Tuesday, October 31, 2023


 Sorry, I don't get Halloween - not in the American sense of the day. I don't get why people get all dressed up, do their houses up with pumpkins and skeletons and cobwebs and make a big to do of it. 

I do understand All Hallows Eve, the day in which the veil between the living and the dead is at its thinnest. I get All Souls Day and Dios di Muertos - or the day of the dead, which follows All Hallows Eve. I rather like the thought of the Day of the Dead, as its celebrated in Middle and South America. It Looks great fun. 

But I still don't and will never get Halloween. Particularly in Australia. Maybe it's because if it was ever brought up with my parents it was shouted down as American crap. I have friends who spent some of their childhood in America and they see it as one of the best days of the year. 

In my suburb, there is a house around the corner owned by goths. They've lovely people. I've often had a chat with the family on the way home from work. They just have a different aesthetic to most and live the lifestyle every day of the year, up to the gargoyles on top of their roof. I'll let them do Halloween. It makes them happy. 

But for the rest of the population, I still don't get it. Driving through the suburb at 5 pm this evening, I watched as perplexed forty-somethings took their young children out trick or treating. I'm not sure what the rules are. Do you and your costumed progeny approach only the decorated house, or chance your arm at any place? What do they do with the older kids - can they go without parents? Isn't this just another excuse for kids to muck up.

I don't get Halloween. It's never been a part of my zeitgeist. I don't think I'll ever understand it. 

Monday, October 30, 2023


 Last night I went to Blarney's place and they fed me dinner. It looked like a nice dinner. Fried rice and chicken. Yum. 

I had about two bites, before my nose started running and my chest began to heave. 

This is the second time this has happened to me - the last time it was just before I went away, Barney was cooking a curry and I ended up hawking a lung.

So here I am thinking that I may have become allergic to chilli - as that is the only thing in common with what was cooking a few weeks ago and last night. It was a near instant 

The coughing abated after an hour. 

But I woke up this morning with an aching chest. I was a few hours into the day and I had to go buy some ventolin. The one I had on me had expired.

Over the day, I was feeling ropier. By 5 p.m.I was on the couch, trying to get up. 

I've fortified myself with panadol and ventolin. 

The covid test came back negative, but I'll test again in the morning. If I'm still feeling crap in the morning I'll make a doctor's appointment. 

Being sick sucks. 

Off to bed now.

Today's song: 

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Movie Review: Dumb Money

 Movie Number 35 of 2023

The Movie: Dumb Money

The Cinema: Hoyts Victoria Gardens

Stars: 4

File this one under "based on a true story", "awesome cast" and "killer soundtrack", all elements of an entertaining film. This one came my way as a Saturday night diversion, and I was thoroughly entertained throughout. I also loved the stick it to the big man storyline, which was engrossing as it was laugh out loud funny at times. 

So, what's it about? Dumb money is the term that the big end of town use to describe Mum and Dad investors. Where the hedge funds and stockbrokers are used to dealing with multi-million-dollar trades. Where the big end of town can crash a stock if they want, the ordinary investor normally has no say. 

Until 2020, when a small-scale investor, who publishes his positions on Reddit, starts a run on GameStop stock. 

RottenTomatoes.com describes the film as, "... is the ultimate David vs. Goliath tale, based on the insane true story of everyday people who flipped the script on Wall Street and got rich by turning GameStop (yes, the mall videogame store) into the world's hottest company. In the middle of everything is regular guy Keith Gill (Paul Dano), who starts it all by sinking his life savings into the stock and posting about it. When his social posts start blowing up, so does his life and the lives of everyone following him. As a stock tip becomes a movement, everyone gets rich - until the billionaires fight back, and both sides find their worlds turned upside down."

What I loved about this was you got to see both ends of town. The multi-millionaire Hedge fund guys (Nick Offerman, Seth Rogan and Sebastian Stan) fighting to keep their heads above water, while the little guys, battling away at the bottom, who are just looking to make life a bit easier. Keith Gill (Paul Dano) who leads this merry band on their way with his stock tip. His wife, Caroline (Shailene Woodley) is supportive, but incredulous as to what a group of people can do, given the will and a sense of humour. 

There are the slackers, Keith's brother, (Pete Davidson) the kid who works at GameStop (Anthony Ramos), the nurse (America Ferrera) and the debt-ridden students (Myha'la Herrold and Talia Ryder), all having their reasons for wanting to get into the stock market and stay there. 

I have to say, I loved this movie. Not only was it a case of David beating Goliath, but it was great fun. The normal people, the family dynamics, the money-men finally being got by the balls. You end up cheering in your seat. 

Craig Gillespie, whose direction is responsible for movies like Cruella, I, Tonya and the indie sleeper Lars and the Real Girl keeps the movie going at a pace which keeps your interest, while explaining the market in a way laymen can understand. 

The soundtrack is also fantastic, with bangers from Cardi B, Mark Batson and the White Stripes keeping things upbeat. 

Nobody is going to see this, but it's definitely worth a look if you're after a laugh. 

Saturday, October 28, 2023

Sunday Stealing: LEP Autumn

 It's Saturday night and I have stuff to do. The jet lag has finally abated and I am feeling much better about things. Jet lag plays with your head. It's insidious. 

Anyway, I'm going to get the Sunday questions out of the way early so I can enjoy the weekend. It's a nice weekend - a bit windy, but that is Spring in Melbourne. 

Questions, as always, come from Bev at Sunday Stealing

1 Do you decorate for Autumn?

No. Why would I do that? It's never been on my radar. Oh, and if you mean for Halloween, I'm Australian, Halloween isn't as big a thing as it is in America. 

2. How often do you clean out your closets?

It's an ongoing concern. I move things on pretty regularly, but things then take their place. 

3. When is the last time you planned a surprise for someone?

I can't remember. I put some records in the mail for some friends in France the other day. They might be surprised to receive them. Not everybody is into surprises. 

4. Are there foods you really don’t like?

Bananas. Slimy, fickle things that they are. I don't mind banana lollies, and bananas in pancakes in Bali are fine, but that is about it. I avoid them. Most other fruit is fine. 

5. What is something you recently learned?

I'm a lot more confident when I'm speaking in French. It's strange, but I feel strangely powerful. 

6. Items you’re most likely to buy at a convenience store.

Things I buy at the local 7/11 (which is a chain convenience store over here)

  • Ice cream
  • Potato chips
  • A pre-made sandwich
  • Ice cream
  • Refills for my soda water pump (Soda stream)
  • Petrol (gas - as most 7/11s are also petrol/gas stations).

7. Do you believe in the paranormal?

Paranormal is in ghosts - yes - I'm good with that, Much more than that and I'll leave it. Ghosts are about, but they don't do much most of the time, thank goodness. 

8. How would you describe your spirituality?

I am spiritual, but not religious. I have no religious affiliations, but I do believe in a big G God. I read tarot. I feel energies, and work with them in a healing practice. I'm comfortable with that - it doesn't affect anybody else. 

9. Do you make plans far in advance?

Depends on what plans. Holidays, I plan far in advance normally, otherwise, I plan a week or so out, and leave it at that. My calendar books out pretty quickly. 

10. Do you like being scared for fun?

Not really. I'm not into horror films or anything like that. A mild thriller is about as far as I go. 

11. What has been difficult for you lately?

I'm really lucky as things have been pretty smooth of late. Long may that remain. Work has had its challenges, but that is the nature of work. There were a few hiccoughs on holiday, but they were just that - small bumps. I find that life is often a matter of how you look at things. 

12. Have you ever written or read fanfiction?

I have read some fanfiction, but never felt the need to write it. It makes those who write fanfiction very happy, and that is good for them. It's all reading and writing and this is a good thing. 

13. What type of wall art do you have in your home?

I have some posters and water colours on the wall, plus a few trinkets from my travels. That will do. 

