Saturday, 30 June 2007

The cusp

You know sometimes, fate can deal a hand that can actually be considered a blessing in disguise. Take astrology for instance; I am quite an analytical type of person and I am also rather good at dealing with the abstract. I have been told I can see that which is not immediately apparent to others, (others however, sometimes pause for a couple of seconds as they ponder my "perceptive" offerings, before defiantly declaring "BULLSHIT!", but never mind). I don't actually do astrology. I am vaguely interested in it and, in theory, I would like to know more, but I, born in Australia on the 22nd November 1973 at 6:17pm (for anyone who cares), am perfectly placed on the cusp of Scorpio and Sagittarius.

I have had a professional reading done, which places me JUST inside Scorpio territory, but many of the write ups often have the 22nd November down in Sagittarius, therefore I am conflicted, and often bamboozled when confronted with advice offered by "The Stars", mainly due to my feelings of obligation toward reading both signs. Such a conundrum ensures I not pin all my vague hopes of some enlightening piece of trivia, so easily retrieved from within the pages of the local rag.

I am more of a do-it-yourself kind of girl anyway, and so I find numerology to be more to my liking, as far as predictive devices go; everyone's birthday is their own, thus eliminating problems to do with times and geography. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the science of astrology, but it is too complicated for my novice brain, so I don't do it.

I actually did a 6 month numerology course, a couple of years ago. I loved it. I was working the numbers and studying, at every possible opportunity. I even turned into one of those annoying friends who provide impromptu readings (apologies to any who had to endue that. I do try not to do that so much anymore).

These days, I run the numbers more for my own information. I am not fanatical about dates and stuff, I just find the trends interesting in how they correlate to particular goings on for that day/month/year/9-year cycle.

Personally, there are too many variables to astrology AND numerology for one to give a quick and simple impersonal reading in a newspaper or online like setting. I can see the value when worked out for an individual based on that individuals specifics, but other wise....I did talk to a guy who worked for a newspaper, who did tell me, when their astrologist is sick -"they just make it up"! I kid you not.

Fro all of you who are in a similar boat, read here to learn more about the dreaded cusp! Or here to gather further insight into one of your favourite Sunday Scribblers.

Thursday, 28 June 2007


I have gone and done it now. I have signed up for one of those learn to run clinics at the Running Room. Last night was the first night. I was a little worried about it at first, which is why I didn't happen to mention it before now. I have always been a hopeless runner, but after this first session I think I know why.

This first session was such an easy initiation into it - 1 minute run then 2 minutes walk x 6, that I can see the erring of my previous ways. No wonder I could barely make it to the corner of the block before passing out in an exercise asthma induced heaving fest, which, upon recovery, would then see me dragging my sorry arse back home to hide my runners in the closet, in a place I hoped never to see them EVER again.

The gentle approach is definitely a stroke for the ole confidence, and I am actually looking forward to next week. Running seems to be a much bigger deal in Canada or at least Vancouver, than it seemed to be in Adelaide; there are runners speciality stores all over the place here, and they all appear to offer some kind of running clinic or classes. These clinics are relatively inexpensive too, which is such a breath of fresh air after the heady high prices of my seldom used, and therefore guilt inducing, previous gym memberships.

The session I went to last night was FREEeeeeee; perfect for a tight wad like me. I even met a woman called Elaina there, and we got to talking ..... oooooohhhhh socialising! How totally against my nature (no eye rolling permitted).

The Learn To Run Clinic was actually a lot of fun - wasn't expecting that. Next week we are doing 1 minute run 1 minute walk X 10.

With all this activity and the inspiration I am getting from it, I am a little concerned that I will lose some momentum when going back to Australia. I have mentioned that I have already contacted a Race Walking Group in Adelaide, but I have also just now, seen that there is also a Road Runners Club there too. I am pretty excited about this new fitness thing in my life. I can barely believe it, but....I AM RUNNING!

**UPDATE: I just had a thought, there is a 1km kids run for the HBC Run for Canada. I asked Ashely if he would like to go in that with the kids while I do the 3km walk. It now appears we will all be doing the HBC on Sunday. Mister LOVES running. I'll see if I can muster a photo this time.

Monday, 25 June 2007

Playing Pomp and Circumstance

The Graduate:

No I am not talking about the movie, we actually have one in our midst - a pre-school graduate, that is.

