Tag Archives: Friendship

Getting Naked on Little Congwong Beach (No 45, 2 January 2017)

No 45: Little Congwong (Monday 2 January)

Little Congwong is not officially clothing optional and yet it is.

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So it was appropriate that I should visit while my friend Matthew is in town.

Matthew recently rode his bicycle from Eindhoven, the Netherlands to his hometown of Adelaide. I had been following his blog as I was preparing for my own big bicycle tour and, one day in December 2014, I was catching up on his story when I watched this video, and thought it was excellent.

I complimented the video, and, knowing he was summering in Australia (wisely not riding in the northern winter), I suggested that if he made to Sydney we might meet.

He messaged back that he was in Sydney and asked if I were free that afternoon.

I found him to be as interesting in person as he’d been on line.

Over the course of my mid-life gap-year, return to Australia, and time spent campaigning for Hillary Clinton we’ve maintained our on-line friendship – liking and commenting on each other’s stuff. While I was on my journey he was riding through Iran, Central Asia, China, South East Asia, and Australia.

He got home to Adelaide in August. Then, just before Christmas, rode to Sydney.

We’d caught up a few times before our beach outing and each time out I liked him more. He’s smart and funny, with a million stories of course, and, unlike any of my other friends, in pretty much the exact same place in life: mid-40s, having dramatically left behind an earlier version of ourselves to go on a big adventure, now on the other side of that we’re trying to figure out what comes next, how to be our genuine selves and be gainfully employed. Oh, and we’re also both on the market for boyfriends.

One thing Matthew enjoyed doing on his journey across the world was to sometimes ride naked. So, a perfect companion for a trip to an unofficially clothing-optional beach.

Matthew met me in Newtown and we set off on our convoluted bus journey to La Perouse under threatening skies. From King Street we walked down Erskineville Road, and into Swanson. We had coffees at Ella Guru Café while it rained.  We then pushed on to McEvoy Street to catch the 370 to the University of NSW and the 391 to La Perouse.

I hadn’t been down that way in, well, years. There’s something about that peninsula, once you get past Maroubra which feels apart from Sydney. It feels more like something down the south coast, some misplaced bit of Sussex Inlet or Nowra.

That is, until you get to La Perouse which is always more Asian and Middle Eastern than those places. And, of course, there are more Aboriginal people. La Perouse is one of the few places in all of Sydney where Aboriginal people have an unbroken record of continual residence.

I also like that Matthew is at least as frugal, if not more frugal, than I am so we perused the lunch menus of the restaurants of La Perouse with one eye and, not surprisingly, settled on the old-school fish and chippery.

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Once fed we made our way, down the stairs through the bush to Congwong Beach (No 16 – visited a lifetime ago on 3 April 2011), to the far end, and along a further bush path to Little Congwong.

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Just as we emerged we ran into a Polish family who warned us there are naked people on the beach – we know, we said. And Matthew chatted with the guy for a bit – here’s a place where we’re different, he’s happy for a chat with anyone.

Sure enough at the near end of the bush-backed, slightly curving 150m or so long beach there were a few topless and naked women sun bathing. There were some men and women in bathers. We kept walking toward the far end of the beach where there were some naked men and other men in skimpy bathers. “We’re definitely in your neighbourhood now,” I said. He offered to head back the other way and I was like, oh, no, I have no problem with naked gay men.

We spread our towels and Matthew got his kit off, but sat in such a way that his junk wasn’t all obvious to me as we chatted. I was happy clothed.

At the far end of the beach a lean, bronzed, naked, middle-aged man was exercising. He had dumbbells and did standing arm curls, and shoulder presses. He did squats and lay on his back doing bicycle kicks. And a variety of other exercises you’d expect on a 1950s parade ground of soldiers dressed in white t-shirts tucked into small shorts. But he was naked. And on the beach. We watched and chuckled. And Matthew mimicked him with is bottle of Dare.

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See naked man with dumbbells in the background.

