Zesty Mumma's Words

A life lived without passion is a life half lived

Archive for the tag “positivity”

Hip Hip Hooray to International Women Day! But How Far Have We Really Come?

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Let me start this week’s blog by telling a little story….

An immaculately dressed women walks past a mirror and glances quickly at her reflection. As she does her focus zeros in on the aspects of her appearance that she particularly dislikes. She flinches, averting her eyes from the image of herself, as if she were the Hunchback of Notre Dame caught in a spot light. A man walks past the same mirror, his baggy tracksuit pants hang just below his jiggling belly and his ripped Tshirt wears the remains of breakfast. He glances in the mirror and thinks to himself, “looking good”! The point of this story is that women will always look at themselves and think there is something wrong with them; where as men will always see an image of themselves and think they are a chick magnet, no matter how they look.

So lets go back to International Day of Women.

Does it mean we women are suddenly at peace with ourself’…. I doubt it

Does it mean that we are kind to each other…. I doubt it

Does it mean that we like our body…. I seriously doubt it

Does that sound pessimistic? Well it was meant to be. I just despair sometimes that in spite of all the fanfare that goes along with initiatives such as International Women’s Day, women still judge each other harshly and judge themselves even harsher. If we are totally honest there isn’t a woman that hasn’t looked at a photo of some starlet in a magazine, gleefully noticing that tiny bit of cellulite on her butt and rejoiced. Let’s forget the month she may have spent raising awareness for street children in Cambodia, no lets just focus on the cellulite.

I’d like to blame the media for subjecting us to the barrage of images and stories we are exposed to daily, the same images and stories that feed our obsession with beauty over achievement. However I don’t think we can totally dump the blame on the media, I believe the problem starts a little closer to home. It’s a secret passed down from mother to daughter from generation to generation, the signs so seemingly insignificant that most men would never even notice. But we girls know the code don’t we?

It starts very early in life, the little girl watching her mother as she flinches at the glimpse of herself in the mirror, the child takes it all in. Picture a family gathered for dinner, but mum is on a diet so her meal is different from the rest of the family, her daughter sees all. These and the other thousand of unspoken signals women send to their daughters train them where to focus their attention far more successfully than words ever could.

Of course it isn’t all doom and gloom, there are great role models out there; Amal Clooney for one, the brilliant human rights lawyer that represents the likes of Wikileaks founder, Julian Assange. The trouble is the first thing we think of when we see a photo of Amal is that fact that she is stick thin, beautiful and managed to bag the worlds most eligible bachelor, because that’s what we were trained to focus on.

So if focus is the problem, what can we do to change it? Maybe it’s not focus, maybe its just perspective! Do you remember the story I told at the start of this blog? Well by chance I told this story to a group of friends thinking I would get a laugh, which I did. After the laughter and discussion ended a wise male friend gave me his perspective on my little tale. He told me that the real truth of the story was that neither perspective were balanced, they were both extreme. The fact was that while men are never as good looking as they think they are, we women are never as bad as we perceive ourselves to be. In fact most of the time we are pretty darn awesome!

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Step out of Your Comfort Zone and feel Alive

Learning to drive  a car for most people comes during teenage years and offers your first taste of freedom from parental constraints. I however didn’t get my licence till I was thirty two! Living in a coastal village it was easy to get myself around town on my bicycle; work, shops, beach, everywhere. Friends still remind me of the massive amount of grocery bags that could often be seen dangling from the handle bars.

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Even when my children were born I still had no motivation to get my licence. “Why do I need it, I can walk with the pram, it’s good excersise,” I told myself. Not until we moved to a rural property did it quickly became apparent that me getting my licence was indeed a necessity.  Now many years later and thousand of kilometres of driving under my belt it is unthinkable for me to imagine living in a world without my licence.

Then I came to Spain two months ago and couldn’t possibly imagined driving around the countryside. As I’m sure most are aware, like the Americas, European countries (except the United Kingdom) all drive on the right hand side of the road and therefore so does Spain. For those of us that learnt to drive in the 30% of countries that do so on the left, the thought of even attempting to make the switch is inconceivable.  I even get confused when  I am asked to give directions, I inevitably choose right when I mean left and visa versa. The thought of me hurtling down a Spanish motorway at 120 km an hour was never on the cards, but then the weather got hot!

