Hello again!

Hope this finds all going well and enjoying summer.

The Émigré Story continues and Part 4, All of our Days, is now up on the website under WRITING The Émigré Story – Part 4 .

A brief recap is in order. And as with my related artwork of the 1990’s, underpinning it all is the knowledge that, though this is my parents’ story, it is also mine and now yours to share. And the plight of refugees remains universal and timeless.

Part 1: begins in Vienna, the birthplace of my parents, Hans and Gerta. It traverses the years of rising antisemitism and oppression, of Hitler’s rise to power, and the desperation to seek an escape from Europe. It ends in Australia in 1939 shortly after their arrival, grateful to have found refuge. The Émigré Story – Part 1

Part 2: is the grim story of my maternal grandparents, Max and Lola, and the failed attempts to save them from their terrible fate in the Holocaust. The Émigré Story – Part 2

Part 3: Starting Anew, has been a challenging and fascinating journey with unexpected insights into my parents’ younger lives and my early childhood experiences. I hope it is as interesting for you too. The Émigré Story – Part 3

Part 4: All of our Days, a journey through childhood memories up to the age of seven, a taste of the 1950’s—the magic of visits to my father’s photographic studio and shopping at the market and continental deli nearby with my mother, the lingerie factory of my ‘other father’, a trip to town where my mother finally could get ‘a decent cup of coffee’ and share the delicious Cremeschnitte pasty with me, the local lolly shop, and a trip to the dentist! I hope you enjoy the retelling as much as I have enjoyed writing it. I am sure it will bring back memories for those of you who lived through this era though through a different cultural focus than mine. The Émigré Store – Part 4

Please note there is a text-only DOWNLOAD for each part for those who dislike reading on computers or other devices.


Such a long wait!

Hello again. A few people have commented on my ‘absence’. It is always a bit of a thrill to know that there are a few who apparently eagerly await my next offerings! I hope I will not disappoint. It’s also quite strange for me, this online ‘publishing’, the fact that it goes to such a range of people, from my nearest and dearest right through to people I don’t know at all, especially when it comes to such a personal story.

I have been working on this Memoir piece for some months. It is my parents’ Émigré story, their life in Vienna leading up to when they fled from Nazism in 1938 to the safety of a new life in Australia. It is also the story of my maternal grandparents, Max and Lola, who didn’t make it. Not easy to write, but finally for me an imperative. All the more so in the light of what is now happening in the Ukraine. And be warned, some of it is probably not easy to read.

My darling late mother had a phrase that rings in my head, accent and all: It’s not such a nice world we live in, she would say in response to terrible things that occurred out in the world at large. And as you will see, she had plenty about which to feel this way. Fortunately this was, as for me, balanced by great appreciation of all that was/is good and beautiful!

Whenever I thought I had finished Parts 1& 2, it seemed further information came to me and I was constantly adding to it. Thus it has proved to be too long a piece for a Blog/Post, and due to its nature, more appropriately placed under WRITING in the main menu. I have included many photos and hope you find it interesting and perhaps informative.

Part 3 is underway but will undoubtedly take many months again, (phew, you can breath easy!) It follows the early years of my parent’s life in Melbourne and some stories of my early years growing up as the child of emigrants.

I hope life has been and continues to be good for you all despite the challenges we face. I send my warmest greetings.


We are ten, all women, celebrating a birthday, a ritual amongst a group of friends. Catherine, who is hosting the lunch, only weeks ago was sadly and unexpectedly widowed and we, together with many more, stood in this same room, an expansive living/kitchen/dining space overlooking the sea and the town beyond, in another form of ‘celebration’ to commemorate her husband’s life.

Having been ‘at home’ recuperating from my new hip for several weeks, I have been looking forward to getting out and seeing this group of friends again and connecting with Catherine in person rather than just by phone. So, now we stand chatting, delicate champagne glasses in hand, room full of catch-up and smiles and an excited birthday ‘girl’, now turned seventy-six! Nonetheless, it is in a sense, and certainly for Catherine, a celebration in the shadow of loss.

Catherine in happier times -last year at my place

After a time, Catherine moves to the kitchen area, keeps busy. She is a wonderful cook and stands at the stove tossing fat prawns in a hot wok to add to the green curry which sits patiently, rich, and smooth, in a large shallow pan. I stand with her, giving the prawns a final toss as she steps to the sink momentarily. They are ready! Would you like me to call people to the table? Yes please. she replies. As I approach the ‘gaggle of girls’, a memory from early childhood in the kitchen with my mother appears from nowhere. Whenever my German-speaking parents had dinner guests, elegant table set, my mother, also a wonderful cook, would bestow upon me the honour to inform their guests when it was time to eat. Tell them Zu Tisch bitte, she would instruct me, to the table please. So, in my best seven- year- old German, I repeat these words while the charmed adults, many of them childless, smile indulgently. Somewhat shyly I find the same words now shyly popping out of my mouth, Zu Tisch bitte, to the gathered group, thinking it needs an explanation, but they are too preoccupied.

Roz, the birthday girl, at head of table

Ten of us now sit around the long, beautifully set table in this new, contemporary space, graced with items of Catherine’s family inheritance- Limoges plates, glassware, linen napkins. Large, handsome pieces of French antique furniture sit spaced around the walls. I feel so ‘at home’ as our shared, though distinctive, European heritage makes for a familiarity and is one of the things that draws us together; less significantly, our love of spicy food, really spicy. Catherine is the only person I know who takes hot chillies when going out to lunch, always adding them to whatever she is eating, offering them to me also. Ever the gracious hostess, she announces that, to suit the varied palates the green prawn curry is only a little spiced.

It is customary at our get-togethers, that everyone contributes to the meal. Accompanying Catherine’s green prawn curry and bowl of fish bites are dishes made by others- a pasta salad with an excellent Indonesian-style dressing, and a spectacular spicy Vietnamese salad, a complex array of colour and taste. I make a note to ask for the green curry and Vietnamese salad recipes. Between courses, she quietly slips to the kitchen area. I notice too late that she has already cleared and cleaned benches, filled the dishwasher, everything is in place. I grab my trusty crutch and make my way over to keep her company. I understand her compulsion to ‘keep busy’, her coping mechanism. Nonetheless I marvel that she is up to all this.

Kerry has made the birthday cake. She glides across the floor toward the table, petite, palms upward, bearing the cake on a white platter. As she approaches the birthday girl, I gasp. It is so pretty. The cake consists of three golden spongy layers; citrus yellow lemon curd oozes between each. On top, whipped cream. In its centre, a single sparkler spurts and fizzes, a pale pink hibiscus bloom beside it. On the rim of the white platter two more hibiscus nestle. This striped wonder now sits in neat triangular pieces on our little Limoges plates. It is a tangy orange cake, the lemon curd still more piquant, served with mixed berries-plump blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries. I can’t help myself- as always, I’m uttering words and making sounds conveying how delicious it is.

Do you remember the cake Cath made a few years ago? I ask, and describe the rectangular, cream-covered cake encrusted with fruit, flowers, and petals of every conceivable colour. I had never seen anything quite like it, a culinary artwork, and am astonished that no one else remembers it. Of course, my obsession with documenting keeps things forever alive in my memory aided by occasional revisiting of images as I flick through stored photos on my devices.

Throughout the meal I find myself thinking about what a ‘foodie’ I am or have become. I had not understood this about myself until my friend Dure, one-time partner of the eminent Melbourne restauranteur Stephanie Alexander, described me as such, thus offering me a new view of myself. I am fascinated by the process of discovering anew and how such an engagement changes something within oneself. As a young woman in Europe, for example, I recall visiting the Prado Museum in Madrid where the nightmarish visions of Goya’s Black Paintings, Pinturas Negras, fourteen late works from around 1820, overwhelmed and deeply affected me. They portrayed his personal distress and bleak outlook on humanity caused by the political and social upheavals in Spain of the time. Precursors of Expressionism, these works left an indelible impression on me, offering a new insight into the power of the visual image. So, although Goya’s work was ‘known’ to me, I had not really ‘seen’ it.

After the meal, Roz, the ‘birthday girl’ unwraps her presents -a quirky tea-towel with an image of a cockatoo on it, chocolates in a heart-shaped box, a small handbag, Turkish delight, soaps, a bottle of a scented liquid for laundry items, a book, all selected with care and beautifully presented. Catherine picks up her chair and moves between Roz and me. We are now able to indulge in more intimate conversation. She comments on the ring I’m wearing, one of my late mother’s, an unusual design consisting of strands of twisted gold. As I lead a quiet, casual, home-based life, the opportunity to ‘dress-up’ and wear such a ring is infrequent. I wish I knew the story of this ring, I say, but I have an inkling it is Italian as it has that ‘look’, possibly purchased on one of their trips back to Europe.

Catherine’s eyes next move up to the coral necklace I am wearing, also something of my late mother’s. Although she has seen it before, she asks about its origins and so I begin to tell her the story – a story I love to tell as I have quite often done. But first I must backtrack.

Of the jewellery which came to me after my mother’s death in Melbourne aged one-hundred -and-one, were two items that had been gifts from her dear Italian friend, Giovanni-the coral necklace, and a silver Roman coin ring. I knew Giovanni only through the stories my olive-skinned, once dark-haired mother and my father, had shared with me. She had met the fair, blue eyed northern Italian when they were both students at the university in Vienna, her home city, in the mid 1920’s. Studying German literature, she subsequently obtained a Ph.D., her thesis on the great German poet, Mörike. Giovanni was studying medicine. They shared a deep relationship but I understood from her that, as he was an Italian Catholic and she a Viennese Jew, marriage was never a prospect, and presume he returned to Italy on completion of his studies.

I came to realize, after her death, that despite hearing about him and his family over many years, there remained gaps in my knowledge about their relationship. I believe they were lovers but don’t know for how long they were together, what form the relationship took once they had finished university, and for how long they were ‘lost’ to one another before reconnecting again.

Subsequently, my mother met my father at a ‘tea dance’ sometime after she completed her studies, and after a long engagement, married in 1937. The National Socialist noose was ever tightening and in March,1938 Nazi Germany annexed Austria. With enormous difficulty my parents managed to leave Vienna by the skin of their teeth in December,1938 for the safety of Australia. At the same time my mother’s only sibling and his wife had emigrated to the USA and, as with my parents, arrived in their new country penniless having lost everything. Tragically, together with other relatives and millions more, their parents, who they almost succeeded in saving, perished at the hands of the Nazis.

My father, step by persistent step, was working to establish himself as a photographer in Melbourne. Meanwhile, my uncle in America served in the Pacific during war, subsequently studying Accounting under the American GI Bill. After some years, and in advance of my parents, he was sufficiently financially established to be able to afford a first trip back to Europe. Since they were to spend time in Italy, my mother asked him to try to locate Giovanni which he succeeded in doing, and from that point on my mother and Giovanni enjoyed a regular correspondence.

Being an excellent linguist, she began studying Italian, her fourth language, through Adult Education classes, conversation classes and rigorous self-study and corresponded with Giovanni in Italian. My parents learned that he was happily married with four children, a daughter, Antonella, and three sons, and was a professor at the University in Bologna. And so unfolded another chapter in their deep and enduring friendship, embraced and accepted by the respective spouses. When my parents were able to afford trips back to Europe, they met with Giovanni and his wife, shared holidays together and got to know their children. I don’t know when he gave these beautiful gifts to my mother but presumably on such get-togethers.

In 1967, a year after completing four years at university, I was bound for Europe to join my then boyfriend to live together in Rome. We didn’t make it as a couple, but already a resolute Italophile, I made Rome my home for six months, began the painful process of recovering from the relationship breakup, and remained in Europe for six of the next seven years. In Rome, enthralled by the city, I found myself amongst a community of artists and musicians, including American Fulbright scholars and supported myself teaching English at the Berlitz School of Languages. I was busy, buzzing and fulfilled living my daily life in this brilliant city amongst stimulating new friends. Probably imbued with a healthy sense of young adult rebellion and independence, I did not pursue my mother’s suggestion to contact Giovanni, whose daughter Antonella was about my age. More fool me!

And now, the final part of this story unfolds. When Giovanni died aged about ninety, Antonella sent my parents his memorial card together with newspaper clippings. On reading the articles and clippings, my mother commented proudly that she hadn’t fully appreciated ‘what an important person’ he had become, acclaimed as a professor of medicine and all that attends that. So, when she died, I returned the courtesy. Just as Giovanni’s memorial card touched us, so too Antonella was touched on receiving my mother’s memorial card. Thus began a correspondence between us and found we had an immediate rapport. We planned to meet when Jon and I, now free to travel, would be in Italy.

I consider myself blessed that, having reached the age of seventy-six, I can with honesty say I have almost no regrets; but one I do have is that I didn’t follow my mother’s offer to connect with Giovanni and family in 1967. In retrospect, regardless of ‘healthy rebellion’ and establishing my independence, it now seems negligent not to have made an effort on my mother’s behalf and I wonder if it hurt or disappointed her? And I am surprised at my lack of curiosity about her first love, such a deep and enduring friendship. Perhaps there was an underlying assumption that they would be too conventional and wouldn’t interest me. How arrogant this now seems and how wrong I was about Antonella!

Jon and I have met up with Antonella twice since my mother died, also meeting members of her family including her much loved nephew, Giovanni junior, then in his mid-twenties. We found that we share a great deal in common – humour, eccentricities, left leaning political views, cultural interests, and our ‘way of being’ in the world. We have been to their home, eaten in trattorias, had little guided tours around the city. A single woman with enormous energy, she almost runs us off our feet! Her flamboyance is contagious. As we drive around, she wants to stop to show us this or that and, like so many drivers in Rome, pulls the small car over and parks up on the verge at right angles between two parked cars! A nearby carabiniere, police officer, ambles over. An Italian-style interaction unfolds before us- she gesticulates, he gesticulates, she points to us in the car, the carabiniere then shrugs his shoulders accompanied by the matching palms-facing-up hand gesture. She then happily escorts us from the car. We walk a short distance to enjoy a spectacular viewpoint overlooking the city before driving on to dinner at her brother’s elegant home in a leafy suburb. On another occasion she takes us to the famous Cimitero Acattolico, or non-Catholic cemetery, which has special meaning for her as it holds the graves of many famous people including Antonio Gramsci – the Italian philosopher and organiser, and co-founder of the Italian Communist Party- and poets Keats and Shelley. It is a beautiful place, serene, green, gently undulating. On a sweltering day, we walk a section of Via Appia Antica, the ancient Roman road I first learned about when studying Latin in High School and which I had always wanted to experience! Our conversation is in a mix of my poor Italian and her considerably better English. But once back home, it is more difficult to keep in regular contact. Sadly, she does not use email and we both find talking on the phone in the other’s language a bit difficult. So, we communicate by occasional letters, and emails to Giovanni junior who speaks excellent English, now lives in London and is in close contact with Antonella.

I feel a special closeness to Antonella but know that having refused my mother’s ‘introduction’ to the family as a young woman, I wasted fifty years of a wonderful friendship! At least when wearing either the necklace (infrequently), or the ring (extensively) there is some recompense – I am honouring my beloved mother, the enduring special relationship she shared with Giovanni, and my friendship with Antonella.

And a Happy New Year to all. Let’s hope 2022 is better for everyone than 2021.


Think airports, think runways, planes lined up awaiting take off, their great titanium wings plowing upwards cutting through air. And conversely on descent, that illusion of slow motion, still at great height and distance until suddenly plowing into the final approach and touchdown. Wheels grab tarmac which hurtles by at breakneck speed, before the great bird comes to a shuddering halt. Parallels before my very eyes as I sit on the deck, one crutch propped against the chair four weeks post hip surgery, still somehow quiet and a bit brain-woozed, gazing over the garden as the kookaburras make their entrance.

Another season has turned, late spring, the perfume of the Frangipani redolent. Several days ago I had an inkling that perhaps the breeding season had begun. ‘Our’ family of seven kookaburras have a nest in a hollow high in the trunk of one of the great eucalypts on our foreshore to which they return each breeding season. My hunch is correct and in the following few days one or two kookaburras appear on the balcony railing to take from our hand a small amount of offered food. Accustomed as they are to landing on the railing, they sit patiently, sometimes for a good half hour or more, awaiting the food they have learned to expect. They are well atuned to the nuances of the situation – their large heads cock slightly as they watch and listen to us approach the refrigerator in the kitchen. Heads cock again to the sound of the fridge door opening, then closing. As I reappear with the small pink plastic container of meat in hand, they once more cock their heads in recognition, glancing at me and as I near them, their velvety brown eyes look directly into mine, then looking to my outstretched palm to pluck small pieces of meat with their large beaks. The meat has been carefully mixed with Insectivore, a powdery substance made from ground insects, providing all the protein obtained in their natural diet. We’re discouraged from feeding the native birds but it’s an irresistible force availing us very close interaction with nature. But if we are to do the ‘wrong’ thing, at least let’s ensure we do it as ethically as possible, so I follow the instructions of the bird carer community.

A few days later it is a different proposition altogether. Several kookaburras now appear in a constant succession of landings, presumably because the babies in their tree hollow are growing, and with them, their appetites (and we are back at the airport scene- imagine the accompanying soundtrack, a child’s imitation of a plane landing, nyeaaihh). Just as with planes, wings outstretched, high speed approach, wheels down/feet forward; and there it is, a sudden and precise landing right in front of me on the railing, air scattering. If we have placed a piece of meat on the railing, it will be scooped up even before touchdown; but more frequently we are there with palm outstretched from which the pieces are gently plucked. Sometimes it’s eaten immediately; at other times they hold it in their beak for a few seconds, hesitating, eyes elsewhere, senses alert, indicating to me that they are going to take it back to the nest…take it to baby, I say, pointing toward their tree and off they fly, accompanied by a specific cluck cluck cluck sound, which I have learned to recognize as a message to the young, or perhaps to co-feeding adults, that they are on their way.

The departure – they are following the aerial runway in a slight curve from balcony railing to the end of our garden before veering to the right past densely foliaged trees to disappear out of sight to their nesting tree a little further along the foreshore.

In 2017 our community took a direct hit from Cyclone Debbie, a massive 4.5 category cyclone with gusts reaching category 5, almost 300 km per hour. A couple of huge coconut palms crashed to the ground in our garden and, to a lesser extent, a small number of very large trees on the foreshore. But enormous limbs and smaller branches were torn off everything, all foliage ripped off the trees leaving a completely devastated-looking garden and landscape. But here’s the glory – from our deck a sky full of birds was revealed. At a sudden we had an 180° view right along the beach and, for the first time, an unobstructed view of the hollow in the kookaburra’s nesting tree. We were then able to observe the entire process of that breeding/feeding season as the birds landed on the balcony railing and took off again in a direct line to the tree. Now, four years later, with foliage fully replenished, we only see the ‘take off’ via the end of our garden after which they disappear behind large trees en route to the hollow in their nesting tree a little further along the foreshore.

For those unfamiliar with kookaburras at close range, it is difficult to convey just how charming and idiosyncratic these stocky, sizeable birds are (about 40-47 cm in length). So tame are our group that they not only land on the railings but will perch on the back of our chairs or land on the table where we spend so much time sitting. Whoops, incoming incoming, speeding toward us along the aerial runway, the beat of wings fans air onto my face and one fella lands on the back of the chair on which I am sitting. I feel his presence behind me, then, unusually, feathers brushing against my neck! I turn sideways just enough to stroke the tail feathers. He is facing away from me and seems perfectly content to allow this as I chat to him using the terms of endearment to which they are all familiar-Kookoosh kookoosh, I coo, still surprised that he is allowing this amount of touching before finally relocating onto the railing a few metres away.

The largest of the Kingfisher family, two of the four species of kookaburras inhabit the Australian mainland, the Laughing Kookaburra (so named for their laugh-like call -go online to hear it) and the Blue Winged. We awaken at dawn each day to a cacophony of ‘laughter’ as the mob call and interact with one another. The two species look very much alike- same size, same colouration, both possessing a large head and powerful beak but the Laughing, which are the ones that come to us, have brown eyes that emanate a kindly expression. The wings of the blue winged kookaburras are more intensely blue and they have light coloured, cold-looking eyes and an entirely different call. Both types are present in our area but have clearly demarcated territories. We never see the Blue Winged at our place and conversely, our friends up the road never see the Laughing. The territorial boundary is some ten houses further along the road and on occasion I see a row of the blue winged ones sitting on a balcony above the road calling in their unfamiliar voices. I have also on occasion observed territorial warfare, a great fracas overhead as the two species have engaged in an aerial battle, swooping and flying at one another filling the air with noise.

Yes, the season has turned and with it a few other delights- the Peace lily on my balcony in bloom, the giant bromeliads throwing elegant tall orange flower heads, the phalaenopsis orchids still flowering but just starting to drop a few flowers…and Bertie, the nine- month old Dachshund from next door treating us like his favorite auntie and uncle, graces us with his sausage -like presence almost daily. He appears at the top of the external stairs, checks out the deck for possible remnants of meat which the kookaburras have inadvertantly let slip from their great beaks before heading into the kitchen and awaiting his little treat from Jon; and then he sometimes falls asleep in my arms, both his and my heartbeat slowing to meditation-something to be said for lap-sized dogs!

And then Roz my nearby girlfriend ,sends an SMS with a picture of a Tawny Frogmouth and its baby nesting in a tree on their property. I decide to venture out in the car, one crutch at the ready, to take a look before the little one fledges. Another unique Australian bird, they look very much like owls but bear no common lineage to them and, in fact, are more closely related to the kookaburra. The behaviors of these two birds, however, are quite different. The Frogmouth, like an owl, is nocturnal, and during the day perches on a tree branch. They are masters of camouflage often making it extremely difficulty to spot them as their feather colouration and design is so similar to tree bark. Note in the photo below how carefully one must look to spot the baby! If they feel threatened they assume a ‘frozen’ position sometimes referred to as ‘branching’, elongating their body to look like a tree branch. Their nest is a loose platform of sticks, usually placed in the fork of a tree branch. Given their large size, (a little larger than the kookaburra), I am surprised to note how relatively small the nest is on which the adult and young perch. The kookaburras crane their necks in our direction when watching for us to appear bearing food. But as I start talking to the Frogmouths in the tree before me, both adult and baby remain motionless in a frontal position moving only their large heads from side to side from the shoulders, like an exotic Balinese dancer, big eyes staring out.

As I am about to post this after another night of heavy rain, air freighted with humidity, not three metres in front of us a tiny olive-backed sunbird hovers over a chair on the deck followed immediately by its mate. One hovers mid air as if suspended, wings beating fast. Then its mate mirrors this behavior in front of a large potted plant a short distance away behind where Jon is sitting. It is enough to silence us – the wonder of their proximity, fearlessness and this gymnastic, mid-air display. It is a rare sight. In the twenty three years we have lived here, only once have they appeared on the deck to build their hanging nest but discarded it shortly thereafter. We do, however, often see them taking nectar from various flowers we have planted throughout the garden specifically to attract the honey eaters. Clearly they are seeking a place to make a nest and hopefully they make a wiser choice. Their most recent attempt resulted in a perfect nest suspended from our washing line, and not for the first time. This required some an adjustment on my part as to how to hang the washing leaving sufficient space for the birds to feel comfortable flying to the nest. Sadly by the very next day as I came to look, the nest had been ruined, half of it lying on the ground, probably destroyed by a kookaburra or butcherbird seeking eggs or young upon whom they prey. Little sunbird, find a safer place to build your next nest but please come visit again soon. And then a lorikeet with new fledgling lands and feeds its spring baby.

So, late spring brings new life and now, with summer only days away, early rains and wild storms have drenched much of the east coast of Australia. While our garden and immediate area flourish, extensive flooding has ruined crops just recovering from extended drought in many places in Queensland and NSW and rivers inland continue to rise. The world spins in its usual turmoil with much to worry about both locally and internationally and a new Covid variant emerges in S.Africa. All in all, a salient reminder to count our blessings and take daily pleasure in even the the smallest details of our lives.

Dear friends, stay safe and well and happy.

Insex, reptiles and death

Periodically, Green Tree Ants, Oecophylla Smaragdina, a species endemic to Australia, cause a problem in our garden. Being a gardener, I am frequently out amongst the dense foliage pruning or raking and spot their nests, sometimes quite large, and often swarming with ants. Green Tree Ant workers are aggressive and defend their nests by swarming onto the ‘attacker’. They cannot sting but bite with their jaws and squirt a burning fluid, formic acid, from the tip of the abdomen onto the ‘wound’. Many an innocent brushing against a bush or tree, has found themselves covered in ants. Then follows the inimitable green- tree -ant- dance, hopping up and down on the spot, arms flailing, slapping at ants to brush them off. It’s a sight to behold. The phrase ‘she’s got ants in her pants’ comes to my mind and gives me cause to giggle because the ‘dance’ looks exactly so! The word ‘antsy’ (agitated, impatient, restless according to the Oxford Dictionary) similarly makes an appearance in my brain.   

I have been prey to this onslaught many times, usually with a small number of ants though occasionally, and most unpleasantly, far more. Over time, I have adapted to these little creatures, at close-range, reminiscent of some weird spacecraft or robot. It is curious how ancient evolutionary creatures which evolved 140-168 million years ago, have inspired sci-fi, futuristic imagery.

As with all else in nature, I am reluctant to dispose of them, polite for ‘kill’ them. I am one to remove rather than kill spiders, moths and so on from the house, scooping them carefully into a container, lid quickly clapped on, and releasing them outside; and to rescue lizards, skinks and bees from the pool in a similar manner. I usually talk to them in the process…there you go, you’re OK now you little thing – you know the kind of sentiment I am engaging in, heartfelt, perhaps a touch of the Buddhist in me – as it scurries a small distance across the terracotta tiles, stops, remains there for minutes just staring at me, its saviour.

Cane toads, which in warmer months are prevalent in the pool, around the compost bin and other parts of the garden, are considerably more challenging. Allow me to digress, as is my wont. The cane toad, Bufo Marinus, indigenous to Central and South America, was introduced to Australia prior to the use of agricultural chemicals in the 1930’s as an attempt to control a beetle which infests sugar cane crops. The control failed and we are now left with huge numbers of these rather grotesque-looking creatures making their way from the far north westward across the top end and down the east coast of Australia at an ever-increasing rate of forty-sixty km per annum. It would take another brothers Grimm fairy-tale to transform this feller into a handsome prince, or even a handsome frog! They are present in large numbers in the warm months and emit a poison toxic enough to kill frogs, quolls, snakes, goannas, and even crocodiles! And dogs! But the lovely native Green Tree Frogs we have here are diminishing partly due to their presence and we are advised to attempt to rid ourselves of the toads. And hence another dilemma – how to do so humanely. Jon, who has had a bit of a relationship with Buddhism, when confronted with cane toads, becomes a murderous killer. I will save you from a description of his methodology! I have re-read the latest about humane disposing of cane toads which involves a two-part process. Firstly, captured and encapsulated in a plastic bag, place them in the fridge which puts them to sleep (this is the step of which I was previously unaware, and which makes all the difference), then into the freezer for a few days, job done! Fortunately, we have a small second fridge downstairs. I must again try to convince the man that this is the way to go. You just remove the toad from the pool, and I will do the rest, I offer.

Even snakes, which of course are present in the tropics in our dense garden, warrant and are granted the same respect by me. They are more afraid of me than I of them and will quickly retreat. If non-toxic, snakes are quite harmless, enjoying their exploration through the trees, sometimes leaving their beautiful, shed skin as testament to their presence, or slithering invisibly along the ground amongst the foliage. Jon, being from Michigan, USA, is culturally unaccustomed to snakes, and instinctively wishes them dead. But I can’t condone this unless it is a dangerous snake close to the house in which case removal by some means is necessary though not to be tackled by the inexperienced!

Digression over, I return to the Green Tree Ant. About a centimetre length and quite obviously of green body and honey-coloured legs, they create nesting chambers, a sophisticated structure of leaves bound together to form a compacted cluster. Leaves are bound with silk pulled together through the cooperation of many worker ants carrying silk- producing larvae. The ants move to and fro, binding the seams of the leaf nest with precision, the other workers patiently holding the leaves in place. The ants form a dangling chain, hundreds clinging to one another. Once leaves are positioned, another wave of workers appear with young grub-like larvae in their jaws. The entire construction may take several hours to complete.

Although the colonies have a single queen, they may ultimately expand to have many nest sites throughout a single tree, or even adjacent trees, which the ants travel between. These super colonies can contain tens of thousands of ants, and the various nest sites will have different functions. Some may store larvae and pupae of different ages, others will simply house workers, and of course one will house the queen and will be fiercely protected. The ants tend to prefer living leaves to form their nest chambers. As the leaf clusters die off, the ants will scout for a new location and repeat the construction process.

