6 months on…

Today, we have been married exactly 6 months.  

I was told by some that I was mad to marry so quickly, after a brisk long-distance courtship conducted for the main part by Skype, phone and email.  I knew they were wrong.  I was told it would be hard to give up my freedoms after 50+ years of the single state.  They’re wrong too.  What nobody told me was that pleasures shared are magnified, not halved; that there is joy and satisfaction in putting someone else’s needs before your own; and that the things that worried us so much when we were young –  appearance, status and material comfort – become a whole lot less important when you’re past a certain age.  Married life is relaxed, companionable, happy, satisfying, and gives a deep sense of security and being loved and valued.

We treated ourselves to lunch at the place we got married.  We hadn’t told them it was 6 months to the day, or what the occasion was, but they remembered us and wished us happy 6 months’ anniversary – they’d worked it out for themselves.  We got a table by the pool, staff coming to ask how we were liking married life and good wishes from all.  Of course, it was good business practice, but they really meant it, too.

So, here’s the view from our table this lunchtime…

A beautiful clear pool with rock waterfall, fringed by palm trees, and a gentle breeze blowing off the ocean in the background. There was a kookaburra taking a bath, but I didn't manage to capture him.

A beautiful clear pool with rock waterfall, fringed by palm trees, and a gentle breeze blowing off the ocean in the background. There was a kookaburra taking a bath, but I didn’t manage to capture him.


The sunburnt country

People sometimes ask why I emigrated to Australia, and do I miss home.  There are two answers.  Thing is, where I live is home, and that’s Australia, not the south of England.  And I can’t answer the first question any more eloquently than the Australian poet Dorothea McKellar in her poem My Country.

The love of field and coppice,
Of green and shaded lanes.
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins,
Strong love of grey-blue distance
Brown streams and soft dim skies
I know but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror –
The wide brown land for me!

A stark white ring-barked forest
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon.
Green tangle of the brushes,
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the treetops
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
Where sick at heart, around us,
We see the cattle die –
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady, soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the Rainbow Gold,
For flood and fire and famine,
She pays us back threefold –
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze.

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land –
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand –
Though earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I  know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.

So there you have it.  My heart has come home, and I will never live long enough to see all the beauty this country has to offer.  A source of mild regret, to be sure, but daily I see something beautiful that takes my breath away.

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.  Ralph Waldo Emerson



Night and day

More photos.  I like these two a lot; they represented a bit of a challenge – too little light, and too much.

I’ve finally put my camera back into my handbag so it’s ready when I see something I have to capture.  I’ve wasted so many opportunities by not having it with me.


Not the sharpest shot in my collection, but I think the soft effect is quite beautiful


How to capture the sun without burning out the image:
get a peach tree to stand in front!

Frying tonight…

All is not well in the vegetable gardens of Chiconia…

OK, it’s early spring here.  But you’d never know it by the weather.  We had 31C yesterday (88F), and more of the same forecast.  We’re desperate for some rain, especially in the country areas of Western Queensland.  Many weather and temperature records have been surpassed and well and truly smashed up and down the state.

The sun beats down like an iron rod, and many of my vegies are deciding they’ve had enough of the struggle and are dying en masse.  Some are not surprising: the beans are not really tropical creatures, and like northern Europeans on a Spanish holiday, they’re wilting in the sun.  Others never really got the chance to get established before the temperature ramped up so much, like my tomatoes, which are stunted little things producing one desperate offspring each, in a bid for immortality.  And some are loving it: the capsicums are flowering and fruiting like mad.  It’s a good time for them, the rains haven’t started yet, so there’s no danger of blossom end rot, and the sun is ensuring they grow and fruit well.  The salad leaves are a mixed bunch: I’m grateful I didn’t put in any lettuce, as that would bolt straight away.  The rainbow chard, spinach and rocket are struggling but holding on.  One of the rocket plants has bolted, but I’ll see if I can curtail the mad stampede by nipping off all the flower stalks.