A couple of weeks back the kids in Mister's class were photographed in graduate cap and gown. Today, with just the class picnic to be had, parents and relatives of graduates were treated to specially prepared songs and shenanigans; a prelude to watching our little rascals receiving their graduate "diplomas". In Australia, I had to slog through 4 years of university before being honoured with such ceremony and officialities by the academic world. Even in high school we were lucky if we received a boot in the arse as we exited those hallowed halls for the final time - I remember my high school certificate came in the mail. Elementary school was capped off with a year 7 "disco". All I can remember about that was perfecting my wall flower impersonation to a tee; a skill that has served me well in life, ever since. I never went to pre-school or kindergarten; straight into grade 1 yeah....28 years I had to wait for my first graduate moment.

Getting back to Mister's big day, the kids entered the room to the dreary tones of "Pomp and Circumstance" while balancing hand-made, and rather ill fitting, cardboard graduate caps on their heads, shuffling in, determined and concentrating, in the hope that they not be the one whose hat topples off in front of everybody.

We parents and relatives listened to renditions of "baby bumble bee" and "good bye my Friends", in both English and French, and then the "diplomas" were passed out along with a laminated class-page; a double sided piece of paper which consisted of self-portraits of each kid in the class, and their names scrawled underneath. Nice touch.

They had obviously practiced the routine a couple of times, because every child was very well behaved and stood patiently for the individual glory moment in receiving their diploma.

After all the goodies had been handed out, the teacher gave a little spiel before announcing morning tea. At this point the kids were starting to get a little restless, and began pretending they were pirates; their rolled up diplomas suddenly doubling as telescopes (eye eye Cap'n). It was all pretty cute; Mister was positively beaming, as all the kids seem to, when the parents are allowed to attend for a special reason. The graduation for them was a good thing. Finishing pre-school is a little rite passage for them, as we all begin to ready ourselves for "the big school" and the accompanying complexities and issues which face our older children as the years roll on.

Missy Mopps starts the three's class in September, so I didn't really feel like we were letting go of anything major with the graduation ceremony, and I don't really think Mister understands that pre-school is over for him now, but it was still a little sad to think that these kids, most of whom Mister has spent the past two years, will all be going their separate ways. A couple of them will start at the elementary school with Mister; the rest though, we are never likely to see again, especially after November when we return to Australia. I guess that is just life, but the loss of sapling friendships is also the high price of moving away.

Sunday, 24 June 2007

The 5km

I did the Scotiabank 5km today. Sorry Scotty - no photo. I did get Ashley to take one before the race, but it was an utter shocker, I would have gotten him to take one after the race but......

It absolutely bucketed down the entire race. I arrived at the race just as the half marathon winner, Kenyan Patrick Nthiwa, was maneuvering toward the finish line. He took top billing in atrocious conditions; winning in just 63 minutes. What I was most impressed with was the guy's finish; he was sprinting toward the finish at a pace that would definitely leave the majority of us in his dust over a 100 metre distance, except this guy had already run over 21kms -an inspiration indeed.

Me, well, I turned up a novice, and I LOOKED like a bloody novice. Let me explain....

I decided to rig myself out in my comfy tracky daks; the ones that are floppy and probably at least a size too big, but at least they make me feel "hidden".

Upon my arrival, there was still 30 minutes before the 5km was due to start, so I stood by in the rain, to watch the early marathon finishers come in; it was already bucketing down.

After 5 minutes of that, I decided to do what the sane people were doing, and stand under a big tree to keep dry. For some reason it seemed wetter under there, but reason was telling me that this fact had to be impossible despite the river that seemed to be travelling down my water proof jacket and trickling down the front of my top - so I stayed there.

When the race finally got under way, I set about to get into my walking action. I think that lasted about 500 meters before I felt the pressure to run - it just seemed silly to be walking so early in a race while all these people were passing me, not that I could seriously see myself running the entire 5km - I haven't before. I think I ran about 1.5kms and fast walked the rest. I really should have stuck to my guns, been disciplined and fast walked the whole thing to test out my consistency in that style, but oh well. Next week I have the HBC 3km Walk, so I can have another go then.

