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Buses, Ferries, Coastal Walk, Gondola ride, Zoo with a Spicy ending too!

Day 3 – After a good nights sleep and hearty breakfast we were back out front of our  hotel ready for the long-sufferings planned itinerary – fine tuned by the very helpful Concierge waving us off from the lobby!

For the first time since arriving we turned right out of our hotel and up the hill away from the harbour to catch a bus north to Coogee Beach.  After 19,000 + steps worth of  walking the previous day our legs were still feeling slightly fatigued.

The bus journey to Coogee Beach was almost the same journey our daughter from the house of two halves in Cyprus had taken ten years previous during her own travels in the ‘Sunshine State’. And now here we were following in her footsteps!

IMG_1257Coogee Beach was our start point for the 6km clifftop coastal walk to the famous Bondi Beach.

 

A medium effort walk along paved paths, some boardwalk’s, steps and steep inclines awaited us as the trail snaked and hugged the sandstone cliffs affording stunning panoramic views and beautiful beaches to stop at along the way.

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Gordons Bay – small, tucked away between Coogee and Clovelly, the tiny rocky beach covered with boats reminding us of a small Cornwall fishing cove.

 

Waverley Cemetery – here we were rerouted away from the coastal path due to a wild storm in June 2016 causing a landslip, buckling the board walk with it. A temporary route took us on a straight path through the famous state listed cemetery opened in 1877. Had it not been for the diversion we would not have experienced the real beauty in this graveyard with its huge sculptural memorials and crypts. I can think of no better place of rest than high up towards the sky overlooking the beautiful blue of the ocean as far as the eye can see.

 

Bronte Beach – surfs up!

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BONDI SURFER-1Bondi Beach – The view as we rounded the last corner was spectacular of this famous beach.

 

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IMG_1280Once on ground level we were on the beach discarding our walking shoes for the soft sand between our toes. We were slightly overdressed although this I think was a blessing given the competition all around!

 

Bus to…Watsons Bay – walk and steps up to Gap Bluff viewpoint. Lookout from tall ocean cliffs facing the Tasman Sea affording stunning panoramic views. Peering over and down from the safety of the angled barriers onto the rocky platform and crashing waves constantly pounding the rocks below it is hard to believe people would willingly throw themselves over the top to an almost certain death. Sadly like our own Beachy Head The Gap is now synonymous for the horror of suicide as well as the Beauty of its location.

 

A short walk through the park down to the wharf short stop for chips and cold beers before our Ferry arrived to whisk us off to…….

 

Taronga Zoo – after many weeks of all things high up the long-suffering has – whilst still not cured – become slightly less uptight about the whole ‘scared of heights scenario’. Just as well, as on arrival at Taronga we were offered the option of the Gondola to the top of the zoo! The photo opportunities this afforded swung the decision in favour, much to my amusement!

 

The zoo opened in 1916 and covers a vast area of 69 acres and houses 4000+ animals of which we only managed to see a small percentage. Nevertheless in the two hour time frame we had before it closed for the day a lot of ground was covered – including ground covered twice due in part to my useless sense of direction!

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Back down at the bottom our ferry was there waiting for the crossing back to Circular Quay and the now familiar steep walk back up to our hotel.

 

After a short rest, refreshing showers, quick change and we were ready for some food.

IMG_1275Walking back down the hill for eats, the Spice Room took our fancy and although busy we were squeezed in at a recently vacated table for two. Here we enjoyed good food – a shared buffet for two – lovely atmosphere and charming service… the perfect wind down to another hectic day. 20,624 steps and counting 15.56km and we still had to step back up the hill!

Tomorrow day 4 would sadly be our final day in Sydney and Australia……….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Finally The Muck Heap Decreases!

Last year….at the beginning of November I took delivery of 50 bags of farmyard muck. Bags a novelty for me as previously in our old large garden with its heavy clay soil we only took delivery of huge trailer loads dumped straight from the farm.

 

We intended to do the same ‘no-dig’ top dressing activity as before only in this garden it would be for different reasons. On our old clay soil it was used to build up over many years a decent depth of workable topsoil leaving the worms to take it to the depths below. This garden is on thin stony soil and in parts underwater after prolonged winter rain from the runoff of the fields at the back. The added muck will do much to feed the soil and add some bulk to hold the water during times of low rainfall.

