It begins

 

20/09/2016

It begins – (and after being sent to automatic passport check – waiting in line, watching the circle go round and round and round and ….. Get sent to normal queue – at the back and the whole process done again – manually 😂😂😂)
Let’s hope this isn’t an indication of what’s to come 😜😜.

And that was the easy bit 😂😂😂
You understand I am very organised – I even have one of those body hug things you keep your passport in – but not to be used yet ( why not I now ask myself)
Cause suddenly I cannot find my passport!!!! Visions of a trip home tonight instead of two months time !!!!
Sweaty stressed and out of breath I end up at the gate to find it waiting there for me – it just didn’t dawdle along with me; it went straight to the gate – no one knows how but it and I have been happily reunited 😂😂😀😂👍🏻👍🏻 and I shall shortly be putting it in that body hug thing 👍🏻👍🏻 – the end
– I am safely in my seat on the correct flight with my passport safely tucked away 💤

 

 

Trains and tears….

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Melbourne, weep.

A city as sophisticated and elegant as Melbourne Still does not have transport from its airports into the city.

Here I am, on a Friday evening in third world Africa, saying good-bye to my ‘baby’  Jessica, at the main Oliver Tambo Airport.    Painless the travel was, 30 minutes from home to airport, and when I was ready to go back, 35 minutes from airport to my front door

There is a distance of 33km, as the crow flies, from Sandton, where we ‘live’ to the airport. This can take more than an hour on the freeway, and longer if there is a traffic hiccup, which of course sounds quite familiar to my Melbourne ‘family’.

Except there is

The train;

the Gautrain.

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Conceived in 2000 and completed in 2010 (imagine Melbourne thinking that far ahead!!).   I visited during the construction and there was disruption, no denying that.   In some of the busiest parts of the city  where large, sophisticated stations were built.

Big disruptions.

And we quietly muttered and grumbled and navigated our way around construction sites where there should have been roads.

And it cost heaps, estimated at SAR 3.5bill it ended up costing in excess of SAR25bill.

And it created jobs – heaps of them; more than 120 000 jobs and 15 000 courses for unskilled and management were made available.

It has 80km of dual railway line, 30km of tunnels and includes ten new stations.  11km of new bridges.

Other interesting trivia is that it involved about seven and a half million cubic meters of spoil [ph] and the tender papers took 7 hours to deliver and took up 18.5cu metres!!!!

A really a massive project –

As I said, Melbourne,

a big commitment.

But oh, does it work.   For a fair cost, one can park in the parking provided (and there is enough) get on a spotless, quiet train that leaves every 12 minutes and takes less than 20 minutes to deliver you right to the airport.

Why, oh why can a cities like Johannesburg and Pretoria plan and work together to create a state of the art commuter system to their major airport and Melbourne has a gridlock drive, hugely expensive parking and slow unreliable buses into the city and then perhaps if you lucky into the suburbs.

Melbourne weep.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Flemington

 

When the weather is kind to us, Flemington is a joy.

And without the crowds (120 000+)that assemble for the ‘big races’ it has a charm that makes a day at the races a treat to be savoured.

 

Dressed in our finery, we drive through the gates like royalty, being waved through because we have all the ‘right’ stickers; a privilege bestowed upon members at this exclusive racing club.    That Kate has a horse racing today is an added bonus.

We walk along the path marked with every Melbourne Cup winner and year beginning with the first race run here in 1861!!!!!   This in itself was fascinating, and never possible on the big race days because there are so many people there.   Today, though, we had the walk to ourselves and could read at our leisure, Makybe Diva (2003, 2004, 2005), Zulu (1881), Russia (1946).   I wonder at horses’ names; like “Neville left me” – does the horse care I ask myself.

img_5708img_5709 The roses are no longer out and still the grounds are beautiful, groomed and nurtured with such loving care, they could almost be horses.

Because these horses are treated like Royalty.

They are so loved and nurtured and cared for that I wonder if those who say this is a cruel sport have ever been to the stables, or been involved with horses in any way.   Have they ever seen how the strappers, and jockeys and trainers and owners Know their animals.    Every sign, quirk, like, dislike and know instantly if the horse is unwell or unhappy.

