Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Thinking about Sydney

Last night just as the sun was setting I found myself on this beach.

Sunshine Beach

I was just at the petrol station filling the car with fuel and the changing sky kept catching my attention. Instead of just rushing off I decided to take a few minutes and headed down to Sunshine Beach to watch the waves and enjoy the last minutes of daylight.

I parked up, kicked off my Birki's and just walked....

Sunshine Beach

There were a few others on the beach doing just the same thing. Just walking. Just getting a bit lost in their steps and their thinking.

There was quite a bit of thinking happening yesterday.

I started thinking about the school holidays ahead; the anticipation of Christmas; a new year and some changes for my girl.

My mind however kept going back to thoughts about the Sydney hostage situation in Martin Place and the terrifying hours that those trapped were experiencing.

Earlier in the morning I had spoken to Sibs about it as we remembered the last time we were in Sydney and we had lunch in that exact cafe. We talked about the meaning of words such as hostages and radicals. The  kind of conversation that was too close to home for comfort. It followed another conversation about a shooting incident that occurred a few streets away from us last week in leafy suburbia..

Sunshine Beach

I woke this morning to a text from my twelve year old.

She texted me the outcome in Sydney and then how much she loved me with lots and lots of kissey emoticon faces. 

It would have been the first thing that she thought about this morning.

We had another conversation about extremism and probability and safety. 

I told her it was ok to feel unsettled by what had happened. I told her that there are many more good people than bad people in the world.... I told her that she was safe. It's what she needed to hear. 

But I'm saddened that this is reality.

I'm heartbroken that innocent people were involved.

I feel just a little more vulnerable today.

Sunshine Beach

Thinking about all those involved.
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Thursday, 11 December 2014

Christmas memories

Tree is up, sparkly fairy lights in place, Christmas food is starting to creep in to the house...

Yet there are so many things missing...

Christmas in Australia is different. Not necessarily bad different - just different...

Christmas is so inherently linked with childhood that it won't matter how many years I spend here it will never feel quite right.

Christmas to me is about being cold - sometimes wet, but definitely cold. It's all about the anticipation of snow that very rarely actually appeared on the day! Wrapping up in your duffel coat, scarf, hat and gloves and going out in the evenings just to walk past the rows of identical houses with the trees in the front bay windows.

It's about Christmas carols singers huddled at your front door with lanterns or torches collecting for a charity.

It's about warm mince pies...

It's about High Streets with coloured lights hanging from every lampost.

It's about wishing year after year to be Mary in the nativity play and then after being a tinsel wearing angel for ever, the wish comes true!

Christmas is hot chocolates and Irish coffees snuggled under heavy blankets.

It's log fires and warming your cold hands on radiators.

Christmas is about Santas everywhere!

December 2012 in London

For Sibs, Christmas is about days in the swimming pool and the beach.

It's long hot weeks of school holidays.

It's camping trips and ice cream.

Christmas is about cranking up the air conditioning or sitting in front of the fans.

It's shorts, Birkis's and bikinis!

December 2013 in Brisbane

At the heart of it all though, Christmas time for me is also just about memories - and it doesn't really matter what the memories are or where they were made...

the time that 10 year old Sibs replaced our
Christmas Angel with a home made one of Harry Styles!

Each decoration has a story that is re-told as it's placed on the tree.

"Remember the time when we bought this in...."
"Remember when we made this....."

Christmas decorations from our travels

Christmas evokes reflections. 

It's the end of a year wherever you are...

Happy memory making.

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Monday, 1 December 2014

Finding some calm after the storm

It's the first day of December - it's Summer here in Brisbane. (still so, so wrong...!) The purple Jacarandas have all but disappeared and instead we now have the wonderful vibrant Royal Poinciana. They really do look fabulous against the backdrop of the blue Summer sky. 

Royal Poinciana

That blue sky that I quickly snapped on the way home from school drop off this morning was very different last Thursday....

