He restores my soul

I’m just going to have to get better at describing scenery, otherwise how am I going to let you know how absolutely Psalm 23 this holidays is – the still waters and green pastures part, obviously, not the valley of the shadow of death part.

Today, the last Monday of my holidays, I met with a friend for coffee in the morning for a delightful catch up and reconnect. Then this afternoon I had to leave the house because the cleaner (whom I love almost as dearly as I love my family) was coming in to make my house beautiful again and I don’t like to get in her way.

I wanted to go and check out the Hairy Giraffe in Margate but as it turns out that cafe is closed on Mondays (boo) so I drove back along the highway to the Pancake Train. I didn’t feel like eating Pancakes so I ate a chicken pie and salad instead. You would be surprised (or maybe you wouldn’t – maybe you know me well enough) at how much I had to convince myself that it was ok not to eat pancakes if I didn’t want to. Who cares if it is called the Pancake Train. If it sells chicken pies and that’s what I want to eat, then that’s ok.

It must have been good food and good coffee because I managed to write another thousand words in my novel while I was sitting there. Then feeling both virtuous and replete I decided to drive back home the Tinderbox way. It’s just so gorgeous around there.

There were green pastures, for real, with cows and all. And still waters, well, waters with very small waves. I drove down the little road that runs alongside the vineyard down to the river and I parked beside the little playground on the pebble beach. I read the interesting information (Tinderbox is named after a french tinderbox that Mr Fergusson found on the beach there) and wandered along the shore until it looked like I would have to go rock-hopping to get any further. It wasn’t a long walk. It probably didn’t even count as a short walk. But it was a walk beside still waters.

I didn’t feel like getting back into my car yet so I wandered out onto the jetty and stared into the water. I saw a school of fish and then later a single fish swimming beneath my feet. It really didn’t feel like that long since I had done the same thing up at St Helens. But that was the last school holidays. We’ve had almost a full term since then. The thing is, to see fish from a jetty you need to be still. Just be still and wait. It’s a good thing to do to slow yourself down when you’re on holidays.

It’s amazing just how refreshing a little bit of nature is. Just how good it is for the soul to see the green of the grass, the blue of the sky, the olive gum trees, the bare branches of the vineyard in their neat rows, to hear the ripple of the water over the pebbles on the beach, to see the lorikeets fly past in front of the car and the flash of the robin’s red breast as he sits on the fencepost.

It’s been a gorgeous day. A restful and joyful day. A restoration of the soul.


Tomorrow is the official start of my three weeks of annual leave but even now I’m already feeling relaxed and ready to tackle the home-type projects that, for me, holidays are all about. People at work would ask me, ‘where are you going on your holiday?’ and I would say ‘nowhere!’ Staying home is what it’s all about. Home and able to relax and potter, and most importantly, write.

But today everyone is on holiday (Happy Birthday Dear Queen!) and that means that I am eating my lunch to the background music of one-sided conversation as DS plays computer games with his friends over the interwebs. ‘Neither did you!’ he shouts, ‘So did I!’ ‘Double it!’ ‘Nooooo!’ His exams are over, he is relaxed.

DH, on the other hand, is stuck down in the den, in my office, marking exams. He is slightly less relaxed, but grateful for an extra 24 hours to get some catching up done.

And me? I have done all the weekend jobs. I’ve ironed the shirts. I’ve hand-washed the jumpers. I’ve paid some bills and I’ve even cleaned out some of my email! This afternoon I’m giving an extra tutorial to one of my students but apart from that, I’m free! It’s the nicest feeling. Hmmm what shall I do now? How about some reading? Writing? A walk? A visit with a friend?

My biggest goal for these three weeks is to do some writing every day, to walk every day, and to stretch every day. Hopefully, by the end of the three weeks I’ll be able to touch my toes!

I have a big list of other projects that I hope to at least get some way through over the next weeks. My car needs a new muffler, for one. I want to sort my clothes and get rid of some to charity. That sort of thing. I’m looking forward to it! But I also hope to relax. Really chill out and rejuvenate so I’m ready to face semester two.

There’s really no point to this post except to rejoice rapturously in the three weeks of leave I have. You can expect another post in about three weeks time where I wonder where the time went!

Leftovers night

This is the third post written while I was away on my big break. Enjoy!

Food has been interesting in this little shack. The kitchen consists of a fridge, a set of shelves, a bench with a sink in it and various pieces of electrical hardware. There’s a microwave, a convection oven (the type that sits on the bench), a sandwich press, a kettle, an electric frypan, and an electric hotplate that can be used with saucepans or frying pans. So there’s everything you need but you can only use one appliance at a time. Any more and the fuse will blow. So there’s a few logistical issues. In addition, you can’t use more than one thing at once because there is simply no bench space for any more.