Mathew went for a swim and fell into conversation with a young European man who was part of a quartet of guys parked near us. Matthew’s new friend, a Belgian, was married to another of the quartet but he, his husband, was up in the bush checking out the cruising scene. My time with Matthew has been an eye-opening, fascinating, education in the ways of life in a certain segment of the gay-male world. Having been dateless and single for quite a while now, I admit a certain envy of the easy, fearless (or at least less worried – about violence, about pregnancy), open, sex-driven culture he’s part of. And, really, it’s just fascinating and deeply foreign – a culture I can no more access than Saudi politics, Japanese yakuza, or the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

It rained a bit. The sun came out and then disappeared again. When it was out it was like an overly powerful heat lamp much too close at hand.

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Walkers on the bridge to Bare Island.

I wasn’t going to swim. The water was fresh, but not too cool, just sort of dumpy and churning. In the end, I realised I’d regret not having gone in. I have come to like nude beaches; I like swimming naked. And I am at best invisible to the gay men on the beach and at worst irrelevant. So, with Matthew already in the water and chatting with another of the quartet of men. I stripped down, hugged my boobs and marched into the water. And then tip-toed to where they stood. It is a bit strange – the conversing with people while naked.

We emerged, dried, and laughed once more at the exercising man – now wearing a hat and chatting with a naked fisherman. Then we were done, we dressed, and made our way back to the bus stop and on to the City.

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We didn’t ride but this is, pretty much, the route we took to get there.

Little Congwong is about 17 kilometres from my home. La Perouse is home to 418 people according to the 2011 census. Of these, 27.9% identified as Australian and 19.2% as Australian Aboriginal. (Compared with 0.3% of all New South Wales, and 0.5% of all of Australia.) The balance were 17.5% English, 6.1% Irish, and 4.3% Greek.

Little Congwong is the City of Randwick, the State electorate of Maroubra (Labor – Michael Daley), and Federal Division of Kingsford Smith (Labor – Matt Thistlethwaite).

 

Leaving Ireland with Melancholy and Hope

17 – 22 August 2015 (Days 84 – 89 of my Midlife Gapyear)

Monday 17 August 11:30 am – Flanders Cross

And just like that, time is fleeting. The Kilkenny Arts Festival is finished and all my new acquaintances have begun to fade away.

I returned to Kilkenny via Dublin sharing a festival courtesy car with American author Jane Smiley and her husband Jack. They were both lovely. We talked about Australia. (Jane wondered why the people of Adelaide think so little of their city. “They live there even when the festivals are over,” I said). Not surprisingly, for an Iowa person, she has Chicago connections; I said that I grew up in the Skokie part of Evanston, “I see,” she said, “why you moved to Australia.”

Once back in town I was, again, helping Cornelia and Hazel. Then we had dinner and went to Druid Shakespeare. There we met a friend of Cornelia and her sister from Australia. Perhaps she missed that I’m from Sydney – when I asked where she was from she said 4 ½ hours north of Sydney. Yeah, where abouts? Sort of Armidale – yeah, where abouts? Walcha. Oh, sure, I know Walcha – inland from Port Macquarie. She was amazed.

When we were leaving Druid Cornelia exclaimed at how terrible that actress’ voice was. I’m glad I wasn’t alone in my opinion. She’s like some sort of Nicole Kidman-looking love child of William Shatner and Al Pacino.

We went on to The Set Theatre for the Brooklyn Rider, Martin Hayes & Dennis Cahill Marble City Session. So good – such beautiful, beautiful playing. I saw Robert Pinsky there at the end of the show and it pleased me that it pleased him to see me, “I thought you’d gone,” he said.

Then yesterday, Sunday, was the last day of the festival.  The finale gig at the Cathedral was fantastic – really amazing.

I expect to long have very fond memories of this time here – my time spent on the festival – the people I’ve met, the performances I’ve seen.

Monday 17 August – 5:55 pm, Kilkenny

I’ve gone and bought watercolours. I won’t paint if I don’t have them, now I do, so it’s a matter of finding time to use them.

Cornelia and Matthew are mother/son-ing. I’ve had an ice cream at Kitty’s Cabin. A gaggle of local youths hang about nearby with their ubiquitous hurling sticks – I wonder how often they are used as weapons?

Tuesday 18 August 12:40 pm – Waterford, The Larder

It’s a beautiful day – sunny and warm.

