Anzac Day at Home

Watching the Anzac Day dawn service on TV

Back in 1919 the observance of Anzac Day was held in quarantine. Here we are in 2020 and the same conditions prevail. But the Anzac spirit lives on and is remembered.

On the TV we watched the laying of the wreaths in the Canberra War Memorial. I suddenly remembered how, in my childhood, I would be sent out in the morning of the day before Anzac Day to gather bracken, often wet from the morning dew or an overnight shower. My mother would often accompany me, showing me how to get the longest stems. Back at our long table on the enclosed veranda, I would help my mother bind the stiff, leafy bracken into the circle of a wreath. Then large, glossy leaves would be wired and fastened deep into the bracken wreath, layered and overlapped like scales on a dragon. Wreaths today are on polystyrene circles, pristine and white. I miss the organic nature of my mother’s wreaths, which could decay into the soil, somehow appropriate.

The Last Post
Driveway remembrance. Jeff wears his own service medal, his father’s and two great-uncles.
Our son is in his own uniform.

We gathered in the pre-dawn, each in our driveways. We had our portable radio. Neighbours over the road turned on the service on their car radio. We waved to one another across the division of the bitumen between us.

This year we observe Anzac Day where we are, at home

The minute’s silence was accompanied by the sounds of birds waking for the day. Kookaburras called to one another. Reveille!

In 1919 it was the Spanish flu. In 2020 it’s Covid-19. How will we be celebrating Anzac Day in 2121?

Anzac Day With a Difference!

When you’re living in lockdown, one day merges into another. We only go out for grocery shopping, for work, for medical appointments and for exercise. Even medical appointments are increasingly being done by phone or video link. When we do go out, we combine trips and get as much done as possible. At home we’re renovating, gardening, cleaning, cooking, working from home. Even the burglar is having to kick in his own door as he also works from home…

We share jokes and, despite isolation, we are connecting as never before by phone, via social media and the new hero on the block, Zoom.

With the pandemic shutdowns and the need for us to remain apart from one another, so much has changed. Big events have been shut down. The Royal Easter Show in Sydney was cancelled, which is a huge thing. Various large open air festivals were cancelled. Vivid Sydney is cancelled. Our choir was to perform at Ironfest in Lithgow — yep, cancelled. Our Writers Unleashed writers festival in August — we pulled the plug on that, too. Monthly open air markets — yep, you guessed it. The child is bored and bound by our gates. She has tidied her room and helped with the gardening. What next? Time to get crafting.

Painting Flanders poppies made from cardboard egg cartons.

With Easter cancelled (and Orthodox Easter the following weekend) it all seems eerily quiet. Even ramadan, beginning today, will be quiet and celebrated apart. We drive (when we must) through empty streets, we wear home-made fabric face masks at the shops.

But Anzac Day — what will we do?

A blurry pic of a previous Anzac Day, people gathering for the pre-dawn memorial. Not this year…

Every year since 1916, there has been a celebration of sorts of Anzac Day. Other countries are also involved every year. At Gallipoli, the peninsula on the Dardanelles in Turkey where the Anzacs first landed on 25 April 1915, our former enemies the Turks are now allies in celebrating not just the Anzac spirit, but the hope that the ‘war to end all wars’ will never be forgotten, never to be repeated. In France they remember the Anzac spirit, often every day in some places. This year we will miss this, around the world people are staying home for their own safety, and that of their communities.

The last time the Anzac Day marches did not go ahead was during the Spanish flu pandemic of 1919.

So far, 2020 is shaping up as the year of cancellations. But not Anzac Day.

True, the marches aren’t happening. We will not have the crowds lining the streets to watch the returned servicemen march past. When I first watched this on TV, there were still WWI veterans marching. Now there are so few WWII veterans left that for those remaining, 2020 could be their final year.

But there will still be the televised Dawn Service from the Australian War Memorial. And we are still celebrating in our own way.

Cardboard poppies for Anzac Day.

Tomorrow morning at sunrise, many Australians will go to the end of their driveway to observe the minutes’ silence. Those in the community who play the bugle or trumpet ‘tolerably well’ have been encouraged, by Australia’s most famous trumpeter James Morrison, to stand at the end of their driveway and play the Last Post.

We got the child making Flanders poppies from egg cartons. It was a family effort. This afternoon we put them on our front fence.

Our memorial fence.
‘Remember today… for it is the beginning of always.’ We will remember always.

