Another Month Speeds By

Here it is Sunday 23rd July and it has been five weeks since my last post. One very good reason is that we have not been “in residence” for any weekend since then.

My favourite corner of the living room beckons, but so does a pile of paperwork and other writing projects. So I will ease myself into that by reviewing what has kept me so busy this last month.

Cosy Living Room Corner (577x1024)

It kicked off with a trip to Sydney.  I was off to a long lunch with former work colleagues, and we stayed that night with one of them. The night before I booked into a “boutique” hotel which was the 1850s home of an early mayor of Sydney. It was either going to  be a flea pit or quaint, and I am pleased to report it was the latter.

Manor House Boutique Hotel June 2017 (1) (1024x504)

Our room contained three re-purposed wardrobes. One held the TV, one the fridge, and the other was empty. In the manuscript on which I am currently working I had just written a scene where my character was hiding in a wardrobe, and I was able to test whether that was feasible. I chose the one on the left of the cheval mirror in the below photo. It worked!

Manor House Boutique Hotel June 2017 (1024x559)

Most importantly, the hotel was perfectly positioned for a day of exploring this part of Sydney: Darlinghurst and Paddington. I was keen to walk the same streets as my characters, albeit 100 years later. It was a successful day, and twice I was invited inside houses by their current owners!

This is two houses in an alley way in Paddington, Sydney. In 1892 my grandmother was born in the one with the white metal on the front door and window.

The next morning I paid a visit to Hyde Park Barracks which was built in 1818-1819 to house convicts. At a later point it was used as the female immigration depot. Single women were enticed to the colony on assisted passages, predominantly as domestic servants, and to address the gender imbalance. On arrival, they were housed in the barracks for a few days until they were hired out. Again, I was on the hunt for fodder for the manuscript.


On the way to Hyde Park Barracks: Archibald Fountain, Hyde Park, with St Marys Catholic Cathedral in background

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The next weekend we headed north to the central coast. This weekend was for family birthday celebrations, but I combined it with lunch with my cousin, and handed to him my research on Lochgyle, at 1 Walker Street, Lavender Bay / North Sydney.

Lochgyle Lavender Bay built 1908

Lochgyle Lavender Bay built 1908, this photo November 2016

Today, this house is famous as the residence of the artist Brett Whiteley, or more correctly, his widow Wendy. However, to us, it is famous as our family home from the 1940s until 1960ish. My grandmother, aunt, uncle, mother, cousins and brother all lived there together. Since I tail behind in age, I have no childhood memories of the place, therefore my experience is felt vicariously through their stories. I have written before of how Wendy Whiteley transformed what was a railway wasteland in front of the house into her “secret garden“. And, by the way, my manuscript finishes with a scene from this house, although it is not precisely identified.

Ceramica Botanica 24k Gold Embossed Urn (816x1024)

FOR SALE: Botanica Ceramica 24k gold embossed urn

By the next weekend we were down the south coast, around the picturesque St George’s Basin area. Our good friend has sold his five bedroomed, rambling home on a “double block with swimming pool and four car garage” and is moving to a much smaller place. It is such a wrench to decide what to let go, and it wasn’t helped by a leg injury that had him in debilitating pain, but by the end of four days we had sectioned off a portion of the garage and displayed various “objet d’arts” for sale. As for the “men’s stuff”, well, that is a larger project, but he still has a few weeks up his sleeve. Meantime, if you are looking for tools, nuts, bolts, and screws in either metric or imperial sizes, I know where you can find them. Also fishing gear, camping gear, lengths of pipe, quad, brackets, timber and other handyman bibs and bobs. Just say the word, because we will  back there again during August 🙂

Meantime, we got a call to say that my younger (half) brother, who has been living in the Barossa Valley of South Australia since last November, had been hospitalised. His mother and sister made a flying visit of a few days, but work commitments demanded her return. The hospital would not discharge him to an empty house, so Bill and I volunteered to drive “Mum” back and stay for a while to see all was in order. “Mum” is a 45kg (100 lbs) pocket rocket. She is very fit and agile, resourceful and extremely talented at improvisation, but as a woman in her early 80s there are limits to what she could do at an isolated farmhouse without a car. Besides which, there were many things she wanted to take to make his life more comfortable.

So we returned from the south coast on the Sunday after lunch, had Mum delivered to us by another friend, and after a quick unpack/wash/repack and loading of the car, we hit the road at 7am the next morning.

