An unfortunate meeting with a fairy

By Vita Forest.

This is my response to another Blogging event.  This time it’s the Photo-Fiction Challenge from Random_Michelle.  Check out the photo prompt on her site.  I had a bit of fun making my own relevant meme too.  Enjoy!

And with that the fairy vanished

And with that the fairy vanished

So her wish had been granted.

Sort of.

She was now invisible.  She could go wherever she wanted.  She was free…

The only problem was – she was also naked.  Her clothes did not seem to be part of the whole invisibility deal.  And it was cold.  There was an icy wind today, despite the sun shining through the early spring sky.  The fairy godmother was gone.  Probably back to her fairy bower to laugh with her colleagues about another dreamer who didn’t know they had to be a little bit more specific with their wishes.

This was not going to work.  It was worse than being seen.  Her lack of visibility was going to make her stand out, make cars crash, cause people to stop dead in their tracks and stare (before pulling out their phones and posting her on Facebook).  She would be the most famous invisible person in the world.  (Were there others out there?  Had they met up with that same fairy, who smiled her crooked smile, raised an eyebrow and waved her wand before you had time to think?)

She would have to get dressed.  There was no way she could leave the house without clothes.  And she didn’t know how long the spell would last.  That was another mistake, she had been way too vague and the fairy had hopped it before she could ask any follow up questions.

She got dressed and pondered her predicament.  She dressed sensibly, both for the weather and in case of sudden spell reversals.  Her original plans were obviously out the window, but perhaps she could have a little fun and catch up with her reading at the same time.  She collected her book and her keys and left the house.

This week

By Vita Forest

Walking through the Blue Mountains

Walking through the Blue Mountains

This week I have been

  • READING Mr Wigg by Inga Simpson (lovely) and The Yiddish Policemen’s Union by Michael Chambon (so good so far).
  • MAKING two owls for Lucy (Hedwig and Pigwidgeon) based on Ann Wood’s wonderful patterns.
  • VISITING the Blue Mountains.
  • WATCHING Howl’s Moving Castle and Spirited Away with the kids (our own mini Studio Ghibli festival).


Making good on the candy promise

By Vita Forest


We have just returned from a short trip to the Blue Mountains.  As I explained to one of my work colleagues a few weeks back, there were

“3 Mums, 6 children, 1 dog, 1 holiday house…”

She looked frightened, “It sounds like a horror movie,” she said.

But it didn’t turn out that way.

The Dream and the Reality

The Dream and the Reality

The Blue Mountains…when I was quite small, I had been excited about going on a trip to the Blue Mountains, the thing that had struck me was the word “blue”.  I had imagined blue trees, blue grass, blue people… I had even drawn a picture of my expectations which my Mum has kept somewhere (no doubt to have a good laugh over when they feel the need).  You can imagine my disappointment at my actual visit, but I do not feel like that now.

It was quite an operation for Vastra, Saskia and I to find a suitable date that suited our children, us, our exes (and probably our exes’ new wives and partners and THEIR exes.  Life is very complicated.)  At last we came up with a three day window of opportunity and Vastra found us a big five bedroom holiday house in Katoomba.  We walked, played cards, read, cooked and talked.  The children walked, played cards, fought, complained, ate, chased each other and SHOUTED.  During one of their games (all of which produced blood-curdling screams as they raced around outside), the girl-next-door Katie popped her head over the fence to see if someone was in fact being murdered, or if it was all in fun.  She was invited to join them and agreed.  Katie mentioned that earlier in the day, her Dad had been rushed to hospital as he had cut his arm with a chainsaw…  But he was OK.  We had missed that excitement.

We had been out walking.  The deal was that we would go on a walk in the morning, and in the afternoon we would go to Leura to The Candy Store, a shop infamous to children everywhere.  And so we had walked along the cliff top tracks to Echo Point, getting lost a couple of times on the way (but seeing scarlet and green king parrots and a waratah bush in full bloom – who would want to miss that? Us! shouted the kids).  We had seen the waterfall at Katoomba Falls, the Three Sisters, and misty views over the valley due to the rain that fell at times (but did not sway us from our purpose, much to the children’s annoyance).