The unfortunate thing about my race was, you guessed it, my attire. This time it wasn't my shoes. This time it was my reassuring comfy, floppy tracky daks. In the down pour, they soon became utterly drenched and heavy. The water weight locked within the fabric caused them to drag down with every step I made, to the point where I feared the "hidden" might suddenly become exposed in the most public and embarrassing of ways. I was literally wringing out my pants as I was marching along. Eventually I got the idea of hitching my pants up and tucking the stretched sodden fabric into my NOT a good look, but at least I could then get back to concentrating on the walking technique. In the end I ran the final 500 and crossed the line 44 minutes after I started. Oh well. At least I finished. At least I have a time to beat for next time...and there WILL be a next time.

There was no after race photo because of the rain; Ashley and the kids stayed in the car and waited for me, rather than stand out there enduring the elements, and I didn't stick around after the race either- I needed to get out of those damn clothes ASAP.

Predictably, the sun came out as we drove home, and around 2pm it was so warm we could even shed the fleecy jackets - it IS summer after all! Although an electrical storm just passed through and it has been showering intermittently ever since - funny old day really. I did score the all important souvenir racers t-shirt, which I can and will flaunt at every available opportunity. No one needs to know it took me 44 minutes now, do they?

Friday, 22 June 2007

Super agente 86 opening

"Would you believe...." there is a new GET SMART movie coming out in the next year or so, starring Steve Carell as Maxwell Smart Agent 86 and Anne Hathaway as Agent 99. Should be a hoot!

thoughts on a windy day

I am so caught up in planning and worrying about the future that I have quite forgotten to take notice of the now - no wonder I am in a creative funk.

I took the time to notice how the wind bends the tips of the poplars trees lining a neighbouring property- it was like a playful dance.

whispering sisters
share secrets in the breeze
poplars sway

© Strauss
22 June 2007

Thursday, 21 June 2007

Marathon effort

The house isn't even on the market yet and we have had potential buyers through already.

Got a call from our chosen realtor late last night, informing us that he had a group of out of towners, who were here for a very short time. They were looking at real estate, but wouldn't be ready to buy anything until September, when they officially move over - which happens to be right when we were planning to put 'er on the market. The realtor asked if he might be able to show our place to his people at 10 am the next morning...."I am sure we can come to such an arrangement", I blindly agreed before lowering the phone with that glazed look in my eye that tends to send the dogs dashing for cover under the bed.

Now while we are technically ready to roll, the place wasn't exactly in pristine show case shape. Last summer we had unsuccessfully attempted to establish a lawn from rolled out sod. When the moving panic stations set in around March this year, we gazed upon the patchy disaster out back, declared "war", and laid down fresh soil prior to spreading seed with our fingers firmly crossed in the hope that we weren't Canada's biggest lawn growing failures.

On the 14th day, after some praying and hoping and a few curse words flouted on the 13th day, green needle like spouts emerged - hallelujah!

Unfortunately, in his mad scientist like frenzy, Ashley, who admitted to dousing the designated area with three times the recommended amount of seed, had scattered lawn seeds everywhere, and these, of course, had taken off; flourishing in similarly annoying ways as the stray hairs that create the dreaded monobrow....and while I HAD been meaning to get to pulling out the offending areas of rogue lawn growth, I was a long way from finishing the job.

Seeing no end in sight, not to mention the 10am deadline looming in front of me like the bomb countdown clock scene in one of those cheesy suspense thrillers, I rang Ashley to suggest he return home NOOOOOOW! Before he arrived home I had managed to mow front and back lawns; I had only mowed it a week ago, but grass grows quickly here, and I almost cursed that lawn we had so painstakingly nurtured with our own bare hands - it took me an hour to finished the job.

Ashley arrived home just in time to start the weeding - bwah ha ha ha (evil laugh). I had to fix diner, get the kids bathed and into bed and then get that place sparkling clean and staged to perfection.

We don't have an abundance of stuff. In fact we have a large L-shaped lounge room with only a lounge suite and a bookcase in it....the room even echoes! The Realtor suggested we might like to "do something" with the "space" to make it look "errr....useful". No time for that, but I did manage to hastily scavenge some things out from the forgotten corners of a couple of cupboards and shelves to spruce 'er up a little.

At 2:30 this morning we declared that we had "kicked 'er in the guts", the house was looking smashing and smelled as fresh as Pine-Sol can.