Whether we get out to the end of the driveway for the minutes’ remembrance, or watch the War Memorial coverage on TV, we are sure we will hear our village bugler as the sun rises over our ocean.

Nobody will sleep in this Anzac Day!

‘Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread’

It’s Easter Sunday, but not like any previous one. Churches are closed, families are staying home, our village is isolated. The rules over personal distance are prompted by fear of the pandemic of COVID-19.

It’s been three weeks since we kept the child home from school. Four weeks since social isolation was first brought in as something we should be practicing. We’re only allowed to drive anywhere for essential reasons. We can still exercise, but close to home if possible.

After three weeks of sitting on my duff, I’m feeling like I’m taking root. So when an opportunity comes up for an essential morning drive, I grab the chance.

An early start to the day. Another sunrise by the sea.

My son regularly collects a supply of fresh-baked bread from a baker at a nearby town, and brings it home to the village store. He needs my help today because the Easter bread delivery is too large to fit in one car. He will take his car, I take mine. Together we can do this. It’s essential travel. But I feel like a kid let out of school.

As so often when I drive, my mind composes text. I write. Often it is dealing with issues that are on my mind at that time. Thoughts and ideas stimulated by the experience of the travel.

I have been dealing with a dilemma for some months now. The details are not important here. Let’s just say that I was raised to be truthful and open, and sometimes that is not welcomed. I have choices to make in my life — do I continue with what I believe, or do I compromise and retain relationships with people I have valued? Let’s just say it is something which is taking time to think about, and needing space.

At home, there is no space. But out under the open sky, I can think. I can see perspective.

It’s peaceful here, a good place to think.

As I drive over the river, little tendrils of mist rising in the early morning sun, I think of the man who died late last night. There is nothing like death to bring one’s problems back into perspective. The man’s death was not connected to the pandemic, and I barely knew him. But his wife is a close friend and she is in pain today. His funeral will be small, by current laws. Grief is harder to resolve when circumstances prevent. What are my concerns compared to hers?

I want to go to my friend, to give her a hug, but as with the socially distanced funeral I attended three weeks ago, resolving grief is hampered by distance.

At this difficult time, deaths around the world have passed 100,000. They are digging mass graves in New York. It is so impersonal, so difficult to consider the individual stories in all this. But my friend is grieving. It awakens deep grief in all of us. Hers is one very personal story.

But this morning, I am free. Free to think. For an hour, I can drive through the forests, across the rivers, enjoy the sunshine and the sparkle of early morning light on the water. As I drive I marvel at the way the sky overhead is an eggshell blue, fading paler to the horizon, stained pale apricot by the early sun. I want to stop, to take out paints, easel and canvas to capture this light. But I am not a skilled painter. My talents lie elsewhere. And plein-air painting is not considered essential.

My dilemma comes to mind again. In all this openness and light, it seems such a small thing to be holding me back. And in a global perspective, my concerns are insignificant. Old memories flash through my mind as I drive. My aunt telling me earnestly, ‘Never forget this, my child, “to thine own self be true”.’ I did not fully understand it at the time, but I realise now that I try to live it. Later study gave me the source — Polonius, in Hamlet, offering tedious advice to his son. I realise that my own drive for honesty and openness bores people. But hey, this is me. I love the light, it is an important part of me.

The first sparkle off the sea. We need our openness and light.

We arrive at the bakery with nowhere to park. I double-park, hazard lights flashing, while my car is filled with warm, fresh bread.

Once loaded, it’s time to go. I convoy with my son, both our cars filled with bags of bread rolls and trays of hot cross buns for Easter Sunday. I am surrounded by the spicy, yeasty, warm fragrance as we begin the trip home.

Our daily bread. Our basic requirements.

We cannot go back the way we came. The route today is one-way only, due to the road closures in this crisis. We drive past the first road block without trying to go through it. We have to find another way. As with life, we cannot go back to make changes.

Roadblock. We can only continue if we have a right to be here.
My son ahead vouched for me too, so we both could continue together.

At the next highway exit, the road is also blocked but we are allowed through. We are going home, and we are delivering the daily bread.

Driving through the forest, I see the mist from this part of the river catching the rays of early sunlight in fingers of light between the trees. I feel touched by the beauty of it all, in all the worry of our daily lives.

It is tranquil. There are times when I feel my life is a hot mess, with daily worries, stresses and tasks not completed. I long to be able to travel again, to explore the world, but it will not be possible for a long time.

