Thursday, 31 December 2015

Zoo fun

Yesterday I had a zoo visit planned. I can see Taronga Zoo from my place, well where the ferry lands and the greenness of that space. The small girl was to come along, that didn't happen and luckily so with all the throngs of people there. Families, lovely to watch so many of them out and about enjoying their children in such surroundings. I also wanted to take my time so I could enjoy pausing for photographs, very boring for small children. I bought a years pass, suspect we may spend time there together very soon.

Because I had a car I drove and after a few human mishaps I can kind of blame on the satnav, well not really, I arrived in one piece to a full car park. No worries, there's always one more so in I went. It was warm inside, many of the animals sleeping in the shade, in the trees and generally staying away from this stream of daily watchers. The giraffes were majestic and gracious as giraffes are and I managed a couple of shots. The koalas were sleeping in the trees, the gorillas were in their house and the kangaroo was getting very grumpy at all the attention when he just wanted to sleep as well.

I was a little concerned about the seal who was doing laps of his very small pool, the size of some of the enclosures surprised me. Always the flip side with zoos alongside their conservation work and introducing children to animals they may never see in the wild. I do love photographing animals and some of my favourites have been from zoos, like the Antwerp hippo, the New York owl and the Al Ain savannah giraffes and zebras.

This evening there's the sail to a vantage point in the harbour from which to enjoy those amazing fireworks in the company of the best of people on Australia One. Getting very excited now.  So here are a couple of pics from the day out. Hopefully there will be fireworks ones tomorrow.

The zoo view, outstanding spot

Sleepy koala

Peek a boo 

Wednesday, 30 December 2015


So my unspoken goal was to write here each day of my break, unspoken so there would be no expectations. A lovely friend sent me this Shakespeare quote from his amazing sojourn climbing in Spain with his son:

Expectations, societies social and cultural mores that we live by. Family expectations and expectations of family. Letting it roll and enjoying it all as it comes. Not expecting happiness to come from anywhere other than within and being able to share this with others, without expectation.

I've had some discussions lately where unrealistic expectations have set the tone for conflict. In these cases personal conflict, internal and external. Conflict that has enabled me to make decisions for my own story. If one looks at what's happening in our world today, the expectations of one group of people often override the rights of another group. Conflict on that larger stage, creating a story that continues to reverberate through each generation. Power games, politics.

I began to write this post in my head this morning while buzzing around getting ready for the day, the words were there and I didn't sit and write them exactly. So here's my approximate reflections.

From childhood we are told a story of how this life is and how to succeed within it. Setting expectations of how to survive. This story is told by those who went before. This story often didn't take into account how things have changed over time, especially if the story is told and retold inter-generationally. The war and depression stories about working hard for a living rather than for a life. The stories about sin and guilt and judgement. The stories that set life limits.

Today's young people have been raised in different times and I watch in wonder at the confidence and competence of those younger ones I enjoy. My kids and my lovely friends and colleagues who don't limit themselves. You see, they have back up from their parents. The parents of the 70s and 80s, the rebellious teens of earlier times. Who left home early and made their own way, releasing the burden on their post war parents. There was little or no back up then, expectations that if you were female you got married and had children (in that order of course, failed that one) and if you were a man you worked hard to provide for that family.

There are kids who don't have that important support. Following their dreams is more difficult. The newly established and very visible gap between those haves and have not, or have not yet. As a child, I was unaware of these subtleties until I experienced them. Today, it's everywhere. The joys and pitfalls of the media, social and otherwise. Kids are aware of the gaps earlier and with multigenerational unemployment and dysfunction, the stories for some of our young people set very strong limits. Stay and live like your family, be part of this community, or go and be a different person outside of this community.

Some time ago I completed a Master of Education and my thesis focussed on the concept of cultural capital and its stability over time. I had the privilege of interviewing women who were studying while also managing families and working. Within the system they were called second chance learners, where as in reality, this was their first chance. It was humbling hearing their stories, how one had her father violently oppose her study despite the fact that she was in her 40s and married with a family; how a few were pregnant as teenagers and set no expectation for achievement. These were the very best of people, high achievers who were set limits and rose above them over time.

2016 is here in a few day and I must say I have great hope for this year. 2013 was a year of upheaval; 2014 a holding pattern while I regrouped; 2015 abounding with gifts of family and place; 2016 bursting with promise. The limits set by others and their expectations busted in a most wonderful ways. 

Palm Beach

I went for a drive yesterday, heading north to Barrenjoey Head and Palm Beach to enjoy walk 4 in my book. Up to the lighthouse, then a wander and quite possibly a swim. It was completely stunning, a gorgeous day to commune with my surrounds. And so much like my favourite place in New Zealand, the ocean beach on one side, the harbour on the other and a hill to watch over them.

