Hop it!

FeaturedHop it!
Munching their way through our garden

The extent of our garden is slowly being devoured by these little critters. I found them on a small clump of drought-tolerant grass located down the side of the house which is gravel path and fence and no other plants. It’s funny how they sniffed the only greenery out. There was a whole family of grasshoppers actually – Mum, Dad, and several youngsters. They look so comical, don’t they?

Big mouthfuls and baby mouthfuls!
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Bluebottles, divorce & other ramblings

FeaturedBluebottles, divorce & other ramblings

I’ve neglected my blog and WordPress for the last few weeks. Life got really busy – as I’m sure you can all appreciate – and then the mad preparations for the festive season followed by the need for us to transform ourselves into the ‘new us for the new year’.

Christmas was wonderful and exhausting at the same time; the offspring and their partners came to stay. We entertained every day either with friends at home or out on the town. The cocktail shaker was dusted off and the espresso martinis were free-flowing together with the Aperol spritzes. Nothing gave me greater pleasure than having our house full of family – just like it used to be – the long hair blocking the sink, the makeup strewn around the bathroom, the endless piles of washing, the phone and laptop chargers snaking from every available wall socket, the stacks of sunglasses and heaps of swimming towels – it was brilliant! And the laughter, oh! the glorious laughter.

We traveled a couple of hours north to our favourite spot on the Sunshine Coast for a day on the beach. Chief was stung on the foot by a Bluebottle jellyfish while walking along the shoreline. By the time we were home, the story had morphed into “I was swimming a mile out and was bitten by a shark!”

Over the last few weeks, there has been an invasion of Bluebottle jellyfish, with thousands being blown to the shores of Queensland beaches. Last weekend alone, there were over 2,500 beachgoers treated for stings. The little critters wrap their tentacles around limbs and release their sting which I’m told is very painful. Fortunately, the surf lifesavers were on hand with bags of ice and advice. We’ll probably be giving the beach a miss for a couple of weeks.

Bluebottle (Portuguese Man ‘o War)

And then on the 2nd January, the house fell silent. The offspring headed back to Adelaide and Chief and me back to work. The tree has been ‘undecorated’ and packed away for another year, the beds stripped and the cocktail shaker back in the cupboard – for a while at least. About that – I’ve discovered a great online community, Hello Sunday Morning, which has become the largest online movement for alcohol behaviour change in the world. There is a great app Daybreak, which offers professional support and tools together with an online community supporting each other.

I’m feeling a bit flat, to be honest, but have lots of things to look forward to this year, none more so than our 30th wedding anniversary in June – I know, right! Where have the years gone? We will be celebrating by taking a short break in Hong Kong later in the year. I’m pleased to say that we have survived what is being dubbed as Divorce Day, January 8th, the most popular day for couples to commence legal divorce proceedings, according to lawyers (a UK study). After the pressures of trying to achieve the perfect ‘chocolate box’ Christmas, it’s enough to send any rocky marriage over the edge. They wait for the kids to go back to school and then – bang!

Dad update: By the time you read this, my dad will have had a pacemaker fitted which is the result of all the shenanigans in Dubai way back in October. Hopefully, that will be it and a return to full fitness is on the cards. All the best for a full recovery Dad x.

So that’s my round up for the start of the new year as I start to plan my trip to the UK in April, I’ll leave you with some images of our time over Christmas – happy new year everyone and may your 2019 be one full of good health, happiness and laughter – you have to laugh every day!

Focus on the focus

Focus on the focus

Thanks to Debbie Stott for the inspiration to post these photos; I was inspired by her Kew Gardens in Patterns.

Considering we have just entered Winter here in Brisbane, some days I just have to pinch myself; Winter in the sub-tropics does not compare to the chilly months I was used to in Adelaide nor the freezing months and months endured in the UK. And just to prove it, last Sunday was a glorious sunny 24 °C. By the end of this week we’ll be seeing 27 °C but that’s beside the point.

I decided to take my camera for a walk in Brisbane Botanic Gardens at Mount Coot-tha. Although it was early, the car park was already chockers but parking carma was on my side and a free space was waiting for me.

A couple of Saturdays previously, I had joined the Brisbane Photography Group for a casual meet up in Roma Street Parkland. The topic was taking shots at different angles but the lovely facilitator, Evelyn, was only too happy to have a one-on-one with me to ‘sort my focussing out’. And all I have to do now is practise and that was my priority last Sunday. So without further ado, here’s the pick of my faves. My number one is the water droplets on the leaf. How is my focus doing?

Special Places

Special Places

I’ve recently returned from a three-week trip back to the mother country. It’s been two years since my last trip and that was for when Dad was awarded his MBE and, by special invitation, we made the journey to Buckingham Palace. Here’s a little reminder of that (sorry for the poor quality of the photo – it was taken through the picture frame)

Dad and Charlie Boy

I spent the majority of my three weeks staying in Suffolk with mum and dad. We did quite a lot of walking – in bluebell woods, coppice woods, along an old railway line – now a walking track and along the river to see a bevy of swans. During the middle week, Mum and Dad accompanied me on a road trip to Somerset – home to cider, cheddar cheese and the Glastonbury Music Festival. This part of the country was my home for eighteen years.

