Broken Bay Writers – Stories of NSW Central Coast and beyond

Scribbles on life, the universe and everything… Woy Woy, Ettalong, Umina and teh Central Coast that is!

My Partner has a Mistress…What To Do?

I had never imagined that I would be in a relationship where I had to be concerned about a Mistress as I have a lot to offer. I offer him my unconditional love and feel that love back. But it’s not enough to stave away the Mistress. Not only do I have to agonize about her, she has strength and a seductiveness that cannot be matched.
She clutches my man with determination and stamina that leads me to believe she is the devil herself. Her grasp is at times tender, enveloping him, creating a sense of euphoria, the experience…orgasmic. Suddenly, she digs her nails in; the euphoria is replaced with a primal need. Once again, he is under her spell.
She doesn’t make him happy, in fact the opposite is true; she devours his very soul. This is not love, not the kind of love he and I share, yet still, I know that when I am with him, he is thinking of her.
Their relationship is strong, all consuming, racked with guilt. Not from her, the guilt is reserved for him. She is not just a Mistress; she is an obsession, his obsession.
He has tried to leave her…many times. She gently massages him, drawing him back into her clutches, once again. She offers a hedonic experience. An experience he craves, to the point of thinking of no others.
Who is this Mistress who carries so much power?
Her name…Addiction! An all-consuming food addiction!
How do I compete with his Mistress? I believe. I believe in our love, I believe in his strength to overcome, I believe in him and I support him…unconditionally.

And the Winner Is?

The words everyone likes to hear. St George bank had informed us we were the lucky winners of an overnight stay in Sydney at the InterContinental Hotel including breakfast and tickets to dinner and outdoor cinema in the park.

Our day started at noon  (don’t ask) at Cirular Quay. The sun was shining, Sydney Harbour bustling, we had front row seats as we lunched at the Opera Bar.

The buzz of the Quay is an experience in itself. Watching the ferry traffic, cruise ships and general boating traffic against the backdrop of the Sydney Harbour Bridge is hard to beat, but we were going to try.

We booked onto the 1:30 Thunder jet boats on the harbour. Before departing, the company gives you a poncho to help keep you dry. Great, but I decided to leave my shoes on the dock anyway (good choice) as we watched the previous group disembark and noted they looked as if they had been dunked.

Of course, being the adventurers that we are, we knew we would get wet. That’s what we were there for, so we decided to go for it and ask to sit in the front.

The boat travels at a top speed of 85 km. It flies! We were traveling along at high speed, when we hit a wave, the captain cut the speed causing the bow of the boat to dive. The wave broke right over our heads. Exhilarating! And wet, very wet. I lost my sunglasses and my earrings, that’s how hard the wave hit. Loved it. The ride just got better and better from there, I highly recommend it, but I don’t quite know what the poncho’s were for!

Soaked and high on adrenalin, we did what most Aussies would do, found another bar on Circular Quay and downed a couple of drinks.  Because we are such a shy couple, it was a complete surprise to meet a lovely English couple (from Perth) who were also having a drink two before embarking on their cruise.

Back to our very comfortable room at the InterContinental Hotel to have a well deserved shower before walking the Royal Botanic Gardens waterfront from the Opera House to the outdoor cinema.

Our lovely St George bank host greeted us and showed us our seats in the VIP section on the waterfront. I have no idea why I didn’t take a picture because the view was magical.

After a delicious dinner and far too many glasses of wine, we moved to our VIP seats in front of the outdoor screen.  This screen sits over the water and rises vertically for the shows. Amazing to watch a movie with Sydney Harbour, the silhouette of the cityscape and the Harbour bridge as a backdrop.  And, during the movie, you can see occasional bat fly in front of the screen.

Our movie funny, but I don’t think it would have mattered if it weren’t an interesting movie because it is not about the movie, it’s about the experience, which was enchanting, one that will be hard to beat. Thank you St George’s, we saved the bottle of champagne for another day!

Feel the Fear and Do it Anyway!