Katoomba Falls

Katoomba Falls

We returned to the house for lunch, and then it was time to make good on the whole candy promise.  The kids were outraged to find we intended to walk to Leura too (one walk a day is more than enough apparently).  Grudgingly they trailed along, lured by the promise of pocket money to spend at the other end.

We saw more king parrots, blossom trees, rhododendrons and magnolia flowers.  We walked up and down some large hills, past some pretty weatherboard houses, through a shady gully and up another steep hill, before arriving on the main strip at Leura.  When they recognised their surroundings, the kids raced ahead like a pack of hounds catching the scent of a fox.  It took a great deal of time and discussion before their final purchases were made and we were able to move on.  Vastra looked up the train timetable and discovered there was not going to be time to go to the candle shop and make the next train.  Howls of indignation were heard from some of the younger members of the party at the audacity of the adults wanting to look at a shop too.  How dare we?!

The adults decided that we would walk back through the pleasant hilly streets.  We WOULD NOT wait an hour for the three minute train trip.  The kids quickly conferenced and decided they WOULD.

And so it was that we came to spend a peaceful hour having a delightful walk, even stopping to admire a specimen of white waratah that we had failed to notice previously due to the distractions of various bickering siblings.

Blossoms of the Katoomba / Leura region

A good time was had by all.

Springtime in the Gardens

By Vita Forest

Hanami in Sydney?

Hanami in Sydney?

Yesterday we took cousin Pippi on a holiday excursion.  Her Mum was recovering from the removal of her wisdom teeth and Pippi needed to get OUT of the house.  Her cousins, Max and Lucy, decided a trip to the Sydney Botanical Gardens would fit the bill (despite the sock fiasco of a few weeks back).  Holding hands, we marched her up to the bus stop and jumped on a bus to the city.

“My Mum and Dad lived in Paris,” she announced to the whole bus.

“Err, don’t you mean London?” whispered Max, encouraging a lower volume.

“Yeah that is the country, Paris is the city,” she continued.

“I think you mean London in England,” said Max.

“OK,” she agreed happily, looking out the window.  Max became distracted by a teenage emo getting off the bus, carrying on her back a Tardis backpack.  He is quite the Whovian.

We arrived at the Gardens and walked down the hill to where we could see some colourful spring flowers.  It was like a mini Hanami festival with drifts of pink blossom lining the path.  The kids stood under a tree and a confetti of pink petals fell over them.  Apparently in Japan, the weather reports on TV record the progress of the buds of the blossom trees in Spring (a quarter open, half open etc). I must get to that country one day.

More spring flowers

More spring flowers

“I’m hungry,” announced Pippi, and it was getting on to lunchtime.  We walked through the gardens trying to find the perfect picnic spot.

“I want to see the water,” I said.

“I want sun,” said shivering Lucy (she had left her jacket behind and the wind was cold despite the sunshine).

“I want shade,” said Max who was wearing jeans and a jacket.

“I want lunch!” moaned Pippi.

We found a spot on the grass on the edge of the shade of a big fig tree. Trouble was, the shade kept creeping over us, and even Max was happy to move out into the sun.

We ate our lunch and watched large groups of lunchtime joggers running around the base of Farm Cove.  They all seemed to have the same route.  They jogged slowly along where it was flat, but when they came to the bottom of our hill, they would suddenly burst into a fit of running and sprint up the hill, each trying to reach the top first.

Max watched them critically while he chewed his bread roll.

“I’ve worked it out,” he said. “The one at the front steals their wallets and then has to make a get-away.  The rest of them chase the thief.”

Lucy and Max lined themselves up two hundred metres from the race track and joined in the next sprint.

“What’s jogging?” asked Pippi.

“Slow running,” I answered.

She stood up and tried it out, her fists pumping around and around in time with her shrugging shoulders.

“Like this?”


She even tried it backwards.

It was then that Max raced back and threw down MY wallet (he had taken imitation too far).  I must have become distracted by the whole jogging conversation.

Pippi did slow running (jogging) and fast running to scare off the ibises which crept closer and closer to look for food.  Us older three drank tea and watched yet more joggers run up that hill.

“I need the toilet!” Pippi screamed, sending us into a panic.

Lucy and I decided to take her, Max decided to stay lazing on the grass, minding the picnic.