When I say hot I mean baking oven, burnt to a crisp, hard to breath and not only did my friends husband have to work but my friend had answered a question wrong when renewing her Australian licence online. The Australian government, ever scarred of fraudsters and illegal immigrants, doesn’t give you any chances and refused to allow my friend to complete her renewal online. This left us unable to go for a swim without Victor. In an act of extreme desperation Selena asks me about five weeks ago if I wanted to drive. I thought she was joking at first but she was deadly serious. I was quite impressed with her courage I must say but the fact the beach is actual only ten minutes, four right hand turns and one left hand away might have had something to do with it.  My confidence however, was not so easily strengthened.

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Which brings me back to the reasons I didn’t drive till I was thirty two, basically I was scarred. I know I said all that other stuff about not being necessary etc, but the honest ” face yourself in the mirror” truth be told was; I was scarred. When I first turned out of our street on the road that took us Mazagon I felt like I did in those days when I was learning to drive. Nothing is natural, you have to be reminding yourself constantly of what you should be doing. I even developed my own mantra, ” keep Selena in the gutter” which translates ” the passenger is alway on the right”.  It felt like the car was driving you not the other way around.

After a relatively short time I ventured further a field, Zara, Sfera and many other Spanish clothing brands decided it was time for sales and we weren’t missing out on that. Then a couple of weeks ago we drove to Sevilla (about an hour away) to visit yet another group of Roman ruins. This time I had to travel on the motorway, which I would like to point out has a speed limit of one hundred and twenty kilometres an hour, ten kilometres faster than  Australia. Since that day driving on the right has suddenly become second nature and I am pretty chuffed with myself.

I even drove a friends car in Portugal, which has a very old, narrow and poorly maintained road system, when the friend I was with wasn’t feeling well. The fact she quickly recovered after I took the wheel could’ve had something to do with the fact I have a heavy lead foot and she suddenly realised that I had only been driving on the right for a matter of weeks.

When I chose to take this Solo holiday  I did so for a variety of reason, one in particular was the opportunity to put myself into uncomfortable situations and find answers. Truly driving on the right hand side of the road was one of those situations for me and surprise surprise, I found I could not only do it but do it comfortably. The thing about human nature is that it is easy just living our life in our usual routine and we have a measure of happiness. However, if we choose to push ourself, step outside the everyday, suddenly you feel alive. Each little achievement makes the blood flow and gives you confidence.image

That was my pep talk for the week, now for Portugal. To say Portugal is special is an understatement. I have been across the border a few times during my stay in Palos and noticed that inspite of the similarities with Spain it is also quite different. This trip took me a little further along the south coast to the exquisite Praia de Marinha. This section of the coast and hinterland is called the Algave. It features not only amazing beaches but the remains of lairs of Portuguese smugglers and pirates from a world long disappeared. These bandits notoriously laid in wait for Spanish galleons returning from American, laden with gold and other cargo

Southern Portugal has many resorts  for Northern Europeans but if you venture beyond this artificial world you find the rustic lifestyles of the people is still very authentic and simplistic. My only regret is I didn’t find any surf to photograph for my son and friends but that is further round on the west coast.  I really only scratched the surface of that beautiful country and what I saw I loved, this is definitely a return destination!

Tips

  •  Never leave your home country without an international licence – you just don’t  know when you will need it.
  • Step outside your comfort zone, you just might surprise yourself!
  • Try Portuguese flame grilled Tuna- it’s like no Tuna steak you have ever tried before!

 

The King and Queen of Merida Invite you to take Journey Back In Time!

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As I am sure most of you realise I am an Australian and this is an important fact in understanding of this weeks blog. In Australia we have very little architecture that is over 150 years old. In fact on the Sunshine Coast where I live the majority of the buildings are actually under 30 years. Yes you read correctly, under 30 years old. To say we are a young country in architectural terms is an understatement to say the least. So if any of you Europeans out there feel my prattling on about Roman ruins is a little “ho hum” then I hope the facts I have just shared explains my position. It is simply mind blowing to me that the amazing designs and workmanship of humans living a minimum of 2000 years ago still exist and functions in our modern world.

Which brings me to my tourist destination of the week – Merida, Badajoz Provence, Extremadura Region.

Merida is simply amazing!

A relatively small city of approximately 60,000 residents, it sits quietly in a lovely rural area that produces grain crops and wine. Lying in a south westerly direction approximately three hours from Madrid, it is easily accessible by both road and rail. What I had originally planned to do was stop in Merida on my way to Sevilla and I have now come to realise was actually the best idea, oh well you live and learn and I got there anyway!

