Thursday, 30 June 2011

Thoughts on Telling People

One of my favourite songs is Nerina Pallot’s ‘Learning to Breath’. I’ve always liked it but after Josh died the words took on new meaning and it became a life line. To me it said I’ll be ok. I don’t need to have it all I’ll be happy with what I’ve got. One of the lines in the song is “I knew a man who lost his wife, it was the way he chooses to describe his life” and I thought “I don’t want to be that person, I don’t want to be defined by my loss” yet even though I don’t tell every person that I meet that I’m widowed I do tell a lot of people. Maybe it’s because I meet a lot of people. The journey I am on just now started the moment Josh’s life ended so how can I hide that? It’s not who I am but it’s the reason I’m travelling on my own. His courage and love of life is the driving force behind my determination to live the life I have to the full. He is so much a part of me it feels like to hide or deny his death is to hide and deny his whole existence and that is one thing I am just not capable of doing. I know there are people who would disagree but that’s the thing about grief it’s different for everyone.  Some widows get by without telling people. Some people are intensely private and I understand that they don’t want anyone and everyone knowing their business. But me, well I tell most people I spend any time with. I’m an extremely open book (or should I say blog?) which is why I was taken aback when my mother asked me if the folks on the farm knew about Josh. I answered that of course they did. I had been there living in their home and working with them for weeks. It was completely alien to me that they wouldn’t know yet to my mother it would be natural as she is a very private person. There is the practicality of it. I talk about Josh. I talk about his family as my in-laws. Yes I could gloss over and refer to them as friends but they’re not just friends they’re family, I automatically name them as such and I am too lazy to monitor my conversation to convert ‘in-law’ to friend every time I mention a phone call or share an old memory. Nor am I willing to let people believe that Josh and I split up. We emphatically did not and when I talk about the man I used to live with I want them to know that we did not choose to end that state of affairs. I want people to know we were happy and a solid couple and I have the right to that acknowledgement.

But maybe there is more to it? I once met a person who mentioned they had been homeless for a time. She said she was proud and told people not for sympathy but so they could see how strong she is. Maybe there is an element of that in it. I want people to know I am a widow not so they can pity me but so they know that a widow is no longer the Victorian stereotype forever in mourning for all that is lost. I want them to know that widows are people too and how strong and fabulous we can be. As a female scientist I’m used to the double take “You’re a what?” except now instead of laser physicist it’s widow and it’s a little more of a conversation stopper. I don’t want people to define me as a widow I want to redefine what widow means. Someone once told me the origin of the word widow means ‘to be empty’ but I am not empty. I am full of love that was given to me by Josh and that will never die. I am strong yes because he was here but I am stronger because he was taken. I am not ashamed of what I am. I am proud of what I have survived and accomplished. The thing is after the double take and a variable adjustment period most people handle the truth just fine. And because I am so open there are a whole bunch of people who know Josh by proxy.

Which is all very good so why is it that now I am settling in the one place for the next few months I am reluctant to tell people? I’ve told my housemates but at work I am glad that no-one has asked any awkward questions. I don’t want to deny Josh and everything he has been to me but I don’t want to be defined by my loss and I fear that at this point I am. Maybe I am tired of trying to change the whole worlds view of grief and loss, after all it’s not exactly a small goal. Maybe I am tired of wishing the world could be other than is it. Maybe I just need a hug. I don’t really know, I guess this is one of those transitions that has to be gone through after all I can’t go through my whole life reacting to my ‘situation’ maybe this is me really getting to grips with living again; and that could be the scariest thought of all.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

The Not Very Snowy Mountains

I arrived in the Snowy Mountains to discover that they are not in fact, as advertised, snowy. They are however very cold. I was picked up at the bus station and taken to the house that would be my home for the next three plus months. The house itself is a decent size and is set up for six people though currently there are only three of us in residence. I originally had an older lady as a roommate but she has decided the mountains are not for her and left leaving me with a room to myself. It would be nice to think I would be fortunate enough to have a room to myself for the next three months but I am sure I shall have a new roommate before long so I am trying not to spread out too much! My current housemates are two guys who have a room and bathroom downstairs and thewe have been promised two a couple who have not yet arrived but will have their own onsuit room once they do.

