Drought Distress

The drought in NSW and Queensland has finally hit the media: big time. If you live in the country you’ll know about the drought but if you’re in the city, you may not have heard that these states are in severe drought.

I love the country and therefore I’m more tuned in than some of my city friends, but even my own children, adults, didn’t know our state was in drought until I started talking about it. It came to my attention when I started following blogs and Facebook pages written by interesting, creative people with country links.

These are:

Photographer, adventurer and activist, Edwina Robertson whose recent activity includes interviewing drought-affected farmers and their families and educating city folk. https://www.facebook.com/onebucketofhope/

Edwina’s previous adventure, Wander of the West https://www.facebook.com/WANDEROFTHEWEST/ (A girl, her dog and a camera. A three month adventure around rural Australia without carrying a single dollar. 2017)

Farmer, journalist and children’s book author, Paula Stevenson http://paulastevensonwriter.com.au/category/blog/

The drought is worse than ever, despite Australia always having periods and areas of drought. Rainfall is at a record low, temperatures are at record highs and the area affected in these states is greater than ever before. A series of very hot summers and lessening cool-season rainfall have worsened conditions. Many dams have completely dried up or are close to it. Stock is being hand fed or sold. Cattle sale yards are bursting as agistment is no longer an alternative. I won’t go into the plight of our native wildlife.

The NSW Government has set up the NSW Drought Transport Fund of low-interest loans up to $20,000 but it seems that most farmers feel that there’s too much red tape to be eligible. Many feel it’s not enough anyway. It’s designed to help pay for farming freight-costs including water cartage, fodder transport and shifting stock. It’s complementary to existing measures but many farmers are already stretched financially too far.

Farmers are in a very low place. They’re resilient and perseverant, they don’t want to lose their top-breeding stock, their hundred-year old orange groves or their family owned properties. They’re struggling on and doing the best they can. The personal stories are heartbreaking: kids are driving trucks so that their parents can do the labour of getting hay bales in front of cattle, animals too weak to move are being destroyed, some pregnant cows are being sent to the abattoir and crops are being left to dry. This is their every-day experience.

Australia is a beautiful country: it’s full of extremes in geology, landscape, flora and fauna. It’s a paradise and a good provider for those of us lucky enough to live here. I feel that we need to share the load if we’re going to reap the benefits of living here. Living in the city is easy: many of us are on the coast and we get the sea-breeze, the sun and the rain and the luxury of going to the shops to buy our meat. We don’t even have to recognise that the meat comes from an animal if we don’t want to.

If our farmers are left to go broke, lose their family homes, abandon their properties and that iconic way of life that looks so romantic to us in the city, we will be left with dwindled resources, highly expensive meat, overseas buyers of our land, and the importing of more foodstuffs.

As Australians, we need firstly, to CARE! This may have been a tough Post to read but good people are suffering and need assistance. They need assistance to survive! So, secondly, we need to SHARE: share the message, share the load however you can. Don’t begrudge the extra cost of the milk or meat. Contribute what you can: volunteer, contribute financially, appreciate what you’ve got, encourage our State and Federal governments to treat drought relief like other catastrophe relief. Is drought different from flood and cyclone because it creeps up on us? Think about it! If we can get the farmers to survive the drought without being so far in debt that they lose the battle anyway, their farms will come good again. Rain will come.

Take the time to educate yourself even if it’s just on social media. Take a look at One Bucket of Hope. Let the farmers know we care and boost them with some hope.

Ref:

http://www.climatecouncil.org.au/resources/climate-change-and-drought-factsheet/

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jun/10/australia-doesnt-realise-worsening-drought-pushes-farmers-to-the-brink

Photo credit: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2018/mar/19/big-farming-across-australia-in-pictures

Aussie Road Trip

My Blog covers four categories: Matters of the Heart, the Creative Well, the Writing Journey and Take a Trip. This Post is going to cover all four.

My most recent adventure was last weekend when I took four days to drive 1200km in regional NSW. I stopped in Goulburn, Gundagai, Leeton, Cowra, Bathurst and Lithgow before returning home to Coogee.

Firstly, I’m in love with Australia so my heart was feeling warm and full as I drove past bone coloured grasses, cereal crops, green-manure crops and woodlands. Iconic  gum trees, bark hanging off their trunks in long strips, lined the roads. When I was close enough, I watched the funny antics of the sheep, terrified, as my vehicle slowed, into a mass migration of a field, tiny lambs in tow. I felt sad that these sweet creatures have had to suffer so much on the live-export ships and glad that my voice has joined with so many to stop the barbaric practice. Obviously, I feel the same way about the cows; Black Angus’s dotted green hills, calm and still as a Gruner painting. Somewhere between Gundagai and Leeton I had to stop to let cattle cross the road: not in a frantic bunch but one by one, as they grazed by the side of the road, looked at me as if to say, ‘What are you doing?’ and casually stepped in front of my car.