It was about 4.30pm and all of a sudden everything went dark. There was an eerie silence, then the trees outside my office started to sway and within a few minutes the rain started to lash at the windows. Not long after that the hail started. When I say hail I don't mean little pea size balls of ice - I'm talking big! They got as big as golf balls and some people saw some the size of tennis balls! It was the strangest 30 minutes ever.  There was no warning as is usual with Brisbane storms.  We could only stare out of the windows and wonder at the damage that was being caused. Hail that size can make a car looked like it's been sprayed with bullets.  Windows and windscreens were smashed and branches were flying through the air. Water began to pour through the roof of a room and this kicked the evacuation alarms into action. Except no-one really wanted to leave...

Here's a bit of a clip at the start of the storm taken from inside.

Brisbane storm

Thankfully, no one was badly injured and apart from very wet feet and a delay in getting home I was unaffected. Some others weren't quite so lucky and the next morning I was checking in with a neighbour who told me that the roof of the warehouse of her business had blown off and her Summer stock had been damaged. Another work colleague knew someone who had to have stitches in her head due to a large hail stone landing on her. There were also numerous people that I know with trees on cars and damaged property. What destruction in 30 minutes! Mother Nature sure was having a bad day!

As Brisbane was shaken by a storm on Thursday, the whole of Australia (and further afield) was completely moved by the tragic accident and subsequent death of the young cricketer Phillip Hughes. It has dominated conversation this past week. Australians are so passionate about sport and especially cricket. It's very touching to see the cricket bats placed outside homes and buildings in tribute to him. We are not a family of cricketers but I did find the beach bat and as I placed it I had a moment of reflection on the fragility of life. Sibs got an extra long good night cuddle on Thursday.

In tribute to Phillip Hughes

I always need to find something quiet and soothing after an incident or occasion that shakes me a bit. The long bath didn't quite work so I got into my crochet zone over the weekend and managed to finish a baby blanket that will get the boy/girl colour trim added when my cousin decides the time is right to give birth!

comforting crochet

Then to start this week off on a slightly calmer note, I took myself off for 5 minutes just for me. (It was probably closer to 45 minutes, but who's counting?)


This morning I went to re-stock on coffee beans and plonked myself on a comfy sofa with a coffee, some pear and raspberry toast (it's fruit ok!) and got a bit lost with Jane Austen. Funny how you can re-read a book and still absolutely love it.  'Persuasion' is my all time favourite Austen novel. Of course I adore the others, but there is something about 'Persuasion' that intrigues me. Maybe it's the simplicity of the story, maybe it's because it's set in Bath, maybe it's because it's Austen's last novel, written when she was ill? It's all of these things and probably just the fact that it's beautifully written. 

I have introduced my girl to the wonderful world of Austen and we have watched many versions of her books that have been made into films and for TV. Of course, in my opinion to appreciate her true talent then you need to read the books. Sibs started and struggled with Sense & Sensibility (her favourite TV adaptation) so for Christmas last year I found a box set of easy reading Austen novels. 

Each book starts with a brief explanation of the characters, then the novel is presented in a lovely mixture of original and easy to read text. The books end with further notes about the plot; the era and the author and some questions to think about. 

 I bought the box set from Amazon UK and they are published by realreads.co.uk
Real Reads also have a great selection of classic novels and plays.

on my mantlepiece
Wishing everyone a calm week,

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Monday, 24 November 2014

From Mozart to Mick and a lot inbetween.

Isn't this a beautiful sight?

Sadly, it's not my piano, it's the one that Sibs performed on yesterday. She said she was nervous, but I couldn't tell. For the past three years she has taken part in an end of year concert where the pupils of a few local piano teachers get together and showcase a little of what they have worked on during the year.

 Year one we had 'Sugar Plum fairy'. That year I could tell that she was nervous and the little poppet played it an octave (or maybe 2?) too high. Her little fingers were almost off the side of the piano! She kept going though and asked me afterwards if I thought anyone noticed. No sweetheart, no- one at all...

Last year I had to drop her off at the concert on my way to the airport as I was away on a work trip. It was horrible.... However, I did get to see and hear her performance later that evening from short little clips on my phone. She got through 'Fur Elise' even though she had forgotten her sheet music.

There always seems to be some story to the piano concert and this year it's a hair story.

