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?

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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.

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! 🙂

Hop it!

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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!

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!

Good Morning Mr Magpie

One of the first cyclist I encountered in Adelaide had zip-ties attached to their helmet, making them look like……, I don’t know – silly I guess. Over the course of time, I noticed several cyclist with the same spikey adornments. I was going to have to investigate!  It turns out that they are a protection against swooping magpies.

Swooping MagpieDuring nesting season, the male magpie is naturally protective of his offspring and will turn aggressive if he thinks they are in danger from anyone or any thing, including people cycling by and walking through his patch.

When we moved to Brisbane, I noticed cyclist using heavy duty zip-ties; was there a species of magpie I didn’t know about up here? Some cyclist had eyes stuck to the helmet to fool the magpies into thinking they were being watched back.

I naively assumed that cyclist were way more at risk of being attacked than someone on foot – so imagine my surprise when it happened to me.

I was wandering around the neighbourhood a couple of Sundays ago with my camera and macro lens. I had stopped by the local sports field and was taking particular notice of the detail in the bark of a eucalyptus tree, when all of a sudden something grabbed the top of my left ear. My immediate reaction was to flap my arms about, wondering what on earth had just happened. As I turned around to see what it was, I realised it was a magpie and he was coming back for another go.  I flapped around like a woman possessed  which made the magpie even flappier! I ran as fast as my legs would take me until I was out of his territory. By this time my ear was throbbing and I realised that blood had been drawn – two puncture wounds.

The advice to protect yourself from possible attack is to wear a wide-brimmed hat or carry an umbrella. I was wearing a baseball cap so the tops of my little ears were sticking up and easy bait for the upset maggie. The other advice is don’t run and certainly don’t flap around like a woman possessed.  I did both.

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Australian Magpie

At work on Monday morning, I was reciting my experience to the gathered crowd and was expecting sympathy (yes, really!) when instead I’ve been welcomed into the ‘you are almost a true Aussie club’. Apparently I’m half way there and all that remains is for me to hit a kangaroo whilst driving  and I’m in!

Keep safe people – just remember to look out for the Drop Bears too!

Wombat’s Vacation

It’s been a while since you’ve heard from me; I’ve had visitors and trips away and life was busy for a time.

I met my parents in Adelaide, who were there to catch up with their grandchildren.  We spent a few days at Deep Creek Conservation Park on the Fleurieu Peninsula which lies a couple of hours south of Adelaide. The park is the largest remaining block of wildlife habitat on the Fleurieu Peninsula and is home to an array of native wildlife. Immerse yourself in nature says the guide. We certainly did; our accommodation was set in four acres of peaceful natural bushland. Kangaroos came up to the house, feeding out of the birdseed dish every afternoon. Honeyeaters, blackbirds and galas splashed about in the birdbath and the little Fairywren busily darted from one plant to another – it was bliss!

Seven of us had made the trip to Deep Creek as well as Ziggy and Polly,  two Kelpie/border collies – they had great fun trying to outrun the kangaroos (they stood no chance) and playing with Freyer, the whippet on the next door property. From the property we hiked down the cliff path to Blowhole Beach. The view across Backstairs Passage to Kangaroo Island was stunning with blue shimmering sea and azure blue skies; one of those ‘life is good’ moments.

Once the youngsters and dogs had departed for civilisation and the internet, the three ‘grown ups’ were left to soak up the peace and the away-from-it-all vibes; life’s stresses washed away and it really was a moment to recharge the batteries. One of our walks was through Stringybark Forest. The trees were magnificent. Because we were relatively late in the day doing the walk, the majority of birds had flown off for the day – we just had to look a little harder for the wildlife.

I brought Mum and Dad back to Brisbane with me to spend some time with us before their flight back to the UK. In the meantime, Chief and I attended our son’s engagement party in Adelaide. We had a super weekend and the weather gods were shining on the outdoor party while at the same time, Mum and Dad were experiencing torrential rain back in Brisbane. As you can see, we’ve been here, there and everywhere.

And now life has made a cruel twist – Dad was taken ill on their flight from Brisbane to Dubai last Wednesday and has been in a Dubai hospital undergoing extensive tests ever since. A ‘problem’ heartbeat has been detected and he may have to be fitted with a pacemaker before being given the all clear to carry on with their journey home. The Dubai health care is second to none thankfully, and we hope it won’t be too much longer before he is granted permission to travel home.

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A moment of dry by the Story Bridge, Brisbane

So as you can see, it’s all been a hectic time and this week Chief is preparing for a three-week work trip, leaving Thursday morning. I’ll be in touch soon – until then!

 

Square in September – Day 17

Today is our son’s 25th birthday and apart from it making me feel rather old, I do believe that I have managed to capture all three elements for the ultimate ‘In The Pink’ challenge in this one photo.

tom and Christie
Tickled Pink

Earlier this year our son Thomas proposed to his beautiful girlfriend Christie. Chief and I were so delighted to be with them at the time, having flown to Adelaide for the weekend.

This photo shows Thomas wearing a pink shirt (tick!) The pair of them are absolutely tickled being having only been engaged for a few hours (tick!) and that ring is positively in the pink (tick!) Happy birthday Tom! xx

#InThePink