Saturday, December 31, 2016

December 31. Day 366. Off with a bang

The 8.30pm New Year's Eve fireworks at South Bank are labelled the kids fireworks designed so families with little ones can enjoy the display at an appropriate hour. Big people, such as myself, it is assumed are perfectly capable of staying up beyond midnight without going all Cinderella and turning into a pumpkin. Normally I can. Normally I do but not this year. Two weeks of sun, surf and sand is exhausting. Actually I lie. I'm feeling all zen and battling the crowds at midnight is a good way to ruin that and start the new year all stressed. No thank you. The kiddie fireworks will suit me just fine. I spend most of the year ruled by the clock but right now I don't need to be. I shall listen to my body and sleep when it says it's time to sleep. And I shall wake when my body says it's time to wake - or the dogs do, which ever comes sooner. So happy new year to all you party animals. I'll see you next year.

Friday, December 30, 2016

December 30. Day 365. On a high

"Take only photographs. Leave only footprints". These words or close variations are regularly seen at places of great natural beauty particularly national parks. In general it's pretty solid advise if you want to protect places you love and I have to say I have loved our stay at Currimundi Beach. I have taken photos - hundreds of them - and left a trail of footprints not to mention considerably more paw prints from my dogs. Yes there are two of them and yes they have four paws each but as they charge up and down the beach after the ball, each other or nothing in particular they out step me by a considerable margin. But I could not say those were my only impacts. I have left balls. Too many balls have been donated to the sand or the sea. They just disappear. Also, I have taken a small collection of shells and bucket loads of sand secreted in just about every skin fold and orifice. And I have taken with me so many happy memories of a truly memorable holiday- that and a lot of kilos. No-one can deny me that, surely.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

December 24. Day 364. Head over heels

Dear Gold Coast,
Because I am a warm, caring sharing type I'm about to offer you some priceless tourism advice - no strings attached. Get a pencil. Ready?
I shall use the approach I use when marking students' assignments. Start with something good and then tell them where they suck. So here goes. You have done ever so well at attracting high rises, high rollers, theme parks and drunken schoolies. Well done you. But you've put all your eggs in one basket - fun lovers with two legs. What you forget is that dogs love the beach too and many, many dogs live in families prepared to go to great lengths to enjoy a beach holiday with their fur babies. You have taken a very miserly approach to the amount of sand you allow dogs to run off leash and frankly it's turning people away. Indeed, I think you missed the take home message from the whole Johnny Depp, Amber Heard, Pistol and Boo controversy. What's that you ask? People, real people (and Hollywood celebrities) don't want to leave their dogs at home.
To a dog lover there is no greater joy than watching a dog frolic on the beach. Actually I lie. Watching two dogs frolicking together on the beach tops the single dog option.
Some of us may never be lured by your glitz and glamour but undoubtedly there's a large market share you are turning away. Take an afternoon stroll along one of the Sunshine Coast's popular dog beach locations and you'll see that I'm right.
You can thank me later.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

December 28. Day 363. The black sheep

 Some years back, my teenager was sitting in his high school classroom watching a documentary about an elite athlete. Her coach was interviewed, a bloke with the name Michael Hetherington. "That's my uncle," Drama Teen said and the class expressed total disbelief. There may be the same surname but a fit, tanned, sports professional could not possibly come from the same gene pool as my pasty white drama loving boy. And yet the musical theatre and novel hating Michael Hetherington is indeed my full biological brother, unless there was a hospital or milkman mix up. Weird things families. Those who doubted the relationship between uncle and nephew would have laughed out loud if they'd seen my boy and Michael's kids Jessie and Connor together. Those bronzed Aussie kids who joined us a the beach today are like chalk and cheese next to my son - until the games come out. When the Uno cards hit the table the same crazy competitive streak is there. You really can't judge a book by its cover (unless you are my brother who judges all novels as unworthy to be read. I must ask my mum again about the milkman ...).

