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‘I reckon being ill as one of the greatest pleasures of life, provided one is not too ill and is not obliged to work until one is better.’ Samuel Butler.

I am not at all sure what Samuel Butler was thinking when he said being ill was ‘one of the greatest pleasures of life’.  What a strange thing to say.  I have been what my father used to call ‘sick as a dog’ all week and I can see absolutely no pleasure in it whatsoever . . .

(And, before I go any further, what kind of odd expression is ‘sick as a dog’ anyway?   Why do we always blame the dog?  (dog tired . . . dog in the manger . . . dog’s breakfast . . .  go to the dogs . . . )  Although I have also lately heard the expression ‘sick as a parrot’  too.  Not sure what to make of that one either.  )

As you can probably tell, I am a mite grumpy.  I don’t like being unwell and I have felt absolutely miserable for over a week now (nothing life threatening—just some flavour of miscellaneous virus that happens to be doing the rounds . . . along with a cough . . .  and a runny nose . . . and a monster headache . . . ) and at time of writing I am showing very little sign of improvement.

(I don’t get sick very often but when I do I go all in. I know they say things usually get worse before they get better but hey—give a girl a break—please!  I am well and truly over it. Well, no.  I’m not over it, as in ‘I’m feeling better’. I’m over it, as in ‘I’m fed up’.  Perhaps I should have said that to begin with. Oh dear God I’m rambling . . . )

Anyway, I think the thing that bothers me most (apart from the actual feeling like crap part of course) is that there is very little I can actually do about it.  I can take a tablet for my headache, and another to stop my nose running, and I can keep up the fluids, and rest when I can . . . blah, blah, blah (we all know the drill) . . . . but in the end I really just have to wait it out.  My body will heal itself when it is good and ready and not before.

You know, it’s so easy to sink into the mire when you feel dreadful (nobody likes me, everybody hates me, think I’ll go and eat worms . . . ) and I find I have to constantly pull myself up and remind myself—’It is only the flu, Sal!  You will get over it.  This too shall pass . . . ‘

And perhaps, in a round about sort of way, that is what Samuel Butler was getting at.  Perhaps he meant that by being ill (but not too ill) one might be forced to remember what a pleasure it was when one felt well . . . 

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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“Never push a loyal person to the point where they no longer care.” Unknown.

I used to shake my head sadly when I saw  ‘Do Not Knock’ notices on people’s front doors.  ‘Cranky old so-and-sos,’ I thought.  Welllive and learn.  I have lately joined the ranks of the cranky-old-so-and-sos and have now also attached one of these notices to my own front door.

Unfortunately, as I discovered this week, my polite little ‘Please Don’t . . . ‘ sign is obviously not bold enough to deter a rabid charity-door-knocker on a mission.  I might just have to start looking for something a tad more forceful . . .

I had never been unduly bothered by solicitations by salespeople, bible toters or charity workers until quite recently.  I monitor my home phone so I am able to pick up the calls I want and ignore those I don’t and I also put myself on the national ‘Do Not Call Register’, which, although I have no idea whether this is in any way effective at all, at least makes me feel as if I am being somewhat proactive.

I also tend to miss most ‘door-knockers as they usually make their rounds during the day, and at weekends the dogs usually hear anyone coming up the driveway long before I do, giving me plenty of time to prepare a polite response (‘Sorry—can’t talk now—eating.’) or, alternatively, find a place to hide and pretend I am not at home until they decide to move on.  (Now, don’t give me that look.  I am (almost) certain I could not possibly be the only one who has ever done that . . . )

I realise the competition is fierce.  A quick on-line search reveals there are around 54,000 charities and not-for-profits now registered in Australiaeach one jostling for our donation dollar.  I am sure most of these charities do good work, and every one of them means something to someone or they wouldn’t have been started in the first place, but it makes me ever such a tiny bit irritated (as you might have guessed) that I now feel like I have to put measures in place in order to avoid their constant, increasingly pervasive, solicitations.

Admittedly, my irritation has been somewhat exacerbated by lately being on the receiving end of a couple of quite unpleasant (dare I say, aggressive) phone calls from charities I already regularly supported, and had supported for years—both wanting more, more, more.  When I reminded one caller I already gave a monthly stipend he said, “I’ll stop calling if you double your donation”.  I kid you not. Needless to say I did not double my donation and, in fact, stopped donating to that charity at all.  It’s a shame, but I won’t be bullied. It also makes me  wonder how many other loyal donors have been pushed to the point where they ‘no longer care’.

