Friday, January 01, 2016

January 1st, 2016

May 2015
I was going to do another Lord Howe Island post but decided to start the year with a Happy New Year post.

So, let's start with Happy New Year.  I realise it has now been ten years since I started this blog and although I don't do much on it now I am happy to keep it limping along.  It's kind of a good record of things these days.

Christmas came and went and it was the first time I haven't taken photos or really given a shit.  That's because I experienced a major depressed episode which saw me put on anti depressants (which had to be increased).  This had followed a four week hypomanic phase which really floored me.  I was disruptive at work (if highly amusing), spent money I should not have, talked non stop and was at one stage incapable of holding a decent conversation due to the amount of information coming into my head. One night I was lying in bed and the pressure and noise in my head was very, very unsettling.

All this was made worse by my not listening to suggestions from the psych as to how to bring the up phase down sooner.  I told him I liked being like that, it felt good and he was a party pooper.  I also laughed at what he said, a lot. Now when I look back I just think "who was that woman?".

Anyway, on Christmas day I was so incredibly blah it was awful.  I managed to cook dinner but had to get K to help out during the day and then when my brother came around he took over and finished off the cooking. Interestingly enough the food was possibly the best it has every been as I had to do a very thorough list otherwise I could not get it all done.  Plus my brother is a good cook.

Now the depression is lifting and I can feel things changing a bit.  It's just all ups and downs for now. I've had to agree with the psych to be more medicine compliant otherwise this is just going to get worse.  Over the past two years I have only ever taken just enough mood stabilisers so that I can keep the "edge" but unfortunately the ups are every six to eight weeks and the downs are shit.

All the above aside though, I am really good because I know nothing lasts for every as far as these moods go and I choose to be okay with them (annoying as they can be).  In my own self I just see this all as something that needs constant tweaking as Bipolar is really a moving target.  I am now happy to go with the flow and not try to continue to think in my head I can make it go away through sheer will.  Plus I do need to accept I cannot let myself be seduced by the highs which in turn makes me not so proactive bringing them to a more manageable state. In the past they would only have lasted a week or so.  To have them going for weeks is just counter productive to my work and my life in general.

Last night my son went out to a New Year's Eve party at a friends house.  About 100 kids were there all drinking.  K picked him up about 1.30 am and I have to say that S was pretty drunk.  He was loud and talking a lot.  But he had a great time and woke up fresh as a daisy this morning.  Oh, wait, he woke up after lunch.  In fact, on his holidays he has been waking up after lunch all the time.  He needs to get a job.

He finished high school this year and passed his exams and is now waiting to see if he has been accepted into University.  His aim is to do two years of Information Technology and then move to two years of Software Engineering.  I'm crossing fingers for him.

I am having a break from work until the 11th January.  Apart from two Tuesdays where I go in and do payroll.  I really need some reprieve at the moment from just day to day stuff.  Apart from the Christmas stuff all I have done is slept in ('cos my sleep is crappy), lounged around reading and taken my beautiful Mr Benny for big walks.  Just taking it easy.

My niece moved out at the beginning of December after three years of living with us.  She moved in to a lovely old Art Deco flat with her boyfriend and is very happy.  In the 18 years S has been around my niece has lived with us for eight of them on and off.  I said to her that if she comes back it will be as a carer for K and I in our old age.  With her bedroom free, S can now set it up as his room for playing Xbox and computer game and for a place to have his friends when they come over.  My studio is now all mine again.

Last night K and I to Mr Benny down the the dog beach.  It was so busy and Mr B had a great time. When we first got there he lay low like a sheep dog and watched the other dogs.  Then he got up and repeated the exercise a few more times.  That sheep dog style is so inbred into them.  He then ran like the wind to catch other dogs.  Naturally he had a swim in the water and came out soaking wet.

When we came home with the salty dog he had to have a shampoo.  He was really put out by it and after we finished washing him he shook himself off and rolled in the soil.  Of course, what else would a dog do.

I realised how lean he is once his fur was wet.  It seems mean but I don't let my dog get fat.  The rule of thumb is that I should be able to feel his ribs under a slight layer of fat.  He gets a good amount of food but not much extra.  Hardly ever any table scraps.  It's not good for dogs to get human food and not good for them to be overweight.  Mr B is relying on me to do the right thing by him.

Wish I took the same amount of consideration with my own body.  I seriously find it so hard to resist chocolate.  It would not be a lie to say that at least five days out of seven I eat chocolate.  It's usually Fairtrade and organic so that makes it okay, right?  Just typing this now makes me ponder what is in the pantry as far as chocolate goes.  I've a feeling that only cooking chocolate is left which is not nice.

Lately, I have been letting my dog sleep up the front of the house.  Normally he sleeps in the lounge room on a blanket covered sofa.  Somehow he worked out that if he came up to our bedroom we said nothing so everynight after about half an hour he comes into our bedroom and sleeps right by my side of the bed.  I never thought I would let him do that but there you go, things change.

I have not been drawing as much but that is mainly a time thing and perhaps a motivation thing too. Maybe I am just a bit lazy now and then.  It's hard to fit into life everything you want to do.

Below is the Christmas card design I sent out to people.