When I awoke, some 4 hours later, I only had the carpet to vacuum and the beds to make, so I got out my best snarling beast face and growled at the kids to not touch ANYTHING, which must have gotten lost in translation somehow, because they apparently heard, "dump your toys into a pile before pouring your apple juice on the freshly mopped floor, then laugh about it". Needless to say, I was "not happy, Jan", but we did manage to evacuate the building with yappy dogs in tow, well before the 10am deadline.

Basking in the aftermath of a cleaning marathon enough to make even Mr Sheen beam with pride; I am officially stuffed. I have no idea how the actual inspection went with said people - they did eat the cookies I left out on the table, so I guess they didn't run away terrorised and screaming upon entering the door. I don't have any particularly special vibe about this first very early preview of our place; our official on-sale date isn't until late August, but I am keen to hear any feedback the Realtor might have for us for next time around.

UPDATE **** Realtor was happy with our efforts. Said group of out-of-towners are apparently "thinking about it", which I read as "attempting to book the next plane out ASAP, preferably under the cloak of darkness". Each to their own I guess.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Granville Island

It is official. We will be back standing on Aussie soil on the 26th November. There is much to do before then, and so much more to say goodbye to.

It was Fathers Day yesterday in North America, so we took Ashley out for the afternoon to Granville Island. For those who are not familiar, Granville is a great place to go, whether you are local or a tourist. If you are into the arts Granville is the where you might like to head. Granville Island is one of the venues hosting the International Jazz Festival, which is running over the next couple of weeks. Having said this, it seems there is always some kind of live music being played over there, no matter the time of year.
Granville is also considered a bit of an artist colony, with a variety of art studios, galleries and exhibits dotted all over the place. You can enjoy an array of good food on Granville, whether is be scouring the public markets for fresh produce, baked goods, delicious coffee and even some Granville Island brewed beer, or taking in a meal at one of the many restaurants and cafes scattered all over the island - there is literally something for everyone. There are plenty of nifty shops to peruse and there is even a kid's market, which houses a number of toys stores, an extensive puppet store, a large play gym and a cool gem store out back. They even cater for those among us whose children are of the four legged variety, with a place called Woofles and Meowz.

The aquabus can take you from English Bay to Granville Island in a matter of minutes, and the yachts lining the wharves provide a great boating atmosphere....oh and there is the tranquility of the water, swirling and lapping dockside...but that was a given, wasn't it? I really love it over at Granville. It has such a great laid back vibe; people are out to enjoy themselves and relax, and the misty mountain views make you just want to breathe in the scene or bottle it somehow, so you can take it in at some later stage, like a soothing tonic. These are among the things I will miss when we leave; the strong boating culture, the green colours, the water, the mountains, and the cool fresh air....sigh....a camera can only take you so far.

revelations to shake your head at

I have a bit of a strange sense of humour, or as my Mum would say "small things amuse small minds" (eye roll). Regardless, I am about to admit to two quirks of my deranged mind, because this weeks Sunday Scribblings prompts is all about eccentricities.

Words. Since the age of 10, a swag of words have kept me suitably amused; their sounds accentuated and drawn out; a generic image of the object kept in mind while doing so was enough to have me in fits. To indulge my mirth in my list of amusing words, I would attempt to incorporate these words into conversation so others might fall prey and inadvertently use them. Egg was one of those words. Somehow I managed to get my entire grade six class to repeat the word over and over one day as we ate our lunch. I think someone had a hard boiled egg for lunch and attempted to talk with it half stuck in their throat, which distorted their voice into a Muppet-like parody....that was what started it. No one could understand my amusement of the word, but enjoyed my laughing like a fool, which explains the collective repetition.

Frock was another such word. If you aren't familiar with this word, it is a kind of grandmotherly word for dress; to get "frocked up" is slang (at least in Australia) for saying one is about to get dressed into more formal attire in order to go out for an event (Ha). The word frock always inspired imagery of some dowdy old house dress. So if a friend were to tell me she "loooooved" my frock", I would know she was really just taking the piss. I thought it hilarious that my Gran's town had one women's clothing store in town; named "The Frock Shop", which was apt considering the crusty merchandise. I couldn't help a wry smile on my wedding day though, when my Grandmother complimented my "pretty frock" I said, small things....

