Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel

Filling up My Creative Well in Margaret River

This is the second half of my trip to Western Australia, my hosts had planned the itinerary according to my love of nature and art. We often we travel with companions whose taste differs from ours, so what a treat to have friends who shared my interests and accommodated all my photo stops.

The following day we drive along a scenic route through the Margaret River Vineyards to the Chocolate Company.  I had never seen so much chocolate in my life, we watched them making these tasty treats and finished off experiencing the most exquisite Mocha coffee with chocolate buttons at the bottom which we had to stir to melt. It was too tempting to stay here much longer so we then took the Caves Road which took us to my host’s favorite place on earth, which he called Jerusalem Hollow, which is part of the Boranup Karri Forest in the Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park. I could see why he enjoyed this so much it was a view to behold with the sunlight filtering through the leaves onto the trunks of these enormous Karri and Jarrah Trees, beautiful tall straight trees with mottled gold and grey bark, their wood is exceptionally hard and is quite often used for furniture and railway sleepers. In the days of sailing ships, they made good masts.

Jerusalem Hollow

We went up to the viewing point and appreciated this part of God’s creation, before heading on to the Boyanup Gallery where furniture and objects made from these woods was on exhibition, such beautiful grain in the polished surfaces of the wooden furniture. There were also paintings by local artists as well on Exhibition. We carried on back up the coast to Surfer’s Point and the Margaret River Mouth which was not as big as I had expected. Big surfing competitions are held in this area which had plenty of parking and view places for the competitors and supporters of the surfers. We saw someone skimming the waves on his orange surf kite, the wind was the strongest I had experienced in Australia at this point, so we sheltered in a very artistic shelter designed rather like a shell! 

Surfers Bay

Driving though Prevelly we saw the damage to the areas that had had fires two years before where several homes were lost, the vegetation had started to grow again, but the evidence of dead trees with their ghostly heads rising out of the carpet of green was a reminder and caution of the recent devastation of fires in Australia 

Cow Town

We drove into Margaret River town for lunch where we enjoyed a Subway Sandwich and then went for a taster at the Fudge Factory shop which we considered dessert, they had a large variety of fudges and nougat for sale. On the return drive home, we went through a place called Cowaramup “Cow Town”, this unique town that has 42 life-sized models of cows all around the town in different positions, grazing or sitting! I took some pictures to prove this! I am not sure how this came about. It is a wine growing area and in 2012 broke the Guiness World Record of largest gathering of people dressed as cows!

Kangaroos on the golf course

After a cup of tea at home, we walked to the local golf course to see the kangaroos, which had obviously made this their home, they were quite comfortable with us walking past them as they lay about the greens, bounding off when they were bored of watching us. Spooky fire burnt trees lined the golf course evidence of a fire in previous years as well.  

Canal Rock

The next day we drove to Canal Rock, a geological masterpiece of fault lines bisecting the rocks in two directions, leaving channels for the sea to flow through as the water crashes through the gaps.  A little wooden bridge crossed the channel to a viewing platform, this was a very special place for my hosts as their son had proposed to his girlfriend there.  They had put tea lights and rose petals along the bridge to lead her to the platform where their son went down on bended knee to propose – she accepted! We then drove down to Smith’s Beach which was a lovely Holiday Resort and caravan park, also with a nice surfing beach.  Our journey progressed to Yallinup where we looked at the town and then went to the Art Gallery which was quite extensive, with some lovely paintings and different styles. After lunch at home we walked into Dunsborough to look at the Christian Fletcher Gallery, a local nature photographer, with some amazing almost abstract photographs which had had put onto products. We competed the day at the Dunsborough Tavern, where I had a very nice meal of vegetarian hamburger.  

Bussleton Jetty

As all good things come to an end so did this wonderful artsy time away. We packed up and left Dunsborough behind us driving along the coastal road to Bussleton where we stopped and walked along the foreshore and Jetty.  The historical Jetty is 1.50 miles long and has a train that runs along its length so you can enjoy the ride and go out to see the corals. This was quite expensive and would take up a bit of time so we just went into the museum where we could enjoy looking at the history on an interactive map, which was really interesting. The Bussleton Iron Man Triathlons are held here and one can hire bikes if required, as there are many good cycle paths around the area, and the ocean around the jetty is where the swim takes place, with grandstands built into the beach for spectators. 

