Love, in the Outback

Trilby Station

One of the great things about travelling in Australia, apart from the wonderful colours of a never ending blue sky and the parched red-earth of the Outback, are the characters you meet.

And of course there is no better place to meet them than at the local pub.

On our travels we enjoy dropping into the “local” as you’ll most likely find a warm welcome and usually the publican will be a wealth of knowledge on the area…

Shindy’s Inn, situated in the small township of Louth, is one place you are sure to get a warm welcome!  Centrally located on the banks of the Darling River it is the focal point of this small community, and it is little wonder why. The owners, Dave and Cath Marett, make all visitors feel at home just like they would a local.

Louth, New South Wales

Founded around 1859 by Thomas Andrew Matthews, Louth was a stopping off point for the river boat crews plying their trade along the Darling River.

Thomas, or “TA” as he was known, was married to Mary who passed away at a relatively early age in 1886, and to mark her passing he commissioned a monument be made from granite and with a large cross at the top.

What makes this monument quite special is that on the anniversary of her death, the cross, when viewed from the home they lived in, shines brightly from the reflection of the setting sun. And at other times of the year this extra-ordinary phenomenon can be viewed from varying positions around the town.

Apart from being quite an engineering achievement and not to mention it had to be made in Adelaide, well over a thousand kilometres away and transported by paddle-steamer on the Darling River back in the 1880’s, it has an ethereal feel to it.

Recently we camped alongside the river just a short walk over the bridge to Shindy’s Pub.

Just ahead of sunset Dave took us to the place where we could view the glowing cross do what it has done every other day for long over a century –  it shone brightly, so bright that it was almost difficult to look at it.

To see is to believe, as they say, and we stood quietly during those few minutes before sunset, seduced by the hypnotic flicker of light radiating from the cross…

Louth, New South Wales

Sometimes you just need to “scratch” the surface a little in these out of the way places just like a prospector would searching for those little glints of gold. And the rewards can often be far greater than a finding a nugget at the bottom of the pan!

So be sure to drop by “The Shindy” if you are in the area and say hello to Dave and Cath.

And perhaps in the golden hue of a setting sun you can drink a toast to a remarkable man, Thomas “TA” Matthews as the love of his life casts her eternal glow over an ancient land…

Photos: Baz – The Landy

(updates a previous story)

A letter to Santa (Strewth!)

Clutch-Bag

Who remembers writing a letter to Santa and posting it to the Big Fella at the North Pole?

 I certainly do and the list was always long…

 Mind you, the wrapping paper or bag the present came in often got more attention than the present itself…

These past few days TomO and I have been getting hints from Janet-Planet about what she would like for Christmas.

Teasing her we said it was completely out of our control and that she should address a letter to Santa, care of the North Pole, ensuring it gave an account of her behaviour throughout the year, a prerequisite for any letter to Santa.

Of course, all along assuring her we would take care of posting it… 😉

Not surprisingly, for behaviour she simply put “exemplary”.

Who are TomO and I to argue the toss on that one; no guessing where most of the mischief in our household has its genesis.

And yes, it is true, Janet-Planet is always on her best behaviour, well mostly, as you would expect from the girl-next-door!

Anyway, we headed to the shopping centre, um, the post-box I mean, with the letter in hand and as we drove TomO went through the list.

It was fairly straightforward really and we’d be out of the shopping centre and back home in record breaking time…

Chanel No 5, tick.

Happy Birthday!

Phew, this shopping for presents is easy right?

There is a very good reason for sticking to a tried and proved formula of buying Chanel No 5 for every possible occasion; Christmas, birthdays, I love you gifts…

Apart from being a lovely gift, it does take a lot of the guesswork out of shopping for a present!

Mind you, the wonderful lady at the Chanel Boutique did throw a curved-ball when she asked if I wanted the “Classic” No 5, or the “Light” version of the eloquently beautiful fragrance…

Crikey, what had I been buying for the past 30-years?

I took a punt on the Classic, after all, Janet-Planet is truly a classic in every sense of the word.

You can’t get it wrong, right?

Wrong…!

Working our way down the list to the final item we were convinced there was some sort of mistake. Surely, this can’t be right?

A “clutch-bag”…

I’m sure we both had that perplexed “boy” look on our faces.

You know, the one that all mums are familiar with…

“Where are my undies I can’t find any” look…

The only “clutch” we know of is in the big truck we use for touring the Australian Outback in and we’ve spent plenty of money on it to make sure that things like “clutches” don’t fail.