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I am sad to say as I write in this first week of a new year the pile remains, although it has recently lowered sufficiently enough to enable me to hang out the last of our house guests bedding. Many things good and bad have come between me and the muck……..

An infection – one of many health and safety perks of my chosen career. A rose thorn decided to track its way up my arm, I had removed the offending invader with needle and tweezers I thought. Not so, as a few days later after an emergency visit to a doctor, my ‘sorry to bother you its probably nothing’ turned out to be serious needing strong antibiotics and a warning if things did not improve I could end up in hospital! A lesson here for the future then, ignore at your peril! I was out of action in mine and my clients gardens for over a week.

 

A harrowing and uplifting week in equal measure was spent going through my late mothers belongings. Treasured memories abounded from her most personal of things and many photos of a bygone age. Now in my own home as I sit at her newly installed writing desk – she did not write, by the way, her writing took the form of numbers in the many business ledgers she meticulously kept – I feel she is not so far away and maybe even looking over my shoulder as I write!

 

Work was busy -new clients, new designs, new challenges – gardens never stand still.

Decorating started in earnest after the muck pile arrived, the long-sufferings excuse not to muck spread in the cold and wet! I was also too busy choosing paint and blind fabric.

 

And then in the last week of November on a cold, wet night the first of the many house guests from the house of two halves arrived by courier in a crate. After a day of car, air and finally van travel on her own she was beside herself to see a friendly face prompting her usual stress wee all over my boot.

The long suffering and I had previously been out to make sure Lanna ‘mad dog’ had all the creature comforts she could desire. Food, chew bone, snack biscuits and lastly a comfy bed. On this last item there was much debate, It quickly became clear we had in mind a Great Dane and not a medium sized springer spaniel!

 

Just as I was enjoying having a dog to walk again on bright frosty mornings, the rains came and apart from a brief respite for snow, have not stopped much in subsequent weeks. The fields became a slippery quagmire sucking at my feet as I performed acrobatics just to stay upright although I did once have to submit to a downward dog saving myself from a full body splat at the last minute!

 

‘Mad Dog’ for her part was oblivious to my exertions so intent was she on running free reunited at last from the dried barren wastelands of Cyprus to the lush green fields and exciting woods of Dorset –  flushing out the hiding pheasants along the way.

 

Two weeks later, a day late, due to heavy snow the rest of the family from the house of two halves arrived for an extended stay before taking up their new posting – thankfully in this country – in the New Year. Once again our house was transformed….

 

With them as well as the clutter came sickness bugs, sore throats, colds, nappy rash, teething, but through all of that there was Christmas, fun, food – when tummies allowed – laughter, reflection and eventually new chapters for all.

 

 

And the muck heap…….with all the increased – happy – demands on my time it continued to berate me every day I walked out the back door! Must try harder!

Happy Productive New Year to all my readers wherever you are!

 

 

 

Time to take stock and get on with the business of writing!

If you are reading this post as a regular follower, please accept my apologies for the lapse in posts, four months worth to be precise!

I am with almost everything else – except housework – very motivated, organised, conscientious and up to the task in hand be it work or leisure. Not so it would seem the hand of writing!

Blog posts have been started, sidelined, restarted and then left while extra work commitments, family ‘staycation’  – from the house of two halves – long-sufferings mid life crisis and then unexpectedly the death of my wonderful Mother who was always my inspiration for never giving up when I might otherwise have, early on in my recovery.

I shall miss throughout this Autumn not hearing my mother’s regular updates regarding the mess the falling leaves were making in her garden, especially as, and I quote ‘most of the leaves are not even from my own trees!’

As the plants in our own garden and the gardens I tend start to slowly retreat back from their summer exuberance……….

calm is returning.  The sense of urgency to sow, plant, weed, mow, renew and re-design that the onset of spring and summer brings has passed.

There is still much to do of course in ever shortening hours. Daily raking of leaves, bulb/bare root planting, autumn tidy up, design and planting plans for new projects. However, some days now there is a stillness and less frantic pace, time to pause and take stock.

