Thursday, 13 January 2011

switching dreamily

Tomorrow I will be working. I'm looking forward to the work I've got on, some really good and interesting projects and organisations to get 2011 started. Meanwhile I'm sitting in the humidity on the back deck. The yard is waterlogged. There is a pile of surfboards waiting to be rinsed of salt and then stacked until the swell beckons again. The smells from the kitchen are wafting out.

I'm enjoying just sitting here doing nothing. Maria and Johanna are buried in books. Rachel is off having coffee (which actually means hot chocolate) with Tyla, Heidi has just returned from the day's baby sitting and is doing final packing for her departure to Thailand tomorrow morning. Zac has just returned from Philip Island and has disappeared again to play basketball. All is well.

I was spoiled with an extra present at Christmas. A big blue Le Creuset pot. I've just christened it with some spices we bought at a market in Merimbula and it is in the oven slow cooking some Rangoon Lime Chicken. Mm, mm, mmmm.

I'm thinking about the QLD floods and wondering how it must be for those who have lost or are missing loved ones, and those who have lost their homes or businesses. We are living in sobering times. At this time of the year, the nation is typically in cruise mode, listening to cricket, lazing around and enjoying friends, family and food. It seems our lot these days is bush fire and floods. It is a reminder not to take anything for granted. It is a challenge to remember what matters most in life.

Events in 2010 changed us. It feels in some ways like we've lost our innocence. I expect 2011 will include learning to live with the reality of pain, uncertainty and risk, while maintaining the disciplines of health and love, the daily commitment to look for and appreciate truth, goodness and beauty.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


The rain is falling steadily now and has done so on and off all day. We are back in Melbourne and attempting to unpack and clean the van between the showers as well as clean the house, wash (multiple loads), grocery shop etc… The forecast was for rain/showers in Merimbula for three to four days; that combined with a necessary move to a non-powered site and an inability to use our solar panel (no sun) made the decision to return home fairly easy. Rachel was happy to return, Zac and Heidi could travel back with us and avoid a bus and train trip and we’d also be in Melbourne to see Heidi off on her way to Thailand this week. While disappointing to leave early it also felt like the best thing to do.

Our two weeks in Merimbula felt different than our usual yurting experiences, on reflection for a number of reasons. It felt more like a ‘holiday’ this time. Having six people there the whole time was different and meeting the different needs of so many felt like a juggling act at times. With six there is very little personal space or time. It took longer to get anywhere or do anything. The usual busy first few days did not give way to a slower more relaxed pace.

As usual, when we return to Melbourne Colin and I console ourselves with plans for the next time away. We are planning to head North in the weeks before Easter to Brunswick Heads, a favourite place close to Byron Bay. However there is a lot of living to be done here before we head there!

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Home tomorrow

Sometimes I’m relieved, in a confusing kind of way, to get the chance to escape the suffocation that holidays with family brings; the lack of personal space, the routine, the monotonous and repetitive days and the unrealistic assumptions that seem to arise when you’re with people who know you better than anyone else in the world.

It’s felt different this time, it’s an escape, but a prison and so physically exhausting that it seems impossible my mind can be working at such intense levels.

My favourite part of the day becomes the lounging around in the sun drinking ginger beer and listening to iPods, as opposed to the love of the beach that seems so in the past. Sometimes we’ll be driving to the beach and I’m sitting there with the window down and my music blasting in my ears and my seatbelt undone and I’ll dread the moment that the car stops because I’m so content just watching the shrubs flash past on the roadside.

I’m putting it down to a bout of homesickness, the stress of year 12 holiday homework and the simple laziness teenagers are famous for.

When I’m back home I’ll pine for the beach and the sand and the crash of the waves to lull me to sleep. I’ll miss the family card games and the long walks on the beach with siblings. I’ll dream of ‘escaping’ and turning off my phone and living in a tent. But for now, it’s nice to have another change of pace and the prospect of 8 hours on the road excites me in a way it never used to two years ago. Oh the woes and joys of growing up.

Recurring and memorable phrases

Johanna discussing hairstyles – “Dad you are bald in the middle with ruffles around the edges. Did you purposefully go bald in the middle?”