As we reach the crest of the hill, I can see the ocean. How could I ever capture that intense spread of pale orange light, splashed across the crinkled sea? The horizon still wears its thread of apricot, fading and blending into the eggshell blue.

On this drive I have pulled over at times briefly to take a fast snapshot. These photos do not do justice to the experience. As I roll down the car window, the peace floods in. I hear nothing but faint birdsong and the rustle of nearby trees in the light morning breeze. I smell the damp earth, the petrichor, from the early morning dew.

But there is no time to linger. This is an essential journey. I have to deliver the bread.

The morning bread delivered. Plenty of hot cross buns!

My life is challenging, but others have it far worse. I have unresolved concerns, but my mind is slowly sorting through them and I have faith that it will, as usual, present me with a solution when it is ready. I feel pain for myself, for others and for the world in general. But as I drive back into the village, the hymn plays over and over in my head.

‘When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul.’

Still warm from the oven — and my spirit is lifted.

Happy Easter, everybody! Χριστός ἀνέστη!

The Social Distance Funeral

I was volunteering at what turned out to be the last face-to-face outing for some local elderly people when the phone call came in. My old friend Al had died. Not from Covid-19, he had been well and active. He had been found in his armchair after returning from his usual Sunday bike ride. A heart attack, we were later told. A quick, peaceful end for someone actively involved in his community. Al was 81.

He had lived in our village until about 18 months previously, when his family circumstances changed. He always loved being near the sea and in his new home, he could walk along the shoreline and feel at peace. A gentle, quiet man.

On the Friday two days before Al died, our Prime Minister announced new guidelines to the country — from Monday, outdoor gatherings would be limited to 500 people, indoor ones limited to 100. Not compulsory, just a recommendation.

On the Monday, however, after football matches had gone ahead with crowds of spectators and an especially large international church gathering had taken place (the church run by a friend of the Prime Minister) the proposed guidelines came in and were immediately made mandatory. Added restrictions on social distancing would be factored in so in many cases, the indoor limit of 100 was not going to be possible.

I spoke to the management staff of a nearby club. This is an entertainment venue in our country where meetings can be held formally or informally; receptions, conferences and classes. They also have gaming machines (a source of revenue) a couple of licensed restaurants and a bar. They were allowed to have a maximum of 100 in each room, but they had to allow four square metres per person. This meant some of the smaller rooms were limited to only twenty patrons.

I had a meeting at that club, the day before Al’s funeral. With four of us in the meeting, we had no difficulty with social distancing. Up in the restaurant where we took a break halfway, the usually bustling place was empty. We were outnumbered by the staff. When we left a few hours later, it was at a time when people would normally be gathering for dinner. We were the only customers in the place.

In the club. The customer at the counter was someone I’d come to meet. Social distancing between empty tables.
The clubs were all closed by the government two days later.

We drove to the funeral, unable to socially distance in the car so friends drove in separate cars. My husband and I planned to arrive early, so we could go in to the chapel even briefly. We expected there to be issues with social distancing. At a funeral we want to hug one another, to offer comfort or receive it in return. But here, no touching.

When we arrived, the TV news was there, filming. We had been warned. They were very respectful and paused to let us go inside.

Inside we could see that the pews had been marked with a gaff tape X on the seats to indicate where we had to sit. The pews were alternated; two Xs in this pew, one X in the next. Two after that. The pews with two Xs had seats at opposite ends. The single X was in the middle. So we sat, checkerboard fashion. This way, the small chapel could accommodate just over thirty people.

The chapel at the coast. A beautiful day. He’d have loved it.

Many of Al’s family were not permitted to travel for either health reasons or distance. They had sent their own messages which were read out. The funeral was being live-streamed with the link available for several weeks.

I wanted to reach out, to squeeze my husband’s hand, to touch the shoulder of my friend Mary who sat alone in the pew directly in front. No comfort permitted.

We listened to Al’s favourite music, we watched the slide show reflecting our lives intertwined. The minister of Al’s new church spoke. Family gave the eulogy. Someone read that wonderful passage from Ecclesiastes 3: 1-22, To everything there is a season and a time to every purpose under the heavens.

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. And a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing. How true. (Quotes taken from King James Version (KJV)

The chapel window looked out over the sea. I remembered when Mary and I had walked around the chapel with Al while he pointed out his favourite spot for a morning swim. He’d showed us where he went to community classes. We’d had a cup of coffee at the nearby cafe, sitting at a table in the sunshine with many other people sitting nearby. He missed our village but had made a new life for himself.