I arrived on the Sunday and since I wasn’t due at work until the Tuesday I spent the Monday settling in and exploring. The town itself is small but pretty. I have an amazing view of Lake Jindabyne from my living room and bedroom window. The two pubs are at the other end of town but as that’s only 15 minutes away I’m not complaining. I have already found the one bookshop and supermarket though I did restrain myself by deciding I would return to the book shop after a few paydays. It was very cold after my month in the tropics so after a quick look round the main square I headed back to the house to tidy up and organise some cupboards whilst my fellow housemates are at work. That evening there were extreme winds and they hadn’t died down by the next morning therefore I was not required to go into work. Instead of working I took advantage of my extra free day to investigate one of the pubs with my one of new housemates. Sadly there is no five seeds cider so I’m going to have to make do with bottles of sweet Strongbow which though no five seeds doesn’t taste too bad.

Wednesday I finally got to see my new place of work. I got a lift from the boss up to Thredbo and got a chair lift to work. My first day was interesting and full of so many interesting people I had trouble remembering all their names. There is a good mix of people with a varying age range and nationality. I thought I was going to be asked to be a cashier but it turns out I’ve been assigned to the floor. My duties aren’t difficult though they do require me to pay attention to my surroundings for six to eight hours a day which should be interesting. Fortunately the people I work with are really nice and a little bit of chat when it’s quiet seems to be allowable. The rest of my week was very similar though it did get busier as the week progressed. I met and managed to remember most of the staff I’ll be working with directly and am even starting to make progress with the rest. I have had to turn down an outing to the pub but I’m reliably informed that Wednesday night (being payday) is pub night so hopefully I can get to know most people then.

The view from the balcony outside our living room

Wednesday, 22 June 2011


People over here are so hard on poor Canberra. I for one quite like it. Ok I wouldn’t want to live here but it’s a lovely little city. The staff at my hostel were unfailingly friendly, usually there’s always one member of staff who obviously cannot be bothered but here everyone I’ve spoken to is lovely. There are some renovations going on but I was warned of those when I booked and again when I checked in and I can’t say I was inconvenienced by them in any way. Since I was only in Canberra for a few days I booked in to an eight share room figuring I could put what I saved towards food as I wasn’t there long enough to cook properly; not even my version of properly which would make people who actually cook shudder I know. The consequence of this is that during my short stay I met a surprising number of people who like me were just passing through. It seems to be that kind of city. People come here with a purpose and once it’s accomplished they go.

In all honesty there wasn’t a lot to do there. I arrived late on Thursday morning and was able to check straight into my room. I’d had an early but not long flight and the bus journey from the airport was quick and easy yet I did not find myself inclined towards exploring.  I ventured out to the nearest supermarket for some lunch and basic supplies but spent the rest of my day in the hostel catching up on myself.

Over the next two days I visited the National art Gallery and Museum. They could easily have been done in one and one of the girls who passed through the dorm managed to fit these and more into one day. I preferred to take my time, I found Canberra to be a relaxing city and enjoyed the slower pace for a change. It doesn’t feel rushed, like everything had to be done yesterday and the people walking about are walking not running like they seem to do in the CBDs in other cities. I explored the lake a little but it was getting cold there and my winter stuff hasn’t been sent over yet, I am muchly looking forward to the arrival of my hat, gloves and woolly jumpers once I am settle in Jindy. Mostly what I did there is relax managing to read some more and get a lie in or two. The most I’ve ‘cooked’ is when I made myself some toasted cheese sandwiches. So I don’t care what other people say I like Canberra and I am looking forward to visiting it for a couple more (hopefully warmer) days.


