Disappearing Bit by Bit


Photo: Photofunia.com

I didn’t really know him very well but his death hit me hard.


Because, although I wasn’t really a part of his life now, he had been a significant part of mine when I was fifteen. Because, as I get older and as life moves on and changes, I’m coming to realise that there is a decreasing number of people in my life who knew me Before.

Before I bore the name I do now. Before I was seen in the context of my spouse, my children or my occupation. Before my dreams of becoming an author or an astrophysicist became just that. Before sorrow, loss, responsibility and struggle left their scars. Before my life was so defined.

Time is relentless and as it passes bits of who we were disappear. Places we lived, studied, worked, played. People with whom we shared laughter, tears, stories, dreams. The ideals we held for who we thought we’d be.

The tapestry of our life in the past becomes increasingly threadbare as the threads are pulled one by one.

I wrap that tapestry around my shoulders, shelter in it and hold fast to the memories while I can.

In memory of Noel.


Parenting Postscript: The title for this post comes courtesy of my 17-year-old youngest son. Sharing our usual “How was your day?” conversation in the car on the way home from school, he asked me if the person whose funeral I had attended was someone close to me. As I explained the connection and why I was so sad, he said “It feels like your past is disappearing bit by bit.” He understood. As a mother of three sons, the responsibility to raise good men falls heavily. It is moments like this that make me feel proud and more than a little relieved that I must be doing something right.


Sailing Away From Sailing

I used to sail. In a boat. On the water. Really.

(You would know this if you’ve read the extensive list of what I’ve attempted to be good at on my About page.)

Hidden in a shed at my parents’ house there is a boat. My boat. The “Eleanor Rigby”. (I was a big Beatles fan from about the age of nine.)

She hasn’t been sailed in…. oh…. I don’t want to think about how long. Decades.

It’s time to let her go.

I haven’t sailed her since my teens but I’m finding it unexpectedly heart-wrenching to part with her.

I developed a passion for sailing after reading Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome when I was twelve. I think part of the reason why sailing, in the end, didn’t stick was because it was never (and was never going to be) like it was in the book. I wanted to sail with hearty mates. I wanted to sail on a lake to a private island. I wanted secret adventures and seed cake and tea cooked over a fire. I wanted to be friends with John and Susan and Titty and Roger. I most especially wanted to be best friends with Nancy and Peggy, the Amazon Pirates.

But it was fantasy and this was reality.

So I sailed in a not-a-clinker dinghy on a bay (well, technically a lagoon off the bay) by myself and there were no private islands on which to camp and make parley with the natives.

It was never quite the same as the dream I held.

But I think it’s mostly hard to let her go because she reminds me of my father.

A father who understood the weird dreams and desires of his youngest daughter and bought her a boat even though money must have been tight.

A father who drove his daughter every week to the lagoon and waited on the bank while she tried to fulfil that dream.

A father who travelled hours around the bay towing the boat so his daughter could share her sailing passion with her school friends at camp.

A father who continued to pay the registration on the boat trailer for years after his flighty daughter had moved on to other things just in case she wanted to come back to sailing.

Life changes. Dad is gone. Mum needs to move on. And the boat must go.

Anyway, she needs to feel the wind in her sail again. Feel the water lapping at her sides. It’s only fair.

But I’ll miss her.




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An Imaginary Friend

Imaginary Friend

Me and My Imaginary Friend

Have you ever had an imaginary friend? Do you have an imaginary friend now?

If you once had an imaginary friend, I feel very happy for you.

If you have an imaginary friend now, I feel even more happy for you. (You thought I was going to say I feel worried for you, didn’t you?)

I think I’d rather like to have an imaginary friend now, at my age.

But that’s a discussion for another time. It’s not actually what this post is about.

Sometimes, a random thought will come wandering into my head like a lost tourist, plonk itself down on its suitcase in the middle of my thoughts and wait for me to ask if there’s anything I can do for it.

The latest one was this:

“I wonder what it would be like to be an imaginary friend?”

Let’s think about that, shall we?

You’d never have to feel guilty for being in the wrong place at the wrong time or the wrong place at the right time or the right place at the wrong time. An imaginary friend always has perfect timing.

You’d never have to take your foot out of your mouth or apologise for saying something thoughtless, hurtful or stupid. An imaginary friend always knows the right thing to say.