I was very happy with the outcome.  Everyone has their own look and a strange sort of relationship with each other.  Though it is not joyful in the usual Christmassy way I think it sums up how people sometimes feel about Christmas.  Or maybe how I felt about it last year!

Later on today I expect to do a nice big walk with Mr Benny.  The weather, which has been just stinking hot, has settled down to a nice temperature.  At least I can go outside now.  Yesterday I went down to the shops in something like 38 celsius heat and it was suffocatingly hot.  I made a decision to park the car under the shade which meant a longer walk to the supermarket.  Of course, it meant a long walk back with the sun beating down on me and both arms aching from carrying heavy shopping bags.  So either way there was not a chance of avoiding being a sweaty thing.

But for now I am in the studio and tidying up a bit before I think about what my next project is. Whatever I start I hope I can finish.  There are so many unfinished things in here it is a bit overwhelming.  Too many ideas, not enough time.

May everyone have a safe a peaceful 2016.

linda x

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Saturday, December 26, 2015

Day Three Lord Howe Island

I had good intentions to have my run down of each day at Lord Howe Island posted up by now, however life sometimes get in the way of what we want to do so here it is.

On day three I decided to go for a walk on the other side of the island.  It was a less challenging one but still plenty of uphill movement.  

There is something fantastic about walking whether it be around my local streets, along the beach, through a bush or just around the corner for a cup of coffee.  Every part of the body is engaged while my mind is taking in my surroundings.  It's meditative and healthy.  It's also something most people can do no matter the age.  

I was in no rush to start the walk and just pedalled my bike from where I was staying and down along the road into town.  I stopped on the way to pick up something to eat for lunch and popped it into my back pack.  Then I turned left and headed down towards a place called Old Settlement Beach.  This was to be where my walk started. 

At the start of the walk I turned around and took a photo of Mt Gower and Mt Lidgberg.  

The steps in front of me beckoned invitingly.  The day was warm but not so that I could not make my way comfortably upwards. 

As expected, however, I did warm up as I continued my journey.  I sat and had a rest under the shade of the trees.  

 When I reached the cliff edges I was amazed by the beautiful view.  The sound of sea birds all around.  The drop down was a long way and, as it was quite windy up there, I kept back from the edge.  

A selfie with my very big sunglasses.  They were cheap to buy as I won't wear my prescription ones when hiking.  I worked out you get what you pay for and these were definitely $15 glasses. 

Another blue sea meets blue sky view.

As I was continuing along my walk I noticed to my left a very large spider web upon which a number of large Golden Orb spiders sat (at least I think that is what they are).  I'm very spider phobic.  I wish I were not but I am.  The bigger the spider the bigger the fear and these were big.  As I passed them I made a mental note to keep an eye out for any along the track. 

It was just as well that I had that thought in mind as a few minutes later I was stopped in my tracks by this huge spider who had kindly built a web across my path.  For a while I stood contemplating what to do.  If I crawled under it the web may be disturbed and the spider may drop on me (nightmare).  If I used a stick to break the web the spider may crawl up the stick and on my arm (double nightmare).  

It was not possible to off the track to the right of web.  Nor the left side (which was very close to the cliff edge).  

So, I made a decision to turn around and head back to where I started.  

When I thought about it later, I was very glad that I had seen the multiple spiders on the way for had I walked into that spider web unwittingly my reaction would more than likely have been so violent that I may have fallen off the cliff edge which really was only a few feet from the path.  

I am seriously terrified of spiders. 

On the way back I sat down on a rocky ledge and had lunch while looking out at the view.  I had taken off my top as my bathers were underneath and let myself get a bit sunburnt as I sat there.  It was just a really delightful moment. 

Once back from my walk I jumped on my bike and made my leisurely way along the road.

Upon arrival to the town I treated myself to a chocolate milkshake.

And a fruit salad.

For the rest of the day I just mosied around.  Pedalled the bike here and there and just enjoyed myself.

Now I look at the photos and it seems so long ago I was there.

linda x

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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Lord Howe Island Day Two continued

Lorde Howe Island day two continued (read part one here)

After what seemed like forever I reached the cafĂ©/restaurant that would satisfy my urge for iced chocolate and a fruit salad.  As I sat and waited for it there was a rare feeling of silly excitement over getting something delicious.  Maybe children feel like this and then we grow out of it.

Post office opposite The Anchorage where I had my iced chocolate and fruit salad

I can say that the drink hit the spot.  Sweet and cold, I had to control myself from making slurping noises to get the very last drop from the bottom of the glass.  I then took my time eating the fruit salad.  It was around 3.15 pm now and the thought of where I would have dinner crossed my mind.

After last night’s boring fare that I conjured up back where I was staying, a feast was in order. Besides, isn’t that what a holiday is all about?

So, I booked a table for the night at the restaurant and then made my way back up the big hill to my current place of abode.

On Lord Howe Island, if you book a dinner somewhere the place where you are staying will give you a lift to the restaurant.  Then, once dinner is finished you will get a lift back.  Unless you want to walk back in the pitch-black night that is.  No street lights here.

The woman who owned the place where I stayed dropped me off half an hour early as she had a couple of other people to ferry around.  Before I got out of the car she noted that as I was early for my booking it would be a lovely idea to go and watch the sunset.  Just cross the road, walk up the grassy verge and down the little path between the bushes and you will find the perfect spot to sit and watch it were the words she said to me.