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And we move into the members rooms : food, drink, elegant (and not so elegant) people, banks of TVs with races being televised from all over the country, Flemington is not enough, there is Randwick and Adelaide and Brisbane and Bendigo and and….

Heads down pouring over form books, so many seem to know exactly what they are doing.

Me?

Do I know what I am doing; of course not.

Does that spoil the day for me; of course not.

I people watch, and eavesdrop and love every minute of it.

And after they have poured over the form, they place their bets (or not, depending on what the form ‘tells’ them.   And I watch them reap the rewards of this study.   Sometimes handsome, sometimes lean.    And then I discover that they chose their horses because today they were picking ‘French names’ or ‘colours’ or ‘countries’ and I suppose that too, is a ‘form’.   With equal chance of success 🙂 🙂

 

 

Race 3:   That’s ‘our race’ and now even I look at the form book and open my wallet. It is so exciting to go into the mounting yard, hear the trainer and jockey and owners talk strategy;

the track is a 2 (a 2? what’s that mean – good.  Good But hard.   There’s a But to Good?   Apparently so)

stick to the inside;

swing out; hold back; let go.

Everyone listens intently nodding; me I listen, but of course I cannot nod – what do I know 🙂 🙂

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Mounting yard

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Tavi Bay
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Michelle Payne – our jockey

It is so exciting to have a vested interest in the race – even if ‘by proxy’.   But while Tavi Bay won at The Oaks, today is not her day.

We gather in the owners lounge, eat our sandwiches and drink our champagne as the race is rerun on the banks of TV, not once, twice, no about twenty times.   And everyone  watches it – again and again.

Are they hoping the result may change if they watch often enough; studying the form; seeking how they could have run it differently, or dreaming of what could have been?   The post mortem continues; the track was too hard; it didn’t give everyone equal opportunity; why didn’t they water it; if we hand’t run last week….

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Post mortem

The views are amazing, the skyline stunning, the staff courteous, the food good, the horses beautiful and the results always unpredictable.

Thank you Kate for the such a special Day at the Races.

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I was Wondering….. if by A Simple Twist of Fate

I was wondering…….If by a Simple Twist of Fate, 

I was her instead of me.   

asimpletwistbokAnd I was born to drug addicted parents,

Not by choice, you understand, none of us have a say in our birth.

Just by

A Simple Twist of Fate

And I was wondering, what my life would be like, if by

that Simple Twist of Fate

I survived that first year or two, or even three.  

childYears, of neglect;

nappies not changed,

random feeding,

occasional washing,

And even more rare, moments of affection.

I was wondering if I was her instead of me

By that Simple Twist of Fate.drug

Would I have survived having my body sold ‘on the street’

By my parents to feed their addiction.

I was wondering if I was her instead of me,

Would I too have drowned my pain in the only escape

I knew – the same one they used to drown their demons.

By that Simple Twist of Fate if  I was her instead of me.

Would I have her strength, feel her pain, know her fear,

Sense her isolation as she crawls through her adolescence,

Not free of her childhood and yet with no childhood,me

With no ground beneath her feet,

With no one there  for her

With everyone there to take from her;

From her body, from her soul.

A Simple Twist of Fate  puts her and not me

Behind bars;    

handsThat fate of birth;

That fate of opportunity;

That fate of nurturing;

That fate of belief;

That fate of security.

That fate of birth

And if I was her instead of me, I was just wondering, would I harden my soul against the world as I sat for seven years, contemplating the Simple Twist of Fate and faced my

‘Rehabilitation’.

I was just wondering, if I was her instead of me,

would I emerge bitter and fuelled with anger or would I, if I were her instead of me,

emerge like her, with hope despite the pain or rejection by her family ,

with thoughts to a future in spite of her past,

with humility and wisdom despite no ‘schooling’

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I was just wondering, if,

by a Simple Twist of Fate

I was her instead of me, if I could now,

Speak of the pain of the past

Speak of the rejection of the present

Speak of the hope for the future

As my friend does.    