Saturday, 18 June 2011


My weekend in Brisbane  was very similar to many weekends back home. During the day on Saturday we headed to the shops where I was introduced to the wonder that is Sumo Salad and we had some horrendously expensive but tasty (but expensive) cake. We then headed back to the hostel via a bottle shop to pick up some wine. Back at the hostel it was time to cook a dinner, open the wine and get ready for a night on the town. All I will say is that vodka after wine is bad. Very bad. I was quite drunk and therefore on Sunday I felt very sorry for myself. We’d ended up in a backpacker place which though not fabulous was cheap with good music so it was totally worth the hangover but there was no way I was leaving the hostel the next day. In fact I only ate when my friend tempted my downstairs to the cafe with the promise of a burger and chips and more cake. Fortunately the next day was a bank holiday over here so we made up for our laziness by walking up to the Fortitude Valley and down to the botanic gardens to enjoy some sunshine and ice-cream, well one cannot have cake all the time!

Tuesday and I was back in tourist mode. I visited two art galleries, the modern one where I had yet more cake and saw an interesting surrealist exhibition before enjoying the permanent pieces on display at the Art Gallery. Like many thing in Australia the cinema can be quite expensive but my friend found one which was cheap by Aussie standards so we headed back out to the cinema to catch an early showing of X-Men: First Class before heading back to the hostel for an early night. The next day was my last in Brisbane and by this point I think I had had a bit of a city overload therefore as I was leaving the next day I decided to take it easy. I did my washing and read a book in the morning before heading to the tour operator to book a red centre tour for myself and my friend in October. After lunch I had intended to go to the museum but instead I headed back to the hostel for an unhurried lunch and to start packing my bags in preparation for my early start the next day. My main bag packed up I just had time to finish my book before leaving to meet my friend for dinner at a local ‘all you can eat’ vegetarian restaurant. Well it wasn’t all you can eat but it was veggie and though the food could have been warmer it was quite tasty and filling. I even enjoyed the strange sponge pudding and custard at the end and I’m not usually a custard person. Strange meal over and it was time to head back and for me to finish the dreaded packing. I swear as I am only in Canberra for 3 days I am not unpacking. I was sad to leave my newest friend and Brisbane behind but I’m starting to look forward to my new job and am excited about what will happen once I get to Jindabyne on Sunday.


Arthur Loureiro: The Spirit of the New Moon

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Jonathan's Birthday

I knew before I arrived at the farm for my WWOOFing adventure that I wanted to leave before Josh's birthday. I knew that I wanted to celebrate it alone, it just felt right. Having decided I rather liked my Bundaberg host family I left leaving until a couple of days before Josh’s birthday and therefore arrived in Brisbane at 6pm on Wednesday night giving me a day in Brisbane to decide what to do for his birthday on the Friday. Of course since booking and leaving I had decided to visit the Dreamworld Theme park so this meant I had a day to find out about buses, tickets and explore Brisbane instead. On the bus from Bundaberg to Brisbane I decided that as I was only there a week, had plans for the Friday already and probably wouldn't be the best company then I probably wouldn't be making any friends on this short stop over. Which is why of course the first person I talked to turned out to be really nice and at a loose end during the weekend. She was helpful from the get go and directed me to the nearest supermarket so I could get my supplies for my week long stay.

On Thursday it was lovely knowing that I didn’t have to get up but I was in a new city and it seemed a shame to waste even a moment of it by lying in bed. Once up and fed I headed in to the CBD to investigate the shops and tour offices. I got some more information on possible tours for when my friend comes to visit and bought my ticket to Dreamworld for Josh’s 29th birthday. Having saved a whole two dollars by buying my ticket from the tourist information office I celebrated my ticket purchase with cake and hot chocolate at a nearby cafe.  Spending splurge over I headed back to the hostel to plan the rest of my visit to the city and have dinner with my newest friend.

