Warning Sign

For me, one of the most attractive qualities in a person is vulnerability.

When they let down their guard, let their feelings bubble over – the good, the bad, and the ugly. Not a sign of weakness but strength. No longer is a person prepared to mask their sadness, loneliness, confusion – to go it alone in stoic silence.

For many a year, I stood in silence, unable to articulate myself in a world I found overwhelming and confusing. I flinched at the touch of loved ones, and remain tight-lipped even when surrounded by lifelong friends, I was a closed book. I felt misunderstood, and I was for I never revealed anything about my inner world.

In 2005 a colleague sensing my unease asked me point-blank ‘ you have never really shown your vulnerable side to anyone, have you?’ We were out at Friday night drinks. I did not respond, I just ordered a double gin and gulped it down.

That was 11 years ago, I still recall that confronting question for at the time, it was true.

August 2016, and I am commuting to work in Sydney from the South Coast. On the train journey, I listen to my Mothers iPod to pass the time… And when I feel inspired, I write.

I have reacquainted myself with the band Coldplay, in particular the album ‘ Rush of Blood to the Head’ song eight’ Warning Sign’. I have been listening to this song on high rotation. Lead singer Chris Martin sings from the heart, lays it all bear for the world to know he is missing his lover. It is an achingly beautiful song, sung by a man who is clearly suffering loss and hoping that through song things can be mended.

It struck a chord.

Vulnerability in song form – it is ever so moving, ever so relatable. One connects with the honest tone of voice, the emotional turmoil evident in the lyrics.

It is an enabling song, connection between people.

And that us what being vulnerable promotes – human connection.

No wonder I was so god damm lonely!! Why oh why Mr Martin did your song fail to break me in two, let the flood gate of tears unfold. How did I miss the bleeding obvious’ Warning Sign’?

Put simply, I  wasn’t ready to acknowledge my own vulnerability and was scared witless by this quality in others.

But now, different story. I have perfected the recipe for human connection – trust, familiarity, love, honesty & a desire to be present.

There’s no place like home

I was five years old when I played Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ, in the St Michaels Catholic Primary School Christmas play.

I was Dorothy version two – the meaty role was divided between two ‘actresses’. Though I had no more than 5 lines, I still recall the tears that welled in my eyes as I pronounced to a packed audience at the Thirroul R.S.L club ‘ There is no place like home’. I had practiced that line over and over, to be sure that I could click my heals at the same time whilst fixing my gaze on the theatre goers.

I am sure the tears were the result of nerves, staged fright & excitement but now, 32 years later, those words have served me well. For it is true, there is no place like home, the sleepy seaside town of Austinmer, 2515, South Coast, NSW.

And with the click of my heals , I find myself back there, my family home, nestled between the lush green escarpment and crystal clear ocean. The place of my childhood, the place I return to as a grown women, to relax, rejuvenate and unwind .A place where I know I am loved, welcomed and safe.

There is no place like home, there is no place like home.

Take me to Church…..

There was a conversation I had last year with an Anglican Priest in Dulwich Hill Sydney.

Over black coffee we chatted for two hours and it transpired that yes, he was interested in hosting a student intern. His questions for me, would I be interested in taking up boxing and joining him on tour of Syria?

That conversation was one of the most interesting I had ever engaged in….it was magical, joyous, life affirming, and it was over too soon…So today, 8 months after my path crossed that of Fighting Father Dave Smith, Australian of the Year Nominee, Work Record holder & all round awesome person…. I returned to his hood, his church, his parish, his people, his Sunday Celebration at 9.15am.

But he was not there – He was doing a peace tour of Iran…

Fighting Father Dave Smith, Martin Place, Sydney

Fighting Father Dave Smith Artwork, Martin Place, Sydney

Physically he was far from home, but by God did I know I was in Fighting Father Dave’s Parish!!
For a start I was set upon my a young boy of 6, he ran down the foot path as he saw me approach the church. He handed me a prayer book and asked if I had ever been to church. I said ‘ yes, but not this one’. He looked puzzled by my answer but let me enter.

Church started at 9.15am, but people arrived when it suited them. This made me smile.

A church band consisting of a drummer, saxophone, piano, guitar played glorious tunes, backed by glorious singing voice.

