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, Transitions, Travel, Uncategorized



Life takes us on strange and difficult pathways that we would never have dreamt of, so I thought I would share this last intended grand trip with you! After my divorce, I made a dream list of what I wanted my life to look like. One of those dreams was to travel, I had no idea of how that could ever be possible, but other problems I faced in life were actually the opportunities to make this dream possible. My children grew up, moved away, and created their own lives on three different continents leaving me on the fourth! I then had the opportunity to travel to visit them and so fulfilled my dream of travel.

It was my daughter’s fiftieth birthday that brought me to Australia this year, I was determined to make the most of the opportunity and see other longtime friends and family as well, little knowing what awaited around the next corner. After I had booked the ticket which was via Hong Hong which I had never been to before, I started to feel a strong resistance to the trip not knowing COVID-19 was just around the corner.

The whole trip started on the wrong foot when I phoned Cathay Pacific for a request for airport assistance, they told me my flight had been changed and I was flying that night instead of the Wednesday. I had to rush the last-minute packing and get to the airport on time. The flight to Hong Kong was quite pleasant and the staff helpful. Arriving at Hong Kong airport I was met and taken to the Lounge as I had requested, so was able to rest and have a meal of delicious Thai curry with vegetables, during the seven-hour layover. The flight to Brisbane was pleasant. My family met me at the airport and it felt good to be back in Brisbane again. I did not feel as bad as I expected after the 32-hour flight during which I caught up on the Downton Abbey Movie, it was rather disappointing after having watched the series.

The first day we took an easy drive-up Mt Coot-ha, one of my favorite look-out places over the city and the Brisbane river. Following up with a cup of tea at the Café and a walk around the Botanical Gardens. One of the big lizards decided to chase me as I took his photo, I made a hasty retreat! The botanical gardens is one of my favorite paces with brightly colored flowers, interesting tropical plants and big lizards.

My daughter’s birthday was celebrated in style with an English High tea at the Forget-me-not, served out of dainty flowered chinaware holding tasty treats, with beautifully folded serviettes to look like flowers and a dinner at the Bellbowrie Tavern!

Sunday, we drove to Usk, to the interesting little Nash Tearoom which I had been to before, it was still unique and quaint with delicious food and the history and Art gallery on the walls. Interestingly, there was a notice up for the Woman’s day of prayer for Zimbabwe! After my delicious lunch of avocado salad, we went on to the Wivenhoe Dam enjoying the jacaranda and gum trees and the lovely view over the dam. We progressed homeward via Colleges Crossing, where we did a circuitous walk around the picnic site!

We visited the Japanese Gardens at Ipswich enjoying the lovely waterlily pond and more big lizards! We also went through the Nature Centre with easy accessibility to see birds, various night animals, wallabies, kangaroos, black swans and emus to mention a few. There were also a huge flock of bats in the trees, very messy creatures. We finished with lunch at The Hog’s Breath, which was very pleasant and not too busy!

Dolphins, Aboriginal Smoking Ceremony and a Snake!
Another local trip we did was to SEA WORLD on the Gold Coast We spent a delightful day watching dolphins performing with people, penguins, seals, sharks, rays, corals and turtles and tropical fish. The polar bears were asleep, and I felt sorry for them as they looked so hot. The thing I enjoyed the most was the jelly fish I went back twice to see them as their sinuous shapes and umbrella like forms pulsated through the water, quite fascinating! We also were treated to a show of water sport with extremely high levels of skill.

I took my grandson into Brisbane to the Goma Art Gallery where looked at the aboriginal art with its raw colors and layers, using rocks, flowers and natural organic markings as themes. I think it was the colors of the Australian bush, the ochres and blue skies that appealed the most. We also went to an interactive exhibition on water, a vital resource of which it seems Australia has a feast or famine! Water is definitely an important theme for me. The children’s section had underwater scene with corals using raw and recycled materials. We also saw some of the fashion designs from the islands with their vibrant colors and patterns. We waited under the shade of a flamboyant tree looking at the tropical gardens with rich greens, for the Ferry to take us up the river. How I just love the red and green colors, so reminiscent of Rhodesia. We sailed up the Brisbane River to Hamilton passing New Farm, on the Brisbane Roar ferry looking at the changing skyline through bridges and across open water. On reaching Hamilton we returned the same way, back to South Bank as it was a stinking hot and humid day and we had no energy to do much.