Imagine my disgust as a person who strives to be unique and walk to the beat of my own drum, I find myself with the most common phobia known to man…the fear of spiders. Worse yet, it’s not my only fear. There is also the fear of heights, fear of flying, fear of dirt… Wow, that list is long.

I can’t say I have conquered many of my fears, but what I have done is learn to face them. My fear of heights used to be so extreme that I couldn’t stand on a chair. The problem with having this fear is it gets in the way of having fun, if you let it.

Spelunking…I found myself in the situation where I was attached to a rope (or whatever they call it) and was asked to lean over the hole backwards until I was horizontal and then start walking down the side into a 100ft deep hole. I did it and I am damn proud of it.

I have been to mountain tops via the chairlift. Sure I have to concentrate on my breathing, but who would want to miss that view, it’s spectacular! I have ridden in the highest gondola in the world that stretches the longest span. I didn’t look down, but at least I went in it. So much for my fear of heights! I may not stand on the edge of an open cliff, that’s okay, common sense says one should not stand to close to the edge without a safety harness anyway!

My fear of flying most certainly comes from my Mother, as most of my fears probably do. And, I have had some horrible trips in planes, but at least I get on the planes, I didn’t used to. In high school I missed out on trips to Morocco and Paris because I refused to fly so far. As I matured something strange happened, my curiosity to see the world and find out what’s around the next corner got the better of the fear! I didn’t want to miss out on other opportunities to see the world, so I refused to let the fear overcome.

I have flown quite a bit in my lifetime and have learned to practice little things to help me with my anxiety. I must look out the window on takeoff and landing and have the ability to look out the window at any time during the flight. I concentrate on my breathing or else I will forget to breathe and start to feel dizzy. The important thing is, I just do it. Amazingly, I find myself with family in Canada while I live in Australia which necessitates a yearly trip across the ocean. Such is life, I wouldn’t change it for the world.

My fear of dirt definitely comes from my Mother. I was in my 20’s when I learned that most people do not mop their floors three times a day. It was at that time I decided to try to handle small amounts of dirt in my life and not be so concerned with having my house spotless. Unfortunately, it took me many years to learn how to control this phobia. Consequently, I have missed out on many picnics because I couldn’t eat outside where there is dirt and I spent more time cleaning my house than spending quality time playing with my kids. But I am getting better. I now only clean the house once a week, although I still like order, except in closets and drawers where it has become a free for all!

So, why is it that those pesky little spiders still send me in to a panic attack?  The other day Al and I went off to the store. Al was driving. Suddenly a huntsman spider crossed on the outside of our windshield. We had the windows down so Al immediately hit the button to put the windows up. I, in my panic hit the button on top of his finger and pushed harder. I know it doesn’t make the window go up faster, but logic does not come into it when one is dealing with a phobia. The spider decided to go down into the vent on the hood. Our vehicle is fairly new, so it has screens on the vents to filter out air pollution. That fact didn’t’ help me as I struggled to close all the vents inside, pulled my legs up and hyperventilate all at the same time.

Al pulled over as soon as he could. I was out of the vehicle in a shot. Pacing up and down the sidewalk, crying and trying to breathe! It was horrible.

Worse, I now had a choice to make…get back in the car and go home or walk home which was an option because I was not that far from home. I stood for a minute and told myself, “this is an irrational fear, that spider can not harm you” and I got back in the car.

I got back in the car because I understand that irrational fear is a state of mind. It’s okay to be scared, but I can not let that fear rule my life. If I did I wouldn’t be living with the most wonderful man in the world because I had to get on a plane to get here and move to Australia…known for it’s spiders, killer spiders! And, I live in the area where some of those killer spiders live, the feared funnel web.

We made it home without the spider showing itself again. Al, being the honey that he is, got a hose and flushed the huntsman out of the vehicle.

The thing is I know I have to get on top of this fear, after all, what if I had of been driving? I can not cause an accident because of a spider, so I am just going to have to learn.