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

December 27. Day 362. Flying high

Dog owners are either a) exceptionally polite or b) exceptionally stupid or c) both. As a Crazy Dog Lady I feel qualified to judge and as judge and jury I say a bit of column a and a bit of column b. I spend a lot of time on the beach throwing a ball. Almost inevitably it goes like this. Winkle chases the ball. Rumple chases Winkle. Some other dog rushes in and steals the ball. The owner of random dog apologies profusely for the canine thief. But here's the thing. The dog is trained to chase a ball. It's instinct. That instinct applies to balls. Period. By taking the ball, the dog is being a dog. If you don't accept that you should play ball at home. Dogs will be dogs and dog owners will be crazy. Canines are crazy too, in their own way. Winkle woke me up on the hour every hour last night to poo. She had clearly eaten something festering on the beach and had a dodgy tummy. But she refused to do her business on the fenced grass area near the house. She was demanding the freedom to wander further away for a private poo. I might be mad but even I refuse to wander the streets in the dead of night to indulge a secret sh*t obsession. Eventually she gave in to nature. After the sun was up, I gave into her and we all went down to the beach. The dogs did what the dogs needed to do. I did what a responsible dog owner has to to. The seagulls fed on fish and other dog owners apologized when their dogs stole my dogs' ball. We may be mad but there is method in our madness. Or madness in our method. Or both.

Monday, December 26, 2016

December 26. Day 361. Pretty in pink

 I have a friend who used to be able to board a long haul flight for an extended overseas stay with just carry on baggage. Indeed her bag probably weighed less than what I carry to work each day. She may even have packed less than is in my backpack when I walk the dogs. Travelling light is a super power not granted to mere mortals like myself.  Mind you my super hero packing friend found her kryptonite when she became a mother. I note that she is now almost in excess baggage territory. It kind of makes me smile. I was reminded of this today when friends from Brisbane travelled up to visit us for a day trip.  The amount of stuff they needed to keep a three-year-old fed, clothed and entertained would have filled a small shipping container (okay a small car but never let the truth get in the way of a good story.) I don't judge. As a heavy duty packer and one time mother of a small person I totally get it - but I sure don't miss it. As the person who did not have to pack a small mountain of pink clothing, I must say I am very glad my friends made the effort. There is something very special about the excited laughter of a small child playing on the beach. It brings out the child in all of us and that can not be a bad thing, especially if you get to wave goodbye to the machine load of dirty laundry heading back down the highway to Brisbane.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

December 25. Day 360. Jingle Bells

As a rule I spend Christmas at home in Brisbane. But with just about every rule there are exceptions. One year we dined in the BBC staff canteen at lunch on Christmas Day. Another year, when I was living in London with a group  of friends, we travelled to Scotland and I was in charge of cooking the turkey for the first time. As I recall, the night before I dreamt I stuffed the bird with my camera. Clearly the important business of Christmas catering played heavily on my mind. Since then I've been a happy little homebody. It's not as though I've broken my own rule this year - I just bent it a bit. Shenandoah,
 the beach house we are occupying, is only an hour from home which makes it perfect. Christmas is family time and here I can enjoy that. I can also enjoy that perfect combination of the beach with my fur family. That's just about as good as it gets. With no small children who are notorious Christmas day alarm clocks, I could have slept in. My furry children would have none of that. They ensured we hit the sand early which is just as well because then the storms blew in. And I went back to bed. Another of my favourite things. Clearly Santa decided I'd been a good girl this year and delivered me the Christmas present I wanted - Sandy Paws and sleep. Ho, ho, ho.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

December 24. Day 359. T'was the night before Christmas

T'was the night before Christmas and all through the house not a creature was stirring not even a mouse ... I mean, of course we weren't stirring. We weren't there. After a day of sand, sleep and shopping (not necessarily in that order) the human and fur family hit the highway for a Christmas Eve dinner at my brother's house in Aspley.  The champagne flowed, way too much food was consumed and Secret Santa spoils were delivered. Games were played, stories were told and my niece Cleo called in from Germany where she is on a school exchange visit this Christmas. And then we hit the road and were back at the Coast before we turned into pumpkins ready to party again tomorrow.

