Why I’ve Run out of Energy: 15 Reasons

Five year-old at top of climbing wall

Five year-old at top of climbing wall

  1. Watching Clive’s grandchildren at the amazing climbing centre, including miss no-fear five year-old reaching the top of high walls over and over again.
  2. Watching Clive in his jet simulator session, a birthday gift from his daughter and son.
Clive at the controls

Clive at the controls

  1. Cheering the NSW Central Coast Mariners soccer team in their final game of the season.
  2. Going to church in the morning and bushwalking in Rumbalara Reserve in the afternoon, with views over Brisbane Water.
View from an Aussie bushwalk

View from an Aussie bushwalk

  1. Going to the library, where each child selects 10 books. At home, clever mum gives each one a separate shelf for his or her stash.
  2. Walking through the Japanese Garden and art centre.
  3. Going ten-pin bowling (to be exact, watching Clive and his grandchildren ten-pin bowling).
  4. Watching the boys swim in our hotel pool.
  5. Watching ‘Inside Out’ on DVD and ‘Zootopia’ at the theatre.
  6. Watching swimming lessons.
  7. Walking (adults) and scootering (kids) on the Gosford-to-Woy Woy pathway.
Scooting around

Scooting around

  1. Dinners with the family, including snags and chicken on the barbie, meat pies and home-made nachos.
  2. Dinner at the Star Buffet at Central Coast Leagues Club. So many choices, especially Asian treats, and all so good.
  3. Playing jewellery shop, colouring-in and having my hair twisted and ornamented by little hands.

7 AA hair

  1. Hanging out with three blessedly happy and healthy bundles of energy and their hard-working parents, for all of whom we are very thankful.
Clive & grandchildren at Japanese Garden

Clive & grandchildren at Japanese Garden

We still have four days to go before we head to Sydney airport. Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Felixstowe.

My Sydney

Manly Beach and Shelly Beach, Sydney

Manly Beach and Shelly Beach, Sydney

Sydney, like all great cities, offers something different for everyone and infinite experiences and sensations to those who live or visit here.

Clive and I have spent the past few days in and around our former home on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. This is where we both lived for many years before meeting each other. Our first date was for coffee at Manly Beach. We left the oceanfront café and walked to Shelly Beach, one of my late husband Gary’s favourite places in the world.

This week we’ve been fortunate to take ferries past the Opera House, catch up over a long Harbourside lunch at Watson’s Bay with our wonderful next-door neighbours and walk around Georges Heights near my first Aussie home at Balmoral Beach. How priceless are friends with whom you can pick up right where you left off, no matter the time or distance since you last saw each other in person. Thanks Lesley and Ian, Julie and Phil.

with my friend Julie at Georges Heights, Mosman

with my friend Julie at Georges Heights, Mosman

So many people have told us they’d love to visit Australia. I wish I could wave a magic wand and instantly transport everyone here. The country’s natural and man-made beauty never fails to move me, nor do the friendliness of its people and the fair-mindedness of its culture.

If you’ve always wanted to visit the Lucky Country, it’s worth going the distance to experience this fascinating, peaceful and welcoming place. Sydney the Outback, the Great Barrier Reef … no worries, mate, the list is endless and you will find your own magic Down Under.

Sydney Harbour and Opera House

Sydney Harbour and Opera House

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from the NSW Central Coast.

Five Great Things about Australia Beaches

Cronulla Beach, south of Sydney

Cronulla Beach, south of Sydney

  1. Aussie beaches are beautiful.
Clive on pathway to Cronulla Beach Esplanade

Clive on pathway to Cronulla Beach Esplanade

White sand, green headlands, the water and the bush and that endless Aussie blue sky.

  1. They’re everywhere.
Lighthouse at Norah Head, New South Wales Central Coast

Lighthouse at Norah Head, New South Wales Central Coast

The vast majority of Australia’s population lives near the coast, so most people have access and experience of countless beaches during their lifetime. The city of Sydney alone has numerous Harbour and ocean beaches.