All these images fill my creative well, giving me inspiration and recharging my delight in my surroundings. One of the three characters in my novel-in-the-making is an Aussie woman who derives great joy from exploring her Australian environment and captures it through the lens of a camera. I wonder who she takes after! I’ll be doing more of these trips – in the name of research – so that I can develop this character in full.

There was another reason for this trip: this same character loves the show McLeod’s Daughters. She’s watched every episode, laughed as the girls fell in muddy dams saving a calf, cheered as they sheered sheep through the night and cried at the breaking of their hearts. So, when I discovered that some of the actors were gathering for a reunion at the Roxy Theatre in Leeton, I felt I had to go and check it out. It had very little to do with Aaron Jeffery the man, and a lot to do with my character being in a fantasy romance with Alex Ryan, the character!

Following your heart and your curiosity, exploring outside your normal field, and going on a trip anywhere, opens your mind to look outwards, learn and expand your view of the world.

I learned on this trip that Gundagai has a whole lot more history than a bronze dog sitting on a tucker box. The sculptor, Rusconi, was gifted in masonry work, developed and promoted the marble industry in the area and made a model Italian Palace that stands 1.2m tall. It sits in a room in the Tourism Office and is an astonishing masterpiece. I also learned that the aboriginals, the Wiradjuri people, warned the early settlers not to build on the plains near the river as they were prone to flood. The settlers ignored the advice and in 1852, the town was swept away overnight by a huge torrent of water. A group of Aboriginal men in their canoes, saved about forty people from the branches of giant red rivergums and roof tops. I’d recommend Gundagai as a place to stop for a day.

I learned that Leeton, a place I’d never been to, has a wetland that is important to the Wiradjuri people and is an essential stop for birds that migrate all over the world. Leeton is also full of citrus orchards.

Driving from Leeton to Cowra I discovered that you can drive for hours in regional NSW without passing through a town big enough for a coffee shop. I was glad to have my emergency thermos full of hot water and my own tuckerbox, Aussie traveller essentials.

I learned that I’ve been to Goulburn so many times that when I arrived for lunch at my favourite café (Harvest – next to the park) it felt like home and I was reminded that I love staying in country motels and having breakfast in bed, something I did with friends’ families as a child.

In summary: I went on the trip because I LOVE regional Australia (and maybe Alex Ryan). Also, because to be more creative, I need to step outside normal life. To develop more ideas for writing I need to research, and to go on a trip is to wander and wonder, and that’s one of the most rewarding parts of life.

And then to write about it, is to add to the joy. Writing a Blog means I get to re-live my journey and think about some point to it all. The point is, to suck every skerrick out of the life you’ve been given. And to have a reason to keep going.

Perfectionism, Procrastination or Research

When is RESEARCH just another form of PERFECTIONISM or PROCRASTINATION?

“Perfectionism is the enemy of creativity,” says Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat Pray Love and Big Magic. It’s been said by many different writers, motivators and teachers. It’s the writer’s biggest obstacle to getting anything done. The fear of the work not being good enough prevents it from flowing and growing. Perfectionism is the little tyrant that sits on your shoulder saying, the work is crap, so you better make it better before you move on!

‘Making it better’ can demand a lot of editing along the way. It demands that you stop what you’re doing and Google that idea or go to that place or do that thing. Research. The only thing is, it doesn’t make it better because it interrupts the flow of the idea and stops you from ever getting to the end.

Research is obviously important for authenticity and detail but there’s a time to do it and that is not in the middle of the writing. Fiona McIntosh, masterclass teacher and author, says do all the research first, then sit down and write from start to finish. This makes sense when you’re trying to get the story down. It also prevents the research from becoming a form of procrastination.

The first draft of my first novel has been smattered with research. Word choice has me reaching for the dictionary. The suggestion of a place has me sucked down the internet tunnel. Both, most definitely, are the combined forces of Perfectionism and Procrastination.

And then I downed tools and went to Ireland, to research a County, a culture and a nursing home. For a chapter of my novel! Of course it was useful. Of course it was enlightening. Of course it will make my novel better. But was it necessary for what I was writing? Probably not! It was the Perfectionist and Procrastinator that made me do it!