Friday, December 23, 2016

December 23. Day 358. Teaching an old(er) dog new tricks

It would rate as one of the most insanely amusing things I have ever seen. A vet, an engineer and a scholarship winning business student on the beach, on all fours teaching a golden retriever to dig in the sand. This is the type of priceless memory that makes holidays special. Out to sea, young Dan was giving us all a lesson in how surfing should be done and back at the house many lessons were being shared about what a Tinder profile should include! Teens these days. Winkle was learning about sharing. All week she's hogged the ball refusing when Rumple wanted to have a good old fashioned beach wrestle. But Roland the Retriever is just a bit bigger than the three kilogram little miss and could get to the ball far, far quicker. Now she was the one left standing. Rather than say "told you so" Rumple, always the gentleman, came to the party. And a good time was had by all.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

December 22. Day 357. Festive feasting

It's a tradition that goes back a decade. Perhaps more. We can't remember the exact year but when it started the kids were in primary school and drinking fruit juice or cordial. Now there were alcoholic beverages in most hands. A day or two before Christmas my family gathers with two of my very best friends and their families for a Christmas celebration. The venue rotates between houses and this year it was decided to take the whole thing on the road with the celebration moving to the Coast where we are staying. Normally it is the full hot baked dinner but this year, in keeping with the Coast theme, we went for seafood, salads, cold meats and trifle. Then there were games, Secret Santa and late night walks on the beach. Everyone ate too much, drank too much and felt very merry (and very, very full). And a good time was had by all. Ho, ho, ho. Yawn. Hic

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

December 21. Day 356. Heading for a fall

I should have taken up surfing. It is true that arguably I lack some of the more basic prerequisites of the sport. For instance most toddlers have more developed senses of balance and coordination than I do. Also while I love swimming in the sea, I have a fear of big waves and seriously hate getting dumped. That might be an issue. But here's where my skill set meets that of a surfer. I am spectacularly good at falling. I can fall over my feet on even ground when moving at a slow speed so on a board on the ocean I could turn falling into an Olympic class event. There would be the small technical problem that my chance of actually standing up in order to fall would be about nil but honestly details, details. I spent rather a lot of time watching surfers falling and contemplating their various techniques while on my morning walk with dogs along the beach this morning.  We spent a lot of time covering a small section of beach because Winkle found some bugs fascinating and ran around and around in circles chasing them. Rumple and I played fetch while she amused herself. We didn't get very far. Neither did any of the surfers but that didn't matter. What's important here is enjoying the ride and not where you end up - as long as that's not flat on your face in the sand. That's no fun for anyone. Even I know that.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

December 20. Day 355. Shadows of the past

I wrote Christmas cards today. Lots of cards. On so many of them I made promises to catch up next year, properly and in person. I mean to. I hope to. History will suggest it won't happen but while the past might be indicative of the future, it isn't locked in. I can do better. If I need any incentive, it should be found in the list of names and addresses from last year's card list. Many of those people are no longer with us. Too many. It's not been a good year for that. This is why I still send cards even when email, Facebook, Snapchat and texts are more the rage. It is a small thing but stopping, taking out a pen and writing a card and addressing those envelopes is a small thing I can do to keep connections to the past. And holidays are important too. Spending quality time with family may sound like something from a political policy speech or a ad for facial tissues but it is important.  And so is self time, happy time, time on the beach with dogs. Time when I relax and reflect. There was a lot of both today. This is as it should be.

