Eleven Nights for Eleven Years

When reading this post, please take into account that I actually started writing it an entire month ago. Life, somehow, keeps overtaking my best intentions.

When Bill and I moved to our current abode – an apartment in an over-55s complex, on a golf course, beside the beach – I used to tell everyone . . .

“I’m not 55 yet, I don’t play golf, and I’m not a strong swimmer.

Which part of this move was all about my needs?”

We are now in our eleventh year in the complex. Every year that passes means our revised lifestyle makes more sense to me. However! I still have enough energy to fight for my rights, and one of those is; that it is the operator’s responsibility to keep our apartment in tip-top condition . . . which means that we have been “evicted” for two weeks while they repaint and re-carpet.

I left Bill to find us alternative accommodation. With all due credit to him, he settled on a small cottage only 90 minutes down the road. The property is on twenty acres, rural, yet close to the coast, nestled in an inlet nearby the Jervis Bay area.

It’s autumn in our part of the world, yet the days have been spectacularly warm for this time of the year. As we sat on the back deck, in the late afternoon of our arrival, sharing a bottle of wine; Bill – seeing my delight at the still, calm conditions, surrounded by green pastures, eucalyptus forest, kangaroos, birdlife, and a few horses – turned to me and said,

“This is payback. Eleven nights of what you love, in return for the eleven years of what I wanted”.

Early morning and late afternoon the kangaroos arrive. That’s the smudgy dots in the above photograph. I think they are all females and young ones. There doesn’t appear to be a “big buck” among them. The mumma kangaroos can look as if they have a bad case of muffin top. Actually, it’s a young joey in the pouch, even though they have a juvenile who no longer lives in the pouch following their every move. It’s this prolific breeding that makes kangaroos such a pest to farmers.

(For the benefit of my overseas followers) – Baby kangaroos are born very immature. I was still in primary school when we were required to watch a film on the birth of the red kangaroo. The little baby is born from the same place as we are, or thereabouts,  🙂 and then, blind and tail-less, looking much like an overgrown garden slug, it has to find the snare trail formed by the conjunction of hair growing on mumma’s tummy from opposing directions, grasp on, crawl up and into the pouch, find a teat, and then latch on tight for several months while it grows into something recognisable.

The joeys in the pouches of the kangaroos on this property are much further along in their development. Every so often a head pops out, or more likely, it does a tumble turn and the legs stick out the pouch, while it’s head down suckling on the teat. You can see a joey’s head peeking out of the pouch in this blurry enlarged photo . . .

One of them is developed enough to jump out for a short time. Watching it the other day, I was reminded of our children. Remember when they were small, and ran in and out of the house all day? Until, in frustration, you said to them –

“Stay in or stay out – but for goodness sake, make your mind up!”

The three horses are interesting. The owner says they are “herded”. One of them was taken away for a few hours yesterday. The other one was terribly restless, stamping its feet and whinnying all day. I started to worry it had colic. Apparently, our ongoing drought has seen off several horses, their intestines ravaged by dry feed; but in this case, it was a simple case of missing its friend. The way it stood to attention when it heard the horse float coming down the dirt roadway reminded me of the loyalty of my childhood dog. And, just like my dog, as soon as it knew it was its mate coming home, it raced down to the gate to meet it. There are horses somewhere in these shots  . . .

Friends from home, on the few occasions they’ve needed to text me, apologise for interrupting my peace. “What peace?” I answer. The birds here never shut up.  There is something blooming in one of the eucalyptus, the blossom  looks similar to the picture below, and the birds are going berserk. 

Eucalyptus tereticornis flowers, capsules, buds and foliage.jpeg

I can identify some of the birds; rainbow lorikeets, rosellas, the occasional kookaburra, a wattle bird with its distinctive ka-chuk call, maybe another type of honey-eater, perhaps a native mynah. The rest I have no idea. They are so fast I can’t even study them, except for a magpie-lark (Peewee) that seems to think I belong to it. It nearly deafened me yesterday, while it sat on the table as I typed.

A noise that always confuses me is the call of the black cockatoo. They sound as if their throat is being cut. Why any bird would want to announce its presence so stridently is beyond me. We have three at home who visit intermittently, but are always in flight. On a walk in this area, I came across another three, these ones busy in a tree. The three locals are white-tailed black cockatoos.

My attention was first grabbed on account of the “bits” that were falling from the tree. I realised these birds, with their tremendously strong beaks, were stripping the covering from a rough-barked eucalyptus and getting into something underneath. I saw a shadow wriggling in the beak of one. I can only imagine there are grubs underneath the bark.

While white cockatoos, of various species, are prolific in Australia, it’s quite a privilege to see a black one. The below photo is actually a yellow-tailed. Not that you can detect the difference in this shot. They need to fan their tail for the average bird-watcher to know the difference, and I’m happy to say all three of mine the other day did so. I went back to the same place a few days later and they were no longer there.A large black cockatoo perched atop some foliage against a sky background

The real reason Bill chose this accommodation above all others is that he thought it would be a fabulous writers’ retreat. And he was right. Every day I have some output, some days more than others. Let’s hope I have an entire manuscript at the end of eleven nights. After all, it took me nearly eleven years to write the first book 🙂

Footnote: Two-thirds of a manuscript was completed in this eleven night retreat. I’ve lost count of which draft version this is – perhaps it’s the fifth. Since returning home some four weeks ago, not another word has been written. But! I live in hope.

