal by the sea. Surprise number two. Something caught our eye. Was that an injured animal? A large animal. It was lying lifeless on one of the landings.

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As we gingerly drew closer, a row of plastic tape revealed an important notice.

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A resting seal. Wow! This poor fellow was all tuckered out and had found its way to a most amenable residence. Clever seal! He was gorgeous and oh so sleepy.

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We returned the next day and he was still there, stirring slightly. A wildlife ranger watched patiently over his sleeping state. The ocean, the sand and the bathing box buffering his dreamtime state. Isn’t nature truly beautiful!

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Thanks to everyone who made this weekend a very special one indeed.

Christmas Chicks

Sorry if the title misleads you, but after ten years of having chickens here on the Mount, we have never had success in raising chicks. Even now that we have Long John Silver, our Plymouth Rock Rooster, so aptly named by Colin for his long legs and silver plumage, we have had no success. Maybe it’s the cold, or the fact that our hens don’t get broody for some reason. I don’t know why, really. Long John Silver seems to be doing his best, but the girls are not clucky.

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On the other hand, my mother-in-law, Esther and sister-in-law, Maree have always inspired me to tackle the impossible. They do just this – not once in a while, but every day. From sewing, upholstering, inventing and solving intricate problems, they have taught me to give it a go. My mother-in-law has raised many chicks, chickens, peacocks, parrots, ducks and pheasants and nursed and nurtured them in the cold and in the heat. So when she gave four hens to Maree a couple of months ago, little did we know that new life would hatch so quickly. Just today, her broody chicken, Naomi, patiently sitting on four “borrowed” eggs and hand fed by Maree during the incubation delivered her brood. They are the Christmas Chicks – the miracle of new life; the wonderful parallel to the waiting and watching which we commemorate at His birth.

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The Christmas story is one of simplicity and reverence – for life, for the wonder of discovery, the hope of the new and the love shown to God’s creatures, great and small.

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May we not dismiss the fragility of life, the deep care we show for each other, echoed in the most basic of all stories – that of a simple birth witnessed by those simple creatures long, long ago. Merry Christmas – let’s take a moment to appreciate what we all have.

Weird and Wonderful

As we return to Term 3, I am always grateful that we are able to get away from work – both at home and school. It always seems that school work is like house work – sometimes appreciated, greatly needed and never done!

Having returned from visiting my mother in Brisbane and planned and prepared my lessons for the next few days, I have a little time to indulge in my thoughts. Our short stay in the northern sun rendered its benefits, both physically and emotionally. As promised I now share with you some of our wacky sights.

Houses on stilts
Queensland homes are renowned for being perched on stilts. This not only provides much needed ventilation but also a safe, high aspect during floods! However, this poor house is awaiting its much needed renovation.

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World Expo ’88
Often referred to as Brisbane’s “coming of age” event. It was 184 days of spectacular, multi-national events. The following statistics are courtesy of http://www.foundationexpo88.org/trivia.html and the newly refurbished Brisbane City Council Museum.

Did you know that…..

19,000 meals were served every hour every Expo day, including…

Over 16 million scoops of ice-cream
17 million hamburgers
1.4 million hot dogs
5 million chicken nuggets
8 million buckets of hot chips
340 trawler loads of seafood
90,000 kgs of spaghetti
the equivalent of 650 family swimming pools of beer

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Some of the wacky street entertainment, above.

The Banyan Tree
More commonly known as the Moreton Bay Fig, it casts an eerie sight on the road side.

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I have to end on my favourite topics at the moment – letter boxes. See my post A Lively Letter
We enjoyed our few days, especially visiting the Queensland Art Gallery and Antiques centre and of course, chatting with mum and visiting “old” friends.

We are now back home on the Mount and preparing for some brisk weather after our soirée in the sun. To all my northern hemisphere readers – indulge in your brilliant summer!

Travelling North

I have begun to lose count of the many flights we have taken from Melbourne to Brisbane over the years. Waiting at the airport always reminds me of that John Williamson, play made into the film, Travelling North.The protagonists leave their families in cold Melbourne for a new life of warmth and laughter in Far North Queensland or more colloquially known as FNQ!