Why is Merida amazing, simply put it is the sheer number of buildings and structures that not only exist but in some cases are still functioning, such was the skill of the Romans, much of which is an easy walk from one site to another. As with the other historic towns I have visited these sites are generally situated in or around the original heart of the city.

We begin our walk on the edge of the city centre and head to a path that follows the Rio Guadiana. My first taste of the Roman ruins that Merida has in abundance is the Acueducto de los Milagros or Miraculous Aquaduct. Tall and proud it stands in the middle of a public park, with an actual walking track running under one of the arches. This in itself miraculous, no guard rail to keep you a safe distance away no hordes of tourists. In fact the day we were there I only saw one other tourist taking in its beauty.

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The next stop the Roman Bridge, built in 25BC, over the Guadiana River is a marvel to this day, thanks mainly to incredible Roman workmanship but also to conservation efforts by the subsequent invaiders, the Visigoths and Moors to name a couple. This bridge still retains 60 of its original 62 arches and is today a foot bridge for residents and tourists but was still in use for vehicles up to 1993 and was in fact the main access route into town. At 700 mtrs in length it is the longest Roman Bridge in the world one of the most beautiful.

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The overlapping of conquering nations truly epitomises Spain’s cultural heritage, it’s sometimes hard to tell when one period of rule ends and the next begins. At the enterance to the bridge stands the Alcazabar (Arab fort) that the Moors seemly built in every major town they at one time controlled. In the shade around the northern wall we found tables and chairs set under pencil pines and other trees, with only two other customers it was peaceful and cool. The food was rustic and extremely tasty and perfect way to break our sightseeing for an hour. I chose a nice meal of chicken, salad and homemade chips for €6.00 but I could of had goat stew or partridge pie for approximately the same price.

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Resuming our wandering we passed the remaining ruins on the way to the prize. The Temple of Diana, Portico del Foro and other historic sites, all however, pale into relative insignificance in comparison to the King of Merida, the Roman Ampitheatre. The Ampitheatre in particular demands your imagination to picture not only the crowds cheering gladiators but the slaughter of man and beast. It is a powerful place and a prime example of what is good and bad about mankind.

An interesting but sad side point for me was the realisation that bull rings of Spain were actually throw backs to these Roman sports. For me the round shape was the give away and when I researched it I found this was in fact the case, present day bullfighting is a continuation of entertainment popular in Rome.

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The highlight for me however, was the grace and beauty of the Queen of Merida, the Roman Theatre, which stands regally next to the ampitheatre and serves in contrast as an reminder of what height of culture and art the Romans achieved. On the day of my visit a theatre performance was scheduled for that evening only 2041 years after the first performance in 25BC.

Merida is beautiful clean town that has obviously taken to heart the message of the poster below.

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It reads in English ” educate your owner”. I personally think it should also say ” I can’t do it on my own”

In closing I just want to say if you don’t ever go to another Roman historic site, go to Merida, everywhere else cannot compare.

Tips

  • Try making your trip in either spring or Autumn. The heat of summer is the only thing that will marr your visit. I used a parasol all day but I still felt like I could almost get heat stroke by the time I finished at the theatre.
  • On the same note make sure you carry a huge bottle of water. There is age eat fountain at the entrance but no other water for the rest of visit around both the Ampitheatre and Roman Theatre.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What do Christopher Columbus and Berries Have in Common, You’ll be Surprised!

The actual town I have based myself in for most of my stay in Spain is called Palos De La Frontera, which apparently is the berry capital of the world. If you take a look on google maps and change the setting to satellite what you notice is fields on fields of white. Before you start thinking that you are witnessing some sort of new hybrid berry crop let me tell that it is actually field on field of plastic covered green houses, mono culture at its zenith.

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Blueberries, blackberries, raspberries ( sounding a tad like Forrest Gumps friend Bubba at this moment I’m sure  – “pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup” etc) but the queen is definitely the strawberry. Just in case an uneducated person like myself failed to recognise this fact we have a giant strawberry planted in the middle of the roundabout not 250mtrs from my house. Coming from the land of big things (think big pineapple, big cow, big prawn, big banana and oh so many more biggn’s) you might think I’m not impressed, well you couldn’t be further from the truth. The fact that they chose to put a mammoth strawberry in the middle of the roundabout instead of the other most important connection to Palos De La Frontera, the one and only Christopher Columbus, shows the importance of the industry to the town.