As the performers take to the stage they bow to the audience. Sibs's is unable to bend at the waist when she wears her back brace, so rather than just nod her head, she did a rather enthusiastic head and shoulder bow. Consequently her pony tail went flying and didn't quite land back where it should! This resulted in what can only be described as a bit of a punky, almost mohican look! She didn't notice.

Almost every girl that followed Sibs did a hair check when they sat down to play. One girl even checked a couple of times during her performance! We had a bit of a giggle about it when I showed Sibs the video of her playing, but she wasn't too bothered. I think she was just pleased that she had got through her piece. This year it was 'Rondo alla Turca', a piece she wanted to play after watching Pride and Prejudice.

This photo is a practise run - with well behaved hair!

In other (quite different) music news, I saw the re-scheduled Rolling Stones show in Brisbane last week.

These photos are taken on my phone whilst I was moving - it's a wonder they've come out at all!

I was lucky enough to have a bit of an inside view at this show and it was such a great experience. Mick Jagger most definitely has 'the moves' and had the audience eating out of his hand. The band had a great energy and played with no support act and no interval. 

I do wonder how many more tours or shows they'll do, so I think it was extra special to be there. 

An appreciation of different types of music is something that I am trying to instil in Sibs. I remember as a teenager my record collection was always pretty eclectic. There was the predictable Frankie Goes to Hollywood, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet and then Lionel Richie, Richard Clayderman on the piano or some choral work or Beethoven.
I'm still the same - my ipod is a mix of so many different styles. I don't think Richard Clayderman made it on there though! Sorry Richard. 

Sibs and I often play a game where we hear the first few notes of a song and we have to guess what it is. She's getting really good at it. Maybe because my ipod is constantly plugged in and on shuffle. It's no wonder that my twelve year old can sign along to so many different bands. 

Music creates so many memories for me. It's as powerful as a sense of smell in evoking past times. 

So as I type this, The Black Eyed Peas have just finished 'Meet me Halfway' and Dexy's are starting 'She Got a Wiggle'. 
Quite apt really, as I should probably get my wiggle on and get prepared for school pick up.

There are many, many beautiful quotes about music but one of my all time favourites is - 

"After silence, that which comes nearest to expressing the inexpressible is music"
-Aldous Huxley

Happy Monday,

What's your music style?

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Friday, 7 November 2014

Falling in love with Brisbane all over again

The other week I was chatting to a lady who said the most lovely thing. We were talking about the wonderful warm breeze that was floating through the open window, the sight of the purple Jacaranda trees and the sounds of the birds outside (it was actually quite a racket, but never mind!) and she said, 

"This time of year makes me fall in love with Brisbane all over again".

How very true....

It seems to be an annual recurring theme on my blog to mention the Jacaranda season. Each Spring the Jacaranda trees manage to surprise me with their bursts of colour. Each year, they remind me how pretty they are and how the days are getting warmer. I suppose it also makes me love this place a little more too.

It's been a particularly dry Spring here in Brisbane. The grass is rather parched and brown so the bright purple of the jacarandas appear even more vibrant.

There is a stretch of road that I often drive past that always catches my eye this time of year. The houses are set slightly low and there are jacarandas everywhere peeping through the rooftops.

The other morning I decided to stop and take some photos. I had to smile at the name of the street...

...of course, what else would it be called?

As much as I tried there was no way I could capture the beauty of the scene. Well maybe if I had access to a helicopter ! 
The shot below is of the opposite side of the road and gives a little bit of an idea of the type of view that is quite common in this hilly part of Brisbane.

There are brilliant street names in my neighbourhood. (Just as an aside there's a great book written by a local author Nick Earls called ZigZag street and this is the very street.) 

I was really in the photographing mood by now and kept stopping the car to snap away. I only just got to school pick up in time.

This is what the flowers look like close up. I think they're similar to the Bluebell carpets that I remember back home...except theses are purple....and they hang from trees! Oh well, there's a little bit of similarity I suppose!

 So as the Autumn leaves fall off the trees in one half of the world warning of the cooler Winter months, I'm watching the Jacaranda petals fall with their warning of the heat to come.

Happy weekend wherever you are.

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Monday, 27 October 2014

Everyday stuff.

