Wild and woolly … Surf Coast Walk #3

After three days at the inaugural Word for Word Non-fiction Festival at Geelong, I needed a stretch, both physically and mentally. While transfixed by authors and writers and artists dissecting their craft and their work, I’d been sitting on my bum with the only movement being hurried note-taking, occasional gasping and enthusiastic applauding. My head was brimming with ideas in need of sorting. So down to the sea we went, late on a wild and woolly afternoon, to complete another section of the Surf Coast Walk. Perhaps you’ve read about our other Surf Coast Walk adventures here or here.

This section is 6.6km (return), from Point Danger to Bird Rock and back again.

surf caost walk, torquay, point danger, bird rock, jan juc, midlife, boomers

The guide map says: “Explore surfing evolution and surf culture origins on this walk or cycle past Torquay and Jan Juc surf beaches; the “classroom” for the next generation of surfers. Peer out from Rocky Point over the many surf breaks, sheltered bays and wild headlands that gave the Surf Coast its name. Grade 2: Mostly flat / some steps/ well-formed track / some stand.”

I love the coast when it’s windy and wintery. We rug ourselves up in rainjackets (just in case) and scarves and take in the stunning ocean vistas from high on Point Danger before we head off on our trek. The concrete path takes us down and behind the Torquay back beach, past theTorquay Surf Life Saving Club and across Spring Creek. We follow the trail up to Rocky Point (for more sea-gazing).

surf coast walk, torquay beach, point danger, midlife, boomers, fifty-something

From here, you can choose to stay on the clifftops or drop down onto the beach. We opt to wander along the beach, which is quieter than usual.

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

Not so many dog walkers out today, but still plenty of anglers and surfers.

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

This coastline is famous for its ochre coloured cliffs and we have a great vantage point to appreciate their scale and beauty. We clamber up the wooden steps back to the cliff tops and take the gravel trail leading through the scrub between the shoreline and the first row of houses, mostly built multi-level to capture the views. We capture our own views from the Bird Rock Lookout, resting a while to absorb it all and catch our breath before heading back.

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

This time, we stick high above the beach, where the trail runs through thicker scrubby woodland alongside the Torquay Golf Club and against a backdrop of the magnificent new RACV resort. Always, the not-so-distant sounds of the crashing ocean fill the air. The path here is gravelly and less formed, with a couple of stretches that look purpose-built for mountain biking.

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

A long curvy boardwalk carries us back over Spring Creek.

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

Above the Torquay Back Beach we stand and watch seagulls hovering in the updrafts and recall how different the scene is in mid-summer when the grassy slopes are populated with beach-goers and holiday-makers, and the carparks are chocka-block full.

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

Back at Point Danger we’re rewarded with kite surfers enjoying the perfectly wild and woolly conditions.

surf coast walk, torquay, jan juc, boomers, midlife, fifty-something

We deem this section of the walk to be very do-able. The scenery changes often, there are plenty of public toilets, and Torquay and Jan Juc’s renowned shops and cafes are within easy reach. There are BBQ spots and picnic-friendly parks. And then there are the sublime beaches, for ambling or swimming or surfing or fishing. Or, on a wild and woolly day, for simply gazing from the many lookouts.






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Book Review: The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson

“1829, Tasmania. A group of men—convicts, a farmer, two free black traders, and Black Bill, an aboriginal man brought up from childhood as a white man—are led by Jon Batman, a notorious historical figure, on a ‘roving party.’ Their purpose is massacre. With promises of freedom, land grants and money, each is willing to risk his life for the prize. Passing over many miles of tortured country, the roving party searches for Aborigines, taking few prisoners and killing freely, Batman never abandoning the visceral intensity of his hunt. And all the while, Black Bill pursues his personal quarry, the much-feared warrior, Manalargena. A surprisingly beautiful evocation of horror and brutality, The Roving Party is a meditation on the intricacies of human nature at its most raw.” (From http://www.goodreads.com)

Th eroving party, rohan wilson, book club, book review, tasmania, midlife, boomer

My Book Club found itself back in Tasmania, this last month, with The Roving Party by Rohan Wilson. This time it was a different Tasmania – a brutal and savage place with a confronting story told with surprising beauty.