I have been making baby steps. I went through the spider building at the wildlife park. I never would have done that five years ago. Yes, I have had my house sprayed several times and it’s due for another spray as spiders are showing up in the yard. I try not to let it affect me, but I notice myself choosing to sit inside more often rather than out in our beautiful yard. I will get the yard sprayed again, but I also will continue to work on controlling the strongest emotion of mankind…fear.

It’s okay to be scared as long as one has the courage to not let the fear run their life. For this reason and this reason alone, I am not and will not get on a plane, leave the man I love, the life I have built here, to go home to where spiders are way smaller and much less formidable of an opponent! That would be giving in and that’s just not the way my drum beats…no, it beats my way!

Turning 50 is okay as long as it’s not me!

Two of my best friends are turning 50 in January. My first thought was “how exciting”. But that thought quickly turned sour when I realised why I have two friends turning 50.
I AM GOING TO BE 50 THIS YEAR!
Yes, I realize that when you write in all capital letters, it means you are screaming. I wrote in all capital letters because, well because, I’m screaming!
I just can’t believe 50 years have almost passed. What have I been doing?
Partying, getting married, partying, raising children, partying, working, partying, getting divorced, partying, finding my awesome new partner Al, partying, moving to the other side of the world.
You get the picture, I don’t have to repeat it, life has been pretty good.
I have had several interesting careers, a marriage that lasted 30 years, two very beautiful children that I am very proud of, and who have collectively given me five wonderful, smart, fun Grandchildren, and an exciting new partner for life that has taken me to the other side of the world. Not bad!

Enjoying the good life in Tassie!

So, what’s the problem?
The problem is that I don’t feel 50. I feel like I should be about 25, not 50. But my body betrays me. I still like to have fun and do have fun, but I am much more likely to go home earlier, have a hangover easier, and not be happy with how the clothes are fitting!
Yes, things have changed! I weigh more than I ever have in the past, my hands have age spots, my tummy bulges, my face has wrinkles and I don’t have the stamina I used to have when I was young.
On the other hand, my house isn’t as clean as it used to be (it’s a good thing), I don’t sweat the small stuff, and I notice beauty around me much more often than I used to. I appreciate life and all that it has given me.
Does this mean I am going to give up and get old? Hell no!
I will continue to look for adventure and probably find more challenges while looking for those adventures. I will use moisturiser more often and stay out of the sun when possible. I will continue to try soooo hard to lose that extra 10 pounds, but above all, I will strive to keep on learning.
I look at the last 3rd of my life as a new beginning.
I am blessed to live with a man who spoils me rotten. Now that I’m older, I am going to appreciate it and at the same time take advantage of it.
I am likely to have more grandchildren, but if not, I am more likely to have great grandchildren while I can still have fun with them. Not too soon though Tristan!
I will keep on snorkeling, kayaking and golfing. I might even try to improve my golf game.
I have just embarked on a new career. I will embrace this new career and give it my all, just like I would have done when I was younger, only now my all includes a lot more knowledge.
I have so much to look forward to…like being able to laugh at my many friends that are turning 50 before me since I have about 4 months to go (but who’s counting)! And, I will. I will laugh, but I will celebrate that they are healthy, happy, 50 and still my friends. And, together we will grow older, not gracefully, but kicking and screaming and fighting it the whole way!

Happy Birthday Sherry and Nancy, January 25, 1961, the day two wonderful Goddesses entered the world!

Sherry & Nancy, the Goddesses!

 

No Penguin Tour for You!

After a leisurely (the entire) afternoon drive, Al and I had finally arrived at our destination, Bicheno, Tasmania, population 640 and one penguin tour company. We went straight to the tour company to make sure we could get booked in, but alas, it was booked out! How could this be, this isn’t even tourist season? Apparently, it is bus tour season, because it was a busload of tourists that booked the tours!

Bicheno

The tour operator seemed to genuinely feel bad and told us to just go to the beach at dusk and we would see penguins.
With lots of time on our hands before dusk, we decided to go exploring. There is a wildlife park in Bicheno, being the animals lovers we are, we had to go there. Tasmania has many unique animals such as the tasmanian devil, quolls and bettongs and the wildlife park has them all. The bettong looks like a cross between a rat and a wallaby. It is very small like a rat, but hops like a kangaroo. Very cute!