Red Dwarf is a nifty little hatchback with seats that can be laid down in a 70/30 combination. Mum made herself a cosy nest behind the front passenger seat. Every other hole in the boot and back seat area was packed with things she wanted to take over, as this photo taken in the dark garage just before departure illustrates.

Red Dwarf Loaded for Adelaide (1024x577).jpg

Cute Cafe Lunchtime Stop (989x1024)

Cute Cafe Lunchtime Stop

It’s a trip of around 1300 klm or 800 miles from Wollongong to the Barossa. Bill and I drove two hours on and two off, in two shifts, with a lunch break in between. That got us to Balranald on the first night, which is still in New South Wales. We ate at a returned servicemen’s club which had a very interesting historical display outside. The next day, a three hour stint each got us to the hospital. We crossed the border into Victoria briefly, and then into South Australia, where we had to surrender our fruit for destruction. I’d forgotten to tell mum about that, and I didn’t pull up before we reached the control point, otherwise we would have stuffed ourselves on the mandarins and pears we had with us. She was not too happy as you can imagine. But we are very quarantine conscious in Australia, with good reason, as it is important to keep our fruit and vegetables disease free and restrict the havoc of fruit fly.

Outside Balranald's Services Club (748x1024)

I am happy to report that my  brother is well and will return to work this week. He has an agricultural job with a large potato growing concern, so up till now his life has been long days and empty nesting. The house he rents is part of a major Barossa Valley winery. Once upon a time the family would have lived there, and then as they move on to bigger and more modern homes, they finally get around to smicking the old house up a bit and renting it out. It’s a gorgeous (to me) bluestone house, typical of the area, with large rooms, twelve foot ceilings and fireplaces in every room. Kitchen and bathrooms are basic as they were usually additions at a later stage to the original house. If you spent a lot of money on it, it would look like this little beauty.

It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good, and we put the week there to good use. The enforced break, and the extra manpower, allowed my brother to scour the second-hand stores and internet selling sites, so the place is a lot more cosy than it was before he went into hospital. He is on an lime green and burnt orange kick. I suppose because he was only born in the early seventies, he didn’t get enough of it then. He even has a gorgeous Edwardian wardrobe now, instead of keeping his clothes in plastic bags 🙂 And Bill and I were able to lunch with several lots of friends who we hadn’t seen for a year. I even returned to the hairdresser who gave me a fabulous cut when we came in to Adelaide on The Ghan last year.

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After a week, we left mum behind and drove back home. We made it to Narrandera for the stopover night. Oddly enough, the mayor who I referred to at the beginning of this story had large land holdings in this country town.

Dinner in the motel restaurant

Grilled Chicken, camembert and asparagus served with vegetables (the spirals are potatoes). A light meal in an Australian country motel 🙂

Narrandera is also the place which, when I worked for Ricegrowers (SunRice), I flew in to when needed at the head office in nearby Leeton. The flight was in a 32 seater SAAB or Dasch8, and the airport is like an overgrown chicken shed. On many occasions in winter the schedule was delayed because of low lying fog.

Continuing our current journey, it was my turn at the wheel just around dawn on the next day (7am) and the fog stayed with us for about three hours! Eventually Bill tried to take some photos on my mobile phone as we whizzed along at 110klm with me peering ahead for kangaroos or other cars or trucks. The photos do not adequately illustrate the situation. Puffy low lying clouds in paddocks is magical, a white-out on the road ahead is not.

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The amusing part of this tale is that I handed over to Bill after three hours, and he got so settled into driving at speed while listening to an interesting radio programme that he missed the turnoff to home and we couldn’t turn around until another half hour down the road 🙂

Well, that’s enough for now. I’ve struggled a bit with WordPress formatting today . . . must be out of practice!

Hope I have more success returning to where I last left off the manuscript.

38 thoughts on “Another Month Speeds By

  1. Pingback: Adelaide Writers’ Week 2018 | The Reluctant Retiree

    • Thank you so much Arlan. The book I was referring to in this post is still a work in progress. About to start the second draft. My first book, I Belong to No One (a memoir) was published two years ago and is still available in Australia. Dymocks, QBD, Booktopis, Amazon and so on.