The jetty

After a coffee we walked along the esplanade for a bit licking our ice creams before setting off again back to Perth. We drove past the Vasse Estuary which was enormous with its cute settlement just outside of Bussleton. Then it was time to hit the highway again breaking our journey at the Miami Bakehouse with its award-winning pies, where I had the most delicious croissant. The gardens were decorated with brightly colored Art Kangaroos. We arrived back to Perth, and after a cup of tea we walked along the shore of the lagoon in the opposite direction to what we have previously done, enjoying the views of the marina and open water.    

Saturday morning, we took an early trip to Cottesloe Beach to see the Sculptures by the Sea Exhibition, Elizabeth Gilbert the author had been here the day before! We had an inspiring time looking at this extensive Exhibition with its large works of art placed along the beach and the jetty, some pieces were quite moving, especially one by an Iraqi artist symbolizing the freedom of relationships in Australia. My hosts had invited some of their family over in the afternoon where we had a good catch up chat on our life in Rhodesia and the good old days at the Geological Survey before my farewell dinner at the Bull Creek Chinese Restaurant. We had a delicious meal, I had my favorite Chicken and Cashew, they served such big portions we had to take some home with us.  We were up very early next morning to head for the airport and my flight back to Brisbane after my creative well had been well and truly filled thanks to my awesome hosts. 

Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel, Uncategorized

ADELAIDE – Walk alongside Creation Respectfully

On to Adelaide to visit family members of the Rhodesian diaspora; I had been to Adelaide before on several other occasions. We headed off to the Adelaide Festival after church. This is wonderful Arts Festival is focused around the Rundall Mall, famous for its life-sized pig sculptures. The sculptures were designed by a South African artist, Marguerite  Derricourt, who is based in Sydney. These whimsical pig sculptures are called “A Day Out’, very appropriate for a day at the Festival!  

We went to the Yabarrah Show– Dreaming in Light, the Sleeping Cave.  This was an Aboriginal story time, with amazing technology using lighting and effects. Leading you into the story were Emu footsteps walking alongside human footprints, with the message “to walk softly on country is to walk barefoot.  If you choose to walk this way you will be walking alongside the creation ancestors respectfully.  We have walked this country with our bare feet since the first sunrise.  Our feet are our connection to the soul of our dreaming landscapes.” This resonated with our African roots as we were mostly to be found barefoot, except for school and church, running wild in the Rhodesian bush! After watching this amazing show, we walked to the area called Gluttony, which was also decorated with pigs! We sat down in some shade next to the lake for a break from the hustle and bustle of the Mall. We shared some Vietnamese Spring Rolls with an unusual crispy texture. 

We then continued down Rundell Mall, stopping to watch several Street shows and musicians, which were most entertaining as they interacted with the crowd. We were fascinated with the skills of a juggler on his bicycle. We had to stop for a photo with the large silver balls in the middle of the Mall, which along with the pigs are an icon of the city. We then visited the Opal Mine shop where there was a small museum showing us different opals and how they were mined: this was of great interest to me having spent many years as a geological cartographer. We went into the Rundell Arcade to find a restroom, to our dismay some of the lovely shops we had been in to last time had closed down. There was a lovely festive atmosphere and vibe in the city, but by the time we had reached the end of Randall Mall we were tired and decided to head off home after a very hot and satisfying day. 

The next day was gloriously hot, a beach day, so we drove down to Glenelg, where we walked along the Jetty, looking in the clear turquoise water. We saw several Rays with their flat, almost space-ship like winged bodies swimming along the ocean floor.  A piece of fencing on the Jetty had been used for the ‘Lock Ceremony’ where lovers commit to their love forever, lock the padlock onto the fence and throw away the key. We stopped off at Banjo’s Bakery and Café where the choice of cakes and pies was overwhelming, but we made our choice which we enjoyed with a cup of coffee, while we watched children playing in the fountains near the end of the tramline. We left George to entertain himself as we walked along the promenade to the Marina, so we could see the fancy boats and posh restaurants. When we had our fill of fancy boats, we walked back to meet George on the beach. The water was so warm and the sea so calm we decided to paddle; so different to the beaches in Cape Town where the waves usually crashed onto the beaches. I found a pretty shell on the beach which inspired me to paint it. After this pleasant day of relaxing we headed home where I began working on the shell drawing. 