  1. They’re part of city (and non-city) life.
Older grandson (wearing his US Pentagon cap) on the beach

Older grandson (wearing his US Pentagon cap) on the beach

It took me a long time to adjust to living in Sydney, where for the first time for our family, instead of going on vacation to the beach, the beaches are a regular part of life.

  1. Kids grow up with love and respect for the ocean
Rock pools at Norah Head, NSW Central Coast

Rock pools at Norah Head, NSW Central Coast

Learning to swim at an early age, a warm climate and a culture that celebrates the experience of being near and in the water.

  1. The beaches are free and open to all.
Ocean pool at Cronulla Beach, Sydney

Ocean pool at Cronulla Beach, Sydney

No matter what town, what state or what time of year; no matter where you live are where you come from: there’s no resident permit required, no gatehouse barring entry except to an exclusive few and no expensive summer badges necessary. This was another big change from my U.S. experience.

Aussie (and UK) beaches are just free and open to all, throughout the year. So if you’re thinking of visiting Australia, make sure to plan lots of time to relax and explore the country’s magnificent beaches.

Thanks, Australia.

Thursday afternoon at North Cronulla Beach, Sydney

Thursday afternoon at North Cronulla Beach, Sydney

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Sydney.

Family Time Down Under

G’day, Sydney. It’s nice to see you again.

G’day, Sydney. It’s nice to see you again.


G’day from the New South Wales central coast, where we arrived in time to celebrate Clive’s son’s birthday.

Clive with his son and his family

Clive with his son and his family

In between fighting off bouts of jet lag and catching up with the middle generation, we’ve been fortunate to watch various grandchildren activities: swimming, euphonium-playing, tennis, a few school runs and various projects at home.

Swimming

Swimming

Playing the euphonium

Playing the euphonium

Tennis

Tennis

This being Australia, we’re surrounded by various creatures as well as natural beauty. A lizard I thought was creepy but Clive says is friendly hung around our hotel parking lot for a day or so (or probably lives here).

Creepy/friendly lizard camouflaging himself in the grass

Creepy/friendly lizard camouflaging himself in the grass

Sydney autumn dazzles with a purple flowering tree called Tibouchina. Its blossoms are a much deeper violet than my beloved lavender jacarandas which bloom in spring but I love them nearly as much. These trees adorn many properties and streets of New South Wales during the Aussie autumn.

Tibouchina trees by our hotel

Tibouchina trees by our hotel

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Sydney’s southern coast.

Temporarily leaving our tree by the sea

Our tree by the sea this week, Felixstowe

Our tree by the sea this week, Felixstowe

Our tree by the sea isn’t showing any significant buds yet, but we’re pretty sure by the time we return from a month in Australia, buds will have appeared.

This weekend we’re heading Down Under to spend time with Clive’s daughter and son and family. We’re also looking forward to seeing several close friends in the area where we used to live, Manly Beach.

Manly beach, Sydney, March 2015

Manly beach, Sydney, March 2015

Its autumn in Australia and we’ll go off Daylight Saving time at the end of this month, with days getting shorter there as they lengthen here. There will be lots of moving around — 31 nights total (2 in flight, then 1, 7, 6, 4, 8, 2 nights in different locations and a final 1 in flight).

As everyone who has family at a distance knows, it’s always a challenge to see everyone you want to see on this kind of a trip, and hard to avoid changing locations if you want to see loved ones. We’ve learned we can’t be everywhere at once, much as we’d like to be (as it happens, my son and belle-fille are in the midst of some significant activities in the U.S. and my mom, thankfully, remains content at her location). We do the best we can with everyone’s schedules and availability — and try to remember to pace ourselves, too.

Bags are packed, technology backups made and we can’t wait to see the Aussies and their beautiful country.

A place I adore and can't stay away from, the Harbour and Opera House, Sydney

A place I adore and can’t stay away from, the Harbour and Opera House, Sydney

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Sydney.

November in the USA, Australia and the UK


November sunset, Felixstowe

November sunset, Felixstowe


Barring emergency, Clive and I will for the first time spend all of November in the UK.

This time of year here feels – and is — very different from the USA and Australia, the two countries where I lived for many years. Halloween in the UK and Australia is much lower-key than in the US, though it’s catching up fast – a trend not appreciated by all. It’s really as we move past Halloween this coming weekend and begin November that life in the UK takes on a different feel.