Bluebells

Mum and Dad moved down to Somerset after my brother died and I followed suit not long after. We felt a sense of connection to the happy times we’d all spent down there on our family holidays.

We lived on the Quantock Hills – designated in 1956 as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and comprising ancient woodland, heath and agricultural land. Our cottage was just a little further up the lane from Alfoxton House where poet William Wordsworth and his sister Dorothy lived for a short time. Another claim to fame for the Quantocks is that Bryan Adams filmed the video for (Everything I do) I Do It for You, there.

Our family holidays were spent on Exmoor, a National Park of moorlands, valleys and woodland; of red deer and Exmoor ponies and clotted cream teas. Of Minehead, an old shabby seaside town with its pier and amusements, and “Kiss Me Quick” hats and candy floss. As kids we played in the not so crystal clear waters at the beach and lost our pocket money to the one-armed-bandits in the amusement arcade on the pier – Ah! the memories!

And so it seemed fitting that my brother’s ashes were scattered at our special place on Exmoor (no, not Minehead pier!) I hadn’t visited our special place for some time and felt the need to go. It was a damp day but as we parked up just below Dunkery Beacon and donned our wet-weather gear, the rain stopped and the sun tried hard to break through the clouds – Paul was watching over us for sure.

It’s been 34 years since Paul died and our special place has not changed at all in that time. It gives me a sense of calm and peace. It’s a wonderful place to reflect and to remember. I draw comfort knowing it will remain that way for ever and a day and that when I next visit, it will still be untouched and will remain timeless.

Flying High

Flying High

In exactly two weeks time I will be flying high above earth as I make my way to the UK for a three-week visit. I’m a little nervous about the flight – not because I have a fear of flying (shouldn’t it be a fear of crashing?) but because I hope I can keep myself together and not embarrass myself like last time. It was after my week in the UK two years ago, when I made a special visit to attend Buckingham Palace with my Dad. I was just one hour away from Brisbane after a long, long flight plus four hours stopover in Singapore. The cabin crew were trying to stuff another meal down us just in case we’d worked up an appetite from doing absolutely nothing for the last couple of hours. I wasn’t feeling too flash so I disturbed my seat buddy so I could get to the toilets. The next moment I was teetering on the edge of the abyss of horizontal sleep; it was a glorious sensation and I just wanted to stay there. The only problem was, it wasn’t sleep – I’d passed out as I made my way down the aisle – in front of a row of Japanese schoolboys. Oh! the embarrassment! I came to with my legs up on a hostie’s lap and realised my head was cradled in the lap of another one. A male passenger was striding over me as he tried to pass. I must have held up the queue! Couldn’t I just please stay there for the rest of the flight? My head was on a comfy pillow and I was finally horizontal – it was bliss! The hostesses knew my name by this stage and were helping me to sit up. They helped me into a jump seat which meant I was facing the passengers – Beam me up Scotty!

An orange juice put me right and although the lovely crew offered me a wheelchair exit, I decided I was well enough to disembark with the other passengers.

So, that was me, and then there was Dad who was taken ill on their flight home from Australia last October. Following a three week stint in a Dubai hospital and three stents later, he was well enough to fly home.

Flying is a risky business and this time I will do all in my power to remain healthy – and conscious; flight socks, no alcohol (do you think?), and not being tempted to eat every meal going. I can’t help the sleep situation as I’ll be travelling cattle-class but I’ll have a travel pillow and might investigate some natural sleep remedies to help out.

What do you swear by to stay healthy on a longhaul flight? Do you take knock-out drugs? Drink yourself into a stuper? Are you one of these annoying people who can fall asleep at the drop of a hat and sleep for 12 hours straight? I’d love to know your tips.

A Hump Day Funny

First of all, some of you may not know what ‘hump day’ is so by way of an explainer, it’s a Wednesday, the halfway point of a typical working week.

I thought I’d let you into a little funny incident that took place in the gym a couple of weeks ago. Those of you who have been following this Wombat for a while will know that I am a gym junkie. Actually, I have no idea what qualifies a gym junkie but I go four to five times a week which I think is pretty good. The reason why I can do this often is that the gym is only a two-minute walk from my office and I have programmed myself to walk towards the gym rather than towards the station at the end of each day. The gym is right in the city centre and everyone is really friendly (staff and members alike). We smile encouragement to each other and work through our routines relatively uninterrupted. At this stage, I will point out that this gym does not have a Tasman Rower you’ll be pleased to know!

Note: This is not me!

