Around The World and Back Again

Getting back into this blogging thing is easier said than done, I’m finding. And it probably hasn’t helped that I’ve been away for the past three weeks on the other side of the world. Apologies for being late getting back to comments, too!

So, where have I been?

Back to my husband’s native Australia, to see family and friends we’ve not visited for seven years. It’s a trip that was a long time coming, house renovations and life getting in the way of previous plans to visit.

I confess, I was a little bit nervous about going back. Australia is a wonderful place, and there are a lot of people I love living there. But it’s a VERY LONG flight, and I’m not the biggest fan of flying. Plus, I found that, despite all the work I’ve done sorting myself out over the past few years, it turned out there was a bit of emotion to unpack about the idea of heading back to the place where I lived for seventeen years. As I said to friends when we were there, I have three passports and a lot of issues.

People often comment to me that I’ve lived such an interesting life, moving around the world, travelling and seeing different places. And I agree – I’ve been so fortunate to have lived in some wonderful parts of the world. But that has come at the price of roots, of continuity, of having a place that feels so familiar that, no matter where you are in the world, it feels like home. All the moving around I’ve done (24 different addresses, six different cities, three continents) has left me with a deep desire for a place that is mine, that won’t change and doesn’t move, where I know everyone and they know me. Returning to live in the UK seven years ago was full circle for me, both physically and metaphorically, as it’s where I was born, and where I feel most at home. Living in Australia was wonderful, definitely, but it was also tough, as I was (literally) half a world away from many of the people I loved most. Going back there brought with it a whole host of emotions and I had to keep reminding myself that I wasn’t going to stay there, that I was coming back.

That sounds awful, doesn’t it? As though I hated the place so much I couldn’t bear to stay there. This is not the case at all. If you’ve been to Australia you’ll know how beautiful it is, how blue the water, how bright the sky. Some of my best friends in the world live there, as well as family. It’s a country I truly love.

So, once I’d worked through all of that, I was able to face the flight with less stress and, when we finally touched down in Melbourne, I could enjoy the city for how wonderful it is. Our first day was a perfect Melbourne day – seeing family, walking through the Botanic Gardens to the National Gallery of Victoria to have lunch and see the Escher exhibition (quite a mind-blowing experience with jetlag), then dinner that evening with dear friends. And so the days unfolded, one beautiful experience after another, but each of them then tempered with goodbyes. And that, perhaps, is the key to my struggle. The endless round of goodbyes.

Well! This started out as a post to say hey, I’m back from my trip, but it’s turned into something quite different. As you can see from the photos, I had a fantastic trip in a wonderful part of the world. However, I’m glad to be back home again now (and I will be getting to comments, too!).

If you’re in the UK, here’s wishing you all a lovely holiday weekend. Also, May the Fourth be with you 😉 (Yeah, I said it.)

xx

Wednesday Wander – Taronga Zoo, Sydney

taronga-2This week I’m wandering to a place on the edge of one of the world’s great natural harbours. It also happens to be not too far from where I used to work. This is Taronga Zoo, in Sydney, Australia. Officially opened in October 1916, the zoo is just over 100 years old, and ‘Taronga’ is an aboriginal word meaning ‘beautiful view’. Very appropriate, I think, considering the outlook.

taronga-1I’ve chosen to focus more on the fantastic views from the zoo, rather than the animals. Located in Mosman at the end of a promontory poking out into the harbour, the zoo looks out at the Harbour Bridge and Opera House to the right, across the city and out to the Heads on the left. It was a warm but hazy day when we visited – I’d just had a fairly major operation and my parents had come out to spend time with me. I remember it being one of the first days I felt up to walking around, so it was nice to be out.

taronga-3 One thing I experienced at the zoo was hand-feeding giraffes. You were given a bag of carrots and the giraffes would bend down, their long purple tongues wrapping around the carrots and pulling them out of your hand. It was quite something to see such beautiful animals up close, and I suppose that is part of the magic of zoos, and key to their enduring appeal.

While I’m not sure where I stand on the subject of animals in zoos, I do know that many zoos do a great deal in terms of animal conservation and protection, and that Taronga has spent a lot of time and money investing in vastly improved habitats over recent years. They’ve also run several successful breeding programs, so they must be doing something right.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time!


