Category Archives: Lifestyle

Girls Night Out

My elder sister has already created a strong support network after only a short time on Bribie Island. TOBIs – Territorians on Bribie Island, being one group with obvious common background. Seems those who used to live in the Northern Territory quite like the low-key lifestyle and capped population to be had on Bribie Island.

Another group is known ironically as “the Young Chicks” – a group of women from a certain age who meet monthly for dinner. Apparently my big sister was the instigator, originating the group with emails to inform where and when to gather, she usually books.

To pad out that selected lifestyle is WIRE – another woman’s group. This group is more sports orientated; Golfers, tennis players, swimmers who gather to discuss issues relating to local council, politics (main focus being a recent huge increase in rates, particularly for canal-side houses) travel destinations, small business and grand children’s activities. These women share problems and strategies.

During several different visits and our housesitting members of these networks certainly took pains to be inclusive and probably kept an eye on the home-minders.

Returning home after a lovely evening I encountered another infestation, our biggest; a mouse pitter-patting down the hall. Rod is keen to blame all of these visitors on my sister’s garden mulching – composting system.

Finally we have success on the beach weather front. Walking the dog on a picturesque morning with early sunbeams and less wind, but eventually even this minor resistance makes us turn around. The terns on the beach have a head-bobbing mannerism that makes them look like little old ladies or kids with a funny little dance. Sea gulls wash on the surf edge.

Long established rule of swimming come to mind. Never swim alone, in the early morning, in the presence of bait fish, or in clouded water. I try not to shift into panic mode too quickly. At least I couldn’t see any bait fish.

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On being House Sitters

A southerly swings in, it is autumn after all, but this ruins our beach plans. We catch up on shopping, even with its small population Bribie Island even has an Audi Supermarket. A reflection of the demographics that is top-heavy with retirees, I suppose. We find it crowded – must be pension day – and we are unfamiliar with trolley and entry systems. But they do have familiar products – almost.

Bribie Island Aldi
Free standing but a bit too far from the house

The case of the missing recycled fabric shopping bags is still not solved. Very frustrating – I know they were packed.

House sitting:

  • We have access to stocked cupboards – full of gourmet products
  • Our day is filled and dictated by pet activities. Not that we mind.
  • There are garden duties.
  • Hidden secrets are discovered – like the yoghurt maker.
  • Wish we’d paid more attention to how to operate the bread maker.
  • Access to books and Dvds but forbidden from the record collection.
  • Much better than cabins and or serviced apartments
  • Friends, support, neighbours to help and keep an eye on us. The possibility to have our own friends and other family members visit.
  • Arrangements have been made for payment of the utilities.
Bribie Island Arts centre
Arts, crafts and activities

At Tai Chi classes held at the local Arts Centre I feel alarmingly uncoordinated. Someone else has flexibility and can stretch much better than me. How dare he? What kind of person can afford to spend from 8.30am until 10am during the week at Tai Chi? Early retirement – Part timer – Night shifter – Works at home???

“We’ve researched everywhere now,” Rod says about our shopping expeditions. Our best winner is the Banksia Beach Woolworths which features fresh made, cook at home pizzas as well as great home brand curries.

Banksia Beach Shopping centre
All we needed and closer to the house- note how flat Bribie Island is!

More cold weather house-binds us. We enjoy the new open back deck and eventually decide to wash the car.

There is an orchid show @ Ningi. This is a tiny hamlet just off the island. So many stunning blooms. “I prefer the small delicate ones,” Rod says, “the big ones don’t look like orchids to me.” I notice that Bonsai wire is used to keep blooms upright. “Seeing those competition blooms makes your birthday one look fantastic.” We do have a little collection of specimens at home, but nothing on this grand scale, which we are told can be induced to flower 2 or 3 times a year. This must be part of living in the sub tropics. We are reminded that part of our house-sitting duties is the requirement to feed the orchids.

Ningi Hall
Ningi Hall – site of the annual Orchid show

House Sitting Bribie Island Queensland

We are entrenched in the site of our 8 week house sitting duties. Cleaning surfaces and putting my sister’s paraphernalia away. The house is busy with all sorts of knick-knacks and we are used to less stuff.

From Siri Hustvedt’sThe Summer Without Menthe interior of the house disturbs me, not because it is ugly but because it was dense with the lives of its owns…I wondered how I could fit myself into this place … How do people go from one house sitting situation to another? Each time having to find your own place. Or arrange someone else’s personal items. We will be on Bribie for 8 weeks which is a real change from the three days that is our typical minimum stay. Seldom have we been in a place for more than a week.

Kitchen storage example
Full cupboards.

All those temporary homes have rituals. Arrival day is often taken with search for accommodation, factor in time to slightly orientate. Rod’s tendency was to unpack and then go for a walk. He needed some sort of recognition compass points. Marking his place by pissing on the posts perhaps?