My friend, who instead of me by that Simple Twist of Fate

Walked a journey so different to mine, and not because she, when she was young decided:

“When I grow up I want to live on the streets, be an addict and end up ‘inside’

Rather because of that Simple Twist of Fate.friends

My friend,

Did her time for her crime

And finds now, in my world,

That the time for her crime is eternal.

That women pull their handbags closer to their bodies when they learn about her past.

That no one will give her a job.

That accommodation is almost impossible to find.

That she may not volunteer.

That men assume her body is for sale.

That my world sees her as a curiosity, always an outsider, never to be trusted.

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That the only place she feels welcome is the place of her past; the place that will put her back

Where she started life;  by a Simple Twist of Fate.

By that Simple Twist of Fate,  I am me, not her.   

And I wonder if it is I who needs the rehabilitation.   

The courage and grace to forgive the crime, served by time.

To practice what I ‘preach’: the belief that everyone Really Does Deserve a Second Chance.

And then the strength to live by that code;

To believe it; to work it; to support it;

For surely I know that if she were me, by that Simple Twist of Fate,

She would offer the hand of grace;images

For she, not me, by

That Simple Twist of Fate

Has walked a road of pain so great, that she, not me,

Is filled with love for her fellow man,

Not because they are wealthy,

Not because they are smart,

Not because they are clean, have teeth, combed hair,

But because they are Human;

Almost always doing the best they can with where they are at;

Because of  that Simple Twist of Fate.

I was just wondering…………

A Simple Twist of Fate – Joan Baez

Horses, stars and me

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It is a long time since I rode a horse, and even then it could be debated whether I rode the horse, or the horse carried me around.   I have done a few trails, in Lesotho, when the weather changed everything and the Mountain Club had to rescue us 🙂   a trail in a private game reserve in the Low veld where one rider fell and broke her arm; one short (very short) trail round this sphinx and pyramids in Cairo, on Arab stallions (so they so much smaller than I anticipated – thankfully) which was thrilling, frightening and left me black and blue for several long painful days 😦

These were some forty years ago –

which as I said, makes it a long time since I rode a horse 🙂

It is also a long time since I wanted to ride a horse!!!

One of the benefits of getting to the age of maturity (others use the word old) is that the short term memory fails one; so I cannot remember whether I decided faint hearted (see blog: ‘me, faint hearted?Me – Faint Hearted?) was a term I applied to myself, or in fact one I did not use to describe myself.

Which is probably just as well, because I had a glorious day today; even if I find myself ready for bed before the sun is!!!!

You see I received a very generous birthday present a year or so ago – a gift voucher for a horse trail ride with Hepburn Lagoon Trails.   This sat in a drawer waiting for me until, it would appear the stars aligned, and I received through the ether – sometimes I have no idea how things ‘find me’ – an email about a horse trail in Mongolia.    Now wouldn’t you, too, be tempted?   Well, one thing led to another and I found myself driving across Melbourne, roadworks notwithstanding, to finally arrive at a little bit of paradise.img_6356-copy

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Keiran is just the kindest, may I say sweetest person – patient, encouraging, friendly, confident and clearly competent with great horses.   With, minimal formality (ready paperwork) we were helmeted, booted and allocated ponies.   Some instructions and we were off.

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I will not pretend, I was apprehensive,  and wondered again why I hadn’t put ‘novice’ down on the form instead of beginner – the alternatives; intermediate or advanced were easy to decide on.    Keiran had us all trotting after a few minutes; reminding me that I should not double bounce on the saddle (did he really believe that banging my nether regions around like that was by choice 😂😜)  and it didn’t take long for me to find a more comfortable rhythm.

It is almost impossible to describe the feeling of riding through bush, the breeze through the grass, the light playing patterns with the trees, the sound of the horses, the views offered by the extra height of being on horseback.   I love walking, but this is different; this huge animal and me; for those few hours joined, trotting, cantering, walking, just ‘being’ – there is conversation between ourselves, and there is silence as we absorb a silence – that of the bush.   The bell birds, kookaburra, wedge tailed eagles being swooped by magpies, rosellas.   Fields of oats, cattle looking at us, horses calling from far off paddocks.