November in the USA

November in Connecticut

November in Connecticut


November in Connecticut: days getting shorter, chilly temperatures, leaves falling, endless lawn-raking and great anticipation of Thanksgiving get-togethers.

Thanksgiving remains one of my all-time favourite holidays anywhere, focusing as it does on families and friends gathering to share a ‘thanksgiving feast’ – largely and mercifully missing the insidious and always-increasing commercial aspects of Halloween and Christmas.

When my son was in nursery school (pre-school), an American parents’ magazine article said mothers begin an internal chant at the end of each summer: ‘School, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas. I better start planning now.’

This rang true in my experience. The last three or four months of the year were indeed a one-thing-after-another series of events, albeit mostly joyful ones, full of child-oriented activities, family reunions and parental responsibilities to pull everything and everyone together.

[And if those nationwide events and holidays aren’t enough, my Connecticut daughter-in-law, whose three sons’ birthdays all fall between mid-November and mid-December, manages the annual sequence of: School, Halloween, child’s birthday, Thanksgiving, child’s birthday, child’s birthday (these two share the same date, four years apart, but their wonderful parents make the effort such that each child has individual attention and celebration) and then Christmas. It really doesn’t bear thinking about, except to say every year the parents do a brilliant job with everything.]

Upside-down Down Under – November in Australia

November in Sydney

November in Sydney


November in Sydney: days getting longer, warm temperatures, jacarandas blooming (one of my all-time favourite trees and for me a symbol of November Down Under), sailboats on the Harbour, spring sports underway, plus – with the school year approaching its end in mid-December – end-of-year school concerts, assemblies and performances; planning for summer vacation; and oh, by the way, Christmas.

From our first year in Australia, I marvelled – and still marvel – at the way mothers and fathers manage somehow to handle all the end-of-school-year activities and Christmas activities at the same time.

Instead of planning for Thanksgiving, our Down-Under daughter-in-law multitasks with an Aussie flavour: one email will be about her daughter’s pre-school end of year event, the next about Christmas, the next about her son’s final awards assembly. Not to forget planning for middle child’s birthday on New Year’s Eve …

Having raised children in both the US and Australia, at least in my experience and despite the seasons and school year being more or less reversed, November feels much the same in both countries: intense, child and family-focused and full of pressure and responsibilities for parents to keep everyone and everything together and on track.

November in the UK

Felixstowe’s ‘the Dip’ in November

Felixstowe’s ‘the Dip’ in November


It’s not that November is quiet on this side of the Pond – far from it. Towns and cities gear up for Christmas with fairs, fêtes, concerts, markets and of course amusing/perplexing pantomimes. (We have late-November tickets to an avowed classic, ‘Dick Whittington and His Cat’ — more about this cherished form of theatre in a future post.)

But the absence of US Thanksgiving and Aussie end of the school year means most if not all of everyone’s attention is focused on Christmas, with much more time to plan and truly savour the season.

We’re no longer parents of school-age children, but every year until now have journeyed to the US in November, to spend Thanksgiving with my mother and family. Since we’ve just returned from my son’s wedding and many family get-togethers, and because my mother no longer has real awareness of particular days or dates, we decided to spend November at home this year.

Our heads are finally (well, almost) above water with regard to all our coming-home tasks; our desks are more or less clear; and the bathroom renovation guy is coming next week to start his work. While Clive supervises him, what do I hope for this November?

Without putting pressure on myself our both of us – that’s the last thing I want to do – it’s still in my nature to look ahead and consider what I’d like to accomplish during this first-time gift of November in Felixstowe.

November hopes and plans – my top 5 and looking ahead

Conclusion of our wedding day, November 2010, Sydney

Conclusion of our wedding day, November 2010, Sydney

1. Clive’s birthday

2. Our wedding anniversary

3. Attend local Christmas fairs, markets and the pantomime

4. Put up our Christmas tree the last weekend of November. This became a family tradition in the US, one year when a group from our church went to a tree farm the Saturday after Thanksgiving to cut our own trees. We thought it was too early but discovered we *loved* having it up and decorated to enjoy throughout the month of December (and a major Christmas ‘to do’ was done). Since then, we’ve tried, not always successfully, to do this every year.