For us the new ‘Project meadow’ has been a success. The steady succession of bulbs and wildflowers in the sparse grass previously a well kept lawn, along with the addition of new prairie borders to the outer edges, kept the show going all summer. Recently it was cut down and more bulbs planted. Next year will be the true test of continued success as I watch and hope everything added this year returns and more besides!

With the dark mornings, evenings drawing in and the distraction of the long suffering gone, as his weekly London commute restarts, the hand that once wrote will attempt to do likewise!

 

Onwards, Upwards and Heels too!

I have to admit since we got back from our travels in March my usual fitness plan has at best been sporadic! Work is busy and along with a wedding & Family commitments there never seems enough hours in a day or my hip is just too tired to do any more at the end of many hours doing all things horticultural. Swimming for so long a constant – and comfort when the hip can do nothing else –  has fallen by the wayside. The gym, I am lucky if I get there once a week although spinning classes and circuits are faring better!

In spite of this lapse my hip has still made some progress. Recently the long-suffering and I took on a new route riding our road bikes – for only the second time after my hip revision last August. We now live in a valley meaning whichever way we ride out there is a hill climb to start, one direction in particular poses a real challenge. It was this way we chose!

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Hill climbs – Post accident nerve damage is still an issue meaning the extra pressure of a steep incline can cause electric shock like pain in my bum and thigh. When this rears its ugly head, I get off, walk for a bit and then as it eases get back on and continue.

I used to get very cross and frustrated about this, especially as I watched long-suffering become a dot in the distance, riding in circles once he reached the summit to allow me to catch up. In another life I would have been up there with him! Now, I try not to waste energy with negativity, but instead hope for a small improvement each time.

Post accident cycling one handed – for hand signals/drinking – was impossible, due in part to the strength imbalance of my left leg/hip but also a real fear of falling off making our outings a very stop/start affair.

Not anymore though, a breakthrough…..The first hill climb although extreemly challenging, I cycled on almost to the top, walking only a few steps then resumed the climb. In the quiet of an early morning a startled pigeon flew out from the hedgerows and into the path of my front wheel – a true test of balance as my wheel ran over it sending me lurching from either side as I struggled to stay upright in a mix of shock, horror, fear and eventually sadness as the bird lay inert and motionless behind me.

Recovering at the top my legs like jelly the view more than made up for the spanners in the back pocket ache – always a presence after any hip/leg exertion!

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Feeling balance confident after the bird altercation I decided to try drinking while in motion! With a flat road ahead ………

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The first challenge was locating the bottle in its holder while keeping eyes on the road ahead. After a few panicked, aborted attempts I managed to locate, extract and take a wobbly quick glug from the spout. More fumbling followed getting it back in the holder – by then my legs were barely turning and I was zig-zagging precariously towards the hedgerow and ditch. Luckily, as I was about to give in and stop, the  holder was located. Long-suffering, oblivious to my trials was once again a dot in the distance!

IMG_2041More hills followed not quite as steep, by now on a roll, instead of getting off I tried standing up instead to ease the pressure. Another first! I could even do this albeit in a crazy side to side see-saw motion! All the Standing hill climbs on high gears in spinning classes I have groaned about have actually paid dividends.

 

Dancing…………progress continues, after surviving without incident a great evening spent ‘mum dancing’ – in high shoes – at our sons wedding reception, the next challenge was to get my latin shoes back on!

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Salsa is the only way I have ever got long-suffering on a dance floor actually dancing with me – not counting the ‘dad slow smooch’. After a few years lessons and practice together -photo right in 2010 – before the accident, giving it up is not an option! Besides which IT IS FUN!

Shoes on and a twirl in the kitchen and we were ready to give it a go – not sure Long-suffering was as totally keen, but he went along to please me.

We have since attended two latin events together in the last month and although rusty and lacking in confidence we have managed to remember……. moves = him, and following skills = me! I even managed a double spin! Watch this space………

 

 

 

 

Botanic Gardens and Opera!

Day 2 – 5am alarm, we were up, showered and out the hotel by 5.30am to capture the sunrise over Sydney Harbour Bridge and Opera House. But first a route march to Mrs Macquaries Point backing onto the Botanic Gardens – not open as a cut through that early in the morning – a wrong turn and we were road side down an underpass busy, noisy and dusty before eventually regaining the scenic footpath to the point.

