Our 'one year' opportunity to fulfil a dream of living by the sea has given rise to "we can't possibly leave yet, let's stay a little longer". It doesn't make much sense to live in one state and work in another but then again we often end up doing things a little differently.
Tis the season, for storms that is. Fortunately the Sunshine Coast was spared from the damage wreaked upon Brisbane a fortnight ago. That particular storm skirted to the west of us. The recent rain has been a welcome respite from a dry Winter and Autumn, especially inland. The last couple of weeks the skies have been grey, heavy with storm clouds. They roll in and roll on by, sometimes dumping a deluge and sometimes leaving nothing more than humidity. It’s been hot, sticky, dry, wet, cool and windy at some point or another. The atmosphere is changeable, brooding and restless. And sometimes late in the day the clouds part just enough to allow a setting sun to beam its rays across a dramatic canvas that is the sky…
I have a lot of lists at the moment. Actually, I’ve got a list of lists. A list for winding up school and a list for enrolling in a new one, a very long list for packing up one apartment and a shorter list for setting up another, a list for work, a list for Christmas, a list for saying goodbye and a list for all the odd jobs that don’t fit under any other list. Oh and of course the usual list of things to do ‘today’. Life has been reduced to words and sentences written one under the other on random bits of paper and crossed through with a black biro. I think of lists, scribble lists, cross off lists and wake in the middle of the night remembering something else to go on a list. Sometimes I energetically tackle my lists and sometimes I sit paralysed looking at my lists.
I’m dreaming off sitting on the balcony of our new apartment in Seaport, feet on the railing, drink in hand watching the river and the boats go by – with every task on every list with a big black line through it and each bit of paper torn into a hundred tiny bits and stomped into the recycling bin. Accomplishment and satisfaction…
The process of change is an unpredictable one. A few months ago we set out on a path towards a different kind of 2015. Our initial thoughts and plans have developed and diverged. One thing leads to another and before you know it the path has made an unexpected turn; you are still going in the same general direction just not exactly the way you had envisaged it.
Having explored the idea of buying a place in Launceston and having some reservations about the long term benefits, we did something we have never done before – got some professional financial advice. And we are glad that we did, before we committed ourselves. Our reservations were well founded and it turns out there are better ways for us to prepare ourselves for future retirement. So renting in Launceston it will be.
Having a place in Launceston that will function as a ‘home base’ (with frequent time spent in Melbourne and as much time as practical in our caravan on the Sunshine Coast) we revisited the whole school question for Johanna. A strange thing had happened; when Johanna realised she only had a few months of school left and grades really didn’t matter she made a deliberate decision to relax and not put pressure on herself to do well. She also made a deliberate decision to spend more time with her friends and do fun stuff while she had the chance. And lo and behold she discovered that life was so much better! So much so that when we tentatively suggested she consider Launceston College as an alternative to distance education she was warm to the idea. Warmth soon turned to positively happy when she discovered it was a year 11 and 12 campus only (common in Tasmania) – no uniforms, no school assemblies, no detention for not wearing your hat, no set times for attendance (you come when you have classes) and a huge range and diversity of subjects. You are treated as a young adult and expected to take responsibility for yourself. Her cousin will be starting year 11 as well. Whew, a good compromise we think.
And the cherry on the top is having just signed a lease for an apartment in Seaport. It has wonderful water views over the Marina, there are cafes and restaurants a stones throw away and it is within walking distance to Launceston College. We couldn’t have imagined a better place to live….
Coloured cardboard, a sheet of glass, drops of milk with dye added – a welcome distraction from the world of real estate. Released from on high there is a moment when a drop creates a splash, a little bit of chaos and if you are very lucky you can capture the impact. It feels kind of symbolic these captured moments of disruption. The last few weeks have been overshadowed by researching, thinking, talking, reading and even dreaming of houses. The whole real estate business is an all consuming one at the moment.