Sandwiches was yet another such word that would send me into stitches. In the eighth grade we would have some class bonding time straight after lunch, in a short session called pastoral care. I forget what we did during those periods, but I do remember having to get into teams of four, naming our team and doing stuff. While the other groups gave themselves encouraging, intimidating names like ummmm "The Angry Army of Dudes" or "Princesses of Power" (I just made those up. Can you tell?) We were called The Sandwiches, The Cushions, The Hurdy Gurdies and The Sausages, simply for the amusement of forcing the rest of the class and the teacher to say our stupid word. Oh, the maturity. Is it just me, or do other people have a personal list of hilarious words too? Come on, fess up.

The other eccentricity of mine is something I like to call sound tracking. When sitting in the car with the music on, imagine the scene beyond the windscreen is the accompanying MTV video. If passersby happen to be plodding along in time with the music, well...even better. The more mismatched the scene to the music and song words, and the more unlikely the "actors" and "groovers" unwittingly thrust into my so called "music video", the more hilarious. Try it out next time you are stuck waiting at a pedestrian crossing, I can guarantee, you will at least question my sanity.

Sunday, 10 June 2007

The Alex's

We just came back from a fourth birthday party. It wasn't overly abundant with guests; just five little girls and four little boys.

Three of the little boys were named Alex. They were all about the same age and got on like a house on fire - collectively they were called "The Alex's".

When we were pregnant with our kids, we chose a few names that we liked, and then scanned the birth announcements pages in the months leading up to the big event, to ensure that our chosen name was not being reproduced in abundant quantities; "who would want to be one of 10 of that name, in their class room?", we figured.

In hindsight, I am SO glad we chose to call our son "Mister"!!!!

Friday, 8 June 2007

Ole Misery Guts

For the last two years, we have walked the same route to pre-school, and for the past two years, we having been crossing paths with the same woman, as she takes her child to the pre-school in the other direction. We pass her walking to the school, then again as we both walk home in our opposing directions; our paths always crossing at some point along the way. We pass her again on her way to pick up her child and again as we all walk home for lunch - that is sometimes FOUR chance meetings, each pre-school day.

For the past two years, whenever I have passed this woman, I have made the effort to acknowledge her, by offering a friendly nod; saying "good morning" or "Hi", or smile. Not ONCE has this woman returned with like-minded pleasantries, instead she passes-by stony faced, with a grim down-turned mouth; the only facial movement detected is the periodic, rhythmic tensing of the jaw, suggestive of one chewing on a piece of gum (or cud).

I find my failed attempts at garnering any kind of response from this Sour Puss, increasingly humiliating as the months have passed, to the point where I dread our morning interlude, because I feel awkward and also compelled to offer some kind of friendly acknowledgement, purely out of politeness, even knowing the "cold shoulder" will always follow. Everyone else is courteous, why can't she?

Today my daughter was walking behind me, on our return home after dropping Mister off at pre-school. Missy Mopps stopped dead and refused to walk on; Sad Sacks was coming our way. At least Missy Mopps gave me the excuse to turn my back on that woman until she passed us by, thus enabling me to preserve a little of my dignity this time, at least.

What IS this woman's problem?

Thursday, 7 June 2007

Arnott's Barbecue Shapes

I am normally one for foods that err more on the sweeter side ("mmmmm.... chocolate", as Homer Simpson might say).

The other day however, I was doing the grocery shop at the local, when I came across an unfamiliar looking box of crackers, emblazoned with the words, "Baked Crisps Chipotle Barbecue". My mind immediately tuned to thoughts of the product pictured here, on the left: Arnott's Barbecue Shapes; those delightful Aussie crackers that forbid many a lured nibbler from ever eating just one.

The Barbie Shapes, as they are fondly referred (at least in my family) are a baked cracker topped with a generous and very visible smattering of onion powder, salt, dried parsley and tangy, dried tomato seasoning. When one makes it to the bottom of the cracker carton, there lies a considerable layer of the tomato seasoning, the honour in syphoning and scrounging this tomatoey treasure from the furthermost corners of the cellophane bag, is both highly coveted and heavily debated. With this in mind, not to mention a mouth reminiscent of one of Pavlov's dogs, I grabbed a box of "Chipotle Barbecue" in the deluded hope that some ingenious fellow had managed to replicate the Arnott's was not to be.