On the bright side there are lots of other ways I can contribute and continue to ‘do my bit’.  I just have to start thinking about it differently.   I have started to buy extra dog food and treats on my weekly shopping trips and putting them in the donation barrel for a local organisation that fosters and looks after homeless dogs.  I regularly donate to local charity stores (and buy from them too) and will continue to do that.  And lately I have been thinking that I should take up knitting again.  I used to love to knit but haven’t done any now in years. After a quick search I found several sites that accept knitted donations.  I can can knit squares for blankets, or beanies, or gloves, or even teeny tiny jackets for little bald parrots . . .

I’ve just had a thought.  The next time I am caught by a charity caller I am going to stop them right in their middle of their well-rehearsed (and condescending) speil and hit them up with one of my own . . .

“You know your charity sounds fine, and I’m sure you do good things . . .  but why not think about donating to mine?  We need yarnlots and lots of yarn.  Just think of the good you would be doing, providing lovely new, warm, colourful clothes for people in need (and pouches for possums and teeny tiny jackets for featherless birds.) Only a dollar a day, that’s all I’m asking . . . and for only as long as you want to donate . . . (and, by the way, that really is a lovely shirt you are wearing, the colour really does suit you)  . . .  So, if you’d like to hand over your credit card details . . . “

 
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Posted by on June 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Happiness is a warm puppy.’ Charles M Schultz.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

Last Sunday was the most stunning autumn day—bright, cloudless and warm.  The girls and I spent the morning out in the garden—me doing a bit of weeding, tidying and sweeping up after the last rain storm—and girls pottering around after me, supervising and offering helpful suggestions (in between bouts of dozy little doggie-naps in the sunshine . . . )

Around mid-morning I settled myself onto the garden bench to enjoy a quick cup of tea.  Mabel sat on my lap (why on earth would she sit on the dirty old grass when my lap was available), Maudie went to investigate whatever it was that was rustling in the undergrowth down by the shed, and Molly stood guard by the back gate (‘cos you never know who might try and sneak in while she’s not looking).  As I sat basking in the warm morning sun my mind started to wander (as it is wont to do) and I started to think about a telephone conversation I recently had with my mother where she asked me one, seemingly simple, question —”Are you happy?”

I remember being a surprised by the question (Where did that come from?  We were talking about her moving house . . . ) and a bit taken aback.  I had to stop for a moment to think about it.  But, you know, I couldn’t pause for too long or Mum might have imagined the worst (because mothers usually do) so I laughed it off and answered, “Well it’s all relative isn’t it?   . . . but I’m definitely not un-happy . . .”

On and off since that conversation I have wondered about her question—and my reply.  Am I really happy?

The word happiness originally derives from the Norse word ‘hap’ meaning luck, chance or good fortune.  A modern dictionary defines the same word only as ‘the state of being happy.’  I think I’ll go with the original definition because, while I certainly wouldn’t consider myself to be in ‘the state of being happy’ all the time, I do, however, feel I have been fortunate in my life.  I have family, friends, my health, a job, a place to live, and of course, my lovely dogs.  I could be a whole lot worse off.

Perhaps I would more readily describe myself as someone ‘cultivating contentment’.

Are happiness and contentment the same thing?  I don’t know.  What I do know is, that Sunday morning, sitting peacefully in the sun with Mabel all warm and sleepy on my lap and Maudie and Molly pootling cheerfully around the garden, I felt pretty damn content . . .

. . . which, truth be told, also made me pretty damn happy . . .

How could this adorable sleepy face not make anyone happy?

 
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Posted by on May 23, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘How lucky I am to have something that makes saying goodbye so hard.’ Winnie the Pooh.

living-aloneA couple of acquaintances and I were chatting recently over coffee.  I admit, I’d lost track of the conversation a bit (I was looking for something in my handbag) until there came the question ‘Don’t you ever get lonely living on your own?’ followed by a pointed silence.  I looked up. They were looking at me.  Me? Live on my own? Whatever gave them that idea?  And then I realised they was actually talking about living with other people . . . 