We walked, walked and talked, skipped and hopped.  Lucy did cartwheels (a large variety of them).
“I can’t do that but I can do a somersault,” said Pippi, the call of nature no longer seeming so urgent.  Lucy reminded me I had actually taught her to do cartwheels… back in the day.

We stopped by to look at some little brown ducklings and their parents gingerly walking down a plank into a pond.


“So cute!”

And found some seeds from a nearby tree that spun in spirals when you tossed them into the air “like a helicopter.”

We made it to the toilet in time… Pippi laughed in delight at the rush of air from the hand dryers.

We travelled back to where Max lay on the hill, slyly playing on his phone while thinking we were not in sight.  We decided to scare him and crept forwards up the hill.  Trouble was, Pippi cannot giggle quietly, so our cover was sprung.  She dived on top of Max anyway.

We packed up and found another lawn that was good for Tip and Hide and Seek.  Shoes off games.  Pippi had to count to ten but went up to twenty instead.


Coming ready or not!

“When are we going home?” she asked.

“We’re not,” I answered.  “We are going to sleep here.  Where will we stay?  In the tree?”

Pippi thought for a moment.

“In the toilet.”

This sent us into gales of laughter.

“I need to do a Number Two!” she screeched suddenly and the games were over.  Shoes were shoved on and we went on another expedition to find another toilet.



This week

By Vita Forest


This week I have been

  • READING Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta.  Again.
  • MAKING a Facebook page for Jotterizing.
  • VISITING some lovely childhood friends for dinner
  • WATCHING Orange is the New Black (Season 1).
  • LISTENING to Simon Tedeschi play the piano (WOW!)
  • THINKING about how Finnikin of the Rock brings to mind the Syrian refugees.


From the playground

By Vita Forest


“Does my hair look good like this?”  Tash flips her head forward and stares up at me, her eyes glinting through the thick strands that cover her entire face.

I am not convinced.

“How about this?”  She tosses the long mess to the right so her left eye and her crooked smile can be seen.

“Much better!” I answer and she runs off to climb up the slide.

Every week I have very interesting conversations on playground duty.  Some of them are non-verbal.  There are a bunch of Kindy girls who know what it means when I look in their direction and pat the top of my head.  “Put your hat back on!”  (The new style of hats at our school are not good at remaining on the head, they can usually be found swinging behind a tiny person, like a large backwards necklace).

I hear a lot about teeth too.  I am shown their wobbly teeth  “ish un is obbly oo!”  (It’s hard to say consonants with your hand in your mouth), and presented with freshly-fallen-out-fangs, their eyes wide with wonder.  “Wow!  You better take that up to the office.”  The office staff have a collection of tiny zip-lock bags, I’m not sure if they are used for anything else but taking home baby teeth.  The children update me how many teeth they have lost, and sometimes the tally for their siblings too.

The Year 2 kids often carry out tests to see if they are still not allowed on the high monkey bars.  (This rule was put in place after one of their classmates fell and broke her arm).  I go and stand in front of them, hands on hips in mock outrage.  They give me a cheeky smirk and drop down.  Instead, they take turns leaping off a low horizontal bar, grabbing hold of a vertical bar and spinning around it with their legs flying.

Five Year 2 girls who were in my class last year, start a circular route.  Down the slide at great speed (often crashing into the person in front), running around to the ladder, dashing up to the top of the equipment, then repeating.  This is the first time that I have been at the same school for longer than a year, and I am enjoying seeing my “old” kids advancing through another grade.  Some of them have become a bit shy with me, but others not so much.  “HAALLLOOOOOOOOOO!!” bellows Mischa and Tash, every time I walk through the playground.  Makoto gives me book reviews on his latest read.  He is never in the playground without a book.  Kenny gives me a quiet smile as he sits down to lunch.  Alan’s jokes have not improved with the passing of time…

Then there are those that another teacher calls “the Lost Boys”.  They much prefer to talk to adults than other children, who they find quite puzzling and unsettling.  The Lost Boys can often be found standing around a garden bed and staring intently into it.  As I walk by on one of my circuits, they give me updates on the spiders and beetles that inhabit the space.