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Palos, much to my surprise when I arrived is the place of Columbus first voyage to the Americas. In fact many of the sailors on the expedition were pressed into service from Palos and the two smaller caravels ( La Niña and Pinto) were owned by the Pinzon brothers from Moguer, the next village down the road. They set sail from the Palos dock near the Monastery of La Rabida on 3rd August 1492 and change the world forever.

The village, while playing a huge roll in the  exploration of the globe is often forgotten entirely in any discussion of Columbus’s journeys. On the plus side it remains a sleepy village to this day. The white washed houses with terracotta roofs externally are probably very similar to the homes occupied by the residents of that time. Its one moment of fame over Palos settled back into obscurity and the never ending sun of southern Spain. Far more cataclysmic to the history of the town, even more than Columbus and berries was the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. This devistating natural ddisasters destroyedmost of Lisbon and changed the geography of the coastline of southern Spain so much that Palos is now an inland town on a river rather than a sea port.

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Back to the present day and how is my Spanish going I hear you ask?  Gracias, for asking, it’s ok. I managed to buy shampoo and conditioner by my self the other day and have perfected the purchase of “cafe Americano”. That’s a long black a bit larger than a Spanish black coffee but still only about 150mls and not the humungous sizes drank in Australia and the US. Thankfully that’s how I drink my coffee so it is “perfecto” ( just slipping in a bit more Spanish to impress you) for me.

The Spanish food however is taking a little more time to get used to and trust me I’m not a person who is scared to try new things. There are a few secrets about Spanish cooking that surprised me completely and  I think I should tell you. The first is that other than garlic and salt they don’t use herbs and spices very much and they definitely hate chilli. Another secret is the lack of vegetables used, most dishes lean heavily on meat, however they do incorporate legumes and rice into many dishes. Generally if you ask for “ensalada” or salad it will consist of tomatoes lettuce and onion, sometimes tuna as well. Very different to the extravagant creations from home

The Spanish however have a love affair with potatoes which rivals that of the Irish, bet you didn’t know that. They have no hesitation with eating potatoes for breakfast, lunch and tea; and as a snack in between. There is no shame in chowing down on Tortilla (potato and egg pie) for breakfast, potato salad swimming in mayonnaise for lunch and chips with tapas in the evening.  I have seen the light and been released, my long suppressed yearning for potatoes has been fed and I feel fine. No fear of the dreaded carbohydrate in Spain, no  irrational all consuming phobia about bread either. One thing I have noticed, the Spanish for the most part don’t eat much western styled fast food, don’t get me wrong it’s here just not as much. Also the bars that people mostly eat at prepare there own food and don’t buy in frozen pre prepared. Surprise, surprise Spanish women don’t have big butts!

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My tourist destination of the week is Córdoba, a beautiful inland city  of about 350,000 and has the second largest urban area in the world deemed world heritage by UNESCO. Córdoba was at one time the capital of the Roman region of  Hispania Ulteria and later the capital of the Moorish state Al-Andalus. The many existing examples of architecture, including the remnants of its Jewish history make this a must see destination.

Tips

  •  enjoy your holiday  – eat freshly prepared food, not processed food and don’t worry about theories that have only been around for a relatively short time.

 

 

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Cadiz – City of the Ancients, Sunbaking Cats and Smooth Talking Old Spaniards!

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Cadiz, Cadiz, the city of the ancients, what can I say that hasn’t been said before. With a history dating back to the Phonecians it holds the title of the oldest occupied city in Spain and one of the 10 ancient cities of Europe. Sparkling like a gem in the summer sun for thousands of years, the Romans obviously knew a great holiday destination when they saw one and occupied the city from 200 BC, leaving their own unique mark. Cadiz is surrounded by water on all sides, except for a narrow spit of land, running for a few kilometres, that joins it to the mainland.

As you enter the city through the massive gates that form part of the fortification built centuries ago ( once again primarily to keep out the English) you can’t help being drawn back to a time when running battles between Sir Francis Drake’s ( or  El Draque  – the Dragon, as the Spanish so affectionately like to call him) English Navy and the Spanish Armada were a common occurance. From 1586, thanks to the first of El Draques attacks, a series of “bastions” were built. These forts, eventually saved Cadiz from English invasion and for travellers 500 years later gave some of the best photo opportunities in all of Spain.