Siri Hustvedt’s The Summer Without Men again. …I methodically cleaned the house excavating clumps of dust to which paper clips, burnt matchsticks,…and unidentifiable bits of debris had adhered themselves… The musty, indefinite edges of every object I my visual field had taken on a precision and clarity that cheered me…

Will even the small changes be noticed, or the large ones cause offence? I was shifting kitchen equipment, Rod says, ‘she will be pissed off’. So many pieces in kitchens encountered on our travels are about fulfilling requirements, rather than actually provided to be used. Thus there was often limiting storage for non-perishables, all of which added weight to the concept that travellers are not equipped to actually self-cater. Here everything, even a pancake cooker is included.

Fabric storage
Just like this, only overflowing.

For packed shelves in Bribie – From The Dressmaker …cluttered with the stuff of mending and dressmaking – scraps and off-cut, remnants of fashion…shoved in every orifice…were bags and bags of material bits spewing ribbon ends, frayed threads and fluff.. Cloth spilled from dark corners and beneath chairs and clouds of wool lay about, jumbled with satin corners. Striped rags, velvet off-cuts, strips of velour, lame, checks, spots, paisley and school uniforms mixed with feather boas and sequin-splattered cotton, shearer’s singlets and bridal lace…

Queensland's only road accessible sand island.
Greetings from our home for 8 weeks
Coles Bay Tasmania

Isolation Problems

Elephant pass made us aware of difficulties caused by being hundreds of kms away from the conveniences taken for granted in the big city. But we had already encountered our own problem.

Eureka Fruit Farm near the spikey bridge solve the limited eftpos/credit card problem by stating that their fruit, including plums that look too perfect, ‘right around the island, and widely through the net.’ They must be able to access broadband.

Blue Book shop St Helens Tasmania
Aptly named blue book shop

In the blue building book shop I swap my read novels for the first time. Out of the range of electronic reading and in areas where people don’t have a lot of money to spend on luxuries like reading materials, used bookshops and a willingness to exchange or negotiate on price means stocked used bookshops. My problem is the rows of romance and thrillers don’t motivate.

Our cash card returns a ‘cancelled’ reading and won’t work at all. Luckily there is a Commonwealth bank in town and we are able to sort that out and return to purchase essential groceries. Phew crises averted.

Efforts to find accommodation down the road, in places like Coles Bay where there seem plenty of cottages and B & Bs is a hassle. You need to book over the net, and then get instructions on where to find the key. But we do not have precise dates, so we have to do the rounds. Signs are highly visible, but with no mobile coverage you can’t ring. We are told later, ‘if you can see Swansea, you can get a signal.’ This comms black-out means letting family know anything is also touch and go. We resort to text messages warning of poor reception and calling when the damn thing tells us with those little bars. Often this involves combining a walk with search for phone reception area.

East Coast Tasmania
Lots of berry farms, lots of space between towns.

Shopping could mean paying huge prices, petrol, luxuries like ice-cream, they set their own fees. We decide that a pizza sold from an oven at a breakfast-lunch café would make a nice change. They sell these from an oven with window facing the street. But it seems this is a weekend luxury. So back to the drawing board, and cruising past sell out stock in the one very small supermarket. CBC runs a monopoly in the Coles Bay area. $2 a litre for petrol, 20c for shopping bags, even $4 for a magnum ice cream. We decide to spoil ourselves anyway after the long 11km walk. Someone passing says, ‘they’ll make you fat…’ As we sit on the tailgate. No, you’re wrong, inactivity will, the stranger forgot to factor in our 5 hours serious bush walk. Not long ago this supermarket establishment burnt down, I was told. Likely this was a disgruntled tourist. Which left me wondering what did the locals do? Community means big shopping trips into Launceston or Hobart includes being given a list from neighbors. Or ingenuity when making repairs to properties, the chatty manager tells us, ‘you can’t just pop out to the hardware shop’.

Perhaps these things are why so many businesses are for sale, or have folded.

Coles Bay fire
Someone thought prices were too high and expressed their disgust

Opposed to that was the ancient buildings of Enstone park, Scamander. Visible from the highway were ancient stone buildings looking like they were something out of an English country manor magazine – an establishment that has granted an economic return to occupants since 8-8-1868. (Feng Shui with all those 8s).

Enstone Swansea
Typical settlers cottage – Tasmania
Raglan NZ

Only You

Cronulla Beach
Why would you leave ‘The Shire?’

Days before our departure on the first island adventure to North Island of New Zealand, we are walking on Cronulla beach and a drama unfolded. Rod took much longer than I anticipated. Well after the returned time, he is still not there. I wondered what to do? The only option was to talk to life guards – perhaps Rod has fallen and hurt those fresh injuries again. Being that the broken pelvis, cracked hips and ribs had only just knitted to the point that he could confidently walk without crutches. My husband is reported missing; a description is radioed to the life-savers on towers. My panicky thoughts swing through options of what to do? This was my first experience with separation anxiety. On our forthcoming 2014 adventure we will constantly in only each company. Twelve months with a type of relationship where you are constantly in only his company – how can that work? What are the pitfalls?

There have been chances to have excursions separately. Especially once we were any length of time in one location – Bribie Island or Burleigh but largely this amounted to a few trips to the city, while my beach person husband remained behind. It was possible to count on the fingers of one hand the numbers of days we spend apart.