So I did that.  Crossed the road, up the verge and down a little track.  The sun was low in the sky but there was still light enough for daylight.  There was a flagpole on the grassed area.  Wooden table and a couple of park benches and something that looked like a sundial but was, in fact, a guide that showed me how far certain towns were from me.  I looked down at it and saw that Melbourne was 791 miles away from where I stood.  I waved in the direction where I knew S and K were and then sat on the park bench to watch the sunset.

I didn’t have my camera with, or my video camera so no visual record is available.

I shall try and describe it.

I cannot think of the last time I made an effort to really, really look at a sunset. Sometimes I see bits of it when driving down along the bay at home.  Some vague ball of orange sky I may glimpse from out of the corner of my eye with a bit of red thrown in.  But to actually sit and look at the event is something I don’t do.  Even if I did, a sunset near where I live is nothing compared to a sunset at Lord Howe.

The colour was so big.  Does that make sense?  When I say it was a big colour I mean it was bigger than anything you could squeeze from a tube of paint to put on canvas or capture on camera.  The intensity of the yellowy orange left me in awe.  A few clouds scattered across the front of it and the contrast only heightened the brightness of the colour.

The sun itself seemed bigger than I had ever seen the sun.  A big ball hanging in the sky.

It took a while to set.  As it went lower down on the horizon red and orange hues flooded along beside it.  The sun itself kept the intensity all the way down, the only thing changing was how much of it I could see and how much it was able to light up the sky.  Eventually it disappeared over the horizon and left only a faint glow of orangey red behind.

At that point I turned and went to the restaurant thinking how fortunate I was to have seen that.  No doubt people see this sort of thing every day but not me and it truly was beautiful

At the restaurant (The Anchorage) I sat down to a busy atmosphere.  Locals and visitors made up the busy clientele.  There was a person playing guitar and singing nice songs.  Songs that I knew from years ago which may suggest the demographic of Lord Howe.

The menu was deliciousness personified.  I took my time looking at which thing to eat.  My first choice for entre was King Fish sashimi with pickled vegetable.  I love sashimi.  The taste and texture is something I like to take my time over when eating.  Especially when eating out.  The fish on Lord Howe is exceptionally fresh and clean due to the pristine condition of the waters around it.

To enhance my eating experience I ordered a glass of wine.  However, by the time I got through the entre I think I was mildly tipsy.  It’s not a bad feeling being tipsy now and then.  But being day two, tired and recovering from a big hike made me emotional and at the same time the singer started to sing “Dear Prudence” which was a song from many years ago that I had forgotten about and loved so much when it was around.  I was only a kid but I remember the words still.

The Beatles first sang it but this is the version I recall and love.

Then suddenly there was this moment where I was aware of something rather rare.  Nobody was taking a photo of his or her food.  Nobody was looking at his or her smart phone.  Everyone was talking to each other.  It was so, so authentic and unspoiled.

So with that fantastically emotional moment, listening to “Dear Prudence”, the awareness of being in the now yet feeling a little bit of the past as well, remembering that I was 791 miles away from K, S and Mr Benny, feeling tired, tipsy and melancholy I did what any other person would do.

I ordered another glass of wine.

After all, there was still the main course!  This consisted of fresh scallops, beef and some sort of delicious sauce.  I chose an entre size for the main meal, as there was desert to consider.  This consisted of Belgian chocolate tart with chocolate sorbet.

The night was finished off with a coffee.

I am not telling you how much it was suffice to say it was worth the money.  My argument to myself was that I was on holiday and I love food.

When I got back to Ebbtide I went to bed and was about to drift off when the noise of the Mutton Birds started.  Initially I thought they might settle down.  However they went on.  There was lots of warbling, cackling and what sounded like maniacal laughter at varying degrees of loudness.  It was almost human like.

At one point I drifted off for an hour or so and then was woke up by the birds.  Eventually at 2.00 am in the morning I had to take something to help me get to sleep.  Within twenty minutes I was oblivious to any noise at all.

End of day two at Lord Howe.

Linda x

Local resident and his owner bike riding. 

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Friday, November 20, 2015

Day Two Lord Howe Island Part One

Day Two Lord Howe Island

Before I left, K bought me a travel alarm clock.  Its tick tick tick is so nice to listen to but the alarm is a bit disappointing.  I set it for 6.00 am this morning and it went off for approximately six seconds. Bzzzzz.  That was it.  Just enough to wake me up but certainly not enough to keep me awake.  My eyes opened and then closed until 7.23 am and I then got out of bed.

After hearing the rain last night the first thing I did was to look outside to see how things would pan out for the day ahead as far as weather was concerned.  Although the sky was grey I could see some blue peeping through and I knew that all would be okay.

I had a shower and made myself breakfast.  Toasted Turkish bread and soft-boiled local free range eggs that I bought at the Co-op in town.  The town is small and delightful.  Buildings are sweet and well kept.  It’s as though time has not changed but it is most definitely not a place that is stuck in time.

I had decided that today I would hike up to a place called Goathouse Cave.  It would be the litmus test for Mt Gower.  If I could not do Goathouse Cave then that would mean it would be foolish of me to attempt the bigger climb that Mt Gower is.