However, like all Spanish cities the never ending rows of high rise apartment blocks lie between the main road and the beach front as you head to its heart. Some time ago I watched a documentary showing the amazing ruins of the early incarnations of these blocks of flats in Rome. They were called “Insulae” or islands and due to the staggering population growth the Romans built thousands of them, today surviving examples still stand up to five storeys. It seems that the Italians had a fascination with concrete even then.  Take the New York skyline as an example and how can we forget the “concrete boots” favoured by the Maffia. My point in all this is that the Romans occupied Spain for more than 700 years and the Spanish didn’t complain much, so it’s not surprising that a lot of habits rubbed off.

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Closer to the Old City the architecture changes, the ever present cobble stone lanes, wrought iron and narrow alley’s return. What Cadiz has, that the other old places I have up visited up till now haven’t had, is the ocean and a brilliant blue Atlantic it is. The sea wall that protects the city from the ever present surging ocean almost surrounds its entire circumference. Gigantic concrete blocks big enough to with stand the lashing storms of an Atlantic winter not only protect the inhabitants but also offer a home for the scores of feral feline Cadizians.

These cats I must tell you are quite well cared for by their human neighbours with food left at feeding points and bedding for them placed deep inside the blocks. One this hot June day they are sprawled out on the baking concrete, a gentle breeze wafting over them, oblivious to the interest of passerby’s. On the cold winter days when icy gales from the southern Atlantic close in they burrow deep into the walls cavities, warm and dry.

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Walking further along the wall you come upon a Roman Ampitheatre not 40 mtrs from the water. It is not hard to imagine the ancients lounging like the cats enjoying a sort cultural programme.  What can I say but “everything old is new again” and the present cult of summer festivals was old 2000 years ago. I’m sure I could just make out a poster on the wall advertising the “Summer Sun and Sea festival 100BC” (that is if my primary school Latin was correct). All joking aside it would have been an awesome spot for a concert.

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The highlight of the day was the Castillo de Santa Catalina and a little inlet that runs underneath the causeway joining it to the mainland. Built in the early 1600’s it forms part of the fortifications I mentioned earlier. Pitted by sand laden winds from North Africa ( the Moroccan coastline is only about 100 kmtrs away) the Castillo sits perch on a narrow isthmus, it’s low hexagonal shape giving it an appearance of solid security.

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The inlet running under an arched section of the causeway is purposely designed to allow water to flow from one side to the other in order to relieve any pressure than could create cracks  and therefore damage the wall. What it  has created over time is a clear, deep swimming hole; that on this melting day is enjoyed by groups of teenage boys showing off their diving skills and flexing their muscles to the ever present groups of teenage girls and of course  I went swimming too.

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On the walk back to the car I was approached by a lovely elderly man, who appeared to be in his seventies. Quite well dress and clean, with a present smiling face and a slightly lyrical voice, I didn’t hesitate when he held out his hand to me and automatically extended mine back to him. He grasped my hand firmly and continued smiling and talking to me in Spanish. I was becoming quite confused, especially when he wouldn’t let go of my hand.

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Thankfully my friend,who was walking with his wife a little way in front turned around and came to see what was happening. The two men then engaged in a brief conversation and I heard the mention of money at one stage but couldn’t understand anything else. I had been just able to extract my hand by this time, so when my friend flick his hand in a sign of rejection and walked away I scurried after him.

When I asked him what the old guy wanted, “oh he was just asking for money” Victor said. I told him I was relieved cause I thought he was asking if he could buy me and thought they might have been sick of me by now and actually considered his offer!

Tips

  •  Makesure you bring a hat – with 300 days of sunshine it’s always need it!
  • have lunch at the small cafe at the causeway entrance of the Castillo
  • never extend your hand to old men – you might just have to cut it off to get away!

 

 

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Boys Need Strong Mothers, Otherwise They Will Never Grow Up to Be Good Men

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I listened with delight to a news report today about an Australian Rules football player being left in Jail for four days because his mum refused to bail him out. If you are a younger person (or maybe someones son)  you may be thinking that was a bit harsh but believe me I am sure the decision by his mum was a long time coming. Most mothers love their sons and come to the tough love decision after more than one infringement by that same child.