Procrastination will find us an endless list of things to do before we can possibly start that important project. Whether it’s washing the dog or writing a blog, we can rationalise that it was essential before we get onto the task. Make sure that research isn’t just another excuse.

Research becomes another form of perfectionism and procrastination when it interferes with the writing. Do it before you start the first draft. Do it before you start the second draft. But don’t let it be the excuse that stops the flow. Don’t let it be the scene on the side of the road that slows and jams all the traffic.

Let research be interesting. Let research be fun. Let research take you to places you’ve never been before. But don’t let research gobble you up. Don’t let it be the wolf in sheep’s clothing!

 

 

Trials and Tribulations

There are many things that can go wrong when travelling. When they do, the key is to keep calm, accept it and deal with it.

Trials and tribulations seemed to abound on this Irish trip.

It started on Day One. My debit card didn’t work at ANY ATM. This trial caused a little stress but I had brought some Euros from home so I wasn’t too worried. I’d advise, even if you have a cash card, make sure you have cash on arrival. The taxi driver who took me from the airport to my accommodation in Dublin didn’t accept card. This turned out to be normal.

My phone didn’t work until I accepted Australia’s Telstra deal for $10 a day for a phone and data allowance. I had to accept the deal to be able to call my Australian bank to sort out the ATM problem. Annoying but doable! Apparently Ireland’s ATM’s don’t accept Cheque account debit cards. I was impressed that my bank, the CBA, was able to figure it out and change the account name at their end to a Savings account.

Staying calm and thinking rationally led to Problem Solved! A good outcome: cash and phone communication. Both handy when travelling on your own. Calm and rational behaviour weren’t quite so much in evidence when faced with the next Tribulation.

On Day Six I dropped my phone in a Galway toilet. Despite snatching it immediately and feeling alarmed enough to want to give it mouth to mouth resuscitation, it only worked for the next twenty hours – just long enough to deceive me into thinking it would survive. In the time of my reprieve, I went about my business researching a few locations for my novel. I took lots of photos. When the phone died, without warning, I lost the photos. I didn’t have auto back up to the Cloud.

Trying to keep calm while feeling that losing my phone was worse than having no cash, or anything else I could think of, I made my way to my next destination and looked for a mobile phone repairer. This was in Donegal Town and the owner of the business was very helpful. Relief flooded over me until he declared that there was water in the mother-board and the phone was most likely, stuffed!

He then offered to sell me a new phone. I swiftly pulled out the credit card, paying for a 128GB iPhone, desperation fogging my brain so that I didn’t notice little things, like the phone didn’t come in a box! He kindly offered to help set it up and I practically kissed his feet. Oh no, he said, don’t you back up to iCloud? Huh, no, I back up to my computer which is at home. I was then given an abrupt lesson in how useful the Cloud is. Very little personal information could be put on my phone, which was upsetting, but worse, it gave the phone-dealer an opportunity to rip me off! The first phone he helped me with had a fault – the fingerprint set-up didn’t work. So I was given another phone….  Fast forward back to Australia where I try to Restore from Computer and I find that I hadn’t noticed something else – the phone had been swapped for a 32GB!

Lesson: Don’t rush to the toilet when you keep your phone in your back pocket. Or better still, don’t keep it in your back pocket. Also, don’t be in such a panic about the drowning of the phone that you don’t notice you’re getting conned! And…. USE THE CLOUD! Don’t be scared of it, seniors! It’s a sophisticated system of storing your data and means you can get this data back if you stuff up or lose your device.

The final trial happened towards the end of my trip. I drove the scenic way from Bushmills to Belfast in Northern Ireland, driving all day along narrow laneways and stopping at ruins and coastal villages. What a peaceful day I had! I arrived with enough time to look around Belfast for a few hours before dinner. Rummaging around my bag to find my accommodation details, I realised, with a rapid feeling of dread (constriction of throat and gut), that I had left my documents folder at the previous guesthouse. Sinking from hope and denial to acceptance, I phoned the host. Yes, the folder was there. Passport, hotel vouchers, licence included. Did I cry? Did I swear a stream of profanity and throw a tantrum? No! I just swore a little, sucked it up and headed up the highway. The return loop took me three hours. Lesson: Always check you have ALL your stuff! By dealing with it straight away and not dwelling on the inconvenience, I was then able to take myself out for a classy meal, sip my wine and enjoy my evening. Calm!

We can’t always control what life deals us, but we can control how we deal with what it does.

Own it!

I have another word on the subject of travelling on your own. It’s regarding eating out and walking home.