If you enjoyed this post and want to read more, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

30 Day Writing Challenge – Day Twenty One – Everybody (also, A Wednesday Wander)

It’s day twenty one of the 30 Day Writing Challenge, and today’s prompt is: Everybody.

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The beach near my old house in Australia

It’s also Wednesday, which means I’ll be taking a wander. However, in line with the prompt, this wander will be slightly different in that I’ll be trying to answer a question that just about everybody asks me, once they hear I’ve moved back to England from Australia. And the question is: Why did I leave Australia to come back here?

The short answer is: because my husband’s work brought us over here. But there is more to it than that.

Melbourne and the Yarra River

Melbourne and the Yarra River

In the UK, Australia seems to be sold as a sort of dream destination, an island paradise with white beaches and blue water and a cruisy outdoor lifestyle, where wages are double or almost triple that for the same job in the UK. The people look the same, speak the same language, the cities are comfortably cosmopolitan and it’s just sun, sun, sun all year round. People cannot believe I would leave such a place to come to a small green island that, according to some, gets more than its fair share of rain.

A beach in Wales I used to visit as a child

A beach in Wales I used to visit as a child.

Don’t get me wrong – Australia is a fantastic place. I lived there for seventeen years. My husband is Australian. Our daughter was born there. I have a great deal of love for and fond memories of both Melbourne and Sydney, as well as all the other places I visited. It’s a beautiful country and a lot of people who I love live there.

London

London

Yet, there was always a part of me that longed for mist and green grass and ancient buildings. For cold Christmases and tiny villages, rain-soaked high streets and cool mountains. A part of me that never quite felt at home among the brilliant sunshine and blue water. I remember coming back for a visit to the UK just over nine years ago. We were flying over the coast heading towards London and I looked out of the airplane window. The sun was just rising and I could see the Thames like a silver ribbon, winding inland. My husband leaned over to look out as well, then said to me, ‘How does it feel, coming back here?’ I watched the green landscape unfold beneath us and said, ‘Like coming home.’


If you enjoyed this post, you can find me on Twitter @AuthorHelenJ,  Facebook, Instagram and Pinterest. Plus my latest book release, A Thousand Rooms, is now available on Amazon.

 

 

Wednesday Wander – Manyana Beach

manana-2My wander this week is to Manyana Beach, on the NSW coast south of Sydney, Australia.

I visited Manyana many years ago with my now-husband. I think I’ve mentioned before that he’s Australian, and likes to surf. On this particular trip we were driving north from Melbourne to Sydney, a drive that takes seven hours or so if you head straight up the Hume Highway inland, or one or two days, depending how often you stop, along the winding coast road.

At the time we were living in Sydney, and had been in Melbourne for Christmas with his family. We’d decided to drive back up to Sydney in time for New Year’s Eve so set off a couple of days before. For some reason, even though we knew it was high summer, school holidays and the magic week between Christmas and New Year that pretty much everyone has off work, we didn’t book any accommodation, confident that we’d be able to find somewhere in the many towns and hotels along the route.

Haha. We spent our first night on the road sleeping in our car, parked in a grocery story car park near the beach. It wasn’t the best night’s sleep I’ve ever had, especially when we were entertained by the local youth frolicking nearby, one girl squealing ‘I’m in a trolley!’ as they clattered past the car around 4am. Still, we were younger then so, after an early morning dip in the ocean, we hit the road once more, although with firm instructions (from me) that we were to find somewhere nice to stay that night.

And we did. The last remaining room in a small bed and breakfast, patio doors looking across a paddock lined with gum trees, curious horses wandering up to have their noses scratched over the wire fence. A place where the friendly owners told us about the time they swam with whales as they fed us an excellent home-cooked breakfast. To say it was a step up from the previous night’s accommodation would be an understatement.

And then we went to Manyana. I sat on the sand with my book and parasol, while hubby-to-be surfed the blue waves. It was idyllic, the beach almost deserted, the weather splendid. We left in the afternoon and headed north, arriving in Sydney that evening. I can still remember driving over the Harbour Bridge as the sun was setting, relieved to be almost home.

manana-1And now I sit in a different home, halfway across the world, writing my Wednesday Wanders. Thanks for coming with me – see you next time.