Nest building is not the only unique talent of these high-rise ants. If there is a particular branch below them that they need to reach, rather than walking the long way round they can construct bridges and ladders using their own bodies to span the gap with incredible cooperation. Once they reach the branch below, other ants will use the living structure to walk across. Of course, the structure is not permanent, but allows effective temporary access to a spot otherwise difficult to get to. These remarkable ants have also taken to a form of insect farming. They actively protect and tend to several species of caterpillars, various leaf hoppers and other sap sucking insects. The ants are in turn rewarded with sugary secretions, known as honeydew, produced by the farmed insects. This is a rich food source. Traditionally, green tree ants have many medicinal uses and are still widely used by indigenous Australians as a remedy for coughs and colds. Studies have shown that the ants’ abdomen is high in vitamin C and protein. They are either eaten alive, crushed and inhaled like vapour-rub to open the sinus, or taken as a drink. Mothers with infants rub green ants on their breasts to make the milk flow, and many believe that, taken in high concentrations, they act as a contraceptive. As I research more about these little insects, my admiration grows which lends weight to my disquiet.

Every couple of years we employ a tree pruner for trees too tall for us to manage. Last time, as he progressed with a towering yellow-flowering shrub which he tackled from the empty paddock next to ours, he was suddenly ‘doing the dance’. There he was, jumping around on the spot, vigorously swatting at various parts of his body, flicking ants hither and thither to the accompaniment of a liberal smattering of pejoratives…faark, faark etc. He was covered with the little blighters whose bite is quite unpleasant though not long-lasting and definitely more than unpleasant if numerous, as was the case. Afterwards, the poor guy suggested that before we next call him, we rid our garden of these green tree ants. He recommended a poison (unfortunately, but it works). Just a few drops, mix it in with a bit of pilchards or tinned tuna or something similar and stick it up in the trees, he advised.

Reluctant as I am to us poison, and knowing it would be a long time before he returned, I delayed this task deciding on an interim, short-term solution if required. So, a few weeks ago, a substantial number of green ants appeared on our balcony railings and deck, and it seemed action was required. I take out the trusty Mortein insect spray (still poisonous but much more ‘domestic’ and certainly quick and easy) and spray around the railings, pshtt phstt, targeted specifically. Ants drop to the ground. As I look closely, the occasional one is still moving, clearly in their death throes. And suddenly I can’t bear it. All god’s creatures etc, every living thing deserves a humane death, so I snuff them out with my thumb – a merciful quick death is the way to go if you’ve got to kill. Go to god, I say, a small personal joke I share with myself whenever I kill something. Well not so much a joke, rather, a moment of reverence acknowledging my discomfort at killing. We are all part of the natural world. Even ants deserve respect.

Go to god – the back-story. Many years ago, a friend Marion was dying of cancer. I saw a lot of her in the last months of her life and it was from her that I first heard this utterance as she swatted a fly. Go to god, she proclaimed. I thought it so generous and touching that in the light of her personal journey she still cared for tiny creatures. But it also amused me as neither of us were believers. I commented at the time and we had a good laugh. Thereafter and evermore, I adopted the phrase, and the memory of Marion lives on with every swat of an insect!

I am also reminded of the Jain religion in India. Jainism is the smallest of India’s six religions, comprised of 0.4% of the population, and shares much in common with Buddhism. Non-violence is one of the basic tenets of their religion, carried to interesting ‘extremes’. In Jain temples in Rajasthan, I have observed monks sweeping the ground before them in order not to inadvertently trample ants. Jains are vegetarians but do not eat root vegetables as this is seen as a form of violence, because consuming the root destroys the plant. Jain monks cover their nose and mouth with a cloth to prevent micro-organisms in the air from entering and being killed. How extraordinary and thrilling is the diversity on our planet of people and their belief systems.

So here I am, no Jain, crushing the poor innocent ants. I anticipate the lemony scent, which surprisingly isn’t forthcoming. Green ants are citrus flavoured and widely used in indigenous cooking. In more recent times, green ants as with other bush tucker (Ozzie slang for bush food), are gaining momentum in culinary circles, with growing interest from influential Australian and international chefs as both garnish and key ingredient, exemplified by green ant cheese and boutique gin brands. I can attest to the favourable flavour, having tested it by licking my fingers after crushing an ant. It is not at all repugnant, in fact delicious, but killing them and observing their death throes is repugnant. As I look upon the painted deck where they lie scattered, they seem like so many fallen petals, like the white wind-blown Begonia blossoms carpeting a patch nearby. I feel as though I have committed genocide! Even killing ants does not come easy.

But now, some weeks later again, it is time to get serious; they are everywhere all over the garden. It is impossible to work and not be confronted by nests just waiting to be brushed against. I have been bitten once too often for the season. So, I discuss it with my friend Paul who buys the appropriate and very expensive poison in larger quantities as he runs a caravan park which must be green-ant free for the customers, or ‘punters’ as his wife, my friend Roz, refers to them. Can I buy a bit from you, I ask, and a few pilchards? They have a ready supply of ‘pillies’, fish bait for the ‘punters’. I devise a simple way to contain the mix which must be hung amongst the foliage where ants are visible. I will use the small black plastic doggy poo bags found along the foreshore provided by our local Council to encourage responsible dog management. (Who, after all, wants to go for a delightful walk along the beach or foreshore only to step into fresh dog poo?). They will be perfect as I can simply tie the looped handle around branches, securing it tightly.

So, as instructed, well gloved up, I rub a few drops of the poison on each pilchard, place one in each of six bags and secure them to trees throughout the garden. And voilà. Within a day or two not an ant to be seen…nor weeks later. But, in the meantime, having read and learned so much more about these little creatures and their amazing behaviors and purpose within the scheme of nature, in addition to gaining admiration for them, I am also further confronted by my genocidal action against them! It’s good, however, to be morally wide-awake, as even though one cannot always avoid difficult paths of action, we are surrounded by more than sufficient moral bankruptcy.

And so to titling this piece. I am searching my imagination. From working title Green Ants, what can I come up with? Titling, as with my artwork, is tricky and important. It is the handle onto which the viewer or reader must grab. Last night I was reading an article in the New York Review of Books about Walter Sickert, the English artist, 1860-1942, who moved through Realism, his version of Impressionism and on to champion the Avant Garde. He influenced such luminaries as Lucien Freud and Francis Bacon and challenged the conventional approach to painting the nude. Instead, he painted provocative scenes of urban culture and common people including prostitutes, preferring the ‘kitchen to the drawing room’.(I was hoping to include more images of their work but found it difficult to access). Undoubtedly an oversimplification, his oeuvre was described as dealing with Sex and Death (like M.O.N.A, Museum of Old and New Art in Hobart) and there it was, my title unfolding…sex and death/ insects and death/ insex and death!

thanks you’s & snippets

The most recent Post Not Yet Over the Hill brought quite a few generous comments, some of which are on the site. But a few others sent comments via emails which I thought I would share anonymously as the diversity of what was said was interesting and gratifying. It is good to know that people relate to it in their various ways. Thank you all. This is what they said:

This one strikes a chord because I am also 78 and have many thoughts about ageing and relationships.

Thank you so very much for sharing what has been and still is(!) a fabulous life! Full of love, nature, travels and wisdom. It is always a joy to read your writing.

You’re always sending such evocative photos. Methinks your dad left an indelible mark on you.

I have just finished a lovely ‘laugh out loud’ few minutes…… reading your latest blog. What a scream, I could see it all !!! Thank goodness Jon remembered the 3 step ladder. I was though, waiting for the often heard comments….. ‘but you shouldn’t be climbing ladders‘.

Well no harm done on the ladder but I did take a nasty fall at my local recycling tip this week which has left me a bit bruised, grazed and battered- nothing serious but slow, sore and hobbling….which has opened up more writing, sitting, contemplating and watching/listening time. So, for what it it’s worth….

Animal lovers may enjoy utube segments from the Cincinnati Zoo on Fiona, the little hippo born six- weeks prematurely in 2017… a lovely story of dedication, resourcefulness, care and survival. And another on a baby rhino practising charging.

What I love about u-tube is that when I am reading up on something of serious interest, in this case an avant-garde American jazz saxophonist/composer, Julius Hemphill, the dropdown menu on the left brings up other items (clearly related to stuff I have shown an interest in the past- yes, what is privacy?), such as the above animal clips….and down the rabbit hole I go!

Jazz lovers may enjoy Esperanza Spaulding who my pianist friend Susan in the USA drew my attention to. Jazz bassist, singer, songwriter, and composer. She is now a Harvard too. If you are fascinated by the process of music-making, you might, like me, enjoy the long u-tube videos of her project Exposure as well as many others.

And if you want to round out your education across many fields and enjoy the highest level of journalism, check out the New York review of Books (NYRB)

And finally, a little treat: some pics of my Phaelenopsis orchids below. Stay well and safe, listen to the birds, look at the trees and stay tuned…working on some more Posts.

Over and out! Bonney


Another ‘take’ on the ageing process, memory, and the pull of the past

Peanuts cartoonist Charles Shultz remarked, ‘once you’re over the hill, you begin to pick up speed.’ My funny partner Jon, like Shultz, makes light of ageing. Plenty of jokes: ‘I won’t be going to his funeral as he certainly won’t be coming to mine’ etc. He has a great attitude about his aging and his eventual demise. He enjoys pretty good health at seventy-eight, but each such remark triggers unease in me. To date I think I share his good attitude to the ageing process and feel far from being ‘over the hill’ though I harbour some fears around outliving him, how it might play out, especially in the absence of family.

Recalling teenage years, like most, I was in a hurry to ‘grow up’, to gain greater independence, obtain a driver’s licence, stay out late without my mother ‘secretly’ lying awake awaiting my safe return. Fast forward fifty years. With good health and genetics on my side – both parents having made a century- it seemed that life would proceed long into the future. But this sense of unease at Jon’s jokes is telling, a turning point has been reached, the slippage of years too fast-as the past lengthens, so the future shortens; this feels like a new place I am just beginning to experience.

The psychology of aging states that there is a kind of magic in recollection that gives us a sense of the person we were at one time within a context we did not have at the time. The quality of our future changes as we age, from an indefinite and infinite one to a definitive and finite one. To advance psychologically, we must acknowledge the evolution that inevitably has taken place in us (and others) over time—I am not the same person I was before. While patently true on one level-we gain wisdom, we change- this statement lacks nuance because much also remains unchanged. For my own part, so much of who I am at seventy-six, was clearly recognizable from a very early age. I include these photo galleries to illustrate before moving on- a delight in the natural world (plants, animals, the environment), and characteristics such as curiosity, determination, adventurousness, a desire to communicate, connect and document (whether verbally, visually or through the written word) and valuing love and friendship.

ALWAYS ANIMALS: my parent’s first ‘child’ was the cocker spaniel shown below. There has barely been a time in my/our life without pets.(hopefully if you click on individual images you will find info about each if desired)

EARLY CHARACTERISTICS: love of sea, flowers and plants, a certain independence and determination…

AND LOVE OF LANDSCAPE AND ADVENTURE: A tiny sample-see TRAVEL on this website if interested, though that also represents only a tiny sample!

DOCUMENTATION: I have always felt the need to documente experiences, people and place through writing, photography (my father being a professional photographer might be telling) and a wide range of artworks. Here are a few examples.

ALWAYS LOVE OF PLANTS, FLOWERS AND THE NATURAL WORLD: My parents loved both. Picking flowers from our garden with my parents was always fun but I learned much about plant names and gardening from my dad. Plants/landscape/the natural world impacted significantly on my art in a variety of guises over many years.

LOVE AND FRIENDSHIP: when searching for photos of myself together with those close to my heart, I found that there were gaps. A few of my very close friends, including the special children in my life are sadly missing! Please do not take offence! You know who you are and that you are loved.

The human brain and the process of memory is fascinating. Memory involves three major processes-encoding, storage, and retrieval. We have learned to store seemingly forgotten long-term memories until some unexpected trigger activates the brain within which they have lain safely, subliminal, drawn to consciousness when needed. Our past was experienced at a time when innumerable potentialities were open. Reflecting on a (still) rich and fortunate life, people, and experiences from earlier years, some as far back as early childhood, retain a potency yet are somehow frozen in time, unchanged through the intervening years. The past holds increasing fascination for me, and I have reached out in recent years to a few people in different places and from different eras. In turn I have been contacted by a few people from my past, perhaps the subject of another piece. But now to the most recent ‘encounter’.

It is April and I am watching an online discussion by two pre-eminent Jewish scholars, Sir Simon Schama & Professor Deborah Lipstadt about how our understanding of history shapes our current reality, how this plays out in a fractured Israel and a divided America, amidst challenges to democracy and an increase in nationalism and racism around the world. After the event I receive an email signed by Liam G., the Sydney-based Executive Director of the sponsoring organization. His German surname matches that of a boy, Ian G, from a Jewish youth group I was briefly affiliated with in my mid-teens. My curiosity is peaked; it has led me down a variety of interesting paths of late, and as it’s an unusual name, I immediately wonder if Liam and Ian might be related. I flick Liam an email asking if perchance they are related and within minutes receive a reply: I am! Ian’s late father, Leo, and my grandfather were first cousins. Ian’s in the US now – and we are in touch each week to talk about the most important thing… football! I reply telling him that Ian and I, aged fifteen, met at the youth group. I ask him please to send my greetings when next they talk, informing him of my maiden name by which Ian would have known me.

A week or two later an email arrives from Ian G.: Jill (if you still go by that-
I got your message via Liam. Good to hear from you. Looks like you are well
and doing some fascinating artwork. I’m glad. I live in Oregon in the U.S.

BB: Hey Ian! I so remember your name but can’t put a face to you…figured there was a good chance you were related to Liam…. if you feel like being in touch and sending a pic of yourself then and now (anything else also welcome) that would be great. I have been known as Bonney since I was 22. I mention a few people I am still in touch with from that era and go on to say: Curious about you, your life, what you did/do and Oregon. Although I have seen a fair bit of the USA as I have relatives there and Jon, my very long-term partner is American, I have never been to beautiful Oregon. Are you in Portland? Thanks for getting in touch.

A fast exchange of emails zips across the Pacific. Ian G.: Well, that was a blow to my ego (just joking) – can’t remember what I looked like! I remember a lot about you – your father was a photographer. I have a photo of the two of us together – will send it later.  We live in a suburb of Portland. I still follow the footy (St Kilda) and watch games every week. Good to hear from you. He signs off with just his name. I reply referring to a couple of other people I associate his name with, and that I look forward to the photos.

I get the picture-he writes in short, punctuated sentences telling me where in Portland he lives, who he has kept in contact with from the youth group days, that all those in Australia with his surname are related.

He is a master of concision and I, the mistress of elaboration.

Of course, I have already provided Dr Google with Ian’s name and immediately learn that he has written a book. The term bipolar transistor appears. I wonder what on earth this is. Science was never my forte. My darling dad helped me through school maths with many frustrations and much (teenage, graceless) irritation on my part. When studying Social Work at university, Social Biology was a compulsory subject. I scraped a pass in that with assistance from my best friend Janet. I seem to remember committing to memory something she had written in the hope that it was relevant to the exam. Happily, it was! I somehow scraped through Statistics also.

My area of ‘specialization’ and interest at university (and in my subsequent ‘first life’ profession an aeon ago), was philosophy, psychology & psychopathology. Thus, I associated the word bipolar with bi-polar disease, referred to as manic-depression at that time -1960’s. So, is Ian a psychiatrist? The trusty Mr Google enlightens me further and it becomes apparent that we are talking not about psychiatry but about electronics- (transistor as in transistor radio my science-deficient brain explains to me). I then find that the company of which he is the business director has won some prestigious prizes for manufacturing things geothermal, and others. Impressive but of course gobbledygook to me. The lively, outgoing, teenager has obviously channelled his boisterous energy and intelligence and made a significant mark. He had not indicated any of this to me; thus, I presume he is a modest man. I like that too.

And then the photos arrive. Ian G: Here are two photos-taken several years apart, you may not recognize the girl in the first picture 😊 (Good blackmail material since you wouldn’t want it to be shown around!) The first is of the two of us both in our mid- teens. Ah, so that’s who he is! He is immediately recognizable. For all the world we look like boyfriend/girlfriend, draped around one another, all smiles and youthful energy though I have no recollection of being boyfriend/girlfriend. He adds: should be enough for you to say, “Oh my god, remember/recognize that idiot!” He has not lost his sense of fun and good humour.

I am curious as to what has prompted the remark about my not wanting the photo to be shown around. I am comfortable with my past. And my ageing. It’s probably just a joke, yes, a joke. Well, we will see. Perhaps he is not comfortable with it. He finishes the email saying: By the way, I do like your art – my style. He has obviously visited my website so no need to send him a photo of myself. He knows how I now look. The second photo is of Ian at a reunion of the youth group some twenty years ago with Peter and Tony. I find no hesitation in recognizing them. He signs off: Keep well, Ian  

So, I reply commenting that it is sweet that the three men seem to have kept in contact and go on to say: I looked you up and found you associated with the words ‘bi-polar transistor’, meaningless to me, of course. I wondered if it referred to psychiatry but as I proceeded, I saw its electronics, pertaining to sound…life is mysterious, I love the chase…now I want to know all about you and the intervening yrs. Curiosity killed the cat, but it won’t kill me!

As to the blackmailable pic…well, weren’t we cute but we do look like girlfriend boyfriend, yet I don’t recall that. Pls don’t tell me I have forgotten or done you an injustice! But yes, I recognize you immediately. You were so lively and bright probably are still the same…our essence doesn’t change much, does it?  I thank him for his positive response to my art and explain my shift to writing. And sign off: Fond Regards, Bonney

Now I am thinking about how amusing this is, another connection from the past walking through the door metaphorically and I have an urge to write about it. I flick off another email.

Hey Ian,

Can’t help myself…want to write a little story about all this…well have made a start. As it would end up as a Post on my website, I am wondering if you would prefer me to refer to you simply as Ian G. rather than using your full name, whether I can mention the name of your company as I have read the tiniest about it to enlighten myself (most impressive, my dear!), and if you are comfortable with me using chunks of our email exchange.? Let me know your thoughts. Additionally, I can run it by you when complete before publishing. It might be titled Curiosity Killed the Cat. (: Bonney.                

The following day he writes:

Yes, I am an electronics engineer. Got my bachelors and masters at Univ. of Melbourne, then my PhD at Berkeley, then went to work in a company here in the Portland area. Been at several companies since then, based here. Working from home for a company in Arkansas now. Bipolar transistors are a type of electronic transistor, and I wrote a book about them – the surprising thing is it still sells today (almost 50 years later – which is rare in engineering since things get out-of-date quickly).

Yes, it looks like we were girl-boyfriend in that picture but, to be honest, I don’t remember that either. I suspect we were for a very brief time at camp. I was hoping you might remember. So, we can both apologize and laugh about it! He signs off, Ian.

BB: Well Sir if neither of remembers not much was happening. But it looks affectionate. Sweet. I was still only fourteen, no experience with boys though I remember having a bit of a crush on someone called Bernie G. Do you remember him? He looked like a bit of a ‘bodgie’, to use the parlance of the day. (Bernie had an Elvis-style hairdo and jacket sleeves rolled up- very cool!) I only lasted that one fun year in the Youth Group cos then I met and fell in love with my first boyfriend who wasn’t Jewish and that was that.  

Presumably you are retired.  Other than the footy, what is your life? Married, kids, grandkids, life in Oregon, COVID safe? Christ you must be glad to have seen the back of Trump! We are about to get Astra Zeneca shot, no options but am sure it’s fine. A little sadly, no kids but ultimately our choice so can’t now complain. I am too affectionate to use the term ‘cheers’ and never found my handy emojis on my phone, only iPad, so here is a hug. 

And he replies: No, I don’t think it was much. I do not remember Bernie G. I thought you were more than a year in the youth group – that’s surprising. I am not retired – still working for the company in Arkansas. Keeps me off the streets. Married, 2 kids live here, 2 granddaughters (12 & 14). All within 2 miles of us. Moved 2 years ago into a 1-level house with a kind of apartment downstairs that the girls use when they come over. We’ve had our shots (Moderna). Taking it easy. Ian

And that’s the last of our correspondence. He has disappeared into the ether, me offering hugs and he signing Ian. It’s so funny, a ‘boy’ thing.

Quite some time later I write asking about using the photos but, in the absence of a reply from him, have decided to keep him anonymous. We subsequently agree I will run the finished piece past him before publishing. Now is the time so here goes! I send him what I assume will be the final email as I continue to read about the terrible fires and storms afflicting much of the USA (and of course elsewhere):

Hi Ian, trust no storms will sweep you off your feet or fires burn your home down…the world is in a sorry state! We remain lucky thus far though Liam will be in lockdown and only one lot of our Melb. friends made it up here as planned!

I think the attached is about finished so please let me know if you have any issues. Also, are you happy for me to include the two photos you sent? There will be quite a lot of other photos too.

Best, Bonney

I am so appreciative because next day I receive a reply of which I include the following: 

Ian G: Well, that was an interesting document. It’s very rare to see what someone is expecting to get from your emails and to see how well you met those expectations. Or should I say how poorly I met those expectations? 🙂  I am terse because I don’t like talking about myself. I prefer the wisdom of others – I’m known for my collection of sayings. Sayings (good ones) are wisdom expressed efficiently. One of my favourites is: “Whenever you point a finger at someone, Stop. Turn your hand over. There are 3 fingers pointing right back at you.” Before you get your daily exercise by jumping to conclusions, that was not aimed at you – it is just an illustration of a great saying.  I have done my exercise for today Ian, as every day, so don’t worry about my jumping to conclusions-no need!

In any case, I was correct in my presumption about his modesty, and it is somehow gratifying that he ends on a note of wisdom about not judging others. So here are a couple for Ian by way of thanking him for playing this game with me. It has been enjoyable and perhaps, post Covid, we may meet up here or in the USA.

But, nattering on as I do, you might want to tell me to zip up or take myself to the dunce’s corner! Still, I have had fun working on this piece and hope you enjoy it too.

And thank you to all those who responded to my previous Post which seemed to have amused many! While I will continue to avoid tall ladders, there’s no stopping me on the 2-step and 3-step ones. And I have discovered how truly unresourceful I actually was while stuck on that kitchen bench. I visited a friend’s building site yesterday and the same thing happened, too big a step down. She unhesitatingly suggested I sit on my bum first and from there it was easy peasy. We live and learn, still!


So, there am, stuck on top of the new kitchen counter. I can’t believe this. For fifty years I, less often Jon, have climbed ladders. He has no head for heights – a very serious fall put paid to that. Young and dumb (and ready for some), he was being a show-off and swung from a vine high in a tree. The vine broke, he landed on the lethal pointed end of a sturdy, recently cut sapling and ended up with an enormous, deep laceration on his thigh. It required three layers of stitches, about seventy in all, a short hospitalization, crutches, and a considerable recuperation period. He tells me it involved ‘fairly convoluted sexual positions that nobody should ever try.’   

I have happily climbed ladders – to hang exhibitions, wash windows, clear gutters, bang in nails to hang pictures at home etc. However, since my hip replacement almost a year ago, the strength has not (yet) fully returned to that leg, and the left hip awaits replacement in six- weeks. It is sore and like the other, is somewhat deficient in strength. Thus, I decided it best to avoid ladders, not the taller ones at any rate. The little 2-and 3-step ladders we have in the house I deemed sufficiently safe.

After our recent kitchen renovation, a few items required re-hanging – the indispensable red clock, one of my drawings, a new magnetic knife rack and a perspex-boxed artwork. I am particularly enamored of the idea of a knife rack as, until this refurbish, there was no available wall space for such a (practical) item. However, it looks a little tricky to attach and so I asked a friend if he would kindly help me out when time allowed.

I have now been without my kitchen clock for many months while the work proceeded. Doesn’t everyone who refuses to wear a watch, rely, as do I, on a kitchen clock? This morning my impatience got the better of me. I decided to tackle the re-hang of the drawing above the new, taller fridge, as well as the clock, (leaving the knife rack until my friend returns from holiday and the remaining artwork for another occasion as it presents its own challenges.) So, Jon fetches the 2-step ladder from a nearby cupboard as I gather the required tools – electric drill, the appropriately sized drill bits, screwdrivers, a choice of nails/screws, measuring tape and pencil. I always had a good eye for horizontality but long-ago developed skills to measure accurately so, easy peasy. Why have I put it off for so long, the vacant spots beckoning daily.

We share the first job, the drawing on top of the fridge. Up he goes on the two-step ladder, takes the picture off its hook and, under my instruction, raises it to the new appropriate height (Stop there, she cries) and he marks where the top of the frame should sit. He hands the picture down to me and I carefully measure and calculate where the screw must go on the wall to achieve the desired hanging height. Down he comes and up I go, no problem. I happily drill the hole and try one, then a second Phillips-head screwdriver. Job done!

Come and stand next to me, says I, suddenly not quite sure about stepping down onto the ladder, stepping up being one prospect, down quite another, it emerges. And then the circus begins. I can’t believe myself. The distance down onto the 2-step ladder is, of course far greater than a normal step and as I try, I lose confidence immediately. This wont work! I try placing the other foot first. It should be the physio’s ‘up to heaven/down to hell ‘rule regarding which foot is placed first for the lame/lamer/lamest. However, it becomes apparent that neither heaven nor hell will assist. I try by other means a) holding onto the edge of the fridge (elegant half twist); b) holding both Jon’s hands (friendly) and, giving both those away as failures, c) the last gasp, supporting myself with both hands on his shoulders (perhaps a little demeaning?!?) Well, crikey, as they say, that aint gonna work either! I’m stuffed.

I watch myself amused-suddenly I have become a cartoon character trying out these knee beds and foot dangling exercises. Here I am at seventy-six, looking a million dollars in my ¾ jeans, lippy, Zuni Indian ring and my new dangly earrings, a present from a recent visitor, stuck forever on top of the new kitchen benchtop! I start laughing and can’t stop. This appears to surprise Jon! What did he expect? That I would be upset, angry, frustrated, irritated-yep, tick any box but sometimes I surprise him still. Suddenly, me still giggling, in a moment of great insight and consideration, His Lordship helpfully says, how about the 3-step ladder from the studio?  How brillie, I cry, that’ll work and off he goes, trundling downstairs to the studio. He brings it back upstairs, unfolds it, places it against the bench. The top rung is now a very manageable step down and voilà, elegantly Bonney steps down onto it and one, two, three my feet are safely on the wooden floor.

The other mission is to re-hang the gorgeous artwork of my late Vietnamese art-collaborator friend, Vu Dan Tan which is contained within a Perspex box. The narrow, vertical box was designed to hang on the wall with two small nails. Its previous position is now covered with a new cupboard, the end of which is perfectly proportioned and inviting. Ah, so many thoughts on how to now attach it – no way will I drill into virgin laminate. That will be a ladder job too!

Anyway, today’s adventure was, as they say, quite a ‘trip’ and a salient reminder that yes, I really DO need to get that other hip fixed and maybe in another year I will have recovered full strength in both hips, sufficient to tackle the 2-step ladder confidently. Perhaps even somewhat taller ladders. Hip, hip hooray!!! …or maybe, as with one of my girlfriends, the hips will never gain full strength, and today’s jolly folly will have been another lesson in ageing gracefully and with humour, reminding me of my darling father who, aged one hundred, once remarked that he had ‘so many spare parts’ ( false teeth, hip, pacemaker, hearing aids). I’ve a way to go yet!

Hello Everybody!

Its been a while but here I am. I have just published a POST entitled A Walk on the Wild Side: encounters with the Romani inspired by a work of literary fiction I read a while ago. Book forward to your comments and hope it may stimulate and inspire.

Additionally, please note that I have added three photo galleries in TRAVEL WRITINGS, An African Journey 1973. I recently received more photos from my ex which I have added at the end of the sections on Morocco, Algeria and Egypt respectively, for those interested in that part of then world.

Stay well and safe as Covid transmutes and endures but so do we!

A WALK ON THE WILD SIDE: encounters with the Romani

Propped on my knees a hardcover book, Colum Mc Cann’s Zoli, a rare daytime indulgence, more so as I am reclining on a sun lounge warming, lizard-like after exercising in a noticeably cooler pool, summer’s sweat-drench only recently behind us.

I am having a bit of a love affair with Colm Mc Cann!  Stunned by Apeirogon, his most recent book (the first I have read), I commit to read all he has written and pass the word onto all my literature-loving friends. Let the Great World Spin follows; next Zoli, (a Slovakian gypsy woman/ songstress/poet/Communist party member around which the story, set between the 1930’s and 2003 revolves.) His character Zoli is loosely based on the Polish Romani poet Papusza, (Bronisława Wajs, image below).

Mc Cann is a masterful spinner of tales. Some of his characters leap from one book to another, an interesting literary device. As the writing of this piece spreads out over time, I find myself into the fourth book, TransAtlantic, another marvel.

Zoli opens thus: He drives alongside a small streambed and the terrible shitscape looms by increments– upturned buckets by the bend in the river, a broken baby carriage by the weeds, a petrol drum leaking out a tongue of rust, the carcass of a fridge in the brambles. Instantly transported, I get the picture; it is the punchiness, concision and poetry of his writing which has so captured my attention. And then there is the subject matter, the Romani people, in this case a group or kompanija whose world revolves around music, song, and survival, elements central to my fascination of and empathy for them. Times past return in the oddest ways-potent memories of European encounters with Roma people spin before my eyes.