My bike is having it’s wheels trued. I’ve wandered Waterford – basically to find places: bicycle shops, phone repairs. My phone – the cable connection is fucked – is irreparable (a lesson in getting something unbranded).

The coffee here, at the Larder, is passable and I’ve had a nice chat with the proprietor – Patrick Murphy (really, he was born in England of an English mother and Irish father, they didn’t think they’d be moving back, but they did when he was four).

He’d been in retail most of his career but decided a couple of years ago to take a crack at a café. He was talking of Celtic Tiger times when everyone was flush. He worked at an electronics retailer and new TVs came in. He went to discuss how to display them and the manager said just stack them by the door – they’ll sell. Patrick was like ‘is this what this trade I’ve been working in all these years, the skills I’ve gained, come to?” He quit that day. He told this story to say all that all that wealth had made the Irish loose and careless with money. One good thing to come of the GFC, he thinks, is that people care more about quality now and this has something to do with the improvement of coffee in Ireland (though, let’s be honest, they still have a way to come).

I’m feeling keen to be riding again and also a bit weird that I’ll soon leave this place. And a little – just mildly – disappointed for not having gotten more writing done. But this week remains.

4:10 pm – At the library

Cornelia described this building as a Celtic Tiger building. Built to be a mall with major retailers but left standing empty when the GFC hit. It’s still basically empty but with council business – a library and regional office in part of it.

I have to admit that Robert has taken a hold in a space in my brain. I think the conversation I had with him was among the best I’ve had on this trip. I really enjoyed swapping Clinton stories with him and talking about American politics with someone quite attuned with the ways of that world.  I’m not sure I’ve recorded some of the Hillary Clinton stories he shared. He was a young professor at Wellesley while she was there. He was teaching an American Poetry class to arty young women who were sure the revolution had come or was nearly upon them, it was 1968. They were discussing a poem which mentioned a lawyer. And the response was “who would want to be a lawyer, or marry a lawyer? Ugh, how horrible”. And then a few of them saying “Hillary Rodham” chuckle, chuckle. It was the first time he heard her name.

He was at the commencement where she spoke. It had been the tradition of the school that a student did not speak – she was the first – and it was controversial. The main speaker – who went before her – was US Senator Edward Brooke of Massachusetts, African-American and Republican; he spoke of patience and incremental change, of letting the system work. Hillary, in response, abandoned her prepared text to say something along the lines of, “Senator, we were hoping you’d have something to say about how we can solve these problems, etc.” Robert said that it was measured and well-delivered – that he went away thinking: This is an impressive person.

Hazel asked him about his Simpsons’ experience. He had flown to LA just before 9/11 – on one of the same flights that was highjacked on the day. He imagines (or knows) it was the same crew from his flight that would have been on that one. With air travel grounded, he was stuck in LA. The Simpsons crew took him under their wings. “In my circle, I’m considered by some to be funny,” he said, “but with them I felt an amateur surrounded by Olympians.”

I’d be quite pleased to make a friendship of it.

Wednesday 19 August – 10:22 am, Flanders Cross

Wispy clouds washed pink by sunset with crescent moon.
One of my final Irish sunsets.

On the drive home last night Cornelia said of her mother, “Her worry is deep and awesome.” I thought that was beautiful.

We were on our way from Waterford and stopped in at Bobbi’s where we were invited in for a glass of wine. She and her youngest daughter live in this mad beautiful manor house with views of green rolling hills and sheep. She lived in Australia for six years in the 1970s working as a station cook in the Outback. She told a story of visiting an Aboriginal community south of Katherine with a didgeridoo player of her acquaintance.

9:07 pm – Flinders Cross

I’m really beginning to stress out about whatever comes next. I was hoping to visit the French family with whom I rode in Wales in Caen. They’ve had to cancel – which puts me at a looser end.

I am looking at a two-week German class. Is that a good investment? Worthwhile? Or should I just ride from Cherbourg and stop worrying? Should I head to Germany on the shortest line? Or the Belgian border following the coast? Find the quickest way out of France? Or spend another €100 on the train out? Fuck if I know. Fuck if I know. I’m ready to go – but to where?