It starts very early with your son, they nick the chocolate frogs from the fundraising box your daughter has been asked to sell for her ballet class and they swear that they didn’t do it. You know quite well that it is them but they snuggle up to you and there is nothing you can do.  They learn very early to wrap you around their finger, but eventually you wise up. My son moved to Mackay when he was twenty two. He and a mate went to North Queensland for a change. They spent the first couple of weeks sleeping in the back of a ute, chasing crocs and eating crabs and fish they caught. They were broke and being just after christmas none of the local builders had started back to work so they were stuck. It turned out however,  to be the best thing that could have happened to them. They literally had no money so they weren’t able to touch alcohol or any other stimulant that they may have previously resorted to.

Then a cyclone came and I had to help them out with a roof over their head. For some months after that there were any number of reasons why I should help them out. They were working but there always seemed to be an excuse for why they needed a little bit of help. That is until I did something that put a stop to it, stone cold dead.

My son rang one day saying he was totally out of food and wouldn’t get his pay for a few days. Poor starving child I thought but wasn’t going to be stupid enough this time to give him cash. So I negotiated with a large supermarket in downtown Mackay to allow me to buy a gift card over the phone, which for some reason they found to be a very hard thing to do. Anyway, once this was organised I rang my son and told him what I had done. To say he wasn’t happy would be an understatement to be sure. The coup de gras came when he tried to buy cigarettes with his groceries and discovered that I had imposed a limitation on the items allowable with that gift card. He was incredibly embarrass and because boys being as shame phobic as they are, it goes with out saying that he never asked me to give him money again.

In the case of footballers there doesn’t seem to be a week that goes by without some incident with a player from one or more of the codes played in Australia. I am sure this is the same in most western countries, footballers headlining the morning news because of trouble with alcohol, fighting and women (usually all three together).  I think they should sack the managers and employ mothers, we’d fix ’em!

The Great Ocean Road – A Road Well Visited But Always Surprising

Thirty years ago I drove a quiet back road from Port McDonald in South Australia over the Victorian Border to Port Campbell and on through to Torquay so we could be on hand to watch the Bells 25th Anniversary surf comp. By the way when I say I drove that wasn’t exactly the case, Craig my ex did all the driving, I didn’t get my license for another decade, but I’ll leave that  story till later.

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So back to the story, I called it a back road but it was in fact the Princess Highway and  the Great Ocean Road, which most people have heard of even if you don’t live in Australia. In those days it was little more than a country road but the scenery was no less amazing.

On that occasion we got to the Twelve Apostles (now it is 8 ½ Apostles) late in the day then drove on through the night, only stopping somewhere near Lorne because we sadly hit a Tawney Frogmouth Owl. Sleeping in the back of our 1968 Holden Kingswood Station wagon with stainless steel mud flaps and white metal venetian blinds was very squishy. We had a cat, my brother, surfboards and luggage but when you’re young you just handled it.

What I didn’t I didn’t realise until I recently travelled the same road with two friends (but from the opposite direction) was that because it was night on my previous trip I had missed out on so much.

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The Torquay stretch is actually a well worn path for me. When we arrived thirty years ago our stay extended to about three months so I got to know the area quite well. Since then I have travelled back on a few occasions, my son was a pro junior surfer so surfing comps at Bells were a part of my life. It hasn’t changed a lot in all those years. A few more shops, but not as many as you would think, more houses but not much else.

Bells Beach however was as mesmerising as ever, the pure power of the waves demands respect. On the day we were there a rescue helicopter had landed on the beach just before we pulled up in the carpark, I never found out why but I can only imagine. Standing at the lookout staring out to the horizon you can’t help thinking about the massive waves that are generated in the Southern Ocean and propelled at the Australian coastline. Dark and ominous it is easy to feel the icy embrace of water that originates in the Antarctic.

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The trip from Torquay to Lorne along a road that hugs impossible cliffs and runs beside exquisite sandy beaches  is only about an hour drive in distance. However, there are numerous places you will want to stop so it should take you  quite a bit longer. We stopped for a late lunch in Lorne, very pretty  but I found it a bit too commercial.

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Our next two nights were spent in Apollo Bay and gladly a lot different to Lorne. It is a lovely little town, with beautiful beaches, a great boat harbour and amazing pub meals, really huge. Most importantly it is a perfect distance from the Apostles. Stay the night, then make your way to the apostles the next day. On the way back visit The Otway Lightstation and get more that you bargain for. The road to the lightstation is about 12 kilometres and the only place in Australia I have found that seems to be riddled with Koalas, no joking. They were hanging out of the trees everywhere along the road. The koala in the picture is literally only two metres above the ground.

