Category: Things

Mother Nature and her quirky blessings

Mother Nature gets a bad wrap, I think. We’re all so quick to use her name in vain when things get a little wild, but I reckon there’s a reason for the crazy stuff she does sometimes.

Yesterday, I think I may have discovered some of the method in her madness.

After what seems like weeks of wall to wall sunshine and warmth, a day of murky, damp weather finally descended on Sydney. The migration of beach-goers who’d crept out of hibernation a little early to make their summer nest in the sands of Bondi quickly fled back to their hiding places.

It was heaven. The beach was blissfully deserted.

Seeing my chance, I took advantage of the abandoned pavements and enjoyed a jog along Bondi’s coastal walk, free from dodging enraptured tourists stopping abruptly to take photos.

On the way home I hit a wall of wind. Not a gentle breeze that lets you imagine you’re in one of Beyonce’s music videos by gently tussling your hair, but a proper gale.

Usually I’d retreat to shelter as fast as my ASICS trainers and dodgy knees would carry me, but, for some unexplained reason, it was just so damn pleasant standing on the headland surrounded by grey skies, churning ocean swells and drizzling rain.

For a few glorious minutes, I stood facing the ocean quietly revelling in the sweeping gusts of wind that snatched all my cares and worries out to sea with it. Then, as if in reward for venturing out to appreciate one of her dodgier masterpieces, Mother Nature offered up an amazing sight – a pod of whales stupidly close to shore started fooling around and breaching all over the place.

It. Was. Awesome.

When Mother Nature turns on the sunshine we’re all quick to get out amongst it. But I think it’s when she’s having a bad day and just needs to get some things off her chest that she has some of her best moments.

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The church bell and its midnight serenade

One of the absolute pleasures of living in the country is the silence. Mainly because it’s just so easy to find. Particularly in the evening and even more so in the dead of night.

In the city it plays a much tougher game of hide and seek. There’s always someone or something determined to disturb the peace; sirens squealing, revellers rejoicing, someone using the bathroom in the apartment above yours.

The beauty of silence is that it’s content to let the really unique sounds be heard. The ones that need only a second to make a warm smile shine within.

Last night I heard just that, a magical sound.

It was well past midnight and I’d become obsessed with finishing the Jodi Picoult novel I’d found abandoned on a bookshelf at my parents’ house. There was a frost sneaking through the window and barely a whisper to be heard outside besides the occasional curt bark from a curious dog.

Then, it happened. Somewhere in the distance a quiet wind nudged a church bell into breaking its silence. It tolled only once, but that’s all it needed to say. The sound carried quietly across the dark night and the thousands of people sleeping peacefully amongst it.

It was a short moment, but it was bliss.

The car journey and its travel companion

When you’re in the midst of a seven hour car trip, it’s never long before you pass a road sign warning, “caution: monotony ahead”. I find it’s usually around the four hour mark when the many forms of entertainment – books, Sudoko puzzles, iPads, games of eye-spy – you packed as a travel companion just aren’t that interesting anymore.

It’s at this point that anything able to stop the rot of boredom setting in is welcomed.

On a recent return trip to Sydney in my trusty little car, I saw something that did just that. There I was, dutifully obeying the speed limit, when a silver Subaru came hurtling past me. From my righteous position at the helm of an obedient motor vehicle, I cast a disapproving look across at the driver. That’s when I noticed it. The first three letters of their number plate were A.O.K.

I’ll tell you, that car could have been driving on two wheels through a tunnel of fire and I would’ve forgiven it, just for its number plate. For the next little while my car just chewed up the road and spat it out as I spent my time thinking of the many situations a number plate like A.O.K could assist with; 

“Hello madam, we’re conducting random drink driving breath tests today, please breath into the machine,” the professional police officer would ask. To which I’d reply with a smile, “no thanks, officer, I’m A-OK.”

“Wash your windscreen?” the cleaning technician positioned at a set of inner city traffic lights with a water bottle filled with dishwashing liquid would ask gruffly. “No thanks, I’m A-OK,” I would offer with my trademark smile.

They’re just so versatile. The owner of that silver Subaru must’ve been happily A-OK the day they walked out of the registry office with those number plates in their hot little hands.