We spent a couple of days in Launceston over the weekend familiarising ourselves with streets, property and current prices. Three of the places we were interested in all sold on the day we arrived! – a disappointing and bizarre, uncommon event in Launceston. We did wonder if the universe was sending us a message. We have done the numbers and done them again, Colin tapping into his mathematical genes creating a spreadsheet with a multitude of variables, where you can punch in a number and it will spit out the required data. At least we kind of know now the where and the what of our looking.
Disruption and moments of coloured chaos, a reflection of where we are at and how we are feeling…
There’s always one. For us it is number four. She entered this world squalling her indignation at the process and her strong will and fierce determination have kept us on our toes ever since.
Being number four I thought I had the parenting thing pretty much down pat. It came easily and we were doing it fairly well, often complimented on our well behaved little tribe. But that was before. Number four weaned herself at 9 months, too impatient to wait and work a little harder for breast milk. At 2 she refused to wear anything but pink for over 12 months. Her tantrums were legendary, the laundry was the place she was sent to calm down. Her little fists beat upon a glass panel in the door until she was rewarded with a crack, her little feet jumped up and down on the toilet seat until she was rewarded with another crack. She wrecked the toys of her sister, drew all over her dolls face, threw a chair at her brother and cut her fringe on a 45 degree angle, twice. Perhaps her greatest claim to fame was kicking her mother when she refused to buy her a toy at Kmart. Needless to say number four was banned from accompanying her mother shopping for many months.
Fortunately for us age and the maturing process have mellowed the temper and its fiery expression. Even more fortunate for us is that number four grew to be a rule keeper rather than a rule breaker. She is emotionally aware and mature, a thoughtful and intelligent young woman, still with a mind of her own. Tantrums have been replaced with reasoned argument and whinging with measured persistence. Once she decides to do something, she does it. We learnt long ago to choose our battles carefully. We have conceded on her becoming vegan, originally it was vegetarian but reasoned argument and persistence (along with my requirement of a written and submitted research paper and meal plans) have seen her achieve her end. A second visit to the dietician today, fine tuning her plans, have alleviated some of my concerns. A belly button piercing is the latest concession. She made her case, I insisted she research and make an informed decision (of course). We figure it can be removed easily one day, unlike a tattoo. And it was of course her questioning of school that started the whole journey of our re-imagining next year.
We love her to bits. She challenges us, (lots of conversations currently about the ethics of eating meat) but not with childish demands and uncontrolled emotions (which is not something that can be said of all adults!). She is finding her way, articulating and following her passions. Her strong will and determination will continue to see her be who she wants to be and do what she wants to do….
North to South and back again. My body has been in Caloundra and Melbourne these last two weeks but my mind has been in Tasmania. Exploring the possibility of making Launceston ‘home’ next year has given rise to more than we bargained for. I began looking for a place to rent and it didn’t take long to realise that the difference between renting and buying in Launceston is not significant. That of course opened up a whole new set of possibilities and a whole new set of figuring things out. To buy or not to buy? Where to buy and what kind of place to buy? We are unlikely to live in Tassie long term so it would need to be the ‘right kind of place in the ‘right’ kind of neighbourhood that is attractive to potential future renters. The amount of hours I have spent on realestate.com and researching housing trends and median prices and current market values in Launceston would run literally into days.
We are lucky that one of my sisters lives in the suburb that we are thinking of buying in. We have eyes on the ground and someone in the know, her help and advice has been invaluable. We’ve spoken with our accountant, have an appointment with the bank, a contact for a Real Estate Agent and a short list of houses to view when we head south, way south, to Tassie in a couple of weeks.
Sometimes I shake my head and wonder how we got to this place. Just a month ago basing ourselves in Launceston was not even on the radar, let alone buying a house. You start asking yourself searching questions and openly consider possibilities (and their consequences) and one thing leads to another and you end up in a place you could not have conceived. It feels a bit scary and it feels kind of ‘right’, another step along the way of living with no regrets…
Decision time is fast approaching. Within weeks we must continue or give notice on our current lease arrangements here in Caloundra and in Melbourne. We need to figure out what we are doing next year and how we are going to do it! What began with a question and a roaming conversation months ago, a question, now needs a bit of substance.