Children ran joyously around the church during the service. They were free to express themselves even more at what felt like intermission, a Sunday school sing-a-long for kids, complete with instruments for all, dancing and hand gestures. Hard to tell if the kids enjoyed it as much as the adult congregation?!

The open mic announcement mid service were indeed my highlight. Updates from Dave’s wife about the Iran tour, and his boxing for peace work. Parishioners followed with updates on aid work in Fiji, volunteer roles available etc. My favourite announcement was that one parishioner had been unsuccessful in her submission to this  years Archibald portraiture exhibition.

There was singing, sermons, a 5 minute ‘ peace be with you’ approach to spreading the good news, morning tea, birthday cakes, conversation galore, I was clearly an out of towner and people were keen to hear my story.

The morning had it all. Everything except the man himself- Fighting Father Dave Smith.

But by golly gosh was he there….He was everywhere.

A testament to the community man that he is, the church was buzzing with joy, conversation, compassion & kindness, for the young, old and the curious ie me.

Today is a GREAT day

Today is going to be a good day.

Why?

I was escorted to work by Ms Moonie of Abermarle Street, Newtown.

Winter months have meant that sightings have been few and far between.

Today is a good day.

Moonie greeted me with her perfect pout, grumpy cat pink collar and ‘that’ glorious ‘ meow’  – only possible from the petite Siamese princess of 91 years old ( or 13 years in human)

Miss Moon – you have stolen my heart.

I have resided in Newtown for close to a year, and within days of arriving in the hood our paths crossed.

It was when I was in between jobs, and I caught a glimpse of you with your brother Coco, sprawled over a white Toyota bonnet in the sun.

Instantly I knew we would be firm friends – you helped to cement my desire in the afterlife (if there is such a thing) to come back as a cat – your species has indeed perfected the art of relaxing.

Ms Moon you act as if there is not a care in the world, love nothing more than to be petted and patted, whilst basking in the glorious sunlight.

When I leave Newtown next month, I will miss our morning catch ups.

I suspect that I will return to the neighbourhood every now and then – you are a my second best feline friend (Flora being number one) and I want to keep it that way.

Actually, today is a great day.

Why?

I was escorted to work by Ms Moonie of Abermarle Street, Newtown.

A nice work email?

It is rare that I write such heart-felt accounts of my work day….but events of late have been inspiring and I have to share story.

Names have been removed to ‘protect’ identities!

Enjoy.

Dear XXXX

I was thinking of you recently and I am sure you will enjoy this story so I will tell it in a bit of detail.

So I had this lovely student, whose listed on his internship application that he had a passion to get involved in the coffee industry – start up business – entrepreneurial etc.

He studied Finance and Supply Chain Management.Instantly I knew which partner to put him forward to – a dynamic dynamo of a site supervisor –  super fit, very attractive, a Bondi Hipster  running a very successful start-up that was shifting into the global marketplace.

The placement went well – very well.

Americans never say thank you for anything and this student thanked me – I was in shock! He also stated he could not have been offered a better internship and that he had been offered to work from the states for the company he had interned for. I was so happy.

On his last day in Sydney, I after I received his thank you email I took a moment to read his application again closely.I came across this line –

While I lean toward the introverted end of the spectrum, I get along well with people and enjoy hanging out. I just need some time to decompress every now and again.

Then it finally clicked for me – why this student almost recoiled every time I reached out to him over the semester!

My enthusiasm was killing him – it reminded me of working with you – I know there were times that I was just too much for you.

You see this student’s interest in the coffee business was a soft spot for me – with my love of café culture and my distant dream of café ownership. So I often would chat to this student with much enthusiasm about coffee shops around Sydney – asking him where he had been / what he impressed him / sending through my recommendations!! He would answer my questions whenever I cornered him – but with little excitement!!

And then I thought what an extremely challenging situation I had placed him in with his internship placement – a start-up business – with a high-flying entrepreneurial hot-shot who is seriously going places. For this introverted student just looking his site supervisor in the eye would have caused his blood pressure to rise.

Anyway, as the story goes, my student got a rave review from his site ‘ his work ethic was second to none’ was offered a job to work from the States, and in the same breath, the student thank me for setting it all up.

Why I am telling you this – this student  has by far been one of my favourite students – in 6 short weeks he made so many professional, more importantly I think – personal gains….and he reminded me of you.