I also learn interesting facts:  “Did you know,” says Bastian.  “That sometimes chocolate is healthy?  It is!  I had chocolate once with no sugar in it.  It tasted like dirt but it was still chocolate.”

and settle soccer disputes: “Pedro said it was in but it was NOT!”

and squat down to check out scrapes and bloodied knees.

It’s never dull.




A Goldilocks kind of Adventure.

By Vita Forest

Paddington Reservoir Gardens

Paddington Reservoir Gardens

On Sunday, the kids and I opal-carded it around town.  ($2.50 all day travel.  Bargain).  We caught two trains and four buses.  Our mission was to find a good place to stop for lunch and we were a bit Goldilocks about it.  First we went to the Paddington Reservoir Gardens, but Max didn’t want to eat there (the grass area was “too small”).  Then we went back to the city and got off the bus at Hyde Park.  But there was some kind of loud thudding outdoor concert going on, and I thought it was “too noisy.”  Lucy also tried out a few cartwheels on the grass and pronounced it “too hard.”  So after another short bus ride, we went into the Sydney Botanical Gardens, one of my most favourite places of all.  The grass was soft, there was plenty of it, there were nice things to look at and it was not too noisy.  We all declared it “just right” and sat down to eat our picnic.

We sat just outside the fence that encloses Government House.  Our backs against the stone, sitting on the “just right” grass watching the world go by – the ferries dancing on the harbour, the people strolling by under their sunhats, the myna birds darting for scraps.  We took off our shoes and wriggled our toes, as we ate our food and sipped our tea (Earl Grey and Rooibus with milk poured from a tiny jar I keep for just this kind of outing).  Max tried to fit through the bars in the fence around Government House.  Although he could fit his legs and arms through, his head and hips were “too wide”.

Everything was lovely.

The view from the Sydney Botanical Gardens

The view from the Sydney Botanical Gardens

And then it was not.

Max and Lucy began to bicker and then there was some pushing.  Then there was some shoving.  Words were thrown.  Then socks.  One sock sailed over the fence and into the garden of Government House.  The sock belonged to Max.  He tried to fit through the fence again.  But as before, his head and hips were “too wide” and his legs and arms were “too short” to reach the sock.  Muttering in an annoyed kind of fashion, I said – there was simply nothing for it, we would have to walk ALL the way around the fence, past the fig trees, past Fiona Hall’s Folly for Mrs Macquarie, past the stand of bamboo, past the sculpture-that-everyone-wants-to-climb-on-but-you-are-not-supposed-to, up the lawn and into the gate of Government House.

With much huffing and puffing, we followed said-route and arrived in the gardens of Government House.

It wasn’t half bad – there was a tinkling fountain, there was the softest of soft grass, there were luminous titian clivias in the depths of the shade beneath the fig trees.  (The gravel was uncomfortable under Max’s bare feet, but that is what happens when you lose a sock…)

Government House through the bars of the fence.

Government House through the bars of the fence.

“You get the sock!” I ordered the siblings and went to look at the herbaceous borders.  There were some quite lovely plantings all in mauve and violet…  Lucy declared that she would pay $5 to whoever retrieved the sock, but then changed her mind once Max grabbed it.

He sat down near the wisteria to put on his shoes and then discovered…

He had lost the other sock!

Looking up at the sky through Fiona Hall's Folly for Mrs Macquarie.

Looking up at the sky through Fiona Hall’s Folly for Mrs Macquarie.

So we retraced our steps, past the fountain, past the clivias, under the fig trees, over the gravel, out the gate, along the path and over to Fiona Hall’s Folly for Mrs Macquarie.  Where he found his other missing sock, waiting for him on the grass.

That soft green grass.

And there ends the case of the mysterious missing sock.


This week

By Vita Forest

Sunday sights

Sunday sights

This week I have been

  • READING Little Adventures in Tokyo: A Guide to Strange Sidetrips and Unusual Ways of Having Fun by Rick Kennedy.  How lovely it is.
  • MAKING plans for next term.
  • VISITING The Paddington Reservoir gardens
  • WATCHING Storyline Online during Fruit break at school.


Who is your guide?

By Vita Forest


Literature or Guidebook?

How do you decide what to do in a new place?  Who is your guide?