The Landy, Outback Australia

But, Janet-Planet is an exceptional person and we thought that maybe she knows something we don’t, after all she has been driving it a lot lately given I’ve “stolen” her car to drive to work in…

And seemingly, she only wanted the “bag” that the new clutch would come in. Each to their own, I guess, but I understood where she was coming from based on my own childhood memories of wrapping paper and presents…

Anyway, I am rabbiting on far too much and risk keeping you from your own Christmas festivities.

So cutting a long story short, here we were, two young men, well one young’un, and another young at heart, standing in the midst of a busy shopping mall, perplexed beyond belief.

Just when all appears lost and we are about to head off to the local motor vehicle spare parts shop a wonderful friend, whom we’ll just call Lisa, recognises the anxiety on our faces and offers to help.

I suspect her credit card had been working harder than a one-arm wallpaper hanger judging by the size of the shopping bags she was carrying. So why not send in mine as a substitute while hers took a rest on the bench?

Anyway, Lisa pointed us in the right direction – an upmarket boutique, assuring us they sell “exquisite clutch-bags”.

Crikey, talk about being confused!

But hey, we’d been thrown a life buoy and we were holding on for grim life despite a flashing thought, perhaps similar to one has when drowning, of what an “upmarket boutique” might do to a credit card…

We headed to that boutique feeling as nervous as a frog in a food blender, after all we still had to choose a clutch-bag, and at that point we were wondering how we let Lisa get away so quickly.

Crikey, I would have bought her one as well if she had come along to help us choose. But perhaps she just needed to go and find a quiet corner of the mall where she could have a good laugh…

Mind you, aren’t we counting our lucky stars that she came across us at that critical time!

Can you imagine, a new clutch for the truck under the Christmas tree, and Janet-Planet receiving the cast off bag it came in for a Christmas present…

I’m sure she would have loved it, that is the person she is, but we boys are hopeful she will like this clutch-bag even more so!

Merry Christmas sweetie…from your boys!

 

Photos: Baz – The Landy

 

Cancer and Courage, our Mount Everest

Mt Aspiring

Courage is a very powerful word when you look behind its meaning…

“…to have courage is to have the ability and willingness to confront fear, pain, danger, uncertainty, or intimidation”.

The word courage has been casually discussed around our dinner table amongst family and close friends in the context of my journey to the mountains, a journey that one day will lead me towards the summit of Mount Everest, fulfilling the dream of a young boy who has always believed that anything is possible –  just believe in that dream!

This week my sister Debbie, who is affectionately known to us as Merle, and I spoke about my journey and what it meant for her. Whilst she is an exceptionally talented musician and accomplished athlete it seems she never got that climbing and mountaineering gene.

And rest assured, I never got that musical gene. If they handed out awards for singing in the shower I’d still go home empty handed.

But as we spoke on the telephone tears rolled silently down my face…

Recently, Deb was diagnosed with cancer, a cancer that has taken a significant hold on her body in a relatively short period of time.

And here she was encouraging me to chase my dream, assuring me that she took great strength from my dream and my journey – and making me promise that no matter what happens to her that I must continue on my journey.

As we spoke she explained that the cancer that has infected her precious body is her own Mount Everest.

She reached out and said…

“Baz, take my hand and we will climb our own Mount Everest together, one step at a time, for that is the only way”.

Deb, Merle sent the following note to her many friends recently and I want to share it with you. I’m hopeful that it will inspire, inspire those who perhaps face their own Mount Everest…

Yes, courage is a very powerful word and I learnt its true meaning this week…

 The Beginning of a New Chapter

By “Merle”

A wonderful sister...
Merle, A  beautiful sister…

I am beginning a very important journey. So much to achieve, new directions to take, challenges to overcome, happiness to be found….endless opportunities to grab hold of. A time to redefine, evolve and embrace life to the fullest.

With the love and support of my family and dear friends, long standing and new, it will hopefully be a celebration of the human spirit that lives within us all. I am blessed that I have today and the time to make each moment count… moments that we can reflect and smile upon. Moments of “BEING” whatever that may be and wherever it may takes us.

I will be taking each precious day at a time and endeavouring to seek all the happiness and joy each of them bring. I will be promoting and encouraging all who know me to do the same. My one wish and only wish is for everyone to not focus on the disease (that is the doctor’s job) it is what it is. Find the love, joy, precious “ididocic” (idiotic) moments filled with laughter and all the happiness in the world during this time. NOT EASY…CHALLENGES NEVER ARE…DEFINITELY DOABLE!!!!