But first, a little background.                                                                                                                    

Demographics and the People

The terms Roma or Romani are interchangeable; the nomenclature ‘gypsy’, though more commonly used, is considered politically inappropriate and offensive. Originating in north-west India, the Roma left in repeated migrations between the 6th-11th centuries. Worldwide they number 12 million, 8-10 million of whom live in Europe though estimates vary wildly as many these days do not want to publicly acknowledge their roots due to continued discrimination, revealing themselves only to other Roma.

My first encounter relates to music and dance. I love their music-think Django Reinhardt or those marvellous scenes in movies such as Tony Gatliff’s Latcho Drom (1993) and the earlier The Time of the Gypsies, by Emir Kusturica (1988). Still more recently the music of the Gypsy Kings. The Romani people have long acted as entertainers and in many places became well-known as musicians. The wide distances travelled introduced a multitude of influences, Byzantine, Greek, Arabic, Indian, Persian, Turkish, Slavic, Romanian, German, Dutch German, French, Spanish, and even Jewish musical forms, also reflected in the instruments they play. A large part of their musical culture dates to the late 1400’s in Spain, Hungary and Italy including a large range of instruments including lutes. Musical (usually instrumental) and cultural influences were taken from the countries where they settled, and slowly transformed into Romani styles, generally more complex than the original styles. In its turn, Romani music has greatly influenced the local music with some songs incorporating the Romani language. Original Romani folksongs, not derived from the countries where the Romani live, are relatively rare. This particular folk music is mainly vocal and consists of slow plaintive songs and fast melodies which may be accompanied by dancing and tongue-clacking, hand-clapping, mouth-basses, clicking of wooden spoons and other techniques. There are five main components found in Romani music- three voices or parts; syncopation; different phrases where musical themes enter and exit throughout a song; minor key harmony, and singing. 

The first in-person encounter with their music takes place in Spain. It is the mid 1960’s. Aged twenty-two, I have been living in Rome for six months and set off travelling with a friend. After Barcelona and the island of Ibiza, we head south. We are now in Granada, the capital of Moorish Andalusia, with its striking architecture… and Flamenco. I am hot to experience it and here it is possible to find the real deal, gitano musicians and flamenco dancers. Flamenco is strongly influenced by the Gitanos (Spanish gypsies) but has deeper roots, although its origin is the subject of many hypotheses. The most widespread is that Flamenco is the result of the influence and miscegenation of various cultures such as Romani, Arab, Christian and Jewish, integrating music, song and dance. The Gitanos, are thought to have arrived in Andalusia from India in the 15th century. They brought with them an extensive repertoire of songs, dance styles and musical instruments such as tambourines, bells, and wooden castanets, that have strong Indian connections.

At this time Andalucía was still under Arab rule, and along with the Jews and the Moors, the Gitanos were soon to be persecuted by the Catholic monarchs and the Inquisition. The Moors were forced to convert to Christianity, and failure to do so resulted in expulsion from Spain, the Jews suffered a similar fate, and the Gitanos were subjected to some of the worst atrocities in an attempt to eliminate them as a race. Many laws were passed by various monarchs, which forbade them anything to do with their identity. They were to stop wearing their style of dress, cease speaking the Romani language, stop their wanderings and seek steady employment, which prohibited them obtaining money in their usual way from horse dealing, trading at fairs, and sorcery. These laws and restrictions resulted in bands of Gitanos, Moors, and Jews taking refuge in treacherous mountainous areas, too desolate for the authorities to pursue them. These diverse cultures lived in relative harmony for many years and by the eighteenth-century attitude towards the Gitanos changed considerably, allowing them to leave the remote mountains for small villages and towns bringing their music with them.

As in Sicily and other parts of southern Europe, rocky hillsides and escarpments are dotted with caves. These were still inhabited into the 1960’s though not much beyond. It is in one such intimate place that I find what I am seeking. A dark-haired man in waistcoat, gold chain around his neck, sits on a stool, hands punishing an acoustic guitar, fingers thrumming the fretboard. Two other men are singing accompanied by foot stomping, syncopated hand clapping and shouts of encouragement. The Spanish term for this is Jaleo, roughly translated as ‘hell raising’. The sound bounces off the cave walls, the energy is raw, we, the small audience, enthralled. A sole woman wearing a long red dress and black heeled shoes pounds the floor, stamps like a proud horse, head thrown back, hair flying, castanets clacking. She twists and swirls, lithe, lightning fast, then slow, sinuous. She is intense, contained. It is unlike anything I have experienced. Dancer and musicians are spinning in their own orbit, separate, together, passionate, powerful.         
Finding my research fascinating and illuminating, I delve further.

Romani is an Indo-Aryan language; according to Ethnologue, there are seven varieties, divergent enough to be considered separate languages. The largest of these are Vlax Romani, Balkan Romani, and Sinte and there are hundreds of dialects. No accurate statistics for the number of Romani speakers exist. However, according to a conservative estimation there are some 3.5 million speakers in Europe and a further 500,000 elsewhere, spoken by small groups in forty-two European countries. This makes Romani one of the largest minority languages in Europe, together with Catalan. The most concentrated areas of Romani speakers are found in Macedonia, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia though Romani isn’t an official language in any country. Some Romani communities speak mixed languages based on the surrounding language with retained Romani-derived vocabulary. These are known by linguists as para-Romani varieties rather than dialects of the Romani language itself, and are the mother tongue of nine million people in nine countries, constituting a minor part of the overall population.

Social Structure and Religion                                                                                     Traditionally, anywhere from ten to several hundred extended families formed bands, or kumpanias, which travelled together in brightly painted and carved horse-drawn caravans. Each band was led by a voivode or chieftain, who is elected for life. A senior woman in the band, called a phuri dai, looks after the welfare of the group’s women and children. Communities typically involve members of the extended family living together and they place great value on close family ties. A typical household unit may include the head of the family and his wife, their married sons and daughters-in-law with their children, and unmarried young and adult children. Romani typically marry young – often in their teens – and many marriages are arranged. Weddings are typically very elaborate, involving large, colourful dresses for the bride and her many attendants. Though during the courtship phase, girls are encouraged to dress provocatively, sex is something that is not had until after marriage. In daily life women wore, and many still wear, long skirts or dresses and often head scarves and jewellery; for occasions or dancing, a more elaborate version thereof – the dresses are sometimes threaded with silver, skirts may be triple layered, the top one perhaps made from silk and pearls. Coins may be sewn into their hair.

The phone rings….a call from my cousin Ellen in America. We talk regularly. She is a prolific reader and we always discuss books, so I mention Colum Mc Cann and I tell her about Zoli. It leads to a discussion about my interest in the Romani culture.

She tells me: We had a ‘gypsy’ family, the Lazarowich’s living just a few doors down from us in the 1950’s when we lived in Queens. As her tale unfolds, it reveals, amongst other things, an early and arranged marriage, hospitality, family, and celebration. She continues: They lived a few doors down in a Spanish stucco house built around 1910-1920. It still had the original red brick steps in the front. Our house, and many others in the street, had removed the steps to accommodate an additional room in front, like my father’s medical surgery. The Lazarowich’s were patients of my father. The grandmother used to sit out on those steps smoking her pipe. It was different, interesting. The daughter Dorothy had dark hair and an olive complexion, was year or two ahead of me at the same school, she says. They were hard-working people, led a quiet life. The father made brightly-coloured wax flowers and bamboo garden furniture and delivered the goods in his pickup truck. When she was thirteen or fourteen, Dorothy had an arranged marriage to a much older man she had never met and apparently was really panicked by this. Ellen continues: My father told me this as her parents brought her to see him. A year later I saw her visiting her family, she already had a baby. When her father died it was amazing- a big ‘do’ with about fifty pickup trucks from far and wide lining the street, many from out of state. I ask her if they spoke Romani and she suspects that the grandma did and probably spoke no English.

The Romani people live by a complex set of rules that govern things such as cleanliness, purity, respect, and justice. These rules are referred to as what is Rromano, to behave with dignity and respect as a Roma person. In some groups, the elders resolve conflicts and administer punishment, based upon the concept of honour. Punishment can mean a loss of reputation and at worst expulsion from the community, as in Zoli’s story. As a matter of survival, the Roma were continuously on the move. They developed a reputation for a nomadic lifestyle and a highly insular culture. Because of their outsider status and migratory nature, few attended school, thus literacy was not widespread. They were known for centuries for their skill as metalworkers and for basket-making. Local guilds often resented this type of competition from outside their ranks and economic action by these guilds may well have pushed Romani men and women to engage in acts of petty crime, like theft, to stay afloat. It was, unfortunately, this aspect of the culture that we encounter in Florence. (See below). These days dealing in scrap metal, horse-trading, working in fairs, fruit picking, hawking items such as basketry and wooden pegs, fortune telling (tarot cards, astrology, palmistry) are common practise. The Roma do not follow a single faith; rather, they often adopt the predominant religion of the country where they are living and describe themselves as “many stars scattered in the sight of God”.  Catholic, Muslim, Pentecostal, Protestant, Anglican, or Baptist are all religions followed by the Romani people.

My second encounter is in the early 1970’s in a campground in Finland. Living in London at the time with my then husband, we spend several weeks driving through Scandinavia in a VW station wagon, camping with tent, small stove, folding table and two chairs. We pull into a campground adjacent to a lake, and following the unspoken rule, position ourselves at a respectable distance from the next campers in this large uncrowded space much like a local football oval. Tent pegs, guy ropes, up goes the tent amidst laughter, fumbling and all that ballyhoo. We are inside the tent arranging our few possessions when we hear engines revving. Many of them. Curious, we open the tent flap and peer out to see a procession of large American cars hauling caravans.  Unlike the rest of us discretely spaced at regular intervals around the circumference, this lot make their way directly into the centre, confidently creating their own inner circle. Everyone is observing the unfolding scene, undoubtedly with varying reactions, we with fascination- it is reminiscent of a Fellini movie. The people, clearly Roma, are noisy, brazen, oblivious to those not part of their ‘tribe’. I can’t take my eyes off them. Like me, they are of a swarthy complexion. The women wear headscarves over their long hair, colourful skirts fall full to their ankles. One woman appears at the door of her caravan, tin basin in hand and hurls dishwater onto the ground in front of her. Nearby, a small girl squats and pees. As I recall this incident of some forty years ago, I clap with delight. It was wild! But was I perhaps also a little discomforted at the time or did I simply revel in their free-spiritedness?

While some Roma today are still itinerant, travelling with caravans, cars, trucks or RV’s, many others have adopted a settled lifestyle and livestock trading has given way to the sale of used cars and caravans. As I am writing, our eighty- three-year-old friend Dino drops by. We get talking about the Romany people. Much to my amazement he tells me that when he was a boy growing up on a farm in South Australia in the 1940’s, a group of ‘gypsies’ lived nearby on a Council-owned reserve in the middle of nowhere, distant from the one little store and far from any town. (Dino uses the term ‘gypsy’ probably unaware that despite its wide use, many Romani consider it a racial slur and are offended or made uncomfortable by its use). I am surprised to learn that they still used horse-drawn wagons. And from another source I hear that there were ‘gypsies’ engaged in seasonal fruit-picking in the 1950’s in Shepparton, Victoria. As this is the first time I am hearing about Romani folk in Australia, I want to know more.

The first Roma arrived in Australia in 1788 with migration patterns continuing throughout the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The population is currently estimated to be between 5,000 and 25,000, with significant numbers living in New South Wales, Queensland, and Western Australia. Roma in Australia trace their roots to the United Kingdom and Greece, who in return trace their roots to northern India.

The First Fleet

The Romani community is under-represented in Australian society, and is commonly referred to as the ‘invisible community’. Many members are not registered on the electoral roll, nor do they identify as Romani in the census. Reasons behind this include the nomadic lifestyle of many who fear discrimination. In Australia, the Romani community engages in many traditional practices, including early marriage, fortune-telling, nomadism and poetry writing, cultural practices central, as we see, to the diaspora in general, with slight variations across populations due to contextual influences. And I am struck by certain commonalities with aboriginal Australia for obvious reasons.

Like any diverse culture, there are many modern and assimilated Roma who eschew the traditional and more orthodox beliefs and have settled into houses and apartments. In such cases they are not readily distinguishable from other immigrant or marginalized groups; they live big, loud, and proud, refusing to be ashamed of what the past has wrought on them. Although mass production of stainless steel pots and pans has rendered the tinker obsolete, some urban Roma have found employment as car mechanics and auto body repairmen practicing their trades or working as unskilled wage labourers. Travelling circuses and amusement parks also provide employment for modern Roma as animal trainers and handlers, concession operators, and fortune-tellers. In the early 21st century Roma continued to struggle with contradictions in their culture. Although they are forced less often to defend themselves against persecution from a hostile society, some amount of distrust and intolerance continues. Perhaps the greater struggle they face is the erosion of their lifestyles from urban influences in industrialized societies. A phrase from Zoli again resonates with the Australian aboriginal experience – My land, we are your children. Who could tell the time from the stars if the roof was an inch from their eyes?  

Themes of familial and ethnic loyalty typified in Roma music helped to preserve certain beliefs, yet some of the younger and more talented exponents of this music have been drawn away by material rewards in the outside world. Integrated housing, economic independence, and intermarriage with non-Roma are increasingly common. Romani artists and writers in addition to musicians, of course, are to be found and I have come across some beautiful works.                                                                                              

My third encounter, again a musical one, takes place in Vienna 2011, the city of my parent’s birth from which they fled in 1938.  I have come with a mission- in my notebook addresses of the apartment where my mother lived with her parents before marriage; the apartment my parents lived in until emigrating to Australia; the Jewish cemetery where perhaps I can find some of my father’s relatives. It is also here that Dymia, a friend since primary school days in Melbourne, has lived since marrying an Austrian in the 1960’s and who we will visit. This beautiful city is the home of many magnificent art institutions which we intend to visit. After a morning spent in Mumok – the Museum of Modern Art, Jon returns to our Airbnb apartment. I set out to wander other parts of the city. I find myself at Karlsplatz (Charles Square) near the famous Karlskirche, the 18th-century baroque church built by Emperor Charles VI. To one side stands an elegant Art Nouveau pavilion which was the entrance to the Karlsplatz stadtbahn, a former station of the Viennese city railway built in 1898. The large area encompasses parks and gardens, manicured lawns, and flowerbeds. Mothers push prams through the park, kids zip past on skateboards, the trees show off their spring foliage and the park abounds with colour; roses, magnolia, wisteria, and tulips are in bloom. And then the haunting strains of an accordion and voice reach my ears. The sheer beauty entices me. As I draw closer, it becomes evident that it is coming from Romani musicians – two men, one playing the accordion, the other a violin, and a woman singer. They are in full flight. I sit on a low retaining wall listening for some time, swaying to the music, foot tapping.

There are 40,000 – 50,000 Roma living in Austria, 0.5% of the population, most in rural regions. Already from the late medieval/early modern period ‘Gypsies’ were considered dirty, deceitful, too lazy to work, prone to steal. Europeans came to equate them with vagabonds. Moreover, with their distinctive dress and language their culture, even if they professed faith in Christianity, was often reviled as something alien. The most heinous accusation was that they kidnapped the young, a charge frequently hurled against Jews as well. They were portrayed as cunning, mysterious outsiders who told fortunes and stole before moving on to the next town. In fact, the term ‘gypped’ is probably an abbreviation of Gypsy, meaning a sly, unscrupulous person (the word ‘gypsy’ actually traces its origins to Europeans incorrectly surmising that Romani people came from Egypt). Discrimination, as with the Jews, resulted in a shocking shared fate in the second world war.

The Roma and the Holocaust Drawing support from many non-Nazi Germans who harboured social prejudice towards Roma, the Nazis judged Roma to be racially inferior. The fate of Roma in some ways paralleled that of the Jews. Under the Nazi regime, the Roma were subjected to arbitrary internment, forced labour. Thousands were murdered in the German-occupied territories of the Soviet Union and Serbia and thousands more in the killing centres at Auschwitz-Birkenau, Chelmno, Belzec, Sobobor and Treblinka. Altogether, 500,000 to 1,500,000 perished at the hands of the Nazis.

Many days after beginning this piece, I finish reading Zoli, my eyes brim with tears in the closing pages. I am compelled to ‘talk’ with Mc Cann and pen the following: ‘Dear, dear, dearest Colum Mc Cann’, I begin’. I have an urge to add the pre-fix- ‘just another fan mail’, making fun of myself because it’s so ridiculous writing to a famous author, though I have done so twice in my lifetime. On the first occasion, long ago, a touching reply surprised me. Nonetheless I am unable to hold back. ‘What a fabulous, fabulous book’, I proclaim, and continue: ‘After reading Apeirogon- and you new to me- I immediately decided to read all your books. So, Let the Great World Spin- marvellous- and now Zoli, a brilliant read which has moved me so deeply. Never have I photographed pages and passages from a book but there was so much I wanted to recall, to record. I am the daughter of Hitler refugees thus very aware of the terrible fate of the Roma people who, like my mother, lost so much to the Holocaust’. And I quote from Zoli who says: I could not go back there, I could not cross that river, it was too difficult for me. That whole journey back…I wondered what I had missed, or perhaps what it was better to have missed. I feared my old country would be the same and yet I also feared it would be terribly changed. It seemed to me that our lives though mostly gone and getting smaller, were still large with doubt. I was still unsure I could make the journey back to the place I had been a child. ‘Again, an echo of my mother’s experience. Thank you for this great offering, you are a gem.’

Weeks have passed, these words sit firmly here but not (yet) sent to McCann. Perhaps I am writing to myself?

And now we are in Florence, 2014. This encounter is of an entirely different tenor. We are staying in a charming tiny Airbnb apartment in one of the narrow pedestrian-only streets a couple of minutes from the magnificent Duomo, the famous cathedral. Construction of the Duomo commenced in the Gothic style in 1296 and was completed in 1436. The extraordinary Dome, designed by Brunelleschi, dominates the city skyline. It marked the beginning of the Renaissance, inspired as it was by models from the classical age. It is considered one of the most significant architectural achievements of the Renaissance. The apartment is light-filled with pale terrazzo floors. The 1 sq. mt. kitchen with its eggshell blue tiles and bright window, leads off the small living room from which a glass door leads onto a tiny balcony just big enough to accommodate a diminutive white metal table, two matching chairs and some potted plants. Two storeys up in this four-storey building, it overlooks an open carpark area resembling a small square. The space is surrounded by huge deep green trees and beautiful, Florentine ochre-coloured buildings and is at the back of the university. The view from the apartment in this direction is like a Renaissance painting. As soon as we step out on our first evening, we see a group of people, clearly Roma, who appear to have made this place, secluded and devoid of cars on weekends and evenings, their home for now. We see them every day thereafter; no one appears to bother them. Numbering a dozen or more, women in their long skirts and headscarves, they have no actual shelter. They simply spread out large sheets of cardboard on the ground each evening, covering themselves with blankets. A few of the men sit on the low wall, one has a musical instrument.  Strangely, we see no children, though a couple of younger women are amongst the group.

After unpacking and settling in, we venture out into a cold, windy 15-degrees well rugged-up, passing leather shops full of stylish, colourful handbags, backpacks & satchels in our little street. Looking down the street is a sight to behold; instead of seeing buildings or sky, a small section of the immense terracotta-tiled dome fills the entire visual space. Once at street end, we find ourselves in the area surrounding the Duomo with its soaring façade of white, green, and pinkish marble which I have not seen since I lived in Italy as a twenty-two-year-old. Immediately we are amidst a throng of people. Next day and each day thereafter we see a few Roma women in this area milling through the crowd. We recognize two of them as our ‘neighbours’ from below.

The following day after visiting some spectacular sites and Michelangelo sculptures, we have had enough of the crowds, take money from an ATM using our Travel Card, and head toward the Arno river to visit the Boboli Gardens. We approach the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest and most famous bridge in Florence, built in 1345, and hence another heavily touristed area. Here we find find road works with resultant barriers along the footpath channelling the throng of people who jostle single file through a confined space. Jon is carrying our small yolk-yellow daypack on his back. He is in front of me when suddenly I notice that the main zipper is undone. Stop, stop I cry, the zip of our bag is undone. Immediate panic as I look inside and see that my wallet is missing. It had contained the two-hundred euros just taken from the bank, all my important cards but most immediately relevant, my Travel Card loaded with our travel money. We, seasoned and careful travellers, have been pick-pocketed!  We can’t believe our eyes. Jon then tells me that, in the throng as we started across the bridge, he had felt someone bumping his back. He had turned around and caught sight of a young woman who he thinks is one of our ‘neighbours’ from below. Very skilled indeed but upsetting. He looks ashen, my heart sinks. Our pride a tad damaged, we realize the foolishness of carrying a bag on back in such a crowded place.  A big hassle ensues over the next two days. We have forgotten the password for Jon’s Travel Card and are consumed with frustration and anxiety  contacting our bank by phone, replacing cards and so on with our less than helpful Airbnb ‘landlady’. Ah, the downside of travelling!

Such an incident can’t help but leave a bit of a bad taste and sadly, in the immediacy, we feel less sympathetic to our Roma ‘neighbours’. A day or so later we are walking around the Duomo area and notice the same young Roma woman working the crowd. She is asking everyone for money. When we see her, she instantly makes a 360-degree turn, and moves away fast as a jet plane hoping to merge into the crowd. It is obvious that she has seen us and is attempting to avoid us, so we deliberately move toward her several times, feeling quite Bolshy and determined. She is absolutely avoiding eye contact. We are now sure she is the culprit. I have the thought to get close enough to pointedly take her photo next time we see her just to give her a big fat fright, but this doesn’t transpire!  We do not bother reporting the incident to the police as we are told the process takes an enormous amount of time and would undoubtedly prove fruitless. I would rather spend our limited remaining time taking Jon across the Arno to share with him the wonderful rose garden of yesterday, the quirky sculpture and the fantastic views back across Firenze (Florence).

In 2013 I reconnected by email with Dan Perlongo, an Italo-American composer/pianist I befriended while living in Rome in 1968 and with whom I have had no contact since that time. A more significant friendship begins. In 2014 while in America, we visit Dan and his pianist wife Susan Wheatley. A collaborative project emerges from our rekindled friendship, inspired by a triptych of mine, Skymaps.

The triptych artwork transforms into a three-movement piano piece (for four hands) titled Earth Soundprints. (See ART/OTHER PROJECTS/EARTH SOUNDPRINTS if interested). In 2015 Dan and Susan visit us in Australia and the piece is premiered in an intimate performance for music-lovers in our area. Later that year it has its European premier at the College Music Society 2015 International Conference at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki. I am invited to present my works to accompany Dan’s piece. Thus, Jon and I incorporate a side-trip to Helsinki in our travel itinerary. As usual, Rome is our first stop in Europe, Rome, beloved ever since I spent six months living there as a young woman. Around Stazione Termini, the main railway terminal of Rome, several Romani people linger. It is a rather poor and rundown area, though much improved from fifty years ago when Dan first lived there. An old Roma woman pushes a cart with her meagre belongings across the open space. Some old men sit nearby, cars scoot by noisily, buses groan. The men have a desolate feel about them which washes me with sadness.

It is late June 2015, we have left our month in Sicily and some days in London behind us. We are now in Helsinki to meet with Dan and Susan and attend the Conference. We are so far north that, as I peer out the hotel window at 2 a.m. on our first night, the sleeping trains and railway lines below are still clearly visible in the dusk-like light. The strangeness is both beautiful and somehow disconcerting. Next day, we walk to the Sibelius Academy through a well-kempt park carpeted in summery green. A profusion of purple and pink Rhododendrons and Azaleas create a dizzying colour contrast. A group of Roma men, women and children sprawl on the grass, their belongings scattered around them. They do not make eye contact when we pass nearby. They are a world unto themselves. It is not clear if they have slept there or not but they project a feeling of contentment and at-homeness. Where might they be  spending their days and nights through the freezing winter?

Next day, we head to the Kiasma Museum of Contemporary Art in this uncrowded, quiet city. The expansive paved area in front of the modern art museum building is sparsely peopled but the air is stirred with music. A Roma woman in long skirt and head scarf sings accompanied by a Roma man playing a violin. Her voice is rich and powerful, the music is evocative, melodious. I am smitten and stand close by listening. The woman immediately makes eye contact with me and we exchange several smiles over the next bit of time. As I leave to enter the museum, I bow my head to them both and place a little money beside them in a small gesture of appreciation.

Just as I think I have finished this piece, I decide to phone my friend Julie in Brisbane. We last saw one another in February and haven’t spoken since then. But she and Colin arn’t in Brisbane-they are stuck in the freezing , hailing cold of Melbourne’s fifth Covid lockdown! So, she is quite pleased to hear from me. In the course of our conversation she asks: So, are you writing poetry? No, no, I haven’t for some time now, I reply and she asks for more detail. I explain I have been writing the African travel piece and some blogs and so we come to this current piece and Colum Mc Cann. As she is a literature-lover I recommend Apeirogon we get to Zoli and ‘gypsies’. Have you had any encounters? I ask, and she starts telling me a story about the UK where they spend time each year in rural Sussex where Colin’s mother lived until her death. A small road runs between fields. It is called Gypsy Lane; elsewhere in the area they spot a ‘gypsy’ cart. They are curious about both. In a nearby a bookshop she falls upon a Romani dictionary and curious, asks the bookshop owner about it. He tells her that he was approached by some people who, in the true Romani way convey their heritage by subtle ‘clues’, at the same time acknowledging that they recognize him as one of their own. He duly responds ‘in code’. And thus they begin to exchange conversation. He lets it be known that he wants a gypsy cart and asks if they might put it about within their network. Quickly someone comes forward and offers to build one for him. Hence the cart that Julie and Colin subsequently see. Julie then asks about the dictionary and learns that it was put together by the owner who, together with the group of Romani people in the area, worked on it .

And she tells another story from their time in Sussex. A group of Romani men in leather jerkins with slicked back hair goes door to door through the village seeking scrap metal to buy-traditional tinkers. The women folk, dressed in long skirts, independently follow. They approach households offering for sale their crafted items such as shawls. And thus the group goes from village to village eking out an honest living. Now I am starting to think that perhaps I should have asked more people of my acquaintance if they have encountered the Romani but perhaps this piece would then never end!

In any case, I have travelled far from Zoli, yet not so far; the book still resonates and I remain ‘in love with’ Colum Mc Cann, am by now into the fifth of his books but have not sent him his fan letter! I invite those of a literary bent to check out his work. In working on this piece, my knowledge and appreciation of Romani culture has deepened. I have revisited what I am able of the music and films referred to which brings great joy and excitement late into the night. I hope I have been able to convey my enthusiasm and interest and perhaps stir yours too, good reader(s). Finally, it is my hope that post-Covid, overseas travel will open up once again allowing further encounters with these enigmatic, fascinating people. Vesti bune ( Romani for good tidings)

Some time after publishing this, I found two photographs of myself as a child dressed in ‘gypsy’costume for two fancy dress parties some years apart. Apparently my interest in these folk dated back further than I had remembered!


Hello All,

Going though my cupboards a couple of months ago I made a wonderful discovery-a box of original colour slides from the Mahgreb and Egypt and immediately had them digitized. Rather than slotting them into the appropriate section of the existing text, I have added them at the end, so those interested in looking will find them with ease. If you love images and are interested in the African journey, please go to TRAVEL/ AN AFRICAN JOURNEY,1973

The Curious Life of an Artwork: a circuitous tale

In over forty years of art-making much work has been created. Some resides in Australian and a couple in international public collections, many in private collections here and overseas including those gifted to friends. The process of making an artwork, like any act of creation, is complex. It can be challenging, difficult, even painful at times; it can also be thrilling. It is a journey of discovery and when the labour is complete, relief, surprise or joy accompanies it. Once sold or given away, the artist may never see the work again. For me, it’s always a bit of a jolt and an unexpected pleasure to be reacquainted with one of my works in a friend´s home. I have (mostly) been rigorous about documenting since I began exhibiting in the late 70´s; thus this tale is quite curious.

My father died aged 100 years in 2005. With no other family in Australia and my 96-year old mother extremely fragile, I moved back to Melbourne to care for her. It is a rare thing at their great age for one partner to outlive the other by several years and thus this arrangement continued for much longer than one might have anticipated. Jon and I now had a commuting relationship; every two months we spent two weeks together alternating between Melbourne and our home in the Whitsundays. This did not go unnoticed. One friend commented that her husband would never have put up with it; one of my mother’s friends was astonished that I would remain in Melbourne for more than a few weeks. It is a measure of the man that he supported me so wholeheartedly in my need to be there for my mother, (and a measure of my mother that, in the last year of her life, she sent me home realizing that it was no longer feasible for me to remain.)

In the absence of a studio I found myself creatively stifled. Joining a classical choir was a good move, stimulating and quite a challenge but after a couple of years I badly needed to make art again and went ‘back to my beginnings’ with oil crayon on paper, making landscape-based, en plein air works inspired by walks along the Yarra river and at Lake Tyers in Gippsland on the property of a good friend. On returning home permanently in 2009, I added more pieces depicting our home, garden and natural environment, referring to the series as the 2008 Landscapes. Some have sold, some hang in our home, some were gifted and some still reside in my artwork drawers. Many are included in my subsequent website (WORKS ON PAPER).

And so the tale unfolds….. A few days ago, Thursday April 8, 2021, I received an email from an unknown person in Melbourne, Jon W. with the attached image, a drawing from the above series.