On the plus side we have figured out a thing or two. Colin needs to be in Melbourne for work and I need to be in Melbourne for family. And neither of us wants to actually live in Melbourne, which does complicate things a bit. We like to be there when we need to or choose to. We are making peace with the fact that if you choose to live in more than one place, it costs, and not just financially.
We have also come to realise that roaming between 3 States and 3 different places to live (our caravan on the Sunshine Coast, the apartment in Melbourne’s CBD and my mother’s place in Tasmania) means that nowhere is really ‘home’ and that maybe we do need somewhere that feels like a ‘home’ after all. We still want to roam between 3 States and flexibility is key but realistically we (Johanna and I) will end up spending more time in one place than the others. At the moment we are exploring what it might be like to make Tasmania that place.
I am surprised at how much energy it takes to think and rethink your life, to evaluate options, to make decisions and to consider the possible consequences of your choices, not to mention actually making things happen. Major changes are somewhat exhausting.
And in the midst of it all, the one who began this whole process in the first place with her challenging question, was asked once again what was most important for her next year, “I just want to enjoy my life, doing things I want to do” Don’t we all….
They are an unlikely duo, my father and his friend. They pose for a photo seated under the olive trees they planted a few years ago. Their seven decades etched into lined faces and bodies that move and bend slower than once they did; lives that now revolve around the production and consumption of food and alcohol. It is this that has bound them together over the years.
My father’s friend must be a patient and affable man. My father tends to burn off friends, a difficult, opinionated and argumentative man. Nick knows best and it’s Nick’s way or no way! This friendship has survived where others have not.
The 3 acre block they work together is his friend’s retirement dream. Dream is what my father’s friend does best, a multitude of projects begun and only the ones my father has an interest in are completed. The dreamer and the doer. One is always an hour or two late the other waiting and stewing, steam spouting from his ears. One dithers and is easily distracted, flitting from one project to another, the other likes order and the completion of tasks. They are chalk and cheese but a mutual love of the land, food and home made plonk binds them together. Each needs the other. My father cannot cope with the stress and responsibility of managing his own land, his friend cannot maintain focus or complete what he begins. Together they have created a little piece of Italy.
There’s a veggie patch of course and no garden is complete without its tomato plants. Delicate buds of pink and white blossom cover the fruit trees. A row of olive trees stand like sentinels in the middle of the block. There are home made and lean to sheds and buildings dotted throughout, for chooks and storage and other stuff. And pride of place is the ‘brewery’, an intricate set up of tubs and plastic pipe, bottles and a yeasty fermenting smell. There’s an old caravan, for what I’m not sure, a dam, lots of wood and stakes and piles of stuff and tracks leading to nooks and crannies that hold treasures of metal and plastic that will come in handy for some project or another. There’s chooks and ducks and two fat turkeys (google and gaga). There’s a trap for catching eels and a converted drum to smoke them. There’s long grass in places and wooden seats and crates for tired bodies to rest. There’s fences patched and held together with bits of metal rescued from a pile behind a shed somewhere. There is purposefulness and randomness, order and chaos, a reflection of two very different men.
A decade ago they laboured; building, creating and planting, now they potter; tinkering, appreciating and savouring. There is more sitting and eating and drinking than working these days. The plans and dreams still live but they are hostage to slow and tired bodies. They belong more to the world of imagination than reality.
This plot of land is infused with the character of two old blokes – a dreamer and a doer. It has weathered arguments and disagreements a plenty and hosted many a spit roast or BBQ and countless bottles of booze. On this land two old blokes have dreamed and worked and made good food and plonk; eating and drinking and enjoying the time that is left to them.