Burliegh Heads
Home away from the Shire – Burleigh

And then once we were at home for those between trips breaks, I could, until I hurt myself, head off on my bike. Or trot out alone for a jog. I know there are people who say to have times apart assists a relationship, ours doesn’t seem to have suffered greatly from being constantly within ear-shot.

But the being alone panic was to resurface at a full circle point. When taking part in the Bushies tradition of celebrating the lives of members who have passed away Rod goes missing again. Driving blindly through the Helensburg streets in a panic was not a nice feeling. Or being told that, ’he probably just went to the coffee shop.’ My husband would not do that without telling me. I was very angry that the message that he was walking back to the cars did not reach me. But at least the fumes and tears could be hid behind the grief of “Crocker’s passing”.

Helesnsburg townsite
Helensburg – painful streets.

Now I must break the notion that time apart is evil as a necessary adjustment for a return to work. Not looking forward to 2015.

Leaving on the Spirit of Tasmania

Marc 2 WordPress Challenge

Things you promised yourself you’d accomplish by the end of the year. Travel that is all about Islands. Chasing waterfalls, crossing bridges plus a change to eat fish and chips. By the time this is published on the blog, there will be many things achieved under this category. I should make a start now and perhaps top it up later.

Islands: We are probably close to the total now, in November. Short of some special school holiday opportunities to cross the seas, (and why would be plan extensive travel in school holidays, when we don’t have to) our list is probably complete. So there has been (not in any order) North Island New Zealand, Tasmania, Sara Island, Bribie Island, Fraser Island, Lady Musgrave, Green Island, Whitsunday Islands x 2, Magnetic Island, Philip Island, and Kangaroo Island. So a good dozen.

Bribie Island
Sunrise off shore Bribe Island

Aside for the flight to NZ, there have only been two bridge connections. Bribie and Philip which means both of those can cross over to the bridges list. (Not going to count numbers there) We have also had to put the car on a ferry twice. An experience which added an element of marveling at engineering and spatial use. Who figures out how many vehicles can go on an ocean vessel and how they get packed in loaded and unloaded? Especially in a place like Kangaroo Island where livestock and farming equipment must be transported.

The furthest Island was Lady Musgrave, invisible from the shore, meaning it suited that great quote found in Miss Smilla’s Feeling for Snow ..I’ve always been afraid of the sea…On the open sea there are no landmarks, there is only an amorphous, chaotic shifting of directionless masses of water that loom up and break and roll, and their surface is, in turn, broken by subsystems that interfere and form whirlpools and appear and disappear and finally vanish without a trace…No landmarks alright! And on the windy return a swell that meant I almost did a papal kiss the ground on disembarkation. Except my knees were still weak, I was shaking and very close to vomit status. The ferry crossing to Tasmania was very similar. Anxiety about the likelihood of being sea sick adding to the rising nausea. Thank heavens for the advice about laying down and ginger products. But we got there, over the water, to another island.

Lady Musgrave Island
Too much like a postcard – Lady Musgrave Island

Lady Musgrave’s beauty, colors and isolation will probably fix it as the top. But Tasmania and NZ for the post-card scenery and range of experiences are significant. It’s just a pity about the weather.

I also recently encountered the notion of “Isle-mania” in Robert Drewe’s Montebello. So tick both of us are sufferers of this obsession with islands. Being able to use 2014 to engage our addiction has not assisted a cure.

Comments about Waterfalls, Bridges and Fish and Chips had better figure in another entry.

Let’s go again…

…our natural human desire for something other than the tedium of close confinement…Peter Carey’s Jack Maggs

More artistic, still in flower
More artistic, still in flower – remember when we were in NZ

While on Bribie we knew it was a finite period of time. With set dates there was no sensation of marking time. This period of between New Zealand & Tassie could best be described as the most ‘itchy foot’ period. After coming back from Tassie, there were some feelings of wanting to be on the move again. But again this was hemmed in by specific dates. After 6 months on the road, that feeling of confinement didn’t seem as strong, there were constant dates and commitments. Even so I can’t help wondering – Is this how my semi-retired husband manages his time? Could I really be retired?

Before we can set out again financial arrangements have to be made, the mail changes organized again. That needs to be at least 3 working days in advance. Some bookings are essential, being outside school holidays might work in our favor.

Winter has closed in, from the south comes blustery storms and freezing rain.

From John Williams’s Stoner inclusion of a Shakespearean sonnet –

That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruin’d choirs where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see’st the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west;

Which by and by black night doth take away,

Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the death-bed where upon it must expire,

Consumed with that which it was nourisht by.

This thou perceivest, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Winter threatens
Winter threatens

This seems embedded with a justification for what we are doing in 2014. – Let us use present healthy time, financially comfortable (if we stick to a budget) to be active and travel.

I get frustrated and wish we were going. Rod pushes departure to, ‘Wednesday next week’. Meantime bills and finances are going out. I keep trying to impress on him the fact that we planned, worked towards this. It makes no difference if we aren’t here when the fence gets built. Let’s get things going because we don’t know what our health will be like. I have to bite my lip and tell myself that he is a different person than me and more tied to a place. Not being at work means I have no project to work on, a serious lack. I am marking time and he is nest-building.