The sea after a storm. A place of peace.

Outside the chapel after the funeral we did elbow bumps or fist bumps, somehow seeming too light-hearted for a funeral. Plenty of hand sanitiser flowed along with the cups of tea and fruit cake. One friend of Al’s told us of the coping strategy of ‘biffing distance’. If your outstretched fist can reach the outstretched fist of another, you’re too close.

That evening we had a more informal social distance wake for Al, at his favourite place on our local beach. We had music playing and I wore a swimsuit under my dress. We raised a glass to Al in the sunset and I threw off my dress and went for a swim. The saltwater was warm in the evening, refreshing. I thought of Al, who had died before the restrictions had interfered with his life. Al, who had loved the beach, a regular swim and riding his bike. And his music.

Raising a glass on the beach to an old friend. This will not be possible for some time.

We kept our distance from one another and took ourselves home afterwards, to wake to a new world order in the morning. Funerals limited to ten. Weddings to five.

The next day, the clubs were closed. Cafés and restaurants closed except for takeaway. Schools to remain open but keeping students learning at home if possible was recommended.

Every day, it seems, the goalposts get shifted. The word ‘unprecedented’ has been getting thoroughly overworked.

And all through it all, the one thought comforts me — Al never knew, and will not have to endure it.

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse

It’s been a helluva time. First we had long, hot, dry weather. Water restrictions kicked in to Sydney. For much of the inland areas, water restrictions had been in for months. Some areas were down to the last dregs in the dams and were looking to be evacuated. We were cracking jokes about it being so dry that the trees were chasing the dogs.

Drought-affected parkland in Canberra. These areas are normally irrigated and green.

Then, in July, fires began. They really kicked along in August and September until it seemed that the whole state was burning. We had been horrified at the deliberate burning of the Amazon rainforest, but now we saw our own country burning over a much greater area. At one point there were fires in every state of Australia. Billions of animals burned. Species on the brink of extinction. Lives lost. Firefighters included; one was killed when the fire truck he was in, was flipped over by a fire tornado. Just think about that for a minute — a heavy fire truck, really heavy. And fire tornado. It is what it sounds like — a small tornado made of fire. And they drive fire trucks in and around these, because someone has to fight these fires. And they are volunteers. Our firefighters are so tough, they can kickstart jumbo jets. And that’s just the women…

Early regrowth after fires.

Just when we thought the fires would never burn out, it began to rain at last. It took a couple of weeks of rain to begin to have significant impact on the worst fires. More weeks of rain before they were under control.

What happens when we get so much rain? We get floods. And so much rain — in two days, we got a year’s rainfall. And we had weeks of it. Our roads flooded. Landscape so recently burned had little to hold the soil when the mud slides began. Before we left for Darwin, we drove out on our only access road to find trees falling and blocking it. In the torrential rain people would get out of their cars to try to help drag fallen timber out of the way, but the bigger stuff needed the fire brigade, who had only just returned from the fires and now had to wield chain saws in the rain.

Random volunteers try to clear a fallen tree in the heavy downpour.

The floodwaters rose even while we were away, and when I first saw the unbelievable screen shot from the traffic camera of a SUV trying to drive through fast-flowing three-metre-deep floodwaters near our home, I thought it was a Photoshop job. But it was real. Unstoppable Aussies again. The idiocy was witnessed by one of our traffic cameras (hence my screen shot). I thought it might have been useful if his licence plates were able to be read, so police could notify his next of kin. No bodies were reported downstream, however. It is believed he was able to reverse out. Not surprisingly, despite appeals, the driver has not come forward.

Photo taken from public feed of traffic camera. The deepest part of the road was three metres underwater.
It is believed that the driver managed to reverse out.

Two weeks later while we were driving across Victoria, where we had hoped to travel inland to visit some areas in need of a bit of friendly tourism after the fires, we were blocked by fallen rocks and mud slides.

First the famine, in the form of a severe drought. Then fires. After that, the floods.