The McLarenvale Vineyards was the next day trip, Jenny was keen to show me The Cube at d’Arenberg, a newer Vineyard, that had the drawcard of Salvador Dali’s Exhibition of sculptures and paintings, along with other artists in the gallery.  This certainly was the highlight for me as we walked around the estate, looking at the various sculptures in the gardens, before entering the main modern building which was a several storied building, made up of exploded cube parts like one of Dali’s artworks. There were also sculptures of musicians in the gardens, made from Gumboots which were fascinating! We looked at the old buildings, tractors and windmill, which were typical of old Australian landscapes. It was a treat working our way through the galleries – starting with a room with light projections of different paintings and colors coming and going before our eyes, I could have sat there for hours, but we continued the journey through the galleries and staircase decorated with colored balls, lights and mirrors, totally confusing the eye. 

We then decided to visit the restroom, which was made from huge vats; you entered the door into other vats which were individual toilets decorated with paintings. The hardware was also pretty quirky as were the handbasins, we took a peek in the men’s room and saw crazy urinals, more than quirky! We finished off the visit with a bit of wine tasting and more viewing in the new temporary gallery with paintings by Marc Chagall amongst others. In need of sustenance we returned to McClarenvale to the Bakery shop where we bought a chicken pie for lunch before heading home. 

The final day in Adelaide was a social day meeting with Jenny’s Seeds Church friends, one interesting lady was involved in a ‘seeds’ ministry at the prison. Jenny was on duty at the Seeds Café so I joined her for some lunch of toasted cheese and scones. This gave me the opportunity to have some good conversations with people and find out about their lives in South Australia. 

My visit to Adelaide was completed with a walk in the gum tree woods near Jenny’s house and by the stone bridge where the trail started. A family reunion was planned for the last evening enabling me to catch up with other family members, before I headed off into the blue again to Perth, on the next leg of my trip. 

Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel, Uncategorized

Reliving Teenage Memories in a Beautiful Other World

This was what we had worked for all our lives – to enjoy old friends reminiscing about our youth. When you meet up with a friend you grew up with and shared common history with on the other side of the world to where you lived is pretty special. This time spent in Sydney will be added to our archives of beautiful memories!

I was met at Sydney Airport by my childhood friend, Pam.  We had done so much of life together in Rhodesia and it was only when the Diaspora happened in the 1980’s that we lost touch, our lives took us on very different paths, yet at the same time very similar. It was only on social media that we found each other again. This was my second visit and we had much catching up to do. We chatted the whole way back on the train to her home in Woy Woy, a small town about an hour from Sydney in the Central Coast region of New South Wales 

Our first trip was to the Gosforth Art Gallery and Japanese Gardens.  We spent a very happy day there being inspired by a local artist, Helen Geier’s, work with her multilayered colors and geometric shapes. This was my second visit here and I enjoyed it as much as the first. We also saw an old VW Camper van, a symbol of the Hippie era when we were both teenagers. A trip to Umina Beach was next where we walked along the beach enjoying the ocean and the sea breezes, wiggling our toes in the sand and feeling the waves lapping around our feet, hoping the big one wouldn’t wet our trousers! Fortunately, there were handsome young lifesavers there to rescue us should we have got into trouble! We saw a massive jellyfish on the beach and finished the day out at the Beach Café for a milkshake, gazing out at the ocean with its rolling waves and reliving our teenage years! This was what we had worked for all our lives – to enjoy old friends reminiscing about our youth, drinking milkshake as we would have done at the old Emperor Café, and eating our 6d packet of chips from the Sunflower Chip shop on the corner of Moffat Street and Jameson Avenue near to our high schools! 

Milkshake and Carrot Cake

We spent some time viewing the most amazing stained-glass windows in St Luke’s Church near her home. The artist was the vicar’s wife who had skillfully told Bible stories in each of the thirty-seven windows. We travelled to Hornsby to visit Pan’s daughter who joined us at the Empire Marina Bobbin Head at the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, a few miles from Hornsby. We ate a delicious lunch with crispy, curly sweet potato chips on the salad, something I had not tried before. We walked around the marina enjoying the peaceful atmosphere of the Cowan Creek River with boats gently bobbing away at their moorings at the quay. We returned home after a lovely day catching up with Pam’s family news in this magnificent environment. 

Empire Marina Bobbin Head

We took a drive out to a specialized fabric shop to find matching fabric for a bedspread Pam was making. The owner of this interesting shop travels to teach fabric craft in USA, Pittsburgh and other places, she had also written a book on her fabric craft and quilting. The final trip in Sydney was to the Penang Botanical Gardens, with its large waterlily gardens and Sculptures Park. We had lunch in the café there over-looking the water gardens.  Walking around we saw a number of different birds and parrots in the gardens, bright red flowers that looked very similar to a passion fruit flower, as well as pink gums hosting a rainbow lorikeet nibbled away at the flowers.  