You’d never have to agonise over a gift, wondering if it’s appropriate or too much or too little. An imaginary friend always buys awesome imaginary gifts with his/her imaginary millions.

You’d never have to second guess yourself about whether you were a good friend or not. An imaginary friend has absolute confidence.

You’d never have to make conversation with other friends or relatives of your friend, especially those with political views that make your blood boil. An imaginary friend is invisible to everybody else.

You’d never have to worry about posting the wrong thing on Facebook or Twitter or forgetting to reply to an email from your friend. Imaginary people don’t have Facebook or Twitt….er….acc…..ounts….. Okay, you might have to wear that one.

What would it be like to be an imaginary friend?

I reckon it would be freakin’ awesome!

How about you?




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Colouring With Einstein

Why do you keep looking over at me? What am I doing that is so odd to you?

You keep staring. I’ll have you know that Einstein approves of this wholeheartedly.


And Picasso.


So there.

You’re just jealous. You’re wishing you’d remembered to bring your own, aren’t you?

It’s not weird, you know. Stop looking at me like I’m crazy.

What was I doing? Well, for a start, I was sitting innocently enough in a café with a large cup of coffee and a haloumi and salad foccacia for my lunch. Nothing odd about that, right? (Well, okay, haloumi is not to everyone’s taste but it’s not that weird.)

While I ate my lunch, I was using a present a friend had just given me for my recent birthday. That may have been it, I’m not sure. Is this odd to you?


It’s okay to sit in a café and do colouring in with textas. At least, I’m pretty sure it is. I mean, they’re Connector Pens.

Actually, first I drew flowers.


The two on the right were already there. The ones that look like scientific experiments are mine.

I didn’t think what I was doing was all that strange. Mind you, one of the waitresses came over to ask what I was doing. Then she went and got the other waitress to come and have a look.

Was it really that odd?

Are you not allowed to do colouring in whilst out in public when you’re a grown-up?


Ah, well, see that’s where the get-out clause is then. I’m not a grown-up. Old, yes. Up, not so much.

I can’t wait to get stuck into some of the other pages.




See you around. Next time, bring your own textas.



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Hung Up On The Hang Ups

We all have hang ups. Those small voices in our heads telling us we should be better, nicer, thinner, smarter.

(We do all have hang ups, right? Please say ‘yes’ or I will develop a hang up about having hang ups.)

Where do they come from?

Who really knows?

The usual answer is that they are due to something that occurred in our earlier years that left an indelible mark. Sometimes it’s obvious. People who were given away as babies develop a fear of abandonment. Those who suffered abuse and neglect have issues with trust.

Sometimes it’s less obvious. The music teacher who said ‘you can’t sing’ and now you never do. The parent who said ‘you eat a lot’ and now you worry about your weight. The other child who called you ‘ugly’ and now you obsess about your appearance.

And maybe, sometimes, it’s just genetics. Maybe it’s just in your make-up to be uncertain about yourself.

As a child I spent a lot of time in trees. It’s no different now, I just spend a lot of time hanging in the Neurosis Tree. Why I am a mess of hang ups is as much a mystery to me as it is to everyone I meet.

I had a stable, happy childhood full of love and encouragement. I had a good education, travelled, and was exposed to many enriching experiences.

What could I possibly have to be hung up about?

And yet I am. I worry about not being good enough. I worry about causing offence. I worry about being annoying.

I came to realise recently that all my hang ups can be summed up into the one fear. Of being seen to be a nuisance.

And perhaps therein lies the answer. It’s a small thing and there will be groans of “Really? Something that insignificant had that much effect?”

But this is where the genetics come in. Perhaps a significant event has little effect on someone whose inherent nature is one of strong self-esteem. To a person cursed blessed with a sensitive, introverted nature, even a minor occurrence could have a lasting impact.

I was three years old. My mother had to go into hospital for an operation and my father had to work. The three oldest children were all in school and the eldest was quite capable of ensuring they all got there and home again. My maternal grandmother agreed to look after my younger brother, then 10 months old. But not me.

There was no option but to put me into childcare.

“That’s it?” I hear you say. “Children go into childcare all the time.