Bettong

The Eastern quoll is about the size of a cat with a beautiful spotted coat of thick soft fur, but has a head like a rat.

Eastern Quoll

The tasmanian devil reminds me of a little tiny bear, but it has a red mouth. Vicious!

Baby devil at the park

All of these animals are nocturnal so they are not easy to see in the wild. Tasmania is also home to many different kinds of possums, kangaroos, potoroos, wallabys and other animals that roam the night.
After a visit to the zoo we decided to go and see the blowhole. It was quite spectacular when the waves were large.

Blowhole

Being in Tasmania one has to dine on crayfish as it is the local favourite. It was very nice and easily as big as a good size lobster. One thing I didn’t get to try while in Tassie was the abalone. Tasmania has abalone farms. Considering that abalone has been illegal in Canada since the 80’s, I wanted to have my chance to try it again. I was told it was only available in restaurants in Hobart. By the time we got to Hobart, we were tired and did not dine out in a restaurant with abalone. Next time!
Finally dusk had arrived, we went to the beach and waited and waited and waited.

Waiting

It was not a warm day, in fact it was quite cold. Finally there is was…a tiny fairy penguin.

fairy penguin

So cute! We decided to go back to the blowhole because that is where most locals had said we could see the penguins, they were right. There were tons of them coming out of the water to make their way up the beach for the night. It amazes me that they come in to the rocky shores even when the waves are pounding. It doesn’t seem to bother them at all. They mutter and mew amongst themselves and if a person gets too close they hiss and growl, which I found quite amusing because they are extremely harmless and small and very very cute. I guess they figure if they sound big, they will be safe!
After spending far too long with the fairy penguins, we decided we had better hit the road for the one and a half hour drive back, or so we thought that was how long it would take. It took way longer!
Why, because there was as many animals on the road as there was in the wildlife park. I am sure of it. It was a slow process so as not to add to the amazingly large amounts of road kill one sees in Tasmania. We saw two wallabies, kangaroos, many possums (too many to count), and tons of frogs! Because Al was driving so slow, we managed to snake our way through all of them without mishap.
We were driving over a bridge when I glanced to the side and there sitting on the stringer was a devil. I started screaming to Al, it’s a devil, it’s a devil!

Devils

Al being the sweetheart he is, turned the car around to take a second look. Sure enough, there was a tasmanian devil sitting on the side of the bridge. When we pulled up he growled and barred his teeth at us. He was not pleased with being disturbed. Very vicious looking and yet still incredibly cute. Most Australians will go their entire lifetime without seeing a devil in the wild and here we were, sitting on a bridge, in the dark, out in the middle of nowhere, looking at a wild devil. Lucky, lucky lucky! What an extraordinary day!

 

Competition is knocking at your door Australia!

In the news today, Australia’s big retailers are calling for GST to be charged to online shoppers.Their reason is to create a “level playing field”. But, GST will not create a level playing field. When you can buy an item online for $300 instead of paying $800 in an Australian store, GST is off no consequence. I did just that last year when buying a watch for Christmas.

As a savy shopper, I researched before purchasing. I was mildly surprised to find the watch price range from $600 – $800 in retail outlets around Sydney. It didn’t seem to matter whether it was a big retailer or small, and none of these prices were a “sale price”. In fact I found the watch at a lower regular price in a jewellery store, than on sale at Myers! There is no excuse for such an excessive difference in price, someone is gouging!

What drove me to shop online? Not just the gouging, but the attitude of the retailers! I would ask if the watch was coming on sale and get rude comments back such as “these watches never go on sale”, only to find the watch on sale at the same retailer just days later!
Several times I walked out of a store because I couldn’t find anyone willing to help me!