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The light station itself is fantastic and full of history. The most famous of the light house keepers had an amazing wife that cared for shipwrecked people and others in wretched situations. Commended for her spirit, she was described as being the “nicest of all women having only nine children” beat that all you earth mothers, lol. Who would ever describe someone as ONLY having nine children. Times were definitely different one hundred and thirty years ago.

 

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Haast and Beyond, with Whitebait for Sustenance

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Heading south to Haast, the last outpost on the West Coast, you realise just how stoic the early European settlers must have been to eek out a farming existence in that verdant land. The bush closes in thickly around you at times and the ever present, misty rain implies a prehistoric past that is still very much present. This trip was my second on that road and no different the first time I travelled it.

Whitebait is a delicacy you may not have heard about but is so important to nearly every New Zealander that a love of them is almost a prerequisite for citizenship. What is it I hear you ask, actually Whitebait are tiny little fish, much smaller that sardines with a gigantic head (in comparison to their body). Every single kiwi I have met has at least one story about going “whitebaiting” when they were young, much increasing its legendary status. As you approach Haast a small hand written sign on the side of the road advertising whitebait fritters can be seen, make sure you stop. The fritters are a simple affair, prepared and cooked on a make shift bench in front of you and consist of beaten eggs, whitebait, salt and pepper, buttered bread and sauce if you want but well worth it.

South of Haast is the truly wild New Zealand, Milford Sound, Doubtful Sound and onto Antarctica. The main road turns east at this point and heads up and over the Alps. If you don’t have a convoy of Motorhomes breathing down upon you make sure at some point you stop on the side of the road to marvel, slack jawed at the beauty you are heading toward. It is scenery that no amount of words I could ever say would do justice to.

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This road will take you all the way to Wanaka and on to Queenstown, it is quite narrow in places but that is never a problem because there just isn’t that much traffic. Once you are over the top it follows a route around amazing blue lakes. This is sheep country and very high so the vegetation is sparse. This trip we chose to keep going through to Queenstown but Wanaka is a nice little town with lots of accommodation. Both towns are quite modern and generally busy in all seasons. Winter bringing the skiers and late spring, summer and early autumn the travelling tourists.

It takes about an hour to get to Queenstown from Wanaka along the highest public road in the country. Just before you begin your decent into Queenstown you come upon gravel clearing on the side of the road. Make sure you stop at that spot, the view looking down the valley and into Queenstown is a must see. Late snow was still clinging to the hills around the valley on my first trip but this time it was late summer so it had all melted, still beautiful but the snow made it spectacular.

 

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It is a 300 km bus trip to Milford Sound from Queenstown and I took it the first time I was there. Unfortunately, the only trouble with that is if you’re on a bus tour you have to take 300km trip home that day as well. Actually I am only joking when I say unfortunately because the trip there was nearly as good as seeing the Sound. After Te Arnau the road takes you through vast empty valleys that had once been farmland but are now part of the National Park. The drivers are well trained and have lots of interesting local knowledge to bring the trip to life. It makes it a long day but not one you would regret. To get down to Milford you have to pass through a long tunnel. If you are a nervous driver you would be best to take a bus trip like me. I’m not a nervous driver but I was very glad I went on the bus.

My favourite thing in Queenstown is the botanic garden. After you walk through the garden there is lovely little French café down on the lake that finishes off the visit nicely. The walk up Queenstown Hill is also great. It starts at the end of some extremely steep streets but becomes less so once you are up about a third of the way.

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Arrowtown is a quaint little town about 5 km from Queenstown, It is renowned for cute little stone cottages and other old buildings but it is heavily commercialised and really not my cup of tea. Having said that I had a venison pie at the local bakery was the best pie I have ever tasted.