While the Chipotle Barbecue were faintly reminiscent of the Arnott's variety, they were really only mere wanna-bes; though I doubt the crew at "President's Choice" were trying to re-create the Arnott's classic or were even aware of the product's existence. Nevertheless, there was no comparison. The President's Choice flavours included tomato (apparently), smokey chipotle pepper and onion powder - a fine mist of each, at best. The ingredient list on the back of the pack suggested dried parsley was also a feature of the President's Choice cracker, and the picture on the front of the box appeared to second this assumption, but alas, even after a thorough search to the outermost regions of the cellophane bag, no such positive i.d's were returned.

Don't get me wrong, the Chipotle Barbecue were edible. I didn't mind them at all, but they weren't a patch on the Arnott's variety, and the failed hope of sampling some ridgy didge barbie shapes, has now left me wanting - not that I really need them...please DON'T send me any! OK.

Wednesday, 6 June 2007

Ducks in a row

Presently I am frantically trying to organise myself and, as the expression goes, trying to "get my ducks in a row".

Over the past couple of weeks we have seriously been trying to organise the big move back to Australia from Canada ,and also plan a bit of a life for when we get there.

We have gotten the dogs sorted for going back to Oz, which is probably the part we really must have our wits about us.

Australian quarantine (AQIS) requirements are among the strictest in the world, if not THE strictest in the world. I understand this; our geography means that our industry and natural resources have been fairly well protected from outside nasties, but due to global factors and the ease of our modern transient lifestyles and international business, it also means that an infestation of some forest eating parasite or similar threat, can more easily and unwittingly be transported if we are not careful. This also means, if we were to decide to pack up and leave tomorrow, and chuck the dogs on a plane bound for the land down under, they would end up spending a torturous six months in quarantine in Melbourne. Since we are planning our move back with plenty of time on our side, we are starting the quarantine process now. By getting all the checks and vaccinations done well in advance, fingers crossed, they will only have to spent the mandatory minimum 30 days in the dogs are sorted. They are booked to go with the delightful people at Worldwide Animal Travel.

I have also been busy getting quotes for shipping our life back to Australia. I have one quote and am awaiting another, so a decision is closing in on that one.

We have also been preparing the house to opposed to what we WERE doing, which was preparing the house to live in. We have a realtor lined up now, and a price and date for putting it on the market - end of August.

I have been perusing the online discount airfares; smart fares seem pretty damn good; four one-way tickets from Vancouver to Adelaide via LA for under $3500 - total.

We have also been checking out schools for Mister. The Australian school year finishes up, very soon after we get there. He will be going into reception in February (or kindergarten as the Canadians call it), and we would like to visit the school we are considering, prior to enrolling him. I would feel better having had a taste of the vibe while kids were still present, and also the attitudes of the teachers. While this is all good in theory, we do sort of need a place to live within the designated school district. Consequently, we have also been obsessively viewing Domain and Real estate Australia, to see if our meagre budget will actually get us a place, without us having to sell our souls to the bank.

We have also been trying to find a reliable car that won't break the bank...we try to avoid loans as much as possible. I HATE debt. I am entirely SICK OF IT.

Thanks to Scotty, I should be able to resume my frenzied walking activity. He sent me a great running link, which outlined the contact details of a mass of Australian running groups and affliated associations. I have contacted one of them - Race Walking Australia. I got an email back from a guy to runs the Adelaide group, inviting me to his club. For me, it is important I line up exercise groups before hand, because I know, in the chaos of a big move like the one we are planning to embark upon, the fitness momentum will become lost and eventually so will my motivation; then it will start to get darker at night and colder, and next you know, I am making all kinds of lame excuses as to why I couldn't be bothered joining an exercise group, then come spring I will HATE myself for not continuing with the fitness regime, having undone all my hard know, all that hard work I am planning on doing until we November.

All in all it is a busy time; but then again, I revel in the opportunity to organise all this stuff, the only problem is that I am pretty much done for now. There isn't much else to do until August now, when we do one final prep before putting the house on the market. I don't mind. I prefer to be ready.

Tuesday, 5 June 2007


I remember when Dad first took my training wheels off my bike; I was six.