Disturbed with the lack of customer service, but not to be dissuaded, I decided to research the watch online. I was not just pleasantly surprised, but shocked at the price difference. At $300, I was sold! I already have a paypal account, so it took me minutes to purchase the watch through ebay. It arrived at my doorstep within 3 days, well packaged and intact!

Welcome to the world of competition Australia.

My suggestion to the retailers of Australia, online shopping is a trend that cannot be bucked. It is here to stay. Either jump on the bandwagon and become an online presence or get left behind. Shopping online has hit Australia. It is only good business sense to listen to what your customers are asking for, they want online shopping and if they are visiting your store, they want the experience to be pleasant. That means increasing your level of customer service.

Competition is knocking at your door Australia, not just online shopping, but also large well known retailers are moving into Oz, such as Gap and they bring a superior level of customer service with them. It is time for Australian retailers to step up and compete or watch your sales plummet as these “foreign” retailers take hold of the market by offering a pleasant shopping experience. Good customer service is not difficult, just be authentic, know your product and show you care. The attitude of “that’s not my department” just doesn’t cut it anymore.

For whatever reason, retailers seem to have forgotten that it’s not all about you, it’s about what your customers want. The sooner you acknowledge and move towards filling their needs, the faster you will move forward!
It’s a sign of the times!

Customer service, alive and well in Tassie.

Tasmanians know customer service. They understand the importance of being authentic and genuine. And, we experienced it over and over again in our short time in Tasmania.
When in Bicheno, we wanted to do the penguin tour. It ended up being booked out, although the guy that worked there had told us we could just go to the beach at dusk. He wasn’t worried about the sale, he was concerned about our experience. And it was genuine concern. It was evident he really wanted us to experience seeing fairy penguins. He was not alone, we felt the same level of service wherever we went in Tassie.
After leaving the penguin tour place we went next door to the coffee shop to drown our sorrows over cappuccinos. The waitress immediately struck up a conversation with us by asking where we were from. She then went on to tell us that we would definitely see fairy penguins if we went to the blowhole later. She also gave us another location where we could see them. In fact she went as far as to show us on a local map. She also told us we would need a torch (flashlight) because the trails have many tripping hazards after dark, so after our very nice coffee we went across the street to the loghouse store to buy a torch.
Immediately the couple that ran the store struck up a conversation with us. Turns out they have been to Canada. They loved it and wanted to share their experience with us. The difference is that they were just as interested in our Tasmanian experience and how they could help to make it better. Once again, people who knew what customer service is all about.
We stayed at two B&B’s when in Tassie. Both were great and both understood the importance of the experience. I would say the same for the hotel we stayed in while in Hobart!
Tasmanian customer service was a refreshing surprise. I can’t wait to return to visit the rest of Tassie. It’s on my list!

The Way to Travel

The most civilised way to start any trip is to check in at the airport and then wait for your flight in the airport lounge. Now I know that not everybody can have lounge access, but if you can, do! We belong to Qantas lounge as Al travels frequently enough and works for such a nice company, they pay for the privilege. This means comfy seats, a glass of wine or two, some nibbleys, showers if required, nice bathrooms and lots of newspaper, magazines, or anything else you would like to read. Oh, did I mention computers?
Okay, those who fly business and first class will laugh at my little extravagance of the lounge, but at least I get to sit with them for a short time!
The trip to Tasmania is uneventful which are the best kind! We arrived late afternoon, picked up a rental car and headed for a little riverside town called Orford.
The beginning of our drive reminded me of home. The landscape is of beautiful rolling hills and farms, not unlike BC’s interior in the spring.

The spectacular views

We stayed at the cutest B&B in Orford, a 1840 Heritage house called Sanda House (www.sandahouse.com.au).

Sanda house

Peter & Linda were lovely hosts and we enjoyed playing with the family dog, a beautiful young black lab called Chester.

Chester

I must mention Linda’s homemade jams. They were delectable as was the gluten free bread!
After a very restful sleep, we decided to try out the local golf course. Peter was kind enough to supply us with clubs.

 

Look at the views behind us!