Rohan Wilson’s poetic prose is as raw as the landscape it describes. Somehow, this spare and pared back language, with its visceral verbs and minimal adjectives, captures the harsh splendour of the Tassie wilderness. Who knew there were so many fascinating ways to describe the bush?

At first, I stumbled on words and checked for definitions (often). Some were archaic and little used. I wondered how the author had discovered them.

At first, I was unsettled by the lack of formal punctuation and formatting. There were no quotation marks used to define dialogue and no chapter numbers or names.

At first, I was puzzled by the occasional use of indigenous language in the dialogue. I had no easy way of translating it.

Then I stopped stumbling and stopping. I settled in to the flow (instead of resisting it), let the rhythm tell me the story. Like quality poetry, the meanings are more instilled in the surrounding envelope of words and feelings than they are in any single word, or set of quotation marks. It’s all there, if the reader just relaxes into the cadence. And so I did.

The characters are drawn in vivid, contrary detail and it is many chapters before I let myself feel any empathy for them. These men are barbaric and unlikable. Yet, they interact according to a bizarre code of conduct. They’re survivors, skilled bushman … and killers.

The action is played out, sometimes at a plodding pace, against the backdrop of wilderness and the mystery of the hunted, the aboriginals. We’re challenged to understand how Black Bill can hunt his own people, how he can survive in the “no man’s land” between his people and the newcomers. I looked for the answer everywhere – in his relationships with Batman, with his wife and with Manalargena, the fearful tribal warrior. The storyline seems simple, but the motives and intentions of the characters are as complex as any epic narrative.

And therein is the true beauty of The Roving Party … amongst the poetic language, the seemingly barbaric characters and the splendidly drawn Tassie wilderness, there are intricate themes of humanity and inhumanity to explore and ponder. I’m left wondering well past the final page.

There are more questions than answers in this amazingly atmospheric read.

UPDATE (13 August 2014): Last night, there was a mixed reaction to The Roving Party from the lovely ladies of my Book Club. The beauty of the language was not enough to carry everyone past the darkness and brutality of the book. Not all of us finished the book. That didn’t stop us having a spirited discussion (the best kind!) about whether the level of description outweighed the storyline. And what was the storyline? We wondered how the characters were motivated, whether they were believable. We wanted to know more about the aboriginal perspective. Again, I am reminded how each of us relates so variously to a book and that sharing the richness of our opinions and responses is the real delight.



Copper shopping in the house of memories

Copper, copper everywhere. This warm, pinky metal seems to be front and centre of every magazine, lifestyle supplement and Instagram account I open. From sleek light fittings to organic shaped bowls and even wood baskets, copper is the metal flavour of the month year.

And I want me some!

Such are the dilemmas one faces when locking oneself into (publicly articulated) pledges such as The Year of Buying Nothing New.

Nothing on-trend for moi. Unless … unless I can remember what happened to that old copper urn of Dulcie’s (more on Dulcie later).

After poking around, I found it ensconced in a dusty alcove behind the bedroom door. So dusty, that it barely resembles copper.

antique copper urn, copper decor, interior design, fifty something, midlife, boomers


But her beautiful art deco lines tell me she’s from the 1910s or 1920s, which fits in well with her provenance. This stunner belonged to my dad’s mum, Dulcie … the grandmother I hardly knew.

Dulcie (that’s what we always called her, though never to her face) lived in the country, several hours drive away and we rarely saw her.

She was confined to a wheelchair for as long as any of us can remember. I’m told she came to live with us for a short time in our little house in the suburbs. It’s before my memory and I can’t even imagine how or where we managed to squeeze her in.

She moved on to a nursing home and I do remember going to visit her with Dad on Sundays. I’d take my crossword book and sit quietly and do puzzles. There was never much conversation. Almost none.

I recall the occasions when Dad picked Dulcie up and brought her home for a day visit. Again, I don’t remember much about the visits, except that, once Dulcie had been transferred to a comfortable chair, we (my sisters and I) would push her wheelchair outside and take turns pushing each other (and the dog) around and around the back yard. We did lap after lap, racing at full, gleeful pelt. For hours. Looking back, I can’t believe we were allowed the pleasure.

After Dulcie died, some of her possessions ended up in our little home in the suburbs. This copper urn was among them.