I emailed Robert Pinsky today – anxious to see if he replies and if he does, how.

Thursday 20 August, 7:17 pm – Flanders Cross

This morning I woke stressed by indecision, of uncertainty about where to go, and how to spend my time.

Cornelia suggested that I settle in somewhere for a month. This led to the idea of doing a four-week German course in January rather than two-weeks in October. It makes so much sense. I’ll sleep on it but it feels right and like a burden has been lifted. I can just ride from Cherbourg – head up the coast, the D-Day beaches. I’ll get to Berlin in time for my flight, easy.

And then I had an email reply from Robert Pinsky. Which pleased me.

I’ve dipped into his Selected Poems and think I’m going to like his stuff.

I have never been good at reading poetry.

I like to read faster than poetry invites. Poetry seems to require a deliberative reading which I have, so far, been unwilling to offer.

But maybe now is the time. Maybe it’s the time in my life to be a reader of poetry. Perhaps even a writer of poetry. And perhaps my meeting Robert is a bit of influencing good fortune.

Friday 21 August 12:25 pm – Umi Falafel, Dublin

I woke early. I’m excited about getting going again. I like the plans I’ve settled on. Glenn was coming up to Dublin, so I’ve tagged along to look for knicks and eat at this restaurant again.

I quite like this from Robert’s Gulf Music:

“… but the immigration papers did

Require him to renounce all loyalty to Czar Nicholas

As he signed, he must have thought to himself

The Yiddish equivalent of ‘No problem’, Mah la belle”

11:41 pm – Flanders Cross

Things are happening as they ought: I only rode 15 km in Ireland; I’ll study German in January; meeting Robert. As is ought. Fortuitous but as they ought to be.

To read and write and paint and take my time. To think and meet and learn. Poetry, reading poetry, enforces deliberation. Deliberation is good.

We’ll see, we’ll see.

Saturday 22 August, 4:05 pm – Pulling out of Rosslare

Farewell, farewell Ireland. I’m feeling a little wistful, a little sad to go. My time here was spent in unexpected ways – but it was good for me. Friendships made, forged. Decisions. Ideas. Realisations. Just settling in for a time.

A family - mum, dad, and pre-teen son and daughter, with me - standing in a green field, arms around each other.
With my Irish family

6:00 pm

I’m reading family scenes in Jane Smiley’s Some Luck and looking at the groups all around me.

There were dolphins – everyone rushed to the window to look – not me. I didn’t want to leave all my stuff at this table un-monitored.

I am alone again.

A melancholy selfie of a woman in a blue jumper on the deck of a ferry, cloudy day, dark sea, a bit of Ireland in the distance.
On my own again, farewell Ireland.

9:00 pm

I’ve painted a watercolour of the sea beyond my window while listening to a podcast of Robert speaking on modernism someplace once upon a time. He’s a smart man, knowledgeable and interesting – which shouldn’t be surprising, he’s been at this thing he does for 50 years.

Here’s the thing about the intelligence others see in me, and which I see too, albeit less clearly – why can’t I figure out what to do with it? How to use my smarts, my talents, to produce, to create – to leave something?

Listening to RP, reading his stuff. Reading Jane Smiley’s novel. Admiring all the artists at Kilkenny, I feel the twinges of regret for having not done more with my 46 years.

Time to retreat to my cabin to eat biscuits. Tomorrow I ride. And seek. Seek. Something. What am I seeking? I don’t really know. But, in the meantime. Just. Be. Here. Now.

The gloaming: Low clouds over a gently rolling strip of Ireland on the horizon, the foreground calm steel-coloured sea.
Goodbye Ireland

In Ireland They Offer Chips with Your Chinese Food: Tuesday 11 August 2015 (Day 79)

9:10 pm: A Chinese Restaurant, Kilkenny

I may regret this but I’m so hungry. I’ve ordered sweet and sour chicken – it’s like battered and fried balls of chicken in the usual flouro sauce. It’s Ireland: I had the choice of rice or chips.

Being here, in Kilkenny, is becoming normal. I run into familiar people on the street. I know my way around town really well. After a couple of months on the road, of being someplace new every day, every hour, this is nice – this being of a place and part of a community.