14. Are you more likely to be private or overshare?

Despite the fact that a bit comes out about me in this blog, I am still pretty private. I've got strict boundaries that I adhere to. 

15. What have you recently learned to live without?

A life in Europe. Going back there has made me mourn it all the more. I loved living in London and I felt right at home in France. It's got me thinking. 

Today's song: 

Friday, October 27, 2023

Theatre Review: My Sister Jill

 The Play: My Sister Jill

The Company: Melbourne Theatre Company

The Theatre: The Sumner Theatre Southbank

Stars: 4

Closing 28 October

I was keen to see this play mostly because I was curious as to how Angourie Rice, normally known as a screen actress, would translate her skills to the stage. 

But after a few minutes of watching this play I was pleasantly surprised by not only Rice, but the rest of the ensemble were great. There was nothing to worry about, and I settled into the hour and forty-minute play about fractured families, all the while knowing that elements of this rang very true and close to the bone. 

My Sister Jill is not just about the character of Jill. It's a coming of age story for all of the younger characters. 

The play starts in the late 50s. Christine (Angourie Rice) is negotiating the difficult family dynamics she lives on a daily basis. There's Dad (Ian Bliss) a returned prisoner of war, struggling with PTSD and terrorising his family in equal measure. The's the long-suffering Mum (Maude Davey) who's trying to keep the family together. Christine's brothers, Johnny (James O'Connell), Door (Benjamin Nichol) and Mouse (Zachary Pidd) all have difficult relationships with their father, who is caring, distant and violent in equal measure. It's Jill (Lucy Goleby) who has her father's measure, treating him like the monster he is.

As the play progresses, we see how the children's views on their father change as they age. The Vietnam war arrives, and the boys face conscription. Jill's views on the war are polar opposite to those of her father. Mum still struggles to keep the family together. 

For me, Patricia Cornelius's script and Susie Dee's directing were spot on. Coming from a dysfunctional family, I could understand what it is to live under the rule of an irrational male, so deeply flawed, and nothing can be done to change the situation. The staging and lighting were understated - just as the times demanded.

This was a treat. Thought-provoking, and at times, a little close to the bone as we witnessed the family endure the non-sensical tirades of their mentally unstable father. 

This closes tomorrow, that this play is a sleeper hit for what is a very good Melbourne Theatre Company season. 

Today's song: 

Thursday, October 26, 2023

My Night

 My ironing is nearly done. The pile was huge, but three nights of chipping away at it means it's almost done. The cat will miss his bed. Once the ironing is done and the clothes are put away, the holiday is officially over. 

I've left it as long as I could. 

I'm watching the David Beckham documentary on Netflix. I forgot how cute he was when he was younger. Pity he opens his mouth. (and at least he knows he's as thick as a brick). 

The cat is asleep under his blanket. Nothing new there. 

I'm contemplating doing NaNoWriMo. I want to do NaNoWriMo. I've done it before - got the 50000 works in a month out. It just takes discipline. I write here every day, what's another 1600 words if fiction? the writer's retreat has put a bit of fire in my belly to get writing fiction again. Now that the jet lag has all but abated, it is time. I feel a lot more supported now. 

Three more items and the ironing has finished. 

The cat is still asleep on the bed - not the ironing pile., 

The David Beckham documentary goes on. I remember a lot of this stuff, as I was living in London at the time. 

There is a pink kettle bell in the middle of my lounge room floor. It needs to be put away before I trip over it. 

It's time for bed.

Today's song. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

What they don't tell you about jet lag

 I've not had proper jet lag for a number of years. Most of my trips have been short, to places like Bali or New Zealand. There's only a couple of hours difference between the places, and though the jet lag has a bit of a kick, it's over in a day or so. 

This is now day four. 

The fourth day of microsleeps and nodding off at my desk and not being able to follow a conversation, or sit in one space without yawning. It's the need to lie down every couple of hours so that you can carry on after 15 minutes. 

It is abating, but still. 

Over it. 

Off to bed to see if it will go away quicker. 

Today's song: 

Tuesday, October 24, 2023

The struggle is real

 Jet lag is a bugger. 

Jet lag has you falling asleep and waking up at inconvenient times. Like in book group. And at work. 

Tomorrow will be interesting as I'm off to the office for the day. 

And nothing much is getting done, which is why I'm signing off this blog early. 

Because I am jet lagged. 

And it's not fun.

Today's song: 

Monday, October 23, 2023


 Lucifer went missing tonight. 

It was dinner time. I put out his wet food at 6.30 as per usual. I called him. He didn't come. I tapped on a can of baked beans. He didn't come. He's not the most food-driven of beasts, but he normally comes out for his wet food, tail upright and vibrating. 

Not tonight. 

He's spent half of the afternoon snuggled up to me. I took a half day as I'm being kicked around by jetlag and I'm no use to anybody. This gave me some time and space to sleep and do the washing. I had a bag full of clothes that smelled like feet, so I was up and down to the clothesline a few times. 

And I slept for most of the afternoon. 

But he didn't come out for his dinner. 

I called him. Silence. 

I looked in all of his favourite hiding places. Nothing. 

And then I saw the door was open and the screen door was off the latch. Shit!

I went up and down the stairs, looking. Thankfully the stairwell door was shut. But no sign of the cat. 

I went out shut the door and had a look around the flats, calling first by his name, then by his dead name (Reggie - a name he will respond to on occasion) Zip. Nada. 

I cancelled my online personal training session. I was too distraught. 

He's never been outside unless he's in his carrier. He's never see a car outside his car carrier. He's unfriendly and probably has no road sense. 

I was in a state. 

I checked the flat again, then the stairwell, then another lap of outside. 

An hour later, I flopped down on my bed, crying and exhausted. Should I knock at the neighbours, see if they'd seen him. Should I put notes up around the flats? Should I call the RSPCA? He'd probably only been gone an hour, but I've not felt fear like this ever. It's like losing a child at a shopping centre. 

So, I lay crying on my bed with worry and fear. 

And the cretin walks out of the cupboard. 

He's fine. He was in the cupboard. 

Little prick. 

Today's song: 

Sunday, October 22, 2023

Sunday Stealing - LEP

I'm sitting here waiting for my bag to be delivered from the airport, 24 hours after arriving home. Thankfully, on the way back home I had a change of clothes, a toothbrush and some basic toiletries with me, so a shower at the Qantas lounge could help me feel a bit better after 40 hours on the road. 

I'm tired, but I'm hoping that I won't suffer from jet lag too badly - I had six hours sleep last night, and I'm taking it easy today. 

I've also got two other blog posts to catch up on, so best get this one out of the way.

Questions, as always, come from Bev at Sunday Stealing

1. October reading & writing goals and plans

Now that I'm back from my holiday I'm wanting to start back up on my novel. I've got my blogging habit firmly established, but I really want to do what I've promised myself and get that novel back and underway. I'm dedicating firstly 15 minutes every day, of a morning, to get this off the ground. Doesn't sound much? It's amazing what you can do in 15 minutes. 

2. Something I did that totally paid off

This trip to Europe. It cost a lot, but I got SOOOOO much out of it. I reconnected with old friends, made new ones and found myself again. Holidays are great, but finding out who you are is even better. I forgot how much I like myself. 

3. I want to see this make a comeback

Learning languages at school. I'm lucky. I love languages, and my love of the French language, combined with a bit of dedication meant that I had a great time in France because I could talk to people freely. Learning languages is a great thing. In Australia, it's not encouraged enough. 

4. Generational traits I really value

I have a protestant work ethic. Does this count? 

5. Changes I’d like to see in my daily environment

Oh, I'm just back from a holiday and there are so many changes I want to make, not only to my environment, but to myself. I spent yesterday cleaning the flat before Lucifer came home, as the painters had been in and left the place really dusty. I want to keep the floors clean. I also want to declutter the place. I've started it,but will get on with it over the next few months. 

6. Favorite soup dishes

I love French Onion soup, but after this trip to France, I'm going to be avoiding cheese and butter for a good couple of months. 

