Saturday, 28 May 2016

Markets and vide-greniers

First...and last coffee of the day. No time!

I had a lovely Saturday recently on the Central coast of New South Wales attending the French Country Market, held on the grounds of the Chertsey primary school. I booked and ran a stall and it was a pleasure to spend the day chatting to fellow francophiles about my book and our French house, which we have on holiday let.

French Country Market - Chertsey

Our little stall in Chertsey

We were clearly the amateur stand alongside the well-polished stalls! The last time that we had done something similar was when we were living in France and we participated in the Talloires vide-grenier, literally 'empty attic', the equivalent of a whole village garage sale.

Vide-grenier - Talloires

  • Both days were in May and, for us as stallholders, they started at the crack of dawn, were amazingly tiring but were brilliant fun. 
  • We sold more than we were expecting!
  • Both were friendly places where people happily stopped to chat and swap stories. 

Our little stall in Talloires, looking out over the Annecy Lake.
  • The weather... A few days out of winter here in Australia, and despite the fact that I started the day wearing a coat and jumper, by 9 o'clock I was wishing that I had dressed in shorts and tee-shirt.
  • The setting - as the photos attest - French village v. Australian bush.
  • Australians don't haggle like the French do!

Friday, 20 May 2016

In the newspaper !

I know it is not the New York Times, but thank our local Sydney paper, the Manly Daily, for the mention...

Wednesday, 11 May 2016


Highs or lows; reds or blues; g'days or bonjours; same spiritual connection...

My husband returned from a work trip last night. He had been to far central west Queensland and, from Sydney, it had taken him 28 hours to get there by car, 3 planes, car, an overnight stop and then a 6-hour flat bitumen and dirt road trip. Along the final leg of the journey, a distance of nearly 400 km, he passed a car - one. There was a bit more life at the only roadside shed/pub, where he stopped to have a Diet Coke and was gently ribbed by one of the, well, I presume, locals, for "living it up, mate!"

Job completed he turned around to do the whole lot again that same afternoon, hoping to make it past Winton to Longreach for his next day's flight out. There were no rooms to be had at the inn or anywhere else. A rugby league carnival had come to town.

Undeterred, he took a room in Winton and shared it with the thousands of bugs that commandoed their way into his room around locked door and window frames, to keep him company. Astute he is, my husband. He calmly turned on the air conditioning until the flying insects could shiver no more and got a few hours of rest, before completing the last 180 km to Longreach and his next plane.

I thought I'd share his journey with you.

From the French mountains to the Australian desert plains; the bright blues and greens of the Annecy Lake to the many shades of outback red; the sensual sounds of the French oh là là to the slow, unhurried Aussie drawl - you can see for yourselves how we live our different lives.

Saturday, 30 April 2016


I had finished my morning swim at the rock pool and was enjoying a few moments of peace, sitting on the slatted wooden bench at the end of one of the lanes. To my right, a long stretch of pristine sand; to my left, a rock platform abutting a cliff, from the top of which I knew there were panoramic views up and down the coastline. I registered that there were sounds ... gulls, waves... but they were not intrusive, just faint, familiar background noises. Unlike Mediterranean beaches, this beautiful place was not crowded, I had not had to pay and there was not the slightest indication that I was in reality only kilometres from the busy Sydney CBD.

A lady came up beside me. We exchanged the inclusive smile of early morning swimmers and she got on with the job of readying herself; goggles, swimming cap, towel ready for the exit from the water. An elderly man swam up to us both and mid-turn, he addressed her briefly.


"Hey, Dad", she answered back, before he disappeared and she slid into the water beside him.

I watched them both for a while longer and then headed back to my car, reflective, and a little sad.

My own father was hundreds of kilometres away. There was no chance of us bumping into each other during our morning rituals.

We have not had that privilege since I left home for my first teaching job, several decades ago. Then, I gave it no thought. In fact, I was driven - to leave, to explore the world, to do things differently, to experience - and what I left behind was simply unavoidable collateral damage.

My oldest daughter left home a couple of months ago. She was just about to turn 19. Since then, she has thrived in her new independent environment and I am proud, very proud, of the choices that she is making. Of course, I understand better what my own parents might have been feeling when they put me on the Overland train from Adelaide to Melbourne, with my one suitcase filled with a limited collection of clothes and novice teaching materials.

My husband and I chose to go and live in France with our children. We chose to absent ourselves from family and friends and struggle through unfamiliarity and loneliness. Several years later, we also chose to come back to Sydney. For us it was another new city, another set of challenges. We were still a long way from my family.

But, despite the occasional twinges of regret about how life could have been lived differently, closer to my first home, closer to my parents and sisters, I am witnessing for myself the benefits of the lessons that my children have already learned from the choices that we have made for them. What are they? A deeper awareness of more than what would have been their own little world; an interest in people, that allows them to want to communicate with others, a desire to do, to see, to experience, to be independent and to know better how to cope when times are tough.

What is interesting is that my parents chose to take myself and my three sisters overseas to live for a year when I was twelve. The person that I became grew from this experience ... just like my own children are growing from theirs.

Does this mean that in years to come, I will be far from them, wishing that I, too, could glance up at them from the water, as our daily paths crossed?


But, I have made a choice to give them the freedom to see the world differently. I can't go back on that now.

Sunday, 24 April 2016

N'oublions jamais l'Australie

April 25th - it is ANZAC Day.

It is a special day in Australia and New Zealand.

We remember fallen soldiers from past and present conflicts, give humble thanks to our serving men and women and try and imagine a world of peace and love.

Here is an excerpt from the Australian War Memorial website, describing what took place, 101 years ago: (

The Australian and New Zealand forces landed on Gallipoli on 25 April, meeting fierce resistance from the Ottoman Turkish defenders. What had been planned as a bold stroke to knock Turkey out of the war quickly became a stalemate, and the campaign dragged on for eight months. At the end of 1915 the allied forces were evacuated from the peninsula, with both sides having suffered heavy casualties and endured great hardships. More than 8,000 Australian soldiers had died in the campaign. Gallipoli had a profound impact on Australians at home, and 25 April soon became the day on which Australians remembered the sacrifice of those who died in the war.

Although the Gallipoli campaign failed in its military objectives, the actions of Australian and New Zealand forces during the campaign left a powerful legacy. What became known as the “Anzac legend” became an important part of the identity of both nations, shaping the ways in which they viewed both their past and their future. 

It is now 9 o'clock in the morning, here in Australia, and our dawn services, emotional, poignant and attracting ever-growing support, are over. But, in a little village on the other side of the world, another ceremony will take place in a couple of hours.

In the west of France, in Villers-Bretonneux, liberated in WW1 by Australian forces, the local school is called l'école Victoria, in honour of the Victorian school children whose fund-raising attempts helped re-build the school after the war, rows of graves of Australian soldiers are perpetual reminders of sacrifice, maps of Australia are strung in the corridors of the secondary schools, 'N'oublions jamais l'Australie' is chalked up on primary school blackboards and Australian visitors are treated as part of the family.

There, ANZAC Day will soon be commemorated. It will be in French, but another language, that of love and mateship will assist with the translations.

Let us not forget.