Tonight DH is making toasted sandwiches with a breadboard balanced on the draining board to allow enough bench space for chopping and buttering. The first night we were here he was much more inventive – he popped down to the supermarket and bought chiko rolls, a bag of frozen stir fry vegetables and some noodle salad. (Chiko rolls are a purely Australian food that should taste absolutely disgusting but for some reason are delicious! A bit like dim sims but completely different. DH says they could be a long dim sim dipped in batter.)

Yesterday, after eating fish and chips for lunch, we didn’t need anything heavy for tea so we decided to go with toasted cheese, ham, (and for him, tomato) sandwiches. And tonight, it’s leftover night! So dinner consists of leftover stir fry veg. Leftover noodle salad, and toasted sandwiches. We are living like kings here! We also have leftover banana cake, leftover shortbread, and crisps and chocolate and jellybeans and we’ve decided we need matching his and hers hip flasks so that we can easily bring whiskey for him and gin for me to make our favourite drinks.

While we’re on the subject of how shack-like the shack is, let me introduce you to our bolt-hole for the four days. The first time we saw it, we drove past thinking it was a shed on someone’s property. Then we saw the name written on the side and realised that it was the property. We have stayed in smaller places, but only as rooms in a motel. Actually, now I come to think of it, this place is around as big as the granny flat that we originally lived in 22 years ago when we were first married. And this place has a wood-heater so it is much better!

The rooms are lit by single light bulbs hanging from the ceiling. The floors have a variety of coverings, from beautiful polished floorboards in the bedroom, to vinyl held together by duct tape in the lounge room to cork tile patterned vinyl in the kitchen. The view outside is absolutely gorgeous but the windows that you would like to look through are tiny and you can only see the view while sitting down. Standing up you look at the grass. In the tiny lounge room are two dressers, a table and four wooden chairs, and three easy chairs. One of the easy chairs (the vinyl covered one) we have given up on because it is so uncomfortable that we just don’t want to sit on it. It is made for people with shorter legs than ours. I am using the wicker rocking chair and DH, when he feels like reading, squeezes himself into the material covered easy chair with wooden arms. It does not look comfortable but if he lifts his legs off the cross bar by putting them up on a wooden chair then he is moderately ok.

It felt like going back in time when we let ourselves in and saw what we had let ourselves in for. So much so that I was concerned that the toilet could have been outside. But no, there is an indoor bathroom that hides behind the kitchen door. It has a bath, a shower and a loo and it has a washing machine but I’ve been told that it shreds clothes, so no washing this weekend. I wasn’t even thinking of it, washing is not what I go on holidays to do.

The truly wonderful thing is the high quality queen sized bed. The importance of good sleep cannot be overemphasised on holidays and this bed is delightful to sleep in. Everything else can be handled with equanimity if you can sleep at night, I have found. Not that much handling is really required. There is everything that we need here and more besides. It is warm and quiet and, importantly, away from everything else.

It’s a lovely little place and we have made ourselves comfortable. Very comfortable, in fact. There really isn’t much more you need for four days, though I’d find cooking in the kitchen a little more stressful in the long term I reckon. So leftovers tonight is a good way to go and tomorrow we will pack up and clean thoroughly (so as to encourage Ratty to eat RatSack for his dinner) and head home to luxury and to work. We are more than grateful.

Things that go bump in the night

This post was written after our second night away.

We had a visitor last night. It could have been mice but we’re pretty sure (from all the noise) that it was Ratty himself. I guess not Water Rat, but probably Rattus Rattus or a little mouse, anyway it was definitely a four legged friend.

He woke us up by knocking an empty plastic bottle from the bench to the floor. Then he bumbled around for a bit until we looked at each other and decided to go and see what was going on. But we made a fair bit of noise getting up. As I said to DH, ‘We don’t actually want to see him!’.

We had known that mice were a possibility since we turned up and saw the dead one on the floor here to welcome us. In fact, we had been told to make sure the place was spotlessly clean when we left – to not even leave a cake of soap to attract them. We hadn’t put out more RatSack because I guess we thought they wouldn’t be here until we were gone, and we have been pretty careful with our crumbs and crusts but obviously not careful enough. Perhaps we are not used to rodents in the house. We are used to owning a cat. Kat would have a field day here! But then, she might eat the wildlife as well, and I’m not sure what she’d think of the trip up, so perhaps we’ll stick to RatSack.

So, we put out the tasty, yet poisonous, treat for our Ratty friend (do you still want to be my friend? I seem to have murderous capabilities!) and went back to bed. It was 330am and we were a little concerned that our plans for today would be very disrupted by lack of sleep – it’s hard to summon up any adventuring energy when all you want to do is curl back up under the covers.