I make a mean roasted pumpkin soup. Pumpkin, in Australia, is a savoury thing, best served roasted, in soups, salads or with a roast. 

7. Start with the best part, or save the best for last

Definitely save the best for last.

8. The most chaotic part of my daily life

I would say all of it but give me a few hours to when my bag comes back from it's epic trip around the world and look at it explode and what my flat is going to look like. I'm not looking forward to this - although will relish the salted caramel sweets I bought in St Malo. And looking at the numerous souvenirs bought over the last three weeks. 

9. If I could only eat 10 things, I’d pick:

  • Eggs
  • Chicken
  • Fresh green veggies
  • Berries
  • Ice cream
  • French butter
  • Cheese
  • Potatoes (normal or sweet potatoes)
  • Mum's roast lamb
  • Bahn mi

10. What Autumn feels like where I live

Autumn is six months away, where I am at the moment, but Autumn, in Melbourne, is pretty wonderful. The leaves turn, the days are often bright, bit it's quite a bit cooler than it has been. The odd rainy day is interspersed with lovely, sunny, clear days. Autumn is my favourite season. 

11. The teacher who would be most proud of me

I wish I could see my old high school French teacher, Miss Filmer, just how well I did in France this trip with the language. I'm naturally a polyglot, languages have always come easily to me, but this trip was something else. I put in the work, doing 20 minutes a day on Duolingo, but now I'm back, I'm thinking about finding a local French conversation group to see if I can keep this up. I've got no idea when I'll be in France again, but I really hope it's soon. 

12. My go to Halloween snacks & treats 

I'm Australian and I don't have kids. Halloween is an American thing, so we don't have the traditions. Long may that remain. 

13. 10 ways my life is great right now

I have a lot to be thankful for. So, in no order. 

  1. I've just had an overseas holiday and it was fantastic. 
  2. My cat is starting to like me again, after three weeks at Aunty Jays. (There is a blog post in this :) )
  3. I'm healthy. 
  4. I have been extended in my job for another year. 
  5. I get to travel. 
  6. I have wonderful friends. 
  7. I can speak another language well enough to not piss of the locals. 
  8. I'm solvent and other thank a small amount left on my car (which will be paid off my Christmas) I'm almost debt free. 
  9. I really like myself. That takes a bit to say, but I do. 
  10. I've proven to myself that I can drive a manual, left-hand drive on the road, in a foreign country and not have an accident. Very proud of myself for this. Thanks to Reindert for being calm and patient with me. 

14. A perfect day indoors looks like…

Lots of reading and writing and watching telly and maybe cooking, and eating lovely food and if there are cuddles, even better. 

15. Pumpkin spice…

is a strange American concept which I do not understand. While in France, I was not immune to going to Starbucks (god help me, but sometimes you want a coffee that reminds you of a coffee at home - and Starbucks it was.) Needless to stay, there was all of this PSL (Pumpkin Spiced Latte) stuff around. I offered to get Reindert one - he said if I did I could walk back to Paris. We were in Picardy at the time. Reindert lives in Colorado and he thinks pumpkin spiced anything is an abomination. 

Today's song: 

Saturday, October 21, 2023

The Long Way Back

Hi Qantas, 

I think we need to have a little talk. 

After many years with you, going out there to defend you, even when some of your practices have been next to reprehensible, I still think we should have a chat about the last 48 hours. 

I'm not going to break up with you, no chance there, but I'm really disappointed in some of your practices which you may wish to address. 

To say it's been interesting is an understatement. 

So here we go. As with all shit sandwiches, I'm going to start with the good. 

Your staff are phenomenal. Friendly, courteous and helpful, both on domestic and international legs. I can't fault them. 

After nearly having to beg for water on my Emirates flights from verging on surly cabin crew, it was a joy to have the crew regularly walking around the cabin with offerings of water, apples and Tim Tims between meal services on the overnight flight. The food wasn't bad. The girl sitting next to me was horrified by her vegan meal but was much happier with the vegetarian option offered in lieu of the other muck (She didn't know that on international flights there is always this option on international flights). Absolutely no issue with the cabin crew. Particular thanks to Randy, who kept an eye on me after arriving on the plane flustered, as I was the last one onto the Hong Kong flight. He checked in regularly to see all was fine.

The thing is, Randy should not have had to do this. 

Which is where we get to the middle of the shit sandwich. 

I booked this flight on Frequent Flyer points well over six months ago. 

I chose the option to fly from Paris Charles de Gaulle, through to Helsinki, then to Hong Kong, then straight back to Melbourne. 

Seems convoluted, but my other options were to first return to London and fly Emirates, but the thought of facing Heathrow was as appealing as taking a flight from the Gold Coast to Bali. I could have gone on South China Airlines, which didn't appeal. I'd heard good things about Finnair. They are amazing. And the two hours I spent in Helsinki airport was easy and calm. 

I was also looking forward to a few hours in Hong Kong, another place I'd happily spend a few more weeks. I'm good with Hong Kong airport. You'd think another two-hour transfer, then back to Melbourne - yes, it's a long trip, but all good. 

What I didn't like, at all, was the change that got made about a month after I booked, which gave me a 45-minute stop in Hong Kong to get on a flight to Sydney followed by a domestic hop to Melbourne. 

45 minutes to get off a long-haul flight, clear immigration and customs and get on another plane. 

Forty-five minutes!

Since when is a forty-five minute international stopover a thing? 

People asked me why I booked this way home. Did I use a travel agent? No, I didn't book it - you did this. You, in your infinite wisdom, said that it was feasible to get off a plane from Helsinki at one end of the airport, get through Hong Kong immigration, get through Hong Kong security and get on another plane in another part of the airport in 45 minutes. 


So, in your defense, you had the Finnair crew move me up to Premium Economy for the last hour of the Helsinki-Hong Kong flight in preparation for being escorted through the airport by ground crew. 

On the ground, I was asked to run to immigration, where I was expedited through a cursory passport check. Then I was asked to run to the security check. And then I was asked to run to the gate, where I was the last person on board. 

Firstly, I don't run. I can run but not carting a seven-kilogram backpack after already being on the road for close on 30 hours. Running is not something I could do in this situation. But what if I was incapacitated - or couldn't walk fast for whatever reason? Are you expecting people to do this? Get real!

On boarding the plane a few minutes late, the crew were great, but you're still doing the walk of shame. In my case, I was in the second to last row. 

It felt like a walk of shame. It did feel humiliating, not that I had any say over this. 

Thirdly, I manage anxiety. It's under control, but the stress of having to get from one plane to another, under escort, set me right on edge. Again, thanks to Randy for keeping me calm and checking up on me regularly. This angst and duress would be lessened if I had a more reasonable transfer time. 

I made the flight. My bag made it home 36 hours later. I was warned about this by the fellow who escorted me to the Sydney flight. 

There are a number of things that could have made this a much better experience. 

Instead of just putting me on that next plane with the extra leg to Melbourne, you could have telephoned to discuss options. I know I'm just the pleb using Frequent Flyer points, but a call, an email - something to give alternatives would have been appreciated. Given the choice, I would have been happy to wait a few more hours to get a direct flight to Melbourne, where my bag could have made it on the same plane. (Speaking to the courier who dropped off my bag, something like 400 bags a day don't make their destination because of daft transfer times in Melbourne alone - think of the money you might save!)

Secondly, what would have happened if I was incapacitated - if I couldn't walk faster than a stroll? I'm fit and healthy, but what if I wasn't? You make the presumption that this middle-aged woman was capable of making this happen. Many of us are not physically able to do this. I think it's presumptuous that think everybody can do this. You must be aware of the stress you are inflicting on people. 

And yes, 36 hours on, my bag has been safely returned, but yesterday, an hour was added to my day dealing with Baggage Services - who were once again pleasant and professional, but again, could have, and should have, been unnecessary. 