My piece jon W. bought at the op shop

JW: Hi Bonney, I was wondering if the picture below is your work. It’s a very relaxing scene. Hoping you can help. And thus the adventure begins, an email correspondence unfolds, several passing back and forth on the same day.

BB: Hi Jon, yes my work, curious as to where you saw it (?on my website) and who you are. Regards Bonney

JW: Thanks for your reply. I purchased it today from a Fitzroy op shop (thrift shop for those of you not acquainted with the terminology). I noticed, after a bit of looking, it’s signed “Bombach ’09”; I did an online search and found your website. Am I right in saying it’s an original crayon on paper? I’m a Melbourne pensioner who visits op shops, buying books etc, for a hobby.

So now I am VERY curious. As so many works leave my studio, I would, without good record-keeping, mostly be unable to remember where they went to. Of course I recognize the work in the photo he sends (ho hum) but cant recall where it is, so go to my files and find it is indeed on record- it went to Wee (Australian nick name though I referred to her by her real name, Sumitra), the Thai wife of Big John, a fellow in our area. I send another email to Jon W. in Melbourne filling him in on what I have found.

BB: Hey! What a funny story…I actually live in N. Qld and gave this drawing in 2014 to Wee, the wife of a fellow in our area. They have since separated but the drawing would have stayed with him. How it ended up in Fitzroy op shop I have no idea.  But Melbourne is my home-town (long ago) and I am glad it is somewhere being appreciated. Enjoy. Yes, oil crayon on paper. Good hobby of yours! Have you found other interesting works in similar shops? Certainly plenty of good 2nd hand bookshops in that area. I found a wonderful signed poetry book of Alex Scovron’s work in same area a few yrs ago, inspiring poet. Best Regards Bonney

JW: The drawing was framed by the East Ivahoe Framing Company, East Ivanhoe, if that’s any help. Yes, it will be appreciated. I have found other interesting works over the years; your drawing caught my eye in the op shop because I had another painting with sun chairs called ‘The House at McGregor Rd’, which may be in Suva, Fiji, by Huw Wellu or Wellur, but can’t find a thing about the artist. I’m hoping it’s a practice piece by Brett Whitely but not holding my breath. Have found a few rare books over the years as well. Good Luck. He attaches this image of his other ‘deckchair’ work.

Jon W’s other deckchair painting

We are both busily engaged by now as you see! Next day, Friday April 9, I write back.

BB: Well good luck with the Whitely! Now that would be find. E. Ivanhoe framing throws no light BUT you wont believe, I grew up 5 mins. from there!

And then I start thinking about phoning Big John with whom I have only intermittent contact these days, thinking how I might go about this without embarrassing him as it seems he has ditched the work.

Ring ring, ring ring, he picks up. Hi John, its Bonney…I tell him I am on a mission and need to ask him something and my intent is NOT to embarrass. I explain what’s transpired, how Wee’s drawing is now with this person Jon W. in Melbourne. I don’t care where the work is and that you have passed it on but am curious as to how it got to a Melbourne op shop, I explain. So now Big John reminds me that it was actually a wedding present, which I had quite forgotten and tells me it is hanging on his wall!! Hang on, he says as he walks over to where it is apparently hanging and starts describing it to me-the orange pool tiles, the two deckchairs, the tropical foliage. Well yep that’s it, I say, how weird and together we try to fathom….someone must have made a copy, he says. Well, if they love the image that much, I don’t care, I quite genuinely quip before thinking that it’s a bit cheeky! I ask Big John to please send me a photo of the work.

Now I want to share this latest strangeness with Jon W. in Melbourne. Sat, 10 Apr 2021.

BB: Hi Jon, such a funny story! I wanted to delve further as it’s sparked my curiosity and imagination…perhaps a short story in the making….so I phoned Big John, the guy to whom I gave it as a wedding present and lo and behold he tells me he still has the work hanging on his wall! That sent me checking my documentation. I do a double take…is this the same work? I take another look at the pic you sent of my piece and find it’s different; but curiously I had no record of yours and have no recollection of who I gave it to (almost certainly a gift to a Melbourne friend). So thank you for all of this…I now have a record of a forgotten work, you have something you like, Big John has the wedding present (of a now defunct marriage) and I discovered the image of your other deckchair work which I had somehow overlooked! Ah, will send you pic of the one that caused the confusion. Best, Bonney

the wedding gift

As you can see the two works are quite similar but I must have given or sold Jon’s one soon after it was made; strangely no documentation and no recollection of it. So I feel obliged to inform Big John. A busy Saturday!

BB to Big John: Hey, just checked and see it is a different image from yours…I had forgotten this one and don’t have a record of it! And then I write to Jon W. in Melbourne again bringing him up to speed. He replies: Yes, the story is becoming curiouser. I acquired your work at this op shop, one of my favourites, The staff may remember who donated it. Hope your Melb friend is still alive.

So now I contact Sacredheartmission and speak to a woman called Penny. BB: You will think this is a funny story, I commence, and tell her the ins and outs of it, bla bla, conveyed with humour- my mission and curiosity. She is clearly enjoying the ride, is laughing but is kind and helpful. She suggests I contact Robina who might be more able to help though we agree it’s a long shot. So I email Robina.

BB: Hi Robina, Penny gave me your email address and says she will/has filled you in on my mission to try to track down the name of the person who donated my work which has obviously passed through a few hands. The most recent is a fellow Jon who bought it from your op shop and tracked me down via my website. We now are playing a game about the mysterious life of this work. I want to write a story about it. If by chance you can assist that would be a miracle but wonderful. Thanks, Best regards, Bonney in N. Qld

BB to JW: Very kind, thank you. Have just phoned them and whizzed off an email. Unlikely to succeed but I now want to write a little story about the life of this work.

JW: Bonnie, I purchased the drawing last Thursday. I’ll return to the op shop on Monday, I live in Carlton, and enquire while I’m there. A bit more detail. In the shop a male, 30’s long black hair, served me. When I asked was it a crayon drawing he got a lady from the backroom, she was in her 60’s short, stout, grey hair, possibly the manager. She would likely remember it, as we agreed it showed a relaxing scene. When I got it home, I was surprised by how much dust and grime was on the glass panel when I cleaned it with a damp cloth, it had evidently been in storage for quite a few years. I’d love to read the story some time. Jon

BB: Really? You don’t have to do that (return to the shop) but sounds like you are joining my detective work! Now I am curious as to why you wanted to follow me up in the first place and why you purchased the work. I will forward you the email I sent, as Robina is is the person apparently most likely to know who the work came from but it’s a long shot I reckon. And yes, if the story is any good, will be happy to share.

The following day he replies: JW: I like to research the pictures, books etc I buy from op shops that’s all. Most people just drop off their donations so tracking the drawing will be a long shot. I’m retired, the place is 5 mins away by tram and I thought I’d have another browse around but I’ll leave it in your hands. Anyway, it’s been nice meeting you.

I don’t want him to feel I was ungracious about his offer to return to the store so flick off another email.

BB: Pls don’t feel that I thought your offer to go to the store intrusive…if you feel to go there and maybe find another treasure and see the same person as before, by all means do. Also I love that you take the time to research your finds. If I write my story (which would probably end up as a Post on my website and will take some time), I was going to refer to you as Jon W, maybe include the emails without showing your name, assuming you would prefer anonymity. But now that we have this correspondence going, I am curious about you too. If you would like to share with me a little of who you are which I would then include in the story, that would be very cool but entirely up to you. I then ask him if he has looked on my website at the series the piece comes from and direct him to it ART/WORKS ON PAPER/ scroll down to 2008 LANDSCAPES (not RHS dropdown menu, stay in the mail works on paper section). Have a good week, Bonney

A few days later Robina from the sacred heart mission op shop kindly emails me saying she doesn’t recall the piece and asking if Jon remembers when he purchased it. I will show my deputy when she is in again on Friday, she says and then wishes me best of luck in my mission to find the person who donated this to us. Now I am starting to feel slightly silly about my pursuit but, never one to leave a job unfinished, I push on.

On the same day I receive a reply from Jon W. regarding my invitation to share something about himself. It is quite a surprise! The discrepancy between the imagined and the actuality is an interesting phenomenon; the mind’s eye view of person or place never concurs with the reality, and yet trying to grasp what one had imagined, is elusive. So who might this man be who visits op shops, buys a work of mine, finds unusual unspecified books, a pensioner who lives in Carlton? Carlton – think Melbourne University/hip/once exclusively working class and immigrant, Italian/Greek back in the day when I was at university. And what does ‘pensioner’ imply? There are many types of pensioners defined variously by age, financial status, health, employment. But I am assuming he is over 65 years of age. Does he jump on that tram to go to the op shop wearing jeans and a loose shirt, perhaps a cool older dude with a ponytail? An art and book collector of sorts? Is he attracted to the very relaxing scene because he is a tense or a laidback sort of guy? Or perhaps a very orderly person who likes to categorize his ‘collectables’, deckchairs being the common theme between my work and the other painting he mentions? And then he responds a few days later, April 13.

JW: Bonnie, I’m 70 and until a few years ago was involved with market research/mystery shopping, while also doing casual freelance writing. I’ve had more 100 pieces published over the years. I used to write regular historical feature stories for Turf Monthly mag (until it changed format). I’ve long had an interest in UFOs (not so much now) and the paranormal and my stories on those have appeared in (the defunct) Aust’asian Ufologist mag., more recently New Nexus mag. and Phantoms & Monsters blogsite. I’m currently finishing a long article ‘The Kelly Gang Paranormal Story–Revealed’. I enjoy a punt on race horses and, once or twice per month, the local op shops. Love the Internet. Keep in touch with 4 brothers and 2 sisters. Live alone and enjoy my own company. Also do homebrewing and breadmaking. Had a look at your website. You’re very versatile and prolific.

See what I mean… I love this, so utterly unexpected. Market research, UFO’s, published articles, monsters, paranormal, a bit of a punter. Our world’s couldn’t be further apart. It’s only when we get to the mention of family and breadmaking that I ‘feel at home’ again. And yet, here we are connected in this strange and unexpected way. This is now a little shape-changing, pushing my boundaries. It’s bothering me, but perhaps this is not a bad thing? We spend too much time talking to like-minded people, comfortable but not necessarily challenging. Thank you, my little drawing!

Allow me to digress, speaking of ‘bothering me’, perhaps a constructive thing. My dear artist friend Michael B. gave me a fascinating book, Parallels and Paradoxes: Daniel Barenboim & Edward W. Said – Explorations in Music and Society. At one point they are discussing how Barenboim (the great conductor/pianist) is a custodian of a great musical past, the Western musical heritage, Beethoven symphonies, Mozart operas etc but Barenboim, of course is also fascinated by the music of today, composers like Boulez, Carter, Birtwhistle. Barenboim says he considers Beethoven a modern (but not contemporary) composer whose music has the same importance as something being written today, and that playing the music of a contemporary composer such as Boulez should be played with the same familiarity that one associates with the works of the past. Edward Said responds by saying that he feels there is a certain ruthlessness in history, that one feels that certain things are unrecoverable because they are past, and proceeds to give an example of a contemporary piece by Alban Berg in which the final movement, a Bach chorale, appears and how moving he finds this precisely because it is so at odds with the material. Barenboim has quite a different take on it, saying it bothers him that such a foreign element has been introduced. Said retorts that it is the bother itself which interests him!

So I find myself reflecting upon all this, Jon W’s ‘weird’ interests and I turn to Mr. Google to check out New Nexus, the magazine in which some of his articles have been published. It comes up simply as Nexus. I quote: NEXUS is a bi-monthly alternative news magazine covering health breakthroughs, future science and technology, suppressed news, free energy, religious revisionism, conspiracy, the environment, history and ancient mysteries, the mind, UFOs, paranormal and the unexplained. NEXUS Magazine is not affiliated with any political, religious or spiritual groups or organizations whatsoever, and has been published since 1986. The magazine is on sale in shops across Australia, New Zealand, USA, Canada, UK, France, Italy, Holland, Greece, Poland, Croatia, Japan, Romania, Serbia and Russia. The inclusion of the words ‘conspiracy’ and ‘religious revisionism’ sets my alarm bells jingling a little louder. I am now feeling a bit wary. After all, I have encountered a couple of conspiracy theorists who hold truly alarming beliefs, racist and some quite off the air. Is my Jon W. one such? How do I respond? I can’t just ignore the man and Edward Said’s wisdom is still ringing in my ears, so I take time to reflect upon the possible benefit of being ‘bothered’ by what I am discovering, and how it might reflect on Jon W. After several days I get myself together and decide I had better ‘own’ my feelings without being unkind. After all, he has been nothing but kind to me. On April 16 I reply.

BB: Jon, always so odd, the discrepancy between how you imagine someone might be and how they are….interesting line of investigation, though one can never quite pin down how one actually imagines someone might be! Anyway, appreciate your sharing. You are a prolific writer – though I find it easier to relate to breadmaking, relationship with family, even home-brewing  than the paranormal etc. Had a squizz at Nexus and got a bit creeped when, amongst other things, I saw it covers conspiracy theories. Hope you arn’t a follower! The nice woman Robina responded to my email and mentioned you had been in the shop again. I suppose I should ask a few of my Melbourne friends if any of them had been given the work but I don’t want to embarrass anyone! Now that I know what a prolific and published a writer you are, perhaps I will be shy to send my thing  (when finished)! -it will probably take the form of a short blog on my website. Regards, Bonney

A few days later he replies: Bonnie, I don’t think I’m a conspiracy nut, but do take an interest in the weird ideas out there. I guess it was a bit embarrassing the picture ended up an orphan in an op shop; people separate, divorce, move out, move on, forget… somebody found it in a cupboard or garage and donated it…. if it makes you feel any better, I also found a Banksie in a skip last year as well. Not a proflic writer, just an occasional scribbler. Look forward to seeing the story.

BB: Hey thanks for this Jon. Just to clarify, I am not the least bit upset about the work ending up in an op shop although admittedly have been a bit upset in the past, when on a couple of occasions over many years I noted that a work I have given a friend was never hung! Anyway I am enjoying the oddity of the story and my chase and ‘meeting you’ along the way. Don’t worry, will send when finished but don’t expect too much! Best Bonney

So I give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he isn’t a conspiracy theorist who believes ‘foreign agents’ have micro-chipped us, that there is something evil in the Covid vaccine, that the Holocaust never happened or that shape-changing lizards rule the earth, or whatever! Plenty of crazies out there.

Only as I transcribe this into the blog I realize I have not commented on his Banksy find, Banksy, well known as the dark, elusive master of street art, the anonymous vandal, political activist, genius. If it’s a real Banksy, what a great find! So I now have to flick him a response.

BB: April 22 Hey Jon, as I transcribe this into my little story, I realize I omitted to mention the Banksy print you found. If it is for real, it’s quite a find! Probably also with monetary value. Did you ever have it checked out?  I presumed he only made work on walls but….would love photo of it if that’s easy. If not, don’t bother. Enjoy your upcoming wk-end. Best, Bonney

Almost immediately he replies: Bonnie, this is my found Banksie (print), I doubt it’s worth very much. Jon. And equally fast, BB: Very cool indeed! So as its showing the brick wall, is it a photograph of the work or perhaps a print has been made from a photograph? What do you think? Is the work on paper or canvas? I had a quick look online as no doubt you have done, and see that some images are clearly prints on canvas from photos of original work on wall. In which case I agree it wouldn’t be worth much. Still, a quirky thing to have. Good on ya!

I love Banky’s irreverence. Lovely timing too. Lying…many police (and others) are corrupt and have no problem lying, so a great outcome in yesterday’s verdict on the George Floyd case. That bastard cop got what he deserved and justice is served. Black Lives Matter now has a big voice but will anything change? We love to criticize the USA whose gun laws are clearly a huge part of the problem, but the underlying issue of systemic racism is far reaching, way beyond the USA.

Our own serious problem with systemic racism is both embarrassing and a national disgrace, aboriginal deaths in custody the big issue. As with American Blacks and people of colour, aboriginal incarceration rate is hugely disproportionate as are the deaths in custody. It’s 30 years since the Royal Commission into aboriginal deaths in custody yet even more aborigines die in custody in spite of all the recommendations that were brought down. The Black Lives Matter movement (thank you George Floyd) is pushing this forward but I wish I were more positive about outcomes and changes in both (all) countries.
So, I haven’t solved the mystery of how my work ended up in a Melbourne op shop. It’s had me wracking my brains though a couple of possibilities have come to mind late at night but my unwillingness to embarrass anybody by asking is, I have discovered, not the only reason I now choose to put this little saga to bed. I have discovered that it’s the chase that’s interested me far more than finding an answer; a speculative journey which has taken me off on unexpected tangents and through which I have met an unusual person, utterly different from me in many ways but with whom I share a sense of curiosity, a willingness to engage with a complete stranger, and someone with an eye for quirky art and more! And I do love quirky.

Thank you Jon and thank you my drawing with deckchairs, pool and foliage. It’s been a fun ride.

An African Journey, 1973 is finished! Part 4:Kenya & Tanzania

Hi Everybody it’s me again! After completing writing up our February Tasmania holiday, I have turned my attention to completing An African Journey,1973 adding Part 4. I know there are a lot of frustrated travellers out there with Covid still very much a problem so hope this armchair travelling might be enjoyable for you. It’s been fun for me. See TRAVEL WRITING/ AN AFRICAN JOURNEY, 1973

Stay well. stay safe and let’s hope with vaccination underway for some, things improve, particularly for my many friends overseas and our Balinese family. Drop me a line or two if so inclined. Always lovey to hear from you.

Writing Writing Writing

Hello again all,

Hope this finds everyone well and managing your various states of Covid restrictions. By now you will have received notification that my recent Tasmanian travel writing, with lots of nice photo-inclusions, is up on the website, and I hope it offers a pleasant armchair-travel experience, especially to those of you who are still in far more locked-down circumstances that we fortunate ones. I know a few of you are hanging out for it!

So now , back to finalizing Part 3 (Ethiopia) of An African Journey, 1972. Shouldn’t be too long before that’s up on the site also. Below, a taste teaser.

Stay Covid-safe! Have a happy Easter, Pesach or whatever or be entirely irreverent as we plan to be!

Ha Ha Methuselah!

Woke up this morning with the above riff in my head…well, I know nothing of Methuselah, the biblical patriarch and a figure in Judaism, Christianity and Islam, except one is ‘as old as…..’ So, looked him up to learn he lived to reach 969 years of age, not a bad innings as they say. One of the highly intelligent questions in the pop-up menu up was, ‘is he still alive?’ to which, surprise, surprise the reply was ‘Deceased’. I also found many depictions of him but the one I most liked is this beautiful stained glass window. Well, perhaps it’s a slight exaggeration to say I’m feeling a thousand years old but, while the hip replaced some ten weeks ago progresses nicely, its mate is playing vengeful games and I am frustrated at not being able to ‘go for walks’ without feeling very sore very fast, that bone on bone soreness (no problem padding round house, garden, supermarket etc). And still I cant bend to pluck prolific, wet-season weeds nor sit for any length of time writing without getting up as stiff as I presume old Methuselah was. So the challenge is to come to terms with what is, thankful for panadol osteo and my wonderful Jon while investigating interim measures. More importantly, to take the mickey out of myself and have a laugh about the ‘oldies aids’ I now employ in between the whinging. Here are a couple of the ‘oldies aids’ I now employ-a pick up stick, very handy implement to avoid bending to floor, a wedge cushion to assist sitting position (not sure it helps and has the added ‘benefit’ of making a perfectly comfortable chair less comfy to sit in), orthotics to hopefully reduce the newest, sore feet…and cop this, my physio suggested walking poles rather than a single walking stick (dad’s dear old one) which I had recently taken when out walking for a few minutes on the road! So, trying to put my vanity aside, I went online and ordered a pair of walking poles…no way will I be seen walking through town using them but certainly will try on the foreshore or our local road and certainly on ‘walks’ when we go to Tasmania in a few weeks. People tell me they are great and my friend Laine, who had used a single one, when I mentioned how daggy I would look, vanity,vanity, replied, ‘oh no, not at all daggy. If you have two of them, you look professional!’

I am reminded of my old and very elegant mum who resisted all such aids, thus I learned to prepare her psychologically well in advance; first came ‘sensible’ shoes (oh, I haven’t yet mentioned shoes- still to come!!!), then a walking stick. This was followed some years later after she had a couple of falls, by a walking frame, which we nicknamed Schleppi, (from Yiddish shlepn, to drag). By now she was into her nineties (she lived to 101 years) and only in the last year or so did she require a wheelchair. After my father died, aged, 100 years, I moved back to Melbourne to be her primary carer and, with these aids, we were able to go out and about, visit her friends, even still attend concerts into her nineties. She was so funny, constantly berating me, see how my daughter treats me, she would somewhat aggressively proclaim in front of the friend whose house we had just arrived at as I suggested the safest way to negotiate the path or to watch out for a step. I tried to see these remarks as funny though inevitably failed at times, as the constancy sometimes felt hurtful. Hindsight being a great teacher, I now see this behaviour as part of her pride and resistance to the ever-increasing frailty and pain of her very advanced age. Still, to this day I wish I had brought more grace and humour to the situation, which in retrospect was a great lesson. And so, this little blog shifts from me to my darling mum…….

I am lucky. Many friends over the years have passed on items of clothing, some of which have served me well and been much loved for many years. Amongst them an elegant pair of sandals and others I have purchased, some a little dressier, some very casual. As the years have progressed I seek ever more comfortable shoes to accommodate what I term ‘difficult’ feet, no mean feat (wordplaywordplay) when vanity requires them to be attractive. Add to this that I am not one of those women ‘born to shop’. I hate shopping for clothing, especially for shoes, get bored very quickly and see it as a necessity rather than a pleasure. My strategy is to keep an eye open for something I really need and this eye sometimes must remain propped open for prolonged periods, like a year or more until I fall upon the right thing easily, only then it becomes a pleasure. However, as the years progress, what worked then sometimes doesn’t work now and thus the painful process of the ever open eye must recommence. Given that I live in a small town with little choice, this becomes ever more difficult and I am disinclined to drive two hours south or three-and-a half north to avail myself of greater choice. Trips to Melbourne or overseas trips often made this easier and more enjoyable, for a short period! Anyway, knowing my wardrobe contained not one but several pairs of shoes unsuitable for ‘difficult’ feet, Methuselah in combo with Mari Kondo (get rid of that which no longer ‘sparks joy’) finally came to my aid and yesterday I plucked several pairs from my wardrobe which will go to friends and the op shop.

This week the walking poles arrive! OMG!!! and this morning, a day later, I awoke with a new riff in my head…the old grey mare she aint what she used to be, aint what she used to be etc etc, remember?

No commiserations please, just having fun here. Other comments welcome, always nice to hear from you. And a few more pics for good measure because I can’t resist.


Just to let you armchair travellers (arn’t we all for now anyway?) know that I have completed Part 2: The Mashriq (Egypt and Sudan) of AN AFRICAN JOURNEY:1973, located under TRAVEL WRITING. Part 2 continues on the same page as Part 1, The Mahgreb (N. Africa) so just keep scrolling down. There are lots of interesting photographs again and a reminder that you can click on any image to enlarge and also see the title. Here is a quick link to it:

Also just want to say g’day, hope all are OK, especially you folks outside of Australia who are contending with Covid in a way we blessedly don’t have to, and to let you know I am thinking about you all. I am half way through my three-month hip replacement recovery, doing well but champing at the bit to get out and about into proper walks etc. I also want to wish everyone well for the Silly Season and more importantly for a much better 2021

Please let me know if you would like to be (re)invited to receive email notifications of Posts either to follow any blogs I put up, or when I add anything else to the website.

Big hug to all of you who I know.


WAIT WAIT…THE WAITING IS OVER, here comes Africa 1973!

Hi Everybody,

First in the Time of Covid, I have to say that I trust and hope you are all well…most of my ‘Followers’ (and I really have little notion of how many of you follow this stuff) are people I am in regular contact with so I know YOU are all OK but for any others, Stay Safe. Its a horrible situation; we in Australia are SO fortunate.

So, announcing that the first part of the promised retrospective writings from extraordinary travels through parts of Africa in 1973 is now up under Travel Writing. From when I commenced this writing until now, there has been a break as I have been in hospital getting a brand new hip (3 weeks ago) and only in the last few days have I been up to writing and organizing photos etc.

Part 1 is The Mahgreb, across the top of north Africa. Stay tuned because in a few weeks I will be putting up Part 2, The Mashriq, Egypt & Sudan.

Keep on truckin’

All good things,


Wait Wait, Here Comes Africa: Quietly Working Away

So, who could resist the idea of writing about a great travel adventure undertaken in Africa in the early’70’s? Not I! And so, some while ago I started to work on this project which is proving quite an undertaking. I have only a little written documentation of the six months I spent with my then husband Bruce travelling across the north African Mahgreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia) and then through Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia and into East Africa. Bruce has somehow dug out a few black and white photographs he took; also colour transparencies which I have had to sort through using my late father’s old light box, discarding many before arranging to digitize some. The other aspect of this is the challenge of remembering events of fifty years ago. What remains are illuminated fragments which I augment with some research. We will see how it pans out! Meanwhile four photos, hors d’oeuvres, if you like, a tiny taste from Morocco, Sudan and Ethiopia to whet the appetite.

Stay safe in this difficult time, especially my friends and others readers outside of Australia.


I always associated the words spare parts with cars. That is until my charming and endearing old dad many years ago and aged well into his nineties, while resting on his bed chatting to a friend, made a crack about having so many spare parts. He was, of course referring to body parts, in his case, first hearing aids, much later false teeth and a pace-maker and finally, aged ninety, a hip replacement (a fine recovery he made too, assiduously and uncomplainingly doing all the follow-up exercises, a very disciplined gentleman!)

All this brings me to the anticipation of my first ‘spare part’, since in four weeks I too will receive a new hip! Naturally, I anticipate this with a little trepidation, having always enjoyed excellent health and never having been hospitalized for more than a day, and that, only once as an adult plus a tonsillectomy at the age of three. However, it is time and I plan to take a leaf from my father’s book.

The slow deterioration of my hip, first noticing reduced flexibility in my early ’40’s, has been mostly manageable and not really affected my life other than brief moments or periods, but since returning from visiting our ‘family’ Bali in February, I have noticed a marked deterioration. A once agile gardener and walker now finds bending painful, sometimes impossible as bone grinds on bone; likewise manicuring toe nails, reaching into low kitchen cupboards or picking anything up from the floor. For months now I have been dependent on several painkillers daily and sleep disturbance is often present. And much to my consternation, my regular daily walking routine has in recent months reduced to a few rather slower minutes up and down the street. And I have probably managed to walk on our lovely beach only once or twice this year. Favoring the other leg has now impinged on the so-called ‘good’ hip and both knees. So while the mind feels young, the body lags behind and I am definitely not ready to accept this as a permanent state of affairs! So we wont even mention hearing deficit, what did you say, I can’t hear you!

And so to the little girl on the beach who’s comment a few months (see my blog A Certain Age) was somehow prescient, an omen. Well, when asked how I feel, my I now answer is, I’m fine but my hip doesn’t share my feelings! Perhaps aided and abetted by all this, the sense of time passing, the awareness that way more is now behind than before me, I find myself increasingly drawn to thinking about the past, wanting to reconnect with people from long ago to learn of their life’s journey and see how they are doing now. And from this, and not for the first time, through some recent clever detective work, I succeeded to track down my Belgian friend Marie Claire, precious in my life in Rome fifty two years ago. We exchanged a few long emails and then the wonders of Whatsapp took over. I had thought perhaps emotion would overwhelm me and that I might cry when first talking with her, but instead laughed and talked our way through undoubtedly the longest phone conversation of my adult life. By the time we hung up, two hours had slipped by.

The conversation reinforces for me the notion that people’s essence changes little, with exceptions allowing for unforeseen traumatic life events. Though naturally age has changed our appearance, her essence remains just as I remembered, that of the young woman with long dark haired framing a classically fine-featured face, wrapped in a gorgeous crocheted yellow shawl, indoors or perhaps walking in the rain, bringing serenity and sunshine wherever she went. The paths we have taken in those intervening years may have diverged in ways but clearly have correspond in others. Creativity, music, travel with our respective partners, all important to us both and we both need and appreciate a quiet life surrounded by nature, tending our gardens. And, as if speaking with one voice she says she is really fascinated by encounters in our lives, how we meet and how it evolves, what makes you go or not go, yes, fascinating. So, many parallels.

Though my late teen and early adult years were emotionally turbulent, they encompassed some amazing experiences – the 60’s music scene; the outpourings, creative and political as a result of the Vietnam war; avant garde art events in London; discovering my creativity, a life changing experience resulting in leaving behind a decade working as a student counsellor to become an artist; and some remarkable travels, including an overland trip from England back to Australia in the early ’70’s. Quite unconnected to this, my oldest university friend Janet, ‘returned’ to me letters I had written to her in the 60″s and 70’s when living overseas. And now the synchronicity, as the 60’s letters refer to Marie Claire and her poet songster partner (now husband) Tucker, both really significant in my life.

