Old friends

We never grow tired of seeing the Sydney Opera House. It is synonymous with living in this Antipodean city. We are thrilled when friends visit and we get to experience the moment when they see it for the first time.

A couple of weeks ago our next door neighbour from Worcester, England came to visit. She is working in Brisbane for six months. Even though we had not caught up for 22 plus years, the conversations were like it was yesterday.

Tracey saw the Opera House as we arrived at Circular Quay train station. This picture was taken from the ferry. We were on our way to Manly for lunch.

Poetry revisited

I recently met a writer in a non-authoring situation. After completing a little background reading on them, I decided it was time.

I enjoy writing poems, but are they any good? When viewed through Olumide Holloway’s creative writing lens (Word Up), they mostly suck.

In the spirit of reflective self improvement I have revisited one of my ditties.

On a side note I learned that shaking the iPhone, in frustration, allowed me to undo the accidental deletion of said poem.


Polyvinyl chloride sparkle, eons in the making;

Irresponsibly procured, a token,

In an intergenerational

Treasure hunt for more,

now strewn.

Destined to voyage and become entwined,

In a grotesque ocean whirl.

To disintegrate and be consumed by

Zooplankton and coral; the primordial source.

Reports abound of microplastic laden seafood, served upon the plate.

Will it lead to ecocide and humanity’s suicide? Scientists debate.

Let me know if you think it is an improvement on the original, below, or not.


Beneath a hedge

Beyond leaf litter and bark

Draped over twigs

The blue tinsel-tousle dwells

The Vineyard

In varying my morning walk from Anzac Parade to the Chancellery Building, I discovered a colonnade. As it is not far from the faculty of Built Environment, I assumed it was the result of a student project.

Upon closer inspection, I found a plaque proclaiming the sandstone columns having been salvaged from a Greek-Revival style house in Subiaco, Parramatta, called the Vineyard. It was torn down in 1961, to lay a factory car park.

The following image of the house, taken in 1961 is from Sydney Living Museums.

Clouds that look like snow

Catching a glimpse of the clouds out of the corner of my eye, I quickly grabbed my phone to take a couple of photos. The Arctic looking scene was mesmerising. Within moments it was replaced by the Pacific Ocean.

I find aeroplane windows a challenge when taking pictures towards the sun; smears and reflections being the case in point. Thankfully no condensation or ice, this time.

Somewhere over the rainbow

The KLM flight landed just after 6am at Kingsford Smith Airport, twenty years ago, today. The morning was very much like the one today, around 17oC and a huge blue sky.

We had spent the previous month in a heightened state of anxiety; a mixture of panic and excitement. We had packed up our home, shipped it to Australia, furnished the apartment we were letting out, and farewelled our dear friends and family.

The final scenes in the UK are etched on our memories. Friends sat waiting with us until the last moment when we needed to go through passport control and security at Birmingham International Airport. The usual chatter felt somehow constrained by what was about to happen.

This prelude culminated in a long walk of goodbye, amongst tears flowing freely, while carrying more hand luggage than a pack horse would carry in its lifetime.

The relief of taking our seats on the plane to Amsterdam, where we were to pick up an international connection to the Far East, was overwhelming.

Time has dimmed the memory of the stopover in Singapore and the flight to Sydney.

Why is it significant to mark this milestone? It is an opportunity for us to reflect on our choice to make the journey over the rainbow, to become immigrants and aliens in a foreign land. The fact that we have lived over 54% of our adult lives, to date, in Australia is an indication of commitment, at least.

We plan to review our decision over dinner, this evening.

Excerpt from the song, Somewhere Over the Rainbow, lyrics by Yip Harburg:

Somewhere over the rainbow way up high
There’s a land that I have heard of once in a lullaby
Somewhere over the rainbow skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true

Someday I’ll wish upon a star
and wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemon drops

Way above the chimney tops that’s where you’ll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow bluebirds fly

Birds fly over the rainbow why then oh why can’t I?