Colin in response to any ailment – “put some Rawleighs on it”

Rachel in response to most things – “These are seriously the best strawberries I’ve ever had, These are actually the best donuts I’ve ever had, This is definitely the worst hand I’ve ever had (500), this is seriously the best chicken I’ve ever had…..”

Maria after being pressured into the water without a wetsuit– “Brrrrr it’s too cold”

Heidi – “I’m not sitting in the middle, I don’t want people touching me on both sides.”

Whole family whilst sitting in the car ready to go – “Where’s Zac?” (The answer is always ‘in the toilet’)

Johanna before every trip to the beach – “Should I wear my full wetsuit or three quarter?”

Colin after dropping food on himself (most mealtimes) – “Nawhhhhhh”

Everyone when playing 500 – “what’s trumps again”

Zac – “what can I eat?”

Saturday, 8 January 2011

hot chocolate

Everyone else is playing 500. I can only take so much of games, so I opted out and instead made everyone hot chocolate with marshmellows.

The weather was good today and we all had fun splashing around trying to catch waves on body boards, surf boards or just body surfing. As per Maria's post, the days have an established rhythm which includes selecting a recipe, shopping and cooking.

We've eaten pretty well, but the last two evenings have been exceptionally tasty. Last night we did Moroccan lemon chicken with a really interesting couscous that had prunes, almonds, lemon and a few other nice morsels. Then tonight Heidi requested barramundi which I did with tomato, lemon, walnut and parsley. Yum.

Dessert was brandy baskets with whipped cream and berries. Yum again. We joked about how much exercise we'd need to do to work off the dessert, not the mention the junk food feast that gets consumed during the nightly 500 game.

Tomorrow is our last day before Zac and Heidi are due to leave. The weather is reported to turn ordinary come Sunday so we're thinking about packing up and heading home, particularly if we can't get a powered site. (We are scheduled to move to a different site on Sunday.) Our solar panel is not much chop when its cloudy.

But tomorrow is a big day ... we're celebrating Rachel's birthday (17th) while everyone is together ... and the weather should be good so the beach will beckon again.

Friday, 7 January 2011

Finally some sun

Our neighbours to the left have been coming here for eight years and they have never had weather this ‘bad’ before. I think Merimbula has breathed a collective sigh of relief as late this afternoon the sun finally showed its face. The blue skies and pleasant mid twenties for which Merimbula is well known are making a brief appearance. We are just thankful it has not been raining.

The days of late have all seemed to blur, kind of like Ground Hog Day, a repeat of the same pattern. They all involve packing up,(no mean feat with five surfboards, boogie boards, five wetsuits, food, drink, towels, sunscreen etc….) arriving at the designated beach, unpacking, carting all our stuff to the beach, surfing, swimming, boogie boarding, eating, resting, packing up, carting all that stuff back to the car, loading up, driving back to the caravan park, unpacking all that stuff, emptying bags, rinsing out wetsuits, hanging up towels and finally heading to the showers to wash away all the salt, sand and sunscreen. No wonder Colin and I are exhausted at the end of each day. We can hardly keep our eyes open for the evening game of five hundred. I purposefully don’t have Colin as a partner in five hundred because he is so tired he keeps making basic mistakes! Just to show how wearying all this packing and unpacking is, Colin has taken to leaving the surfboards on the roof-racks of an evening (we had to buy roof racks for Pat to cart all the surfboards), and he even left them on Pat’s roof when we did the grocery shopping this morning. (this is unusual as the precious cargo is not often left unattended)

Late afternoon sees us girls showered, enjoying mocktails, reading and relaxing. The boys headed out again after bringing us all home from the beach, the unsatisfactory surfing session today means they can’t rest until they have tried another beach and with it the possibility of that illusive one last ‘good’ ride. I’m thinking dinner will be late tonight.

Colin decided that it was about time some photos of me trying to surf were taken. Fair enough I guess seeming as I put them up of everyone else.

Stand up, fall down is about where I'm at!

Thursday, 6 January 2011


The grey clouds gave way to white ones today, but they were high and transparent so at least it felt more like summer. We headed North today to check out Tathra. A different place but basically the usual beach routine. Colin and Zac rose to the challenge of tricky waves, the girls settled for boogie boards and I tried to capture some of the triumphs and tribulations on my camera.

Colin and Zac headed out the back to try their luck with the decent sized waves but the steep faces posed some challenges.