Don’t think I don’t know that. But I also know that while many of those children will thrive in such an environment, some do not. And I certainly did not.

My sister would drop me off on her way to school and my father would pick me up on his way home from work. It was meant to be for a week. When my mother got sick after the operation and developed an infection, it turned into three weeks.

“That’s all?? You had to go into childcare for three weeks? And now you’re a mess of neuroses?”

I know. It sounds pathetic to me too.

But who knows what went into a little three-year-old girl’s head when all her life she’d never been away from family and suddenly found herself among strangers day after day? Who knows what a three-year-old felt when, already unhappy about the new interloper in the family, she saw that he was taken to be cared for by family but she was too much trouble? And with the genetics of shyness already embedded, what impact did the new and the strange without the support of the familiar have on a little girl who didn’t really understand what was happening?

Perhaps what that three-year-old learned was: If you’re a nuisance, people don’t want you.

I can’t really know if that is what it is. Certainly, what I can tell you is that by all reports, I was never the same after the experience. A little quieter, a little less confident. Subsequent school reports are full of the phrases “reserved”, “quiet”, “needs to participate in class”.

What is important here, though, is that finding a cause is about understanding our actions or feelings and putting them into a context. It’s not about blame. I know my mother did what she had to do and agonised over the decision. As a parent myself, I can relate. I know it was enough to ask my grandmother to care for a small baby; adding a toddler into the mix would have been asking too much.

Blame leaves us to sit in our neurosis and say “It’s all your fault so there’s nothing I can do about it.” Understanding, on the other hand, leads us out of that place into one where we can say “Okay, I know what is behind this, so how can I change my thinking?”

I’m still working on that part and I’ll be swinging in the Neurosis Tree for a long time yet, but I swing a little happier understanding why I’m there.

Neurosis Tree



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Why Do Childhood Fears Have To Grow Up With You?

Tweety & Sylvester
When I was about two years old, we had a budgerigar that was so tame we could let it out of its cage to fly around the house. We also owned a cat. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking, but the budgie was smart enough to stay near the ceiling and the cat was happy enough to leave it alone. That is, until the day the cat decided to try out for the role of Supercat and took a most uncatlike flying leap, catching the bird in its mouth. I was hysterical.

I only learned about that little piece of family history recently. I just thought I had an irrational fear of birds or, more specifically, cats with birds. And dead birds. I’ve been known to call my husband at work to come home and dispose of the latest gift from our cat. Once he was away and I had to go next door and ask if the neighbour would come and get rid of a bird in my house. Now, of course, my boys are old enough to deal with them for me. Except the youngest. He was trying to help shoo the cat away from a bird it had brought into the house and he accidentally stepped on the bird. He’s now as freaked out by cats with birds as I am. Who knew childhood fears could be hereditary?


I was out walking with friends in the bush and was in the lead. All of a sudden, to my friends’ immense amusement, I did a funny little hoppy dance down the path. “What were you doing?!” one of them asked. To my shame, I had to confess that I had come across a spread of bird feathers on the path. The hoppy dance was because I couldn’t see where the potential carcass was. Yep, I can’t even cope with feathers on the ground. If I come home and see feathers on the floor, I head straight back out the door and hang out in the garden until someone has scanned the whole house for a body.

The boys once asked me what I would do if I didn’t have them to deal with the birds. My answer was, “I wouldn’t own a cat.” In those circumstances, I’d rather own a pet spider.


It has been well documented that the effects of childhood trauma can have an impact on the psychological wellbeing of an adult and in cases of extreme trauma such as abuse or the death of a loved one, it is understandable. But it is clear, from my experience at least, that even the smallest event can have lifelong consequences.

There was a boys’ school near my childhood home and I was regularly bullied by boys from that school whenever I walked home from my own school. To this day, if I see a boy in that school uniform, I get nervous.

All of us are a sum of our experiences – good and bad – whether we consciously remember them or not. The trick is to accept that it is a part of you, it is who you are and to travel your journey as best you can with all your emotional and psychological baggage – whether it’s a steamer trunk or a cabin bag.

Just so long as I don’t have to visit the bird park.




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It’s In Every One Of Us – A Muppet Christmas Memory

One of my fondest and strongest childhood memories of Christmas involves not a man in a red suit, a Christmas tree and presents but a green frog, a determined pig and a country lad in glasses.