It only hit me on Friday when I read his application closely and he described his introverted nature. A person very sure of himself, his strengths and areas that prove challenging – a very impressive young man, just like you!

So that is my tale for you today. I wanted to share it with you.

Kind regards

KB

 

Ode to Alanis Morisette

‘ Jagged Little Pill ‘

I was listening to Classic FM Radio recently, and over the airways the broadcaster announced that 2016 was the 20th anniversary of the album ‘Jagged Little Pill’ by Canadian Artist – Alanis Morrisette.

20 years….It cannot be! Really?

After this announcement the song ‘You learn ‘ filled the airways and I sang– word for word.

I was 17 years old when the album was released and it changed my tiny world.

I played this cd on high rotation in my bedroom in Austinmer, expressing my repressed teenage angst – a mixture of joy, despair, anxiety and elation – through song form.

I was a complex teenager – a quiet girl, whose inner world was bleak but outwardly I shone bright, smiled and laughed often.

In Alanis I found respite – she was angry, she was despairing, bitter and twisted.

And oh was she was just wise – her lyrics profound! (keep in mind I was just 17!!)

And then there was THAT concert…..Alani’s first time in Australia, and she played to a sold out audience of teenage girls at the Horden Pavilion.

It was May, 1996 and you could smell the oestrogen in the air.

The voices of 20,000 off pitch voices overpowering our hero –the female voice of children of the 90’s.

She did not sing of happy ending and white knight rescues – she was angry, she had been betrayed by love and she wanted more from life.

I don’t know who came to that concert with me – I just remember it was an empowering night – I finally felt understood for the briefest of moments and it was liberating.

20 years on….I have found my voice. Some might say I am even more expressive that Alanis was back in the day!

At 17, I would never had dared open my mouth to say what I felt, to let alone discuss ‘my feelings’ ….but then I had Alanis as an outlet.

20 years on I remain fond of the angst filled Canadian Rocker who started me on this path all those years ago.

Go on you deserve it

Go on you deserve it

Is that phrase to blame for the obesity crisis and cotton wool parenting that has taken hold of the current generation of kids?

Is that phrase to blame for global warming, the great divide between rich and poor, famine, drought and consumer greed?

Well to scale it back I have had two interesting encounters with the phrase of late –

First

My beautiful friend Jess, having had the year from hell (yes, another one), did not get around to organising the kind of celebration she would have liked for her one year old daughter.

With valid reason too – major surgery x 2 , family commitments galore –  Irish Dancing lessons, swimming lessons and a weekly reading group commitment at her eldest daughter’s Kindergarten. A house hold to run, a young family to coordinate.

I get tired just recalling her to do list. So the 1st year old birthday party was postponed.

Indefinitely?

Who can say.

But when Jess announced this to me in one of our weekly phone chats, she paused mid conversation to talk directly nearly one year old Mollie ‘But you will have a party Ms Mollie…..because you deserve it’

I laughed and remarked ‘ What has Mollie done to deserve it Jess?’

Jess starting laughing too , the whole idea seemed absurd to us both.

‘Nothing really ‘

True that!!

Second

After a 7.30am personal training session  I felt like something nice for breakfast …..because, well I deserved it.

IMG_2322 (1)

I had my heart set on something sweet….and that craving was perfectly matched by the opportunity to purchase a ‘Nutella Latte’ at a new café in the city.

The menu read as follows ‘Nutella, expresso shot, frothed milk, whipped cream, chocolate flakes and Nutella drizzle’

As I ordered, I felt a sense of guilt having just busted my guts with weights, the dreaded sled of death and stomach crunches.

I relayed this to the Barista, they indulged me by saying ‘Oh, but go on, you deserve it’

I proceeded to order and consume the drink at great speed, but since this conversation I have been troubled by those three words: “You deserve it’

Did I REALLY? Isn’t it just a sentence to help people like me, who are lucky enough have funds to blow on ‘ Nutella Lattes’ , absolve guilt and indulge, indulge, indulge in unnecessary purchases and treats.

True that

On positive note – if you can’t smile at the site of your one year old daughter gleefully opening a birthday gift or sigh for joy as you lick the last of the Nutella goodness out of a latte glass, I have to ask ….what truly is the point of any of it?!

 

Rent Rent Rent

The monopoly board of rental properties in the city of Sydney.