I packed my SLR, the video camera and my selfie stick in the backpack along with my mobile phone. There’s a belief that a selfie stick is for a narcissist only but I am holidaying on my own so it is the only way to take photos of my holiday with me actually in the photos.  Otherwise the holiday will just be a truck load of scenic shots, which mean nothing to anyone but me.

Just at the last minute I remembered to pack the water bottle and a bag of trail mix (nuts, sultanas, chocolate and dates).   My day was to begin.  However, before it could begin a couple of things had to happen.  A bike ride into town to have a cup of coffee.  Plus I had to book a snorkeling tour for the next day.

The bike ride to town is fabulous.  Down hill all the way.  I felt free as a bird and full of joy as I pedaled now and then.  The roads are lined with Kentia Palms and you cannot see any of the homes that the local people live in which adds to the feeling of absolute seclusion.  Naturally I passed cars and each time I passed one the driver would give a wave.  At first I took one hand off the handle bar to wave back but after nearly falling off the bike a couple of times I decided it was better to just kind of wave whilst still holding on to both handlebars.  The wave consisting of four fingers being raised up from the safety of the handlebar.

Food is not cheap here on Lord Howe and this is to be expected.  Everything has to come in via cargo ship or plane.  This place is not a cheap holiday destination; it’s a unique holiday destination.  Quiet, natural, friendly and full of a majestic beauty that is breathtaking.  So, I was completely okay with paying $5.50 for a cup of coffee, which, by the way, was worth every cent because as I sat and drank it I could see blue sky, Norfolk Pine trees and turquoise water.

After I had my much appreciated coffee I headed off to a place to book a snorkeling tour and, hopefully, a kayaking tour as well.  When I got there however I was slightly disappointed.

Through no fault of their own the tours for the next day had to be cancelled.  This was due to some big Hollywood movie shoot being done on Lord Howe at the moment and tours were restricted in certain areas.  I asked them to get in touch with me in case they could fit me in on Friday. Thankfully, at the end of the day they came to where I was staying and said I was booked in for a snorkeling tour on Friday at 1pm.

As for the kayaking, no such luck.  But I decided that tomorrow, time permitting, I might head down there anyway and hire a kayak to use around that area.  The water is as smooth as glass and safe.  I will be wearing a life jacket and keeping close to the shore anyway.  This is my holiday and I am not missing out on things just because of some Hollywood shoot with an actress I know nothing about.

After my visit to the tour operators I headed off towards my planned climb.  For a small island there seemed to be an awful lot of pedaling I had to do on my bike to get where I wanted to go.  The headwind was fierce but I was comforted by the thought that on the way back, after my big climb, I would have a tail wind when I most needed it.

During my bike ride I passed the airport.  Passed the dunes to the surf beach and made a note to visit it tomorrow.  Passed the cows munching on grass in unfenced paddocks and then had to stop for one as it made its way across the road.  I felt a bit nervous about that.  Cows are big and this one had horns.  The worry was unnecessary as the cow ambled across the road to stand in the shade under a tree.

I kept pedaling until I came to a very big hill, jumped off the bike and started pushing.  Though hard work I was rewarded with a delightful downhill whizzing ride until I got to the fork in the road, which required me to turn, left.  This road was gravel and, for the fourth time, I had to make my way over a cattle grid.  There’s an art to riding a pushbike over a cattle grid.  You can’t just do it without thought.  There is a centre piece, which is perfect for a bike to glide over, however it is quite narrow so the first time I wobbled madly as I navigated the tyres over the narrow section.  By the fourth time I felt a bit more confident as I realized the rule was to not go too fast.

At the end of the road was the place where the track began.  Bike racks were there and I left my bike, helmet, rain coat and jumper and the basket and got ready for the walk.  The first and most important thing to do is to follow the rules set by Lord Howe.  To prevent a particular fungus from entering the fragile rain forest of Lord Howe you have to brush the dirt from your shoes and walking poles and then dip them in a solution that basically disinfects the bottom and sides of your shoes.

Should the fungus come onto the island from the mainland it could decimate the forest.  So they have stations at the beginning of each track to make sure everyone does their bit.  And why wouldn’t you? What is the point of coming to Lord Howe if you are not there to be part of the preservation of such an amazing place then why are you there at all?

So, I do what needs doing and start the walk.  It’s beautiful and lush.  I can hear birds but not see them.  Small Kentia palms welcome me in and the sound of falling water is in the air.  The walk continues on easily.  Trees get bigger and the sun is very dappled through the foliage.  Then slowly the incline starts.

I’d been worried before leaving as to whether or not my fitness levels were good enough for doing these climbs.  A bout of the flu, K’s sister dying, and persistent depression that demotivates me. These things all combined to make me do any exercise sporadically, begrudgingly and half-heartedly when I did make the effort.

The incline sharpens and I found I had to stop and take a breather.  As the walk went on the stops became more frequent.  I was sweating heavily and stopping to take sips of water from the bottle.  Too much water when I am walking gives me a stitch.

At one point I was light headed and realized that I was actually hungry and stopped to eat some of the trail mix.  Within ten minutes I picked up and continued the ascent, which, by now, was making my calves, hurt.  I started to wonder about the way down.

The track upwards was wet, slippery, full of roots and rocks and, at times, a bit challenging.  Every step had to be a mindful one, especially as I was on my own and would be in a bit of a difficult situation should I slip and injure myself.  There were times when the climb required me to scrabble up using hands as well as feet.