In spite of the fact that living alone still gets a bad rap in our society, it is a trend on the rise.  In Australia, 1 in 4 people now live in ‘lone-person households’ and that number would probably be even higher if more people could afford to do it. (For once in my life I have actually been ahead of a trend! Woo Hoo!)  And I get it—there are many advantages to living alone (and before you say ‘Yes but . . . ‘ I do realise there are disadvantages too—but not enough of them yet for me to want to start sharing my space again.)

I love living by myself.  The whole house is my space (well—except for Molly’s spot on the end of the couch (she could give Sheldon Cooper a run for his money . . . )  

mineI can be as clean or as messy as I want. (I am not a messy person, but if I was, it would be my mess.)  I can channel-surf the TV as often as I like (so *&^%ing annoying when someone else does it)  and I never, ever, ever, have to watch any sport.  I can eat (or not eat) whatever I like, whenever I like (no judgement)—and the only one giving me a hard time about not doing any exercise is me.  I can rock around the house to my favourite music (without headphones) and sing very loudly and—well, I could go on and on . . .

harlequinDo you think that sounds incredibly selfish?  You are probably right (although you’re possibly also just the teeny-tiniest bit jealous?) but you know, in my defence (not that I really feel I need a defence)  I am well aware that I can be rather ‘challenging’ to live with, so I like to consider living on my own as a kind of  . . . public service.  Seriously.

So, having now convinced you of how content I am, I must also concede that I honestly am not sure if I would be as content if  didn’t have a dog . . . or a cat . . . or a bird . . . or a hamster . . . or some other kind of ‘critter’ sharing my home with me.  For, in truth, in my years of living ‘by myself’ I have never ever had to come home to a completely empty house.

Most people who share their homes with pets will attest to the love and companionship their pets provide, but they also give us a sense of purposegive me a sense of purpose.

hermitWhen living alone it becomes very easy to think only of yourself.  To think only of your own welfare and your own needs.  My girls give me something else to think except myself. They rely on me for their food, exercise, health and wellbeing.  I am insular by nature (‘Please kindly go away . . . I’m introverting) and sometimes I think that if it weren’t for my girls (and the fact that I have to go out to work for a living of course) I would never want to step outside of my comfy little house at all.

But my girls are are everything I am not.  They are social creatures.  They are loving, and cheerful, and playful, and hilarious, and they like to get out into the big wide world and meet other people (although they still love me best) and I like to think (to hope) that some of their happy nature rubs off on me.  I am definitely a nicer person when I am around them.

So, living alone.  Yes or No?  Yes.  Absolutely yes.

Living alone with a pet . . . or three . . . even better . . .

doggies-at-the-window

‘My girls’ — Molly, Mabel and Maude

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘In order to see birds it is necessary to become a part of the silence.’ Robert Lynd.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

dangerzoneAt this time of the year one of the very first sounds I hear when I wake in the morning is the screech of a black cockatoo.  (There is no not-hearing it actually.  I have read that a cockatoo screech can reach up to 135 decibels.   Multiply that by a a flock of about 30-40 birds and that will give you some idea . . . )  

So used am I to hearing them now that, on a normal working day at least, the early morning cacophany barely registers.  I am hardly on my feet before my head takes over and immediately starts reeling off lists of chores and jobs that I need to get done that day.  A bunch of noisy birds don’t usually get much of a look in . . .

This morning the girls and I were out and about even before the birds were up.  We were walking along the sea wall just as it was starting to come light, and it was cool and calm and quiet.  Peaceful.  At least until the silence was pierced by one lone cockatoo announcing she was now awake, thank you very much, and everyone else should be too!

Within seconds there was a answering screech from a nearby tree, and then another and another until the air was filled with their raucous din.  I stood and watched as the whole flock slowly began to lift, one by one, from the trees and into the air, wheeling in lazy circles and stretching their wings (and their lungs) as they made their way across the river.

Pretty spectacular.  It’s not like I haven’t seen it before, I have.  But this morning I paid attention, really paid attention—to their colour, their sound, their joyful silliness . . .

I need to remember this morning. Next week, when I am back at work after my lovely holiday, before my head becomes full of things I have to do and places I have to be, I am going to remind myself to take a moment each morning to just think about how lucky I am to live in a place where I get to see (and yes, even hear) gorgeous black cockatoos every morning.