I slept in this morning and woke to find Jim practicing in the loungeroom, for his gig tonight. I booked my bus ticket from Dublin to Belfast but failed to do the same for the train on to Derry because Northern Irish Rail’s website is shit.

Jim and I drove into Kilkenny. While he was looking for parking I spotted Cornelia at the Gourmet Café so I jumped out to see her. She was just off – I had a sandwich and coffee and solved a crossword challenge two blokes were having – by changing ‘interior’ to ‘internal’.

I was stuck in the queue as Jim began playing in the Luminarium but Mali, our friend with the crew there, spotted me and brought me in the back door.

Look who's playing in the Luminarium.
Look who’s playing in the Luminarium.

It was a mighty strange gig but Jim enjoyed himself – he should have had an amp as the sound just didn’t carry. He played mandolin and guitar. Cornelia was there for a time. And a lot of children. Unrestrained small children.

Mali said, “The Irish have so many children.” Jim played Say Your Prayers and I sang along, tunelessly, as I do. It turns out one of my favourite songs he plays is  Albatross by Fleetwood Mac. I’d heard him do it many times before but hadn’t realised it was a cover. It’s really calming and lovely.

Walking back to the Gourmet we passed a group of kids tossing a hurling ball around in the castle grounds, among them a Sudanese teenager as agile and fluid with his hurly as any of his paler skinned mates. It was beautiful.

I helped out around town this afternoon and caught part of The Gloaming’s show at the Cathedral. Amazing music played to a packed house.

Poetry, Light, Ice Cream and Friendship on a Beaut Irish Summer Day: Monday 10 August 2015 (Day 78)

11:20 am – The Gourmet Store Café, Kilkenny

We are finally getting a run of sunny and warm days. Cornelia says this sort of day is exactly what one hopes for when thinking of an Irish summer’s day.

7:30 pm – Zuni Café

I’m feeling like a local. I know where everything is and I run into people I know on the street.

At the café this morning Hazel, Cornelia’s right-hand gal, passed by with Robert Pinsky. He’s just arrived from Boston and they were looking for an Irish SIM card for him but said they’d come back for coffee.

I read the blurb about him in the festival catalogue and had just started in on his Wikipedia page when they returned.

I learned he was US Poet Laureate from 1997 to 2000. He’s a poet, obviously, and an academic at Boston University. Jewish, from New Jersey. That’s about all I knew as we started chatting.

Cornelia had to go and Hazel, while she stayed on, was hard at work at other tasks – so Robert and I had a nice chat about American politics, guns, violence, Australia, John Howard & guns, etc. He hasn’t yet visited Australia, but would like to – this seems a worthy project to help with.

The rest of the morning I ran around for Cornelia. I delivered lunch to an organist at the Cathedral. And I picnicked outside St John’s Priory – pressing my ear to the stained glass to hear the Bach Cello Concerto being played within.

At 4pm I went to the Rothe House Garden for Robert’s “Secret Garden” performance, which was quite good.

Afterwards Cornelia and I took him to the Architects of the Air installation.

The Luminarium is a pneumatic sculpture (one filled with air) constructed of specially designed plastics where the colours of the material and the design of thinner bits illuminate the inside just by the natural light.

Here’s how the artists describe it:

Each luminarium is a dazzling maze of winding paths and soaring dorms where Islamic architecture, Archimedian solids and Gothic cathedrals meld into an inspiring monument to the beauty of light and colour.

The domes are the large chambers rising up to 10 metres high that provide the focal points. The tunnels connect the domes and determine the journey the visitor will take. The luminaria also feature ‘pods’ – alcoves where people can sit and relax out of the way of the other visitors.

Each luminarium is made up of around 20 elements that are zipped together on site to typically occupy an area of 1000 square metres. Easy to erect, laying out the structure and anchoring can take as little as 4 hours then, in just 20 minutes, the luminarium is inflated to its monumental size.

Inside the Luminiarium
Inside the Luminiarium (Photo by Glenn Lucas)

W got ice cream and sat in the Butler House Gardens. He was, I think, just trying to keep going to keep jet-lag at bay. A plight I well understand. Cornelia had to go and left me to see Robert back to is hotel but first we lingered.