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And then it was over; and we had to ‘get down’ and feel our legs again. !

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Always a post mortem; sharing, eating, drinking – ‘all’s well with the world’ kinda feeling

I shall let you know in the  morning how these old bones feel, but for tonight, I shall sleep well with memories of a glorious day –  Mongolia still calls, but reality may leave a stronger calling card tomorrow.

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Melbourne: a city that never disappoints

“Come with us into the city, Mum.   We will only  be a few hours.”

And so I did.

And as always, the city did not disappoint.

The weather was perfect, the city felt loved, cosseted as it was by people, hundreds and hundreds of them.   All shapes, all sizes, all codes of dress, all languages, all coming or going.   Horses, bikes, cars, dogs, picnics, music, headphones, cameras, selfie sticks, iphones, a happy form of chaos.

We could chose from tennis, cricket, soccer or concerts – a smorgasbord.

For us, a free Missy Higgins concert – a treat for all.

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A lazy afternoon
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Missy Higgins – she was Great
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‘Us girls’

Such a privilege to live in this city.

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Looking across the Yarra River from Birrarung Marr

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Just because..
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I liked the light
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A walk along St Kilda Road
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always beautiful
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manicured
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and changing
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laid out elegantly
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Beautiful pottery blooms

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my favourite building
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The Australian Open
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creates a buzz

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 Melbourne sparkles still

“Come with us to the beach, Mum.

We will only  be a few hours.”

And so I did.

That lazy January month when the days seem to last forever;

a full day’s work

and still time to go to the beach,

and then sit and watch tennis;

such was today.

Enjoy with me.

 

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Melbourne sparkles despite…

…the greyness of this Saturday morning.

The cold and wet feels somehow appropriate, following the carnage of last night in our city.  Such madness has no easy explanation and the city collectively ‘stood still’ to absorb and process.

And then carries on, as it must, with ‘life as usual’

although of course for many, that will never be.

“Come to the tennis Mum”

“It will be long.”

And so I did and it was…

Cool and wet, we park at Gardiner, a newly renovated train station with some interesting artwork (although the renovation leaves some question marks).   As always a train ride into the city is an adventure.   This time, most passengers are on their way to the tennis; hats, backpacks, suncream, umbrellas, jackets (this is Melbourne after all 🙂  and the excitement and anticipation is tangible.

Flinders Station is always a lovely spot to alight and as we emerge from the ‘old lady’ we are greeted with a city ‘on fire’ – people everywhere, buskers, beggars, tourists, locals, volunteers in highly visible blue uniforms, police, cyclists, horse carriages, families, : just ‘Life’.

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A wander down Birrarrung Way reveals a wonderland of games, buskers, views, people. The girls keep chasing me cause I want to dawdle and sample and savour this space.

We stand in line waiting for the gates to open to allow us into the tennis precinct.  ‘Friends’ whom we have never met before share thoughts on the weather, yesterday’s tragedy, the tennis, our favourite player, what tickets we have;  some have Rod Laver and/or Margaret Court tickets (fancy tickets); some – (that’s us), have Ground Passes (unfancy 🙂  We banter and joke and enjoy a coffee from a ‘walking kettle’ – a Lavazza man who carries some contraption on his back that pours out hot water, like a they would siphon soda into your glass in a pub.

The gates open.

And with that, the clouds, wind and drizzle fade and Melbourne produces a perfect day.

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With our ground passes we can visit all the outside courts and the Hisense Arena.

We do.   Although  we could in fact spend 8 hours here and not watch a single game of tennis, there is so much else to see and do.    We can test our serve speed; have a massage; get our nails done; buy a whole new wardrobe;  or a new car, a Rolex watch;  we can have a coffee ($5+ or a beer $10); visit any number of ‘countries’ to eat, or just sit and people watch.   My favourite.   There is also a Huge section for younger people, fields of Lego, climbing equipment, tennis games – I didn’t have time to explore 😦

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But we do watch tennis, lots of it.