I understand this is a big ask for all who stand on the perimeter of watching someone they love go through this. To me, it is counter-productive to dissect and try to analyse and make sense of this disease consuming my body. It would obscure the human spirit that defines ME as a person…I am most afraid of losing sight of who I am in all this. If you can help, it would be beneficial not only for me, but ALL of us, please participate however and in whatever way you can to… HELP ME…REMIND ME…REMEMBER AND ENHANCE THE MEMORIES!!! For after all, this chapter is NOT ALL ABOUT ME. It is about ALL of us and what we gain from this experience.

CONFRONTING…yes, very much so. If not confronted we have not the opportunity to overcome this.

SCARY…mmmm!!! I imagine it could be at times. I do believe, always have, that knowledge and sharing is powerful. The understanding gained and shared puts things in perspective and allows you to take away or minimise the “scariness” to some degree.

SAD….definitely, we will all feel it. Sadness is a positive emotion, I believe it shows how much we truly treasure, connect and love each other. It is an emotion to not hide…we cannot be BRAVE all the time, that would be counter-productive, and we would go insane. Release the tears, smile and begin again.

“IDIDOCIC” MOMENTS…Yes please, lots and lots of them!!!   Also remember past “ididocic” experiences and share with everyone who will listen. Laugh, BIG belly laughs and rejoice!!!!

I am looking forward to the moments we will all share and I am truly blessed, humbled and consider myself the most fortunate person on this earth to have such beautiful people in my life. Thank you for being you and hold on…this journey is going to be a big one with lots of opportunities.

Love Merle x x x

Love in the Outback – An Ethereal Experience

Outback AustraliaOne of the great things about travelling in Australia, apart from the wonderful colours of a never ending blue sky and the parched red-earth of the Outback, are the characters you meet.

And of course there is no better place to meet them than at the local pub.

On our travels we enjoy dropping into the “local” as you’ll most likely find a warm welcome and usually the publican will be a wealth of knowledge on the area…

Shindy’s Inn, situated in the small township of Louth, is one place you are sure to get a warm welcome!  Centrally located on the banks of the Darling River it is the focal point of this small community, and it is little wonder why. The owners, Dave and Cath Marett, make all visitors feel at home just like they would a local.

Shindy's Inn

Founded around 1859 by Thomas Andrew Matthews, Louth was a stopping off point for the river boat crews plying their trade along the Darling River.

Thomas, or “TA” as he was known, was married to Mary who passed away at a relatively early age in 1886, and to mark her passing he commissioned a monument be made from granite and with a large cross at the top.

Monument Louth

What makes this monument quite special is that on the anniversary of her death, the cross, when viewed from the home they lived in, shines brightly from the reflection of the setting sun. And at other times of the year this extra-ordinary phenomenon can be viewed from varying positions around the town.

Apart from being quite an engineering achievement, and not to mention it had to be made in Adelaide, well over a thousand kilometres away and transported by paddle-steamer on the Darling River back in the 1880’s, it has an ethereal feel to it.

Recently we camped alongside the river just a short walk over the bridge to Shindy’s Pub.

Just ahead of sunset, Robyn, who was helping out in the pub, took us to the place where we could view the glowing cross do what it has done every other day for long over a century –  it shone brightly, so bright that it was almost difficult to look at it.

To see is to believe, as they say, and we stood quietly during those few minutes before sunset, seduced by the hypnotic flicker of light radiating from the cross…

Monument Louth 2

As it happens, the great, great grand-daughter of the late “TA” was there to view this occurrence for the very first time. To say the least, she was moved to the point of tears streaming down her face…

Sometimes you just need to “scratch” the surface a little in these out of the way places just like a prospector would searching for those little glints of gold. And the rewards can often be far greater than a finding a nugget at the bottom of the pan!

So be sure to drop by “The Shindy” if you are in the area and say hello to Dave and Cath.

And perhaps in the golden hue of a setting sun, with a cold beer in hand, you can drink a toast to a remarkable man, Thomas “TA” Matthews as the love of his life casts her eternal glow over an ancient land…

Photos: Baz – The Landy

Chanel No. 5 (Chanel No. 30)

Janet - she's wonderful!

They say that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, and exquisite perfume is probably not too far behind in the “pecking order”.

This weekend past, Janet, my beautiful partner and mother to our equally beautiful son, TomO, celebrated a significant milestone by turning fifty-years young!

Janet & TomO

Anyone who knows Janet would be in disbelief, unless they were aware, and of course it gives weight to my view that “how old would you be, if you didn’t know how old you were”?