The 9-hole course was a delightful surprise with it’s views of the coast and ideal playing conditions. Al played well, really well. I….didn’t! Oh well, next time!

Al going nowhere!

First impression of Tasmania…beautiful scenery, lots of logging, dramatic coastline and friendly, authentic people! What a delight.

Opium, are you Kidding?

One can not travel to Tasmania without a trip to see Fairy Penguins. Therefore Al and I set out for a 2-hour drive from Orford to a little town called Bicheno located on the East Coast of Tassie. This little town is where we could join a penguin tour, or so we thought.

Enjoying the view

We had thought the drive would only be one-two hours, but there is just too much to see! We followed the coastline dotted with cute little towns and spectacular white sandy beaches, but the draw for us was the boutique wineries along the way.

What are wine barrels for?

The cauldron holds...

We just had to stop and sample the wine. Or, at least I did, poor Al had to drive!
We also came across this funky bridge called “spiky bridge”.

Here's your sign!

It was built by convicts in 1843.

How cool is that bridge!

Some say it was built spiky so that sheep couldn’t jump off, I like to think that the convicts were being “cheeky” and built it that way just to make a statement about having to build a bridge in the middle of nowhere while in chains! Either way, the bridge is beautiful, more like a piece of art than a bridge.
In the small town of Swansea (what a pretty name for a town) I had to stop and take a picture of the logging equipment.

The yard

Machinery

It seemed so out of place, but it really isn’t when in Tasmania. Logging is common and really much of the traffic we passed were loaded logging trucks. Sniff, sniff, makes one homesick!
We stopped at St John the Baptist, Parish of Buckland.

Let me in!

One cute church

I am telling the truth, Al stopped at a church. Okay, this church isn’t just a regular church, it is made from local sandstone, features the oldest stain glass window in Australia and is believed to date back to the 14th century. The cool thing about this church (other than the graveyard surrounding it) is that it is unlocked. You can just walk in!

We also saw sheep. Not just a few sheep, but field after field of sheep, unless it was a field of poppies.

Grow opium!

Yes, poppies, many poppies! Why poppies? Because Tasmania is the worlds largest producer of opium alkaloids for the pharmaceutical market. Welcome to Tasmania, isn’t it quaint?

I Hear That Train a Comin!

Australia has an amazing system of public transport, trains! Which means, for the first time in my life I have been reliant on trains, therfore I have had to learn how to read train schedules, as well as bus schedules (go ahead, call me a small town girl), that connect with the correct trains. It has been a steep learning curve, but fun.

Just finding out which exit will suit you best when at Central Station is difficult, but trying to find the next train is even more difficult, especially when you are not sure if it’s the Eastern Suburbs, a city circle or maybe even a country train. I have learned to go to the big electronic boards, look for my destination, figure out which train system it’s on and then stress about where the platform might be as Central has three levels of platforms!

Speaking of trains, did you know that here in Australia there is a carriage called the guards carriage? This is where you will find the guard in case you have problems or it is late at night and you don’t feel comfortable traveling on the train alone.

How do you know which one is the guards carriage? There is a blue light on the exterior of the carriage. Apparently everyone knows this means there is a guard in that carriage. I wonder if tourists know that, because I sure didn’t?

Speaking of which, I always wonder how the tourists know where to buy their tickets, which tickets to buy and the most important thing…hang onto the ticket because you are going to need it to exit the train station on the other end! Maybe it’s just me, but this is all stuff I have had to learn being a “newbie” at train travel.

I have grown to enjoy train travel as long as I get a seat. If I have to stand, I of course, don’t enjoy that. I actually don’t mind so much as long as people are not taking up seats with luggage, purses or other paraphernalia that they think will keep the seat free for their use. I feel that when city rail personnel come through the train to check tickets, they should charge people that are using more than one seat if they don’t have an extra ticket for the extra seat. This would quickly stop the rude people that take up more than one seat!

For the most part, I am liking the train. It is inexpensive, a great place to people watch, enjoy the scenery or immerse yourself in what can end up being a very quirky conversation with fellow train travellers!