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CATHY PHAM

A couple of weeks ago, I was exercising in the free-weights area which is a popular space for male users. I was in the middle of a set of one arm row repetitions (as pictured above) – I’m leaning over a bench with a 9kg dumbbell in my hand which I pull up to chest level using my back and arm muscles. I’m just changing sides when suddenly I’m tapped on the shoulder. ‘Yes!’ I think – someone is about to tell me that I’ve still ‘got it’. I turn around to face a young girl – I’ve been trying to make a connection with her for some time – girls together and all that. Every time our eyes meet I smile but she has already turned away and I’m smiling to myself which might look a bit odd to an onlooker. Now face to face, I smile and say “hi”. She returns my smile and then in a thick eastern European accent she says, “I don’t know if you intended to do it but your gym pants are inside out!” Gasp, shock, horror! By this time I’ve been working out for about 30 minutes which means EVERYONE would know that my gym pants are on inside out with all the labels and coloured gusset uppermost! Oh! the shame! Of course, I laugh out loud and thank Eastern European Lady very much, before making a hasty retreat to the changing rooms to right my pants.

Now when she sees me we share a knowing smile or it could be a smirk on her part – perhaps, I’m still trying to work it out. My lesson learned is to always check my gym pants are the right way round when I take them off the line – later! 🙂

Chucking a Fast-Food Birthday Sickie

Chucking a Fast-Food Birthday Sickie

This week at work we celebrated a team member’s birthday with the obligatory afternoon tea. It was a lovely spread; a cheese platter, savoury nibbles, and a lovely passionfruit butter cake. A speech was made and our rousing rendition of ‘Happy Birthday to You’ had heads turning with jealous looks from fellow co-workers. We shared some jokes and wished the birthday boy all the best for his year ahead.

The conversation turned to who was next on the birthday list and it so happens to be the boss followed by me in June. The team can’t wait for my birthday because they are going to make a KFC birthday cake – yes, you read that correctly people – a Kentucky Fried Chicken birthday cake, and I will be chucking a sickie that day. You see, I have never EVER eaten KFC which sends my co-workers into a frenzy of disbelief. They’d be more accepting of me eating a kilo of witchetty grubs! How could I have reached my fine old age without stepping foot inside a KFC joint? They are in wonderment and treat me like I am missing a leg or some other body part.

Now my workmates are on a mission to force feed me a KFC before the year is out and I can tell you (and them) it ain’t gonna happen! It’s not like I’ve never eaten fast food before, because I have. When I was a little girl, I can remember a family day out to London which included my first McDonald’s experience. Fast food was a relatively new dining experience in the ’70s, with the first McDonald’s opening in London in 1974. I can remember standing in front of the counter. I craned my neck to view the picture boards of offerings, which I would have found overwhelming and I’m sure a grownup intervened and made the decision for me. I do remember eating a cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate triple thick milkshake – no happy meals back then – it was a treat and a whole new divine dining experience.

Photo Credit
Photo Credit

Because a trip to McDonald’s was considered a treat back then, we didn’t eat it very often. I was fortunate enough to grow up surrounded by fabulous cooks and in a world of hospitality, and I soon realised that there were far better food choices available to me than the Big Mac. Once Chief, a chef with a passion for fine dining and first-class ingredients came into my life, I didn’t have to go far for treats anymore.

Needless to say, our offspring weren’t exposed to the fast-food culture, the result of which meant our daughter recently had to add a disclaimer to her Uni exam paper. Whoever set the questions had made the assumption that everyone would know what the interior of a McDonald’s would look like – and she doesn’t!

I can’t say the same for our son who, under pressure from his peers no doubt, has been exposed to the joys of the burger and the nugget, which did lead to my first experience of a drive-in (or is it drive-through?) McDonald’s a few years ago. I ‘d picked him up from somewhere – I can’t remember if it was work, a night on the town or sports event – anyway, he was starving and ‘pleeease Mum, could we stop’. I went to park up. “No Mum, use the drive-through” (or is it drive-in?). ” You’ll have to show me what to do Tom”. The panic was already setting in.

Firstly the menu board (it would have made more sense in hieroglyphics). I think at this stage I pushed the intercom thingy to place the order. Tom had to lean over from the passenger’s side to do the talking – a conversation ensued and I could tell he was well-versed in this practice. We then proceeded to the payment window, and finally on to the collection hatch where his order was already waiting for us. “Wow! that was quick!” I exclaimed. “That’s why it’s called fast food Mum”. He patiently replied; his eyes towards the night sky. It was a revelation! We drove home in silence; Tom made his way through his ‘food-stuff’ while I opened the window to let the stench out.

So as you can see, I AM experienced in fast-food culture but really it’s not what I call ‘proper food’, let’s face it, it’s shit, and once you’ve read Fast Food Nation, you’ll never want to touch a string-fry or suck your cheeks in to a triple-thick milkshake ever again.

You can imagine my fear of being presented with a lovingly team-constructed KFC birthday cake, so if you have any tips on how I can avoid my fate in June, your advice will be greatly appreciated! Bon Appetit!