On Friday I was up early and ready to be scared witless. I made my train with time to spare but it was held up on the way to theme park meaning I didn’t arrive there until nearly 11am, an hour later than the 10am start I had planned on. Even though the day was pleasantly warm it was a week day and not a school holiday so it wasn’t very busy. I was able to get on my first thrill ride called the Claw with only a few minutes wait. I’m not sure what I expected but what I got was a really fun ride. I was turned upside down and spun around whilst being very high up but I didn’t scream and couldn’t help but laugh as we flew through the air. The next ride, Wipeout, wasn’t as much fun but it also made me laugh as once more I was turned upside down and twisted about the place. Having conquered the Claw and Wipeout the rollercoaster was a cinch and even though I was right at the front I still found I was enjoying myself immensely.  I was on my way to thrill ride number four when I saw the swings. They were aimed at children really but I’ve always had a weakness for them so I had a quick go on them and some of the other gentler rides before heading to the Tower of Terror Two; I didn’t like to ask what happened to Tower number one in case the answer disturbed me! I honestly had no idea what to expect from this ride. I just rocked up and sat down on what looked like a rollercoaster type set up. So you can imagine my shock when the ride started and we were shot backwards before coming to a stop then hurtling forwards and up a steep hill stopping half way up a very tall tower which turned out to another ride called the Drop. I did scream a little when I was thrown backwards but once more there was more laughing then terror, though this was definitely my scariest ride so far. From the Tower there was only one place to go and that was the Drop. I did stop by Wipeout and the Claw for another turn on them to see if they were as much fin the second time round. Wipeout was more so as this time I got to sit at the edge but The Claw was definitely my favourite ride of the day. Fun over it was on to The Drop. I didn’t want to go on it, I don’t know why but for some reason the idea of sitting really, really really high up then being dropped and going into freefall made me feel a little uncomfortable.  However as I do want to do some bungee jumping at  some point in the future I reckoned this would be good practice so up I went. Well. The view was stunning, Once I was up there I was perfectly comfortable and happy, even looking down didn’t faze me but the minute the magnets let us go and we went in to free fall I screamed. The fall only lasted 5 seconds but I screamed for all of them. I am glad I did it and I still want to bunjee but I don’t think I’ll be rushing back to the Drop any time soon. With the other big thrill ride closed I headed for my final to the Log Ride for my final Dreamworld ‘official’ picture. Sadly they take it before you hit the water so I look all happy and dry and not shocked and cold as I was when I left the ride. The water was really cold when it hit but it was still good fun and it only took me a few minutes to dry out once I left the ride.

Thrill rides over it was time to collect Zack and my camera from my locker I’d hired for the day, a worth while investment to be sure as it left me free to go on the rides without worrying about my possensions. With Zack, my camera and purse recovered and the rest of my stuff left in the locker I took a walk round the park to try capture the rides I had been on and to see the various animals they had there. They had the usual Aussie aniumals including the obligatory koalas, kangaroos and wallaby’s but they also had my favourite animals Bengal tigers. They did a show with the tigers but stressed that all behaviours showcased were natural and they talked a lot about the animals and how important it was to conserve their natural habitats which I hope the kids watching took in whilst being impressed by the big cats moves. Zack even got his picture taken with a stuffed tiger that happened to be beside us! By this time it was getting late and as fun as the day had been there had been stressful moments when I really missed Josh, especially when I was so high up and I knew how much he would have hated being where I was. I grabbed a quick hotdog and head for the bus and train to take me back to Brisbane. Once back in the city I had time for a quick bite to eat, shower and skype before I was heading back out. This time though I was only off to the cinema to see the Hangover Two and have a few drinks with my newest friend. The film and company were both pretty good. We tried a few different bars and had a toast to Josh but didn’t stay out late as we were both tired however we did promise each other that we would make up for it by going dancing the next night. All in all it was a really good day and I am sure Josh would have approved even if the rides would have made him green. The fact was I did something I have never done before  and I hope this a tradition that I will manage to carry on every year from now on.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Last Week (and a bit) on the Farm

As mentioned in my previous post my week started out with some sad news but as we all know and as hard as it has it can be to realise life does indeed go on. Monday morning was the same as most mornings on the farm, that is to say it we did something new again. We took the boat in to town to the mechanic and ran a few errands. Back on the farm I had yet another new task. I had to go down to the new block of vines and pierce the irrigation pipes with a sharpened screwdriver then push little drippers in to the holes so that the plants could be irrigated in the summer. Though it was a sad day it was brightened up considerably by not sticking the screwdriver in to any part of my hand and by chatting with my big brother in the evening. It was his birthday and he had been at a wedding the night before but I phoned him and got him out of bed anyway because what else are little sisters for?