Surely my working day can wait just a couple more minutes for that . . .

img109

 
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Posted by on January 10, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘I look upon every day to be lost, in which I do not make a new acquaintance.’ Samuel Johnson.

facebook-amigosA little while ago I overheard someone talking about the 200 friends who turned up to his recent birthday party.  200.  I am not sure I even know 200 people.  I wonder how many ‘FaceBook friends’ he has?  Probably thousands.  I have 26.  And some of those are friends-of-friends.  Now, if I could ‘Acquaintance’ people my numbers would undoubtedly soar . . .

peopleI am not a very social animal.  I have never felt the need to constantly surround myself with people (even online) and am happiest maintaining only a small group of good friends who know me well enough to not be continually offended by my propensity for spending most of my leisure time alone.  Although my close friends may be few, a recent odd encounter in the supermarket suddenly brought home to me the fact that over the years (and almost in spite of myself) I have actually managed to amass quite a large circle of acquaintances.

my-name-is11These acquaintances range through various levels. First there are the ‘nodding’ acquaintances—people I see almost every single day, and have done so since I moved to the area.  We nod, we smile, we occasionally say hello—but I don’t know any of their names.  (Nor do they know mine, although they might think they do.  I am ‘Sue’ to one old fellow and ‘Sandy’ to another.)

mr grumpyThis group includes people like ‘the sock guy’ (he always wears all black, except for wildly fluorescent coloured socks—this morning they were canary-yellow) . . . or the ‘lady with the hair’ (rain, hail or shine when out walking this woman always has a perfectly made up face and her hair immaculately done up in a French pleat topped off with a massive silk flower) . . . or the ‘grumpy old sod’ (need I say more?)  And I imagine if they were ever to have to refer to me I would probably just be ‘the lady with the three scatty little dogs’ . . .

Then there are those people I bump into on a semi-regular basis and whose names I actually know. People I stop and chat with when we meet—like my neighbours in the street where I live . . . or regular students who come in and out of the college . . . or Pat and Frank who live around the corner . . . Jo, Mary and Bob who I often see at the movies . . . or Diwho used to be ‘the lady in the flowery hat’ until we finally got around to formally introducing ourselves a couple of weeks ago . . .

dogfriendsAnd, of course, there are all our ‘doggie’ acquaintances, who are many and varied.  Old Harry and his tiny dachsund Rosie (she is half the size of my girls, and always manages to emanate an air of supreme indifference every time we meet).  Harry and I met years ago, started chatting and have continued to go on slow rambling wanders around the park with our dogs ever since. (And, to again prove that this is a very small town, in conversation we discovered that I now live in what was once Harry’s brother’s house.)

Paul and his dog Zoe and I met very early one summer morning when we rescued a young Tawny Frogmouth which had been injured in a storm the night before. (In truth Paul rescued the bird while I kept all the dogs from trying to eat it.)  Then there’s Sue and her boy Caesar-the-German-Shepherd, whose feet are bigger than Mabel’s head and whose booming ‘woof’ is loud enough to blow Maudie’s ears back from across the street.    Merv, Narla and Ty.  Bill and Jessie.  Phil and Rosie—and too many more to mention here . . .

http://www.dreamstime.com/-image17451479And, going back to that odd encounter in the supermarket, it appears I even have acquaintances I didn’t know I had.  I had gone into the supermarket to pick up a few things and was stopped by a woman who, smiling brightly, proceeded to tell me all about the fabulous cruise she had just been on.  We had a really nice chat. Lovely—except for the fact I had no idea who she was.  (‘Who IS this person?  Do I know her?  Should I know her?’)  I was at a complete loss. (Did she think I was someone else perhaps?)  I racked my brains. Nope.  Nothing.  We carried on chatting for a good ten minutes and she then went on her way, still smiling, and hopefully, none the wiser that I really had no idea who I was talking to . . .

snoopy&woodstocksAlthough somewhat bemused by the incident it did make me stop and think about all the people in and around my life.  (Perhaps I really do know 200 people after all.)  Although I cannot claim to know many of these myriad acquaintances well (or even at all it seems in some cases) I do now realise that every one of them, no matter how ephemeral, has value to me.  They are part of the fabric that holds my day-to-day life together and my life would be a sadder and lonelier place without them.  For that alone I think perhaps they deserve more of my attention and consideration.