We see Jennifer Brady play a Russian lady (is it just me that has trouble with their names?   They are long, all similar and the women too, are long, similar, (blonde and gorgeous) and vocal.)   We sit at outside courts, we watch singles, doubles, fun doubles and more singles indoors at Hisense Arena.

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And then there’s ROGER FEDERER.

I hear he is practising at 3.30pm on Court 17.   So at 2pm I find court 17 and at least two hundred people already waiting to see him.   I am so lucky that a couple right up at the glass backing of the court, invite me to squeeze in with them.  And squeeze I do.   We are like sardines in a tin.   We were also friends, although none of us have met before.   Our admiration for Roger makes us instant comrades and the hour and a half passes pleasantly as we share memories, matches, stories (some of my new friends have been standing here since 12 noon waiting – they saw Andy Murray come and go, a Russian lady with a long name, and some others whose names I have forgotten.)   Some have tickets for the full two weeks.   Some know every player, (almost), their stats, their history, their parents, favourite colour, meal, you name it, they know it!!!!

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with his fans (look beyond the blue security guard)
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the maestro
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Two very large young men dressed in heavy blue clothes (it is a very hot day now) arrive on court and we know the ‘time is near’.   Photographers arrive, TV crews are here with all their paraphernalia and then Roger himself.

Carrying a small tennis bag talking to his coach.   His is accompanied by one other person, Seppi and Seppi’s coach (who has a smile like an elf which doesn’t leave his face all afternoon).   They all ‘hang around the net’ and chat amiably, clearly old friends and finally move onto the court.  He is larger and more powerful than he appears on TV.

It is not possible to describe the grace, fluidity and elegance of his game.   He practised serves, – lots of them;  then backhands, – lots of them; then volley’s.  Yes you get the idea, lots of them too.  He and Seppi trade shots, laugh, talk and continue to play.   And then quite suddenly they stop, sit down, have a drink, chat some more and then Roger moves across to the fans.

He signs balls, he signs hats, he signs paper, arms, t shirts, hands.   He smiles for photographs, he spends more time with his fans than he did practising.   With the same grace, fluidity and elegance.   He is a most unusual man.

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the sardines 🙂

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the maestro

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with his fans (look beyond the blue security guard)
And then he is gone and we look at one another, smile and sigh;  content.  We swap numbers and promise to share our photographs and now we all go our separate ways.  I have new friends whom I will in all probability never meet again, but am linked to forever by this special time.

The rest of the day is spent in the cool of Hisense Arena.   Hingis in doubles.   Henri Leconte and his friends, including the ball boys in a delightful interlude – not sure who actually won that.   And Milos Raonic/Gille Simon.   Raonic wins and we leave the arena and walk out to a perfect evening.

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The skyline silhouetted against the last rays of what has been a glorious day.   We wander back to the station and home.

To watch more tennis on free to air TV.

I love my city.

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Parks

I have been taking advantage of Melbourne’s glorious weather, my free time and the parks that are local to our home.

It all started when I started to measure the distance of our walks, our jalks (something between a walk and a jog) and on occasion, our jogs.   This meant I had to carry my phone (on which is the MapMyWalk app).    It also meant I had a camera on hand, albeit an iphone point and press type of camera.

From those beginnings, some meanderings emerged.   I hope you enjoy the indulgence of sky, fields, my ‘friend’ and the privilege of time.   Join me either through these ‘roamings’ or by creating your own.

Today, we, that is my ‘friend’, one of my two ‘babies’ ♥ and I drove 20 minutes from our home to Sassafras and found  a garden of Eden.

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We found the start
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Although there appeared to be some doubt about the route
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But trusting always,
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they set off
A little cool and misty in the early morning
We had the ‘world’ to ourselves

As the sun came through, it warmed up
there were ‘dark’ patches

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and glorious bright patches

There is always an adventure to be had when you go with my ‘friend’
Of course we had to go ‘up’ again 🙂

 

up and up
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the occasional interlude
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to cool off
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Then we waited will some got coffee
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and sat and drank it in the sun