And I won't complain about the migraine-inducing flickering light above me on the flight back to Melbourne (or the fact my seat back monitor was not working, despite a system reset). Thankfully engineering came, gave the recalcitrant light a tinker, then covered it over with duct tape (how Australian bush engineering of you.) The bottle of wine gifted at the end of the flight was welcomed - but unnecessary. Lights flicker and tellies, don't work. It happens.

And I'll keep my opinions of how your fleet are looking rather tired and in need of some tender loving care.

I'm mostly disappointed about the ludicrous forty-five minute transfer in Hong Kong. It was just ridiculous. 

As a frequent flyer, I have more expectations of you, as a company, especially for knowing what is reasonable and providing better communications about options. 

And I'll end this shit sandwich on a good note. 

I'm grateful for the complimentary lounge pass that allowed me to have a shower in Sydney before hopping on the flight to Melbourne. The facilities were great, the towels white and fluffy and nothing tastes better than you toasted sandwiches (but the food is better in the Darwin lounge and the Melbourne lounge has the best Bloody Mary's ever.)

And I'll reiterate that your cabin crew are fantastic. Always have been, always will be. 

But seriously, look at your international transfer times. The computer should be saying no to anything under an hour and a half transfer in major hubs. 

I'm very happy to discuss this further. 



Today's song:

Friday, October 20, 2023


The days looked like this. 

Left St Malo at 10.30 for Paris. About a 400 kilometre drive. I'm proud of myself because 1) I drove half the way 2) in a manual left hand drive car and 3) Reindert slept most of the way when I was driving. 

We arrived at Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport at around 4 p.m. Charles de Gaulle Airport is huge. And bonkers. Had a bit of a conversation with the Finnair rep as to why I didn't need a visa to go from Sydney to Melbourne. 

Flight to Helsinki was non-descript - just surrounded by lots of very tall Finnish people. 

Helsinki airport is very schmick. 

Got a very stern (and very hot looking) passport control officer. He scowled at me, looking at my Australian passport as if it was a cockroach. He stamped me out of the Schengen area. I took back my passport and said, "Keidos." He smiled at me and said he was impressed. I told him to thank the lady who sold me the drink in my hand five minutes before. It's only polite to say thank you in the language of the country you're in. I now have one word of Finnish. 

Non-descript 12-hour flight to Hong Kong. It was a bit bumpy over one of the 'Stans", otherwise fine. 

Then there was Hong Kong. I'll leave this for another blogpost.

Then Sydney, where I cleared immigration, only to find my bag was missing. 

At Sydney domestic airport I used a complimentary lounge pass to get a shower. It was one of the best showers I've ever had. After 40 hours on the road, just having a shower and changing clothes was a wonderful feeling. 

But, my goodness, did I feel crusty., 

Then there was the flight back to Melbourne. 

Again, another blog post will cover this. 

Qantas, I want to love you, but you are a bit challenging at times. A bit like that difficult family member at Christmas time - you just don't know what you're going to get. 

I'm not crusty anymore. I'm home. Most of my decent clothes are in transit between here and Helsinki. But I'm home. 

Bereft. Discombobulated. Thankful. But bereft. 

Thursday, October 19, 2023


Thursday: St Malo

That time has come. 

There's a five-hour drive to Paris, followed by some waiting. 

Then a flight to Helsinki. 

Then a flight to Hong Kong.

Then a very tight connection in Hong Kong onto a flight in Sydney. 

Then clear customs in Sydney, get a necessary shower at the Qantas Club, then onto a flight to Melbourne. (Blame Qantas for this, as a points flights, they changed my direct booking a few weeks after I made the booking for this daft Sydney transfer). 

If I make the Sydney flight in Hong Kong, all going well, I'll be back in Melbourne Saturday morning. 

Do I want to go back? Not really, although I'm looking forward to having Lucifer back with me and I'm especially looking forward to my own 100% cotton sheets. 

I'll just have to start plotting my next adventures. 

See you on the other side. 

Today's song: 

Mont St Michel - Or a Pilgrim's Progress

 Checked another item off the bucket list today, however, this was not without its hardships. 

I studied Mont St Michel at school, just as I studied the Bayeux Tapestry. 

Saint Michael's Mount, if you want to call that it in English, and not to be confused with a similar structure of in Cornwall, with a similar name has been on my bucket list since I studied French at high school. Once again, Reindert was up for it. "More old shit?"


"Will there be buttresses?"

"Probably. And ramparts."

Love me a bit of old-fashioned church architecture. Poor Reindert has been dragged through every church I could lay my hands on. Mont St Michel was another one. 

But it was a really cool one. 

I'm glad it was worth it. Considering we got drenched on the way there. As in soaked to the skin, water dripping off everything drenched waiting for the bus to the island, and then, to add insult to injury, we got even wetter walking the last few meters onto the island when there was a torrential downpour worthy of Darwin in a cyclone. This was the first rain I've seen on my holiday. 

I started to laugh. 

"Why are you laughing?"

"What else am I supposed to do? I'm wearing a Canadian tuxedo (denim jeans and jacket) and I'm drenched through to the skin. It's my only option."

But we got inside the site, somewhat out of the weather and made our way up the hill towards the Abbey on top of the hill. 

I will say, even though it was tipping down, I'm glad we didn't come in high summer. The amount of people will be criminal. 

Our tickets for our Abbey visit were set for 1 pm. With the weather, we asked if we could go in early, and were waved through. 

What followed was a visit to one of the most remarkable religious sites I've ever had the pleasure to visit. Built over a thousand years ago, this has been a site of pilgrimage ever since. It's mentioned in the Bayeux Tapestry. 

For me, it was climbing up this big hill to this imposing structure, as millions have done before, in the rain, on our own self-imposed pilgrimage. The steps are worn soft, the cobblestones slippery, our heads were down with the effort of walking in the rain. I felt a bit like Adso of Melk. (If you haven't read or seen Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose, do so. That gives a feel of what climbing this structure feels like.)

(I wish it was like it when we were there...)

You can almost hear the footsteps of long dead monks making their way to vespers. 

This is a very cool place. 

For somebody who doesn't like churches, Reindert stayed and looked around for about two hours, going from the chapel, out along the ramparts, through the cloisters, into the crypt. Although we had bought the audio tour, the driving rain put pay to that, and we just wandered. It was enough. It was also wonderful. 

By the time we got out of abbey proper, it was two hours later. We'd dried off a little bit while taking in this UNESCO heritage site. 

Some lunch was found in a cafe on the way down the hill. Galettes, a pot of cider and some dessert, and it was back down the hill to the bus and the very expensive car park. Then home to St Malo. 

This too, is a very cool place. Built in the 1600s, it's been a fortified town ever since. It saw action in World War Two. It's a brooding, charming little town, which is the location of the book (and soon to be Netflix series) All the Light We Cannot See. I met my old university friend this evening to hand over her vegemite and catch up. She, like me, says that she wanders the town, wandering where Marie-Laure and her grandfather may have lived. It's an extraordinary place to visit. 

And now, I have less than a day left in France. 

What am I feeling? 


Okay, I'm looking forward to seeing the cat again (not looking forward the upholstery replacement costs), but if anything, this trip has taught me that I want more - and need more. 

It's just a matter of going out and finding it. 

Today's song:

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

Notes on a Day

 1. Driving in France

Driving a manual car on the incorrect side of the road, in a manual, where the steering wheel is not where it normally is found, and the gear stick needs to be moved with the other hand, is not as hard as it looks. 

Okay, the first ten minutes are terrifying, but then it gets to be alright. Reindert has been making me drive the motorways. I let him do the tiny towns, but the roads in France are great, the speed limit is 130 and our hired, manual, Nissan Qashqai is zippy, but not too intimidating. 

And I am very proud of myself. In a good couple of hours driving, I only stalled it once. And went around the roundabouts the correct way. And didn't prang. 