Water Lily Garden

There was an interesting variety of trees, including bottle trees and of course the bark of different trees that totally fascinated me especially the one that looked like it has been scribbled on! The lotus and waterlily flowers were amazing with their delicate flowers and leathery leaves. The lively tropical plants caught my attention with their large banana like leaves and giant ferns. There was a golden shower of grevilia with spiky flowers, hanging over the wall. We also came across a Christ Thorn plant reminding us of our childhood days in Rhodesia. Christ thorn bushes were grown at the base of hawthorn hedges to keep out wild life and intruders.  And so, ended a wonderful time of renewed friendship, and memories relived as I came to the end of my stay in Sydney. 


Golden Grevilia

Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel, Uncategorized

My Road-trip dreams..and never giving up!

My Mazda Campervan

This is the last of Denise McLaughlin’s guest blogs for the current season. I want to thank her profusely for filling in the gap whilst I was travelling. Although, I am not yet home, I can now settle down to writing again. When I asked Denise to share her Festive Journey with my readers, it was because she is such a wonderful example of not letting life’s circumstances get her down. Are her circumstances ideal? No of course not, but she has taken what she has and made it into the best she can. I just love this final blog about making her dream of travel come true. Please share this post with anyone you think can benefit from Denise’s ‘can-do’ approach to her life’s journey.

For 26 years this little blue Mazda Soho 1.3 has served me and my wanderlust well. For years it was time-share places and self-catering accommodation. I had however always yearned for longer road trips along the back roads into the beautiful countryside. I thought of the self-drive typical mobile campervan but knew it was beyond my means.
My longing for camper-van road trips, off-road adventures or in fact any kind of camping led me to binge-watch all the Youtube videos on conversions of this type. I discovered the wonderful world of camper-vans being converted from cars, panel vans and even buses. In the USA this kind of lifestyle is big!


Then I happened to see a South African video of a similar small car converted. This was apparently possible, and I set about finding this gentleman who lived about a three-hour drive from me. He agreed and invited me there to discuss the conversion of my Mazda Soho.
Not at all daunted I drove to his town, it felt like a real adventure! He had arranged for me to staying a caravan on a nearby farm. After he had measured my car up, and realising it could be done, I made the decision to leave the car there and come back on a taxi-like bus…in itself a brave thing to do as I live in a rather dangerous country- South Africa. However, the excitement of making this happen, drove me to take a chance – Nothing ventured- nothing gained! I arrived home safely.


Soon after the conversion I took my first solo trip and camped beside the wide Breede River in the Bonnievale area – a region of vineyards and fruit trees and prosperous farms. I spent two nights sleeping in my car – and waking up to the river right beside my window – magic. I felt so daring and free…I had a table top which served three purposes – either outside, on Ironing board like legs, or across the back where the hatch opens as a kitchen table but also as a bedside shelf for all my night time necessities. I had a comfy camping chair and a shiny new kettle to fit onto my minute little gas stove. After making the car into sleeping mode which is no mean feat – as you have to push the passenger seat far forward and down- then add the wooden extension for the bed, get your tog bag with clothes out of the way in front then place the sturdy cool box back to be under the bed, put up silver sunscreens at front and back windows- for privacy – my side windows have little vintage- looking curtains to draw. Then the table top comes in, lighting organised for reading which could be electric lamp, or several other lights – battery, LED’s, large torch or yes-in my case even a candle! (OK, I know that could be risky, but I am careful, and I do love the warm ambience it radiates.


While I am driving, I listen to music like Willie Nelson’s ON THE ROAD AGAIN and other favourites. What a glorious feeling to know I can stop when I like, go anywhere and am living my dream. My next stop was at Greyton, a quaint and lovely village but I instinctively knew; when I saw the campsite I had pre-booked, that I would not feel safe there. They actually gave my deposit back but then the fun and games started as the surrounding towns had no camping spots and my cell phone was losing battery power fast! After an inquiry at a police station, I drove further and luckily found a good spot near Stanford – another small town. This one had a wooden Wendy-house type of kitchen as a bonus. I ended up swimming in the river and got a passer-by to take the necessary photo of me…
To get back to the trimmings, I took an old duvet cover in a soft feminine pale blue pattern apart to cover the mattress of foam and the curtains- my idea of vintage!