Never mind, she is not fazed by it, and nor should she be as every year she blossoms even more so than the last, like a rose, timeless, delicate…

Not that she is a wallflower, not by any measure, we’ve jumped out of planes together, chasing each other across the wild blue sky, we’ve leaped tall buildings in a single-bound in a race to the ground, she always wins…

Janet - An Incredible in full flight over Picton, Australia
Janet – An Incredible in full flight over Picton, Australia
Janet - she's no wall flower
Janet, waving, down here Baz – Catch me if you can!
Janet beats Baz down the AMP Tower, Sydney Australia
Janet beats Baz down the AMP Tower, Sydney Australia (Again!)

We celebrated in style with a cocktail party, “glammed-up” with family and friends.

Yes, I did buy a brand new black Tee shirt for the event.

Family and Friends – At “Dinsmore” our home

And Janet loves a party, I wouldn’t call her a party girl, but she loves being around wonderful family and friends, all of whom adore her.

Crikey, didn’t I luck out by living next-door to Janet, yes, Janet was literally the “girl next door” and our coming together simply developed over time.

But how is this, Janet is a wonderful gardener and mows our lawn each week, strewth, if I was to go near the lawn mower I would incur her wrath, okay, a slap on the wrist…

Seriously, going down to see Bluey and the boy’s at the local footy club for a few beers is quite okay, but don’t you go touching that lawn mower Baz!

Anyway, in amongst the birthday celebrations, Janet and I held each other, and remembered that day thirty years ago, yes on her birthday, when I asked her to marry me!

Janet and Baz
Stunningly beautiful 

Most people were surprised and didn’t actually know until I gave a small speech!

She said “yes”, phew!

I never buy lottery tickets, or gamble, after all my luck was all used up on that beautiful day…

I shared our story, of giving Janet a bottle of Chanel No. 5 perfume on that birthday, and there was a quip from the gathered that I must have flogged it, ‘cause there was no way I could have afforded it back then!

It was worth every cent I scratched together, and every birthday since that is what I have given Janet on her birthday.

But a couple of weeks ago, I asked here, “what do I buy you on this very special occasion”?

Janet - cheeky as ever
And that cheeky little grin

Janet looked at me, in her cheeky little way and said, “you know, it is traditional, I wouldn’t want anything else”!

So sweetie, Chanel No. 30 it is!

Happy birthday!

A Beautiful Sunflower (A Final Tribute to Brian)

Sunflower

Brian… Dad, has never been a man of many words,

choosing them sparingly when he spoke.

An excellent listener,

always willing to hear what you have to say.

 

Today, I don’t intend to give a long account of

Brian’s life, because without a doubt he’ll be listening.

 

After all, he has planned much of today.

 

And if I was to indulge in his achievements,

Of which there are many…

He’d get grumpy,

In a nice kind of way, in Dad’s own special way.

 

Beside, I know that you all have your own memories of Brian

that when joined together create a beautiful mosaic of his life.

 Moments that you will be able to share together.

 

But I do want to share a story with you,

A story of a Sunflower…

Of two beautiful Sunflowers.

 

Sunflowers are a favourite of mine, big, bright, colourful and

beautiful.

And they have always been a favourite of Brian’s… Dad’s.

 

As a kid growing up I can always remember them growing at his parents home…

In Pop and Nana’s backyard.

 

At Scarborough, on the Redcliffe Penninsula,

there are two very special Sunflowers that are blooming…

 

You won’t miss them if you drive that way,

 For they stand majestically

 Overlooking the cliffs towards Moreton Bay.

 

What makes these two sunflowers so special is they are growing,

in the very spot where Dad asked our mother to marry him,

More than fifty years ago…

 

Last Sunday morning Dad slipped away peacefully…

As I held his hand gently the first rays of light were piercing the

Eastern skyline over Moreton Bay…

The rising sun is a beautiful thing,

Turning darkness to light,

 Signalling the dawning of a new day,

Lighting the pathway to a new life…

 

And as he made his way, peacefully,

I was comforted knowing that Nana and Pop would be waiting at the gate

for their little boy,

To hold him dearly, once again…

 

I was comforted that his faith has given him the courage,

to make this journey home,

His journey to eternal life.

 

I looked out over the bay at the rising sun and I could feel the

warmth from its rays touching these two sunflowers…

Breathing life into their delicate petals.

 

In the golden glow I could see a handsome young man,

holding his beautiful young bride…

A smile eased the tension in my face.

Over these past few days we have shed tears…

We have laughed…

 

But above all else we’ve felt so much joy that we have had Brian…

 Dad, with us for so long…

 

Always looking out for us all, and never far from Fay, the love of his life.

Yes, Fay, the love of his life…

To my mind one of the greatest gifts a father can give his

children is to love their mother, with all his heart,

Forever…

 

Mum, Dad will never stop loving you, he will never stop loving us all….