Tuesday was one of those strange days where it was very similar to the day before as I finished applying drippers to the irrigation pipes in the new block of vines. The afternoon was different again though as my host brought in his laptop and I spent the rest of the afternoon and part of the evening running scans and removing a virus that was trying to get a hold of it. I am pleased to say that I was obviously listening more than I realised in all those years of living with a techie expert as I successfully removed the virus and restored the laptop to more or less how it was before.

On Wednesday we had to take one of my hosts’ boys to his AFL game and my host attempted to explain the basic rules to me. I am still confused but I may have a better chance of understanding what’s happening the next time I happen to see a game on TV. We stopped by the shops on the way home to pick up an external hard drive so my hosts could back up their laptop and some ingredients for baking millionaire shortbread. Back at the farm we just about had time to eat lunch and pick up some fruit before my host had to make a return trip into town to collect his boy. Having the place to myself I lost no time in starting my latest attempt to make millionaire shortbread.  I have never had much success with it and therefore keep trying to make it as I am determined to learn the secrets of making a good caramel filling. I had made tablet the previous week and hoped that I had some new insight in to making the caramel but it was not to be. I managed to both burn and undercook it. Also I used a too small tin making the biscuit base way too thick. On the upside the caramel though unsuccessful was my best attempt yet. With my usual gift for timing the next night I saw a masterchef where they showed how to make a good caramel, the secret is to add cream to stop it crystallising apparently. Looks like I’m not quite done with my baking nemisis yet!

Thursday was a local holiday in Bundaberg so everyone was at home and therefore we started our day later than usual. I got some sun by taking as treol down to the vines and picking up some McGuffies from the ground. Usually this variety is collected from the vines but some will drop off in the sunshine so I was just collecting these before a proper pick was done on the vines later on. My hosts have an expert who visits them about once a month to check on their vines and give recommendations. He dropped by in the afternoon and basically said that they were all looking pretty good. One of the boys had gone to a fair in town but the other decided not to go. He had a day at home playing with his game consoles which included a DS which reminded me of my own neglegted machine. I made the mistake of bringing it out and playing one of my games and that was me. I’m now hooked on Final Fantasy 3 again! In between playing my DS I painted up some of the timber that my host was going to use to make a pagoda at the back of the house. IN the evening I introduced Zack to the dog. It was good fun  and event though Zack did end up in the dogs mouth he survived the experience in tact if a little soggy. The next day everyone was back at work and school so we had an industrious day of painting and building: I painted and my host built. I reckon I must have levelled up my painting skills by the end of the day as I painted a fair bit of timber however I don’t think I missed my calling in life there.

Every weekend I am instructed to lie in but I just can’t do it. Back home I used to love to lie in bed but these days I want to be up and about and doing things. Luckily this weekend though I was up and about at my usual time I was handily distracted by my DS. Eventually though it ran out of battery so I wandered outside and did some more painting. Usually Saturday is my day off but I’m not a big sunbather and I reckoned that this would help me make the most of the sunshine whilst I had it. It was an unhurried day of painting interspersed by mini DS sessions. Sunday I started off much as I had on Saturday with the addition of writing my blog. It’s become my custom to write it up on Saturday and edit and post it on the Sunday but as you all know I didn’t really have the heart for my usual post this weekend so I was soon back outside keeping busy by painting in the sunshine. I eventually ran out of things to paint and as much as I wanted to I resisted painting a cream stripe down the black cats back, yes I know I watch too many cartoons! Since I was determined to make the most of the clear blue skies and mid-twenty temperatures I grabbed a rake from the shed and raked up alpaca poo for the last time.

Monday morning and it was back to the painting. There were a few final coats to go on the last pieces of timber but it didn’t take me long and before I knew it I was sucking up poo again. Post lunch I did some fetching and carrying before remembering the poo vac was full. I made the mistake of offering to empty it and therefore spent my afternoon literally shovelling shit. It wasn’t actually that bad but afterwards I was in definite need of a shower and very glad to get one as soon as possible. Whilst washing off the poo smell my hosts previous visitor arrived back. They had been up north and popped in for a few days on their way back south.  When you travel you get used to saying goodbye to people so it’s always nice to be able to say hello again. In the evening I was a bit antisocial as I decided to copy over some files from my hosts laptop on to their external hard drive. After all we all know how important it is to back up your precious photos and important files.