    • Oh wow thank you for the compliment. I have two decent cameras, one film and one digital that are rarely out of the cupboard these days. Mostly I just snap something on the phone or iPad as a record, and accept whatever quality comes out. However I was a keen amateur decades ago, so maybe the composition is an unconscious leftover. Not that I can really see the screen on the phone 🙂

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  2. As I feebly reenter the blogging world again (that I enjoy so very much), I am surprised to see that you had not been blogging as much recently either. It seems to be a time of many sabbaticals in the blogging community. I can certainly see that you have been very busy and in reading this post realized I can never come to Australia to putter around at sales, antique stores, and the like as I would never be able to put all of the acquired treasures in a suitcase to get home without paying for an exorbitant amount of extra weight!! How much I would have enjoyed attending the sale as your friend downsized so significantly. When do you expect to have your next literary masterpiece published? It certainly sounds interesting and I look forward to reading it. I always enjoy your posts so much. You do have a way with words.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I keep meaning to write another post and then get sidetracked. There were many second hand stores in the Barossa. I could have spent all day in them. And my friend has taken most of his unsold goods to the charity shop. Plus four trips to the tip. It’s a big job, but at least he raised enough money to pay the removalist expenses. My manuscript, not yet completed is with my agent now for assessment. You would be surprised, even once it gets a publishing deal, it takes about a year before it hits the stores! Meanwhile, the memoir, I belong to no one is still available on Amazon and book depository, both new and second hand.


  3. Good to have you back. I have not blogged anything in such a long time either. Got to get back to it. Nice post, nice pictures!
    Missing the turn off is something that I do often. Seems like my wife gets me talking and I forget to turn. Not fun but a good way to see new locales.

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  4. I love the way people invited you into their homes, so friendly. Once went looking for my great-grandmother’s house on a very quiet Sunday afternoon – not a successful investigation, probably wrong day, viewed with just a bit of suspicion. Wow, your old family home looks a real dream.
    Sharing the driving, what a luxury, easy to forgive the extra ‘bonus’ journey time!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wasn’t it fabulous? Both women with interesting stories themselves. I engaged them in conversation, explained what I was doing and showed them my biz card with the memoir details on it. Both initiated the invite to look inside. I had already written a scene set in each house. The first I had pretty right, as I had viewed the interior on a real estate ad. The second had some significant differences from my imagination. Not that it matters really, because the houses aren’t identified. But it might irk me enough that I will re-write that part. As for the old family home, well, that is quite a story. It was built in 1908 and broken into two flats very early in the piece. It became my grandmother’s home by marriage in the early 1940s, and when the husband died shortly after she was left as a life tenant. She organised both her daughters to live with her instead of the other tenants. When grandmother died in the mid-50s my uncle was offered first right to purchase, but turned it down as he was advised never to buy a house he couldn’t repair himself, and it was in run down condition. The Whiteleys became tenants of one floor in the late 60s (after returning from living in the UK) and then subsequently purchased the whole house and renovated extensively. Brett Whiteley added the turret as his studio, and painted many scenes of Lavender Bay from there. You’ll find heaps of images on Google. Every so often I go with my brother and cousins to drool over it from a distance. I console them that if it had stayed in the family, we would only be fighting now over who had the right of occupancy. Maybe we’d have had to draw straws, or hold a ballot. The funny thing is, two of the cousins became carpenters, and the third is very handy, so they may have been able to renovate it after all!

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      • What a tale? Do you still have life tenants in Australia, think they’ve tried to stop that here. Sorry not to have replied sooner – all a bit chaotic here in temporary accommodation with my elderly father and trying to find a flat for him and house for me. And, keep up with the textile work and so on and so on.
        The info about your family home is really fascinating and in particular the reluctance to take on a property that needed a lot of work. It is such a difficult decision to make whether to go all out and take it on or play safe. It is a pity that sometimes we can’t turn the clock back and take the gamble after all. Still I can totally see your point that it might have turned into a BIG family problem in the end. My father missed an opportunity to buy a right-of-way over his garden and although it didn’t stop his house sale it would have made life a lot easier if he had paid up and sorted it all out at the time.
        Hope your manuscript is progressing well.

        Liked by 1 person

        • It looks as if I missed responding to this comment. Apologies! Life tenancy and the Right of Occupation are still provided for in our law, although I haven’t heard of anyone in recent years. The manuscript (first draft) is currently with the agent for assessment and meantime I am continuing to work on the missing parts.


          • This is the first time I have gone through this process with my agent. With the memoir, I had already had it edited by two other people (at my expense), so the role of the agent was to secure me a publishing deal. So I am not sure exactly what will happen, but yes, I am thinking it will include suggestions for what to drop, what to develop, and where it needs more hope and uplift. . . . or . . . she may just tell me it’s hopeless and give it up now 🙂


          • ‘Give it up now’ surely not, no, no – but I guess there will be suggestions if nothing else to justify the ‘editor’ role. I feel the relationship between author and editor must be a delicate one. All the best with the edits then. 👍🏻

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