The climb is meant to take two hours up and two hours down.  Half way up it really did change. Ropes appeared along the track.  These were there to help you up and, as I found out later, were crucial for helping on the way down.

After a long, hard slog I came to the sign that said “Goathouse Cave - .3Km”.  It’s not far is it?  Three hundred metres seems such a little way to go.  Ah, but it’s not like three hundred metres down the street is it?  No, this was three hundred metres along a very narrow track that towards the end had rope on the right hand side to hang onto.

As I got towards the end of the track there were a couple of people coming down the rope from the actual cave.  It then dawned on me that I would have to do something akin to rock climbing if I wanted to actually get up to the cave.  The people passed me and then I made my way up further.  As I hung onto the rope and pulled myself up carefully at one crucial point I was suddenly overcome with fear.  Behind me, if I fell or slipped, was a very steep incline that would result in a rather unpleasant injury or, worse, my demise.

With that thought surging through my head I lay for a couple of minutes on the rock face and worked through the feeling.  A huge part of me was saying that I could not lie here all day and to just put the foot in the next spot and pull myself up.  The smaller part of me was saying, “It’s a long way down”. Essentially it was pretty obvious I had no choice.  I was not coming all the way up here to pike it so I just pulled myself up and made my way to the cave.

It took a few minutes to compose myself.  I pulled out the video camera and as I panned across the stunning views my hand was shaking.  But I was so pleased to have pushed through that feeling. Though not scared of heights as such, I am only human.  It was a long way up.

Someone on the plane over to Lord Howe had said to me that if I went up to Goathouse Cave and then continued on for another eighty metres or so there was better view on offer.  When they told me that I thought that would be great but once up there I knew there was no way I would slip around that little corner (that had no rope to hold on to either) just to see another view.  I was completely happy with the view on offer and, seeing the photos here, would you not agree with me?

After about twenty minutes or so of sitting up there and admiring the view I decided that it was time to head back down.  That included having to go back the way I came when I was gripped by the unwelcome fear of “what if”.  Fortunately the climb down the rock section was not so bad.  It is a lot easier to let yourself down with a strong hold of a rope and careful placement of the feet, rather than pull your body weight up whilst working out the best spot to put your feet to enusre a stong upwards push.

It was not long before I was past the dicey part of the downward trail. The view was no longer a long vertical drop as I was now back into the forest and on the trail that would lead me down to my bike.

People often think that going up a hill is harder than going down one.  In a way it is, lots of stopping to catch your breath and feeling muscles spring into action from places they normally lay dormant.

Going down the trail was hard too.  My right knee was developing a familiar twinge which meant I had to make sure to step sideways down rather than a forward step.  It put less stress directly onto the knee.  The rope section allowed me to go down backwards.  Not that I had a choice, it really was too steep for me to face forwards.  I am fairly sure that is what the ropes are for anyway.

Only once did I slip.  As a rule I kept my eyes on the ground as the trail changed constantly.  However, at one point I looked around at the beautiful trees.  That was the one moment that both feet went out from under me, my hands went straight behind me for support and my butt hit the ground with a solid whack.

Can I just say that it is moments like this that I am glad I have a strong body.  I was more shocked at the sudden slip than any pain, which was minimal.  I’ve enough padding on my behind to absorb a fall on it.  However, I sat for a few seconds to double check nothing was broken and then got up and continued on.

The trek down continued and at the halfway mark thoughts of what I might like to eat drifted into my head.  It was hours since I had eaten breakfast and the nut and dried fruit I was carrying with me had completely lost their appeal.

Then the thought of an iced chocolate popped into my head.

It’s strange isn’t it, how, for no reason at all, a random food becomes as enticing as the apple that Eve offered Adam.

I don’t drink iced chocolate.  Ever.  The milky mix, the icecream and chocolate syrup make me feel queasy.  They taste nice enough, but it’s a sickly mix.  I feel the same way about chocolate milk shakes.  All my life I have avoided them.  A mouthful now and then is fine.  A big glass full is not an option.

So, here I am walking down the rest of the trail thinking about this iced chocolate that I am going to drink when I get back to town.  Then I decide I will also have a fruit salad with it.  Iced chocolate and fruit salad.  Those two things are in my head as pretty as a picture.

Finally I get to the end of the track and there is my bike waiting for me.  I take off my sweat soaked hat and put on the bike helmet. Although the ride there was hard work because of the headwind I am okay with that because  I know that the ride back will be easier.

There was one decent hill to get up though.  I had to jump off the bike and push.  The beauty of being at the top of the hill is knowing there is a fun time downwards.

Down I went, the wind was cool and I felt joyful thinking about what I had done.  The road then curved slightly and I came onto the straight section at the end of the airport .

Expecting a tailwind I was almost stopped in my tracks with an even stronger headwind than I had experienced on the way there.  So much for the theory that a headwind there would mean a tailwind back.

I pedaled harder and was boosted by the thought of the iced chocolate and fruit salad that would welcome me in ten minutes or so.

That and the happy feeling of achieving something quite special made the ride back to town seem as though I was skipping down the road.