Johanna didn’t last long on her boogie board, she came to shore unhappy after taking a hard knock to the head. She passed her board to Rachel and once recovered, headed back out to muck around in the waves. Heidi donned my wetsuit and she and Rachel had fun on the boogie boards. There were a couple of pretty spectacular rides.


We had a picnic lunch on an expanse of green grass and then were too lazy to do anything other than lie around. Colin is not one for lying around so he went for a walk on the beach instead. We ended the afternoon at our local beach (Short point) watching a few brave souls try to catch the massive waves. The size of the waves and the amount of white water crashing in pummelled them. The brave, committed and experienced were rewarded with some amazing rides though.

(p.s Zac has showed me how to make my photos smaller so that despite the slow internet connection it doesn't take forever)

(surf) crazy family

Gone are the days where we set off for the closest beach, whenever the time suited, with our towels and thongs. Those days got left behind along with the boogie board bag. Instead, now days, with each beach we go to, the surfing conditions must be carefully analysed and scrutinized. Words like ‘swell, current, white water, pipeline and break’ are of utmost importance. This is then followed by several minutes of intense staring at the waves and the other surfers, before lastly comparing this beach to the other possibilities.  And here I was, thinking the most important part of deciding whether to go to the beach or not was the weather. How warm it is has no significance whatsoever, because it doesn’t effect the water. Silly me.

Then of course, once we’ve finally picked a beach to go to, comes the time consuming process of unloading the surf boards, taking the covers off, putting wet suits on, putting the unused surf boards into the car etc etc. Then this again in reverse when it’s time to go home. I can usually get through about 3 or 4 songs on my ipod from the time we get to the car to the time we actually drive anywhere.

And who could forget the new favourite pastime of sitting in the car (dad with his binoculars) and sussing out the surfers on whatever beach we’ve pulled up at. This includes in-depth discussions about the surfing conditions, as well as a commentary of the action, with both praise for a good ride, or laughing at a good dumping.  Dad likes to think he knows the surfers ‘watch this guy, he’ll go for this one for sure.’ Or ‘just u wait, this local, here, he’ll finish with that beauty.’

What kind of crazy family am I holidaying with? However they seem to be having a whale of a time (pun intended). I’m almost at the point of joining them. Almost.

Family Surf

(Captured by Mum)

Yesterday we headed down to Pambula (10 min drive south) with a fully loaded Pat.

While Heidi sat on the beach peacefully reading her book, the rest of us jumped into the surf.

Mum caught a few nice waves and then came in to take pictures of the rest of us.

Johanna was having a tough time.

Rachel started to get the hang of her new board.

After Dad and I had good sessions

We went in and helped Johanna and Rachel (though not always successfully).

After everyone showered off we had soft taco wraps and chicken for dinner and played 500 (Rachel joined us half way through) before going to bed.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Grey days

It is that time of day again. We have all returned from the showers, Colin is contemplating dinner, the kids are doing their own thing – listening to music or reading and Johanna is writing a story and I am at the computer.

We put Jess and Tyla on the bus yesterday late morning and then headed inland to Candello where the monthly market was being held. The drive there took us through beautiful green valleys nestled amongst hills and mountains, pastures dotted with black cows and ramshackle farm-houses. The light drizzle and misty grey not dampening our enjoyment of the views. We didn’t know it but we arrived just as the market was winding down, however we got an hour or so of wandering around. Rachel and Johanna perused the jewellery stalls, Colin spent half his time standing in a line to buy coffee and we all succumbed to buying gorgeous nectarines after a taste test (very good marketing ploy). We also bought some local honey, some sweets and Rachel a book.

We picked Zac and Heidi up from the bus stop later in the day, got them settled in here at the caravan park, took them on an orientation walk and sat watching the surf for a while before heading to Phil and Carol’s for dinner. This was their last night in Merimbula before heading onto Sydney.

Zac and Colin got up early this morning to find some surf while the rest of us slept on. We had a quiet and cruisey morning lamenting the lack of warmth and sun. The boys were keen to find some waves in the afternoon too (not much on offer today) so we all headed to Pambula. The small waves were enough to tempt the boys in but the girls decided to walk the length of the beach from Pambula back to Main Beach in Merimbula instead. It is probably 5km or so. We laughed at ourselves as the four of us set off all with head phones in our ears listening to our ipods/iphones.