My very handy tabletop was painted and decoupaged with travel slogans, maps and pictures it became quite a talking point with fellow-campers. So, with a nifty camper-car – good enough for solo road trips, I was ready to roll. Despite warning from friends re safety and security and the dangers of being a woman on the road, I can now say it works for me- and I feel much safer in my locked car than I would in a tent!
I remain delighted that this conversion was making camping road trips possible and very affordable! I can now live without those lovely big RV’s


Moral of the story – keep looking for ways to make your dream come true and take a risk if it will help. Do not let your age and mindset stop you from living your dream!

Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

REFLECTIONS ON SPIRIT, SOUL AND BODY WHILST IN A TRANSITION

Guest blog by Denise McLoughlin tips and hints for facing the inevitable journey into older age.

When one is going into a new phase of life… Crossing another bridge – maybe the slightly fearful bridge to old age and all it entails- then it could be time to take stock  of where you stand in relation to your spirit, mind and body!

SPIRIT.

 Sunday – my day of rest and the time to meditate or look inwards -I thought I would share this wisdom I have encountered in various of my Quiet time books, one of which is “Streams in the Desert” by a lady called L B Cowman. Over the years I have found real treasures in this little book to guide me on my daily path. For example: ” Everything is possible for him who believes ” Mark 9:23

The “everything “mentioned here does not always come simply by asking, because God is always seeking to teach you the way of faith. Your training for a life of faith requires many areas of learning, including the trial of faith, the discipline of faith, the patience of faith, and the courage of faith. Often you will pass through many phases of faith before you finally realize the result of faith- namely, the victory of faith.

When you have made your request to God, and the answer still has not come, what are you to do? Keep on believing His word. Do not be swayed by what you feel or see. Then as you stand firm, your power and experience are being developed, strengthened and deepened. God will often purposely delay in giving you the answer, and in fact the delay is just as much the answer to your prayer as is the fulfilment when it comes. (ref. Streams in the Desert, L Cowman, 12th May pg 191)

SOUL OR MIND

About the soul or mind side of life there is so much to say… I think the most important thing for me is to take control of thoughts because as you think, so you are! It is so easy to fall into a negative pattern of thinking, especially in today’s world.

I like to turn my thoughts to the positive and part of this is to embrace your life! I try to make my life a celebration because being alive is so special and time is short…. I make my days as pleasant and festive as possible! As we get older there is a tendency to get stuck in a rut and stagnating and not having an open mind …. We should counteract that by doing new things…learn something new- whether it is mastering your smartphone or learning a language or taking up dancing …in all its wonderful forms… or setting up your Bucket List… things you still want to do…. if you don’t think about it and plan for it.. you might never do it!!!

I made a Power Point presentation of my list and have actually achieved  some of my dreams like my road trips with the conversion of my car into a campercar… enabling me to travel on a budget.

THE BODY

When I had to face my ageing body, there is a lot to be said. What comes to my mind is that it is the only body we ‘ve got and as we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” we should look after our bodies… we all know we need exercise but if you are naturally a bit lazy like I am, this could be a schlep… I have, however, discovered how good one feels after a nice fairly brisk walk, out in nature …or even up and down the streets of your suburb, as I have recently started doing. Now if one has kept up with the part that technology plays in today’s life, then may I suggest that on your  smartphone you download a little app called Runkeeper which works with GPS and tells you how far,  and how fast  you have walked… nice encouragement I find.  Just think how impressed your children and friends will be when you show them the visual map tracked on your App! You can also compete against yourself and improve your fitness.

Then of course there is the whole boring thing of eating right or your diet. I once went on the Banting lifestyle for three months and felt wonderfully energetic, lost some weight and it worked.

Then there is the matter of sleep or rest … I find that if I read until the wee hours of the night, I battle to fall asleep, likewise if I am on my cell phone busy with Facebook or whatever, my brain won’t switch off.  I read about digital burnout and how technology in the forms of cell phone, computers email etc can affect your sleeping pattern – something to take into consideration.

 I now made a rule to switch off everything around 9.30 …to then start with a quiet routine eg a warm bath, a book( not too a  stimulating one ) and low light (candlelight in these load shedding days * South African phenomenon due to inadequate electrical provision* ) is perfect. They say you should try and go to bed more or less at the same time every night…it seems to work!

I am coping with the transition of getting older by adapting my lifestyle and trying to stick to good habits. In this way I care for my body, soul and perhaps most importantly my spiritual life!