For us it’s the other way round. Yes, we take the opportunity to escape the winter cold but also use it to spend time with my ageing mother, visit Daughter Number One and One-And-Only-Grand-Daughter.

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We departed in 5 degrees C and arrived at a comfortable 13 degrees. Long, light sleeves are still required. We make it a point to walk in and around the steep slopes.

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Robert McFarlane in his recent tome, The Old Ways describes walking as “enabling sight and thought rather than encouraging retreat and escape”. Even though as a child I did indeed escape mundaneness by walking up and down these slopes, the reflective time enabled me to have a sense of disciple and endurance.

Walking, for both Colin and I, is a time to talk, reflect, plan, laugh and reminisce, often on the lives of our grandparents and parents who came to this country, post war. One of our favourite walks when we come here is to take a nostalgic visit to one of the many vintage stores. He has his favourites and I head straight for one which is named after a film starring Maggie Smith and based on a humerous novel by Graham Greene.

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Steering away from his usual religious allusion, Travels With My Aunt tells of a lonely, serious banker, who loves dahlias, meeting his long lost Aunt Augusta at his own mother’s funeral. They embark together on a series of adventures, journeying to exotic places as well as time on the Orient Express. During the course of the novel, these two diverse characters form a bond. There is a twist in the story, which you might guess! They reclaim each other through their travels, talks and adventures.

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What is it about the simple foot-fall that places many things in perspective?

The little vintage store which I visited (I do hope the proprietor does not mind me taking a quick snap of some of the wares) is perfect in its nostalgic nod to the past.

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Overall, what are we to learn from returning to our places of origin? I alluded to this in a previous post Streets of your town. For me it places things in perspective. We have four more days here so stay tuned….

Tea Cups and Kisses

There are times when distance certainly makes the heart grow fonder, as they say. For the women in our family, we are separated by many kilometres up and down the eastern coast. Daughter Number One in regional South East Queensland and Daughter Number Two in Sydney. As for my own mum, she is in Brisbane and still living in the house in which I grew up.

We are all busy living our lives. However, I know that we often miss being able to just come together and chat over a cup of tea or go for a shop or simply take a quiet walk in the garden.

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The month of May is traditionally the month when we commemorate our mothers or significant women in our lives. The month of May for me has become a reflective month. On Mothers’ Day it will not be possible for me to spend the day with any of them. I am grateful, however, that I will spend it with other mothers.

The month of May is also the month of my own grandmother’s birth. We had a very close relationship and she was a great source of home grown advice. Her cooking and baking accomplishments are still vivid in my mind. I recall her poppy seed cakes, the traditional palacinke and the plum gnocchi – north east Italian specialties – a legacy of the Austro- Hungarian Empire. The kitchen utensils she brought with her from Fiume hang in my kitchen as a constant reminder of our connectedness.

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One of her favourite pots was the aluminium jug she lined with brown paper to fill with squid and chips! Cleaning squid in the kitchen sink became a much talked about event usually eliciting shrieks of horror as we watched her poke out the eyes of the squid with her sewing scissors! The old, yellow sink would turn a deep purple from the accidentally punctured ink sac. After much rinsing, the tentacles and the translucent tubes would be coated in white flour and shallow fried – only a few at a time! I can still hear her cautionary words! I was delighted when Daughter Number One completed the same nifty feat in my kitchen sink last Christmas! This time, adding salt and pepper instead and, thankfully, no squid ink in sight!

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My own mother, now in her eighties, would always be counted on to assist when one of us were ill or in need of a last minute baby sitter. She and daughter number one were particularly close those many years ago.

The month of May is also my little granddaughter’s birthday. There is much to miss. In our technological world where we can Skye and talk and use fantastic APPs on our I-Pads we cannot touch, we cannot bake together, we cannot share a cup of tea or feel the gentle kiss of a child.

The month of May is also dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Whether or not you believe it adds depth to a month which is set aside to commemorate the mother.

Therefore, for the month of May, may I wish for

Many memories of good times together
United by those invisible bonds only mothers and their children have
May my daughters love as profoundly as they have been loved

Whether you can be together or not – Happy Mothers Day !

Thanks for all your gifts, love and kisses – from a distance. How do you commemorate your mother?

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