But, you see, we are on holidays. Curling up under the covers is not a forbidden activity. It is positively encouraged. Yesterday I had two (count them, two!) naps and still went to sleep easily at 930pm. That meant that this morning we could have a very relaxed attitude at 330am. We turned on the bedside lamp and read our books until we felt sleepy and both of us managed to drop back off to sleep in a reasonable amount of time and to sleep in a little this morning. We didn’t hear the boats heading out for fishing like we did yesterday and while I was woken up by next door’s preparations for the day, DH went on sleeping peacefully for another half hour or so.

So we are ready to go adventuring today. We will, soon. Soon we will go adventuring. Right now, sitting in the sunshine in our dressing gowns, reading books and eating breakfast are the order of the day. After all, it’s only ten o’clock! We’ll get going soon, I promise…

My Big Break

The following four blog posts were written while I was away on a break and uploaded upon my return, so the tenses may be a bit weird but I hope you find them enjoyable anyway!

Have you all been wondering where I’ve been? The last four days I’ve been away on a break in St Helens at a friend’s shack. It’s been planned for a while – it’s the only time that DH and I can get away together for four days and I’ve felt the need for a holiday for a while so we jumped at the possibility.

A very big part of the idea for me was that I would take a proper break not only from home and from work but from social media as well. That I would concentrate on reading and writing and get some significant work done on my novel. That I would learn how to concentrate for longer lengths of time without having the constant distraction.

What this has meant is that at a time when I am actually doing Facebook-worthy activities I am not posting them. I am not answering messages, I am not even reading my email. I am limiting my internet to checking on DS’s progress in Fiji and my parents progress moving house.

You know, this would be a lot easier if I were actually out of contact with no access to the internet, but my phone is still receiving email, still telling me that I’m getting messages and I am having to actively ignore them. I’m grateful that I can still be in contact especially that I don’t have to worry that I’ll miss big news from Fiji. I think I would have struggled with leaving for four days if no-one could contact me in case of emergencies. However, if you actually wanted my input these last few days, I apologise if I’ve hurt you, but I needed the break.

There is a lot more time on holidays. All that you have to do is read and walk. Walk and read. If you’re not reading, you’re exercising. Or eating. It’s a pretty simple lifestyle!

That’s not quite true. This shack is pretty rustic but it has a TV that we watched last night. The night before, we played scrabble and I reckon there’s a bit of crib going to happen as well. And then, I’m working on my novel – working on an overall plan that shows how each character develops and making sure the the structure of the book holds together. It’s a great project to potter on over a long weekend.

But we’ve done a fair bit of enjoying nature – on the way here we climbed the rock at Bicheno and rock-hopped over to the blowhole. We didn’t expect great things from the Blowhole but it was a whole (hole!) lot of fun. Just when you didn’t expect it the spray would erupt and get the unsuspecting bystander all wet.

On our first evening here, immediately after we pulled up in the car, we wandered down to the water that we can see from the shack windows. We stood on the side of the road and looked down at the crystal clear water and a skate swam slowly past.

Yesterday we walked from this shack into St Helens proper on a little path that follows the road along the side of the bay, past beaches and small cliffs and rocky foreshores, and over bridges and through into the township. In the evening we walked the other direction, along the beach and then almost to the point on the other side. This morning I walked down to the jetty that sits at the base of this property and watched the little fish swim around – some tiny fish and a couple of puffer fish about the size of my palm.

Towards lunch time we went to Binalong Bay and found an amazing rock pool. Tiny shrimps were picking the food off the rocks, tiny stripy fish swam around in schools, then there was the little pink and the little greenish-grey fish lazily making his way around the water in front of us and some other red fish that were very  shy and spent most of their time under rocks. Then occasionally we would glimpse some fairly large fish, as long as my hand, plain grey or with vertical stripes they would zip past and then go out of sight again. Right at the very end as we reluctantly made our way back to the car I saw a large crab scuttle down between two rocks. And all this doesn’t include the pelican that was happily waiting for fish scraps from the men fishing on a nearby jetty.

Binalong Bay

After Binalong Bay we drove up through the Bay of Fires area and stopped for lunch on a white sand beach with turquoise water. Beautiful clear water with gorgeous waves. It was like we were in another country – it was so different to the beach back home. We ate our sandwiches, then drove to the end of the road, stopping for more rock-hopping here and there. One of the other tourists said that there were dolphins, but they ran away when they saw me coming (like they usually do).

Empty beach

This isn’t Binalong Bay but another completely deserted beach that we walked along near St Helens Pt.

The rest and the exercise are two great companions. The view of nature, unspoiled and beautiful, out the window is just a huge refreshment to the soul. The rock-hopping and wandering along beaches and through bushland and all of the nature we’re getting to see, it’s all a joy, a great joy. I knew I needed this break, I needed it so much that I was scared that the four days wouldn’t be enough, but every minute is doing me good and I know I am blessed to be here. I’m unwinding. It is good.