2. Bucket List Items

I marked off three bucket list items in the last 48 hours. 

  • The Villers Bretonneux War Memorial was a thought-provoking place to visit, Tipped my hat to an uncle. We were there after the museum closed but had the site to ourselves. It's such a picturesque place. You can't imagine the atrocities that went on there in both world wars. 
  • Amiens Cathedral is a gothic masterpiece. 
  • Bayeux is an interesting place. The Abbey is yet another church Reindert got forced to look around (for our sins, it's raining today - first rain of the trip). 
  • The Bayeux Tapestry is incredible - and it is a lot raunchier than you expect a cloth made nearly 1000 years ago would be. I remember studying it at high school. Nothing was said about the rape scenes and penis drawings. 
3. France does not do salad. Salad, to Europeans, appears to have a lot of meat involved. I have a hankering for fresh, interesting salad, with a lot of different fresh vegetables. I found something that equated to a poke bowl yesterday. White rice. That was about as good as it got. 

4. Hangry is as hangry does. 

It was a long driving day. Food was needed. St Malo is a very confusing place in which to drive, and the directions given were a bit strange, and yeah, somebody got a bit hangry. 

Also, after eight, in country towns, it can get a bit difficult to find open places. 

We stumbled into this little place in the St Malo old town. They said they were serving food, but not the big meals. There was fondue or raclette. 

We had raclette. 

I don't need to see cheese for another few months, but gee it was good. 

That will do. 

Today's song:

Tuesday, October 17, 2023

The Visit

I rarely do pilgrimages, but this visit had the feeling of one. 

Those who know me well, are aware that I'm not particularly patriotic. I get a bit lippy over the cricket on occasion and I will defend the existence of vegemite - but that is about it. So, I found it interesting to be challenged why I had to come to Normandy, and particularly to Villers Bretonneux. I am not the flag waving, Southern Cross tattoo sporting type you find here.  I'm normally asleep during Dawn Service on Anzac Day. I'll give the day a nod, but I don't do anything special. I also don't mind if others want to do stuff, but generally, I don't do more than give this a nod. Celebrating war is not in my DNA. 

I felt I needed to visit Villers Bretonneux, in Normandy, because of family connection. My grandfather's brother, Roy was here. Uncle Roy. Postmaster. Signal Man. Nice bloke. 

Uncle Roy was one of the most decorated non-combatant soldiers in World War One. You can read a bit more about him here. As we are staying in Amiens for the night, it was a given that we come here. 

Reindert and I met up, at last, after 12 years, at the car rental office of Charles de Gaulle Airport. It's like no time has passed at all - mind you we speak to each other every couple of weeks. It's so good to be in each other's company again. 

"So, where are we going. I've left the logistics to you." (BIG MISTAKE)

"Villers Bretonneux."


"A little town about 20 minutes from where we're staying in Amiens. I need to pay my gentle respects. "


Reindert is good at going with the flow. So am I for that matter. Being later in the afternoon, we made the hour drive to this little town, getting there around five. After a few minor issues finding the place, firstly to the town cemetery, then the school, which was built from the funds raised by Victorian school kids, we found the Sir John Monash War Memorial on the road out of town. 

It's impressive. And sad. And ultimately tragic that so many people lost their lives here. 

Being after 5 p.m. we had the place to ourselves. The museum and the actual memorial were closed, but we could wander the site, looking at the graves, and the smaller monuments, pock marked with bullet holes. 

As an Australian, with a link to the site, I felt something. I'm not sure if it was a small amount of patriotism, or sadness for those lost, or how such a brutal battle could occur on such glorious, pristine farmland. Reading the tombstones of the Commonwealth soldiers, Australian, British and Canadian, you see things like, "Aged 19", or "Aged 25". All I can think is what a waste. That my uncle was keeping the lines of communication open by running over no-man's land. I can only wonder how. 

That we were there, on our own, without tourists, made it the more special. There was no "Aussie, Aussie, Aussie," cries. It was just my friend, a Dutch American, and me, a non-patriotic Australian, trying to get our heads around the pointlessness of war, on this perfect, cool, autumn afternoon. 

I'm glad I made it here, if only for half an hour to top my non-existent cap. (Reindert has his flat cap, so he did it for me.) There's no fanfare. No flag waving. But the respects have been paid. 

We're now in our AirBNB in the middle of the old town in Amiens, on the banks of the Somme River. 

Amiens, it seems, is closed on Monday Nights. The cathedral is closed to visitors on Tuesdays, but I'm going to see if I can charm my way in tomorrow morning, regardless. I don't need to climb the bell tower or see the vaults, but I would like a sticky beak inside. My French may be good enough to do this. 

And then it is off to Bayeux, for more War Museums and a long bit of embroidery, before heading to St Malo for the following two nights. 

The holiday is coming to an end.

Today's song: 

Monday, October 16, 2023

The Last Writing Block

Our last writing block of the retreat was given on the train, after some heartfelt goodbyes, being bundled into Mercedes "Multivans" or as we would call them, people movers. This is after there was a good chat, in broken French, with the driver, Christian, about everything from the Australian Nanny State to the price of petrol. It is amazing what you can talk about when you get creative with language. And we had a less eventful trip back from the South of France. This was a godsend. 

About an hour out of Paris, the message came through on the group chat. 

"Your final writers prompts. 

1) Think about the trip and spend some time writing about these:

  • Airing of Grievances
  • Feats of Strength
  • Acts of Courage
  • Showing of Gratitude - because the most urgent task is the showing of gratitude. “
I'm not going to write there here. Not yet. I'm still processing the trip, as excellent as it was. 

The last prompt is "and so it begins."

What begins is the new you. The New Chapter. Your life post this trip.”

And so it begins. 

I haven't recognised myself over the last ten days. Who is this chick, and where did they find her? This rather plucky, very courageous, multi-lingual, happy, occasionally funny, rather inciteful woman who just gets on with it. The one who's not gone to everything on the itinerary, but marched to the beat of her own drum, traipsed off, done other things, but joined in enough to be welcomed and wanted. 

This is the girl who's been taken to countless stores and restaurants and told, "You tell them - they'll understand you...". Or, increasingly in Sommieres, "Can you ask Tom for this?  He likes you. He scares me." (Tom had been likened to Basil Fawlty - he's nothing like him.)

Somebody who trots down the street without a care in the world, happy in her own skin. A woman who goes into the pool without feeling self-conscious. Somebody, who after thirty years of sleeping alone in a room alone, happily shared her space with another. (Saying that, El and I really did kick on well, to the point that we got called Ernie and Bert as we were sleeping side by side in single beds. We're going to get the matching pyjamas. We've said we'd travel with each other again without reservation. This is such a big call)

And so it begins. 

The next chapter. 

This has me heading to Normandy tomorrow evening. I'm meeting Reindert at the airport in the afternoon and we're heading to Amiens for the night. Then it's off to St Malo and Mont St Michel before I head back to Melbourne on Thursday night. 

It's a different woman going back to Australia.

The woman who swore she would never go back to Paris without a partner is now looking for ways to return. She wants to continue to do her French classes, maybe even find some conversational French groups to keep the language fresh and expanding. 

You have no idea how good it feels to be able converse with people. Even if it is just ordering your coffee or talking to a cabbie on the way back from somewhere. 

She is comfortable chatting up attractive men in a gentle way. Maybe it's because she comes across as somebody who is non-threatening. Maybe, it's just her new found confidence and her preference for the aesthetics of European men. There are some bloody fit blokes around here.

This woman knows how to ask for what she needs, and she goes and gets it. She can articulate these succinctly, but without putting people out. She has always been polite to a fault, but she is no walk-over. Often it's little things, like facing forward in the car or on trains. Asking to open a window. Removing herself from noisy situations. She's happier this way. 

She's also providing herself with spiritual nourishment, even if it is as small as an afternoon swim, a stop at a local church for some quiet, a pain au chocolat at breakfast or a walk through one of Paris's unknown parks.