And now, pestilence. The sudden rise of novel coronavirus in Wuhan Province in China has now spread to the rest of the world. In some places it’s still clusters only, but it’s now just a matter of time. We’ve seen panic buying, misinformation, complacency followed by political panic, and now we worry about all the economic fallout from so much disaster. Toilet paper is chronically in shortage. Jokes on the radio (we always use humour even in dire situations) have indicated that toilet paper is now like gold. It’s been dubbed ‘craptocurrency’ or ‘buttcoin’. Images of people playing poker with rolls of toilet paper as currency have lightened the mood. I saw a video clip today of a man paying for a cup of coffee with individual sheets of toilet paper torn off a roll. When the barista objected, the customer tore off another sheet, leaned forward and folded it into the barista’s pocket as a tip. Barista happy at last. Joke.

Supermarket shelves emptied of toilet paper. WHY?
Empty shelves. Different day, different supermarket.
The trolley is full of plastic wrap accumulated from multiple pallets of toilet paper.

Fire, Famine, Flood, Pestilence.

With each disaster, it was the worst for a hundred years. Or in existing records. With each, it came closer to home.

Now it’s time to re-think. Fire, Famine, Pestilence and Death. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

A cartoon appeared that showed the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. Pestilence was carrying a huge supply of toilet rolls. One of the other Horsemen said to him, ‘Dude – really? Not cool!’

New laws have come in, enforcing social distancing in clubs and other public venues. Last night we were in a club for dinner and noted the tables spread far apart, with half the number of chairs. There were very few people. One family was in the corner, collectively keeping their distance. My husband and I sat side by side but away from others. We share the same space at home. But the manager came up to us and asked us to please observe a two metre radius.

I said, ‘We’re married! We share a bed! For us, we choose to sit together here too.’

The manager replied, ‘We could lose our licence if people sit too close together. Please move apart. What you do at home is your business there.’

My husband got up to move to a distant table. Trying to keep things light, I called out to him, ‘I’ll text you!’

In the corner, the young children were climbing all over their parents. One was sitting on his dad’s lap. How can you explain social distancing to small children? But laws are laws. The manager squared his shoulders and headed over to the family.

We collected our pizza, took it home and snuggled up together, eating pizza in front of the TV.

Today in a different club, on a day when you have to wait in line for a table, the staff outnumbered the customers. By evening, when the place would be full of people ordering dinner, there were no customers at all. On a Saturday night.

A lone lunchtime customer — my colleague before our meeting. Note the ‘social distancing’ of the tables.
When we came out of our meeting room at 4.30 pm, the club was empty of customers.

In the drought, in the fires and in the floods, we saw how our countrymen have pulled together. A few hoarders notwithstanding, if we continue to support one another as a community we will get through this as well. But we’re in for a rough few months. Some people joke that someone somewhere has been playing Jumanji again.

It’s getting harder to joke, although I feel we need humour to save our sanity. Right now, I’m more anxious than I was the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer. And I don’t get anxious. Not these days. Not normally. But this is the ‘new normal’, we are told.

I have a memorial service for an old friend tomorrow. Not a funeral, that’s no longer possible. The body has to be privately cremated, when the body is released. The chapel is likely to be spread thin, according to new laws of social distancing. When my friend died six days ago, the restrictions were only forecast, as an advisory. Now they’re much more stringent and getting stricter all the time. I’m glad he didn’t know.

Tomorrow at the funeral I won’t be able to hug anybody. Not get close. Not offer the comfort I feel I need to. Not be comforted.

I might not be travelling again for a while. With weird shortages, such as the apparent run on toilet paper, every trip to the shops is an adventure into the unknown.

Even driving to the shops is becoming pointless and, as with other countries, even that may soon be denied us. For writers, lockdown gives us a chance to get some work done. No distractions, no excuses.

I will still be blogging. Feel free to travel vicariously through my memories.

A thought to hold onto — there are only four horsemen of the apocalypse. Aren’t there?

Final note: in Terry Pratchett’s Thief of Time novel (Discworld series) there are Four Horsemen of the Apocralypse (note spelling). There used to be a fifth horseman, Ronnie Soak (Kaos spelled backwards). However, he quit before the group became famous and now works as a milkman.

Maybe they’re putting the band back together…

‘Cancer City’

On the train to Melbourne, we crossed the border right on midday, SA time. Trying to type on the train is even more challenging on the Overlander. None of the long, straight sections of the Ghan. This was a rockin’, rollin’ ride.

Overlander train between Adelaide and Melbourne — there is talk of cancelling this service soon.
Morning mist from the train. Paddocks are greening up from so much rain.
Grain silos at Nhil. Seen from the Overlander.

With the rise of coronavirus, we’d noticed that Chinese restaurants on our trip were not well patronised, so we ate a lot of Chinese food. Once again we sought out Chinatown. And once again, the place was empty. We had a delightful meal with meticulous service, but we were the only customers.