On our arrrival some professionals and amateurs alike were already set up to capture the moments. Long-suffering carefuly chose his spot although this changed as the hour progressed with a shuffling from all present to get the best shot!

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I missed what could have been my best shot from behind me where the sun was rising, as a keen photographer scrambling on the rocks to get his best shot ended up in the water drenched from head to foot!

Long-sufferings best shots then……

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The walk back to our hotel for breakfast through the Botanic Gardens was shorter and whetted our appetite for our own tour of the gardens that morning.

Royal Botanic Garden Sydney occupying a stunning position on Sydney Harbour with free entry and accessible all year round ensures these beautiful gardens opened in 1816 are a must see attraction.

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We were blessed with blue skies and comfortably warm temperatures for our visit. Although tours were available we decided as our time was limited to the morning only we would be our own guides, an easy option with clear signposting and plant/information boards along the way.

Immaculate gardens in a beautiful setting, secret pathways through the borders, long vistas and places to sit on seats and the grassy areas, nowhere it seems here is out of bounds.

Brachychiton rupestris The Queensland Bottle Tree – its common name in reference to the bottle shaped trunk which can reach a diameter of 2 metres!

Early that morning as we cut through on our way back from our sunrise – the gardens open at 7am – the main paths were busy with joggers, power walkers and commuters alike.  I can think of no better way to start the day than in this glorious place, I only wish our time had allowed for a longer more leisurely visit. Sydney residents are very fortunate to have such a place with free year round access on their doorstep every day, but even as a fleeting visitor these gardens have everything to offer.

An afternoon ferry cruise around the harbour offered us a different view of Sydney Harbour Bridge as we motored underneath its huge expanse!

There was much to see from our ferry – out to land and the busy waters…..

On our return back to land there followed a hike back up the hill, thirst quenching hotel drinks and hot showers. Finally posh frocks were on and a walk back down the hill saw us ready for………..

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A night at the Opera – Joan Sutherland Theatre Sydney Opera House

The Production for that night ‘Great Opera Hits’.

 

 

 

The early evening walk Harbourside to the Opera House set the mood for the evening, as I was stopped in the street with the words from a female passer by ‘what a beautiful dress, you look fabulous’. The Long suffering his grin stretching from ear to ear gave me the look ‘I told you so!’

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Once I got over the shock of a complete stranger paying me a compliment it did much to boost my low confidence. The hip now subjected to heels after a day of almost continuous walking was having a hard time keeping my walk even. It was with renewed vigour I pulled up, tightened my glutes and walked as tall and straight as I could muster while intermittently hanging on to Long-sufferings arm whenever lurching/limping threatened!

Sydney Opera House was the perfect venue, from the buzz in the bar area for our pre-drinks, the anticipation as we waited in the full theatre to the awe inspiring vocals of the opera singers themselves. We came away after our first taste of opera with a greater appreciation for the art and a view to repeat the experience in the not too distant future back in England!

All that remained was to climb back up the hill to our hotel, a nightcap in the bar and hopefully a good nights sleep ready for tomorrows itinerary…………

 

 

 

Ne’er cast a clout till May be out!

IMG_1769And so the saying goes, but ….. does it mean The month of May or when the Hawthorn fills its branches with ‘May’ blossom?

It seems on this we mortals are divided, but whatever your preference our ‘May’ Hawthorn blossom is out in all its glory, however I am still wearing scarf and fleece, and if the last two weeks are anything to go by I will not be casting them off any time soon!

For the last six weeks or so summer bedding and vegetable seedlings have been available to purchase alongside the weekly grocery shop as well as the usual horticultural outlets. I wonder how many new enthusiastic gardeners were caught out by the late frosts of a fortnight ago, and then watched as they blackened and died, or sat and sulked becoming slug bait in their weakened state.

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I myself got itchy fingers with a cold frame bursting at the seams but luckily common sense prevailed on that occasion.

Instead my attentions went elsewhere in the garden specifically to my outdoor summer-house.  Until a couple of weeks ago it had become a second shed with folding garden chairs/tables, empty plastic plant pots and anything else that never made it back to the actual garden shed!