I can clearly visualise her in Mum’s living room in the eighties, full of pampas grass fronds stretching up to the curtain rods. In the nineties, I remember her filled with twisted willow branches, from which Christmas baubles dangled for a couple of months each year.

When Mum passed, the urn found her way here, to my home, and for a time held our umbrellas in the front hallway. But copper wasn’t hot or on-trend or fashion-forward or even likeable, so I eventually stowed her out of sight. And out of mind. Until now. Until she was driven back into my thoughts by desperate monkey-see-monkey-want thinking.

Like any true-to-heart second hand dealer, I flipped her over to check her markings and found “solid copper” clearly stamped along with what looked like a maker’s identification mark. Closer inspection showed that mark to be Dad’s driver’s licence number, engraved on the base to ward off any would-be burglars, as was common Neighbourhood Watch practice in the eighties. That was worth a big giggle.

Now I’ve polished this darling piece back to glory and am busily searching my home for the perfect spot to display her.

antique copper urn, collectable copper, interior design, secondhand rose, fifty something, midlife, boomers

She might not have a hot designer label or a sleek “brushed” finish, but she’s warmer than any of that copper in the big ticket décor shops, because she’s brimful of memories that money can’t buy.

And she’s not new.



Book review: Eureka – The Unfinished Revolution by Peter Fitzsimons

“In 1854, Victorian miners fought a deadly battle under the flag of the Southern Cross at the Eureka Stockade. Though brief and doomed to fail, the battle is legend in both our history and in the Australian mind. Henry Lawson wrote poems about it, its symbolic flag is still raised, and even the nineteenth-century visitor Mark Twain called it: ‘a strike for liberty’.”

Eureka, Peter Fitzsimons, book review, Australian author, midlife, boomer, book club


Sometimes you build a relationship with a book before you even begin reading. Sometimes, it’s once you’ve finished and have had a chance to reflect and review.

I began to love Peter Fitzsimons’s Eureka midway through its prologue. With only a skeleton knowledge of the Eureka rebellion – gleaned from sketchy Australian History classes – I hoped this tome would put some flesh on the bones. The prologue, with its international political context and teasingly close local references had me hooked. I loved being reminded that Melbourne came stonkingly close to being known as Batmania and that William Buckley, the larger-than-life escaped convict, had wandered these parts with the indigenous Wautharung people for 35 years. There was even a Charles Dickens reference in there. I sensed the story about to unfold was one of substance and detail, and I anticipated the read with eagerness. I was not disappointed.

At 696 pages, Eureka is a daunting adventure – one I would probably not have embarked on had it not been a prescribed book club read. And isn’t that the true gift of book clubs, that you tackle books you would otherwise not?

Peter Fitzsimons has a remarkable gift for weaving historical narrative rich with primary source documentation and commentary. I’d wondered how the characters might come alive but they were carefully drawn in an astutely researched montage of media, court and official documentation of their day. They were, in a sense, peer reviewed in the language and the context of their times, potently capturing the spirit of the 1850s goldfields and the troubles of those who lived and governed. Amplifying tensions were gloriously played out in newspaper articles, official reports and conversation accounts.

Fitzsimons’s lively commentary held me engaged and involved. Often I felt as if I were reading a novel, rather than a historical recount. I knew what was coming, but I knew not how and became totally immersed in the unfolding story and the myriad of “sliding doors” moments in the lead-up to the tragic outcome. And then came the Epilogue – a whole other level of understanding of the main characters and their post-event lives.

I found myself carrying this book with me everywhere, lest I should miss an opportunity to read a few pages. Mid-way through, I felt compelled to visit Ballarat (where the events took place) and spent several hours exploring the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka (MADE), which is purportedly built on the site of the original Eureka Stockade (within an hour’s drive of my home).

democracy, eureka, peter fitzsimons, book review, midlife, boomer

I even persuaded my accomplice to snap a no-flash photo of me in front of the original Eureka Flag on display there. That silhouetted figure is me ignoring the “No Photography” signs. Call me rebellious.

eureka flag, Eureka, Peter Fitzsimons, book review, Australian author, midlife, boomer, book club

On that same day, the local Ballarat newspaper ran a story about a rare copy of Raphaello Carboni’s The Eureka Stockade coming up for auction. Carboni was a key protagonist in Eureka and, after the rebellion, penned a book, which has become an important reference for researchers and those interested in the events.