Quiet streets in Melbourne’s Chinatown.
A grey sunrise in Melbourne.

We picked up the car at the train station in Melbourne without much idea of where to go. ‘Out of Melbourne,’ was our mutually agreed choice. Not that we dislike Melbourne, we just prefer to not drive in big cities if we can help it.

We like the coast, we love the countryside, so we looked approximately in the direction of home (no rush, we had a week, and there are still flooding rains there) so we picked Bairnsdale, not expecting to get all the way.

Storms coming in to Bairnsdale, the river rising.

Trying to find a random motel, we pulled in to the first one we saw in time. I stayed in the car while Jeff went to enquire. ‘No, they have no vacancy. But they rang the motel down the road.’

As we drove out through a full car park, Jeff commented, ‘Cancer City.’

I looked around to see if that had been a slogan on the side of a vehicle. What would it be about? An anti-smoking campaign vehicle, perhaps? Odd…

As we moved back into the street, Jeff said, ‘Keep your eyes peeled for this motel.’

‘What’s it called?’ I asked.

”I already told you. Cancer City!’

‘Cancer City? The name of a motel? What kind of crazy town is this? Wait a minute…’

The motel in question came into view. Kansas City Motel.
Yep. We stayed there. It’s actually really good!

The Loft in Bairnsdale. A wonderful meal, but again, not many customers. Not as empty as Chinese restaurants!
In an antique shop in Bairnsdale. I used to own one of these!

Next morning (after a night of storms) we headed off, hoping to get to Bright or Beechworth. But an hour along the road, we came to a ‘Road Closed’ sign.

‘There’s about four truck loads of dirt across the road up there,’ the road worker on duty told us. ‘It all came down in the rain.’

This road closed off the centre of Victoria to us. Mud slide.

With no way through, we changed our destination and headed for Eden.

Although it had rained heavily the night before, and we drove through more rain, we drove past several smouldering stumps by the road. So much of the landscape was charred but, in typical Aussie bush fashion, regrowth and recovery had begun.

The remains of someone’s home, burned in the recent fires.

The bush recovers faster than human habitation, sadly.

Rebuilding is taking time.
New growth in the burned forest, a misty rain falling.
‘Welcome to New South Wales’. Fire knows no borders.

When we got to Eden, we had our usual afternoon look around. It was cold, the sun beginning to emerge from a watery sky. I found a cave on the far side of an inaccessible cove. From what I could see, there was absolutely no land access. However, it fitted the description in one of my stories so I spent a little timer trying to determine its name, its history and anything else. When I asked our landlord at the hotel she looked puzzled. ‘What cave?’

The harbour at Eden. A glimpse of sun after a day of rain.

I zoomed in on Google Earth and on Maps. No information.

My mysterious cave in Eden. It’s just like the one I described in the novel I’m currently writing.

Net morning we drove to Bega and met up with an old friend from our village. We talked to her about it. ‘There are loads of caves like that all along this part of the coastline,’ she explained. ‘Most are not named, especially the little ones.’

I realised, feeling a little foolish, that it would be like naming a rock pool.

Oh, well… time to journey on.

Adelaide — City of Surprises

Foraging in Rundle Mall, Adelaide
Rundle Mall, Adelaide

We arrived in Adelaide, but with no plans. The possibilities included hiring a campervan and driving in the general direction of home, exploring on the way. Or hiring a car, and staying in various places along the way.

It was early afternoon and we needed to find digs. We wanted a hotel close to the city centre, but did not realise how small Adelaide really is. Neither did Siri, it seems, when I asked for a hotel close to Adelaide’s centre. What we got was very good, but we had to walk two blocks to find a handy tram or bus. And, as you may have noted from this blog, I don’t walk too well…

We were over the road from the park, and also the cemetery. So if I dropped dead from a heart attack from too much walking, they wouldn’t have to take me far.

Adelaide sunrise from our hotel room

After checking in and plugging in our various electronic devices, we went exploring Adelaide. A free tram dropped us off at Rundle Mall and we wandered down there idly, looking for perhaps a cup of coffee. Various posters announced events for the upcoming Adelaide Fringe Festival, starting in various dates in late February. ‘A pity we’ll miss it,’ I said.