 

And to all here who have joined with us today

to farewell Brian,

I leave you with this thought…

 

When next you see a sunflower, take the time to stop…

Bask in its golden glow,

And look into its heart.

I know who’ll you’ll see and he will help wipe the tears you hold

He will bring a smile to your face…

 

Yes, Brian…

Dad…

Big, bright, colourful and beautiful…

Grampy
Grampy

Ps: Brian hasn’t smoke a pipe in decades, but we snapped him “mucking” around recently…

I stole someone’s dog (Yes someone’s pet!)

The other day I was relating a story about the early days of living with Janet, my partner, in a small cottage with two sofa chairs, one bed, and a Great Dane Dog. 

It was a lovely cottage set in a suburb not too far from the centre of Brisbane.

We loved that cottage, our first place together, which was nestled away in a small street, surrounded by plenty of greenery and flowering trees.

A real little love nest…

Pause…

Anyway, the subject line is true, but possibly I’m being a little harsh on myself, although Janet has just called out that I did kidnap the dog,

pure and simple Baz…”

But let me explain.

Firstly, I love Great Dane’s they are so majestic looking and all the ones I have met have been very well natured.  Mind you, a suburban back-yard is probably not big enough for them to run around in and perhaps the reason you don’t tend to see them in the city.

Back in those days we had little money to spare, not that we needed it, crikey, sitting in those two sofa chairs, gazing into each other’s eyes, before retiring to the only other piece of furniture we owned, the bed, popping jellybeans into that jar like rabbits on a mission…

Mind you, we’re still happy to do that these days, but a 12 year old son, who is on the cusp of puberty, usually walks in just at the inopportune time.

Pause…

So what about the dog…yes, the Great Dane, let’s call him Barney, because we never really got around to giving him a proper name.

We didn’t own any white goods back then, you know, a washing machine to clean our clothes, so this was done at the local shops where there was a Laundromat. Now I can say that is a place I haven’t been in a very long time, a Laundromat…

Every few days we’d make the trip together, happily sitting there watching the dryer spin around until it was time to head home and sit in the sofa chairs, well you know, until it was time to put another jelly bean in the jar retire again…

Anyway, on one particular evening Barney, the Great Dane turns up, he looked lost and was hanging around. And even if I say so myself he took an instant liking to me.

A Great Dane, my favourite!

It didn’t take long to convince myself that he was an orphan, after all he had no tag and he was rummaging around the bins seemingly looking for a feed.

September 1959 Ford Anglia 105E in Wales

So I quickly dashed home in Janet’s little Ford Anglia, a Harry Potter car, to get him a feed of mince. It didn’t take long, but by the time I returned Janet broke the news. He’d left.

“How could that happen” I asked?

This dog loved me.

Concerned for his well being I hopped in the little Ford Anglia and headed down the back streets to find him, to give Barney a good meal, to kidnap him, and a good home. After all he was neglected, clearly, surely?

My heart raced, there he was, looking forlorn, standing dejectedly outside a large home with a large wooden gate.

Yes, he recognised me.

Okay, in hindsight it might have been the mince I had in my hand that I was offering up, but strewth, I was as happy as a pig in shit mud.

Now this was the tricky bit, but I did get Barney inside that little Ford Anglia, eventually. It was a bit squashy, especially once Janet hopped in with a basket of clean washing.

We I was excited as a new dad bringing the family home for the very first time. And Barney settled in well, those first couple of nights he just sat back and lapped up all that attention. But geez, have you seen what these things can eat?

Bloody hell, this was at a time in our lives that we managed baked beans on toast every couple of days if we were frugal. We didn’t even have two brass razoo’s to rub together.  And a good night out was spent in the sofa chairs starring lovingly into each other’s eyes…

A few days later, as inevitable as the sun rising in the east, there it was, a lost notice in the window of the local shops.

“Much loved pet, a Great Dane, lost a few days ago in the local area. Brown in colour.”

Whoops, the description sounded just like Barney.

The person at the other end of the phone sounded  lovely, distraught, and anxious for any news.

She didn’t live too far away so we decided to walk Barney “home.”

And home was behind a large wooden gate, yep, the one in which I had coaxed Barney away from with my offering of mince only a few days earlier. His owner was elated, and Barney reunited himself in a scene reminiscent of Fred and Dino straight out of the Flinstones…

She couldn’t thanks us enough for looking after her best friend while we tried to track her down.

Gulp…

Yes, we loved Barney, and still think of him fondly, but I’m sure he would have sent us broke before heading back home.

Yep, I think he had us me sussed from the outset, live it up for a few days and then move back home!

Thanks Barney, we loved your visit…