Day tripping

By Vita Forest

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On a glorious spring day, Saskia and I set off to revisit a favourite walk – Gerringong to Kiama.  We did it in January, in the middle of summer, stopping for a swim on the way and racing a storm back to the holiday flat.  This time it was a day trip from Sydney, travelling by train for a full day out.

The train ride itself, down through the Royal National Park, and then along the Illawarra Escarpment is very spectacular.  The train cuts through thick swathes of bush, climbs across high, curving bridges straddling steep valleys, and clings to the side of the cliffs with the Pacific Ocean gleaming away into the horizon.  Sometimes you see hang gliders drifting off from Stanwell Tops, sometimes you see whales breaching off shore.  Sometimes you just have to settle for the clear, endless blue of the ocean.

Below Wollongong, the train turns inland a little through lush dairy country which continues down around Kiama and Gerringong.  The hills are rolling and green, the cows are black and white, the fields are dotted with cabbage tree palms and giant majestic fig trees, remnants of the rainforest that once extended from the mountain ridge right down to the coast.

We changed trains at Kiama and went one stop to Gerringong, we would be returning by foot.  It is perhaps three kilometres from the station to the start of the Kiama Coast walk, but half of this is along the pristine Gerringong Beach, a long stretch of sand with a dramatic grassy bluff at its southern end.  There were surfers enjoying the water, and we enjoyed a paddle, but the water was still a little too bracing for swimming.  For me anyway.

Gerringong Beach

Gerringong Beach

At the northern end of the beach, we cleaned the sand from our feet and put on our walking shoes ready to start the walk.  A pair of wooden poles, decorated with local Indigenous symbols, mark the start of this section of the walk.  You pass through them, and head up the hill, and away from civilisation.  This area seems like a wild place, despite the fact that it edges around farmland.  Though there may be cows munching the grass to your left, on your right are steep cliffs, clambering wildflowers and dramatic black boulders plunging into the sea.

Saskia preparing for the walk

Saskia preparing for the walk

We saw many birds – a number of hawks (cruising over the cliffs or perched imperious and solitary on a fence post), flocks of seagulls (following fishing boats or fishing themselves in flickering white formation), an elegant heron, some crows, and jaunty squabbling fairy wrens, who love the thick dense shrubs that border the pathway.

We stopped for snacks and lunch on the grassy path, looking out to sea and back down the coastline.  As the day progressed, the sea changed from smooth and glassy to a heaving, swelling living thing, causing white breakers to smash against the rocks at the shoreline.  (This was also convenient when we reached The Little Blowhole – the rising swell of the water shooting a dramatic white spray vertically into the air, much to the delight of the onlookers).

We climbed over the stile at the southern end of East’s Beach, a landmark I used to look at from the sand when my children were very young and wonder about.  What was past it?  Where did it go?  Now I know.

Our shoes came on and off as we walked along sand, then back on grass.  There were steep steps, thick grass and even at times, concrete paths.  We inspected gardens as we walked along headlands, sat on generously placed seats, and chatted to people and dogs.

We arrived back at the Surf Beach and dusted off our feet for the last time.  There was a train heading back to Sydney in a few minutes so we hurried up the hill and sank satisfied into north-facing seats on the train.

Another marvellous journey on the Kiama Coast walk.

 

This week

By Vita Forest

 

This week I have been

READING The Sound of Silence by Katrina Goldsaito

WRITING Saluting Saga

WATCHING Billy Elliot with Lucy

VISITING

  • Wendy’s Secret Garden at Lavender Bay for some sketching
  • Sawmillers Reserve, North Sydney for Sculpture at Sawmillers


    MAKING cat costumes for Lucy’s play

    HOLDING Smartie Maths Day at school (so much learning, so much fun, so much chocolate).

    CELEBRATING

    • the end of Term 3
    • winning a Poetry prize as one of my alter-egos!

    SMILING at some chickens at a water-front property at Blues Point, pecking the grass on a tiny spit of land surrounded by the harbour.


     

    Saluting Saga

    By Vita Forest


    Recently while sick, I binge-watched The Bridge, the intense Scandi-Noir TV series.  It starts with an intriguing set up: after a brief blackout, a body is found on the Øresund Bridge connecting Malmö and Copenhagen.  The body has been placed at exactly the half-way point, thereby ensuring that the resulting murder investigation will be a joint Danish and Swedish affair.