Then as we walked further along Rundle Mall we were handed a flyer. The Fringe started that day! But some of the events we liked the look of were on too late. We were both very tired and it would mean staying out until late, just to hopefully stay awake through some riveting performances. We felt we simply were too tired to do them justice.

Then we saw a poster for Tim Ferguson, with his presentation, ‘A Fast Life on Wheels’. I had enjoyed his lesson on writing comedy at our Writers Unleased writers festival in 2013. And here he was, a 6.30 pm session in the Garden of Unearthly Delights, a Fringe-only space occupying Rundle Park in the centre of Adelaide. It was only a short distance away.

Tim Ferguson in a fan boy moment at Writers Unleashed 2013. The costumed characters were there for a book launch. He went on to give a cracking good two hour tutorial in writing comedy.

After an early meal, we were sufficiently rested and nourished to be able to handle an hour with Tim Ferguson. We got tickets with twenty minutes to spare and were lucky enough to be in the second row.

Fringe crowds on the first night. Later it got busy!

The show was as good as I expected. Carefully crafted, but still with a sense of impromptu, dangerous humour. Tim Ferguson was very open about the impact that multiple sclerosis has had on his life and career in comedy. However, he says, ‘I don’t suffer MS, it suffers me.’ He confronted the pain and his faults head-on and went into the no-man’s land of political incorrectness. ‘I had my first spazz attack, and I’m allowed to call it that because the medical definition of my muscle problems include spasticity…’ There are a lot of fears about disability. Ferguson confronted those fears head-on, turned them upside down and made us laugh at those fears and ourselves.

Afterwards I was at last able to buy a copy of Cheeky Monkey, which I missed out on buying at Writers Unleashed in 2013 when it sold out.

We always find a city tour helps orient us when we arrive somewhere new, so the next day we headed out early for a city tour, and then a drive to Hahndorf in the Adelaide Hills.

Hahndorf humour
Topsy-turvy seasons, wisteria flowering again in February. Hahndorf, Adelaide.

Along the way we stopped at Mt Lofty to enjoy the view, and were delighted to find a couple of wild koalas snoozing in a nearby tree. After all the destruction from the fires, these were a welcome sight.

Koalas — a welcome sight at Mt Lofty, Adelaide.
St Peter’s Cathedral, the church of churches in this City of Churches.

We spent half a day wearing out shoe leather in the museum, followed by the art gallery next door. So much to see! Adelaide is a city very proud of its famous sons and daughters.

Sliced stromatolite (fossil blue-green algae) — at 660 million years old,
this is one of the oldest fossils in the world, Adelaide Museum.
Adelaide Art Gallery, combining old and new.
Margaret Dodd’s film, This Woman is Not a Car (1982) and associated ceramic artwork, Adelaide Art Gallery
Albert Namatjira’s iconic work was a delight to see. Here, one of his paintings on a woomera.
We had just travelled through this scenery of ghost gums and McDonnell Ranges in Alice Springs.

On our last morning we wandered across the roads to Lundie Gardens, one of the many parks in Adelaide, to find a group of people playing petanque. They had lost their usual Sunday playing space because the Adelaide Fringe had turned Rundle Park into the Garden of Unearthly Delights. Just beyond them, we could see some cricketers in a large open space. Adelaide has a great many parks and green spaces, perhaps more than any other city in Australia. And when you stop to smell the roses, you really can smell them! As we watched the petanque players, the park’s automatic sprinkler system turned on. ‘We had asked them to turn it off on Sunday mornings,’ one of the players told me.

Checking the final score in petanque.
Temporarily relocated during the Adelaide Fringe festival.

Another player came over, his clothing soaked. He shrugged. ‘Looks like we need to tell ’em again.’

Beyond the petanque area, I could see the cricketers packing up for the same reasons.

Sadly, play was over for the day. Time to adjourn for lunch or a coffee somewhere.

The Adelaide Fringe festival is a valuable asset to the city, but it does bring some logistic problems in unexpected places!

We walked on through the park noting the many ways in which this green space is designed for the convenience of visitors. People walked, jogged, relaxed with a good book or met with friends. I could see myself relaxing with notepaper and pen, crafting stories.

In Lundie Park, automated toilet cubicles. Futuristic with interesting voice-over and muzak. Photo taken during brief moment when toilet doors happened to be open.
Adelaide is a city heavily focussed on increasing its green spaces effectively for the benefit and enjoyment of all.

We could have stayed much longer and still not had our fill of Adelaide. But it was time to move on. In the morning, we had another train to catch…