Peter Fitzsimons has gotten in my head and under my skin with Eureka. I’m certain my future holds more adventures into history when I dive into some of his other renowned books. For now, I have Kokoda in my reader crosshairs and can’t wait for the November 2014 release of Gallipoli.

My year of buying nothing new

Since 1 January, I’ve been on a secret little mission to make 2014 my year of buying nothing new.

Why haven’t I shared before now?

Because I feared my commitment would be lost amongst the white noise and emptiness of a barrage of New Year’s resolutions.

Because I didn’t want to get all preachy-preachy about it.

Because I wasn’t sure I could sustain it.

The very same reasons why I’m sharing now, in July, when I’m more than half way through. *high five

I set myself some ground rules. Food and normal household consumables were exempt, along with plants and books … because, well, books. Oh, and experiences. So movie tickets, travel, festival entry fees, live performance, dinners out and wine are also exempt. (Date night is safe.)

Even with these exemptions I’ve been more mindful.

Where I can, I’ve avoided the supermarket duopoly (you know who I mean) in favour of my local independent supermarket, butcher and fruit & veg. I’m certain the big supermarket hasn’t missed me one iota. I’m just as certain that my patronage has made a difference to my local shop owners.

We’ve been growing our own vegies and have mostly bought our seedlings from a lovely lady at the local farmers market. They don’t have fancy labels or instructions or brightly coloured plastic pots. They don’t have chemicals either … she raises them organically.

vegie patch, grow your own, midlife, fifty-something

For Mother’s Day I dropped big hints around a pair of dwarf lemon trees for the twin pots near my front verandah. They magically appeared.

And I haven’t ended up buying a new book yet (other than several author-signed copies at author talks/book launches, which I consider payment for experiences).

arnold zable, author talk, midlife, boomer, fifty something

My Book Club uses multiple book sets provided by the local library and I’ve managed to pick up my other preferred titles second-hand at the market. One Sunday morning, Harper Lee was calling to me at the market and I ended up bringing home a one dollar copy of To Kill A Mockingbird with only a vague intention of re-reading it. The next morning I enrolled in an online course and discovered that To Kill A Mockingbird was the only required reading. Serendipitous.

And it’s been a lot like that, this year of buying nothing new. I’ve found if I step back and think about what I need (or want) there is usually an alternative that doesn’t require me to hand over fists full of dollars to big chain retailers for mass-manufactured items. Very often it’s about making do with what I’ve got, reinventing something to work, repairing something or finding a second-hand alternative. And it’s amazing what you find when you actually put some time into looking.

Don’t think I haven’t been tempted …

When I saw, on super-sale, the Florence Broadhurst bedlinen I’d been envy-eying at my sister’s new house.

When the weather turned wintery and my two-season old black boots were pronounced dead.

When my 12 year old lemon brocade wingback chairs succumbed to severe, uncleanable grubbiness (the professional cleaner even gave them last rites).

That’s just three of dozens.

I survived those three temptations like this:

Slapped myself to the upside of the head for my monkey-see-monkey-want mentality. My old doona cover is perfectly fine (and not so old).

Mr P secretly took my lifeless black boots to the shoemaker who revived them to live again another day. A week later I found a gorgeous, near-new, top brand pair (in black leather) in a thrift shop for $8.

I put one tired wing-backed chair on the footpath of our busy road with a “FREE TO GOOD HOME” sign. It disappeared within ten minutes. Boy Wonder claimed the other as a “reading” chair and seems oblivious to the grubbiness. Within a day I’d found a fabulous vintage recliner in a thrift shop and snapped it up for $90. The following week, Mr P phoned to say he’d seen a matching recliner in the window of another thrift shop as he cycled past on his way to work. I was there when the doors opened and picked that one up for $40.

vintage rocker, thrifting, midlife, boomer, fifty-something

The only times I’ve surrendered and purchased something new have been for gifts. On both occasions, I’ve headed to local independent retailers, rather than the big chain conglomerates. I’ve taken advantage of free gift-wrapping services and am putting my upcycled gift tags to good use.