    From the Danish police, comes homicide detective Martin Rohde (Kim Bodnia), who teams up with his Swedish counterpart Saga Norén (Sofia Helin).  Martin, a bear of a man, is warm and gregarious, going home to a lively house with his third wife and a brood of children (including his taciturn teenage son August, from his first marriage).  Saga is his opposite – prickly, blunt, somewhere on the Asperger spectrum, and one of the most memorable characters you are likely to meet.  She is a workaholic, living alone and indulging in sex so casual, there is no small talk, let alone flirting.  And when it is over, she would much rather examine gruesome autopsy photos than stop for a cuddle.  Her long blonde hair is undermined by her “uniform” of leather pants, a long brown coat, boots and a series of bruise-coloured t-shirts, many of which she changes into in the middle of the office in front of her colleagues (after sniffing her armpits and discovering she is a bit whiffy).  These two make an excellent “odd couple” where Martin’s charm complements Saga’s intellect and focus, as they hunt for a calculating serial killer.

    The story builds slowly with seemingly unrelated characters steadily introduced.  We become fascinated with them long before they are clicked into the puzzle of the plot.  There are no “minor” characters – each person is beautifully drawn and acted, witness the range of police colleagues with their very individual appearances, quirks and mannerisms.

    This Scandinavia is a cold bleak place.  The colours are bleached out, it sometimes feels like you are watching a black and white film, where even red traffic lights are muted pink rather than scarlet.  Most of the action takes place under artificial light, at night, or in a grey leaf-less drear.  Occasionally it may snow, but it is never Christmas.

    The series is beautifully filmed with the camera observing the characters through obscuring layers – behind the glass of a window, in the background behind a crowd of people, partially hidden behind a doorway.  People communicate through barriers.  The architectural settings are clinical and stark or grungy and feral.  This, combining with the unsettling soundtrack, creates a sense of disquiet and menace.

    Despite the grimness, there is humour and humanity.  These are people working hard to protect others, despite their individual flaws.  The human interactions provide warmth and hope, particularly the partnership of Saga and Martin. The finale is heartbreaking, but it is well worth spending some time in Saga’s world.

     

    This week

    By Vita Forest

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    This week I have been

    WRITING A gypsy caravan, a fire balloon and a Baby Austin

    READING Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany

    DRAWING in sunglasses in the Sydney Botanical Gardens with my lovely Sketch club.

    ATTENDING Classic Flow at Barangaroo with five hundred other yogis (yoga to live classical music – ah bliss!)

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    LISTENING to the grand piano and cello at Classic Flow and then the surprising addition of a wonderful choir (I had my eyes closed and didn’t see them tiptoe on!)

    WATCHING Gloria at the Griffin Theatre

    EATING Flan Catalan with Saskia Mmmm!

    ENJOYING some beautiful spring weather

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    A gypsy caravan, a fire balloon and a Baby Austin

    By Vita Forest

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    This week was the 100th Birthday of that master storyteller, that teller of tales – Roald Dahl. We are reading one of his novels at school at the moment.  It’s probably my favourite, though not his most famous, it is Danny the Champion of the World.  It’s a kind of love letter from a boy to his beautiful Dad, with even a little preview of the B.F.G. thrown in.

    This book holds many personal memories for me too.  When Max was about to turn six, he broke his arm falling up some concrete steps.  After visiting the hospital and being given a temporary splint, we were told to return in the morning for his bones to be set.  Max spent a painful night falling in and out of sleep until he just couldn’t sleep at all.  So to distract him, I curled up beside him and read to him through the night.  I read aloud of Danny’s adventures in Hazel Wood, of fixing cars, and of living in a gypsy caravan with his Dad. We read nearly the entire book in that one sitting, Max’s eyes wide above the covers, his arm strapped over his heart.

    I have read it aloud to two classes now, the first being a Year 1 class a couple of years ago.  That class contained Frederica, an amazing young writer, who created a quite startling “innovation on the text”  adding another vignette, using the same characters and setting and taking the story in a slightly different direction.  She wrote a whole sequence based on the villain Mr Victor Hazel, who dropped his “aitches” but then attached them to other vowels.  This seven year old girl worked out how this tick would operate and wrote with relish – it was very impressive!

    I remember reading aloud a scene in the woods with pheasants, and keepers with guns, and Danny and his Dad creeping about in the twilight.  As I read, the kids acted it out, scampering about the floor under desks, around chairs, necks jerking as they pecked at imaginary raisins flung into their midst by Danny.

