We took a breather from the intensity of the First Lego League Asia Pacific Invitationals where our daughter was competing to take in some of the Sydney sights this week. Having travelled the eleven-hour trip south from our usual balmy Brisbane for the event, the bare branches and chilly air felt novel. The city arguably does have one of the most beautiful harbours in the world.
Seventeen years ago, I used to work in the shiny green, glass building smack bang in the middle of Central Quay. Eating my lunch every day against a backdrop of Harbour Bridge and Sydney Opera House became a mundane part of my routine. However, having had a lengthy break from the place, I was able view it again with all the same delight as the many other tourists milling around.
As a person far more comfortable in a regional town than a sprawling metropolis, I regularly gravitate towards the Botanical Gardens in a city to get respite from the crowds, noise and fumes, finding they never fail to ground me. On this particular occasion we found the grounds of Government House nestled there – or should that be Government Castle? We were delighted to see the governor, Margaret Beazley, herself whip past us in her car and through the guarded gate. Before too long it was time to return to Macquarie University to find out the results of the robot competition.
Proudly, the Building Bots team and their robot ended up a respectable 12th out of 40 on the leader board. On returning north, we have stopped over at the picturesque beach-side village of Arrawarra, situated fifteen minutes north of Coffs Harbour and only five minutes up the road from Woolgoolga. There we enjoyed catching up with some old friends who gave us a locals' tour of the area, including a wander over the headlands to whale watch.
Coffs Harbour is itself the holder of one of Australia’s most iconic landmarks, The Big Banana! Knowing we were going to stuff ourselves here with banana splits there the following day, we first headed out to the waterfront and followed the pier to Mutton Bird Island. This steep outcrop is actually a rookery where the birds build their burrows beneath the vegetation to lay their eggs and hatch their young. The view of the humpback whales regularly breaching, slapping their flukes (tails) and pectoral fins against the water, was an awe-inducing sight.
As always, during the holidays I indulge in uninterrupted writing time, continuing to submit fiction where I hope it might be a good fit. It was exciting to receive an acceptance several weeks ago, and I look forward to sharing more details about this when the story goes to publication in spring. I've also decided to add a 'Story of the Season' section to this site to keep the momentum going. If you are a blogger or writer who would like to swap a guest post please feel free to drop me a line on the contact page.
I’ve been throwing a lot of literary seeds to the wind lately in the hope that a few will germinate into something fruitful. In a happy coincidence, it appears that many national short story competitions have a May deadline and these have given me a much needed push to get cultivating. When I find checking my emails and Submittable account becoming a five-times-a-day compulsion – much like watching grass grow – it has been helpful to instead turn my attention to growing and pruning my entries. Remember, I don’t drink coffee so the small entry fees are my happy little vice.
When I was a child I used to cringe whenever adults asked me that question because I was embarrassed about the answer I really wanted to give, one that still stands true today; live in a cottage beside the sea and write fiction all day long. When I turned fifteen and fell in love with my art classroom this answer expanded to ‘and paint pictures as well!’
This past week at school the staff have been dropping like flies. The Ekka winds are blowing and everyone in South East Queensland know this heralds not only the arrival of fairy floss, carnival rides and agricultural awards but also a huge dose of winter ailments. In my staffroom six of us lost our voices. I’m starting to suspect some sort of biological warfare: If you want to plot a successful takedown at a school what better way to do it than silencing the teachers?
The symptoms of laryngitis are more of an irritant than a miserable I-can’t-function type of illness. Despite the complete absence of sound I was optimistically foolish enough on Tuesday to think I could keep calm and carry on teaching. A well-modulated voice is our most important teaching tool but it is certainly not the only one. I saw this vocal setback as an opportunity to bring the others out and sharpen them up. Tools like pausing, using facial expressions, monitoring, using the board and making gestures.
This winter break our family decided to have a short getaway to Seventeen-Seventy and Agnes Water, a manageable five and a half hour drive north of Brisbane. The trip started innocently enough as we followed the tried-and-true ritual of each packing our own bags and then leaving the husband to Tetris everything into the back of the car. It wasn’t until we made a pit-stop at Gympie that I discovered a catastrophe had occurred. Where the heck was my bright red you-can't-miss it backpack?
There has been yet another round in the media of negativity directed at teachers, thanks to politician Andrew Laming’s comments about our working hours and super long holidays. I sometimes like to read the comments beneath the articles to see where the general public falls on the issue. It’s really heartening to know so many understand that as a group, teachers are valued for the work they do put in.
I used to be a sentimental hoarder of many precious treasures. As a child everything, as far as I was concerned, had feelings and certainly invoked memories and strong emotions in me. I come from families, as I’m sure many others do, where certain objects have been bestowed at different milestones on the next generation. A passing of the baton, if you will. Whether attachment to objects was a result of early childhood loss, boarding school years, or just my love of stories, it is true to say that sometimes bearing so many ‘things’ has weighed me down. It doesn’t help that in my adult life I have lived in three countries, five cities and eleven houses to date! So, now, every school holidays I take the opportunity for a big clear out. This means at our house there’s a spring clean, an autumn clean, a summer clean and a winter clean!
It dawned on me this week that my living arrangements are feeling less like a family home and suspiciously more like a student flat lately. Teenagers are awesome and all that, but one downside is that they can’t afford to pay rent or bills. Indeed, they even expect to be paid for doing chores. Wouldn’t it be nice if at least they could bring their plates out of their rooms and put them in the dishwasher from time to time?
San Francisco, Marin County and the Sierra Nevada.
Viva Las Vegas...