I remember the anticipation; my self-doubt and concern about riding without my tiny support wheels. I remember Dad's encouragement and promise that he would not let go of my bike until he knew I was ready and able to ride on my own. I remember taking off for the first time, Dad running along side me holding the seat so I would not topple over. He kept telling me to peddle and concentrate on where I was going - "look straight ahead". We did this over and over again, on the circular driveway out the front of the ole homestead, near the garage. Unbeknown to me, Dad, though still running alongside me, was decreasing the amount of support he was applying in order to keep me upright, until his assistance was no longer required. Then eventually, we took off together, Dad stopping part way while I rode on - solo.

I had ridden a few metres before I realised he was no longer there; of course I turned to see where he was, and of course I fell off and scraped my knee, but I was also encouraged to get right back on there and try again, and some stage, I must have gathered the experience and confidence to ride steadily.

Mister is an avid bike rider. He loves to tear around the street on his bike, and show off to the neighbour, delighting in her telling him "how fast" he can ride. Now and again we have suggested that perhaps he might like to take his training wheels off, but as is usually the case with him, we were met with much wailing and resistance, but since he is still only four, we didn't push it.

On Thursday afternoon, Mister was watching "Franklin", a cartoon about a turtle and his mates. During the episode, Franklin took the training wheels off his bike, and for whatever reason, Mister suddenly declared that he would also like to take his off. We were delighted to hear this, and bargained with him that we would do the deed on Saturday and spend all afternoon nurturing his confidence and guiding him in the art of bike riding sans trainer wheels.

On Saturday, Mister was champing at the bit, waiting impatiently as Ashely removed the wheels. We encouraged him to ride on the lawn at first, but the ground was too moist and spongy and he was having a hard time getting started, so we took him out the front, where there is a pavement and lawn for him to fall onto. So we took him out there, nervous about how this experience might turn out; how much wailing and disenchantment there would be as he struggled to control and balance the bike, without the customary support. We were bracing ourselves for a very long day; some skinned knees and howling; the beloved bike very likely being tossed aside to pouting promises of "never riding it again UNLESS those trainer wheels are replaced"...but we were wrong.

I kid you not, we had scarcely gotten into the front yard before Mister, without ANY assistance whatsoever, jumped on his bike and rode off BY HIMSELF! Ashley and I were both stunned, looked at each other, and then threw our heads back and laughed out loud. Mister couldn't understand what we were laughing at, and since we didn't want to make him paranoid, we explained that he was doing a fantastic job, and "could not believe" that he was riding so well so soon after removing the trainers. We told him "we could have removed them weeks ago if we had known he was that good". Basically we praised him up, and he was very proud of himself. He even went for a ride around the block. He did very well, but got a bit wobbly when the path appeared to narrow, but overall he rode exceptionally well for a first go.

Yesterday morning he showed a friend his new biking skills, and then he declared that he was going to teach another friend how to ride without trainer wheels - I am sure the other friend would be wrapped!

Mister, who has been known to be an overly resistant nervous nelly about practically EVERYTHING, has really gained a lot of self-confidence in recent weeks. He is really enjoying being a "big boy" and we are also, very happy to see him bloom.

Sunday, 3 June 2007

Mallee Born

I have talked before, about being born into “a dry husk in the middle of nowhere” – well, the "dry husk" is actually called Geranium, a town located in an area known as the Murray Mallee, and while this tiny farming community did have its virtues; a great community spirit being among them, relative peace and quiet, and a child’s winter scrubland discovery park out the back of the ole homestead, being others; the isolation (both social and geographical), the drab dry landscape, the searing heat, the flies and the lack of general facilities, were points I remember with just a little disdain.

As a child I had woefully awful looking teeth and compromised hearing. This winning combination of mild impediments meant I had to travel to the city, from time to time, to see specialists. “The city” was a good two hour drive away, but despite the distance, I didn’t mind these trips, because the city was somewhat of a wonder to me.

The first thirty minutes of our city bound journey were the most excruciating. Mile after mile of unchanging bitumen scenery, skirted with creamy limestone rubble, and thickets of scraggly mallee trees lined the road on either side, limiting the journeyman’s view to the road side and straight ahead. The Mallee Highway would easily make my top 5 list of “most boring stretches of road” (The Hay Plains taking top honours, however).