Years ago, my uncle’s partner told me about their recent trip to Spain.  Rather than trying to see a little bit of everything, they had taken an intriguing approach to their sightseeing.  Being art-lovers, they had honed in on Picasso and made his art and life the focus of their trip.  They had researched various important locations and artworks before they left and plotted their trip according to their findings.  This allowed them to luxuriate in Picasso’s art while discovering new places through their connection to this one artist.

I once made a Caravaggio tour of Rome.

I had read Peter Robb’s fabulous book M about the painter Caravaggio.  With limited time in Rome (and traveling with others with limited interest in the whole art thing), I decided to make seeing Caravaggios my priority.  But not the still lives, or his portraits of luscious youths, I would focus on his grand paintings of biblical scenes, housed mainly in chapels around Rome.

This had a number of benefits – popping into a chapel to get a quick Caravaggio fix was less taxing for small children than walking through an entire museum, entry was generally free and they were located near other tourist sites.  So after a stroll down the Spanish Steps, why not potter down to the Piazza del Popolo and to see Caravaggio’s depiction of St Peter and St Paul at the Cerasi chapel in Santa Maria del Popolo?  By shrewd planning and with the added incentive of plenty of gelato, I was able to walk the streets where Caravaggio lived and worked and fought and killed…   I was able to get a sense of how small and claustrophobic his Roman world was, before he was forced to flee it.

I had probably read Robb’s book because of an incident from back in my backpacking days.  While travelling around Europe, I had happened upon his amazing painting The Beheading of St John the Baptist in the Scrovegni chapel in Padua.  We were there to check out the Giotto frescoes, but these barely registered once I had caught sight of the Caravaggio.  It was just luck; it was not usually in that chapel.  It was simply being displayed there briefly after having undergone some restoration work, before being returned to its usual home on Malta.  I probably sat for over an hour in front of this large artwork, digesting the quiet drama of this arresting scene.  I was hooked.

There is something very modern about Caravaggio’s work, the people look real and the action is immediate.  There are no sweet soft cherubs floating in hazy soft focus, there is gritty street-smart realism, which looks like it was painted yesterday.  The bodies are usually anchored by a single dramatic light source that gives the scenes a theatrical quality.  In fact, Caravaggio was known to have spent quite some time examining where the paintings would be hung and how the light fell in that setting, incorporating these details into his paintings.

I would highly recommend a Caravaggio tour of Rome.

Have you ever done something similar?





In the wind and the weather

By Vita Forest

Curl Curl Beach

Curl Curl Beach

Last Saturday Saskia, Rowdy and I took a barefoot walk from Freshwater to Dee Why.  Why barefoot?  The route includes a long sandy beach.  There were also a couple of headlands and some boardwalks but it was just easier to leave the shoes off…

Here are some of the things we saw

  • Ready-made dog drinking bowls for Rowdy in the cliff-top rock pools.  The water was left over from the recent rain.
  • Birds – a pelican spiralling up on the wind with outstretched wings, fairy wrens hidden in the scrubby bush on the headland and seagulls congregating together by the side of a harbour pool.
  • A bunch of kite surfers literally flying over the waves as their brightly coloured kites bobbed above them.
  • The heart-shaped rock again we noticed last summer (from another angle it looks like a big bum…)
Heart or bum?

Heart or bum?

  • A collection of pink daisies floating in a tiny rock pool puddle by the boardwalk around from Freshwater.
View out over Dee Why

View out over Dee Why

  • The view out over the sea from Dee Why where we stopped for a cuppa at an outdoor cafe.  Bare feet and dogs were welcome.
  • Toddlers peering out of prams at Rowdy as their parents promenaded by.
  • Surfers clad in wetsuits tiptoeing over the rocks with their boards under their arms.
  • Triangular sails of yachts heading south under heavy pewter clouds.  But the rain stayed away.
  • Gleaming white breakers at Curl Curl, glowing as the sun set.
  • A rogue wave surprising me, sweeping up high on the sand and soaking the bottom of my jeans.
  • The weird blue glow of Curl Curl pool after sunset.
Pool at Curl Curl

Pool at Curl Curl

We made it back over the last headland before the light disappeared.  We stopped and washed the sand off our feet while Rowdy caught a few sips of water from the tap.  Our feet were tingling from the grit of the sand, the rocks, the mud.  We knew we were alive.