We took a shopping trip to Oxley and on the way home we drove through the Correctional Services and Mental Health Campus at Ipswich. It is pretty extensive with lots of buildings including the historical mental health institution which is now a heritage building and not in use. My daughter explained what all the buildings were although we were not able to go in or get out of the car, but it was an interesting tour all the same!

I had an invitation to the Nurses Union Meeting with an Aboriginal Smoking Ceremony. I felt a fraud being there as a nurse, had put on my badge ‘retired’, one of the nurses said to me that nurses never retire! The healing ceremony was interesting, as the Aborigines danced and played their digeridoos, they then lit palm fiber by rubbing sticks until it caught fire, making a lot of smoke. They placed eucalyptus leaves on to burn, then went around the circle of people, blowing the smoke over them in a similar way to natives do with sage. After the Ceremony we walked all the way down the river from West Side to South Bank, in the hot sun to the Queensland Museum where we had refreshments before heading off to Fish Lane to view the wall art, which was quite impressive. I noticed this is a new feature, more public art, sculptures and murals.

Another trip was to the Kohlo Botanical Gardens the other side of the River, another lovely lily pond with a walk through the forested area, the only distraction was the plethora of mosquitoes who thought their Sunday dinner had arrived! Great stands of bamboo h reminded me of the home I had left in Rhodesia many years ago. We followed a trail around the Creek, and looked over the Brisbane river which appeared green and slimy. We saw a beautiful lizard by the waterfall and a bush turkey making my day. My daughter had teased me about not seeing a snake and as we were crossing a little bridge, she grabbed me shouting to wait; there was a snake slithering across the bridge in front of me, eeek!!!

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!

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


How often we dread the turning of the clock as the years tick by and we reach a certain milestone. Denise Mclaughlan shares how she celebrated her coming of age of three score years and ten as a single person! (This was 5 years ago)

In an effort to accept and make sense of this ageing matter, I had this sudden inspiration to embrace the fact that I was turning 70 in that month of May… so, rather than to fear it or make it go away I decided to embrace it…and that after several years of not easily admitting to my 60-plus status!

The fact is that I feel so much younger…. healthy and with more energy and exuberance than a lot of younger people. I realised that there is no getting away from the years… thus why not go big? Hence the week-long festivities, A 7-day celebration for the 7 decades.

I set about it by creating a Powerpoint invitation of several slides in which I set out the plans I had for doing pleasurable activities every day for a week…with whatever friends cared to join in.

I took great pleasure in designing the page and writing the rhyme/verse playing with the words starting with S as in the heading SASSY SENSUOUS AND A SHARP SEVENTY which is how I tend to see myself… never mind the odd grey hair, the slight stiffness when getting up ; at least I had kept up with the modern world of technology and had refrained from getting narrow in outlook!

On the following slides I set out plans like….a morning tea party at my house (for the older folk who are not working ) … a Pyjamas and Popcorn movie evening for my church cell group on the one evening…a movie and coffee outing with three other friends – who share my interest in movies ( and did we enjoy “Far from the Madding Crowd”!

There was also the Sunday with my little family at home with cake and champagne… and the joy of having two of my three grandchildren with me!   However the piece de resistance was a good old-fashioned Soiree (which for those who don’t know) is an elegant get-together at a home with live music and a dinner. This was in the end held at a very close friend’s house and as a gift she provided her lovely dining-room, most of the dinner and the table decorations which had a vintage theme…and her cook who did the delicious meal. To fit in with the soiree theme, I hired a professional saxophone/clarinet/flute player to do the honours. We were 12 people and I must say they did me proud… a real highlight of my festivities!

On my actual birthday and after the six days of enjoyment, seven friends and I went for a very fine breakfast at Nitida Wine farm near Durbanville where I simply loved the view of a dam , the vineyards in their autumn colours , the fynbos and the Boland mountains in the distance.

This was the most blessed and fun-filled birthday and I actually enjoyed reaching this milestone of birthdays…. here is an excerpt from the speech I made at the dinner on the night of the soiree. 

Seventy years of a good life

……….And so now I am seventy and rather than fear old age I shall embrace the years to come. I will work on my bucket list and I will live life to the full with the help of my Lord in heaven. I am grateful for the blessing of good health and a zest for living … so watch this space!!