The final 40 minutes of the journey toward the “big city” were my favourite. Parched flat landscapes transformed into rolling hills, as we began the ascent into the Adelaide foot hills. Brown and golden hues were replaced by cool shadows and lush greenery. The road would start to wind, and the higher we ascended the better the view; where we had been eye level with the golden sway of wheat, an expansive vista emerged, revealing yet more green rolling hills and deep valleys. A sense of relief would wash over me at around a place called Stirling in the Adelaide Hills, where the trees appeared taller and more tightly clustered. A couple of grand old homes would peek out from forest-like surroundings; inspiring my imagination of how urbanised folk might live.

Whenever we went to the city to visit a doctor or orthodontist, we got dressed up in our sacred clothes; the ones we kept for special occasions, the pretty things that were seldom enjoyed. After our round of appointments, we would venture into Rundle Mall to stock up on goods unavailable in our neck of the woods. I enjoyed taking in the sights and sounds of the city; the gardens and buildings, the colour of the stores and their merchandise, the clicketty clop sound my good shoes made on the pavement; dodging the crowds as we huddled under the store fronts and eaves to avoid the rain, drifting along; me a speck within a sea of people. I especially enjoyed studying the clothes that city people wore; the business suits, the high heels, the fabrics and how these various fabrics moved and floated. Everything in “The Mall” was a wonder and a delight to me; our visits made especially sweet by Mum, who allowed us to indulge in a variety of treats not usually available to us in the country; such as a fish and chip lunch in a department store cafeteria, and a chocolate donut for dessert; an ice cream in a cone, a bag of sweets to take home, from Darrell Lea, and usually something else; a book, piece of clothing or a toy. Even when Mum and Dad went to the city alone for the day, they never failed to bring us back a special surprise – it was like receiving a souvenir from their “holiday”!

In reality though, I never got a really good glimpse of city life. Mum would drive into the centre of the city, along the same streets every time; parking in the same car park across from the University of Adelaide, with its Gothic halls looming in the foreground, a place where the grand iron gates set my mind going on yet another fantastical journey. Nevertheless, my impressions of the city were fairly limited, and seemed to leave me ever the more curious and wanting.

I was aware that the city was well populated compared to my little town, which boasted a district of just 80 people when I lived there, but since we always drove along the busy commercial streets, I never really witnessed suburban life, and I remember one day asking my mother where all the city people lived. “In the houses behind all the shops”, was her reply. I took this literally of course, and tried to peer down the narrow alleyways and side roads as we motored past, never really catching a glimpse of those illusive city folk playing in their front yards or doing at-home-city-people-things. Over the years, my curiosity built to a point where I could only see my life and my future there, in the city.

As a ten year old, my family moved from the dry husk in the middle of nowhere, to Murray Bridge; a large rural town straddling the Murray River, approximately located one hour east of Adelaide, but the big city still beckoned, and at seventeen I moved there, seeking employment. I enjoyed my life there. The ocean was close. The energy of my seaside suburb hummed. It was exciting, but as I grew older, I realised that the hustle and bustle, the noise and the concrete claustrophobic jungle were not really for me. I enjoy the various conveniences of the city, but I prefer more lush tranquil environments and expansive horizons. Today, I am happiest where there is opportunity to visit nature on a regular basis, and be blessed with the sounds of birds chattering and the wind whistling as it darts through the leaves of trees. I need to have green colours around me; dry landscapes fill me with a bit of a sense of suffocating panic, like I too might evaporate and shrivel. I enjoy the city, but the country is in my blood and my soul, and if I had to choose, it would be in these, more peaceful havens that you would find me.

Saturday, 2 June 2007

Surfing A Massive Wave

When I was in my early twenties, I would sometimes awaken, bolt straight up in bed, heart pounding so hard it risked bursting out of my chest, my eyes as large as dinner plates, because I had just had another of those nightmares involving a massive tsunami.
Dreams of this nature are very common. They are essentially your classic anxiety dream or nightmare, depicting ones sense of feeling swamped, swallowed up, consumed, helpless in avoiding the inevitable or completely overwhelmed.
For me, simply watching this video inspired many of those feelings, especially after the surfer breaks through the first part of that massive wave. He is seen scooting out through the white churned up water, only to have the second part of the wave hot on his heels. It almost looks like a giagantic menacing hand lurching and clawing at the surfer, from behind his back. The eerie creeping sound of the wave building and then pounding down with all its force is almost sickening.
Are these people fools or heroes for doing this kind of thing? I was certainly left in awe.