Today, coming back from the catacombs, she stopped in at Shakespeare and Company, the famous bookshop near Notre Dame Cathedral. Third time lucky. The first two times were scuppered through long queues and tiredness. Today, she made it in after a five-minute wait. 

Just inside the door sat a slim volume of Pablo Neruda love poems. 

She loves Pablo Neruda. 

She gave a similar volume to somebody thirty years ago. 

Today, she bought it for herself. 

The poems are in the original Spanish and English. 

"You stand upon the earth, filled
With teeth and lightning.
You spread the kisses and kill the ants.
You weep with health, with onions, with bee,
with humming the alphabet.
You are like a blue and green sword
and you ripple, when I touch you, like a river."

(Pablo Neruda, from Ode with a Lament.)

She will cherish this self-love. 

She has remembered what it is to open her heart, even if only for a fraction in time. And she has remembered that she can do all of this. 

Sunday, October 15, 2023

On Comfort

 I was running late. Nothing new there, but on this holiday, sometimes you want to be on time. On this day, it was only the markets. More to the point, Sommieres turns itself into one big market, and there was much to explore. I got waylaid reading cards. I needed to be done. The proprietors of the Hotel de L'Orange had provided me tools. First, Tom had garnished me with a large crystal ball. Then Liz presented me with a huge obsidian egg - a glorious item which has the ability to ground everything and everybody. Awesome implements, but it meant I had to keep reading. It would be rude not to. 

I finally made my way down the hill, into the town square. Finally, shopping, although there were lots of food stalls - this did not please me. The night before I had woken and had to have a little vomit - too much fat in the diet over too many days. 

Regardless, I walked on, buying a couple of scarves along the way. 

It was then I ran into Tish, one of our group, who was in some distress, crying. 

"What's up?"

She looked inconsolable. "Have you heard the referendum result?" She started crying again. 

Obviously not what she had hoped for. 

I stood, holding her in the centre of the Sommieres street, rubbing her back. 

"I got you."

"But how?..." she sobbed. 

"Because some Australians are mean-spirited, selfish, short-sighted, ignorant arseholes."

I probably didn't articulate it quite as succinctly, but that's what I'm thinking now. 


It's fucking embarrassing. 

Especially when you're overseas - not that our little, but important referendum is of any news here in the South of France, but the waves will reverberate globally in time. 

Small minded, selfish arseholes. 

Another one of our group and I took Tish in hand and found her a glass of wine, where we chewed the fat. We were all upset. In our group, nobody had voted No. None of us were aware of people voting no, or if we did, they were outliers. 

Then again, most of us live in an inner-city enclave, or a part of the leftish factions in larger country towns. 

How fucking hard does it have to be? You look of the groups that get a voice in parliament - oil and gas companies, gambling companies, pharmaceutical companies... and you think that a group of people, who's families have been on the land for 60,000 years don't get to have more of a say in how their lives are run (and please don't give me that they have a voice through their more than likely white, conservative, male parliamentarian - like approachable much?)

We're already decades behind in making some reparations to the indiginous community. And now this. 

In the words of Jacqueline Maley in The Age today, "Australia tells First-Nations people they're not special. We will not give you what you asked for. "

I've seethed enough. I'm on holiday. I will not hide my disappointment.

Besides, I have enough to grieve at the moment. I'm leaving Provence tomorrow. This has sent me into a spin. Falling in love is a dangerous thing. 

Besides, this time next week I'll be back in Australia. 

If we have people like this in our country who don't have the foresight or decency to see what a powerful and healing first move this could be, why would I want to return. 

Today's song: 

Friday, October 13, 2023

Pick Me, Pick Me!

To Tom and Liz

Proprietors - L'Hotel de L'Orange

Sommieres, Provence, France

Dear Tom and Liz, 

I have been at your establishment for approximately forty-eight hours. In this time, I have come to accept that somehow, and in some way, I really need to stay here, so I thought I would ask, really nicely of course, if you might like to keep me on in some professional capacity, 

Go on, you know that you want to. 

Last night, Liz said that I could write a letter, demonstrating all of my good points to you, so that you could see what an asset I could be to your little establishment. Of course, there are many, but here is a list of my qualities which you may find very handy. 

You don't have to pay me - happy to provide services for food and lodgings. 

So here we go. In no apparent order, here are my exceptional qualities which could be an asset around this little patch of heaven. 

1. First up, I love ironing. You have lots of beds around here which need changing and the linens laundering. My mother raised me to be a housewife, not that anybody has ever wanted to take me up on that. I am very good at washing and ironing. I mean, I come with my own Netflix account, so give me and iron and I will happily do all of your sheets, pillowcases, duvet covers, tablecloths and the like. I can see this being a mutually beneficial arrangement, as you can save on laundry, and I get to watch whatever I am binging at the time while working. I also know how to do hospital corners. 

2. I speak enough French as not to piss of the locals. Liz has already mentioned that this is a bit of a prerequisite to being here, but with my fundamental knowledge of the language I could go and collect the bread and cheese and be useful around the town. I'm quite good at ingratiating myself to people, most of whom think I'm a bit of an idiot, but I'm a friendly and kind idiot. 

3. I'm a dab hand with a paintbrush. Okay, I'm not great up ladders, but I can turn my hand to DIY when required. If you want something painted, I'm your woman. 

4. I'm happy to take direction in the kitchen and I can chop vegetables very well. My friend Blarney can provide a reference for my vegetable chopping as I've done a lot of that for her rugby club in the past. I can cook, I'm happy to serve, but you are both such great cooks, you are probably more in need of a vegetable chopper than a gourmet chef. 

5. I'm also very good at doing dishes. Happy to both wash and dry. No moaning about either. 

6. As you know, you often get in therapists for your clientele. I can come with a massage table and a wealth of experience in massage, aromatherapy, reflexology and reiki healing. I could set myself up on the pool deck and you could charge out my services. I'm also a dab hand with tarot cards. See, your own Madame Sosostris. (Look her up if you don't know about her.)

7. Being a writer, I could help revamp the copy on your already wonderful website. 

8. Although I am not a gardener by nature, I'm happy to learn. With the large garden, I'm happy to do what you need around the place, again, under direction. Blarney gave me some welding gloves for my birthday last year, so I come with some equipment, and I am willing to learn. 

9. Of your books around the place, I have read many of them. As I hold a Masters degree in Writing, I can hold my own in most conversations about books. This is a handy thing. I could get to know the books that you have around the place and direct guests to what might be good for them. I see that Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go has already been snaffled. The Hilary Mantels are still resting in that lovely bookshelf you made. I could be sort of like a house librarian. I'm happy to get my French literature more up to speed. At the moment, I can only recommend St Exupery's Le Petit Prince

“The most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or touched, they are felt with the heart.”

10. I am a great listener. Stories are my thing. I can sit, and chop vegetables, or pretend to be a lifeguard by the pool, or you name it, I can listen without prejudice to anybody's stories. This is a land of stories. Another listener would not be amiss. 

There are ten things that can recommend me to a position within your fine establishment. 

Okay, yes, I have an inconvenient Australian passport, and yes, I do come with a crotchety black cat called Lucifer, who I am sure we can teach to be a mouser, but you won't see him much because he hates nearly everybody and there are such good places to hide around here you won't see him for dust. As Tom doesn't like cats, I can see this being an issue. And yes, I have just committed to another year in Satan's arsehole over the other side of the world. 

But I have a new life goal, and that is to return here in the not-too-distant future. You, and your lovely establishment, just off the centre of Sommieres, has welded itself to my heart. This need to return is palpable. Cellular even. 

But I thought I might ask you for a job first, as this might expedite matters.

Yours, with complete sincerity and a lot of love, 


Today's song: 

Sunday Stealing on Thursday

 I've not missed a Sunday Stealing question block in years. However, at the moment, I'm on holidays (vacation), currently sitting in a room overlooking the picturesque town of Sommieres in Provence, France, and finally, after five days being run ragged in Paris, I am catching my breath. 