I’m going to work on that . . .

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘If you take my advice there’s nothing so nice, as messin’ about on the river . . .’ Tony Hatch/Les Reed.

Riverwalk-earlyI got to thinking when I was out on my early morning walk today (I do that sometimes—think.  Not often,  and hardly ever in the early morning, but sometimes . . . )  Anyway, I got to thinking how easy it is to forget, when you wake up to it every day, just how beautiful it is here where I live.

I have lived in North Haven (on the mid north coast of NSW) for around 13 years now.  I love it, but I do have to remind myself on occasion not to take it all too much for granted.

The Camden Haven (of which North Haven is just one small part) is blessed with a spectacular coastline and beaches, extensive waterways and lagoons, walking tracks and cycle paths aplenty, and abundant birdlife and native animals (all of which my Mabel, Maude or Molly have attempted to chase or catch at one time or another . . . )

north haven beachThe Camden Haven River runs, literally, past the end of my street.  When the girls and I go out for our early constitutional our biggest decision is whether to turn left and follow the breakwall alongside the river all the way down to North Haven Beach (that would be Maudie’s preference—Maudie just loves the beach) or whether to turn right and follow that same pathway in the other directionup towards the boat-ramp through the mangroves and then on towards town (which would, in truth, also suit Maudie as she has a special friend at the bakers we pass, who often saves a little fresh-baked treat for her).

mangrovesEither way, the walk, and the scenery is gorgeous and it’s a calm and pleasant way to start the day. (Unless the girls see a kangaroo . . .  which we quite often do.  In the early early morning kangaroos are usually heading back into the bush after sneaking into town during the night to feast on people’s lawns.  I can always tell when one has been in our street.  My sister’s dog (in England) likes to roll in fox pee—Mabel likes ‘roo poo’ and she is always the first to find it.) 

Living by the river seems to breed early risers.  No matter how early we are up there are always a few others out and about before us.  Just before dawn the fisherman have already set up in their favourite spots along the wall, rods and bait boxes at the ready.  Then there are the other early morning walkers, one or two joggers and cyclers, and, believe it or not, once we even came across a ‘mature’ lady happily hurtling along at full throttle on her son’s skateboard.  skateboard(I think she was a bit surprised, and abashed, to see anyone else out and about before 5.00am, but she explained that her son wouldn’t let her ‘have a go’ when he was around so she had taken matters into her own hands. Go girl!)  

And, of course, you can always tell if it’s going to a nice day, even before the sun is up, by the number of cars and boat trailers lined up haphazardly across the carpark as they wait their turn at the boat ramp. As you can imagine, with the river and the sea in such close proximity, being in and on, the water is a must. Well—for most people . . .

laurietonI freely admit that, although I am very fond of the riverI am not so fond as to actually go in it.  My mother always says we come from a family of ‘people watchers’ and she is dead right. I am not much of a joiner-in-er.  I am much more in my element sitting comfortably on the grassy riverbank, in the shade, with the dogs, watching the boats and tinnies streak up the river on their way out to the fishing grounds off-shore, or waving to the kayakers as they pass me, or giggling at the lone paddleboarder paddling valiantly against the tide for all he is worth—and getting absolutely nowhere. (Bless.)

dolphinAnd then there are the dolphins.  I could sit and watch the dolphins all day. They cruise up and down our river in little family pods with such regularity that sometimes I am actually surprised when someone comments on them being there.  It’s too easy to forget that not everyone gets to see such a fabulous sight nearly every single day.

pelicans (1)And if I get bored watching the people on the water (and wondering if they are wondering what is in the water beneath them) I can always watch the parrots and galahs squabbling, or the cockatoos feeding in the trees, or the myriad other waterbirds whose names I do not knowor, my favourites, the pelicans who gather in bustling, pushy crowds around the fish cleaning tables waiting for scraps thrown by the fishermen.

Perhaps I should do more of my thinking in the early morning.  When it is still calm and clear and the day’s bustle and noise has not yet taken over.  It’s easier to be mindful and grateful for things before the working day takes over.

So I am going to try and make an effort to just stop every now and then, and take a moment, and remind myself of just how lucky I am.  To be where I am.  To live where I live.  And I am going to try and keep reminding myself of it every single day . . .

north brother

 
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Posted by on June 3, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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