In recent months, I have felt the urge to write another travel journal based on the above-mentioned overland trip, the six months in Africa in particular. I started working on it a few weeks ago and contacted Bruce, my friend (and husband of the time) with whom I shared this journey, as my memory of these travels is extremely fragmented. I had no photographs or diary writings to refer to but thought he may have. And now in possession of some diaries, letters and photographs, with colour transparencies still to come as he discovers hidden treasures in his Covid lock-down Melbourne home, I am, and will be even more able to piece together these ‘spare parts’ of life’s experiences. May be a while but stay tuned! Hope and trust you are all well.

Brief Encounters of a Special Kind

Something curious and heart-warming occurred today but, to be appreciated, requires a backstory. Rewind about fourteen years. I am walking along ‘our’ beach and encounter a boy, perhaps eight or nine years old. I feel a great affinity with children so, as is my wont, I greet him. ‘Are you having fun?’ I tease.  Something about him immediately invites me to proceed further, and thus a conversation ensues and continues as we meander up the beach side by side, the turquoise Coral Sea lapping to our left, the established foreshore trees, dense foliage and  largely obscured houses to our right.

Our feet fall on warm sand, his eager face constantly turns toward me, we make a lot of eye contact, his voice is lively and he smiles readily as we converse. He is an intelligent little boy who is clearly comfortable with adults and we are having a fat time together. His name is Josh and he tells me he is visiting his grandparents who live a few doors up from us in a large house owned by their son Jamie. Eventually we part ways as he heads back through the trees to his grandparent’s place and I continue with my beach walk, heart full. When I return home, I tell Jon of the encounter with this child who has charmed me. When next I see his grandmother, I tell her of our meeting which has given rise to such a feeling of warmth. Naturally, she glows and from time to time over the ensuing years, I ask after him. I can no longer recall quite what he looked like, nor any detail of what we spoke about, but he was immediately engaging and engaged. He had a certain quality that left me feeling he was quite special, and the encounter filled me with delight. I don’t remember seeing him again, but when I next see his grandmother, I mention my meeting Josh.  Some years later, his grandparents move, their son Jamie and wife, Josh’s parents, want to use the place as a holiday home, occasional respite from the mining town out west where they run a tyre business. From time to time I pass Jamie on my morning walk and he too is now privy to my affectionate recollection of Josh.

Today, from my kitchen window overlooking the street, through the many palms growing in our front garden I glimpse two couples strolling by. They are enjoying the late afternoon sun, beer cans and wine glasses in hand, an uncommon sight.  I subliminally register that one of the men may be Jamie. They linger in front of our place, pointing to plants in our garden. I am about to step out for a short late walk and as I reach the road, two of them are now pointing at the house diagonally opposite, while the other two have already disappeared through the adjacent vacant block. ‘Hello’, I say in a friendly voice as I approach them. The woman smiles, returning my greeting. ‘Something over there seems to have your attention’, I comment, curious. ‘It’s the rock wall’, she says. ‘Ah yes, he’s a good stone-mason’, I add. She now indicates that she knows we have a similar rock wall which she has obviously spotted on a previous occasion, because it is barely visible from the adjacent block, being obscured behind thick tropical foliage. She is referring to our Balinese style, open-air shower. Would you like to see it?’, I proffer. She jumps at that invitation.

The pebbles on the path running beside the house crunch beneath our feet as the three of us duck under overhanging palm fronds. Much admiring of and discussion about the wall follows- how it is constructed, the pinkish hue of our chosen rocks, the way it has been laid, that yes, it is local stone and so on.  ‘That’s the sort of stone wall I would like in front of our place’, she announces. And so, inevitably I inquire as to where they live. ‘I live in Brisbane’ says the man, ‘and I live just up the road’ the woman adds, so now I presume that they are not a couple. ‘So, which is your house?’ I ask, curiosity having got the better of me. As she describes its location, I twig. ‘Oh, then you must be Jamie’s wife!’ which she affirms, ‘And Josh’s mother.’ And now I spin into a spiel about the great little kid I met all those years ago on the beach. Clearly, it’s now time to formally introduce myself. No sooner do I start, than she cuts me off saying, ’I know who you are. I know all about you. Josh still talks about you. When he met you, he came running to the house and told me excitedly about the wonderful lady he had met on the beach.’ I am delighted that he remembers me and gobsmacked that he still talks about me! I ask her what he is doing now, though I have received scraps of information from his dad on our occasional encounters.

I learn that Josh is now in is early 20’s, studying Business, majoring in accounting at QUT in Brisbane. She proudly adds, ‘He has also developed an App about dog-friendly ……  Pet ..…’ . I don’t quite take in all the details. Did the App name include the word ‘Paws’ and was it pet friendly camping places?  Anyway, it’s cool, he’s a dog-lover too! ‘Oh yes’, she states, and I suddenly have the urge to connect with him again. ‘Hang on a minute, I will grab my card for you to pass on to him, I would love to be in touch with him’. I run upstairs and return to hand her my now somewhat outdated Bonney Bombach Artist card with its coloured image of an artwork and my contact details, minus my recent web address.  Everyone is smiling as we part ways.

Thus inspired, I begin to write this blog, knowing I will work on it over several days. As I continue, I am frustrated at not remembering the name of the App and suddenly wonder if I could find him online. I move into detective mode- after all, this approach has brought unexpected and pleasurable results in recent years, connecting me with significant people from my past. I type into my search bar ‘dog friendly campsites Qld’ and various things pop up but nothing that suggests Josh. I try again, omitting the word ‘Qld’. Again, many nation-wide doggy campsites jump to the page but still nothing that gels. Maybe I can try with just his name but what is his surname? Patrilineal, must be the same as his grandparents but I can’t remember their surname. Ah, perhaps it is still on our type-written sheet of local phone numbers, and voilà, there it is! So now I type in his full name and am amazed.

The first thing that pops up is ‘Josh Fritz, Director PatchPets’ on LinkedIn. I learn that his studies include Business Strategy, Business Planning, Negotiation and Management Consulting. This entry is followed by ‘21 yo from country Qld makes mad app for pooches’ repeated in several rural newspapers and then Onyapreneur: Josh Fritz, Founder of PatchPets App tells me: ‘Match-making app is going to the dogs. PatchPets, one of top three business start-ups to watch  Congrats, QUT student entrepreneur..…with his dog Quincy who inspired Josh to build a social app for pets, to help all pet-lovers find parks, doggy play-date mates, services and more. It’s going global’. There are many images of an open-faced young man with short-cropped dark hair, grinning, arms slung around his dog Quincy, some with his two dogs. I totally lack entrepreneurial skills but am impressed with this young man’s creativity and get up and go. More to the point,  I am struck by trajectory from my one-off memory of Josh as a child to where he has come, to see so clearly that the intelligence, confidence, warmth and outgoing spirit exuded as an eight or nine year-old, has led him to where he is today.

Putting aside those boy children with whom I have had longer or ongoing relationships, there have been a couple of other such brief encounters, the memory of which has endured. Step back twenty-six years.  Jon and I are visiting his family in Michigan and spend a day with niece Sandy. We are walking along a rural track amidst greenery. Jon walks beside Sandy, a strikingly attractive young woman with thick black hair and coal dark eyes. They are enjoying each other’s company, laughing, and talking intensely. I am walking behind them with her son Nicolas, a beautiful seven-year old with olive complexion, dark hair and dark eyes like his grandfather, Jon’s oldest late brother, Roger. He is sensitive, alert and, it quickly becomes apparent, a nature-lover. We are holding what feels like a very adult conversation, though again, I can’t recall exact details. I think we spoke of nature and wildlife and perhaps things a little philosophical. I am smitten.

This branch of the family are not willing correspondents, so our contact has been intermittent. We hear snippets periodically. I remember that he studied Anthropology which somehow feels consistent with my impression of him as a child.  However, now that Nic unexpectedly enters this blog, I need to update a little, so I write to Sandy. She tells me that after our visit in 1995, I sent him a book (I would guess about Australian flora &/or fauna), and that he and I corresponded for a while. I have forgotten all of this. I’m interested to know that he has been with his partner for 14 years and is the Director of a County Economic Alliance in a poor area with fading family farming and antiquated manufacturing. Ah, a guy with social commitment, that tallies. He now has a 10-month-old baby boy, Henry. Sandy tells me that he has always been fascinated by my artwork and writing and used to do both himself, before getting tied up ‘with a lot of other stuff’. As per Josh, I am touched that he remembers me, that there is still some connection. She also sends a few recent family photographs. I need to gain both her Nic’s permission to quote from her letter and to include the photograph. She replies that ‘Nic would be pleased to be included’, and that he asks for my contact details so I  flick him a quick email, include my web address and next day see that he has chosen to Follow the site.

And so, to one last brief encounter still further back in time. In 1989 Jon and I set off on a four-month adventure in Mexico and Central America. We are particularly interested in seeing the ancient Mayan sites in both the Yucatan peninsula in Mexico, and in Guatemala, reclaimed from under dense jungle in relatively recent years. In anticipation of this trip, mulling over what work I might make while travelling, something in my practice changes. The Mayan culture suggests earthy colours to me, and so my colour palette will shift from the rich tertiary colours I have been using, to a reduced colour palette of earth tones. I select a few watercolours, a black and white oil stick, and some pre-cut squares of absorptive, oriental paper to work with.

One of the great sites in Guatemala is Tikal, who’s iconic, thousand-year-old ruins of temples and palaces include the giant ceremonial Lost World (Mundo Perdido) Pyramid and the Temple of the Grand Jaguar. A national park was created around the extensive site, thus, we seek accommodation as close as possible to it. We find a small, low key set-up, surrounded by jungle, a short walk from the park entrance. It is run by a rather beautiful and clearly well- educated English woman and her Guatemalan husband. They have one child, a boy about eight years old with his father’s dark colouring rather than that of his very fair mother. Naturally, he speaks both English and Spanish. He prances up to us soon after we arrive, and brightly asks if we would like him to take us on his ‘magic jungle walk’. He is charming and apparently quite a little entrepreneur. He offers us his ‘tour’ for $5, not an insubstantial amount for a little kid in 1989 but clearly an invitation into his world. His enthusiasm is delightful, the offer irresistible. Sometime later, the three of us set off, following narrow earthen tracks which meander through thick humid rain forest. He is alert, intense in his concentration, quite the little bush boy. ‘Look, jaguar tracks’, he says, pointing to tracks on the ground, ‘and here, baby’, he adds pointing to smaller footprints. He is confident and we have no reason to doubt him, knowing Jaguars prevail in the jungles of this part of Guatemala. ‘Have you ever seen one?’, I innocently ask, ‘Oh yes, quite often, mother and baby’, he replies as casual as anything. And so, we make our way on a small circuit with him pointing out the details of the magnificent environment in which he lives, trusting we won’t be devoured by such an animal.

Regardless of their brevity, the encounters with these three wonderful little boys have left their mark, mutually it seems (at least with Nic and Josh) and perhaps pour contact is not yet over. In any case, given the openness and warmth of all three of these children, I imagine they are or will become great partners in their relationships and, if they have children, will be loving fathers. Well nurtured boys grow into wonderful men. May there be many more of them!


It’s happened! Another defining moment. Think of them as Life Lessons, they start early. The first – I am three years old, sitting up in a hospital bed awaiting a tonsillectomy. My parents are reading to me. I remember their goodbye hug. Next day, I wonder why the ice-cream, served with red jelly, has the texture of sand. Somehow the sensation doesn’t register as a painful sore throat!  I don’t remember being afraid. Clearly, they have prepared me well. Still, it is telling that I have such clarity of memory of an event seventy-three years ago, hence classify it as a defining moment- learning to deal with separation.

A lesson (or three) in loss. I am perhaps seven years old when our first cat Tuppence dies, and two years later our cocker spaniel dog, Rusty. I am in the USA with my mother, spending a few months with her brother and his wife. It is the first time she has seen him since they were separated as refugees fleeing Vienna in 1938. It is also the first time I have been away from my father for a protracted time. He must remain at home running his photographic studio. Beloved old Rusty is at home in Melbourne with him and dies of old age while we are away. Not only am I missing my dad very much indeed, but now he must break the news of Rusty’s death.                                                        

I am so grateful for the sensitive way he and they handled these events to ease the grief. My Daddy wrote me a beautiful letter, assuring me that Rusty had not suffered and suggesting that I could choose the type of dog we would next have- perhaps the same as the Dalmatian I have befriended next door to my aunt and uncle’s home in LA.? When we return to Melbourne, we indeed procure a Dalmatian puppy, having the thrill of selecting one from a large litter.  I duly name him Chuck, or Chucky, after the LA version.

I am now thirteen and spot blood in my nickers at home one morning. I have started menstruating. Oh, the sight of that blood excites me so. Our family ethos was one of openness and I remember proudly announcing it to my mother as I am already well informed about such matters-reproduction, human sexuality, and birth control. However, I have no recollection of what exactly menstruation signified to me-whether it was reaching child-bearing age or more generally about now being ‘a woman’. It was, nonetheless, a defining moment.                                                    

There have been others along the way, life-changing events such as committing to a full sexual relationship at a relatively young age with my first serious boyfriend. I am not quite sixteen, yep, not actually of legal age but quite a mature and responsible sixteen-year-old. Denise, my closest friend at high school and I, feel rather superior, believing we are the only two girls in our class to have ‘lovers’ and it feels like being part of a ‘grown-up girls’ club. We share our stories, both of us being in enduring relationships. Hers leads to marriage, mine does not which takes me to the next journey, the travails of love, the painful acceptance when deeply meaningful relationships do not take me where I wish to go between my early ‘20’s to early 30’s.  These learnings lead to greater self -knowledge and clarity in finally choosing the right partner in the clever, funny, eccentric, wise Jon, defining experiences.

I was the kid who couldn’t paint or draw, though always an ardent art-lover. As a young woman I live my creative life vicariously, having several friends both in Australia and in Europe where I live for several years, who are artists, writers, and musicians. In Italy I become obsessed with Byzantine and Renaissance art; while living in London, with contemporary art and the great sculptors of the 1960’s.

As a result of encouragement from various people over these years, in my mid ‘20’s and with great trepidation, I enrol in an adult education class in sculpture at the Camden Institute in London. A sequence of life-changing events unfolds. I am driven in a new and thrilling direction, discovering aspects of myself hidden until then. Back in Melbourne, now in my early ‘30’s I find my way into art school as a mature-age student, privileged with some prominent and influential teachers. I soon leave behind a decade of practice in Melbourne and London as a social worker and student counsellor to recreate my life as a practising visual artist, and in more recent years, in writing.

I have lost a few friends to death over the years but when my father dies, aged one hundred, I move back to Melbourne to care for my mother for three years. This is a great lesson in caregiving, especially since I have not had children, which decision was another protracted and complex defining moment. The loss of my mother feels momentous. The depth of grief is unlike anything I have experienced before and am now the only remaining member of our immediate family, and the only one in Australia.

So, to the present and the source of this story, expanding unexpectedly backwards into the past. Some days ago, I set out on a beach walk which, with one recent exception, I haven’t done for some time. Beach walking used to be a daily occurrence, but arthritic hips demand certain conditions these days, the sometimes-firm sand at low tide and a flat surface. It is a long weekend within school holidays so there are several people walking along the usually unpopulated beach.                                      

Late afternoon, mid- winter, a gentle 24C. The sky is cloudless, the sea a shimmering silver in the low tide. I am wearing well-cut beige shorts, a blouse purchased in Hawaii (all dreamy pastel tones, palm fronds and frangipani blooms), the usual many pearl studs in my ears, and the rings-on-my-fingers, bells-on-my-toes gig, hair up in its quasi ‘40’s style and feeling great. As I round the stony point at Blackcurrant island, a group of people, perhaps numbering ten, are approaching- two or three adults, the rest children of various young ages. I step aside, though the lead person, a young woman, has invited me to proceed first. A small, blue-eyed girl with long blond plaits, perhaps five years old, now approaches, looks up at me, turns to her mother and in her little voice says: be careful of the old lady.

Well there you have it! Old lady!!!! I start to giggle, smile at the child and, unable to resist, jokingly say to her: You’re famous now. This is the first time anyone has called me old. Her mother, by way of an unnecessary but kind apology, says: she thinks I am old too. I think the child is a little embarrassed, but she’ll survive.

I find this SO funny, and through her eyes, I must indeed seem quite old.  I am immediately taken back to nursery school, aged three, with my beloved teacher ‘Harper’. I thought she was as old as Methuselah, with her grey hair puffing out around her ears like my favourite toy koala. She was probably less than sixty, possibly even in her fifties, far younger than I am now.

Still, I cannot define myself as old, not even elderly – no pink perm and twinsets for me, though perhaps that is a long-outdated image. There are many other adjectives I might use to describe myself but old is not amongst them. It raises the question of what terminology would be appropriate. Perhaps I am simply a well-preserved woman of a certain age.

The Family of Man

I was perhaps 11 years old when on my photographer fathers’ bookshelves I found a publication entitled The Family of Man. I was instantly enthralled and many images within it remain embedded in my memory over 60 years later. Two come to mind immediately-the wonder of new life-a visceral, glistening image of a baby being delivered, a symbol of hope and renewal and probably my first exposure to this. The other, a gaunt faced young mother, possibly from the Appalachians, elbow on table, hand to cheek gazes through strained eyes into the unknown, two small, raggedly dressed  children bury  their heads on her shoulders, a depiction of abject poverty and despair.

I now know The Family of Man was conceived as a photography exhibition, hailed as the most successful ever assembled and opened at MoMA (Museum of Modern Art, New York) in January 1955. It then toured the world for eight years to record-breaking audience numbers. The exhibition was curated by noted photographer and Director of MoMA’s Department of Photography, Edward Steichen and the book is a permanent embodiment of this monumental exhibition. It reproduces all the 503 images by 273 photographic artists and is a celebration of the universality of the human experience, a declaration of global solidarity in the decade following World War II and the Cold War. Poet Carl Sandburg wrote the eloquent prologue and the book’s title is lifted from one of his poems.

Amongst many other things of significance to me, I retained this precious book after my father’s death at the age of 100 years. Its striking cover made its way into my work, an installation piece, exhibited in 2011, Memento Mori: Tree of Life, Artspace Mackay and beyond.

It is interesting to reflect upon one’s life, to recognize how early are laid down the building blocks which come to later define us. I see a photograph of myself aged three, bending down to touch and rejoice in the fragrance of a flower; mountain walking at Mt Buffalo between my mother and a friend who  grasp my little  hands; digging in the sand at a Melbourne beach; or lovingly  embracing my first cat. It appears I am already a nature, plant and animal lover.

In my parents’ home, the radio was always tuned to the ABC, classical music filled the house and I was taken to concerts and art galleries. As refugees who fled Vienna in 1938 escaping Nazi persecution, human rights and social justice were of great import to them. The legacy this bestowed upon me was to be vigilant in the face of intolerance, oppression and persecution and my work as an artist since the ‘90’s has addressed these concerns. To remain silent is to be complicit.

And so, to where this ramble started. I recently joined a zoom event hosted by Grandmothers for Refugees. One refugee and two asylum seekers, both still in detention after seven years, spoke movingly and eloquently. At the close of the event, a poem was read and this is what I would like to share with you. It was written by a Warsan Shire, a prolific young poet and activist born in Kenya of Somalian parents who lives in London.

The poem is titled Home and I hope you will find it as moving as I do, for it is the task of artists and others to keep at bay the dest­ructive forces of bigotry and fear. To quote John Donne:

Any man’s death diminishes me because
I am involved in Mankinde
and therefore never send to know
for whom the bell tolls.
It tolls for thee.


no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well
your neighbours running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.
no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.
you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a
truck feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough
go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off
or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important
no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in
your ear
run away from me now
I don’t know what I’ve become
but I know that anywhere
is safer than here

Warsan Shire

Copyright Warsan Shire, 2015

Reference:2019 Christine Cummins, Dignity in a Teacup-True Stories of Courage and Sacrifice from Christmas Island,  ARCADIA

More Poems!

Hello again to you all.                                                                                                                                                            Since coming back from Bali at the beginning of February I have, as you know, added the Bali Travel journal (in POSTS under the HOME page) plus many photos from that trip (under TRAVEL WRITING- yes, I know, completely illogical placement but for a reason,  the details of which I won’t bore you by repeating).                                                                                                                                                           The Corona virus was in its early stages when we left Australia for Bali at the end of January and it is astonishing to see and experience what has transpired since! Everyone’s life is altered in various ways and to various degrees and so there have been so many lives tragically lost.  While I am very concerned about friends and family in Italy and USA, our Balinese family are forefront in my mind. Like so many in less developed countries, they live a pretty hand-to-mouth existence at the best of times and now there are no tourists and thus no business in the warung (restaurant). And that’s before taking health and medical services into consideration. Ever resourceful, they have experimented with various little enterprises to bring in a few dollars, most recently making takeaway pizzas for the locals who love them. But the path ahead is very uncertain. Thank goodness for WhatsApp so we can at least easily be in frequent communication.

I hope everyone who reads this is safe and well. Those of you in countries other than Australia, of which there are quite a few, have my special thoughts and best wishes because we are most fortunate here with measures taken early, few deaths (so far a total around 90) and the curve flattening nicely, even though lives are restricted and large numbers of people are out of work and  all the implications that entails both now and into the future.

I have kept in touch with many people and have been writing something called Covid Times, sending it out more or less weekly via email, though I may not continue with this so regularly. I would LOVE to hear from those who have been reading it but haven’t been in touch with me, just to know you are OK. And if anyone would like to be added to the list to receive, should I continue it, please send me your name and email address.

Meanwhile I have been working on poems, some quite new, some written in recent years waiting patiently for me to re-visit and re-write to completion. So, seventeen new poems for you poetry buffs to discover. The new ones appear beneath the previously existing ones in each section. To SELECTED POEMS, I have added another eight; seven to THE NATURAL WORLD and two to PORTUGAL POEMS. Any thoughts/ comments welcome.

That’s it for now. Take care. Explore your new world.


Bali 2020 photos

Hello again! Been home from Bali almost 2 weeks, Corona virus has spread far more, glad we arn’t out there travelling now, lots of hand-washing and care to you all! I do hope it wont impact too badly on any of you.

Today something unexpected and charming occurred- our old magpie pair haven’t produced babies for years but keep trying – building nests, taking food we give them back to the nests. Our geneticist friends, Pete and Jane, who are also magpie experts, think our pair are weirdos, trying to reproduce out of season etc. Father magpie, Dadita, turned up today, happily eating food I threw down onto the deck as usual; shortly thereafter, to my great astonishment, a baby appeared, so I put some food on the railing for it, stood back a little and before the baby could get to it, Dadita, grabbed it. I shooed him away, put more food out and behold, a second baby arrived! So there you have it, two healthy little magpies who no doubt will be eating from our hands in due course. My face could barely contain my grin!

Those following my Bali journal on the Home Page under Posts can now go to Travel Writing, Bali 2020, and find photo-documentation of the trip with headings mirroring the journal entries. Enjoy.


Ubud, Our Proper Room and Other Matters

Next morning we relocate to the room we booked, mirror image of where we were last visit – floor to ceiling sliding glass doors overlooking Mt Agung if no clouds and the dense greenery and the Ridge. Many huge frangipani trees are in full pink, larger and more slender-bloomed than those we have at home. So far, aside from lolling in pool, reading, writing, eating and doing the daily Yellow Flower Cafe Walk, we have had interesting conversations with two westerners who live in the area- one Australian woman painter who has visited Bali over many years and finally built what she describes as a mansion with pool for $300,000 including the land which is on a 25 yr lease (she hopes to extend to 50yrs.)

And a woman from Brooklyn, NY who has lived here for 25 yrs and owns five properties, the largest of which we pass daily. They spend extended periods eg 4 months in other places where they meet up with their kids.Vietnam and Mexico were mentioned.They live off the rentals of these accomodations; the big house rents for $6000 p.mth, a good earner. She explained that they had 90% occupancy in the past but as so many foreigners have built here, the competition is stiff and it’s now around 50%. We find the stories of ex-pats endlessly fascinating, a bit of vicarious stuff going on on our part I suspect.

A couple of nights ago, Dave and I went to the traditional Balinese dance/ gamelan orchestra performance in the magnificent outdoor setting and architecture of the Saraswati Temple behind the Lotus Pond in town, always an absolute treat.

Feb. 18,Ubud: Our Slovenians Have Arrived!

Long awaited pleasure to reunite with our ‘Slovenian family’, Petra and Bostjan and their daughters Lara, now 11.5 yrs and Tajda just 10 yrs. We’ve enjoyed quite an ‘ international’ friendship, starting in 2003 when they were a young unmarried couple Woofing with us, and since then having been together at their home in Slovenia, in our home again, in Denmark then Barcelona four years ago and now here! The girls’ English is now astonishingly good and they are impressive in many ways – mature, interested, interesting. This time together will be just wonderful. So after joining us here at Elephant for breakfast with protracted conversation, we taxi for a few minutes as far as the vehicle can go, after which we walk ten minutes in the now extremely hot sun along the narrow concrete paths to their place. The path, though similar in size, differs from the Yellow Flower walk as it passes some little houses, art/ craft stalls, fields of flowers and vegetables but is also busy with motorbike traffic so one is constantly stepping aside, pressed against the high wall to let them pass enveloped in smelly fumes (which are getting to me a bit in Bali now with unrefined petrol and many motorbikes, often difficult to avoid) . But their accommodation is delightful – three old houses in one compound-one for the owner, two rentable, in the midst of fields and sometimes rice paddies. The buildings are unique, incorporating parts of old traditional structures with some modern touches. Two-storey, the floors are solid dark timber, glass windows are interspersed with timber shutter doors and windows, one corner wall is of latticed brickwork to allow light and airflow. Some wall sections and internal doors are of pale heavy carved timber. The kitchen has polished concrete bench tops and the kitchen/dining/ living room is one large open space. Downstairs consists of a huge bathroom and one small bedroom. A modern spiral staircase again of heavy dark timber with black steel railings leads to the large open upper room where two more double beds with mosquito nets stand. A balcony with couch overlooks the fields facing back over both ridges toward our place. As the crow flies, we are a minute away. In fact from my room at Taman, I see the large house almost adjacent to their place! I was surprised at how cool their house felt with only ceiling and standing fans, no air-con.

Together, we go out for a late lunch in their little area five minutes from the house to a cafe raised on stilts overlooking the rice fields. The food, though local, is muted to the western palate, thus disappointing .

By 3.30 Jon and I head home to a darkening sky and make it back to the accompaniment of distant thunder. Within half an hour it starts raining, then pelting down and two hours later is still raining though not so heavily. This is only the third rain in our time in Bali. The thunder is close and loud and it’s moody and beautiful.

Feb.19, Ubud : Galungan

We awaken to overcast and humid but no rain. And so it remains all day. It’s Galungan today, one of the biggest festivals in Bali where preparations start days in advance. Penjor, tall bamboo poles with offerings suspended off the ends, line the streets. Various food offerrings are made in sequence over three days -cooked bananas, fried rice cakes and a pig or chicken is sacrificed the day before Galungan. The festival celebrates the triumph of good over evil.

I oversleep after a not so good night, and one of the staff presents herself at 8.30 a.m at our room to inform us that the kitchen will close at 9 a.m. We already knew that Elephant, which supplies breakfast to Taman Indrakila guests, would be closed for the day after breakfast, but not the precise time. The Taman staff are already dressed in their traditional finery for the ceremony and there has been much discussion about scarcity of taxis, what will be open or closed etc for the holiday.The men have made it clear that they won’t go to town with me to see the festivities and I am having difficulty letting go of the idea. Obviously we are getting older  and I too sometimes have problems summoning energy or overcoming aches and pains. The extreme humidity also takes its toll…so, sad to say, none of us go into Ubud centre for Galungan. It doesn’t bother the men but I feel foolish and as though I am letting myself down, being the cultchavultcha that I am. Taxis will be difficult to find today especially for returning to our accomodation so I finally accept my decision, grateful that I have seen the big ceremony before at Kintamani and have good memories and many photos of it. Instead, I check out the street in front, watch a large number of locals, men all clad in traditional white with the head scarf, women in colourful sarong, kebaya and sash, riding to town on their motorbikes or in the opposite direction uphill, presumably to their family homes with their little temples.

I take a walk up the street, get talking to a couple who seem to be looking for somewhere to eat and offer to show them the organic gardens attached to Warung Pulau Kelapa, one of our favorite eating places. I always love walking through their magnificent grounds, over the sturdy, newly constructed bamboo bridge and into the extensive cultivated organic gardens containing ducks, a large variety of familiar and less familiar vegetables and fruits, including mulberries and asparagus, neither of which I would have expected in the tropics. And of course chillis, garlic, gingers, turmeric, lemon grass and much much more.

It transpires that the couple are Lebanese Australians, and we have interesting conversation about the migrant experience, how they met, (her brother in Australia is his good friend).She married him to get out of Lebanon and describes how difficult the early days were, neither speaking each other’s language. But here they are, thirty+ years , three children and four grandchildren later, energetic, attractive, youthful still and clearly happy. He is in the police force in Melbourne working as a cultural liaison officer, a nice man.