Monday, December 19, 2016

December 19. Day 354. Calling the shots

 Those who believe there is no such thing as bad weather only poor clothing choices would not have a problem with the conditions today.
Those of us who booked to stay on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland the Sunshine State might have a case for false advertising.
I woke, looked out the window and decided the doona was a good option.
The dogs vetoed that decision. The only other people on the beach also had dogs. Dog people are crazy. We just are.
I was talking to one such crazy person when Winkle leaped at my hand to remind me that I hadn't thrown the ball in what she considered an appropriate amount of time.
I resumed the ball toss. Seriously those dogs have me very well trained. And I thought I took them to obedience classes. More fool me.
Still despite the fact it was blowing a gale it was worth getting out of bed for. And the smiling faces of two contented canines is all the reward this human needs.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

December 18. Day 353. Red sky in the morning

According to the saying red skies in the morning are not good. Warning. Warning. Warning. I guess sailors know more about these things than women with dogs and a camera. However I wouldn't have wanted to be out this afternoon when the storm hit. It was a bit wild out there. I know this because we were on the beach in the moments before the storm hit watching a large beach shade go flying and people scrambling for cover. At dawn, there was no sign of that and the popular talk of those who got out of bed at stupid o'clock was that the red sky was due to the fires around the place. The smell of smoke hung in the air.
The dogs were, as always, in their happy place caring not at all about the weather. All they wanted was to run, jump, swim and chase a ball.
I wore them out or vice versa and we were back in bed asleep long before the rest of the family stirred.
That's what holidays are for sleeping and beaching.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

December 17. Day 352. Making a splash

This is why I work all year - so I can go to the beach in summer. We love the beach (and by we I mean the dogs and I). To be fair the human members of the family love the beach too but not as much as the dogs and I. It is our happy place. Generally speaking we stay at home at Christmas but this holiday is a fluke of nature. In recent years, our holidays have been on the northern end of the Sunshine Coast. But earlier this year I was invited by my niece to watch her play Larcrosse at Caloundra. As I never turn my back on the opportunity for a weekend at the beach, I came along. It was an eye opener. I discovered a whole new section of dog beach and not only that I saw a sign on a house right on the beach saying dogs were welcome. I contacted them and there had been a cancellation for two weeks over Christmas. Fate. Fate I tell you. I snapped it up. So here we are. Happy little Vegemites.

Friday, December 16, 2016

December 16. Day 351. Ho. Ho Ho

I love Christmas. My home is certified Grinch and Bah Hum Bug free. In fact, despite the fact that it is hot, hot, hot at Christmas we still believe in a turkey, stuffing, roast vegetables and all the trimmings for Christmas. It's essential. But a little bit of me dies inside when I walk through shopping centres and hear about Frosty the Snowman or Good King Wenceslas looking out on the snow that it deep and crisp and even. Even the Band Aid Do They Know It's Christmas? strikes me down with a cultural cringe. No, there won't be snow in Africa this Christmas. It's Africa for God's sake. And no, they probably don't know it's Christmas because many, many of them are not Christians. Christmas is a Christian feast not a European thing so why do we have to have snow, reindeer or mistletoe? Six White Boomers can not be the only alternative.
This is why I was just a bit excited to see the Christmas light extravaganza in King George Square tonight. Last year, it was all sugar plum fairies. This year, the Christmas story was Centre on native Australian animals proving that we have enough colourful creatures of our own without putting red noses on reindeer.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

December 15. Day 350. What a hoot

There's a tree at the bottom of the our garden favoured by owls. I know this because of an occasional sighting and because nothing turns my calm canines into crazed canines quite like native wildlife. The possums and the lizards also incite similar responses. My friend Christy also has a doggie dobber ready, willing and able to locate and report owl sightings. And when Charlie tells Christy there are owls in the garden, she tells me. That's just the sort of friend a girl with a camera needs. I have photographed owls in Christy's back yard before. But here's the thing. It's not the same back yard. She's moved several suburbs across town since the last owl photography session. Seriously, what are the chances? Perhaps there are owls in most leafy trees in Brisbane but it takes an observant dog to locate them. It's possible but this family was doing nothing to conceal itself. They were in fairly low branches and not at all worried about the human activity - or the dog for that matter. Which is quite a hoot when you so enjoy a good nature photography session.