There’s only one thing to do, and that’s move the whole vegetable operation wholesale to a shaded area.  Fortunately, I have somewhere for them to go, but getting the irrigation to them is going to be tricky, and I may have to water instead.

On the upside, once that fence line is clear, I can compost, water, dig and turn over, and plant my climbers:  Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow (brunfelsia latifolia), Panama Gold Passionfruit, and Star Jasmine (trachylospermum jasminoides).  They’re designed to be both beautiful and useful: the flowering ones will give sound proofing and some visual privacy from the neighbours, and the passionfruit will give us something delicious to eat. The main problem’s going to be keeping them under control: they’re enthusiastic, to say the least.


Brunfelsia bonodora, Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, very sweetly scented and pretty

T/54/7  Trachelospermum jasminoides

Trachylospermum jasminoides, Star Jasmine. Good as either ground cover or climber, and beautifully scented.

I’m a long way off my dream vegie garden.  Raised beds, a raised walkway around them to keep them and me out of the wet in the Rains,  a netted cage to keep out birds, fruit bats and possums and provide some shade, and a well-considered and extensive irrigation system.  The area behind the carport is earmarked, but there’s a lot of clearing to do, some construction work, a bit of money to be spent and a lot, a LOT of time required.  All of which will have to wait.  So I continue to struggle on with vegies in tubs and hanging baskets, feeling increasingly sad at little lives lost.  I know they’re only vegies, but they’re so hopeful and valiant when they go in.  And I can’t do anything to mitigate the temperature, except provide as much shade and water as I can.  Maybe I should concentrate on the tropical stuff, and accept the inevitable with the rest.

Meanwhile, the stuff I pick will provide the makings of a nice frittata…

Morning Tea at the Quilting Bee

I haven’t written anything about quilting yet, so thought it was about time I put something in that category, since it’s such an important factor in my life.  

I’m currently working on the most complicated piece I’ve ever attempted.  The design appeared in my head one night in the middle of a rather vivid dream, and when I woke up, I bolted for pencil and paper before I lost it.  I got it down virtually unchanged.  Like the design, the name sort of introduced itself without any thought on my part: Morning Tea at the Quilting Bee. It sat in my notebook, waiting for me to do something about it for a long time.  I put it off, finished my heirloom Grandmother’s Flower Garden quilt, every stitch set by hand. That took me 11 months.  Still Morning Tea waited for me to remember it.  Breast cancer came and went.  That took half a year and wasn’t a whole heap of fun. I was helped greatly by a local charity which gives financial assistance to cancer sufferers http://www.candocancertrust.com.au and is supported by donations and local business.  I couldn’t repay them in financial terms, but I promised to make them a quilt to auction at one of their fundraising events.  In addition, Australia’s Biggest Morning Tea http://www.biggestmorningtea.com.au is a fundraising event for cancer, and so the two things conspired to make me retrieve the design and start work.

And then I met my husband to be, and all quilt work ceased. I moved to Queensland. We got married. My husband gave me a whole room to myself to sew, write, blog and lose things in.  And so work began again.  It’s a combination of embroidery, English paper piecing, machine and hand stitching, of needleturn and fused and buttonhole-edged applique.  It’s going to be quilted on my domestic sewing machine, and then bound and finished with a channel on the back to hold a rod to hang it by.  I’m eagerly anticipating the day when I pack it up and send it off…

So, here are a couple of photos to show you the work in progress.

Work in progress on my Morning Tea at the Quilting Bee wall hanging.  Bits are fused on, and there's quite a lot of applique still to do before I can start quilting.

Work in progress. Bits are fused and pinned on, and there’s quite a lot of applique still to do before I can start quilting.

So, cups of coffee, fairy cakes and bickies on a blue and white china cake stand, and bits of different patchwork which the fictional ladies have just laid down while they have their break.  The cake stand, cakes and cups still need to be appliqued on.