A dip in the pool. The two skinny black dogs we see around the place run down the steps and head for the small temple next to the pool, where more elaborate canang sari were earlier placed for Galungan. One skips back and out of sight, the other makes a grab for something and hurtles past me with a rice ball in his mouth! Every dog has his day.

The place is dead, no one in sight except for the unusually constant line of people on the Ridge Walk beyond, mostly locals dressed for ceremony heading toward town. I return to Warung Kelapa with the men for another outstanding lunch.Surprisingly, on our return mid afternoon, Mt Agung is fully visible but for some cloud streaks just under its irregular, blown-off peak. The constant stream of ridge-walkers continues, this time in the opposite direction, people returning from ceremony and the usual tourist/ traveller walkers.

It’s our last day with Jon’s brother and we go out for coffee in the as yet unexplored upper level bar/coffee room at Indus, owned by Australian Janet de Neefe.It’s just up the road saving the many steps down to the restaurant area where we usually go. It’s Happy Hour so we indulge in elegant cocktails- nice as I haven’t been drinking at all and Jon has only has a few beers in 3 wks. This is a magnificent space also, with high carved bleached timber ceilings, pale grey shuttered doors which slide completely open along two sides, marble floors and marble topped tables with heavy elegant timber chairs.

Feb. 20, Ubud: Leg Pain, Balinese Massage And A Night Out

My first massage on this holiday, more fool me! An hour later and $15 poorer, I am sure much tension has no been released from muscles overcompensating for a dicky hip! We see Dave off by taxi to tackle the long journey back to Michigan, brave soul and the day rolls past until it’s time to taxi to town and meet our Slovenians, Petra and the family, at Casa Luna, the other restaurant owned by Janet de Neefe.It also has marble topped tables, huge spaces, gloriously generous vases of exotic tangerine-colour gingers, a burnt orange wall with huge gilt mirror over the entry counter, gorgeous light fittings- the Bali aesthetic is everywhere. It’s Happy Hour again, a repeat performance and a delicious light meal of grilled chicken in Balinese sambal, rice and a green vegetable/grated coconut dish for me; breaded duck confit balls in a slightly

spicy sauce, a quite wonderful, European/ Asian fusion followed by nasi campur for Jon. It a delight to be with our young Slovenian friends and we now meet the friends with whom they are travelling and ready ourselves to go to a traditional dance performance, again in the Saraswati Temple. As we are about to leave the restaurant, the sky opens and it’s pouring soon after. Jon and I came with small umbrellas but the others are ill- prepared. Petra has no hesitation in asking the waitress whether it might be possible to borrow an umbrella and her request is immediately granted. How gracious and trusting. Can you imagine this anywhere else? Lara huddles under my little umbrella with me, and arm in arm we skip across overflowing gutters and in a short time arrive at the temple to be told to go upstairs into a charmless room with three other people already sitting there. Fortunately the rain eases, then stops, the performance will indeed proceed on the outdoor usual ‘stage’ in front of the great illuminated temple under huge frangipani trees and we are instructed to come back down. The plastic seats are wiped off, the stone paved stage area likewise, the gamelon players arrive and the performance commences. Regular flashes of lightening add to the already bright illumination of the temple structure, the orchestra and the performers but the sky remains closed. A perfect night enjoyed by all. Petra and the kids ask if the dancers have had their fingers broken, so astonished are they at the flexibility of their fingers of the dancers!

Feb.21, Ubud: At Last The Ridge Walk!

Yesterday’s massage gave me a very good sleep so I am determined not to leave Ubud without doing the Ridge Walk.There’s only so much a woman can forgive herself for! Jon agrees to join me so, concession to knees, hips, steps and heat, we arrange to taxi to Keliki, the village at the far end of the ridge from where we will start along the narrow paved road. Although a stone’s throw away as the crow flies, it is a circuitous route and a good ten + minutes drive to go round the ravine passing through densest rainforest.Blessedly it is overcast today so even at 8.30 a.m. it’s not too hot.It’s the first time Jon has done this short walk (less than 3 km in total), my third in several years and, although overheated by the end, he thoroughly enjoys it. Flanked with rice fields bright green with new shoots, we pass a few small warungs. The fields are sparsely dotted with houses and accommodations. Karsa Spa is the most obviously impressive place we pass so I lead him downhill on a path beyond it’s cafe and through their most beautiful grounds. Several ponds are brim-full of large pink water lilies;huge stone pots are overgrown with mosses and lichens containing large plants.The cafe and many small open roofed pavilions which serve as individual treatment rooms, overlook the paddies.

Back on the little road we continue, noting the various accommodations, as I have always yearned to stay up here away from the pollution and noise of Ubud’s roads, Jon has always been put off by its relative ‘remoteness’. My other issue is number of steps, irregular in height and large in number, at Taman Indrakila especially , even more down to the pool, as the premises is built on the side of the steep ravine. We look in on a fine-looking establishment, much younger in years than Taman and presumably more expensive and are delighted to find it traditional/modern, beautiful grounds, huge swimming pool accessed by only a few steps, all overlooking the steep ravine. Surprisingly it’. Not too much more expensive than Taman and if we were to stay a week, they would certainly cut a deal. We are both won over! The daily walk would be flattish along the level section of the ridge with many small concrete paths coming off it into the rice fields, a few little eating places, perfect for the future.

Back home, Jon takes a large load to the laundry lady which will cost something like $3! By 12.30 it is raining lightly, much cooler and I am ready for lunch.

Petra et al decide to join us so we take them to, guess where, Kelapa the organic (yet again- hard to beat a place of this excellence). I notice an unusual spread of small dishes at one table and figure it’s the famed rijsttafel (lit. rice table), a meal consisting of a large number of small dishes and sambals originating in W.Sumatra and adapted by the Dutch. We have only eaten this once before several years ago and certainly didn’t know it was available here. A separate menu is given to us and what a feast. The kids order individual dishes and the adults two of the above, each recommended for two persons but would be sufficient for three. After eating, we walk ‘the Slovenians’, (I love referring to them thus, sound formal and funny) through the organic gardens between rain showers and then back to a Indus for coffee. Heavy showers are keeping the temperature down. We say our good byes, as we all leave for Lovina tomorrow and will meet up with them again there.

Feb. 21, Return Trip To Lovina

The drive from Ubud takes an unexpected three full hours as, being Sunday and still school Holidays, there is much traffic around Lake Bratan, the Twin Lakes and Bedugul. The latter has a substantial and long-standing Muslim population and we pass some small mosques and see women with headscarves. Creeping up the mountains we head into a bit of rain but my bet of fine weather down on the coast proves right. Heavy traffic again as we go through Singaraja, Bali’s second largest city and one I always enjoy passing through because of its Dutch colonial architecture, impressive administrative buildings and tree-lined streets.

Again a feeling of ‘coming home’ as we are welcomed back to Summer Guesthouse. This time it is full, even the one dormitory room which has seven beds and the tent rooms.

Gardeners are drawn to gardeners, dog lovers to dog lovers and Ketut of Summer Guesthouse and I bonded over both on our 2018 visit. She has just finished grafting cuttings from the wonderful red flowering frangipani in front of Wayan’s warung and a second colour onto hers;likewise with her desert roses.

We spend time and enjoy lunch at the warung with Wayan and later Putu who is home for less than 24 hours, and borrow her large umbrella for the 2-minute walk home as the sky is black. A huge rain sets in and, as before, feels as if it will never end but an hour or two later the clouds lift. Coffee and the adored Greco Napoleon (custard with mille feuille pastry) early evening are followed by the walk down the the sea and back up the small parallel street dropping in again at the warung to spend more time with Putu. However, she has gone into town to a kids’ playground with brother Ciri and little Elina.

Feb 22, Lovina:A Busy Day

We wake to sun, blue skies and how beautiful are the tropics!The ‘green walk’ alone before breakfast is always a wonderful start to the day, still cool and shaded enough for almost an hour and so much to observe! I pick my way through puddles from last night’s rain and come to the nearby building construction which, in the five days since we were here, has almost completed stone foundations. A lorry is tipping off a load of gravel and an hour later on my return, has delivered another load of soil. Later, when we pass en route to lunch, a huge new pile of rock has been delivered.

Opposite in the wet field, a young man crouches down and I can’t make out what he is doing. In his hand is a fine metal thread one end of which is embedded in the ground and which he gently pulls on, as if fishing. What could it be? Frogs? Lacking his patience, I continue on my way after a few minutes, none the wiser. A small boy responds to my pagi (mornin’) with a grin, emerging from the field where his parents are working. Further along, three boys dressed in their Sunday best, sporting sophisticated hairdos, shyly greet me and call hello to me when they spot me on my return.

Many of the village houses I pass on these small concrete lanes have chickens running round the yard and several have a black pig or two, one of whom is clearly demanding breakfast from its owner! Another plot has a small structure with palm frond roof under which two doe-eyed Balinese cows are tethered together with two young calves, all curious about my close presence.

After breakfast, we spend time with Putu before she must leave to return to her new nursing placement, this time just two weeks in Infectious Diseases before two months in an out- patient clinic nearby here, an outreach service of a large public hospital.

We have decided to go to Buda Bakery and restaurant in the backstreets of the village, a hot 15-minute walk but well recommended by Trip Advisor which we haven’t used before.It’s a delightful setting one storey up in a tiny quiet residential street overlooking red tiled roofs and huge coconut palms laden with young fruit, large and very tall clumps of bananas, mango, other dense foliage and large trees. Jon chooses an asian coconut- chicken soup followed by chicken cordon bleu, something European for a change and I have a tomato and feta salad

and grilled fish fillet with sambal and rice.Somehow we are disappointed with the meal, appreciating Wayan’s cooking as far superior.

After a short time in the pool it’s time to meet up with Wayan to undertake a mission-a seamstress to make up something I want for Jon. This involves riding on the back of Wayan’s motor scooter, something I haven’t done for many years. Oh dear, hip and legs haven’t been brilliant for the last couple of days and getting the leg over the seat is a bit challenging and distinctly unpleasant. But once on, I brave the main road traffic for a short distance seated behind Wayan, both helmeted, before we turn off. After a few minutes on the village road we arrive at our destination. Now a very short ride to Wayan’s massage lady where we have been together once before. It’s a treat she can’t normally afford and needs.Two massage tables in a small room, two sisters, both had undertaken a six month course years ago in Denpasar and one had spent four years working in Turkey just as Ciri’s wife now is doing. She spoke positively of the experience and said it was no problem being a single woman there. Good to hear.

Getting back on the motor scooter after the massage was noticeably easier and the massage quite wonderful. I could become addicted! Heavy rain fell during our massage but luckily has stopped.

Just as I am about to walk home from the warung, Jon turns up so we set off for coffee at Cafe Greco and the delicious mille feuille pastry Greco Napoleon again, repeat the round walk to the sea, pass many empty or almost empty eating places and feel sad for the struggling locals. In The entrance to one shop is flanked with two cats looking like statues. Not far along, we see a tall European woman with a puppy in her arms and stop to chat. Dutch, married to a Balinese, she has already adopted six dogs and hopes her husband will accept this seventh, feverish pup!

The ‘busy’ day ends back at the warung and more quality time with Wayan and Kembar. We are pleased that she has had quite good customer numbers since our return yesterday and tomorrow brings more as our Slovenian friends, together with the other Slovenian family, seven in all, are taking her Cooking Class in the morning and in the evening, Jon and I have arranged a 40th birthday feast prepared by Wayan for Petra.

We have been joking with Wayan that by the end of the day she will be tired but rich!

Feb 24, Lovina: Ketut’s Garden, Learning More and The 40th Birthday Feast

Today the plastic wrap surrounding her new grafts came off the desert roses and frangipanis. Now she sits under the bale, the open-sided raised pavilion at the end of the pool, with sharp knife and palm leaves preparing offerrings for Kuningan, the next ceremony. While she commences this, Desi, one of her three employees, washes Domi the dog who stands patiently and seems to enjoy all the touching.

These offerrings, again made from sectioned pieces of palm leaves, differ again from the Galungan ones. The small segments are stapled together making a round shape, representing the earth. Prior to the use of staples, fine strands of bamboo were used and our Wayan still uses this method.

Kuningan marks the end of the 10-day Galungan period and the Balinese believe that Kuningan day is the day when their ancestors return to heaven after visiting the earth during Galungan celebration. They make offerings to be given to the ancestors on their farewell day. The offerings include yellowed rice (Kuningan is derived from the word kuning which means yellow) which is placed in a small “bowl” made of woven coconut leaves. Other common offerings are chicken, seeds, fish and fruit like papaya and cucumber. The yellow rice is the symbol of human’s gratitude towards God for life, joy, wealth, health and prosperity given. The ‘bowl’ is placed on a woven tray and surrounded by fruits and the small, colourful canang sari described earlier, sit on top.

Due to the amount of preparation needed, the local government allows a two-week vacation period for (almost) everyone. That way, people can prepare for both Galungan and Kuningan.

Yesterday on talking with a Ketut, I learned that they own a shop near the beach which was her first business and behind which she, her husband and two boys used to live.When they accrued sufficient money, they built this guesthouse and she tells me they are constructing another accomodation nearby. Putting two and two together, I realize this is the building site with the stone foundations mentioned earlier which I pass on my daily green walk. So today I stop and chat with one of the workers,mention Ketut and Summer Guesthouse and get a warm reception. They plan to make the new accomodation exclusively a hostel, without swimming pool and convert the one dormitory room here into another large room for two like ours. They also own a third block of land nearby, not yet developed.

The Birthday Feast

Petra turns 40 and we have asked Wayan to prepare a feast for nine. She has also, said in consultation with us, ordered a black-forest cake decorated with ‘Petra 40’ on top and a few candles.The foodp, all Balinese except for the cake, is wonderful consisting of many different dishes – ikan pepes (fish baked in banana leaves), nasi goreng, tempe with roasted peanuts, fried chicken pieces with sambal, fish sate sticks, uraban( green vegetable and coconut dish) and more. Everyone is delighted and Jon and I feel so proud of her. She joins us when she has finished cooking and charms everyone with her engaging personality. As her kids help her in the kitchen when available, Kembar is ‘on duty’ and I tell the group a bit about this. Petra relates very well to this as she also leads a hectic life as a full time professional lawyer, now in partnership with her husband Bostjan,lectures part-time at the university and is a wonderful mother. An interesting conversation ensues. Petra has a lovely manner with people, empathetic and warm and there is something special for me seeing two younger woman ‘of my life’ connecting so well. Precious moments.

Later, twin Kembar and girlfriend Indra briefly join us and their grace impresses, especially given their limited English, their youth and Slovenian accents to deal with.

Feb 25, Lovina: A Visit To The Villa

We have never been in a Balinese villa which is what Petra et al have rented for a few nights. It’s in Dencarik, a 15-minute drive west of Lovina set well off the road on a rough track like our place, which then leads onto smooth concrete running parallel to the beach along which stand villas, each large houses on very large blocks of land. Five bedrooms and four bathrooms, full time gardener and staff of two who prepare three daily meals and clean. There is a huge swimming pool, a bale with soft mattress and cushions, many outside lounging chairs and couches and beautiful gardens.It faces onto the sea and the gentle breeze is noticeable.

I am curious as to the owner (I am curious about everything, and not being shy, ask lots of questions and learn much). The owner is Chinese- Javanese like the adjoining property.

We share a meal and spend several hours talking around the outside table.Sad to think our reunion will finish by the end of tomorrow when we will all eat at Wayan’s again. It is a special friendship.

Feb.26, Lovina: Dolphins And A Dandy Pampering

On my recommendation the Slovenians decide for the dolphin trip which Jon and I did a few years ago as this part of the north coast is rich with them. We start out at 7 a.m on an overcast morning with two outriggers and within fifteen minutes are amongst another ten or more boats already hovering out there. Almost immediately we spot small pods of bottlenose dolphins.They slip so silently and fluidly in and out of the water, sometimes breaching entirely and landing back with a loud smack; occasionally blowing air audibly from their blowhole. In fact they do this 4-5 times per minute but as they are constantly on the move one doesn’t hear it often. Nonetheless, there is something touching about it, being reminded that they, like us are mammals and air is their life source. The kids shriek with delight (sometimes the big kids too!) every time one breaches or spins in the air or a group come right beside the boat.They’re so endearing. The boats follow the pod(s) gently and it is apparent that the dolphins have no discomfort with this as they could easily out-swim us and don’t. It’s impossible to know how many individuals we actually see but the sightings must be in the hundreds. Looking back to land, the mountains behind the coast are partially shrouded in cloud, the water is mercurial, it’s a subtle vision of grey on grey, gorgeous!

I have badly neglected my fingernails and toenails and decide to treat myself, aged almost 75, to a manicure and pedicure for the first time in my life! Fussed over hand and foot by two beautiful young Balinese women who snip and file and buff and push cuticles and still more before washing, applying creams and massaging; they finally apply multiple layers- 1 clear, 3 coats of my chosen red and a final clear coat. Seventy-five minutes later and only $30 poorer, I emerge feeling like a queen and committed to repeating this indulgence as needed at home! Who could EVER do their nails like that alone (though I won’t bother with colour on the fingernails- too much housework and gardening to sustain it).

By mid afternoon the black clouds over the mountains once more break open, accompanied by some lightening and thunder and really heavy rain for an hour or two before easing. The thunder becomes more distant, the dropped temperature stays with us.

Feb.26, Lovina: Last Supper with The Slovenians

They join us for dinner at Wayan’s warung without their friends, everyone choosing individual dishes.My rendang pork is absolutely delicious and the others all enjoyed their food. Everyone agreed that it was perfect to just be the six of us alone. Our relationship with the girls is precious as they were little kids when we were last together and spoke little English. Our Skype and WhatsApp calls in more recent years where they are always present, indicated a deepening connection but this time together has moved the relationship profoundly. They are people in their own right with humour, grace, warmth, empathy, sophistication and the brightest of intelligence and, it seems, they can’t give or receive too many hugs! And the closeness between the sisters is something to marvel at. A wonderful family to have in our life.

Another unexpected joy is the way Wayan and Petra connected, starting with the cooking class the Slovenians did with Wayan and growing with each interaction.Little Tajda said of their connection, I think they are like sisters.From entirely different cultures and worlds, their paths have curious parallels, each having come from humble (relatively speaking) backgrounds, both being extremely intelligent (though educational opportunities were never available to Wayan and Petra is a Ph D), extremely hard-working and determining their respective paths.

Feb. 27, Lovina: The Sound Of Water, Buying Fruit & Tea With The In-laws

Last full day, up and out early on green walk much of which is, for the first time, accompanied by the sound of water gurgling down the concrete channel beside the dirt track.I have beaten the construction workers whose site is a mud bath after all the rain, but see them squatting on the ground eating breakfast(makan pagi)under the adjacent temporary woven structure where they appear to be living while working on the site.

At the next dogleg, a channel about two metres wide has a veritable stream of muddy water rushing along it! The mountains behind this area are nearby and rise at least 1000-1500 mt thus create much run-off. As at home, they experience the same prolonged dry season and I can’t help but wish there was some system of storing this precious commodity.

I zig-zag up and down a few of the little lanes walking along the main village road for only one block. The fruit stalls and the few shops are now open, so I take the opportunity to buy my favorite fruit, mangosteen and some rambutan. I know what this should cost so when the price is doubled I jack-up. Happily another local on her motorbike speaks reasonable English and intervenes, explaining that the prices are high as Kuningan approaches. Business is business wherever one is but we negotiate and I am happy to have a half kilo of each for about $3. A win-win, we are all smiling.

Once again I find myself in the lane where Ciri’s in- laws live and *Ketut(yes, another), the father-in-law, spots me and comes to greet me. We shake hands and he immediately calls his wife Tomy and they invite me into their compound for a cup of tea, first time for me although I had talked with Ketut when I first met him a few years ago selling jewellery on the beach before he was ‘connected’ to Ciri.

A handsome well built man with several decorative tattoos and a most beautiful smile, he is, like his wife,warm, open, personable and intelligent. They treat me as a member of the extended family, no longer attempting to sell me anything even when I pass Tomy’s clothing stall and are always pleased to see me as am I seeing them. Like most Balinese,he has a ready smile and a good sense of humour.

I sit on the tiled stoop in front of their humble home and drink sweet black tea with them and we talk for quite some time about life, the terrible floods currently afflicting Jakarta which leads to talk of moving capital cities, rising seas, extreme weather and the implications of climate change. He talks about greed and sharing and makes reference to god or a higher power. I can’t remember his exact words but his is not a guilt-based belief system. Several times he says this is life and that maturity reduces ego which the young still struggle with.There is much wisdom in what he says.His humanity and empathy come across loud and clear and I am struck by the fact that several Balinese people with whom we have had in-depth conversation express the same philosophy.

I ask about Kuningan preparations as none are evident, which gives me an opportunity to discuss ceremony. As there are at least thirty per year of which a handful are major, I suggest this is very time-consuming and must be quite costly. He explains that one makes offerings in accordance with ones ability,so if poor or suffering lean times, water,a little rice and some flower petals will suffice.

*A Little About Balinese Names

A complex subject which I have by no means mastered but here is a starting point.

The name most Balinese people will give you is not a personal name at all. In this ancient culture, the most commonly used names simply indicate the person’s position in the family as first, second, third or fourth born child.

There is only one ‘fourth born‘ name: Ketut.

While Wayan is the most common name for first born children, they may have the alternative names Putu, Gede or (for girls only) Ni Luh . The second child in the family is usually called Made, which means “middle”,  but is just as likely to be called Nengah, Ngurah or Kadek. The third born child is called Nyoman or Komang.

In previous centuries Balinese families were not encouraged to have more than three children and may have practised some form of traditional birth control. Nowadays there are plenty of fourth born children, so a name was needed. Ketut means “little banana” – the smallest banana at the end of a bunch.

A family with a fifth born child might call him “little Wayan”, the sixth “little Made” – and so on.

As most of these names are also the same for boys and girls, they might add the prefix “I” (pronounced “ee”) for boys and “Ni” (nee) for girls. They are similar in meaning to “Mister” and “Ms”.

There isn’t an equivalent of a family/surname which would indicate relationship, but rather a ‘personal’ name added to the above and also a name which indicates caste.It is endlessly complicated for the simple-minded!

Kembar has been interested to see my website and we arrange to spend time with him in the warung today. I show him some of my artwork, none of which he/they have seen and am astonished at the sustained level of interest, even with work that is not straightforward. He asks the meaning behind the work and understanding my explanations.

As there are no customers in the warung, we sit with Wayan and Kembar.It’s not often we get concentrated time for discussion. Wayan is really smart and there is a lot of give and take in our conversations. We also learn much from her. While we sit talking, someone appears at the front step asking for money and she gives him 5,000 IDR ( ca.40 cents). So we discuss the problem of to whom and how much one gives. She tells us there is an entire village of people who live in decent homes, have motorbikes and cars but live from begging.They drive to a given location in a van wearing tattered clothes, sometimes with dirty, ragged babies in tow and older children. They then separate out and commence begging. We have encountered three such children in front of the Cafe Greco(also two lots on the Yellow Flower Walk in Ubud, one with four kids in tow, too close in age to all be hers, a giveaway as to her modus opera did). Not long after she has given the man the money, a woman appears. She presumes it to be his wife or certainly of the same group hence gives no more. This sounds very much like the Gypsies of Europe we have encountered. She seems quite tolerant of it and says she feels guilty if she gives nothing, just like me and we agree that one can’t give to everyone

Feb. 28, Lovina: Lifting Heavy Rocks

Last morning walk and as usual I pass the construction site and the man who speaks a little English greets me again. Although not raining now, the site is a thick sludge of mud and in parts is ankle deep in water. The men are continuing to fill with rocks a trench which runs down one side of the new stone foundations. They carry the smaller, still sizeable rocks one by one on their bare shoulders, covered only with a piece of towelling. With this heavy weight they trudge through the sludge. Another man is slowly manuovering a large rock, perhaps 50mm in diameter, slowly this way and that in order to slip a rope around it to sling onto a bamboo pole in order that two people may lift it into a nearby metal wheelbarrow that has seen better days. I marvel that the barrow hasn’t yet fallen to pieces. This will then be pushed through the wet mud to where it is required. And all this under a punishing sun and sweltering humidity. I look at these small thin men and contemplate the stress this must place on their bodies and imagine them ageing well before their time and suffering with bad backs. Mind you, it is women one sees constantly, as everywhere in the less developed world, carrying huge and often heavy loads balanced on their heads

A Summation

I leave Bali with a tumble of emotions. I feel for the poverty that remains so obvious, the struggle of ordinary people, our Wayan included, the ridiculously low wages and the gulf between rich and poor, not exclusively the domain of Bali of course. Many things have improved however, in the years since we were first here- motorbikes, and to a lesser extent cars, replace walking and bemos though the infrastructure to support them lags behind. The resultant dense traffic on narrow roads emits considerable fumes, even penetrating many outdoor eating places.Really unpleasant especially around food. Nonetheless, life for many is much improved. When Jon first came to Bali in 1974 Kuta had no electricity and I doubt there are any places without it today. Everyone, but everyone, reaps the benefits of mobile phones even if internet connections are sometimes a little patchy and internet speed apparently on the slow side.

The landscapes, Balinese architecture including the omnipresent temples, the welcoming gentle people, the smiling faces, the food are all quite wonderful yet the grime, the lack of maintenance of buildings and footpaths with treacherously uneven surfaces and gaping holes, all indicators of poverty, sometimes depress.

It’s an ongoing lesson about appreciating all one has and not taking it for granted. A mere cosmic accident that we were born to such privilege. One inevitably must try come to terms with with the discomfort of this discrepancy, not easy.The bottom line is that I’m a privileged white(almost!)woman with my painted nails! But you have to laugh too, as the Balinese do so readily, laugh and smile…and be grateful and kind.

And A Funny Addendum

So, here we are in the Lounge at the airport in Denpasar, enjoying the comforts and food, this trip being our first experience. I decide to have a glass of wine and am somewhat surprised when, instead of pouring from a bottle, the barman takes the silver bladder of a wine cask and squeezes the dregs into my glass! Less than elegant. Jon had stumbled on an unseen protrusion on the floor where we sat and I hadn’t taken much notice. Not long after, having helped myself to food, I am carrying a plate of vegetables and salad back to where we are sitting and trip, almost falling over on the same protruding object.I instinctively let out a bit of a shriek as I think I am going to fall, exclaiming how dangerous this thing is. Pieces of cauliflower fly, Monty Python-style, from my plate to Jon’s trousers and then decorate the floor. Jon looks put- out but happily, a staff member on hearing my little shriek, comes to the rescue, bends down and forces the power point flush to the floor and snaps the lid closed as it should have been all the time. All is well. You’ve got to laugh!

March 1, Hydeaway Bay: Journey’s End, Home Sweet Home, From Green Walk to Blue/Green Walk

Yesterday we spent a total of nine hours at Denpasar and Brisbane airports with a six hour flight in between and only two hours sleep. My heart begins to sing immediately we fly our of Brisbane- the landscape below is green and as we approach Proserpine, the glory of the Great Barrier Reef and the Whitsunday islands lays itself bare once again. Below, I gaze upon a myriad of greens in the patchwork of cane fields and then the hills dense with trees. The ground below is no longer brown but a velvet carpet of emerald. Nothing but nature with an occasional farmhouse at the end of a long dirt road winding between hills. How the Balinese would envy this open space and clean air! I rejoice at being home and consider myself blessed to live in such a beautiful area.

It’s amazing how exhaustion lifts, bringing enough energy to start the nesting process at home-things empty out of suitcases into washing basket or cupboards, a bit of sweeping and mopping, moving a few potted plants back into place, Jon sorting through mail and finally a deep long sleep.

Although we were told how hot it is here, it seems easy- 30C but only about 60% humidity, a far cry from Bali’s 90%. We have had many inches of rain in our almost five- week absence and the frangipani trees have grown much taller and filled out with foliage for the first time since the devastating cyclone almost three years ago. Weeds are rampant all through the paths and elsewhere.

Today I set out on my usual walk incorporating both foreshore and road. I go to the end of the sealed section where the houses stop, and then a few minutes further on the gravel section high above the sea, to the top of Oh My God Hill before turning back. It’s Sunday, so only one car passes, otherwise only birdsong, SO much more than in Bali, fresh unpolluted air and the familiar fragrance of a weed in flower. Before we left, the Kapok trees were just beginning to sprout new leaves and were full of large, fragile pods ready to release their white fibrous contents. They are now plush with leaves, barely a pod remains and they form a dense foreground to the sea below. Wherever my eyes fall, I see either blue or green. Sad as I was to leave Bali, I couldn’t be happier! Home sweet home.


Candidasa continued

The internet weather is trying to convince me that’s it’s at least 28c right now but, having brought nothing other than four very light summer dresses on this trip (underlayers for the plane) I am SO grateful that after freezing aircon start at Prossie and Brisbane airports I borrowed a long sleeved top to go under a dress. Thanks Jilly! So here I am with black 3/4 leggings and top under summer tunic dress cosy at last! Never imagined this necessary in Bali at sea level! And I don’t believe the weather. info either.

The men, of course, are in shorts and shirts.