My favourite Christmas album was (and still is) John Denver and The Muppets: A Christmas Together. It’s how I learned the story of Silent Night, it’s why I can never sing the ‘figgy pudding’ verse of We Wish You A Merry Christmas without the urge to start yelling “Won’t go!!” and it’s why whenever I sing The Twelve Days of Christmas and get to Five Gold Rings, I have to stop myself from adding “Ba Dum Bom Bom”.

My favourite song, though, is It’s In Every One Of Us. I’m not sure if I understood the words when I was ten, but it was lovely to sing. It’s still lovely to sing and now the words hold so much meaning in an adult life of searching for the right way.

It’s in every one of us
To be wise
Find your heart
Open up both your eyes
We can all know everything
Without ever knowing why
It’s in every one of us
By and by

It’s good to be reminded to look inside myself for the answers I seek.

Wishing you peace, joy, hope and love in the Christmas season.



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Thursday’s Child

Monday’s child is fair of face,
Tuesday’s child is full of grace,
Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
Thursday’s child has far to go,
Friday’s child is loving and giving,
Saturday’s child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath Day
Is bonny and blithe and good and gay.

I was born on a Thursday. It fits. Born with itchy feet, I have spent my life pursuing whatever lies around the next corner, over the next hill, in the next country (or as far away as I can get). It’s perhaps the reason I am a Jack of All Trades; once I’ve tried one thing, I want to try something new, rarely sticking around to become an expert at anything.

So strong was my inbuilt need to explore the planet, I arrived two years earlier than expected by my parents. They were due to take my three older siblings to live overseas for a year while my father was on sabbatical and they planned to have more children after they returned home. Obviously, I got wind of the plan (wherever I was) and decided there was no way they were going without me. My first passport photo was taken in the hospital after my birth – you can see the identity bracelet on my wrist. Even though I remember none of it, I love the fact that this is a part of my history. I’m not so sure my parents were as thrilled, suddenly finding themselves travelling with a 3 month old baby in addition to three children under 10.

I learnt to walk as soon as possible. I was so small, I could walk under the coffee table. And I became a notorious wanderer. Taking me shopping inevitably led to an announcement over the store PA: “We have a small girl at the front desk. She is about two years old and wearing a green jumper, brown corduroy pants and red lace up shoes. If her mother is in the store, could she please come and collect her.”

When I was three years old, I rode my tricycle from our home to a neighbouring suburb nearly four miles (about 6 km) away, crossing several major arterial roads en route. A friend of the family found me. Unbeknownst to me, my parents had the entire neighbourhood out looking for me. I wasn’t worried. I was out on an adventure!

Thursday's Child

I ran away when I was six. It had grown dark by the time I reached the house of my friend who had agreed to run away with me. I was still standing outside her house, waiting… and waiting… when my parents pulled up in our car to take me home. My friend never came out. I’ve never really forgiven her for that. I could have made my getaway if I hadn’t had to wait.

Lucky enough to be taken overseas again when I was twelve, I spent the next eleven years saving my money to go back. And sure enough, at 23, I made the traditional young backpacker’s pilgrimage to grotty hostels, dodgy trains and fleeting friendships.

I’ve been fortunate in my adult life to be able to travel regularly. I’ve seen some amazing parts of the world and experienced the wonder of our diverse cultures but a common understanding of life.

Now, you may be reading this thinking, “Well, I was born on a Wednesday and I’ve always been complimented on my sunny and optimistic disposition.” Of course. After all, it’s a poem not a proven prophesy. Like the broken clock, with so many people on the planet, it has to get it right some time.

Amusingly, I tend to fit the prescribed traits of both my star sign and the numerology for my name.

Whether you are a devout believer, dismissive atheist or bemused agnostic when it comes to allocated character traits, sometimes it can be useful to know what yours are. It doesn’t have to dictate your path in life, but it could help frame your personal narrative, give context to self-understanding or perhaps just contribute a humorous facet to a story from your past as it has for me.

I’m always looking for the next adventure. It doesn’t have to be overseas travel. It may be local travel or it may not even be travel at all. I continue to try new things, take up new hobbies, explore new places, always wanting to see what else is out there. As a Thursday’s Child, I still have far to go.



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