Today is a bit of a scorcher in Brisbane - it's predicted to reach 38 degrees this afternoon, that's a 100 if you work in Fahrenheit! That's pretty hot for October, so I'm staying indoors and catching up on a bit of house stuff which obviously means browsing through photos on the computer!

Here's a few visuals from a couple of weekends ago. 

This is the Bougainvillea that is on the walkway down at South Bank next to the Brisbane river. The flowers are such a vibrant pink above your head. Such a shame that it also produces the most vicious spikes! We have a Bougainvillea at the back of the house and we have tried to tame it back and contain it as it can also make a beautiful mess when the flower petals drop. 

I've just taken this photo a minute ago on my phone. The contrast in the colours is pretty stunning.
Twmff the cat is asleep somewhere behind that wall trying to shelter from the heat. He wouldn't appear for a photo....I don't really blame him today.

Talking of lovely colours, Sibs was so delighted that this year she had a 'real' ballet costume for a performance that she was part of at QPAC recently. Over the years some of the costumes have included a white leotard for a goat, a pink leotard for a flower and a red and white stripe outfit for a doll. It's all been very age appropriate but she's been desperate for a proper ballerina look. Imagine her excitement at being able to wear a tulle tutu? Yet another growing up step.....

I don't venture into the city too often at night, but each time I do, I always stop and admire how lovely it is. The river bank was full of neon clad runners a few Saturdays ago. Unfortunately I didn't have a camera or a phone with me to capture it. Let's just say it was colourful, noisy and spectacular.
This is a shot on the way home after a performance and the city is all alight.

Straight after this photo we luckily got a message from a friend advising avoiding our usual route home as the rugby game between the Australian Wallabies and the New Zealand All Blacks had just finished and the roads around the stadium were blocked.  We didn't want to know the score either so went the really long way home up Mount Coot-tha. At one junction there was a taxi next to us and Sibs gave me strict instructions not to look at it as the people inside would have given the result away!

Quick shower later and the two of us - actually make that three as Twmff came to join us, watched the recorded game. From pink tutu ballet wearing girl to rugby fan in one swift move!

After such a late night the Sunday lie in was quite welcome. It's never quiet for long though and the much dreaded dismantling of the trampoline happened with Papa helping out. The trampoline is an Australian childhood essential. It seems that if you have a patch of grass then it will have a trampoline on it. Sibs got hers for her fifth birthday and has loved it since that day. It was showing some signs of wear though and we didn't realise quite how much until we inspected the underside and noticed that it was rusting away! Sadly that was it - the trampoline had to go.

Not much else has really been going on.
I've been dipping in and out of my crochet blanket.

I'm enjoying the challenge of the different stitches but it's not a rhythmic, getting lost in time, type of project. I have to concentrate! It does feel lovely and soft and I'm sure that I will enjoy using it in the cooler months. 
I've ordered my first lot of wool on line today. I'm planning a ripple blanket - now that will be something that I'll be able to get lost in time with! 

I thought the shades were a little more subdued....but now I see them next to my current blanket they look exactly the same! I still don't quite know who I am with all these colours! 

I've also got some wool ready to go on another baby blanket. That will be quite soothing as I don't know whether the bub will be a boy or a girl so that blanket will just be cream until I know. Just got to decide on the stitch and remember that babies are small! (The last baby blanket I made turned out bigger that I planned and the little sweetheart looked a little bit lost in it!)

Well, best get on with some of those things on my to-do list....

Have a happy and safe week,

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Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Scoliosis - back brace

So here I am again with another scoliosis update and a bit of a reality check.

The wearing of her back brace has been part of everyday life for Sibs now for a month or so.

As much as she had been questioning for a few weeks when the brace would be ready, there was still some trepidation as we finally got the call to tell us to go for the fitting.

After school one afternoon we drove to the hospital, parked outside the clinic and about 30 minutes later walked away with the contraption in a bag. That was the easy part.

Gary (who had made brace number 6230, especially for Sibs) encouraged her to come to the fitting appointment with all her questions. So we knew as much as we thought we needed to know by the time we left the clinic.

Which in hindsight was probably a little naive!