Day two to be continued…

Linda x

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Sunday, November 15, 2015

Lord Howe Island Day One

While I was away for those precious days on Lord Howe Island I wrote a daily account of what I did and what I was thinking.  So over the next week or so I will upload my musings.

Here goes!

Lord Howe Island Day One

Introducing my feet to the water

I was up early on my day of flying out.  Five am to be exact.  This was preceded by a fairly disappointing sleep, no more than three or four hours.  I think excitement was the underlying cause.

On the Sunday I had gone into work to do the payroll in advance.  My plan was to then come home to organise the final things for my trip.  It was all organised in my head, which, in theory, should then translate according to expectations.

However, I had not counted on K’s cousin popping over at 4pm to say hello and to give her condolences in regards to K’s sister.  His cousin had been away for seven weeks overseas during which time she saw every single concert that Cliff Richard did in the UK.  I kid you not.  She is a die-hard fan.

Anyway, she drops in for a visit and as time passes we organise a take away dinner.  She had a lot to talk about and I have to admit that her story telling abilities are great fun.  Knowing how to hold an audience captive is her great skill.

However, I could not get my final stuff organized.  In the end I kind of had to do it whilst she was there which seemed a bit rude but it had to be done.  When she went home I then had to finish off the rest of the stuff and had K saying, “Can you just get your stuff organised.  If you don’t get out of bed at 5 o’clock when that alarm goes off I am going to the airport without you”.  That’s kind of odd really, going to the airport without the person who is making the trip.

He needn’t have worried.  When that alarm went off I just got out of bed.  There’s nothing like a holiday to get one motivated to throw aside the bedding and get moving.  At 5.45 am we were out the door and on our way to the airport.

Then, this thing happened that kind of beggars belief.   Both of us have been to the airport many, many times over the years and somehow K missed a turn off.  I think we were talking and just didn’t see it.  Then we both realized that things did not look like things usually do on the way to the airport and K said, “this is not the way to the airport”.  It was on the way to an airport, just not the one I was going to.

Out came his GPS – which I cannot use by the way.  K asked me to type in the airport name but I couldn’t.  It’s one of these portable things and I have to look down at it to type and that is a recipe for a big dose of car sickness.

So he did it and in the end we got back on track.  When we got to the airport it then took ages to get to the drop off point.  It was Monday morning, which is the busiest time with lots of business men and women on their way interstate.  It looked as though there were lots of suits around.

Anyway, I got dropped off, checked my baggage in and was on my way.  No issues at all.  Arrived in Sydney with an easy two hours to spare.  No stress anticipated.  It was all sorted.

Well, not all sorted.  Firstly I had some breakfast.  Then I checked the gate that my plane was leaving from and saw the number “18” up there and naturally made my way to that gate with an hour to spare.

At around 11.15 am I was surprised that there was no boarding call for Lord Howe Island and so decided to ask the girl at the desk about it.  She said that it was leaving at gate “1B” and not gate”18”.  See how those two gates could look the same on a screen if you are not wearing your glasses?

She said to go now and she would tell them I was coming.  I ran all the way and as I ran I could hear over the speaker “last call for Linda C”.  I got to the gate, handing the boarding pass to the guy, ran down a ramp and another guy said “here she is” and I jumped on a bus which then took us to the tiny 36 seater plane.

I was quite breathless and rather impressed with my sprint.  Then when I got on the plane I started to think what would have happened if I missed the plane.  It made me anxious to the point where I felt a bit ill.  But I told myself that I didn’t miss the plane and so it was really silly to even think about it.

There’s something so strange about flying in a propeller plane.  Firstly, it’s noisy.  Secondly, it’s tiny. It’s so tiny that when I had to use the bathroom I could hardly fit in it.  You would not want to be too much bigger than me if you planned on using it.

The flight to Lord Howe took just over two hours.  Every time I looked out of the plane window I could see the blue ocean below interspersed with fat and fluffy clouds that hung suspended in the air and cast a shadow onto the water below.  It seemed as though I could reach out and grab the white fairy floss cloud, so dense and white that it was.

While we flew I started reading a book on my iPad mini.  The book was called Girl on a Train.  The main character was a girl and during the story she talked in depth about her drinking and the descriptions were so unsettling for me because it reminded me of K’s sister.  I stopped reading it after a while (only to finish it off that evening) and decided to just chill and keep looking out of the window.

Then it was time to land.  The runway at Lord Howe is just under a kilometre long and as he went down to land the ocean changed from a deep blue to the beautiful green that is a lagoon.  The mountains sprung out of nowhere and the blue sky was a backdrop so unlike the blue at home.  Is that because it was a holiday blue?  Are colours so much more sharp when away from home, away from pollution?  As I type this I can look across at the sky and it feels like a better blue.

Ebbtide Apartments

So here I am now.  Staying at a quiet place called Ebbtide Apartments.  Gardens are lovely and it's very peaceful.  There is a small track at the rear of the place which takes me down to a place called Ned's Beach.

Ned's Beach

Neds's Beach

I hired a bike on the day of arrival.  Tourists ride bikes mostly as do the residents. Walking and cycling.  There are very limited hire cars and, quite frankly, considering the island is so small why would you hire a car?  That is the beauty of being here, it is so safe to ride and feels so wonderful although I must confess to finding the hill that takes me to the place that I am staying at is quite a challenge and I have to get off and walk up instead of riding.