At other times I’ve hand made gifts – vintage preserving jars stocked chock-full with home-baked goods, fridge magnets made from rescued vintage scrabble tiles, or stationery sets and bunting I’ve upcycled from vintage atlas pages.

atlas bunting, vintage atlas, upcycled, fifty-something, boomer, midlife

Over half-way through and I’m still enjoying the challenge of stringing together a whole year of buying nothing new. It’s satisfying to know I’m contributing less to landfill and that I’m not wasting money on doodads I don’t need. I’m very much a believer in that maxim: “Stop buying stuff you don’t need with money you don’t have to impress people you don’t know, love or even like”.

Stepping off the consumer bandwagon has been fun and (dare I say it?) empowering. It feels like I’ve broken the back of what was pretty much a habit and I can’t see myself jumping back on that sleek-shiny wagon anytime soon.

Now … how many days until Christmas?


Walking the talk … Surf Coast Walk #2

Slowly and not-so-surely we are working our way through the sections of the amazing Surf Coast Walk. You may have read, over here, about our “use it or lose it” approach to walking and our commitment to completing every centimetre of this 44km walk.

We can now tick off Section 12, a shortish stint that packs a lot of punch into its 2.1 kilometres (each way) on a well-formed track with gentle hills and a few steps.

The brochure blurb says:

Lighthouse Discovery. Aireys Lighthouse –  Fairhaven. Discovery stroll from the Split Point Lighthouse and lookouts past whale sighting spots, through traditional Wathaurung country. Cross an ancient tribal boundary to the western reach of the Surf Coast Walk. Learn as you go with the insights of the Lighthouse Discovery Trail and several well-signed viewing platforms.”

Yes, there is lots to see on this section. Allow an hour or so at the lighthouse precinct for exploring the trails, interpretative signage, cliffs and … for snapping some memorable pic’s.

lighthouse, great ocean road, surf coast walk, split point lighthouse

split point lighthouse, great ocean road, surf coast walk

Wander west through the big car park, following alongside the Great Ocean Road and across Painkalac Creek, a favourite food harvesting spot for the Wathaurung aborigines, the traditional landowners.

surf coast walk, fairhaven beach, great ocean road

The gravel path takes you through a shady ti-tree forest.

Fairhaven beach, surf coast walk, great ocean road

Soon you lift up into the sun and find yourself high above Fairhaven Beach, stretching invitingly ahead of you.

fairhaven beach, great ocean road, surf coa

We were here on a quiet Monday so shared the beach with just a couple of other walkers. It’s a spectacular beach walk, with the lighthouse commanding one end and stunning ochre cliffs rising up at the other. Your beach stroll takes you beneath the famous Pole House and the new Fairhaven Surf Life Saving Club … both amazing buildings in their own right.

It’s a leisurely saunter back to the car park. Nearby, the Aireys Inlet “bottom shops” are worth a browse – there’s a book shop, retro diner and plenty more.

We settled for a peppermint tea served in this gorgeous cast iron pot on a rustic outdoor table with a vista over the Great Ocean Road.

great ocean road, surf coast walk



Quip While You’re Ahead

It’s no secret that I love supporting local creatives. Friday night, My Girl and I wandered along to the opening night of a new exhibition in the Wonderwall Gallery at Courthouse Arts, Geelong.

Titled Quip While You’re Ahead – words by MOLUCK . art by OTHERS, this little one-room show is a collaborative exhibition between author and artist.

quip while you're ahead, moluck, geelong arts, courthouse arts, art life, midlife, boomers

All the creatives are under twenty-six years of age. Each artwork is a response to one of MOLUCK’s evocative poems, some Haiku-style short and others much longer narratives in verse. The creative responses are varied and fascinating. There are installations, detailed mixed media collages, photographic interpretations and more.

quip while you're ahead, moluck, geelong arts, courthouse arts, midlife, boomers

The exhibition is on until 20 July 2014 and well worth an hour of discovery time, to allow for reading of MOLUCK’s beautifully crafted poems, each displayed beside its appropriate art.

You can see more of MOLUCK’s work over here: www.quipwhileyoureahead.com

Why not get out there and discover some emerging creative talent?