As we prepare to leave they ‘discuss’ tomorrows plan for a BBQ – will they eat lamb or chicken (actually it is a rooster, Georgie, recently departed from this life), they decide on both. Then follows a discussion on how best to cook Georgie and the lamb, of course my father knows best. My father then reminds his friend more than once that he must prepare in advance and have the food ready on time, knowing full well that it will be hours late and most likely he will take over and ensure that there is something to eat at all. And no doubt there will be a few choice words in the process.
A final goodbye is accompanied with a gift from my father’s friend, a bottle of yellow green olive oil, home grown and cold pressed and made with the weathered hands of two old Italian codgers. What could be better….
Colin’s lament; “I was dreaming of blue skies and wearing shorts and t-shirt”. Unfortunately he arrived home a day too late. This week felt like the beginning of summer – blue skies, warm weather, people out and about, bodies in the sea and lazing on the sand. Yep, the shorts and t-shirts came out of the cupboard and I couldn’t resist lazing by the pool and taking a quick dip to cool off! This weekend – grey skies, drizzle and a cool wind; chalk and cheese.
This week, blue and warm, is bookmarked by Melbourne and Tassie at either end (we head South again tomorrow). The beauty and pleasure of this place sandwiched by the beauty and pleasure of family at the other. It feels like perfection would be the merging of the two. When I am North my heart yearns for my family and when I am South my heart yearns for sun and warmth and to gaze upon the sea. For other people it will be different things, but the feeling of being pushed and pulled by different desires is a familiar one. We are attempting to live in such a way as to have both, it kind of works and kind of doesn’t. There is more North than South at the moment and missing my children is an ever-present heaviness in my heart. Next year our experimenting with a transient and mobile life will see us more South than North. We’ll trade sun and warmth for family and we’ll try and seek out places of natural beauty wherever we are. You can’t ‘unknow’ something and having lived in a place of beauty and felt pleasure and peace seep into our being, it is not something we can easily let go.
As the reality of our leaving sinks in and the time of our leaving draws ever closer we find ourselves taking comfort in what has become familiar and symbolic of living here, blue skies and warm weather and the ever present beauty of the sea. We are breathing deeply and greedily, feeling a sense of impending loss, wanting to make the most of every minute that is left to us…
The under 15/17 Road National Championships were held at Toowoomba over the weekend. We spent a couple of days at the event watching my nephew represent Tasmania. He held his own against the best cyclists in the country doing himself and his state proud. The speed these cyclists reach and maintain over kilometres is incredible and scary. There are millimetres between wheels and the smallest error has huge consequences – loss of skin is a given and broken bones common. It is not a relaxing spectator sport!
fast and furious
Hayden in the green and gold
back onto the track
the home strait
There are three separate events over three days; individual time trials, a road race and criterium, each requiring slightly different skills and tactics. It is not a sport for the faint hearted. Those riders sure earned my respect.
On a slightly more calming note, Toowoomba is known for its gardens and we took the opportunity one morning for a quick peek at the Japanese Garden. The beauty and stillness a stark contrast to the adrenalin and speed of cycling…
We’ve had a usual manic Melbourne week including a side trip to Tassie for a couple of days, taking the opportunity to babysit 4 orphaned lambs for a day while my sister was at work. Baby lambs really would have to be one of the cutest and cuddliest things (beside babies of the human variety of course). These four have adopted my sister’s dogs as surrogate mothers and follow them everywhere, even trying to suckle from Teddy the golden Labrador who good naturedly gives himself a shake and simply moves away. Their antics kept us entertained and amused and bottle feeding kept us busy. A sunny blue sky and the beautiful countryside of the Tamar Valley topped off a picture perfect day.
Also appreciated and enjoyed was the opportunity to see my mother, two sisters and their families and catch up on all the news – cycling, ballet and tennis dominating the niece and nephew world. I think perhaps the highlight was Jo Best, aged 6 years and 11 months, giving us a demonstration of his dance moves. Although further questioning revealed that the highly energetic and ‘hip’ dance moves had not been used at the junior school disco. Instead he spent his time piggy backing his friend and swinging him around knocking into the girls. Six year olds seem pretty much the same one generation to the next.