Published! A Thousand Rooms

screen-shot-2016-10-02-at-09-25-592Yay! I’ve made my way through the tangle of formatting and emerged on the other side ready to hit the big red Publish button. A Thousand Rooms, my fourth novel, is now available to purchase through Amazon.

A stand-alone novel, A Thousand Rooms follows the story of suddenly-dead Katie and is set in Sydney, Australia, where I lived for a couple of years.

You don’t wake up expecting to die…

Katie is thirty-two, single, and used to work in advertising. She’s also dead. A lost soul hitching rides with the dying, trying to find her way to… wherever she’s supposed to be.

And whoever she’s supposed to be with.

Heaven, it seems, has a thousand rooms. What will it take to find hers?

I’m thrilled to finally have A Thousand Rooms out, almost two years to the day I started writing it. I’ve had a lot of help along the way, and really do appreciate all your support. I’ll be visiting a few blogs in upcoming weeks to talk about the book a little more and in the meantime, if you decide to treat yourself to a copy, thank you and I hope you enjoy it!

Wednesday Wander – Sydney Opera House

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Jorn Utzon’s Sydney Opera House is one of the most recognisable buildings in the world, cream coloured sails floating on a point surrounded by blue water. When I lived in Sydney I took the bus across the Harbour Bridge most days to work (I know, it’s tough, right?), yet I never failed to appreciate the beauty of the building, or my good fortune in being able to see it whenever I chose.

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Unbelievably, Bennelong Point, on which the Opera House stands, was once a tram depot. Yes, one of the most prominent points on one of the most beautiful Harbours in the world was deemed as being the best spot in the city for trams to terminate. I suppose the proximity to the commuter ferries made it a sensible choice, but you do wonder whether the people who made such decisions had eyes.

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The Opera House was opened in 1973, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. While I do have other photos of the Opera House from the water and nearby Circular Quay, I chose to share these ones instead. Taken up close from the landward side, they reveal different angles, the intricacy of the tiles that cover the eggshell curves, and the fact that there are several different buildings that make up the whole.

Even though it was a cloudy day when we were last there, I think you can still appreciate the genius of Utzon’s design – it is utterly timeless.

Thanks for coming on another Wednesday Wander with me – see you next time 🙂

Wednesday Wander – Watery Ways

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This week’s Wednesday Wander was inspired by an image I used in Monday’s post, of the Sydney ferries at Circular Quay. I lived in Sydney for a couple of years and would often take the commuter ferries across the Harbour, paying a few dollars to bob past some of the most famous landmarks in the world. There are several other ferries which venture further, such as the Manly one which goes out through the Heads. It can be quite an adventure on a rough day, when the calmer waters of the harbour meet the open ocean, the boat rocking as it turns to such a degree the sliding doors flick back and forth and you feel the need to brace yourself.

I’ve visited and lived in other waterside cities as well, where public transport is anything but everyday.

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View of the West End looking back from the Seabus.

When I lived in Vancouver my home was in the West End but I worked on the North Shore, so I would take the Seabus every day from Lonsdale Quay, then walk the rest of the way home. When we went back to visit last year we took it again – making the short trip across the water surrounded by mountains, Stanley Park, the Lions Gate Bridge and the Vancouver skyline. It still only costs a few dollars, and is a beautiful way to see the city.

Coming up to St Mark's Square and the Doge's Palace

Coming up to St Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace

I visited Venice for only a few days many years ago, yet still remember the colours and light, the way the city felt frozen in time, almost like a film set. I loved that you could spend a few lire (at the time) to catch a water taxi and be ferried around the city past so much beauty and history, and that people got to do so every day as part of their work commute.

Now I live near London, and have taken the riverboats several times, including one memorable occasion where we were on a school trip and supposed to alight at a certain dock, but the boat only stopped for about five seconds, pulling away again as we tried to get thirty Year Two children out of their seats and lined up. A stern word with the operators ensured we had enough time to disembark at the next stop, though it meant a longer walk through the city than we had planned. Still, it’s a wonderful  and very affordable way to travel the ancient waterway, past palaces and fortresses and famous bridges.

I’m sure there are many other cities where everyday public transport is a trip – let me know some of your favourites. Thanks for coming on a watery Wednesday Wander with me…