 

Tips

  • Top up your petrol take at Haast.
  • Try Pine Lodge for budget accommodation. The room I had on my first visit was spotlessly clean. I booked it on a last minute booking website and managed to get a twin room for four nights for $200 NZ.
  • There are two supermarkets in Queenstown – a smaller one right at the end of Shotover Street in the CBD. The second, a large New World, is just a few blocks over, just out of the CBD.
  • Unless you know you have a bargain I wouldn’t really buy any souvenirs in Queenstown, very overpriced and all made in China.
  • The bus trip to Milford costs around $150 NZ

Being a Mum Can Be Bad For Your Health

The woman in front of me looked stressed, her eyes glanced from the pile of eighty five gram tins of tuna she had piled onto  the conveyor belt, past me to grocery aisle behind us. She was careful not to look me in the eye, as is if there was some unknown shame she was trying to hide. Along with the tuna there were other tell tale signs, a three litre container of milk, a twelve pack of jam filled donuts attractively package in a cellophane covered white cardboard box and a jar of no name peanut butter, this woman was a mother.

Now, let me tell you, I’m no Sherlock Holmes, but I too am a mum.  Her face told the whole story, it was nearly five o’clock, she was still at the shops and she hadn’t prepared tea. Oh the panic attack of it all. I remember those days, the anxiety I suffered if I was still at the shops at that time was intense. As mothers we often placed huge expectations on ourselves. If we don’t get it right our kids will be failures. If we’re late for one dinner everything will come tumbling down. Aaarrgh!

“Have you forgotten something, do you want to go a and get it, I can wait?” I could see her mind ticking off all the things she should have grabbed. It was no skin off my nose I had all the time in the world. I live alone, my children have grown and left home.  What’s more I am finally cured of  that awful panic, but it took a long time.

“No that’s okay, it can wait” she said but her eyes still held that haunted look.

“Your worried about getting home aren’t you?” I couldn’t help myself.

“yes” she said hesitantly, embarrassed at the thought that her  secret was revealed.

“I know that look, your worried that the kids are at home and nothing is done? I remember feeling the same way” As soon as I spoke I could see her physically relax, amazed that someone knew how she felt.

In nursing homes they have a term for dementia patients who go a bit loopy at the end of the day. They call them sundowners. The funny thing is it is often women and it happens at that time of the day when everything gets crazy, kids come home, your trying to cook, there’s homework and fighting, very busy. Those poor old women are probably suffering post traumatic stress syndrome simply because they to were mothers.

I turned to this mum and told her the best advice I could give her.

“I have one thing to tell you, don’t stress, they will survive. If they have to have a can of tuna and a glass of milk for tea, it’s not going to kill them. Just don’t stress.”

Choice and Commitment – A hard lesson to Learn

The last few mornings I have been picking up and taking my friends two young daughters to school. The morning drop off is something I haven’t had the pleasure of partaking in for quite a while and I will readily admit I will not miss it. Crazy is a word that springs to mind, kids, cars (not a good mix) parents, dogs it’s all there. I can’t help looking back to my own primary school years when it was just lots of kids walking and the occasional car.

The two little girls I have been chaffeuring are absolutely gorgeous and no trouble at all, so it has been a pleasure. As an observer I have laughed to myself at the funny little characteristics that children take on relevant to their position in the family. The youngest is an impish, quirky, funny girl who tends to be babied by her siblings, while the oldest is a gentle and calm person who takes her responsibility to her younger sibling very seriously.

I can see the older girl in later life in a position where these beautiful characteristics are in high demand, i.e. nursing or teaching.

Today however, wasn’t a great day for the little one, her sister wasn’t going to school as she had to go to the dentist. This meant the little one has to go to school by herself.    She wasn’t happy!

Being the youngest she is used to always knowing that at least one of her siblings are always near at hand (she does have an older brother that is able to get himself to high school). She tried all the tricks that a youngest child tries, they plead, they cry and they stubbornly refuse to budge.

I truly wanted to keep her with me, it would have been so easy. We could have had a lovely girlie day and it was very tempting, but I didn’t relent. If you allow a child to stay home from school cause she doesn’t feel like going, does that same person not go to work as an adult because they don’t feel like it? Ok that might sound like a stretch but where does it stop?

One reason that cemented my determination to encourage her to go to school was the fact that she had promised her parents that she would. She kept repeating, “I shouldn’t have promised, I shouldn’t have promised”.  This nine year old had learnt something that many adults never learn, the implications of making a commitment. Her parents have done a great job, they successfully taught their child about choice and commitment.

This skill can be a determining factor for success in every aspect of your adult life.

So we sat in the sun, she cried, I cuddled her and she eventually got up and chose to walk into her classroom, while I breathed a sigh of relief.

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