5. Writing: finishing the current chapter in my Paris-based memoir to a level where I can send it to a trusted instructor for professional critique. This chapter has been on again, off again for over a year – in the midst of travel and a family wedding – and I well and truly want to complete it sooner rather than later. After this chapter, I have six more to go. I’m determined to publish this book one day, though Lord only knows when as it will continue to be a balancing act since we’re also determined to travel, especially to see our families, for as long as we are able.

Looking ahead
* Planning for Paris

6 Paris Christmas market Champs

Christmas markets on the Champs Elysées, Paris


Not only is Paris intertwined with the book I’m writing, the City of Light is intertwined with my life and is a constant source of joy for me, a sanctuary and a place of both excitement and comfort.

We’ll spend part of December in Paris (another reason we want to get our tree up by the end of November). I want to make time in November to anticipate and review my ongoing list of possibilities – current exhibits, Christmas markets and lights, winter walks – so we go with at least some ideas about what we’d like to do and see in the time we have there. More about Paris in December in a future post.

* and after Paris, a much-anticipated pre-Christmas visit from my son, before he returns to the US to spend Christmas with his beautiful bride and her family.

Also looming over our heads are my mother’s annual Christmas letter, which we usually do over Thanksgiving in the US, and our own Christmas letter. I suppose both of these are, ideally, projects for November, even though they don’t make my ‘Top 5’ list. We both feel we’ll regret it if we don’t complete both before we go to Paris.

For now, one thing at a time. We’re thankful to be home and looking forward to spending November, and Christmas, by the sea in England.

our tree by the sea glinting gold in late October sunshine

our tree by the sea glinting gold in late October sunshine

Wishing everyone a happy and not-too-crazy November, wherever you may be:

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Felixstowe.

Letter from Cronulla NSW: Sojourn in the Shire

Afternoon treat at the Tea House, Caringbah NSW

Afternoon treat at the Tea House, Caringbah NSW


Clive’s daughter lives south of Sydney, in the Sutherland Shire, a district usually called simply ‘the Shire’. New South Wales contains many shires but for some reason, this one is widely known and recognised – at least in the areas closest to Sydney – as the Shire.

It’s been a great week thanks to Kylie managing some time away from her demanding job, a high-level position at a conference centre on the beautiful Port Hacking River, surrounded by Royal National Park. She may not have as much time off as Clive’s grandchildren on their school holidays, but we’ve enjoyed a range of activities.

Kiama blowhole, NSW

Kiama blowhole, NSW

Our travels around the Shire and south coast have included visiting Berry NSW, a classic Australian country town, seeing many beaches and headlands (including the Kiama blowhole, seen in above photo), relaxing over afternoon tea at the Tea House at the National Camellia Garden, making various stops for coffee and lunch or dinner, and viewing ‘The Triumph of Modernism in the Art of Australia’, a terrific exhibit at the Hazelhurst Regional Gallery and Arts Centre.

The wonderful Hazelhurst Gallery, Gymea NSW

The wonderful Hazelhurst Gallery, Gymea NSW

My mother always said, ‘It doesn’t matter what we do; it’s just great to be together.’ As years go by and many families, including ours, become geographically dispersed, I realise more and more the truth of that sentiment. Always the best part of family visits is just spending in-person time together.

Kylie & Clive on the Sea Cliff Bridge, Coalcliff NSW

Kylie & Clive on the Sea Cliff Bridge, Coalcliff NSW

We’ll soon be heading back to Manly and this trip’s final phase Down Under. A week from now, we’ll be home in the UK. The next time we’ll be together with the Aussie gang will be in the U.S. this coming October, for a certain big event on my side of the family.

Thanks Kylie for that last-minute change of plan tonight and the tasty Thai dinner. As this part of our trip draws to a close, we’re grateful for the time we’ve had here in the Shire.

Sunset in Royal National Park, NSW

Sunset in Royal National Park, NSW

Cheers and thanks for reading. Next week’s letter will be from Felixstowe.

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