We chatted away about politics and swapped Clinton stories. He told me about his Favorite Poem Project, which he began as Poet Laureate and continues. They hold events where everyday people share their favourite poems and there’s a web site with videos of people sharing their favourite poems.

It’s been quite a while since I’d had such a long chat about stuff I know and care about with someone who knows as much or more about the same stuff – if that makes sense. The conversation was very enjoyable and unlike any I’d had recently. He gave me his card … if I get to Boston I’ll drop him a line.

Now I’m sitting at Zuni having had a glass of white wine and a serve of chips. I’m waiting on Cornelia to return. My face is sunburnt and I’m very sleepy.

Cornelia arrived and we ordered some more wine and, then, Jim!

Me and Jim (last seen at Sydney Airport 72 days ago)
Me and Jim (last seen at Sydney Airport 72 days ago)

Oh, my goodness how nice it is to see him. I’ve seen a few old friends along the way and made many new ones but I hadn’t seen anyone from my immediate, loving, fabulous circle of Sydney friends for 78 days (when Jim and Vickianne saw me off at the airport) and now, here, was one of my besties and someone I’ve known for 27 years. I think I got a little teary.

Feeling a bit low, uncertain in Dublin: Tuesday 4 August 2015 (Day 72)

Tuesday 4 August 9:30 am

Am I doing this thing right? I guess I am because it’s the way I’m doing it but am I doing it in a way I’ll be satisfied with when it’s over?

Sanz sent me a link to a piece about Groningen, in the Netherlands, where 61% of trips are by bicycle. She wondered if it’s on my list … and I’m kind of like: what list? Where am I going and why? I feel like it’s become very organic but maybe too organic.

Should I make a point of getting to bicycle places? To Jewish places?

Grrr … I have to think more about what I’m doing.

God, the weather’s nasty out there … wind is swirling rain around.

11:51 am

I’m looking forward to getting out to Dublin. Rural living is not for me, the whole having to drive everywhere, not being able to just pop out to a shop, wouldn’t suit me in the long run.

9:35 pm

Glenn asked me when I’d be home. And Cornelia gave me a big hug and said she’s looking forward to my return.

It was lovely and almost made me teary.

I don’t think I’d be the same if I’d had a house guest for a week.

10:15 pm – McDaids, Dublin

Not my picture, it's Patrick Donald's.
Not my picture, it’s Patrick Donald’s.

This pub is opposite Bruxelles – which used to be a hard place – there’s a statue of Phil Lynott, from Thin Lizzy, out front. It’s difficult to imagine this gentrified place as one that birthed Thin Lizzy. But Dublin then wasn’t what Dublin is now. I first visited in 1988 and it was basically a provincial hard-luck city just beginning to turn. Now, even after the GFC, it’s a bustling, cosmopolitan, European capital.

It’s so much more multicultural than even 20 years ago (when I was last here) – people working in places, residents on the street, the assortment of restaurants. And it’s crushing with foreign tourists. A lot of Spanish – I don’t know why that is. A desire to learn English in a Catholic country maybe?

Couples are bugging me. The sight of them – the hand holding, the little touches. Baz – the filmmaker friend of Glenn, who gave me a lift to Dublin – ringing his wife/partner to let her know he was on his way.

After wandering around the city centre for a good while I finally found this pub – which is age appropriate. Busy but not full – mostly, but not exclusively, middle aged men. None of any interest. It’s hard to walk into a pub after 10 pm as a middle-aged woman, alone, in travelling pants, walking shoes, and with a crazily coloured rucksack and feel anything but invisible and undesirable. Alone. Did I mention the ‘alone’ bit?

I’ve booked a third night at this hostel but I’m going to look for something else. My own space – I’ve not paid for accommodation this past week, and more of that to come with Glenn and Cornelia, so fuck it – a bit of a splurge is in order.

Yeah – feeling a little low and not looking forward to my dorm-room sleep. It’s a small room. It will be stuffy. Sigh. It’s just two nights, it’ll be okay.

Dublin reminds me of Melbourne.