Cups of coffee, fairy cakes and bickies on a blue and white china cake stand, and bits of different patchwork which the fictional ladies have just laid down while they have their break. The cake stand, cakes and cups still need to be appliqued on, as do the little yoyo puffs you can see round the outside on the previous shot.

I’m sort of stalled.  I look at the sewing I need to do and am appalled at the task I’ve set myself.  But I want it done, for all sorts of reasons.  I want the CanDo Cancer Trust to have it.  I want to lay the design to rest. I want to get on with one of the 10 million other quilts trying to get out of my head. I want to make the Tree of Life quilt I’ve promised my brother.  Any motivation/encouragement/tongue-lashing gratefully received.

Plus, of course, writing this blog is taking up time I could have spent sewing the quilt.  But just now, this is heaps more fun!

50 shades of Autumn

I know all you northern hemisphere people are coming into Autumn/Fall (call it what you like, the days get shorter and colder…), so I thought I’d have a little gloat and point out that down here, it’s Spring.  Longer, warmer days (OK, in our case, bloody hot days), flowers, things peeking out of the soil in the garden, and the sun beating on the back of your neck as you do the weeding.  So to celebrate our difference, I’m giving you an image of what autumn colour looks like in the cooler parts of Australia.  Damn, I’m going to miss that…


Up on the New England plateau in northern NSW, we get cool autumns and an amazing range of colours. These leaves were all picked up in my garden.

We’re having an unusually hot and dry spring.  Some fairly old records have been broken.  The farmers are happy because it has mean the sugar content in the cane is high, and they’ve been able to get the crop in without the harvesters getting bogged.  Already many of the harvested fields have been cleared and ploughed, and there are rows of little cane billets happily sprouting away.  They’re going to need some rain soon…  Inland, the fire risk is through the roof, and the cattle country is officially in drought.  They’re doing it tough out there.  For us, it’s meant having to start irrigating the garden and running the air-conditioning much sooner.  Strictly urban hazards.  I count myself lucky.

Nothing new to report from the Gardens of Chiconia, but my two phalaenopsis orchids certainly know it’s spring, and are flowering heavily.  They sit on the windowsill in my study/sewing room (aka the Black Hole of Calcutta for its propensity for swallowing things up, never to be found again). One is white and one is a rudely vivid shade of purple with a speckled heart.  I could probably move them outside, but it might be a bit hot and bright; they like filtered light.

Note to self: I have GOT to start carrying my camera around with me more.  We had a picnic lunch at the beach today, and I spotted a beautiful group of paperbarks twisting and twining around each other.  I may have to go back tomorrow, because I can’t get the image out of my head.

Words under Pressure: Ageing

Another blogger, Karen Ellis, liked a previous post. I took a look at her blog. She had a fascinating short movie embedded, showing a young girl ageing slowly before our eyes. She asked for thoughts and comments on the ageing process.  Here’s something I wrote about 10 years ago.  I thought I was getting old then.  Boy, was I wrong.  NOW I’m old. Sort of.  Well, anyway, these are my thoughts on ageing:

Once, when I was young,
Life left no mark upon my face.
Control and excess alike
Put no thumbprint on me.

When I was young,
My mind had the same resilience.
Passion and grief came … and passed.
Every day was new.

Now I am older,
And all things leave their mark,
And I am glad.
The faces of the young are all the same.

Let me show you how I have lived.
Read it in my face,
See the shadows it has left,
And the shadows it has not.

See for yourself
That I have mostly lived in laughter.
See also that I know pain
And have encompassed both.

And now I see in the mirror
The face of my mother.
And though she is long gone
I comprehend what made her.

Individuals are all
The sum of their experiences.
Why would I surrender mine
For a face like an unwritten page?

Thank you, Karen Ellis, for prompting me to dig this out.  I still like it, 10 years on.

Below: photos of me at 25, and today. The ageing process is interesting, don’t you think?

Me, at 25 Me. 2013

Damn, I had good eyebrows then.  Lost them to chemotherapy, never grew back properly.  Apart from that, I’m happy with what time has done to me and for me.  I’m happy to age.