The photo shows Sibs wearing the brace over her t-shirt. It's actually designed to be worn under her clothes. She does however need to wear a singlet/vest underneath so that there is some clothing between skin and brace.

Here is the first challenge. Queensland has a sub tropical climate....it's hot here! Even in Springtime there have been days when it's been in the mid twenties. When you start layering tight fitting clothes, then foam and a hard plastic and then a top layer...well, it's not the most comfortable of things.

Sibs has done so ridiculously well to cope with this. She really wants the brace to work and took to heart what the doctors told her about compliance being the key factor in the success of the treatment. She documents every day how many hours she is wearing it and has built up to the expected 23 hours in what I think is no time at all. She decided one evening that she was going to wear it overnight and that was it - it was worn! There has been no pressure just an expectation that she tried to build up the hours in a sensible way.

It was all going great until yesterday. Yesterday was a pupil free day here - thank goodness. Sibs arrived back from her school trip to Canberra and Sydney on Friday night and then on Saturday was straight down to the theatre to take part in a dancing performance. We needed yesterday to rest and catch up. However much I heard "I am NOT tired" she was!

Yesterday morning there was a 'moment'.

None of her clothes seemed to fit....everything was too tight, too clingy to the brace, too see-through and wrong! T-shirt after t-shirt was thrown on the floor in frustration!

It's the only time I have heard her say that she didn't want to wear her brace.

We had already had the conversation that at times I might have to be the tough parent so she knew what was coming.
In the best way I could, I explained that she had some choices - take a moment and then chin up, find the best thing to wear and get on with it, or wallow in self pity.

I felt for her.....so much,  and I couldn't really make it better.

I left her to have her cry on the bed and I went and had my cry downstairs!

About ten minutes later she was dressed and we had the biggest cuddle, a team cry, and a plan to go shopping!

Sibs has not tried to hide the fact that she has a back brace and is very comfortable in front of her friends and family, but like most twelve year old girls, she is conscious of what she wears and how she looks. We have needed to tread the difficult line between child and adult clothes in order to get a fit that is sympathetic to the brace. It's not an easy task. I was almost tempted to get the sewing machine out, but my sewing repertoire stops at cushion covers, curtains and the odd fancy dress outfit!

In the end we did end up having a lovely day out yesterday with a yum cha lunch and then we managed to find a few summer outfits. We have discovered merino wool singlets/vests to wear under her brace that I hope will help (It took some convincing Sibs that wool could help keep her cool as well as warm!)

So last night her wardrobe was cleared out and even though it's looking rather bare at least everything in there is wearable.

I am so grateful for the lovely supportive and caring comments texts and messages that have come my way since I first posted about Sibs's scoliosis.

We have had quite a bit of time to think things through here as this is something that has been on our agenda for quite a few months now. I do realise however, that for a lot of my friends and family this blog was the first time that I had shared any of this.

I probably do have a natural positive attitude to most things but I will admit that this was extremely confronting at first. I feel fortunate that our previous medical history with Sibs has been next to zero. There was a case of chicken pox at 2 year old and a few runny noses during the first few Yorkshire Winters but that's about it!

So being faced with an uncertainty about a progressive condition certainly did stop me in my tracks.

Goodness knows how many times I remind myself that it could be a lot worse....a lot worse.
That's why I think that on occsion I may possibly come across as being a little dismissive. I don't mean to be, as obviously Sibs's health and well being is of absolute priority to me. But it all needs to be put into perspective.

So if you've asked how she's doing and I've replied "fine", it's because in the main she is fine. As much as is possible, she's just taking things in her stride, and I couldn't be prouder of her!

We're off for a check up this afternoon and she is rather excited to be showing Gary how many hours she has been wearing her brace. He may need to sit through pages of notes detailing every single time it's put on and taken off. Maybe I should have booked a double appointment!

Gary did indeed read through her detailed notes, bless him.  He won't have realised how important that was to her - It was lovely to watch her proud face.

Some new clothes got an outing too!
(Yes, she is wearing her back brace)

Then to finish off we called back at The Three Monkeys in West End and shared a slice of marshmallow and chocolate cake that made us so full that we don't want any tea!