Met our first Candidasa Russian today at the pool where I was the only person..probably everyone thinks it will be cold in the water because it’s grey and has been raining a lot. A lovely young woman, not a tattoo to be seen (how refreshing, my god we’ve seen ghastly amounts of them) who speaks excellent English and seems to have travelled extensively with her parents (they made a brief appearance and both looked interesting and cool). They just came up from Kuta today and she described the beach as disgusting, showed me some pics and I couldn’t believe my eyes- the sand looked grey and muddy and was literally littered with rubbish- coat hanger, tins cans, plastic, obviously washed in from sea by the heavy rain. I commented on how perfect and kemp it was when we were there a week ago and she said that even so, if you swim there you bump into such stuff and commented on our polluted oceans.I felt very sad for her generation. And now sitting overlooking the sea, I see her and her mother bobbing through the waves, obviously deemed sufficiently clean.

Looking down the coast toward Padang Bai port, I count at least ten fairly large ferries where on previous days I saw few. Perhaps fewer go out on Sundays or perhaps the inclement weather but I have also learnt that from this port they service not only Nusa Penida but also Nusa Lembongan and Lombok and the Gili’s.

Threatened rain never comes. It’s a huge tease just like at home

Feb.11, Candidasa, No Rain, Village Walk, A Touching Last Supper

I want to do a more extended Sengkidu village walk, Dave wants to join me so wanting to save our energy for the village, we take a taxi to the village entry arch and there the pleasure begins. I notice a narrow concrete path off the village entry road which takes us through banana and coconut plantations, shaded and quiet.The odd person on a motorbike passes us. Shortly, we reach the parallel road which is village proper, accompanied by a variety of dogs, all friendly. It appears to be balinese middle-class, well kempt, not a scrap of rubbish to be seen and varied attractive traditional houses. We join with the original village road which soon becomes rural again. A father clasps a wee child in front of him on a motorbike, neither wearing helmets though generally out on the main roads all adults wear helmets. The children who sometimes accompany them ,however, rarely do.

An excited dog lurches periodically at something moving in the grass alongside a high wall where a chicken runs. We then realise there are two little chicks who the mother is trying to protect. Ibu Bonney takes a stand shooing the dog repeatedly, telling him to go home, having no idea if he understands English or ‘speaks’ Bahasa, Balinese, German or something else.My persistence pays off, he disappears and for now at least, the chicks are safe.

After an hour we head back passing the kindergarten where tiny children wave and call out as I peer over the fence and then pass the primary school near the corner of the main road and take a taxi the short hot distance home.

Breakfast at Loaf with the men and then deal with extreme heat and humidity mostly by the pool. I had the idea of either a little boat trip along the coast here or the Water Palace some 20 km from here but the men weren’t interested and the heat beat me!

Dave and dine together, yet again to Warung Bintang where I try the grilled snapper which is beyond fabulous. Bintang and Loaf are the only two places where we have eaten in our five days here. Seems very unadventurous, my alternative suggestions not embraced but in the end it feels great because we establish quite a connection with owner Ketut, the beautiful young man and girl wait staff, the lads in the kitchen, the female manager and Ketut’s wife, a cast of thousands!

So refined, genteel, graceful, attentive, they gather around to farewell us on our last night, asking after Jon who is a tad under the weather today and absented himself. Ketut’s wife kisses me Bali-style on both cheeks and we are thanked for our patronage.

And so ends a lovely few days here.

Feb. 12, Candidasa- Lovina

Most excellent, careful driver Lomod asks which route we want to take and I suggest going east rather than back and up the centre which we have done many times. Three hours 15 minutes, first climbing the highest hills through dense vegetation, Mt Agung hidden behind clouds. Agung, at over 3000 mts.on clear days is apparently visible from anywhere in Bali.

We pass the famous water palace at Tirta Gangga and then the spectacular Tirta Gangga rice terraces, (see photos) , dog- legging continuously on mostly very small roads, passing through numerous small villages and little markets, one of which is a small wholesale fruit and vegetable market starting at 3 am from which sellers take locally grown produce to others smaller towns and villages in the area. Eventually the sea comes within sight, NE Bali, and we head in through Tulamben, one of Bali’s famous dive sites on the East coast.This side of the island is very dry and all the rivers we cross are devoid of water. The countryside, gently undulating and tree- clad, is still very green from recent rain but no rice or other vegetable crops are grown here though mangoes and some other fruits thrive. Singaraja, the one time administrative capital of Bali and the Lesser Sunda islands, is our landmark indicating that we are nearing Lovina and our family. Twenty minutes later we arrive at Summer Guesthouse, the charming place we stayed at last year, two minutes walk from Wayan’s warung. Ketut, the female owner, lights up when I walk in, Bu, she cries out, short for Ibu or mum, a term of familiarity and affection. So touching. And the identical tiger-striped dogs Domi, the male and Susi the female who had four 6-week old pups last time, are here, beautiful as ever and I think recognise us. The young garden has obviously grown, the building and dark blue pool, as charming as ever.

Walking across to Wayan after unpacking our minimal belongings, it feels as if we have not been apart at all, so familial and loving. Little Elina, her now almost 3 yr old grand daughter, is now a little person speaking a lot and still hanging out with the two darling little daughters of Ilu, Wayan’s best friend and part-time kitchen assistant- Winda now 6yrs and Mesya now 4yrs. They are surprisingly excited to see us and rush over, Winda making the little prayer gesture of greeting before hugging me. The three little girls are like sisters and suddenly I realize I have been remiss in only bringing a present (soft toy koala) for Elina. A new dynamic is upon me so no presents can be given yet- I discuss this with Ilu.Later Wayan lets me know that Ilu didn’t understand the entire conversation and we decide that it will be Wayan who comes shopping with me for the girls. Winda is now of an age that she would prefer something related to school (colouring book, pencils or similar) so it will be fun to do.

Dear reader, the background to our Balinese family is in the Travel Writing section of this website under Lovina, thus I am not repeating what I have already covered.

Ciri, the now 19 yr old father of Elina is here and we are delighted to find a noticeable improvement in his English which was very poor. He is less shy and within a day is managing quite well, certainly his comprehension is good.

We have a delicious very late lunch here and all Jon’s raving about what a great cook our daughter is, is reconfirmed. Better than anywhere!

Four older white women, clad in daggy sun hats and skirts, gather on the footpath reading Wayan’s menu. As they linger, I take the opportunity to see if I can hustle some business for her- I can recommend the food here, she is a wonderful cook, I offer. They are interested in doing her Cooking Class. As I don’t know the cost, I usher the four Australians in and hand over to Wayan. A day later, having bargained the price down a little, they confirm and enjoy the 3-hr class.Wayan need s all the business she can get.

Jon, Dave and I take a sunset walk to the beach, sit with a drink and gaze on the still sea with its little insect- like outriggers and hear a bunch of Balinese boys playing guitars and singing Balinese songs with bikini clad western girls.

Not hungry, Jon’s decides to skip dinner and return home but Dave agrees to checkout an interesting authentic-looking restaurant that advertised Balinese dancing tonight at 8pm. Good choice- a wonderful venue – restaurant/accommodation/museum, it is committed to the traditional. We sit at a little table near the street entry. The decor is of traditional items and funky/chic – a series of glass jars hang at different levels and serve as lights.

Out in our open area sits another long table with Balinese men and two women, one of whom is a westerner married to one of the men with their two very young beautiful daughters. Behind the long table is a wall comprised of brightly painted, traditionally carved wooden panels. section off this eating area is A series of low stone pots and large timber logs containing plants, separates this eating area from the street entry. It is just charming.

I wander through to see what is beyond the space where we sit and find myself in an amazing old timber-framed space which serves as both Reception for the accomodation and a small museum full of traditional artefacts.

Our waiter Rudi, dressed in traditional clothing, arrives with iced water in wine glasses, a bowl of delicious roasted peanuts and a platter with four little bruschetta, oddly and genuinely Italian. We order drinks and after another half hour, a dancer appears in the small space in front of us with a version of cendrawasih, bird of paradise dance usually performed by two dancers. The exotic hand and eye movements,the groundedness, the bare feet, the head movements, the hips, captivating as always. The dance is accompanied by recorded traditional music and live kendhang , (an elongated double-ended drum) played by the father of the little girls who prance around freely, almost touching the dancer. They sometimes attempt to imitate her movements and it becomes difficult to know where to focus, both so entertaining! The kendhang player re-emerges at the start of the second short dance in the role of a spooky old man leaning on a stick, in mask with wig of bedraggled hair. His little daughters are simultaneously thrilled and terrified, pak pak ( dad dad) they squeal as he repeatedly moves closer toward them before retreating again – it’s so funny. The dancer then appears, interacts with him, girls still squeaking, before he returns to playing the kendhang. The dancer invites patrons to join in the dance, starting, oh my god, with me! I set a bad precedent by shyly refusing as do two others before one of the waiters, familiar with the dance and dressed appropriately, joins her briefly.

En route home we pass Wayan’s warung and seeing her, of course walk in. Kembar, Ciri’s twin brother is hanging out to see us so Wayan calls him and in a few minutes he arrives. He is a darling boy, has put on a little weight since we last saw him which, for the first time allows me to distinguish one from the other, so identical are they! What a relief (though as it later transpires, initially this only works if I see them together!). Now his English, which was always better than Ciri’s, is way better than last visit and we can have slow proper conversation with occasional help of Google translate. We had already told Wayan that we will pay for the one year, post- school hospitality training the boys want to undertake but we need to be clear about their motivation. Nonetheless, she has been enquiring about a bank loan to pay for it and has indeed already paid the required deposit. It is this not taking our assistance for granted that we find touching and her integrity has always been unquestionable. However we are cognisant of her stress levels and now Kembar in particular is very tuned in to this and worried about her.Thus it is good to see the effort both boys have put into preparing for the next stage, taking steps forward with English and helping their mum. Kembar is full-time at school finishing in a few months and Ciri is doing 6 mths work with teensy weensy pay, working in hospitality which counts toward school with only exams still to go for both of them. In July they will start a 1 yr certificate which will enable them to get work on cruise ships. Ciri will focus on cooking, bar and waiting with the desire to become a cook; Kembar is more interested in room boy tasks that bring him more in contact with the clients.

Feb 13, Lovina: Two Village Walks, Indulgent Coffee and Cake and our ‘Daughter’s’ Food

Our day starts with what I call the ‘green’ village walk, from our place heading away from the road up the little track, past the vegetable cultivation fields where a few folk are already at work, some cutting grass for sapi (cow), gathering the huge bundle onto their heads from field to path and then on their motorbike, making their way along the narrow path to wherever they keep their few cows. Another ploughs a field with a hand pushed but motorised cultivator; some are constructing a new building – quite a few have appeared since we were here 16 months ago. One such building is a 2-story construction made from unpainted, bright orange shipping containers. All the new buildings I see here are based on the traditional, so this modernist edifice is a first for me. We lunch with Wayan and I have a sweet time with little granddaughter Elina and 6 year old Winda who are riding their bikes on the paved area in front of the Warung, well aware to keep away from the busy main road from which it is well recessed.

We have already seen two motorbike accidents there in three days! Unlike last visit, Elina is now comfortable around me, smiles and plays and interacts.

Late afternoon the three of us head down the main road to the only air-conditioned place we know, a great coffee shop and Jon and I share a first’s class, european-style vanilla slice. Our little table faces the street, at the intersection with Lovina’s only traffic lights so a fabulous place to people-watch and snap endless close-ups of the motorbike traffic banked- up at the lights- four on one, a tiny kid standing in front of dad who is driving, another in mum’s arms or a baby on dads knees as he drives, no helmets on the kids of course, unbelievable. I worry about ‘ours’ out in this dense traffic. Tomorrow Putu will ride her motorbike 2+ hours from the hospital in Bangli where she is on placement, her day off to see her family and us, her ‘oma’ and ‘opa’ as she calls us, grandmother and grandfather, the terms originating from the Dutch (and the same as in German)

After coffee the guys go home but I decide to head to my other favourite walk, the Fishing Village Walk. I wrote about it last time but now, on the narrow tree-lined path running along the seafront, I pass groups of locals relaxing on their small, sheltered platforms built in the trees over-hanging the beach.Selamat sore ( good afternoon) I smile at everyone I pass to the warmest response almost without exception everywhere. A young couple crouch washing a baby girl with gold rings in her ears under a hose in front of their house; pigs laze in a small paddock between two houses; chickens run hither and thither; people returning from work pass me, kids play on the beach below, the little insect- like outriggers of the fishermen and dolphin tours shimmer on the silvery late afternoon sea, simple life unfolds.

A late but delicious meal at Wayan’s – she makes absolutely THE best fried calamari- big chunks, fresh, tasty, not tough with a wonderful chilli/ tomato based sambal to accompany, and a bowl of her spinach dish (other dishes we have eaten are chicken rendang, fabulous ayam betutu- chicken cooked with lemon grass, unbelievable), she is just a fantastic cook, the beautiful Kembar sits with us for quite a time and we practise English conversation while I show him photos from Oz on my phone which he really enjoys.

Feb. 14, Lovina: Jalan Jalan Pagi Pagi (Early walk)

Writing while things are still fresh and reading poetry in bed keeps me up too late after an already late dinner, leaving me overstimulated and sleepless so my intention to rise and beat the heat with an early walk fails miserably.Jon and Dave feel it is already too hot and have breakfast but I set off at 8.30 to repeat the ‘green village walk’. Again I pass the tall man walking his dog who I passed yesterday and we chat a little. Clearly he is a ‘local’ and on asking, I learn that he lives in a beautiful villa he owns , one of many in the area facing the fields and has lived here for 5 years.

Instead of repeating my usual route, I turn off the narrow concrete path onto one of several parallel concrete roads leading back to the village main street, then head off toward the fields, ending up on a narrow compacted dirt path walled on either side by greenery. Don’t exactly know where I am but my sense of direction is always good and Im ant get lost. It’s cooler here and eventually I reach a narrow sealed road which I assume is the village road. By now I am feeling the heat and hoping it’s not too far back, so on passing a tiny stall, ask and am told it will take me 30 minutes more. My heart sinks a little until I remember this is Bali time, Bali pace and I can probably halve this estimate.

A few motorbikes pass in either direction and then lo and behold, a wider concrete road appears on my left and I follow it. Shortly thereafter I recognise the name of a little gang (lane/ path) and almost immediately am in familiarity territory and stagger into Summer Guesthouse dripping wet but happy having walked for an hour.The men, of course, would refuse to be shamed by my effort and as they are such old fellas, I don’t intend to shame them!

We are the only folks here but for a couple from Holland (she Dutch, he Dutch Indonesian) who apparently have been coming for years and spend two months here every year.They are serious walkers, yesterday getting a lift up the mountain and doing a 3-hour walk down in this heat! Wish I had that stamina. The man is a sweetie who I hope to have more conversation with. Yesterday evening they appeared bearing two small cuttings which Ketut and her son Awan immediately dug tiny holes for. They were all crouched around as in went the plants in front of Dave’s room, apparently a tri-colour red/white/yellow frangipani .Nice gesture.

The weather on this trip reminds me so much of home, a constant tease of rain bursting from dark skies before disappearing entirely with only two decent rain exceptions, both brief but cooling. But I am reconciled to not doing much, had prepared for it. I have apparently reached an age where I can appreciate a holiday as a break from physical work, no backache making dinner or washing dishes, hip good though I note I walk like a duck!

More Ceremonies, Present Buying and a Family Gathering

Yesterday Wayan began preparing the ubiquitous canang sari (offerrings). It is a smaller, family- based ceremony tomorrow and she asks me if I would like to help her so today after lunch there, I am in the kitchen with her, little Elina occupying herself and wandering in and out of the kitchen desiring more attention. Sumi, Wayan’s sister- in- law who speaks no English and is always in the kitchen, helps. Every time, I am amazed at how elaborate these Hindu rituals are, how much time and money is spent indulging the Gods, three of which are being honoured here, and warding off the bad spirits. Cold rice has been moulded into balls, eggs have been hard boiled; from the market – dragon fruit, bananas, little package of sticky rice rolled in dried banana leaves, little pink sweet cylinders of something, lacy- looking pale orange biscuits etc. All this, in addition to the canang sari we see placed daily in the family temples and in front of shops and houses, elaborate, handmade of carefully cut banana leaf and flower petals. As she constructs the little things, she adds a touch of to tobacco to some ( for the ancestors), a green substance to others.The rice balls are rubbed with turmeric to add an invisible bit of yellow; each different colour petal represents something different, the yellow marigolds, the sun. So much time, work and money is spent as these ceremonies occur many times a year. These canang sari are added to the small and large woven platters full of all described above and then they are piled onto trays and the larger ones into woven lidded baskets. By now the kitchen table is covered with the finished items waiting to be distributed to the three small temples in the Warung and the five in her home.

As mentioned earlier, in an oversight I didn’t think to buy gifts for Ilu’s little girls who are like sisters to Elina and are always there because they live next to the Warung -a family of four in one large room, part of the unused hotel that the owner of the building has developed. Ilu cleans the (unused) rooms in exchange for rent and works with Wayan the rest of the time. Wayan takes me to a couple of little stores nearby and we buy some pretty yellow thongs with flowers on them for little Mesya, a pink pair for Elina and several writing and drawing books and crayons for Winda for school. Throw in a lipstick for Wayan and all this cost $13! Into a big bag with the soft koala I bought from Oz for little Elina and all is sorted. I am by now so overheated that I want to go to the air conditioned coffee place nearby where we each have a healthy veg and fruit drink and sit and talk before returning to cool off in the pool while darling daughter goes back to cook for tonight.

Putu has a day off from her post- graduate nursing training and will be home tonight, thus the planned feast for us and Putu.

The boys are wearing the aboriginal designed singlets I ordered online for them in Oz. They look unbelievably handsome and are quite thrilled. Elina squeals with delight at the koala, cuddling it to her and then they unwrap,today’s purchases. They are so excited and happy.

The Feast

Several tables are pushed together and then the many dishes Wayan prepared with Sumi’s help in just an hour are brought out, each distinct in flavour and all incredibly delicious- sweet crispy tempe with peanuts, vegetable rendang, omelette, a cellophane noodle dish, another vegetable dish, something with pork. At the table are Wayan , Putu and the boys, Ciri’s Elina, Putu’s boyfriend Aria, Ilu and the two little girls, sister-in-law Sumi and the three of us, so thirteen in all.Photos are taken, much conversation, the boy’s English confidence growing before our eyes and ears. Wayan and Putu surprise the three of us with gifts- a shirt each, size perfect for Papa Jon and Uncle Dave and a loose fitting comfortable cotton dress for me.This is accompanied by the most loving note expressing , as she so often does in our frequent messages, her love and appreciation of the support of her and for the children’s education. She is astonishing in her judgement and skill. Putu has three little cellophane wrapped white roses for Valentine’s Day for each of us.It’s all so touching.

Feb. 15, Lovina: A Different ‘Green’Walk

Again I sleep in so only set out at 8 a.m by which time it’s hot but what an exciting walk:

Minutes from home, pagi-ing to the house builders sweating in the morning sun pushing wheelbarrows of stones for a new building, one of their little kids is crouched on the ground. On closer inspection, I see the little fella is playing with a praying mantis, gently encouraging it to move from finger to finger. Too engrossed or too shy, he quite ignores my greeting. Opposite, two farmers I had seen yesterday, greet me.They are cutting an entire paddock of foot- high grass with a scythe, squatting. Feed for sapi (cow).

At the corner, I take the first little turn off to the village road in order to check if a Warung we loved last year is still operating. En route I hear a thudding sound and look into the coconut grove surrounding me to see a man way way up at the top of the very tall tree, feet clinging to the trunk. He is holding on with only one arm; in the other, a scythe with which he chops down dry fronds and coconuts, perhaps thirty or more in the short time I watch him.

I cross the road and head up another dirt track where I see the four Australian ladies of the Cooking Class, sisters, two of whom are on their first trip to Bali. Their guide has brought them to a wonderful small brick Buddhist stupa which I haven’t seen before. It was discovered only 5 yrs ago, foundations and a bit of the stupa buried under the earth. Once confirmed that it was 500 yrs old, the government reconstructed the missing bulk of it but it has been done so sensitively that it isn’t obvious.

Nearby stands the Hindu temple. With permission, I follow this little group as they traipse through a grassy paddock as this is unknown territory and maybe will offer me a new ‘green’ walk. After a couple of minutes the dirt track opens onto a paved concrete gang which I follow and am astonished at how extensive these small paths are, meandering through the village on this unfamiliar side of the village road. Hello, a voice calls, and a man invites me into his compound for coffee. A moment of hesitation and I enter the compound where he sits on a raised platform with some traditional masks and invites me to sit. His name is Gede and he is involved with promoting cultural continuity with a groups of children who perform traditional dance weekly in front of the Dolphin statue on the beachfront. In his paid job he works with local disabled kids.He is a good guy and we spend an enjoyable twenty minutes talking before I excuse myself, well overheated by now and needing breakfast and the pool!

The heat has been relentless, rain refusing to come, a constant tease, sufficient for the staff to daily fold down the two sun umbrellas by the pool and cover the timber pool furniture. For two days we have watched the rain pouring down on the nearby mountains!

Putu must return to the hospital today so we spend time with her at the warung where I ask her more about her work at the mental hospital. I learn that there is only one in Bali, with 700 patients who sleep in wards of 15-25 people. Of course this sounds like something from the dark days at home but she describes what sounds like reasonable treatment facilities with many psychiatrists, psychologists etc, a day clinic for supervising medications for those already discharged and therapeutic activities for including gardening, making canang sari (offerrings) a traditional and meditative process, cleaning motorbikes, badminton- so a nice range of activities which sound better than OT in our institutions!

The last of the presents have been given, and a few hours spent in the afternoon with a wonderful but too big lunch, we take an evening walk to the Dolphin statue but apparently missed the kids dancing. We sit and ponder the silent sea before I take the men on the Fishing Village Walk.En route we pass the little clothing shops that line the promenade and I hear my name called. It is mother-in- law Tomy who has a stall here, then shrieks of delight as ‘baby’ Elina and Winda run out to greet me. It is SO village. Variations of this occur daily, bumping into people one now knows.

A drink at a quiet little cafe right on the sand follows, the sea beyond tinged pink at the last of the sun and, instead of dinner, a final coffee and shared cake in the air-conditioned cafe.Two men who were there yesterday sit in the exactly same position as yesterday. One, well into his 60’s, is dressed in long white pants and loose long white shirt, white shoes. His blond hair is in ponytail and he looks exactly like the artist represented on the cover of a magazine in the magazine rack which I had already seen last year. I figure it is he, a resident Dutch artist. I can’t resist, head to their table and quip that perhaps they are statues who haven’t moved since yesterday! It transpires that the ‘other’ somewhat younger Dutch man is the owner of the business and sits there most of the time.

Final goodbyes from Dave to Wayan et al, more good conversation with Ciri who, with a little help,from GoogleTranslate, elaborates on his passion for cooking and how he sees ‘many good( western) dishes’ being made on iTube which he then tries out in the warung kitchen. I believe he has the potential to become a very good cook.

Some words from Jon

Bali Dogs, Destiny and Nurses Pay

Here every dog must have its day and to interfere in this is not a good karma thing. I remember a story from one of the other times we were staying here where there was a vicious nasty brute of a dog that delighted in biting people. A westerner took it to a vet and had it put down. His efforts were not appreciated as he had interfered with this dogs destiny. Cats are viewed differently.

There are stray dogs and dogs that belong somewhere as evidenced by some sort of ribbon or marking around the neck. A lot of them are related to various degrees, (but aren’t we all?), the two here at Summer Guesthouse which Bonney describes at tiger-striped, being typical.

Putu, our almost granddaughter, will get the magnificent sum of IDR 1,500,000 a month when she finishes her specialist nursing training. This equates to about AUD $37 per week in a public hospital, about $65 p.w. in a private hospital.

Bali remains beautiful…kind gentle folk….hard to believe 500,000 Chinese were killed not that long ago in Indonesia. I see where Indonesians have to fill out 17 pages or perhaps it is only 14 and pay $140 to get into Oz whereas we get in here on a nod and a wink.. it’s a good thing it is nothing about race or religion. God forbid they come and take a job from our employable who are lining up to clean toilets and pick fruit and vegetables, make beds and serve in restaurants. Vigilance, except for sporting grants, is the order of the day.

Feb. 16: Up,Early, Pigeons, A Beautiful Journey Back to Ubud

Leaving the men sleeping, I am out by 6.45 for the Green Walk. It is cool and only a few farmers are out scything grass for the cows. I pass Dewi, who works at Summer Guesthouse, on her motorbike heading to her 7 a.m start- her day ends at 5 pm and not an idle moment in between. The place is perfectly maintained in every aspect. I am surprised by the sight of a young woman pushing her 3-month old baby in a stroller, the first I have seen in Bali. The baby is grinning at her ‘ big’ sister perched on the pusher holding a picture book for the baby to see.

I revisit the Buddhist temple, this time with camera. A few motorbikes wind along the road en route to work, a flock of pigeons wheel overhead several times, clearly belonging to locals, as I have observed at least two yards in the village containing pigeon cages.

After breakfast, a comfortable 2.5 hr drive in a brand new car belonging to Summer Guesthouse. We start climbing the mountains within a few minutes and are amazed at how long the climb persists.The 1500cc car is working hard, often in first gear. Every time we cross the island it is sheer pleasure. There are four roads that go between Lovina and Ubud and this is the narrowest, aimed at avoiding Sunday traffic. It’s hard to describe how narrow these roads are and how many times we dogleg left and right. Densely tropical, punctuated with small and larger Balinese houses and occasional villages, we rise and rise, the coast now far below. At one point we are above cloud and eventually the descent begins. We pass the famous twin lakes, by now on a route that is familiar, pass through Bedugul and eventually arrive at Taman Indrakila to find that Komang made a small error in our booking, expecting us tomorrow! No matter, there is a spare room which Jon and I will have for one night, smaller etc but fine and tomorrow we will be in our larger room as planned.

The staff at Elephant welcome us back, the lady in the nearby laundry smiles to see us and laundry delivered at 2pm is washed , dried and ironed ready for collection 2 hours and $1.5 later! How is this possible, how can she make a profit? the girl at the tiny shop where I purchased my Indonesian phone SIM smiles and waves.It’s nice returning to a place you have already familiarised yourself with and to be recognised by locals.

The day finished with an outstanding meal at the organic garden restaurant where we have had several meals on this and the previous trip, possibly is the best food we have eaten in Bali. Organic homegrown produce from their huge gardens and superb – it is also ridiculously inexpensive.


Feb. 6, Ubud

It’s incredibly hot and humid, this is the time for writing, reading, swimming, family and friends as expected. Couldn’t sleep after 4 a.m so had the rare pleasure of sunrise, the palm studded silhouette across the gorge through a waking sky. I set off at 6.30 intending to do the Ridge Walk but my hip advised me against it so did a variant of the Yellow Flower Cafe walk exploring the smallest gangs (narrow concrete paved lanes) each with a series of steps at intervals following the drop of the small rice terraces sandwiched between ever-encroaching houses, quite a number of which are rentals for tourists.

My first encounter is as follows:

Rice Field Raga

Ducks offer their early song to the paddy
more Dvorak than Bach or Brahms.
Two dogs strain on morning leashes,
more confident than I on the concrete strip
that bounds the paddy. Tiled roofs throw
shadows to the shallow water, a tapestry
of shimmering silver and tufted green, the
infant crop cool as the wading ducks.
Heat rises rapidly, sweat trickles.
The ducks have it all over me!

Jon is so sure it will rain today as huge cumulus clouds grow, and though we hear distant thunder, by 7 pm still not a drop. And just as I write a few drops fall. But that’s it! It’s our last day here for the first ’round’, Candidasa tomorrow where we will meet up with Jon’s brother Dave flying over from the USA.

Feb 7. Ubud-Candidasa

She of the cast iron stomach has come down with a bit of Bali belly and as we made our way to breakfast up the steps became very poorly for a short time so not much food today.

The 1 1/2 hour drive, like any in Bali, is interesting and most enjoyable. We pass through small streets where artisans make and sell their various products – heavy wooden furniture, doors, wall partitions, stone temple pieces and as we get into the rural, plant nurseries. The road for the first hour was familiar as it was the route to the hospital Jon was in on our last trip. So great to see him managing this trip so well.

We pass through diverse landscapes of rice paddies. The sea appears on our right as we approach the Candidasa area, to our left hills, mountains and thick groves of coconut palms. It is intensely green and extraordinarily beautiful and I am somehow reminded of Goa, India.

Our accommodation, Bali Santi Bungalows, is set back off the small but busy main road, approached through a little lane and is located on the sea. Here we have free-standing bungalows all set on a diagonal along two parallel paths surrounded by lush tropical plantings, large handsome stone tubs with plants and at night large handsome rattan lights illuminate the paths. The room is a huge 32sq.mts. with a large L-shaped couch, desk, various lighting alternatives, large glossy white tiles and an outdoor mandi (bathroom). The front porch has a rocking chair and 3-person couch. All this for $60 p.d and much better value than our Ubud accommodation. The open dining area, bar and pool face out to sea overlooking Nusa Penida, a large island. Dave arrives an hour after us having survived the long flight from USA via Hong Kong and the coronavirus scare, good going at a young 78!