 

Quiet Domestic Day for Thinking About What’s Next: Monday 3 August 2015 (Day 71)

Monday 3 August, 2:07 pm – Flanders Cross

It was rainy and blowy all night; clear, if gusty, this morning.

I’ve been for a good hour’s walk: quiet, peaceful, a bit of exercise, head clearing. I was thinking of where to go next, how to get on with it. I’ve made no decisions but I feel a little clearer in my mind.

How am I feeling? The cold is slowly clearing itself – but I’m still coughing. And I’m definitely feeling a need for a bit of physical contact with a male of the species. Last night I thought I might stay two nights in Derry, in my own room, with a view towards, um, sharing it, if the opportunity presents itself.

I wrote postcards today.
I wrote postcards today.

The dog and cat are speaking again (the dog had been shorn and bathed, the cat didn’t recognise him). There is a Kiwi, who lives in Hong Kong, here for a wood turning class. Matthew has mastered the Rubik’s Cube. Isabel is working on an art project. Soon Cornelia and the kids are going to Kilkenny.

I was messaging with Tyler last night – he visited Kilkenny in high school. His mum is in Italy right now. He said his life is complicated and will send me an email. Jonathan’s birthday is today and I messaged him … he, too, has promised an email.

The need to travel on is growing.

11:15 pm

My next steps are coming together – sort of. I slogged through the options this afternoon.

I feel … anxious, just a bit, because I’ve gotten less work done here than I’d hoped.

But I have rested and relaxed, I had a cold (which, it seems, the kids have now and I feel quite bad about it). I’m ready to travel more – if not ride quite yet.

The thing is I’ve said ‘yes ‘and offered to help and helped and listened attentively to Cornelia while she’s talked. And she’s a talker. It’s not that I’ve been shirking the work – just not getting through as much of it as I’d like.

I’m leaning toward a 17-hour ferry to France. I’ve emails out with Andrew and Tom – who I would see in the UK, but now, might not.

Glenn’s sister and brother-in-law stopped by this evening with their two and three-year-old kids. They live where he’s from – northeast of Dublin. Their daughter was forthright – which I like in a child (I don’t have to mind) –  an assertive and clear ‘no’ or simple ‘I want to see the dog’ – no waffle or whine with that one.

Hmmm. Sigh. Yup, I need to travel more – and to get back on the bike.

 

Such a pleasant and full day: Saturday 1 August 2015 (Day 69)

Saturday 1 August

I worry I’m not paying enough attention to the details lately and will have less to say, in the blog, in the book, when I get here. I fear that I’m not engaging as much as I was at the beginning of my journey.

Today I went for a bicycle ride with Jerry (whom I recently met at the shop with the door to the pub ) – he’s Scottish and married to Helena, an architect and friend/colleague of Cornelia. The day was dry but chilly and the ride was lovely. The roads are unmarked and it would have been super confusing without a local – a discovery which made me happy not have not yet set off to ride Ireland.

We rode for an hour talking of cycling and family and travel. They have three girls – one a bit older than Matthew, one a bit younger than Isabel – or about the same, and a younger one.

In the afternoon the sun shone gloriously. Glenn (Cornelia’s husband) and I went off of a bit of a photo safari. We also stopped for a coffee. It was nice getting a bit of time to have a good chat with him – such a lovely guy. He’s something of a rock star of the wood turning world and a superb hobby photographer to boot.

Playing with the filters on my camera on our photo safari.
Playing with the filters on my camera on our photo safari.
Ran into Muhammed Ali on our photo safari.
Ran into Muhammed Ali on our photo safari.

In the evening, we had dinner at Jerry and Helena’s – which was nice.

While we were there Matthew finally solved the Rubik’s Cube. He’d been working away at it for quite a while and was so pleased to have gotten it.*

Finally did it!
Finally did it!

I keep saying ‘yes’ to things which means I’m not getting as much work done as I’d like. This coming day and a half, until I go to Dublin, need to be productive. I need to do some research about my onward journey, make some plans, book things.

The weather this evening is shocking: heavy rain and wind. Everyone keeps telling me how magnificent last summer was.

Dublin beckons.