I believe in eating well and dining in nice places. I eat in nice restaurants. They don’t have to be expensive, but they have to have a nice ambience. When you’re directed to a table where you feel like you’ve been put in the ‘naughty corner,’ ie. an isolated spot like an alcove, ask if they have room to seat you in an area where you can feel included in the ‘community of diners’ or in a position to people-watch. Tell the waiter/waitress that you don’t like to feel isolated. They’ll understand and be happy to oblige. Experienced staff will already know this.

If they seat you in the body of the restaurant but position you on the side facing the wall, fix it. Seat yourself facing into the room. Looking at the wall is bad for your soul, even if you have something to read or write. Look into the room. Look around. Own your space.

Ask the staff to bring you a glass of wine straight away. This helps. Maybe it’s a crutch but it makes me feel I’m relaxed and in a strong position to sit back and observe.

Speaking of owning it, if you find yourself walking down an unpopulated street, especially at night (even crazy Ireland sunshine-night), walk tall, walk confidently. You can stroll, be relaxed, but own your immediate space. That means don’t shrink, don’t look around furtively, don’t slouch and look down. Look ahead, look about, look in windows. Be mindful, aware of your own movements and your surroundings. But do not worry! Worry affects your demeanour and wastes your time on earth.

Neither a dog nor a weirdo is likely to attack a self-possessed person. And being self-possessed means being self-aware. I’m not encouraging you to be blasé or oblivious. Be mindful but not fearful.  If a dog barks or a drunk says hello (and in Ireland says something like ‘have good craic’), smile, say hi and keep walking. Or in my case, and it’s a dog, relax and talk in dog-baby talk until you’ve won it over and you can give it a pat.

 

 

First day in Ireland

I’ve travelled to Ireland to immerse myself in Irish contemporary life: the culture, climate, feeling of place and rhythm of the people. The novel I’m writing has only a small section of it set in Ireland but for it to be authentic, and for my Irish-born, Australian character to be authentic, I had to come and feel it, see it, smell it, hear it. I hope that I can absorb enough of it to pass on the detail in my story.

So today, I’m filling the creative well. I went to The Portrait Gallery in the National Gallery of Ireland to see the portrait of  Graham Norton (Irish broadcaster, comedian, actor and writer) painted by the winner of Sky’s Portrait Artist of the Year last year, Gareth Reid. I enjoyed watching this art competition so much I just had to follow up. I was secretly hoping the artist might be there too as I’m slightly in love with him (those dreamy artist eyes and all that Irish talent).

I thought a bit of history and architecture might help too, so I checked out the Christ Church Cathedral. Wow, there’s an amazing amount of royal history there, which I won’t go into but did you know that Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus was first performed here back in 1741, or thereabouts, by the top choir in the land? I felt like I was really touching history with this fact as I could imagine the emotional charge in the sound of all those voices and the organ filling the vast space.

The rest of the day was pretty much a walk in the park and along the busy streets full of cafes, pubs and boutiques. The city of Dublin is a thriving modern hub set in predominantly old buildings with short doorways. It’s city of charm and character.

A Change of Course

 

Auburn Clare Valley May18 (14)

Bio:

For my first blog, I’d like to share with you why I’m doing it.

This serves two purposes: one to let you know what it’s about so you can decide if it interests you and two, so I can figure out why I’m doing it.

Since the question was put to me at a 50th birthday party, ‘What are you going to do now that your youngest child has finished school?’ I found myself wondering. My role had been professional-perfect-wife and worthy mother. My husband’s journey and the growth of our children had always come first. I supported them fully.

Suddenly, with this question, I was like a wriggling caterpillar in a cocoon, desperate to emerge a free butterfly.

It’s common in middle age to assess what the rest of your life will look like if you stay where you are. Some people are content, some complacent, some apathetic, some restless and some miserable.

I felt I was shackled, like the life force was being drained from me. I tried to gather together good enough reasons to stay but in truth it wasn’t working. I was terrified but bundled my fears into a box, gathered my strengths and dreams, and took a giant leap of faith.

As an emerging writer, I want to find my voice. Writing has become as necessary as breathing.

Being a social creature and a middle-aged woman, I’ve developed an interest in understanding people and relationships.  Age, introspection and self-help books have conspired to put me on the road to wisdom. The more wizened I become, the more I want to share.

The natural world – scenery, environment and creatures – is my passion. I need to be outdoors every day. Taking photos is a spinoff of the beauty I notice. The desire to travel and explore gives me extra impetus to blog.

So this blog is about life, relationships, women’s issues, creativity, nature, travelling and writing.

I hope you’ll join me.