Post extraction

It will have been a week, on Christmas Day, since tooth #16 was extracted. This first molar in the upper right side had caused me excruciating pain during the previous week. X-rays did not help in explaining the symptoms. A bit of bashing around with a seemingly metal implement, followed by a “does that hurt?”, identified the offending, not so pearly white. The cause could be due to the nerve dying or a fracture. Root canal surgery would fix the former, while a crown would sort out the latter. The monitoring period, when I planned to work out which organ I would need to harvest and sell to pay for the procedure was short lived.

On the following day, a sliver of dentine on the inside of the tooth was behaving like a bottom hinged window when brushed gently with the tip of my tongue. Another visit to the dentist quickly cleared up the mystery. It had fractured down the middle, below the gum. With not unpleasant memories of wisdom teeth removal, while asleep, over thirty years ago, I happily agreed to a tooth pulling. To take place there and then with local anaesthetic, although “it will not be an easy one to get out”. Four injections later, what seemed like an eternity of rocking the ivory back and forth and a great deal effort, it was out, despite exclamations of “your bone is dense”. Isn’t that a good thing?, I silently asked myself.

When the anaesthetic began to wear off, I took ibuprofen with codeine for the pain. A sleepless night and limited relief resulted in the dentist prescribing panadeine forte. Migraine like headaches and earache followed for the next two days. Another visit to the dentist revealed I had a dry socket, the pain was due to the jawbone being exposed. After an uncomfortable rinsing with saltwater, a rather pleasant clove tasting concoction with analgesic properties was packed into the wound. Yesterday was my first pain killer free day. This morning the cavity is throbbing. I call upon the Universe to allow me the enjoyment of being able to partake in the upcoming feasting, even with using my left hand teeth to chew. 

Getting in touch with my inner mer

I don’t know why I find water so attractive, perhaps it is due to me being born in the Chinese year of the Water Rabbit. Alternatively, it might be due to growing up in the middle of the country without easy access to anything other than canals filled with rubbish and the odd boating lake. 

In rather than on

Admittedly, I have limited experience of being on water, this is for good reason. I have a few memories of ferry trips and the like that were okay. Taking me out through the Heads of Sydney Harbour, to be bobbed around in a craft like a cork, in the swell of the Pacific results in dizziness, nausea and profuse sweating. The best I can manage is the taming and riding of inflatable devices, such as lylos, pink flamingoes and noodles; in the safety of a pool.

Early life

My fascination with swimming pools started early in life. The primary school I attended would run double decker buses, once a week, to the local public baths in Harborne. Opened in 1923, to a child, this drafty old building, with an interior of cathedral like proportions was awe inspiring. Patrons were greeted with an acrid chlorine smell that pervaded throughout. An arched entrance followed by a gloomy ticket hall opened onto the shallow end of the pool area. 

The delighted shrilled shouts and screams of small voices and the high pitched sound from pea-whistles echoed around the honey coloured brick interior. Dark wooden changing cubicles were arranged regimentally, along either side of the length of the pool; girls on the left, boys to the right. Cubicles consisted of a bench and hooks, where you would leave your clothes. As children, we had to share a cubicle.

Either no one explained swimming pool safety before my first visit or I wasn’t listening. After exiting my cubicle, dressed in saggy red trunks, I ran towards the large arched window at the far end of the pool. Shafts of sunlight from skylights set high up, in the apex of the roof, danced on the surface of the water. Jumping high into the golden Autumn air, I plunged into the chilly water. The sound of the water swooshed past my ears. My sinuses responded in pain to the rapid intake of liquid. The silky water caressed my skin, turning into a peaceful embrace as I sank rapidly to the bottom, in the deep end.  

I had not thought through the implications of my impulsive behaviour, being unable to swim. Only the recollection of that first exhilarating jump into the unknown remains etched into my memory. How I reached safety and the rest of the lesson has faded into my dim memories of the late 1960s/early 1970s. After this episode, I was only allowed to swim widths in the shallow end. I’m sure I was a disappointment to my mother who had won awards for her swimming prowess.


Even now I am not a strong swimmer, I get by with a hybrid form of breast stroke with my head out of the water. I also enjoy floating on my back and treading water.

Whenever we holiday in our favourite Far North Queensland destination, Port Douglas we spend hours in the pool. The calming effect it has on us has inspired our annual ritual of putting up a temporary pool at home. It is here every Summer that I get back in touch with my inner mer.