The highlight of Melbourne was of course having the family all together, including my mother who joined us on the flight from Tassie back to Melbourne. We also got to catch up with Colin’s family on Fathers day and enjoyed watching Jan play in the Chinese orchestra at the Vic Market. We managed a spot of shopping, actually more than a spot and Heidi impressed with a magnificent raspberry and white chocolate cheesecake to celebrate Colin’s birthday.
Our intermittent and frantic days in Melbourne have become the place where family and food meld, the place where we gather with those we love, to share. We are conscious of how very fortunate we are…
It has been a quiet and slow week while Colin recovers from surgery and while in theory there’s been time to ‘stop and smell the roses’, you would be hard pressed to do so because they would be bending at 90 degrees trying to survive the blasting wind. We usually take a daily walk, well Colin hobbles, slow and steady, just a few hundred metres (it gets longer each day). There’s a spot along the way, sheltered from the wind, where you can sit a moment and feel the sun warm your body. It is just the right distance for a rest when you have shuffled as far as your sore and stiff body will take you. Johanna is eagerly anticipating the day when ‘dad can walk like a normal person!” When there’s no sun and a windy walk is not inviting we amble to our favourite café and find respite and a good cup of coffee there instead.
Between rests and naps, short walks and work related phone calls, emails, planning and writing, Colin has passed the week away. It has been strange having him around and it has certainly thrown our usual schedule and routines into turmoil. Johanna’s tongue in cheek remark about sums it up, “Dad you’re mucking everything up…” What creatures of habit Johanna and I have become.
The weekend heralded the end of the wind for a few glorious days. Blue skies, sun and warmth reigned. It finally felt like the Sunshine Coast that we have come to love and enjoy; August’s unpleasant weather receding to far distant places in our memories. There is something about beautiful days and seeing people out and about relaxing and enjoying the beach. It is good for the soul and apparently for the body as well; Colin finally managing to ‘walk like a normal person’ and make it all the way to Kings Beach and back…
It has been a strange week. Within a five day period my father was in hospital in Tasmania, Colin’s father was in hospital in Melbourne and Colin ended up in hospital here on the Sunshine Coast for unexpected surgery on a Friday night. Not a great week for the males in the family! (All are out and ok now)
The unexpected has thrown a spanner in the works, so to speak. Colin will remain at home recovering this week, necessitating a lot of cancelling of flights, meetings and other work related commitments. Johanna and I were due to fly back to Melbourne the following week for a few days. We have rescheduled to fly with Colin on his usual Monday morning rude o’clock flight to ensure he isn’t carrying or lifting bags. (however a 4.15am start to the day isn’t that appealing)
In the meantime it will be a quiet and slow week up here. I wonder how long Colin will last before he starts to climb the walls; pain relief is keeping him dopey at the moment. He’s not one for sitting still, could be interesting….
August is the ‘windy’ month apparently. Last year was an aberration, little wind, this year the weather is following its usual pattern. There are more windy days than not, sometimes a breeze and sometimes a gale. It mostly blows from the South East, a cold blustery presence. It can be deceptive to look outside, clear blue skies and a shining sun, but when you step out the door you are greeted by a cool blast. The wind grabs at your clothes and stands your hair on end. The trees bend resignedly, leaves and branches supplicating to a greater force. Mostly people just get on with things and make the most of sheltered spaces, warm and still, a momentary pleasure, an escape from all that blowing and buffeting.
It is the birds that seem unruffled, although I have watched from my balcony as they struggle to roost in swaying trees. By far the most amazing thing is to watch them coast and glide on the windy currents. There is a joyful and playful abandonment as wings outstretched they purposefully ‘ride’ the waves far above the sea. It is the osprey and pelicans who reign supreme, working hard against the wind and then giving themselves up to the drafts, rushing back and soaring high, circling and then beginning again. Sometimes a solitary bird and sometimes a half dozen; it is a joy to watch and you can’t help but wonder just how it feels….