The speed limit for cars on the island is 25km per hour and no seat belt wearing is required!

I was pretty tired on day of arrival so didn’t do much apart from pick up some food, walked to to beautiful Ned's beach to take some photos and then stayed inside for the rest of the evening.  I did ring K and S to say hello.  K said that Mr Benny was waiting out in the front yard for me to come home.  S said that Mr Benny had a hang dog look about it.  He misses me.  When I left in the morning he had that look, the one that says, “what is happening?” and I gave him a big hug and told him I’d be back soon.

I actually went to bed very early (8.30pm) but my sleep was constantly interrupted by the noise that the Mutton Birds made which did surprise me.  I had thought that it would be very silent here. Eventually, however, tiredness one over and I did fall asleep and slept straight through until 7.30 am.
Only once did I awaken and that was with the sound of heavy rain on the tin roof.  Part of me felt a bit disappointed as I was planning a big hike the next day and it would be impossible if the rain continued.

But I fell back asleep and the next day it turned out to be okay.

linda x

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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday 25th October

We said goodbye to K's sister ten days ago.  

The funeral was a good send off though sad.  I did my talk which was harder than I thought it would be.  One of her friends gave the most outstanding eulogy.  They spent their youth together and were both very keen horse people.   When they put on a DVD of photos over her life, the background music had been recorded by K on the piano.  The piece of music he chose was Memories of You. It was so moving and to see her photos up there somehow sent her back to her back to times when she was well.  Her send off was Beyond the Sea by Bobby Darin which I thought was apt as she loved the beach.  Despite her always feeling very alone, there were about 40 people who came.  Most of them had known her for many years and were very shocked and upset at what had happened.

Since then things have been a bit surreal for K.  No more little sister in his life.  He always hoped she would one day get better but that was never going to be.  As things were, she was really on a downward spiral.  It has taken a while to get used to no phone calls from her.  No anxiety as to what the next drama would be.  No worry in the back of his mind about how she was and how she was sitting alone in her house watching reruns of three movies and only these particular three.  There's a strange mix of grief, sadness and relief in a way.

I've been slowly packing things at her house.  Working out what is for the charity shop and what personal items to keep.  It's going to take quite a while.  Not because she had a lot (thankfully she was not a hoarder) but because it's something I feel takes time and should not to be rushed.  On Saturday K helped me out but we decided that it was better that he did not get involved as he wanted to throw things out as though doing a purge.  Kind of acted without thinking how he would feel later. He also felt very depressed later on in the afternoon and confessed that going to the house just reminded him of how he found her, especially when going through the front door.  Nobody needs that sort of pain in the early days of grieving.  It's easy for me to sort through her things and at the same time to be very mindful of what to keep.  In years to come, K's sadness will be less so and it's nice to have special mementos of a loved one.

Last Monday my son had his graduation.  I normally don't upload pics of him these days but figured this one was okay.  He looks so grown up.  Then again, he kind of is now.

K and I felt old sitting at the table watching all the young people.  Maybe old is not the word.  Maybe we just felt time had passed so quickly and suddenly here we were with our eighteen year old son on his way in life.  Just seems as though we racked up another milestone and now they seem to be getting closer and closer.

He starts his exams next week and his last one will be while I am away on my holiday which suddenly is looming up.  Two weeks to go before I double check my bags are packed with what I will take.  I need to get a couple of things that are casual island friendly such as sandals and a pair of 3/4 cargo pants.  Maybe some tank tops.  I really don't have much in my wardrobe along those lines.

Yesterday morning I had to take my car to the tyre place to get two slow punctures fixed.  I had been pumping them up every week.  Initially it was just one.  Then the back one really started sinking and I think it was more like a nail had made its way in.

Unfortunately those two tyres were unroadworthy as they had worn on the edges and I ended up having to get both replaced and then a wheel alignment.  $395 later and my car drives like a dream.  I did not realise how crappy it was.  Plus I feel much safer.  I would not have gone on the freeway with the repeatedly flat ones.  The next expense is a car service.  There's always something to spend.

Today is so warm and windy.  I have done lots of clothes washing.  Been down the street to get lunch for S.  K has his car at a motor show so I won't see him until later in the afternoon.  I took myself out for lunch to a local cafe and then meandered back down the street home.  Being full from food made me feel lazy.  Sunday lazy.  But I have made my way down the the studio to do a post.  The door is open to let the fresh warm air in but also so that I can hear the wind outside.  I know I often mention how the wind in the trees reminds me of the beach and today is one of those beach sounding days. It makes me feel just that little bit more excited about my holiday.

While I am blathering on further down this page I shall crow about the Magic Machine I bought.

Firstly, we gave it a name.  Well, I said I wanted a name and my son suggested Greg.  So now I say things like "Greg made a green smoothie today" and "Greg made a great pasta sauce" and "Greg makes a fantastic buttermilk bread".

However, let's not forget that Linda is in control of Greg and sometimes Greg makes nothing and S has to get scrambled eggs made by K (Linda cannot make scrambled eggs - only poached).