The infinity pool overlooks the sea and after an always empty pool at Taman Indrakila in Ubud, it is a change to share it with a few (overweight) Poles who entirely ignore me – suits me fine. No Russians so far.

Grey skies set in during the afternoon and this time it does rain dropping the temperature several degrees immediately, so much so that we have no need of the aircon and even lower the fan. Hard to believe that outside I feel a tiny bit chilled after a sweltering eight days! It pours down for an hour or more leaving a few centimetres of water on the paths and roads and flooding the little garden beds.

A stroll around the immediate area an hour later reveals several resorts, warungs (cafe/restaurant), two rated highly by Trip Advisor and an enticing place called Loaf, tiny with contemporary decor where everything including fabulous looking breads and cakes and espresso coffee is made on site.

Feb. 8, Morning Walk, Green Bananas/Afternoon Coffee and Cake

Breakfast at Loaf, a four-minute walk away but Miss Bali Belly eats green bananas (beyond delicious) and yoghurt. I chat to the waiter, another elegant, handsome young man with pierced ears wearing traditional clothes, and learn that it is owned by an older Australian man married to a Balinese woman for whom the waiter used to clean house. They became very close, we are like brothers, and the Australian announced his intention to build a cafe which he wanted the young man to run. That was four years ago. A great business with a small menu of excellent non-Indonesian food. A lovely story.

The men enjoy delicious food before we walk into the heart of Sengkidu, a village a couple of kilometres down the road, noisy motorbikes whirring. Only now do I see a high mountain across the rice fields and notice it has a blown off top. Behold, Agung the great volcano! We take a side turn down to the beach, by now very hot, time for a cold drink and Jon has another ‘breakfast’! Cab back and into the pool to cool. The place is filling up and, while not a Russian is here, the Aussies have taken over! A respectable but uninteresting lot.

Later, leaving a well fed Jon sleeping, Dave and I try out Warung Bintang, rated #2 of 80 local places by Trip Advisor and very inexpensive. It is wonderful. Very simple, no decor a raised terrace overlooking the glorious rice fields and mountains (Agung not visible), soft Balinese music plays and the wait staff dress traditionally. These are the places we most enjoy. I figure by now I should try some rice and order a chilli-less nasi goreng, very good.

It’s starting to sound like all we do is eat but the days are hot and humid and much reading and writing goes on in between. By late afternoon it’s time to try the after-4pm, low-rate coffee-and-cake at Loaf, the reduced price aimed to clear what is there and ensure constant freshly baked produce. The coffee is excellent and Dave orders a slice of incredibly rich dense chocolate cake of which I sample a small fingernail-size bit, and Jon an apple pie, choc full of apple of which I eat a third. Oh how good!

While there, we get talking to an older American woman, a teacher who has been living in Bali for 25 years. She is the only westerner living in her area near Tirta Gangga and in recent times alcohol has become a problem amongst the locals, leaving her feeling unsafe for the first time. She needs to relocate. She was there with her friend and driver Ketut whose family owns and runs a program called Side By Side, created by volunteers and globally concerned citizens and student groups around the world. Their aim is to preserve an indigenous way of life, encourage cross-cultural understanding and help the local farmers return to an organic, green way of life. It also offers a homestay and restaurant. The American woman has been teaching English to farmers and children of the local village. While talking to them about the disconnection of city kids from the natural world, Singapore comes into the conversation as an unusual example of an intensely urbanised city which has embraced greenness. Ketut informs me that Singapore imports rich soil from the Indonesian island closest to it, and that being only 20 minutes away by ferry, many Singaporeans come over for rural, replenishing weekends!

The men return to Bali Santi but I round the corner to explore a little of the side road I have been curious about. On one side it’s bounded by paddies for some distance, with houses opposite before a considerable hill covered with more houses, rises. Some wonderful traditional architecture so shoot a few more photos. Whenever I walk in local areas, dogs bark at me – they certainly recognize a tourist as different. Turning up a short small street running off the tree-lined road, I pass a few little boys, the slightly older one speaks a little English, the younger boys none but we communicate and then the youngest ‘secretly’ follows me, so I gesture for them to come and we walk together to the nearby end. Sampai jumpa lagi (see you later) I say in my very best Bahasa and we all wave bye-bye, only to be repeated as I turn onto the proper road and head home via a short stroll through the paddies.

Jon and I go to Warung Bintang alone for dinner after 8pm, Dave worried about slipping on wet surfaces. Quite a few people are already eating and we are surprised to see at least six manning the small kitchen. I order soto ayam, chicken soup with glass noodles and a little vegetable, no chilli yet thanks, very good, Jon has calamari followed by fried chicken with a great spicy tomato sambal and we share a black sticky rice cooked in coconut milk, figuring that would serve my stomach well.

The owner joins us and we talk for a long time. Has built this business over four years, the first two tough, making just enough to pay wages. He has three trainee cooks at any time but is happy to see them move on for better job opportunities after training , just as he did. Hotels can offer better wages of course than small warungs.

Feb.9 Candidasa: The Rain Sets In

Rain overnight but a clear patch to walk to Loaf for yoghurt/boring/banana and delicious food for the men! Yep, feeling Ok but the runs remain with me after last night’s food. More green bananas. We had thought to go to Candidasa proper to have a look see but it’s torrential by mid morning.

Ubud, Mt Kintamani, sunrise

More photos…


Feb 4. People, Lazy Days and Squirrels

Jon’s words-

Yesterday we met some more interesting people all at the Elephant Cafe attached to Taman Indrakila where we are staying. I love the way we both can make contact with strangers.  For me it is being open like all Aussies are, direct and friendly or maybe it is just Queensland!

One was a young man from Dalby who has been around a lot and is working on some new energy Aether-energy technology here.  The South Koreans are also interested in this process as are the Yanks but the apparently Aussies have zero interest. He definitely felt Oz lacks the will to embrace.

Later in the afternoon while drinking our latte, a true mark of a labour supporter and greenies everywhere, we met three young folks, one from Russia married to a Ukrainian woman travelling with a mate from Belarus.  The lad from the Ukraine had excellent English having working in Sweden, Estonia, Portugal and other places where English is the medium.  The future and the planet is indeed theirs, neither looking particularly good.  Wonderful to meet people from countries like this!

Back to Bonney- I couldn’t take my eyes off the young Russian man, so beautiful was he, with dark hair in a man- bun, olive complexion a beautiful profile and startlingly alive large hazel eyes. I absolutely thought he was Southern European. He and his wife  are staying in Canggu, (the so- called digital nomad capital of Bali) in the large house of a friend where they come each year for a couple of months to re- charge or did he say re-load?

Such an intelligent and lovely person, a vegan whose politic and social conscience matched ours. Interestingly, he is so disillusioned by world politics that he wants to absent himself totally.

This conversation followed on the heels of another with one of the guys, Wayan, working behind the bar here, again smart, treading lightly on the planet in his beliefs, with impressive English given he is self- taught, like our ‘daughter Wayan’, probably having had little education.

A lazy day today, we’ve really done nothing but eat, sleep (Jonny of course), swim (Bonney of course) and write. Early in the morning we have a clear view of Kintamani, one of Bali’s big volcanic mountains which blew some years ago coming very close to ‘our’Wayan’s parents land. Soon it disappears even in the absence of obvious cloud. It’s really too hot for me to do much so we take breakfast and light lunch here at Elephant. It is a wonderful place to sit with expansive views over the old rambling gardens, gully & ridge and we know and have fun with the wait-staff of whom we have favourites remembered from last visit. I envisaged that this time away would be a time for writing for me, both journal and poetry so am perfectly content to proceed with both.

Looking from the Elephant down to the old pool below and vice versa to the Elephant above,this is what most captivates me:

Greenery shudders in the still air,
my eyes and brain seek explanation
until I spot a furry thing streaking
down a banana leaf, tiny against 
the velvet expanse, tail delivering 
its semaphore message.

It leaps, confident in its momentum,
from rippled edge to frangipani, 
scurries across limbs gnarled as an 
old man, a diminutive speed-freak in 
its private playground.

I concentrate to keep apace.
Before my eyes, a virtuosic display of
aerial sportsmanship, a flying machine
airborne time and again as it scales 
the treetop heights then dashes down 
a sturdy yellow bamboo and out of sight.

Overhead, all shimmers 
to stillness.

On our morning walk yesterday I saw a poster advertising jazz at a venue in our immediate area. Turns out it is part of Bridges restaurant of ‘casual fine dining set on seven levels overlooking the gently flowing Wos River, one of Ubud’s culinary destinations ideal for memorable dining’. We decided to indulge, knowing we would not spend the money for the equivalent at home. What a lovely evening. A fifteen-minute, still hot  walk down the steep main road, motorbikes whizzing by, to the Campuan Gorge bridge. We enter thru various staircases into several levels of white painted plantation-style-meets-Bali architecture overlooking exotic trees and plants far below and looking up to the bridge that crosses the gorge, really unusual. Impeccable and gracious service, gorgeous food after which we were escorted still further down into the jazz venue with the same densely tropical overlook with comfortable couches and chairs, a bar and first class modern Balinese jazz quartet led by a woman. In the small audience, was a blond Ozzie woman who could not stop talking for a minute and too loudly at that. Jon felt irritated enough to move and after another few minutes I followed suit. He leant over to a couple sitting next to him saying ‘don’t you hate dumb blondes’ which amuses them both. As soon as the silly couple left we charged back to the comfortable couch! In all quite a treat!

Feb. 5, To Market To Market,No Fat Pig But Other Observations

It’s hot,32C with only 67% humidity but, as they say, feels like 38!

The old boy spends most of his time, between feeds, lying reading on the bed in our air conditioned room but with the expansive view through plate glass, the outside is brought inside so he can pretend he is indeed there! The view is what we most love about this place. It’s an older establishment and ,like us, not slick and glitzy and the environment, likewise. It has a slightly overgrown wild feel about it and is just glorious. The place is full of Russians and young yoga maidens in their slightly inappropriate gear and plenty of, mostly artistic, tatts! Amusing, and takes me back to living in Rome aged twenty-two, wearing undoubtedly equally inappropriate clothes- mini-skirts/ dresses and wondering why the Italian men were hot for me!

Went into town after breakfast this morning to beat the heat, a seven-minute/$4 taxi ride, perused the large market,made a few small useful purchases, visited the one really good bookshop buying a Nobel prize winning  Ishiguro and the NYTimes. Depressed myself reading how the Far Right in Europe is now considered the New Normal, as opposed to twenty years ago when it first re-emerged amidst much protest. Not having TV is great, a break from the over- exposure to coronavirus and bushfire news, neither good.



Jan.31/Feb.1, 2020

You know the finally finally syndrome when for 2 days you tell yourself finally everything necessary has been done. Well, get thru that accompanied by the first decent rain in six months, 75 mm….will we get through to the airport OK? Having passed that hurdle, we arrive early  and try to understand the mumbled announcements about planes unable to land due to poor visibility.Cutting to the chase, our plane is cancelled and  we spend 6 hrs at our local airport awaiting the only other plane for that day, unsure as to whether it will make it. Suddenly the winged giant roars down the runway, ‘yeah’, I sing out, a lone voice amongst so many- oh that Anglo Saxon reserve gets me all the time! Luckily the late plane could accomodate us and packed to the gills, takes off. We spend three days in Jill and Al’s beautiful  river house in Murwillumbah for the usual catch- up with old besties from our farm days.

The background to this trip is the corona virus scare. All day in the overly air-conditioned airport and plane leaves Jon quite unwell for a couple of days just when reduced immune system matters most. Ah, the joys of travelling as an older person! Just in the nick of time he improves and, armed with pharmacy products, we have arrived safe and sound in Bali.

Arriving in Bali is fun. We are at the front of the plane queued to disembark, delayed waiting for a bus to the terminal. The  Captain stands right beside us and so we engage in what turns into quite a conversation. A friendly man, tall, lean, 40ish, I ask about his flying schedule & he tells us pilots love to surf while on layover and all rent motorbikes while here but the other crew are not permitted to do so. The idea that pilots are somehow better positioned than the other staff to survive the Kuta traffic on motorbikes amuses Jon.

Jon’s first trip to Bali was in the early ‘70’s when cows still roamed the sand streets of Kuta. My only stay in Kuta was with him maybe 20 yrs ago leaving me with abiding opposing impressions- delicious frog legs and our charming, frangipani-lined laneway, and the narrow crowded streets full motorbikes and cars and stalls with vulgar T- shirts and drunk young Ozzies. Nonetheless, as we are to arrive late at night, we decided to have two nights here and have a poke around. I booked a lovely hotel ( Adi Dharma, Kuta, recommended) for about $70 AUD which promised to be quiet. 

The taxi doglegs its way left and right from the airport for what seems a long time. In the throng of Kuta/Legian lined with small restaurants and people eating late, we finally turn off the narrow noisy street into our tiny laneway, instant quiet. The ubiquitous yellow frangipanis, many little shops, now closed, and several nice accomodations, ours being at the very end.

One almost forgets how beautiful this culture is so I am immediately enthralled as we turn into the property with its 3-storey, traditional style buildings surrounded by gardens, the usual open- sided, gleaming tiled reception area  furnished with traditional rich timber and the large adjacent  dining area. Generous room with two 3/4 beds, aircon, mini fridge & our own little balcony. And a great sleep! I include a photo of the hotel brochure showing the ‘usual/ unusual’ hazards of travelling here!

Breakfast is included but what a spread -fresh fruit salad, other salad items, three traditional Indonesian dishes, and egg area, a pancake area and seven young preparers and serving  men wearing  traditional sarong and head gear. The manageress, graceful and gracious, welcomes us and comes to talk to each patron.This is a large establishment, 100 rooms, 30 years old but I only realize this today when I scour the grounds arranged around a large pool where I sit writing.

We set out at 8 a.m to explore the immediate environment and beat the heat heading to Kuta beach, 10 minutes away. Our laneway is devoid of people, quiet and peaceful, too early for “morning price” quips Jonny & still a pleasant temperature.

Jon says if you want to know the value of your currency without reading the Wall Street journal or the Financial Times, the money exchangers have a much more realistic rate, a great barometer. As we near the beach, more little shops, mostly selling cheap clothes etc, are opening and then we arrive at the beach. It is a glory of wide flat sand, gently rolling surf and a wide treed strip, freshly raked and swept dotted with large umbrellas, little stalls with seats  and some tables.Vendors are selling drinks and fresh coconuts for juice. This extended area leads onto an area specialising in surf board rentals and lessons and the boards lean  clustered against tree trunks where squirrels scurry and scour the gelatinous insides of the coconuts wedged between branches for them.

Jon loves the T- shirt he sees on the drippingly hot way back to leap into the pool:’I’m not gay but $20 is $20’. I wasn’t quite as amused!

And as the afternoon proceeded, clouds gathered and just I managed to drag the man to the pool area, a rare event, it started to gently rain. Within a few minutes we moved to our little balcony off our room and watched the rain pour off the roof and drench the gardens below. We decided to eat ‘in’, dinner as excellent and authentic as the Indonesian selection at breakfast- cap cay ( mixed vegetables with seafood) and Soto Ayam (chicken soup on fine noodles with hard boiled egg on top), both really delicious.

The rain cooled everything down so immediately that we took a short stroll to the end of our now deserted little laneway chatting to a couple of indifferent typical stripes Balinese dogs en route. And so ended our short Kuta stay. We would do it again.

Feb.2, Ubud, Feels Like Coming Home!

We are back at Taman Indrakila where we stayed 18 mths ago a little out of the centre of Ubud so go out for dinner. Indus, the upmarket restaurant run by Australian Janet de Neefe (also,of Ubud Readers and Writers Festival and the Ubud Food Festival fame) is just up the road but undergoing renovations. The nearby temporary premises is part of the Writers Festival site and is as impressively beautiful as the ‘real’ one.  A huge open-sided space with high thatched ceilings finished with detailed Balinese carving, overlooks the gorge. Round timber tables with a Dutch colonial touch, candle lighting throughout, all surrounded by lush gardens create a plush exotic ambience.

Our delicious meal consists of tapas for two- two pieces each of sate stick mushrooms, fried chicken, tempe and mini spring roll accompanied by three little condiments in mini banana leaf trays- sate sauce, sweet pickled cucumber and spicy chilli dip. For mains,Jon chooses a Sumatran chicken coconut curry which is served in the coconut shell and I a balinese version of Sumatran jack fruit curry. I haven’t eaten jackfruit before and found it reminiscent in texture to eggplant, absorbing the flavour of the curry sauce and quite filling. Including two beers and a lime soda it came to about $20 per head which is expensive in Balinese terms but reasonable for what we ate. At a local Balinese place it cost approximately half this.

Nearby, two men, one extremely heavy set, are struggling for minutes trying to convey to the skilled waitress what they want.Clearly their English isn’t good. At last I step forward and ask if I may assist, understanding where the confusion lies. What language do you speak, I ask, Russian they reply. Oh I don’t speak Russian, but in no time have them sorted to get a large plate consisting only of prawns, only being the stumbling point, lost in translation. They are unnecessarily appreciative and gracious and Jon makes a gentle joke, they beam at us. This all repeated as we depart.

Internet access is sporadic here and makes one conscious of our absurd dependency on immediacy. Nonetheless, I want to check that we aren’t the only ones having difficulties, so ask a couple of younger women sitting their little balcony a few rooms up from us. The usual where are you from question comes from them and it transpires that the too are Russian and lively and engaging, one speaking better English than the other. Good to see they dont confirm our rather negative experiences of Russian travellers. As Jon says, in general Bali is so laid back that even the Russians are smiling! He feels this reflects more about Bali than about nationalities.

Feb 3. The Yellow Flower Cafe Walk And General Delights

No rain last night so we decide to beat the heat and take a morning walk before breakfast. Let’s do the Yellow Flower Cafe/ rice field walk I brightly suggest and am delighted that Jon agrees. In his words: Early morning walk following my leader who knows where and how to navigate through the winding pathways around the back lanes. As it is fairly early shops still closed but Westerners emerging from their digs going to yoga, mostly women of various ages, long hair of a type going to do the downward dog and other tricks.  They appear to be recovering from failed relationships,my vibe, and are probably bitter and twisted, much like the men in our home neighbourhood.

 As it was fairly early…shops still closed but Westerners emerging from their digs going to yoga..mostly women of various ages…long hair of a type going to do the downward dog and other tricks.  They appear to be recovering from failed relationships…my vibe and are probably bitter and twisted….much like the men in our neighbourhood.  In general the place is so laid back and even the Russians are smiling.  

Having written in detail about it in my 2018 Bali diary, I won’t elaborate much except to reiterate that to me this walk is the quintessential Bali, and to comment on changes and people. As it’s wet season, the verges of the narrow concrete path are quite overgrown, several new buildings and little cafes have popped up, all charming. It is amazing to see so many new eating places, also along our main Campuan road. One wonders how everyone eeks out a living especially as tourism has been down. Due the coronavirus scare, the Chinese tourists have stopped. As they come in large numbers, I worry that this would have a huge impact on their fragile economy so asked our taxi yesterday driver, an intelligent man we have used before. He, like Jon, feels it is not so, because the Chinese, as in Australia, stay in hotels and eat in restaurants etc wonder by Chinese and hence not much of their spending here would benefit the local economy.

If you have never visited Bali, it is difficult to convey how dominant the aesthetics of this place is, how surrounded by beauty one is everywhere- from the larger scale of the landscaping of grounds and traditional architecture, to the smallest detail of small offerings on the ground, tiny personal temples, walls decorated with Hindu sculptural icons, huge pots filled with plants carefully placed, the traditional clothes worn not only for ceremony but by wait staff and hotel staff at ‘better’ establishments and so on. All the sweating and heat is worth it! And now I am off to leap in the pool at the bottom terrace of the vast grounds of Taman Indrakila, good compensation for the lack of soap in the soap dispenser or the fact that the room boy forgot to replace the hand towel he removed or wipe the taps to sparkle. 

Our room, same as last time, is at the end of the terraced path with the small offering temple next to it and has sliding plate glass doors across the front and two large windows on the external wall all of which overlooks the terraced gardens, palms,frangipanis,crotons, banana palms cascading down the slope and disappearing into the ravine from which the eye is led up the other side to the palm filled Campuan Ridge. At any time of day you can see a trickle of people walking along the ridge-walk path. If it’s too hot outside, you could lie on the huge bed in the aircon, as Jon does, and overlook all of this.

Just to let you know I am struggling a bit with internet access and technology here so will have to add relevant photos later, maybe after the one month trip is complete, so check back in the site again if interested.

More poems, a little rap about (mostly) bird life and happy 2020

Hello Again and Happy 2020! Perhaps this will bring its own special inspiration and insights, which would be welcome in the face of much that is ailing here in Oz (most immediately the unprecedented bush fires) and in the world at large. I feel blessed to be able to balance this by staying ‘present’ in our immediate environment, which offers up a variety of treasures. Bird life takes precedence in recent months

Amongst the many birds we supplement feed through this great extended dry, three Butcherbirds grace us with their presence daily. Two of them are operatic virtuosos.  For the most part, they make their little cheeping sound requesting food. Two take it from the hand, the third, younger or shyer, comes within a metre of us. He is expert at catching on the fly, never failing regardless of where we aim.

Today’s delight –one sings to us for about five minutes, then  the second takes over and fifteen minutes later is still at it. It is spellbinding and I sit with him and interact making the odd whistle. For those of you unfamiliar with this bird, do yourself a favour; go online to seek their song. It is remarkable for its variety of sounds which are clearly generated from different parts of the body-beak, throat, chest etc ranging from tiny squeaks to chirps to lyrical unfurling passages.

A few weeks ago, two baby Kookaburras left their nest in the hollow of the eucalypt on the foreshore. We had been feeding the family members for about four weeks, watching them eat a little and conscientiously take the rest back to the nest. Within a week or two, I spotted the first tiny fledgling perched in a high branch on my morning walk. Then I spotted a second one. The family continues to come to our balcony railing for hand-fed treats to take to them and in the last few days the babies have come much closer to the house, perching on the Poinciana trees at the back of our garden facing the sea.  Next step was to see the babies landing on our railing, bit by bit allowing us closer, still being fed by a family member. Thrillingly, it was graduation day a few days ago when for the first time I threw some meat to the far end of the deck where one had landed and watched it tentatively hop to and then take the food. Its sibling flew from the railing to the same place and followed suit!

Finally some rain! 45mm over the last few days after nothing to speak of since March!

Already new leaves, citrus blossoms and tiny shoot of grass emerge. And the frogs. There will be more insects for the birds and we can reduce the hand feeding. We are in a rain shadow here so, as per usual, Airlie Beach & Proserpine, less than 50 km away, have had over 200mm in the same period.

So that’s the rap but also to let you know that I have added another six poems to the poetry section today and about the same number a few weeks ago. Poetry fans please enjoy.

At Last!

Hello All, I have finally finished revision of a 2014 Travel Diary , A Month in Sicily which also includes a few days in Singapore en route and then some time in Florence, Rome and London. It includes lots of cool photos! I have also added lots of images to Photography- Plant Life, the Cranbourne Botanical Gardens in Melbourne, Skyscapes and Local Whitsunday landscapes. Hope you enjoy.

A Little Trip South

So we went to Melbourne for a bit of a ‘cultural hit’, (Melbourne Festival) and saw some pretty avant garden dance (Hofesh Shechter & Chunky Move), a great theatre piece and some good music. Stayed in an apartment in the CBD (a first) witha ‘delightful view’ over a lane onto blank wall made interesting only by a view into a purple lit, plant-filled apartment on the other side sometimes interspersed with a naked or clothed young woman! Spent time with our besties and visited Cranbourne Botanical Gardens, (a young off-shoot-excuse pun- of Melbourne’s famous old main Bot. Gardens), which specializes in Native plants. It is a real treat of native spring flowerings and sensitive modernist landscape architecture. I include a few Melb. photos. Then headed to Hobart, Tasmania, mostly for a long-overdue visit to MONA ( for those who don’t know it, have a look online) -it is simply astounding. The vision of the founder of this private Museum of new and old art , David Walsh, has to be seen to be believed! The art, the architecture, the setting,the quirkiness. Built deep underground into the rock, it is awe-inspiring. Little wonder it has drawn literally millions of tourists to Tasmania.
Hobart (& surrounds) is a delight built around steep hills with a multitude of charming old buildings, modern architecture in the newer areas, beautiful views, and landscapes, a great art and craft culture, wonderful produce and food. Jon noticed a cafe of Vietnamese Street Food whereupon he quipped ‘fee fi pho yum’ and so it went! And we had an apartment with spectacular views. A few Tasmania photos attached. I am also adding a gallery of photographs of Hobart into TRAVEL WRITING on the main website even though there is not a word of travel writing! Hope you enjoy.

Back again! Read below to see what’s new

Hello All!

It’s been great to get this site launched and somewhat ’off my plate’ ,  (a feeling shared by dear friend Karen-the-website-builder! Now she can get back into her  writing. The woman has five books on the go!).

 I say somewhat, because I immediately   added quite a lot to PHOTOGRAPHY , especially to THE HUMAN ANIMAL and ARCHITECTURE, much fun!  Of course, more will probably come in time, so if you are a photography buff  keep your eyes peeled.

Freeing up time  has, more importantly, allowed me to re-focus on my poetry, continuing to work on some of the large number of unfinished pieces.  I have completed another ten poems, so now you will find 29 on the site in the four categories- the main page and the three sub-headings, The Natural World, Portugal Poems and Snapshots. Likewise, if you are a poetry buff,  rest assured more will come but, of course, you will again be notified.

Thanks to those who have left Comments, not expected but always a pleasure.  Unless something is of general interest, I will respond via email rather than on the site.

Enjoy your life. It’s precious.


It’s launched!

Hi dear friends, it’s launch day!

This is what I’ve been up to over the last 6-7 months – making a website,  together with my friend  and web designer Karen Wilton who set up the structure.  Having put off doing this for some 20 years (all seemed too hard, too time consuming), things  suddenly  fell  into place – the time was right and dear Karen  was ‘there’.

I have long  felt the need to have some sort of archive of my 35 years of art-making but also wanted a platform to include my other creative pursuits – poetry, photography  and travel writing, all of which will be further augmented over time, so if interested, keep an eye open for this.

It has been so much fun and quite a learning curve for this techno-idiot and Karen has been the best teacher. We had a lot of laughs along the way especially about the  sometimes difficulties understanding one another’s ‘language’- techno vs. arty stuff!

Please enjoy ambling through bit by bit from time to time. It is my  hope  that it may also be of use to aspiring artists, students and who knows else.

horror of horrors

After so much editing and spell checking of the body of Part 3 who would believe I would make a typo in the Post!?! Emighre instead of Emigre is what some of you received before I noticed it 2 minutes after sending, cancelled the post in a whizz, and re-sent corrected. I was going to ignore it, but am too much of a perfectionist and am embarrassed for those who received the misspelt version. Mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. x

An Even longer wait!

Hello All,

The Émigré Story continues and Part 3, Starting Anew, is now up on the website under WRITING The Émigré Story – Part 3 . I have a few keen followers and trust none of you have been waiting for this installment with bated breath as by now you would be well and truly dead! When I started writing this story, I had no inkling that it would become so expansive; it seems the more I write, the more I unearth, so perhaps a brief recap is in order. And as with my related artwork of the 1990’s, underpinning it all is the knowledge that, though this is my parents’ story, it is also mine. And the plight of refugees is universal and timeless.

Part 1: begins in Vienna, the birthplace of my parents, Hans and Gerta. It traverses the years of rising antisemitism and oppression, of Hitler’s rise to power, and the desperation to seek an escape from Europe. It ends in Australia in 1939 shortly after their arrival, grateful to have found refuge. The Émigré Story – Part 1

Part 2: is the grim story of my maternal grandparents, Max and Lola, and the failed attempts to save them from their terrible fate in the Holocaust. The Émigré Story – Part 2

The writing of Part 3, Starting Anew, has been a challenging and fascinating journey with unexpected insights into my parents’ younger lives and my early childhood experiences. I hope it is as interesting for you too. Parts 4 and 5, already underway, will be forthcoming, and who knows what else? But it will be a while, so please keep breathing!

Please note there is a text-only DOWNLOAD for each part for those who dislike reading on computers or other devices.

And for the curious, the new banner image for The Émigré Story is an early work of mine from the late 1970’s, titled The Story of my Family, perfect for this piece. It depicts the world my parents left behind, the war, our little family, and life in Australia. The rest you must fathom yourselves; it will become recognizable only from the story yet to unfold.

Enjoy life despite personal challenges and those of our times. I wish everyone the absolute best for the Silly Season and for 2023 and send my warmest greetings.



Hi again everyone,

Finally here it is. This time, due to its length and content, I have placed the piece under WRITING in the main menu. Here is the link:

I had a few people I wanted to thank personally for various input they contributed, so I sent them separate emails a few days ago advising them of the published piece. To all of you, please excuse this doubling up.

I am very pleased to have finished Parts1 & 2 including the ‘heavy’ stuff and hope you find it interesting and informative, if challenging in part. You may be waiting again for quite a time for Part 3 which will further follow some of the emigre story of my parents’ life in Australia before merging into my experience growing up as a child of emigrants…lots of happy stories here however.

Best regards to all,