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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2015: A Year For Doing Stuff


Every time a new year rolls around I think “What the heck happened to the old one??” I get to the end of the year and wonder what I did with it. It’s a time when thoughts of all the things I was going to do and didn’t float to the surface. (I still haven’t set up that cubby house as a writing studio.)

It was only when, out of idle curiosity, I clicked on Facebook’s “Your Year in Review” thingy that I realised that I had actually done stuff this year and not just provided people with fodder to make moth jokes at my expense for the next twelve months.

January – A Month for Rowing

I compete in my first rowing regatta at Rutherglen and come home with two gold medals. I decide that maybe competitive rowing is not so bad after all.

February – A Month for Beginnings

We send off the Eldest Son to university and the Youngest Son to secondary school for the first time. I can’t believe I’m old enough to have a child at university and wonder if can get away with telling people I was a teenage mother.

Another first day I'd swear wasn't that long ago.

Another first day I’d swear wasn’t that long ago.

March – A Month for Yankees 

I travel to New York with The Husband for a party-avoiding celebration of his 50th birthday. We leave the three offspring to fend for themselves for two weeks. While in New York, I run in Central Park twice, once wearing a tartan glengarry.

April – A Month for Running

I run in my first half marathon event, finishing in just over two hours and wonder why on earth I do these things to myself.

May – A Month for Shakespeare

I appear in the Theatre of the Winged Unicorn’s production of Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona as a servant in the first half and as an outlaw in the second. The knitted version of the #beardselfie is born.

June – A Month for Running Again

I run another half marathon at Forrest in the Otway Ranges. This takes longer because it’s up and down muddy tracks. I wonder why on earth I do these things to myself. I also wonder why I have such a short memory.

July – A Month for Connecting

I journey to Sydney for my first “Meet the Blogger” occasion, full of nerves and neuroses. Both are unfounded and unnecessary and a great time is had by all except the blogger’s cat.


“So when are you leaving?”

August – A Month for Baking

I manage to keep a perpetual cake alive for four weeks. Then I kill him off. It’s not always about positive achievement.

September – A Month for Writing

My blog post on Voluntourism is ‘Freshly Pressed’, a WordPress concept disbanded not long afterwards and thus now unfamiliar to any new blogger reading this post. I don’t know if I had anything to do with its disbandment.

I achieve my first publication and have a letter published in the local metropolitan newspaper magazine in response to a very annoying article. It’s a good month for writing.

Fame at last

October – A Month for Changing the World

I travel to Nepal with World Expeditions to help rebuild one of the village schools destroyed in the earthquakes. We also get to trek through the mountains and view Mt Everest one early chilly morning. It’s an experience never to be forgotten. This is my most favourite event of the year.

Nepal Trek

Builders, trekkers, friends.

November – A Month for Falling (and I’m not talking about leaves in the Northern Hemisphere)

The universe decides that I have achieved quite enough impressive physical feats for the year and forty-eight hours after returning safely from overseas, I am felled by a small moth and end up in hospital with six broken ribs and a punctured lung. This is my least favourite event of the year.

December – A Month for Memories

My nephew gets married and having written the song for the wedding service and already earlier agreed to play the piano for it, I achieve this physical feat even with broken ribs. We rejoice but also mourn in this significant life event for my sister‘s eldest child.

Two Weddings

Twenty-three years older but they still look so cute in a vest.

2016: A Year For ????

I’m inclined to hope for 2016: A Year For The Mundane And Ordinary but I suspect I wouldn’t be able to stand it for long.

A Very Happy New Year to you. May it bring whatever you might wish of it.




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Just Enough To Wet Your Tongue – An Early Wine Education

“Just take enough to wet your tongue,” my father said.

“How big is your tongue?” my mother quipped.

Sunday lunch. A bottle of wine. And our wine education proceeded.

In my reflection on my father last week, I mentioned his late-in-life introduction to wine and the subsequent passionate interest he passed on to his children. It was interesting to note that each of his children mentioned wine in their reflections in the booklet of eulogies put together for his funeral. (Dad refused to have any family eulogies, stating that only the minister was to speak. He’d been to too many funerals where “every man and his dog” had to say something. Of course, we found a way around the rules. He taught us well.)

It seems to me that if I were to write a memoir, for a start it would be short and mostly boring, but it would undoubtedly be dominated by stories of wine.

My brother in his highchair with a liqueur glass of watered-down riesling. We graduated from liqueur glasses, to sherry glasses, to normal wine glasses as we got older.

Visiting a winery, the busload of tourists that came pouring in and the woman who asked, “Do you have any spumante?” I scoffed and did not hide my disdain. I was ten.

The cellar under our house that my father built himself with hand tools. The home-bottling that went on in there and the stacks of bottles with the hand-drawn label.

My favourite wine story, however, is the one most indicative of my father and is also linked to one of the greatest gifts my father gave me.

My parents took my younger brother and me to Europe for 10 weeks when we were 9 and 12 years old respectively. It was what started my love affair with travel. When I was asked to choose a symbol to place on my father’s coffin at his funeral to represent who he was to me, I chose my passport from this trip. Travel has become a major part of my life and it is an opportunity and love I have passed on to my children. They have travelled because I have travelled because my father took me travelling.

But what about the wine?

I’m getting to that.

On this trip, my father had arranged a private tasting at the Pieroth Winery near Bingen am Rhein in Germany. While my parents tasted wines, my brother and I drank fruit nectar (three whole bottles) and ate Ryvita crackers (or whatever the German equivalent was then).

It was growing dark by the time we finished. (It wasn’t that big a session – we always travelled out of season so this was in late October.) The winemaker offered to call us a taxi but my father refused declaring that it was close enough to walk. Just around the corner really.

Off we set along the side of the autobarn with no path, no streetlights and the sky turning darker by the minute. As we stumbled along and the familial air grew increasingly tense, my mother began to make noises about a taxi being a good idea. My father continued to insist that it was just around the corner.

After several kilometres, Dad at last conceded that it was further than he had anticipated. Approaching the first house we could find with lighted windows, he knocked on the door and in his best non-existent German, asked to call for a taxi.

The taxi soon arrived, we piled in and the car took off like a rocket, throwing us all against the back of the seat.

Around the corner and up the street and we arrived at our destination.

It really was “just around the corner”. We just had to get to the right corner.

(Daily Post Weekly Writing Challenge – Memoir Madness)


From the Pieroth website. Non-existent when we went there. All communication to set up the tasting was done by snail mail.



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