So, be it four days late, here are my Sunday Stealing questions, on a Thursday night, after a day of swimming and pizza, and talking French and yeah... I'm on holidays. 

Questions, as always, have come from Bev at Sunday Stealing

1. Write about the best decision you ever made. How did you make it? Was it reasoning or gut instinct?

One of the best decisions I have ever made was coming on this trip. It was a year of planning. It was a year of French lessons online. It was a year of saving. But it is turning out to be a holiday of a lifetime. I'm glad I went with my gut. 

2. What ONE thing would you change about your life? How would your life be different?

I would love to have a body that could eat anything I wanted to at any time and not put on weight. Never going to happen, but it would be nice. 

3. What is the hardest thing you have ever done? Why was it hard for you? What did you learn?

Taking up running at 40 was the hardest thing I have ever done. Before that, I have never been a runner. I had to struggle through my headspace to get there - and it really was a case of mind over matter, but I persevered, and got there. I've run five half-marathons in my time. And I still miss it - I'm too large and my joints really didn't like it, but in the end, I loved running. 

4. What is your greatest hope for your future? What steps can you take to make it happen?

I would really love to be financially more stable and partnered up. The first one is fairly in control. The second one I have no idea how to make that happen. 

5. If you can time travel, what will you tell your teenage self?

Oh, there are so many things I would love to tell my teenage self. Firstly, you are NOT fat, ugly and stupid, no matter what your family try to tell you. Secondly, get exercising, and keep exercising. You really are good at it when you put your mind to it and it is very good for you.  Thirdly, your family aren't normal. Learn from others how to find your own family. And lastly, you are going to meet a guy called Lachlan in the mid-nineties. Run very fast in the opposite direction. 

6. Write about the most glorious moment in your life so far.

I can't pin down one, but here are a couple of those moments: 

  • Hanging out with Edward the Confessor at his tomb in Westminster Abbey, by myself. 
  • Working out that you actually do speak pretty good French. 
  • Getting through my Masters Degree with a High Distinction (4.0 GPA) average. 
  • Having some stories published
  • Falling in love on the odd occasion. 
  • Meeting Maow Maow (Blarney and Barney's cat) for the first time. Love at first sight. 
  • Adopting Lucifer (My cat)

7. Write about a moment you feel brave.

I know this might seem silly, but walking into the room at the start of this writer's retreat was very scary, and even though I knew about half the people before I came here, I really had to put my big girl pants on and get on with it. Being around so many big personalities all the time has had it's challenges, but they're all good people. Still, I had to be brave. 

8.  What made you happy today?


I'm in Sommieres, in France. It's this perfect little village. I've been for a walk, eaten great food, gone swimming, did a supermarket shop. went to the post office to get some stamps and I didn't piss off the lady behind the counter with my bad French (She said it was good - very understandable) I loved that at sundown, I watched the murmuration of the starlings as they put themselves to bed as the sun went down. I had a lovely, simple dinner with friends at a pizza shop at the bottom of the hill. I nearly finished my book (the superlative Mothering Sunday by Graham Swift.)

9. What do you dislike most about growing up?

You have to pay bills. Ergh. 

10. Write about ten activities you love the most and why you love them.

  1. I love writing, because it makes me feel whole. 
  2. I love exploring cities, because I love finding out about places. 
  3. I love traipsing through museums, because I'm a big nerd. 
  4. I love speaking French, because after 43 years, some of my schooling (and a bit of practice) has made this a great trip, and it feels good in the mouth. 
  5. I love travelling, because it is in my blood. 
  6. I love sleeping, because it is a necessary bodily function. 
  7. I love cuddling, because I am a cuddle bunny, not that anybody other than my cat knows about this. 
  8. I love reading, because it is one way that we humans finally figure out that we are not alone. 
  9. I love talking to animals, because they understand. 
  10. I love taking photos as it is a way to share with people what I am seeing. 

11. Do you have an embarrassing moment that still makes you cringe? Write about it in as much detail as you feel comfortable!

Er yes, I do, but I am not going to tell you about it. I am one big embarrassment when it all comes down to it anyway. 

12. What has been your best trip so far?

The one I'm on now will be very hard to beat. It's amazing. 

 13. Write a list of 5 things (physical or personality-wise) you love about yourself, and why they make you unique.

  1. I've got really interesting eyes. Never met anybody with my colour eyes. 
  2. I am kind. It's a good quality to have. 
  3. I'm fairly smart - also a good thing to be. 
  4. I'm strong. I've worked at this for years, and I love that my body does my bidding (most of the time)
  5. I'm funny. Not everybody will find me funny, but I have a good sense of humour. 

14. Discuss 5 things you wish others knew about you.

  1. The reason I hate having my photo taken is because I have PTSD over an event that happened in the nineties. Having my photo taken triggers me. 
  2. Even though I'm Australian, I'm English on the inside. 
  3. I do like feeding people, though I don't get the opportunity to do this. 
  4. I AM AN INTROVERT. Too many people all at once freak me out. 
  5. If I am tired, tell me to go to bed. I shouldn't push through things, but I do. 

15. Is social media a blessing or a curse?

A bit of both. 

Today's song:

Thursday, October 12, 2023

I am Lucy Honeychurch

I have named the gargoyles. It's something that I like to do. Bruce, Frank and Jerome sit outside my window, and look at me with a foreboding which I probably don't deserve. But they have been there for hundreds of years, and I am just a blow-in. A green around the gills tourist who has fallen completely in love. Just like Lucy Honeychurch. 

Bruce and Frank, the gargoyles. 

That Bruce, Frank and Jerome are at eye level and look into our room is a little disconcerting. But they are gargoyles, and they're all a part of the charm of this little patch of paradise. 

We arrived here in Provence after a slightly eventful trip. The details of the events don't need to be discussed, but we got to Nimes in one piece, after which, we were ferried into waiting cars and taken to our final destination, the Hotel de l'Orange in Sommieres

Very little leaves me speechless.

This place has rendered me silent. 

This is the view from my window. 

The bedroom, which I am sharing with El, is huge. El and I have been sharing since Paris. We kick on well. Although we're very different, we also have the emotional intelligence to share a hotel room. We got in here and nearly cried happy tears. The room is gorgeous. 

I would get you a picture, but five minutes after we first saw the room, our bags sort of exploded and there is crap everywhere. My bathers and El's pink ballgown are hanging, drying in the window. I'm sitting near a half-empty bottle of Yuzu gin. It looks like the room has been overtaken by teenage girls. Oh well. 

But I am writing this at the writing desk in our shared space, a lovely old escritoire, complete with plenty of drawers, a lot of cheap paperbacks, and a view of the church courtyard. There's an obscure D.H. Lawrence and Virginia Woolf urging me to sit back on the day bed and dip into them. None of the styles of paintings match. Rustic bliss. 

Hard life, eh?

But you ask who is Lucy Honeychurch and why am I now this person?

Any time I find myself looking out over a place with a view, particularly, an ancient town, with claypit chimney tiles and rows of cypress trees, and sandstone which has been crumbling for centuries, I have the notion that I want to throw on a broderie anglaise nighty, throw open the windows and start singing 'O Mio Bambino Caro."

Just like Lucy Honeychurch did in "A Room with a View."

Yes, I am a daft romantic. 

But park me in an ancient city with a room, with a view, (and even better, a swimming pool, a lot of extra day beds and a friendly cat) and I am in heaven. 

Wednesday, October 11, 2023

French Dogs

 French dogs are different. French dogs and their owners are different to those found in Australia. 

In Australia, it’s normal behaviour, that when you see a dog in the street with their owner, you will say hello, first to the dog, and then to the owner. In the best-case scenario , the dog will look at you, when its tail, and if you’re really lucky, it will come up to you for a pat. The owner will then make his excuses, you might ask the dogs name, and then the owners name just to be nice. After this, you might say something like, “nice dog, my sister had one, just like it…”, after which you might have a very short conversation about dogs.