    That year, and again this year, some kids have independently  borrowed copies of the book from the library (which they keep in their tote trays with their own personal bookmarks to follow along as I read).  Miss Dahlia, who recently turned 7, even spent a precious birthday book voucher investing in her own copy of this marvellous book.

    We have made our own gypsy caravan artworks, they currently festoon the walls of my classroom with their brightly decorated exteriors and even 3-D shutters from which images of my students peer out.

    We have learned new words – gypsy caravan, pheasant, filling station, Baby Austin and fire balloon.  We have imagined visiting Danny and living with him in the gypsy caravan, eating apples from the tree and walking through the countryside to Hazel’s Wood.  And we have compared ourselves with Danny on a Venn Diagram, noting that we are lucky enough to have a Mum, while Danny only has a Dad, he already knows how to drive, but does not appear to play soccer, but Danny and my class all like apples.  One boy thought that Danny’s life was exciting while his was not (he has already forgotten his recent ski trip).

    We have been driving with Danny in the dead of night through the narrow country lanes in the Baby Austin, hardly breathing as he struggles to change gears and eyes wide in alarm as a police car roars by just as he nears the turn off to Hazel’s Wood…

    It’s never too early or too late for Roald Dahl.  Happy Birthday!

    What are your Roald Dahl memories?

    This week

    By Vita Forest


    This week I have been

    READING

    • Greene on Capri by Shirley Hazzard
    • Tell the Truth, Shame the Devil by Melina Marchetta

    WRITING Channel Surfing

    WATCHING What’s eating Gilbert Grape

    DRESSING up as the Green Crayon from The Day the Crayon’s Quit by Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers for our school Book Week Parade (with a bunch of other teachers who were other colour crayons – we made a lovely set).

    DRAWING in sunglasses at Circular Quay (Lucy joined in too, while Max hunted Pokemon with a friend).

    PICNICKING by Sydney Harbour with my parents and Max and Lucy.

    FIXING up hats for our dance group (we have starting up rehearsals for the big performance again).

    RECOVERING from the flu.

    Channel surfing

    By Vita Forest

    After a stressful few months, a couple of weeks back, I succumbed to the flu.  It hit me hard, with a whole week off work, two trips to the doctor, and not much else apart from dozing in bed, watching the box and solving a few Pocket Codeword puzzles (have you tried them?  They are addictive).  On the Monday I was also joined by Lucy, on the Friday, by Max.

    On Monday, Lucy worked her way through episode after episode of The Adventures of Merlin Series 1.  I drifted in and out of consciousness, vaguely aware of the latest threats to Camelot, Arthur calling Merlin “an idiot”, handsome knights clattering over cobblestones on striking French steeds, and that this was at the stage in the story where Morgana had not yet crossed over to the dark side.

    Over the week, I worked my way through The Bridge on DVD, that fantastic Scandi-noir series from Sweden and Denmark.  Not while the kids were with me of course.  Max had picked up the DVD and remarked that soon he would be old enough to watch things with MA-15 ratings.  Oh joy.  He has shocked his aunt with his intricate knowledge of the workings of Westeros “and how about that Red Wedding hey?  Episode 9 is always really good…” A very well-executed deception.  (Well we do talk about things here, and I had used the Wildlings for inspiration for  some costumes I had been designing at the time).

    Both my children enjoy the current crop of shows on finding houses, preferably in foreign climes, or building structures with very small floor plans.  “Yeah, coz you need a three car garage when there are only two drivers in the family”… “it’s tiny, what did he expect?  That’s why it’s called a tiny house!”… “I liked that one with the hand-knitted hammock…”

    And one night as I forced some dinner down, I watched in horror an awful show where a bunch of grasping young women with too-much makeup, too-short skirts and too-high heels, where vetted by a raucous threesome, who spoke about them as if they were not there (“I hate your dress” “you stand funny, kind of sideways” “your teeth are awful, get them fixed”), before they were thrown in the way of two thirty-something rich dudes, whose only saving grace seemed to be their large bank accounts.  “Why did you watch it?” Max asked me as I recounted the foul dealings to him as what I hoped was a cautionary tale, “I don’t know,” I answered, “It came on and I just couldn’t believe these people were real.”  But they were real and in a world with The Bachelor (another show I simply detest) I shouldn’t be surprised.

    Max was sick on the Friday too, and after briefly checking out a young couple searching for a home in The Netherlands, he went to the cupboard and found My Neighbour Totoro and The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Ah joy indeed!  My parents popped in briefly with homemade lamb and barley soup and we slurped it down as we watched these delights, receiving nourishment in a number of different forms.