Finally it was my last day on the farm. As soon as I was up and dressed I put on my washing, emptied my bag out ready for re-packing and set up the laptop to finish backing up my hosts files. Then it was down to the shed to change implements on the back of the tractors:; we needed to attach a hook to one and bucket to the other as the butcher was coming to kill some cows as trhe tractors are used to move the carcasses and the nasty not for eating bits. Bad news as this was for the cows it was good news for me as I finally got to drive a proper tractor! We drove them up to the field beside the cows then headed back for a cuppa before the butcher arrived. Since I am a meat eater I decided that I would go and see the cows being killed and watch the butcher at work. He was a good shot and both cows dropped immediately however he also slit their throats to make sure they were really gone. I watched him skin and remove some of the offal but then headed back to check on laptop as there really wasn’t that much else to see. Laptop checked I took in my washing (which had kindly been hung up for me by one of the visitors whilst I was out playing with the tractors) and being me dumped it on my bed for packing later. Since I was technically there to collect fruit I headed out to do a final pick up. I did all 6 blocks of the little fruits (three sweethearts and three mysties)  then headed in for lunch which was another new experience. We had pumpkin soup and it was rather very tasty and worth looking out for in future. I took my last chance to do some baking and made raspberry and white chocolate muffins before heading over to feed the chooks and take some photos of them. On our return from the cook pen  the boys were home and one of them made a self saucing chocolate pudding with one of the visitors who shared the recipe for not only that pudding but a butterscotch version as well! It was at this point that I discovered that I had copied the files from the laptop on to the hard drive in the wrong format. I quick look online and a few command later and I had the drive in the right format! It did mean I had to copy all the files again but it was easy enough to set it going during Australia’s Got Talent (which I am addicted to btw) and leave it so it would backup over night. I just know that Josh’s would have been so amused at my rookie mistake but I fixed it so I am very proud of myself. And so ended my visit on a Queensland passion fruit farm. By this time it was late and I had an early start so it was off to bed. Well after I finished my packing of course, after all you didn’t think I wouldn’t leave it until the last minute did you?! 


Saturday, 4 June 2011

Thoughts on Sad Times

I’m sure it must seem odd to some people that I continue to make my life, thoughts and feelings public by publishing two kinds of posts on my blog regularly. I like that there are so many people back home who care about me and want to know not just where I am and what I’m doing but also how I am doing. There are times when something happens and I wonder if I should post or not. On one hand it goes against my nature to be half assed about this blogging thing by hiding things from you all. On the other hand sometimes things happen in my life that aren’t really my story to tell. I also dislike to post when I’m feeling down as I know those feeling will pass and well, no-one likes a sad face now do they? The thing is I like sharing my life with you and so (as I have in the past) I have decide to post on this difficult subject; besides my usual post will be delayed this week and I’d like you to know why.

Last weekend a friend of mine passed away. I hadn’t known him long. We met in Sydney at the hostel and have a few friends in common. He was English and we had a similar sense of humour, in other words we mostly communicated in sarcasm. I didn’t know him long or as well as most but I knew him well enough to know he was one of the good ones and it’s not fair he’s gone too soon. I knew him long enough to see that he was living his life to the full and for him to remind me that life isn’t a spectators sport. He was a good guy and a mate and I feel for his family and friends who don't deserve this.

As for me, well it’s one of those times when the distance kinda sucks but I’ve been ok. I’ve thought of him often this week and of course I can’t help but be reminded of my own situation and of Josh’s friends and family back home. I’ve been sad, but more for the people he has left behind whose lives will never be the same. The family here have been great. They know about Josh and I think they’ve been keeping an eye on me but I don’t need it. I really am ok. I’m a little bit sadder than usual but even with this fresh grief I find I can keep it separate from my day to day. I’m not sure if that makes me cold or maybe a little schizophrenic but to me it says I’m going to be ok and in fact one day I’m going to be great, just not this week.  I’ll post my goings on from last week in a few days. I’ve been busy and as usual not just fruit picking but for now I’ll finish by saying: Sam, find a tall jewish looking guy with a big nose and make him get you a drink on me x