Hopefully the sun will show its face tomorrow, its bright light and warmth chasing away the dull grey of the last couple of days.

Sunday, 2 January 2011

van-side chatter

I saw a great cartoon once that was a panorama of a packed caravan park, with a bloke in a deck chair, his neighbours just about under his armpits, saying, "Ah its good to get away from it all."

It is a strange phenomena this caper. Especially at this time of year. We prefer the idea of using our yurt (van) to create a lifestyle option other than our urban professional one. But at this time of year, there is no escaping the reality that we are packed in alongside holiday makers.

Perhaps it is the subtle difference between our motivations and the annual holiday vibe, that makes it trickier than you'd imagine to relate to those around us. Not that there isn't plenty of friendliness, but another relationship dynamic has revealed itself in the week we've been here. That is the chasm between the regulars and the once-off-ers.

We are in a 'street' with about a ten sites on each side. We quickly learned that beside us and 'south', that is the 6 sites on both sides between us and the end have been around since Noah was a boy; every year in the place for up to 40 years. Beside us G & L are relative newbies at 8 years on the same site. We are on the edge. The other side of us are also newbies. The social clique among the regular is understandable.

But one of the things we really enjoy about our Byron Bay experience is the inclusivity. People have been similarly on the same spots for a long time, but there is an extension of friendship to everyone around. At least that was our experience. The  difference here was that despite our casual acquaintance with the others in our street, there was no invitation extended to the newbies to join the 'middle of the street' New Year celebrations. Some of the regulars don't even make eye contact when you walk past. Could be that they're simply introverted, but I get the feeling that there is kind of a resentment that we're in their patch.

Now I'm probably over analysing, but there is something in this about holiday park etiquette. I'm going to say there are 4 distinct kinds of residents in peak season: (1) the regulars, as per our street. (2) Then there are the families who holiday with other families, these groups give of good vibes in my view. (3) Once off-ers like us, people who are here this year but unlikely to be back, and (4) the transients, the travellers who are in for a night or two, usually in those big campervans, Europeans or Kiwis who are spending a few weeks driving along the Aussie coastline.

So I reckon the appetite for engagement with other campers depends on which category of resident you are, and the nub of it is that you relate most easily to those of your own kind. Kind of sociologically obvious when you say it, but interesting nonetheless in helping me understand the dynamics of van-side chatter.

A Dud Day

Today felt like a bit of a dud day. We all slept in a little later than usual after New Years Eve. While the girls still slept Colin and I walked around the point for a bit and watched the surf crash against the rocks. That was probably my favourite part of the day. There is something about powerful crashing surf and the rocks which weather the battering - violent crashing power meeting its match in immovable, resolute strength.

The predicted warm weather did not eventuate and we had a few false starts about who was doing what when, trying to take into consideration 6 people's wishes. Colin and I found ourselves not really doing any of the things we would have liked while working around the older girls plans which changed frequently depending on the current social scene. And poor Johanna had to fit in with one or the other. Not one of our best days.

Hoping to end on a better note, Colin finally took out his board late in the day only to return saying it was one of the worst sessions he'd had.

Oh well, some days are just disappointing.

Zac and Heidi arrive tomorrow (Jess and Tyla take the bus home in the morning and Zac and Heidi arrive by bus in the afternoon) The thought of having Zac and Heidi here cheers us up considerably and Colin is sooo looking forward to having a real surf buddy.

A great end, and a great start.

Last night, Rachel and her friends went to a park near to the main beach with live performances and a good view of the Merimbula fire works for new years eve. While dad, mum and I went to where Uncle Phill And Aunty Carol were staying nearby to watch the nine o'clock fire works from their deck, which had the most magnificent view of Merimbula.
As the three of us got into the car, a beautiful sunset spread across the sky, flooding Merimbula with golden, orange light, mum was quite annoyed because by the time we got to Phill and Carols it was to late to take a photo, but we enjoyed the view anyway.
We spent the evening chatting, eating, enjoying the view and then watching the magnificent fire works. When it was time to say good bye we got in the car and drove back to the caravan. We sat for several minutes, it was eleven thirty, and then deciding that since we were so close, it was silly not to go and watch the midnight fireworks. So once again we got back into the car and drove down by the river and sat on the boardwalk with five minutes to spare before the new year arrived. We watched the beautiful fire works from directly across the river. A great start to the new year. After picking the girls up we headed back to the caravan park and dad, mum and I got straight into bed while the girls wanted to stay up and walk around for a bit.
My first words when i woke up this morning were "dad, shut the door" in an annoyed voice, as where I sleep, when somebody opens the door, the morning light shines in right on my face.