Apart from that, it's been the best purchase.  K and I make soup a lot.  It's so much easier.  K made potato and leek soup which was so delicious that even my food finicky niece had some and took some to work.  I used to say I hated potato and leek soup but realised that I hated MY potato and leek soup.  I have discovered what a difference it makes to follow a recipe.  Changes the whole flavour! Plus with Greg, I can just throw everything in and then leave it.  As opposed to spending time standing at the stove - which is just an act of extreme boredom - I might spend no more than five minutes actually doing anything. Also, I am not making 6 litres of anything.  In the past I would just say to myself "throw in pumpkin and whatever else" even if the pumpkin was 1kg's worth.  Then I would have so much pumpkin soup I would not be able to look at it for months.

There have been a few unsuccessful meals.  The meat pies were tasty but dry because I bought grass fed meat which is very lean and was duly informed by my pie connoisseur brother that the meat has to be fatty if using it in a pie. The pastry has to be flaky.  I may get Greg to try again with the pies. I mean, let's be honest, a pie is not mean to be too healthy.

But overall, it's a great thing and not just an overpriced gadget.  Though my brother thinks it is.  A few weeks ago we were at his house and his son said that people who bought a "Greg" were gullible.

"Is that your words D or your father's?" I asked him

"Dad's words.  He said that." he said with utter honesty.

My brother tried to say that he didn't mean that I was gullible he just meant that some people were.  I let him know I was okay with his opinion and, by the way, that Greg can make sorbet in 3 minutes that is sooooo tasty.

Then again, my brother loves cooking and thus thinks everyone else should.  He has also cooked up some really weird shit.

So now, here I am.  Tapping away at the keyboard and looking at the time.  It's 3.00 o'clock and so time to head to the supermarket.  I've also got a plan to go the the gym.  If I do go it's three times this week which is my aim.  I went back Monday after a fairly long break and felt the pain all week.  But what a difference it made mentally.  It's like clearing webs from my brain.  After being sick and then K's sister passing away I think my head was stuffed with too many unwelcome thoughts and way too much anxiety.  Exercise is not a cure all but it is certainly a wonderful addition to the road to a level of wellness.

As I finish off this post I wonder how Mr Benny will cope when I am gone.  Every morning he comes straight into the bedroom and lies on the floor on my side of the bed.  Even before he has anything to eat.  He knows what time I come home from work.  He knows that when I put on certain clothes there's a walk coming up.  He also knows that 3/4 gym pants mean no walk.

I hope he is okay.  K and S will walk him and give him cuddles and it is only a week I am away.

I'll send him a post card.

linda xx

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Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sad Week

After my glorious Friday and Saturday from my last post,  a very sad event occurred on Sunday.

My husband found his sister had died in her house alone on the Saturday.  He found her on Sunday morning.  It was very shocking for him.  After he rang the police he called me and I came to her place.  The whole day was just dreadful.

His sister was a person who had long term mental health issues.  There was never an official diagnosis but her behaviour over the years very strongly suggested that she had bipolar.   She was, as a result of self medicating her severe depression,  alcohol dependent.  By the time she had died her cognitive abilities were so impaired by her drinking that she was unable to live a normal life.

I could write a book about how she impacted our lives for years.  In particular how she impacted my husband's life.  Phone calls, hospital admissions due to falls after drinking too much or her body's response to alcohol and being type one diabetic, more phone calls about anything and everything.  It's not worth going into because she's gone now and at her death she was not the person I first met in 1987.

When I met her she was a vibrant, athletic, beautifully dressed, intelligent and funny person. Although at times she could be difficult she was okay.  She had a great love of animals and was into horse riding in a huge way.  Snow skiing, scuba diving and running.  You name it, she was into it and gave it her all and was usually the best.  At age 35 she had a nervous break down and had to leave work.  Not long after that she had a car accident that damaged her knee and she was no longer able to do the things she used to do.  Her fitness and active life defined her and helped her deal with a low self esteem.  So as a result of that loss she just went downhill from thereon.  Eventually her drinking had a serious physical and mental impact on her life and the past five years in particular were very poor for her.   Every time I think about her life and the downhill trajectory I feel sad for her.

Today my niece and I spent a few hours just cleaning her home and I felt sad when I thought about how immaculate and stylish she used to be when I met her.  Her previous homes were always beautifully minimalistic and clean and to see how things had deteriorated over time the sadness overwhelmed me.  However, it was nice to get it looking how she truly would have wanted it.

We don't know exactly how she died and won't get a report from the coroner's office for another six months or so.  She may have had a hypo and not been able to get to any lollies in time.  Or just fallen over.  All in all, just a sad event.

So the funeral is this Thursday and I will be speaking at it.  For someone who felt very, very lonely in this world she has quite a few people coming to say goodbye to her which I think is very nice.

My husband is, naturally, going through a big range of emotions and will continue to over time.  He said the death of a sibling is so different to the death of a parent.  It's still very surreal for both K and me.  During the day I wonder if K's sister really is gone and then I think how I saw her last and know it to be true.  It's very unsettling.

I am glad to say that no matter the difficulties K experienced with his sister, they never ended the day on an argument.  She could be highly abusive to him on the phone and hang up but she always rang back to apologise.  They had a relationship like that all their lives.  So I am happy about that for his sake.

I like to think that K's sister is at peace and will no longer wake up sad every day.

She wanted to be with her parents one day and although I am not a religious person I think that it is nice that, in a way, she finally has her wish.

linda x

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