After my wander I wended my way down, planning to stop at a few of the other beaches on the way. I missed a couple in the traffic, watching when I should have been looking, and ended up in Narrabeen. After a quick visit to the Woollies for lunch stuff, I found a beach spot and relaxed there for a while. The sun was hot, the wind cold so this hot house flower decided against a swim. Narrabeen is beautiful, a proper beach community with an amazing lagoon/lake to enjoy as well.

I liberated some shells for my collection, so many the bowl is overflowing, all with stories.

Travel trophies

Palm Beach from Barrenjoey Head track

Sunday, 27 December 2015


I had a small outing today, a drive down the coast to Wollongong. The drive through the Royal National Park was gorgeous, the smell of bush and glimpses of the wild coast. There's plenty of places to wander and best of all, some great mountain bike tracks. I had planned a coastal walk, the blustery southerlies that so decimated the Sydney to Hobart fleet meant it was too unpleasant.

My plan for this short break is to have a staycation, a term I first heard in the Caymans, in Sydney. That is, I'm staying at home and taking some time to explore my surroundings. Since malls and shopping don't interest me, I took to the wilds today. Tomorrow it may just be my most favourite of places to take pics, the zoo.

I played with the sea today. It was beautifully wild, crashing onto the rocks and sending spray over those not quite taking notice. It was cold. Here are some shots, more may follow when I've checked them all out properly.


Wild seas


Tranquility - Hapuku

Saturday, 26 December 2015

December treats

December is quickly rolling past, what a month I've had! Sydney never fails to surprise me. Some people said that it wasn't a friendly place, some that living where I live wasn't as safe as it might be, others that it was expensive. Well, while it is a little expensive, there are plenty of things to do that cost nothing or so very little that the cost is very much worth it. And then there's all the choices of things to do. As for the people, my neighbourhood is really friendly, my neighbours helpful and the others I've met very inclusive of this traveling kiwi. And it is safe, very safe when people know you and you say hello with a smile as you pass.

I'm never one to say no to an adventure or an opportunity. I'm not exactly what people might call risk adverse. And oh don't my best adventures start with taking that risk. With saying yes when others may have hesitated. Take my recent rock climbing expedition, well that sounds a bit more than it was because it was indoors rather than in those amazing Blue Mountain rocks. That's for another day.

I've always wanted to try rock climbing, always thought I was not strong enough in my upper body or that I was a bit on the older side of having a go. Seems I was wrong on both counts. I met a friend who's an experienced climber at the wall, strapped on a harness, had some belaying lessons and off I went. Literally up the wall! Seems that leg strength is the key and I have that. It was so much fun, and something I would like to try outdoors. Overhangs were beyond me this first go, maybe next time.

I've been out on the water a bit too. Heading out on Australia One still thrills me, the majestic lady usually causes a stir with others who understand her history. Last sail we got to watch Wild Oats in action and a couple of other Sydney to Hobart hopefuls. Plus the extreme sailing series with the crazy cats clocking up some serious speed on a short course plus the smaller cats and moths (I think they are more like dragonflies) honking down the harbour. It was exciting at times, dodgem boats.

And today, today's very special treat. A wander down to Rushcutters Bay to see the Sydney to Hobart boats off on their way. There was an air of excitement from the watchers, exclamations as people saw boats they'd heard of. Then there was the cry of a small boy, joined by a smaller boy and his mum.

"Dad, dad, dad!" the little boy frantically waving to a boat in the not too far distance pulling out from its mooring. When the second one joined in and mum, there was a lovely moment as they all saw each other. Dad responding with a big wave, matching the on shore waves and shouts of joy. They kept waving until he was out of sight, mum, sons and a little one looking a bit confused by the emotion.

Then it was a wander home to watch the start from my magical balcony. Such a view, out came the long lens and photos were taken. I quite often miss my tripod here, maybe I was a bit quick to sell it when I left NZ. 108 boats altogether jostling for the line in three waves. Amazing, exciting, especially as I could also watch the close ups on TV. Getting all perspectives. It was fantastic to see the start from up here and I was wishing I hadn't had to off load my granddads precious binoculars on my last trip to play Santa. The zoom lens worked okay.

Best of all was being here for Christmas with the Sydney lovely ones, a second Christmas after the first with the small boy and his mum and dad in Christchurch. Taking over the gifts and enjoying the special way of unwrapping that 18 month olds have. That paper is so much fun! She loved the gifts, taking all the attention in her stride. Then there was the amazing hospitality of the Sydney family related by marriage. A sumptuous lunch with the best plum pudding and brandy butter. Lovely, gracious hospitable and friendly Sydney folks. Mary was a treat, a fellow traveler with similar views and experiences of the world. We have a coffee catch up planned soon.

So, all is very well in my world. I have a borrowed car for this short break and plan to do some Sydney towning around, exploring places I've always wanted to. Like the coastal walks and northern beaches. This has turned into a longer piece than planned, it's nice to be having a break from work writing and the head space to write here. There are work changes for next year, a new team and new role and I'm looking forward to that.

The early morning five cruise ships arrived at once

Chaos! The start of the 2015 Sydney to Hobart from my place