The idea was to create a calm space to read, write, paint or retreat to when I am either too jiggered to work in my own garden after toiling away in my clients, or long-suffering has his all things sporting day(s) on the TV!

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First a complete clear out of items to be stored elsewhere, the remainder sat outside waiting while I brushed and swept, disappearing in a cloud of dust sending any resident spiders heading for cover deep in any vacant nook or cranny.

An old table I up-cycled years ago was to become – with modification – my desk, all I needed was an upright chair to sit on……. Oh the beauty of the internet, at the touch of a button – or two – a second-hand furniture store was located in Dorchester not far from us.

Dorchester Curiosity Centre trading from the Old Bus Depot. An Aladdin’s cave greeted us as we moved from room to room full with furniture, bric-a-brac, collectibles and more. It was easy to lose yourself there for a couple of hours especially with the added temptation of a hot cuppa and glorious home-made cakes to die for!

In the end decisions had to be made and we settled on a painted chair for the desk, a comfy ‘Lloyd loom’ style chair to relax in and an old milking stool to use as a side table.

My ‘haven’ is now complete with gardening, art and writing books/magazines, there is power too extending the hours I can indulge out there!

IMG_1806This last weekend although sunny, was cooled by a chilly breeze, the welcome 12mm of rain did much to perk things up! The Dahlias in the cutting patch have come through the winter and are showing strong – if a little munched – growth, hopefully the late addition of copper rings will help keep invadors at bay! Long-suffering has given my retreat a fresh coat of paint – giving up Saturday afternoon sport fixtures to do so!

The autumn sown onion sett’s planted before our Road Trip have not been a success, appearing to my eye neither strong or prolific, in our reduced plot there is not room for more! Saturday I succumbed although ‘May is not out’ to the planting in the veg plot of runner & french beans, along with nurtured flower seedlings for the cutting patch. The courgettes will be waiting another week yet though!

The fleece is ready should frost threaten although the weather man is predicting rain for the days ahead. Fingers crossed then!

Some new – car boot and bargain basement new – additions to the garden for the toddler – from the house of two halves in Cyprus. Hopefully come August when next she comes to stay pressure on the wooden duck in the border who is almost headless from being continually thrown down the slide will be relieved.

Some May flowers in the garden……….

And a Sunday morning breezy steep coastal walk to keep the hip from getting complacent at West Bay Bridport……..

Sydney

IMG_1231[1]Day 1 – We arrived from the Whitsundays into Sydney midday. Long-sufferings hotel of choice for our four day visit The Wentworth was conveniently located just a short walk uphill from the Harbour. A quick check in including a welcoming glass of bubbly in a huge lobby, incorporating shops, bars, library, comfy settees and for a short time only a single Rose encased in a glass dome at the desk, afternoon tea and ‘Belles reading chair’ situated between the entrances to the lifts and library. Beauty and the Beast fervour had arrived in Sydney!

After a brief inspection of our room, we were eager to get back out and onto the street for the walk down to the harbour, long-suffering grabbing my arm as I inevitably turned the opposite way – my sense of direction leaves a lot to be desired when exiting buildings!

Walking out from the shelter of the hotel we were forced back a step or two as the strong gusts funnelled and whooshed up between the tall buildings on either side of the street.  My hair – longer then after six weeks of travelling – an even messier untamed state without hat protection!

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We spent the afternoon walking around the harbour taking in and photographing  the iconic landmarks of this busy vibrant city packed with tourists all doing exactly the same thing!

We took drinks in the open air ‘Opera Bar’, luckily finding two newly vacated seats Harbourside to sit, relax and watch the world go by as we drank in our surroundings – the Harbour Bridge behind and the Opera House in front.

Tired now from travel and sightseeing we walked back up the hill to our hotel for a short rest, and freshen up before walking back down to experience Sydney at night!

Finally when we could walk no more we ate – after a short but weary wait for an outside table -freshly baked Pizzas at a Harbourside Italian restaurant a much needed leisurely affair after the hustle and bustle of dodging the crowds along the waterfront.  There followed a less leisurely route march – for the second time –  back UP THE HILL to our Hotel by which time we were ready to collapse into the welcoming folds of freshly laundered linens.

The ‘long-sufferings’ itinerary for tomorrow, well lets just say it was to be a very  early start! ………………