2011 has arrived, and for me it's the start of a whole new experience.
Going to High School is surely going to be fun but scary at the same time.

My new years resolution is to never wish to be somewhere else, or to be doing something else, to live for the moment and enjoy what i've got.
Also to enjoy the time i've got as a child and not rush it, because there's not many years.

Happy New Year everyone!
I'm sure this'll be a great year.

Saturday, 1 January 2011


Until this year, I had an unspoken belief that everything would work out OK. Not that our lives have not had their share of tough times and struggles; but we usually managed to pull through. 2010 taught us that things don't always work out OK. Bad things do happen. Knowing this has affected my confidence I think.

I introduced myself to our new neighbours yesterday, as you do when you are living within metres. I had noticed, but dismissed the fact that they didn't 'set up' their site after arriving. After pleasantries I discovered why. A & J explained that the van and car were not theirs, they belonged to A's parents. They borrowed them after they had written theirs off on Boxing Day on the way here. Down a sweeping bend, the van had started to sway and within seconds was sweeping backwards and forwards, eventually skidding them sideways down the thankfully empty road and slamming them into a tree. Miraculously, despite the wrecked car and van they emerged with only a few scratches. Their kids were not with them. This was not a typical 'how are ya?' greeting.

A & J are still shaken, and are doing very little, and everything is in slow motion for them. They are simply thankful to be alive. A tells me they had been towing the van for years, same car, and van packed the same way, he is at a loss to know what happened. I admire their courage to get 'back on the horse', and enable themselves to enjoy the simple pleasures. 'We're here, with a coffee and a magazine, we're all good,' A says to me today.

And I hope I never have to control a swaying van ... I am a conservative driver, especially when towing, but I feel some nervousness having heard A & J's tale.

I'm still a beginner when it comes to surfing, but I can usually get a ride when the conditions are OK. Today I took out Rachel's new board, first time I'd been on something shorter than 7'. I was shattered that I found it so hard to get a ride. Granted the conditions were rubbish, waves barrelling and closing out, but my confidence took a beating. I'm determined to get a few decent rides on that thing over the next week or so.

So today is New Year's Eve. Tomorrow is a new day. What will 2011 bring? Will confidence return? Have we lost our deep frivolity and naive enjoyment of life for good? Pain and grief certainly change things. Profoundly.

Perhaps, just maybe, experiencing deep pain will give us fresh appreciation of goodness & beauty. Perhaps, just maybe, brokenness and a lack of confidence are gateways to more full living. 2011, here we come.

Taking it slow

Today was a rest day. Everyone was feeling a bit weary (lots of activity, sun, surf and wind over the last couple of days) This morning we wandered around a market, not much of a happening thing. Colin and I did purchase some spice mixes in anticipation of some great curries and casseroles in colder months. Other than that we hung around the caravan park. The girls spent most of the day at the pool. Colin and I walked along the beach, did the usual shop for dinner in town (Colin lashed out and finally bought himself a new pair of boardshorts, now the ones he is wearing can be washed) and took our ‘happy hour’ drinks down to the grassed banks overlooking the beach. The wind had picked up and the kite surfers were out in force – fun to watch.

Colin is cooking dinner – Chicken Caesar Salad (always seems to be the time I write) and then the older girls are heading into town with new made friends (all that ’hanging out’) to listen to live bands and see in the New Year. Johanna, Colin and I will watch the fireworks and festivities from Phil and Carol’s balcony (has to be one of the best views in Merimbula. I will take my camera, unfortunately the internet connection here is not great, it literally takes 15 minutes to upload a photo, so there may not be many photos up this time around) Cocktails and dessert are on the menu tonight.

No New Years Resolutions for me. I just hope next year is better than this one – less stress and sadness. My wish is to one day see Heidi truly happy again. A simple desire but one that seems so far away.