58 thoughts on “Eleven Nights for Eleven Years

    • I was surprised and excited to see the black cockatoos on this trip. We have three where I live on the coast in Wollongong, but I only see them in flight, and they haven’t been around for a long time.
      I have had several attempts at this manuscript. I finished the version I was writing on this retreat, but it ended up being two books competing for space: first person memoir interspersed with third person historical fiction.
      So I am trying yet again ! 🙂 It’s a prequel to my memoir I Belong to No One – the story of the generations of women who came before me, starting with my great-grandma. Born in 1854, she was the last to be born legitimate. Her actions and decisions triggered a legacy that repeated down the years. It’s an intriguing story if I can manage to bring it to life.

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  1. I heard from LordBeariOfBow’s daughter, Sarah, today and she said, “If you could thank everyone for me that would be fantastic. Dad would have loved to read the tributes and messages.”

    So I wanted to pass on her thank-you!
    (((HUGS)))

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just wanted to let you know that when I get an e-mail update from LordBeariOfBow’s daughter, I will put it in the comment section of his last WP post. So check back there once in awhile to see the latest.
    Thank you so much!
    Carolyn 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. The latest update from Sarah on her Dad (LordBeariOfBow)…
    Hi, Carolyn,
    Thank you for your email. Dad appreciated it. He hasn’t had the energy to reply this past week. He has taken a turn. His heart is failing. He has not been well.
    Mum, my brother Nathan and I are hoping they can make him comfortable and get him home. To his own bed, to coco and to his online friends in the coming week.
    Thank you for your kind words and caring.
    Dad says hi.
    I will keep in touch
    Cheers
    Sarah

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  4. I wanted to let you know…I got this e-mail from Brian’s (LordBeariOfBow) daughter Sarah:

    “Dad is still in hospital. Very frail. Had an operation yesterday to put a stent in his valve. They said it went well. He has a scan on Monday to check.
    He will appreciate every ones thoughts – thank you for checking on him and sending love and best wishes. I will pass them on.
    He is looking forward to writing a blog about his admission.”

    (((HUGS)))

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  5. Your getaway sounds like heaven to me! Writers need that sort of experience—life conspires to tear you away from writing constantly. I’ve managed to configure my day so that I write very early in the morning—my own little cottage in my mind! Enjoy the rest of your stay!

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  6. Life’s all about compromise isn’t it, but I can’t help but feel you’ve had the rougher share of the deal. Always love the way you comment on distances ‘only 90 minutes down the road’. It makes me almost feel like a Londoner again now our train time is only 60 minutes to the heart of the City!

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    • Oh yes, now you’re just a jump, skip and hop from London. I used to make a regular trip up from Birchington-on-Sea back in the 70s. I can still recall the slam of those carriage doors, and the various station announcements en route. Kind of romantic, but all updated now of course.
      And yes, I did get the short end of the deal for a while. I was supposed to go to a new job, but the financial crisis of 2008 crushed that plan. Now I am (reasonably) content that this is where I live. Sydney is getting too congested, and the main central road has been dug up for years while they put back in the tram system that was demolished in the sixties when “Car” became king.

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      • That’s really interesting about the trams. It would be really fantastic if they brought back some of the trams to London, but most of the roads, even the main routes, are too narrow. It looks like it’s going to be buses for London. There are over 3000 hybrid buses and nearly 100 fully electric buses in London nowadays, so that’s that I guess. And, of course, there’s still the Tube.

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        • Our underground rail system cannot compare with your tube. In essence, we only have five stations servicing the city proper. Nor do we have electric buses, some are gas and some diesel. So we lag the world in energy efficient public transport. The resurgence of Light Rail (a tram by another name) will probably turn out to be “a good thing”, but the usual furore is taking place over contractual disputes, delays, and negative impact on shopkeepers who are disrupted by the works.

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  7. Your short retreat did wonders for you, but now you’re back in the environment that will keep you too busy to finish your book – there has to be a common ground somewhere. It’s so good to see you here again, I don’t want you to disappear for too long again. 🙂

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    • I don’t seem to be able to manage my priorities, and yet in the workforce, it was one of my main strengths. I’m so close to completing this manuscript version – and it might be the one that’s worth paying for a professional edit!
      And I have several draft blogs in different stages – including my trip to USA and Canada. That’s a year ago now, so I don’t think they will ever be finished.
      I even wonder if I should finish my little Liz Thurlow serial story. It’s not exactly a “meaningful” piece, but it was a bit of fun and good to exercise the writing muscle.
      But what am I doing tomorrow? Line dancing and partying afterwards . . . and the next day? Painting a cupboard. What am I thinking ?????

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  8. That’s my idea of heaven,

    I’ve never seen a black cockie; that would be really seeing something I reckon, must be one of the few native animals I’ve been unfortunate enough to miss out on, Do you get plenty of them down the Gong and surrounds? Doubt if I’ll get to see any when next I’m down that way

    You write quite lovingly about the roos but you forgot to mention that they are the silliest animals on the face of this earth.

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    • I was very surprised to see the black cockatoos here in the Gong. It is the same three, I think, and they haven’t been around for some time. The first I know of their presence is that weird screeching. My cousin says they get quite a few down at Mt Dromedary, Tilba.
      Yes, I forgot to mention that roos are not terribly bright a times – but – I thought the honour of silliest animal belongs to the emu? What’s more stupid than an emu? – Two emus! Ba-boom.

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  9. It sounds lovely – if not so peaceful. Perhaps you could negotiate a week’s stay every year? We just have blackbirds singing at 5 am and rooks fighting on the roof or chasing down a hapless pigeon or two. Kangaroos are just weird 🙂 Hope your apartment is just how you wanted it.

    Liked by 1 person

    • There is so much value for a writer to take themselves away from the day-to-day. I may well do it again to this same place.
      The apartment is looking fresh, and I have taken the opportunity to update and renew various things, and to, once again, declutter as much as possible. But it’s all taking time. I’m chalk painting a cupboard at the moment to give it a fresh colour.

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