*He would go on, over the course of the summer, to really master it, at speed. The distinctive clackity sound of the cube being worked became a soundtrack to day time in the house.

Starting to See How People Get Stuck in Ireland: Friday 31 July 2015 (Day 68)

Friday 31 July – Cornelia’s (Day 68)

I understand how Jim gets stuck here, in Ireland. People are welcoming and, as Cornelia’s guest, I get invited to things.

Tonight, there was a barbecue. We dropped Cornelia’s daughter Isabel off there first and went on to Osbornes – a pub in the tiny village of Rathanna, recently reopened by a returned son. It’s really lovely.

Enjoying a pint of Guinness at Osborne's
Enjoying a pint of Guinness at Osborne’s

There I met an American couple, from North Carolina and Rhode Island but more recently Washington DC – who are now travelling. He’s a film maker and she’s a photographer.

He’s making weekly one-minute documentaries. They’re riding bicycles for now and stumbled upon Rathanna and the publican, Eric Osborne. They’d camped in the field the night before but have now moved into the walkers’ hostel Eric has opened. They are doing some filming and photography for him in exchange.

This is their website: www.brothermountain.com

The Rathanna churchyard seen from the pub.
The Rathanna churchyard seen from the pub.

From the pub we went back to the barbecue and stayed until midnight.

It was cool as autumn and a bonfire was going. When we arrived it was surrounded by men. The girl-children were in a cabin watching a tween film. The boy-children running around.

The women were in the kitchen by a table piled with food and Sharon (I think it was), the hostess, was just taking pork roasts from the oven.

We women moved to the fire and slowly the composition there shifted from all men to a good mix of men and women.

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I was instructed to hold my bread near the fire long enough to melt the butter then put my slice of pork on – yup, that’s pretty tasty.

The moon was full and shining through the trees and clouds. I spoke to John (?) whose accent was nearly impenetrable for me – but he’s a bit of a cyclist himself, you know.

Anna was encouraged to get her squeezebox from the car and a guitar materialised. Suddenly there was a bit of singing. Confident in parts, tentative in others.

And it was then that I thought – I can see how easily one (or Jim) could get stuck here.

It’s weird to be introduced around. Cornelia keeps saying: “You remember Jim? Elizabeth is a friend of Jim’s.”

I’ve moved from Matthew’s to Isabel’s room and my empty panniers are resting on top of Jim’s guitar case – which he’s left in storage here. So weird. I haven’t seen him in 70 days, all my worldly goods, not here with me, are stored in his shed in Australia. He’s roaming the continent someplace, but I’m going to wake to see my empty panniers resting on his guitar case. That is just weird.

A Cold is Coming: Thursday 30 July 2015 (Day 67)

Thursday 30 July, 10:35am, Flanders Cross

This might be the shortest, most artless of posts.

Yup, full on cold, low-grade fever, knackered, sniffley, congested. Feel bad about bringing it to the house but they’re being very lovely about it.

I got the bookkeeping caught up and have been editing photos. Tomorrow I’ll get through more as I expect to feel a bit better.

At the daily average of AU $87.91 the amount budgeted ($25,819.28) will last another 213 days or until 28 February. I need to scale that back some.

Even with the cold I feel like I’m recovering a bit and will soon be ready to get back on the bike.

(I took no photos, not one, today.)

A Door from Supermarket to Pub – Like Narnia for Adults: Wednesday 29 July 2015 (Day 66)

Wednesday 29 July – 10:00 am

Yesterday, at the local supermarket, Cornelia and I ran into one of her friends. He’s a cyclist and we fell into talking about rides around here. We decided to retire to the pub to have this chat over half-pints of Guinness. There’s a door between the supermarket and the pub – which is also a hardware store. Lovely. So small-town Irish.

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Today I have a cold and Cornelia’s ability to ‘do’ is amazing to watch – cooking, working, mothering. She is a whirlwind.

This arvo I’m helping at some sort of fundraiser for some sort of cancer charity. I said “yes”.

I need to get my work done, and nap – I’d like to nap.

Sluggish.

It is, again, cool, partly sunny and the mountains look beautiful.

My new tent has come!