This is my experience.

In France, the experience is completely different. 

In France, you try to smile at the dog, it ignores you. The owners try to ignore you. When you give the dog a little wave, or say hello, the owner will normally give you a scowl and take the dog on a short lead. You give up in despair. 

Occasionally, you might meet a semi-friendly owner who won’t mind you fawning over their dog, but as a rule, the dog, and the owner, will systematically ignore you. You may get a half smile if you speak to them in French.

So here I was, being universally blanked by the animals I adore, thinking that a dog will never say hello to be again. 

Until we hit Montmartre. 

Of the amazing activities we've done over the last week here on this amazing Gunnas International tour, our morning walking the streets of Montmartre with our guide Sonja has been one of my favourites to date.  

Montmartre, home of the Moulin Rouge, of seedy artists dwellings, cheap grog and cheaper floosies. Sonja had stories about all of these places. We slowly made our way up the hills, looking down laneways and into shops and cafes. We saw Amelie's cafe, which had me in paroxyms of joy.

So how do you make me even happier. Get me a friendly dog. 
It seems that this is a universal sentiment with middle aged women, out of their comfort zones and away from their pets.

Then we met Ava.

Meet Ava. 

Photo courtesy of Lynda Cartwright Instagram

Ava, and her owner, were Australian friendly. 

Ava, in her stripey pyjamas, had fifteen middle-aged women fawning over her. She lapped up every minute of the attention. 

I explained to her owner the situation to the strangely excited women. We had all be away for a while. We were all missing our pets. 

Sonja, looked on with bemused frustration. We were already running a little late for our lunch reservation. 

For all the time we had in Montmartre, it seems a little Silky Terrier puppy in a pair of stripy pyjamas was the star of the day. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2023


 I’m just back from a very delightful dinner in a restaurant that it is very hard to get a reservation in the evening. I’m rather than tell you about it, I will do that on another day.

 I’m going to bed. I will think about today’s song tomorrow

Night night.

Today’s song.

Monday, October 9, 2023

The Quiet Night

You learn a lot from the locals, but you get that everywhere you go.

I met up with a friend from Australia - Lissie, this evening. She moved back here as a COVID refugee, with her daughter during the days when you could barely get a flight out of the country after her work let her go and there were few places to turn. Three years on, she's settled back into life in Paris, her daughter is in school in the South and life is okay. 

It was wonderful to spend time with her. 

I asked her what she missed about Australia. 

Here are a couple of things which made the list. 

1.    Salad. The French don't do salad. Not an Australian salad, with all of the great things you find in a salad, be it tomatoes, or cucumbers, or gherkins, or you name the vegetable, you will find it in a salad in Australia, you're not going to find it here. 

"Salad is lettuce here. You have been warned. 

We had dinner at this little Korean joint down on the rue de Lancry, about five minutes from the hotel and we were discussing the vegetarian option, which were there, but limited. Thankfully our one vegetarian ate fish - so we were good to go. 

"How do you not do salad?" asked Ginny, the third person to our party. 

"Salad is not a thing."

2. Customer Service

I have been pleasantly surprised by the customer service in France to date. Yes, I have one of those ingratiating natures which makes me be pleasant to retail staff, but according to Lissie, the service staff can be very rude indeed. She told me of how a shop assistant told her off for trying on too pairs of shoes. That she wanted to buy a couple of pairs of shoes doesn't matter. Lissie let the sale slide thanks to the rudeness of the staff. 

Thankfully, I've not had that experience. Thankfully, the service staff haven't been rude or fawning, but they've been efficient. Walking into a shop and saying. "Bonjour", helps a lot. It's polite. 

3. Clean streets.

What they don't tell you about Paris, it may be pretty, but it sure aint clean. Probably not made much better by the fact that it's pretty warm and it feels like it's overdue for a good rain shower or two.

There's an old adage about Napoleon, the old emperor here. He was coming home from a battle when he sent word to Josephine via an advanced courier. The message went along the lines of. "I'm coming home. Don't bathe."

It doesn't bear thinking about. 

Well, just as Napoleon didn't want Josephine to wash, nobody wants to wash the streets of Paris. There's a bit more rubbish about, the cigarette butts, the persistent smell of urine from the blokes who piss against the down pipes, the dog shit.... the list goes on. 

Can they do anything about it? Probably not, there'd be a greve (strike) over it. I see it as part of Paris's charm. And I will never take for granted the clean streets of Melbourne or Adelaide again. 

4. Swearing

Lissie lived in Australia for twenty years before moving back here. Her partner was from Glasgow. Lissie can swear. 

The French don't really swear - not like Australians.

We had a good chat about semantics. It seems about the worst thing you can call somebody around here is a dirty whore. 

We had a good chuckle about how Australians swear, which is a nuanced, inclusive and completely bizarre part of our identity. 

The French don't really have a good, acceptable way of saying 'Fuck off.". "Va te faire foutre" doesn't feel as good in the mouth.

It doesn't have the same adjectival connotations either. 

5. Television.

French television, as in the terrestrial television, is fucking awful. 

Australian terrestrial television has SBS and the ABC. Quality programming. You're not going to find that in France, at all. It's either reality television or game shows. I did get to see about five minutes of the French version of Bake Off, but that was about it. Most of the French subscribe to streaming services. There is really nothing to watch. 

As a side note, Ginny, who has never been to Europe before, said that in watching French television, she could appreciate what we have. 

Seeing Lissie was one of the joys of this French trip. I think she was as happy to see me, as I was her. 

Today's song: 

Sunday, October 8, 2023

Of Raw Meat and Butter

As I am walking around 20000 steps a day, I'm really not fussed about what I am eating. 

Wandering home tonight, after a day spent once again roaming the Pere Lachaise with another set of mates, taking a bus, having lunch at the base of the Eiffel Tower and doing a writing exercise in the amazing Richelieu Library. After walking with a friend to her destination in the Marias, I took the Metro back to Republique, where I bought a new, small, wheelie bag to take to Provence. The thought of hauling Bertha down there did not appeal. We had a lovely dinner at a little restaurant around the corner (Le Chardon), and now I'm here at 10.45, trying to get my post out for the day.

What's got me about today is my diet here. 

I'm eating, but things have changed. And yes, I've got a hankering for a very large, very fresh salad. 

But it's not before I get to eat my body weight in raw meat and butter. 

Let me explain. 

The butter tastes better here. I don't know what they do with it - but it is out of this world. Maybe they use a special churn which slaps the cream into submission with a tickle rather than a slap. I don't know - but it makes everything taste amazing. 

The other habit I'm now in the habit of is raw meat. Have steak tartare on the menu, I will have it. 

I remember going to dinner with some family friends a few years ago. Myself and one other, a large, rambunctious bloke, ordered steak tartare as an entree. 

"You Leos need your raw meat." We are both early August birthdays.

Yes, we do. Just big cats. Raw meat does us good. 

Tonight's dinner we all had steak tartare or an entree. Three of us were happy. 

"It's raw?" was the reply from the last in our party. 

"And you were expecting?"

"Not raw meat."

"It's not Coles mince. You're not going to get food poisoning or worms. Eat it like you would pate."

This seemed to get her around it. Saying that, she also says that she eats her steak rare, but this was just a bit too much. 

Me, I love the stuff. 

For mains, I had salmon tataki - again, basically raw salmon - which I had the other night. 

So, at the moment, my diet consists of things which can have butter on it, oh, and cheese, which is also other worldly, and raw meat. 

Life is tough. I can see that if my grandmother was alive, she'd be asking why were they too lazy to cook the meat, the proceed to burn it to a cinder. 

But if you ever come here, even if you don't try the excellent raw meat, you have to try the butter.

Life changing. 

Today's song: