Monday, 29 November 2010

To go or not to go?

That is the question we have asked ourselves a few times over the last couple of days. The first time, as we were driving down and the heavens opened with a deluge that reduced visibility on the freeway to almost nil. Do we turn around and go home or continue on? We pulled off the freeway into a Macca’s car park and consulted online weather maps. What the heck, we continued on. Later that afternoon I christened my new board in the surf in the rain – lots of fun really.

We asked ourselves the same question the next morning after a wild and woolly night. The wind was still blowing a gale and the surf was crap – was there any point in staying. Colin and I leaned towards heading home, Johanna wisely said ‘it’s still nice to be here anyway’. We decided to stay and went for a walk on the beach, the three of us hand in hand, as the wind whipped our hair, billowed our raincoats and battered our bodies. We drove to Anglesea and had lunch with Colin’s brother and sister in law as they passed through on their way back to Melbourne.

We asked ourselves the same question later that afternoon, do we pack up and go home now or stay until tomorrow afternoon – still windy and still crappy surf, most likely the same tomorrow. Colin and I leaned towards heading home, Johanna reiterated that it was still nice being here. We decided to stay.

Tomorrow we really will head home, no more decisions to make. Tomorrow we leave for the last time, packing up and towing the van home. Hopefully we can muck around in the surf first – even if it is crappy and then we’ll have our traditional Monday café lunch in Barwon Heads, returning to our favourite lunch spot one last time.

Oh Sun, sunny weather, Let your rays shine down happy days

Oh sun, sunny weather, light up people’s ways

Oh windy weather, let your breeze flow from the trees

Oh windy weather blow away people’s hard days

Oh rainy weather, let your ways cleanse peoples days

Oh rain, rainy weather come down and wash away our hard ways

(juzzie Smith from East of Everything)

Sunday, 28 November 2010

you can't change the weather

We left Brunswick expecting a routine trip down the freeway for a few days in the yurt, the last session we'll have down here in this series of excursions. The electronic signs on the freeway say, "severe thunderstorms ahead, beware flash flooding." We keep driving.

Not for long. The torrential rain forces us off the freeway into Werribee where we crank up the Mac and have a look at the BOM rain radar. With some deliberation we decide to keep going with the rain easing.

On the way to the park we drive past the beach and are surprised to see that the forecasted wind change has yet to hit, so the wind is peeling the spray off smooth wave faces ... very inviting.

So we quickly unload, it only takes us 5 minutes before we are donning wetsuits and trekking over the dunes to try to get some rides. Maria gets her new board wet for the first time.

We're now back inside, showered and warm. Johanna and I scofffed some two minute noodles, the ABC comforts me with news of Australia's growing lead and we turn our attention to food for tonight.

When we left four days ago, two couples had set up some tents behind us, planning on being here for 10 days. Given the weather I was surprised to see them still here. I haven't seen them yet, but as I walked passed the tent I heard one of the blokes swearing colourfully in his lament that the rain is not allowing them to get out of the tent.

Our yurting mantra helps us:

Don't complain.

Don't rush.

What happens happens.

We can't change the weather, so we try to make the most of it. Sitting out in the sun would be nice, but sitting inside in the warm, listening to the wind and rain, reading, doodling, playing games on phones (Johanna) is all good.

But gee it would be nice to see some rays tomorrow. :)

Monday, 22 November 2010

'Less good' is still good

We did not arrive this weekend until Saturday night, Johanna had a birthday party after dancing. Saturday afternoon seemed to take forever as Colin and I tried not to think about what we were missing out on down here. For once the weather outlook was for fine and sunny.

Sunday went as follows – ate, surfed, lay in the sun, ate, shopped, surfed, lay in the sun, showered, ate and watched the sunset. Those were the good bits. The less good bits were crappy waves, cold sea water trickling down the inside of wet suits, peeling off tight rubber from cold bodies, carrying our surf boards in strong wind and trying to help Johanna carry hers as well and smoke filling the caravan from cooking sausages. We’ll take these ‘less good bits’ any day!

Johanna and I taking photographs of the setting sun.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Monday with no 'itis'

Today we surfed – messy waves but good exercise and still lots of fun

Today we shopped – a foam board for me (so Johanna and I can surf together and at the same time) and a wetsuit - also for me (so Rachel can have hers back) + some bits and pieces for Christmas presents

Today we ate – continued our Monday lunch safari of cafes in Barwon Heads and Colin got creative for dinner with some fish, sweet potatoes and asparagus

Today felt like a good day and to finish it off we are about to have strawberries dipped in chocolate for supper.

Monday, 15 November 2010


After a couple of good night's sleep that must have wrung the tiredness out of me, last night I lie wide awake for almost four hours. Unlike some nights when this would have been a restless frustration, I savoured the time to think. I found myself reflecting back on the years as our family has grown. I recalled a time when the kids were young, before Johanna even was born, where I wandered through the house while everyone slept, stood in the rooms of my sleeping loved ones and oozed thankfulness.

Last night I did the same, figuratively. I thought of each of their lives, the joys and struggles, the successes and the pains.

Sunday breakfast is a bit of a ritual. The Italian bakery out our back gate on Lygon St opens early and I love the procession of regulars who file in and out. The bloke in front of me this morning lugged out two large bags of goodies, 'see you next week,' he said as he left. I got my usual bag of fresh croissants and wandered slowly home. Johanna did her usual things and toasted hers in the grill with cheese and tomato. I love mine with expresso coffee and marmalade.

Maria and I headed out to Highpoint Shopping Centre to make some progress on our Christmas shopping and were delighted to run into old friends Owen and Michelle and their two gorgeous kids Lachlan and Jessica. Home again and left over A1 (Lebanese) bread and dip for lunch. Good, but not as good as yesterday when it was fresh. We have popeye (spinach) and sun-dried tomato dip ... wonderful stuff.

Then we threw stuff into the boot and sat on the increasingly familiar Westgate Freeway for the hour and a half between our two current homes. We stopped at Leopold to shop for the now favourite beef and blackbean - a whole bunch of coriander, loads of ginger, lime juice. As Johanna says, its a hot meal but its soooo refreshing.

Before dinner we did the ritual walk to 'have a look' - there were dozens of people out catching waves despite the onshore winds, but the swell was up and I guess it's the last chance before the work week kicks off again. And after dinner we went for bike ride; there is a little jetty up the river a bit, and on the way back we meandered into little residential streets to have a sticky.

Now, Maria has cleaned up from my messy cooking, she and Johanna have savoured a special treat (microwave puddings) which are better than they sound. Mine awaits. Can't keep the dessert waiting now can we?


Behind bars or surfing in the sun?

Lets pretend - Home and school is Jail, Schoolwork is punishment. Ocean Grove and Caravanning is being Free.

My life at the moment is unusual, I’m in Jail for a couple of days, and then at the end of the week I get the choice to be set free, but only for a few days.

The longer I’m free, the harder they punish me back in Jail.

If I decide to have three days of freedom, I have three days worth of punishment to catch up on.

The question is, “Is the day of freedom worth the punishment?”

The realistic version:

We have our caravan down at Ocean Grove, we go there every weekend and I miss Mondays and Tuesdays of school.

I love the freedom and relaxation of being away, but then when I get back to school, I have so much to catch up on. It’s hard.

I have the choice on whether I want to go away or not but,

The question is, “Is the day of freedom worth the hard catch up on schoolwork?”

I’m not really sure what my answer is, some days I feel one way and some days I feel another, sometimes mum and dad have to make the choice for me because I can’t decide.

to and fro

Colin and I often speak of choices and consequences. We are choosing to organise our working and living so that we can make space for ‘yurting’ (we appreciate how fortunate we are to have this choice) It does however require some courage to make such a choice and to live with the consequences. A week into our current half/half arrangement I began to question the wisdom of it. Is it a form of escapism? What about Rachel and Heidi left at home? How do I fit all the things I usually do (in Melbourne) into three days? What about when Johanna comes home saying she doesn’t like the feeling of missing stuff at school and not knowing what is going on? What about the continual adjustment between one place and the other – Johanna says it is like being free (yurting) and then in jail (school), the more freedom you have the harder jail is.

We don’t have the answers, we choose one way for particular reasons and do our best to live with the consequences. We question, we reflect, we talk to our kids and we look inside ourselves as we seek to LIVE life.

photo by Johanna

Saturday, 13 November 2010


If you've read the last post you'll know that Maria has caught the bug ... I so loved watching her enjoying herself, getting a taste of the thrill of catching a wave.

Today was a gem. In one of Ricardo Semler's books (7 day weekend) he makes a comment something like, "Its OK to do emails on Sunday as long as you go to the beach on Monday". Well, with the forecast for rain on the weekend, we decided to go surfing on Friday.

One of the things we like about yurting is intentionally simplifying life. For example, one of my daily rituals is grinding the coffee by hand. Then, we get to take our breakfast and sit by the river looking over to Barwon Heads.

The off shore breeze and medium swell made for perfect conditions today ... we certainly weren't the only ones not in the office today!!! Zac, Maria and I sat outside in the sun while Johanna made pancakes for lunch ... then back to the beach.

The plan was pizza for dinner once we got home, but the minute we pulled up the torrential rain came; our little pizza shop is a few minutes walk out our back gate, rain made even that walk impossible, so Maria spun her usual magic with pasta and we then collapsed here on the couch.

Weary and satisfied, a great way to feel.

Another one bites the dust

Our original idea was to head down the coast on Saturday after Johanna’s dance lesson and return on Tuesday late afternoon in time for her ballet lesson. In keeping with tradition of late the weekend forecast was for rain and possible thunderstorms (flooding in some areas) and the weekdays fine. So we did a bit of re-arranging and headed down Thursday night to make the most of the warm weather and good surf conditions on Friday, aiming to return Friday night to wait out the bad weather at home before heading back down.

Zac and Johanna came with us. Unfortunately Rachel is in the middle of exams and will have to wait to christen her new board. I did however christen her new wet suit.  I finally gave in and decided to give surfing a go – a wet suit to keep me warm was the deciding factor. So with Rachel’s wetsuit, Johanna’s foam board and Colin pushing me onto the waves I gave it a go AND really enjoyed it. It was a lot of fun, I even managed to stand up a few times. Tonight though, I’m feeling some muscles I didn’t know I had…

The surfing conditions were great and Colin and Zac had a ball, Johanna still managed to catch some good waves despite having to share her board with me! Everyone had a most enjoyable day. We managed to pack up the van and prepare it for some wet weather, leaving it there and arriving home just as the sky opened up and the rain came drenching down.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Time Out

Today was a cruisy, pottering kind of day, (think Johanna is writing about it) helped along by not 10, but 11 hours of sleep last night! It was the kind of ‘slow’ day that aids rest and renewal.

As we were driving yesterday I was listening to some music by Juzzie Smith (last time we were in Byron Bay we bought his CD after hearing him play at the local market). I listened closely to the words of one of his songs as I peered out the car window, marvelling at the great grey expanse that was the sky. There was so much of it, 360 degrees of low lying grey rain clouds, soon spattering drops on the windscreen. The song I was listening intently to is called Time Out. The words felt so apt for where we are at the moment, bruised and weary from a tough year, and yurting is our way of taking time out – finding that rest and renewal that our bodies and soul are telling us we need.

I’m Taking time out to let go, body is down, let it go, I can feel, feel the light rise…

I’m taking time out to let go, body is down, telling the soul, I can feel, feel the light rise…

Feel your feelings, honour all your feelings…..Taking some time out to let go, let your emotions go, let them go, feel your light rise…

I’m taking time out to let go of all the beliefs that I’ve been told and now I’m free to breathe my breath, my own breath…

(Some words from Time Out by Juzzie Smith)

Having some ‘time out’ each week is helping us let go, fill up and feel the ‘light rise’.

Tomorrow we will head back to Melbourne at lunch time, Colin has a late afternoon meeting. With some luck there will be waves to surf in the morning, Johanna is keen now she can keep warm (new wetsuit). Unfortunately Colin is still not feeling well, he may have to continue to give the surfing a miss. One consolation – there is always next weekend…..

In the water

An early night, a late wake-up. After a near 12 hour sleep we were ready to get up and take on the day.

In the morning Mum and I did some shopping while Dad did some work.

After realising that they’re weren’t many shops in Ocean Grove and we had already looked in all of them after about an hour and headed back to the caravan again.

We decided to go out for lunch, as there are so many nice little café’s in Barwon Heads we had a plan to visit a different one each weekend. We went to a little one called “the bean pod.” Me and mum shared a chicken casalinga and then shared some pancakes with stewed cinnamon apple and ice-cream. Dad had a breakfast burrito.

After that we returned to the caravan to quickly go to the toilet and so Dad could take his medication for his cold and then we went to buy stuff for tea, we decided to have fish and home made chips. (Dad is cooking now)

While we were out I decided that I wanted to have a full length wet-suite because the water is too cold to wear my short wet-suite here. We looked in a couple of surf shops along the main road. When we went into Strapper we found a good deal, a really good quality wet-suite for about half price on the bargain rack. This would keep me nice and warm.

So of course when we were back at the caravan at about three I was straight to the beach for a surf in my new wet-suite. It worked like a charm, didn’t feel a single bit cold the whole time. I was the only one in the water on the whole beach, I guess since the waves were still small.

It was one of my first times surfing by myself (without dad pushing me onto the waves and stuff) and I hadn’t surfed since Byron Bay in the middle of the year. I caught a couple of good ones so I thought I went pretty well.

After that I was so exhausted that I lied in the shallows and mucked around there for the next twenty minutes or so.

I had a wonderful time. When we got back to the caravan, the sun was out so we decided to not have showers straight away and just sit in the sun and relax for a while, we did this and then went off to have showers.

The showers here have a thing where you have to push a button before you turn the taps on or else the water won’t start and then the water turns itself off after five minutes (and won’t turn back on again for another five or so minutes)

After being in the cold ocean I was ready for a nice hot shower, and when I turned the taps on and the water was only luke warm, I turned the hot on a little more, no hotter, turned the cold down a little more, no hotter. I decided to carry on my shower or else the taps would go off. I finished washing my hair and then fiddled with the taps more, turned the hot way way up until it couldn’t go further, a little warmer. Turned the cold way down, ahhhh hot water finally. And then the taps turned off.

Mum and Dad are serving up tea now, it has been a great day.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Why oh why

In hindsight, I’m not sure what insanity possessed Colin and I when we agreed with Zac and Rachel. They preferred to travel to Ocean Grove after the wedding on Saturday night, not wait until Sunday morning. So it was that we found ourselves heading south at 12.30am. I guess 2.30am is a usual bedtime for them on a Saturday night, not so for us! The situation wasn’t helped with Colin suffering a bad head cold, having to detour through part of the city rather than skirt the edges because the domain tunnel was closed for maintenance and once we finally fell into bed at 3am being kept awake by the tarp flapping loudly in the wind. (Colin did the manly thing and got up and took it down)

It was only the promise of some surf that got us all up at 9am. We walked to the beach to assess the situation and oh that fickle sea was flat as the proverbial pancake – despite might I add a positive surf forecast the previous day. We had a quick breakfast, loaded up the boards and went in search of some waves. It was amusing to see others doing the same – vehicles with boards strapped on top cruising the coast searching for those elusive waves; surfers standing wistfully at lookout points watching nothing but a ripple on the sea, disappointment in their steps as they head dejectedly back to the car.

Zac and Rachel were philosophical about the situation despite the fact that they only had today to surf.  Zac took the opportunity to study for exams while the rest of us headed into Torquay to look at boards for Rachel. A couple of hours later the decision was made, the sale complete and Rachel the proud owner of her very own surf board. She lovingly waxed it when we returned to the caravan park. Unfortunately it won’t be christened until next weekend, she and Zac headed back to Melbourne after dinner – they both have exams this week.

Colin, Johanna and I are waiting longingly for bed. 8pm seems a bit early though, so we are trying to keep ourselves awake a bit longer. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, we have no plans, we’ll see what unfolds; right now ten hours of sleep seems like heaven. Hopefully tomorrow will see both Colin and Johanna feeling better.

Thursday, 4 November 2010


There is a simple joy in discovering keyboard shortcuts. As a relatively new user of Macs, I'm picking up little time savers gradually.

"Annie's Provedore - around the corner in Barwon Heads"

Our current yurting experiment feels a bit like toggling between modes of life. This morning I contented myself with working at my laptop with the Barwon River just a short cast away (made the bate purchase today ready for my attempt at the fanciful fresh flathead for breakfast caper) while Maria and Johanna walked and rode. The onshore breeze made a mess of the swell so I left my freshly waxed longboard in the bag today. After a quick walk to suck in the sea air I did a phone meeting for an hour before Maria and Johanna showed off one of their morning discoveries for lunch ... Annie's Provedore. Now I'm a sucker for a good cafe deli and Annie's just around the corner from our site in Barwon Heads is an absolute cracker. The floor to ceiling shelves are packed with sauces, relishes, oils, teas, coffee etc and the baine marie is full of cheeses and fresh produce.

"Beach at Ocean Grove"

Then we hop in Pat (trusty Patrol) and home by 4:30, in time to do a bit more work before dinner, with everyone at home for a change. (toggle)

"back in Melbourne"

Two full day workshops, then Anna and Michael's wedding on Saturday before we toggle back.

"Beach at Ocean Grove"

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


Layers of grey clouds pushed by the wind sweep across the skies. They deposit a sprinkle and then a drizzle of rain, sometimes the sun peeps through to. The wind is cold and winter jackets and beanies shut it out.  White capped waves form line upon ragged line giving form to the sea.

Johanna and I don beanies and rain coats and watch our boys surf. We walk; we ride. We get wet and windblown. Colin and Zac brave the cold, choppy sea, drizzle falling as they begin to surf and sun shining as they finish.

Windy gusts sending a seeping cold through layers of clothes, drizzly rain caressing faces and slowly dripping from hanging hair, rays of welcome warmth from a suddenly appearing sun. The smell of wax, wet suits, wet roads and seaweed…. Wet sand clumped to shoes, black gravel on the soles of bare feet, fingers stiff and numb with cold, damp jeans stuck to legs…..

Warm jackets, woolly beanies, hot showers…..

And Colin says to me with pleasure, ‘I feel alive”

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

The first day.

Something new, something different. Using the caravan like a holiday house. It could work out, or it could not go so well, whatever happens, it doesn't matter because we'll have a fantastic time and it'll be great to be able to take a few days off our usual lives every week.

We arrived today at about 2:00 in the afternoon. It was a pretty short drive (one and a half hours)
I was in a great mood when we arrived, ready to set up and try out our new idea. As we were setting up, we realised that we had a great spot in the park, half a minutes walk from the toilet block and right next to the Barwon River. We had a couple of trees to shade parts of the site and a nice grassy area that had a fare bit of sun on it.
After we had set up we headed down to the grocery store to do a basic shop and the hardware store (because our hose to connect the water to the caravan was about a metre to short) to get an extension to the hose.
We decided on a beef with black bean dish for tea and brought all the ingredients needed, so we thought.
When we arrived home dad connected up the hose extension, but only to find it leaked, and then burst off, a couple of adjustments and then it was good.
Then we decided on a walk along the river (on a nice path that lead right along it.) and while we were walking dad remembered a few ingredients in which we had forgotten to get which were important for the dish he would cook for tea so me and dad made another trip to the grocery shop while mum stayed back and did sudoku's/ had a snooze.
Back at the caravan dad made the lovely tea which was SOOO delicious, and then we took another walk along the path along the river before it got dark, and then back to the caravan to wash the dishes, write a blog, eat TV snacks and await Zac's arrival.