The wireless and its crackle

I’m quite proud of the fact that none of the gifts I was blessed to receive this Christmas could be classified as an iFad of “must have” 2.0 gadgetry. Quite the opposite, in fact.

Instead, I received many happy reminders of how lovely it is to take pleasure in the simple things.

First there’s the cackling wireless, or radio, I received, complete with manual tuner and valves that need a few minutes to warm up before they’ll speak the gospel of AM radio. Yes, only AM radio. Even better, the number of stations available to you varies greatly depending on whether you use your body as a human conductor for the aerial.

There’s something so totally enjoyable about having a wireless humming away in the background bringing news from far off places. What makes it better still is the satisfaction of going fishing in the sound waves for the blue marlin of AM radio – the BBC World Service. I haven’t found it yet, but I remain ever hopeful that it’s out there.

Complementing my cackling wireless is the stationery I received to write hand-written notes to friends and family. The beautiful set of notecards offer just enough space to let someone special know you’re thinking about them; a sentiment we seem to discard far too casually these days.

Personally, I think there’s nothing sweeter than receiving a letter in the mail from someone you love who took the time to put pen to paper, just because. It’s something I’m going to take great pleasure in doing as I’m listening to my wireless.

The journey and the destination

There’s a well-worn path between Sydney and Orange that my car could probably drive blindfolded. And dotted along the familiar escape route from the city are hundreds of landmarks that regularly cajole me to stop chasing the destination and instead enjoy the journey.

Last weekend I did just that. My partner in adventure, Matt and I interrupted our return journey to Sydney and took time to survey the wide expanse of the Blue Mountains from the Pierces Pass lookout on the Bells Line of Road.

It took us just 20 minutes to reach the lookout, but it felt like we’d walked to the edge of world. The contrast from the bitumen track we’d left only a kilometre behind us was magical. Everywhere you looked, nature was happily enjoying its own company and creating moments of beauty just for fun with a simple shift of the sun, or a whispering breeze. 

In the distance we could still hear the odd car hurtling toward its destination, but in front of us lay a big ol’ view that could take days to drink in. It only took a second to realise how much time we’d wasted in getting from A to B.

The feast and the entertainment

I’m not a massive fan of the dinner show concept. Where, halfway through your feast, you’re left wondering if it’s impolite to continue eating while someone shimmies their hips around your table or hammers away at an out of tune piano.

Aside from a few very select forms of mid-meal amusement – such as the wedding speech, which is a delightful banquet ritual that should never be touched, except by a few preparatory visits to Toastmasters occasionally – I just don’t see the value in it. It doesn’t make the food taste better, or the wine sweeter. The only thing it does succeed in doing is putting the kibosh on the long-overdue catch-up you’d planned with your mates.

Last night I discovered another form of entertainment to add to my small list of acceptable dining amusements – the intriguing dinner host.

It was at an amazing Persian restaurant I went to with a group of girlfriends. It’s a modest nook of Persian delicacies with a small rug pinned on one wall, an ornate gilded mirror on the other and what looks like a Tourism Persia campaign playing on a loop on the TV in the corner.

Sitting casually at a table beneath the TV as we walked in was a lady who instantly stood out. Actually, it was her ensemble that stood out the most – a beige leopard-print fedora, wispy blue leopard print dress, studded beige leather jacket and towering high heels. Very few people in the world could make it work, but somehow she did.

As we entered, she turned around, blessed us all with a beautiful smile and encouragingly invited us to enter with her eyes before turning back to her dinner companion.

A little odd, I thought, that a fellow dinner guest would make such an effort, but, hey, when in Persia…

Thankfully, it wasn’t long before she revealed her true identity as the matriarch of the feast. While an older man, who looked to be her husband, worked away at the grill and a younger man tended politely to customers, she slowly made her way around each table, offering complimentary Persian Delight and pausing to chat as long as her customers would allow it.

There was no need to hurriedly drop your cutlery for a mid-performance applause, or become unexpectedly intrigued by the type of rice the chef used in a bid to avoid eye-contact with a comedian looking for their next victim of humiliation.

The most taxing part of this showdine was offering a well-deserved compliment to a most gracious host.