12 years paying weekly sums of my wage towards someone else’s mortgage or investment property

  • Summer Hill
  • Petersham
  • Leichhardt
  • Lilyfield
  • North Randwick
  • Erskineville
  • Camperdown

Shared and solo living

Flora the cat

Mould, cold, flea infestations and make shift solutions to lawn mowing, window cleaning and house improvements

Fabulous flatmate friendships and meals shared over daggy reality television finals of the Bachelor and Farmer Wants a Wife

House and neighbourhood parties, dinners alone & with Flora

Each Sydney Suburb I have loved –Each move prompting me to declare I could never love a Sydney Suburb more.

And as I prepare to pack up my belonging in Camperdown – my personal favourite– I got chatting to a local lady, estimated age 80 +, who joined me in praise for my current ‘hood.

‘Everything here, so easy. I walk to the shops. I walk to the park. No need for change’

I agreed with her whole heartedly.

‘ When I change, I will go to the cemetery! ’

I laughed….’ That too is close!’

Shared laughter

Will it be possible to love another Sydney suburb more?

My track record suggests YES…..but it tugs at my heart-strings to say goodbye to yet another Sydney community I have come to LOVE.

Onwards and Upwards…..

Change is on the horizon!

You grew up where?

My Austinmer

Do I know how lucky I am?

I guess I do…but sometimes I need a little reminder.

I got one of those yesterday, in text form, from a friend travelling South for the Queens Birthday Long Weekend.

Her husband had decided to detour off the Princess Highway, and take the South Coast road. Sure, it would add extra time to their road trip with their young family but throwing caution the to wind, he veered of the multi lane highway into single lane territory.

And what they encountered as they drove along the a road that hugged the coastal escarpment, was a panorama of ocean blue, stretching as far as the eye could see. It was a life changing moment, there would be no turning back, life could be divided into two distinct chapters- pre & post South Coast encounter.

My friend had stumbled upon a secret, my secret. That just 1 hour South of Sydney is a true paradise. Lush green bush land, uninhabited beaches and homes with back yards.

‘ Driving through Austinmer — it’s amazing. Scarborough too. I want to live here’

My Austinmer

I laughed and smiled upon reading this. My friend had FINALLY discovered my true home. For the first 22 years of my life ‘ Austi ‘ was my entire world. And even when I did voluntarily leave this safe haven for Europe, upon return, settling in Sydney, I return ‘ home’ often, I am forever in need of a good dose of sand, salt and sea.

Having lived in Sydney for 12 years, when questions about where I grew up have arisen I have all but given up trying to explain my coastal origins.

‘ Have you heard of Stanwell Park?’

‘ No’

‘ Bulli?’

‘ No’

‘ Wollongong?’

‘ Yes, is that near Cronulla?’

‘ No’

‘ Oh….well I grew up in a beachside suburb of Wollongong’

Try as I might to educate folk of benefits of coastal life outside of Sydney’s Northern & Eastern beach strips… I conclude after years of trying, there is no point.
Austinmer stopped being mentioned in conversation. I was the girl from Wollongong.

But change is in the air as that text I received yesterday suggests. The subtle messages I have spread of the joy that is the leisure Coast has had a slow ripple effect.

It is promoting cars to veer of highways and plummet into the boundless beauty of blue, green and gold- forever changing people. What next, cheque books flapping in the breeze, as’ out of towners’ scramble to get into the competitive real estate market? Already happening.

Austinmer was and always will be home. If asked to recall what my childhood was like living there , words such as idyllic, blessed, privileged & charmed come to mind.

What is spoken to Sydney folk is quiet different ‘ I grew up I Wollongong’
But to those who are my long-standing Sydney mates, they are listening and I am ready to share my Austinmer with you.

The Passing of Time

Catch Up with a Mate Month 2016

Can it really be five years since I declared that each year for the month of June, I would focus on family and friendship?

Time flies, creeps up on you, taps you on the shoulder and confirm the above statement as truth.

Five years have passed.

20160605-154527.jpg

To honour the passing of time, as well as my commitment to family and friendship in June, I returned to the Sydney Opera Bar with Zen Master Kenneth.

It might have been five years between drinks at this delightful venue, but our friendship has stood the test of time. There has been lots of laughter, tears and general whinging about full time employment. Supportive phone calls, emails & lunch dates. There was also a very disappointing tiramisu birthday cake from China town….but time heals all wounds.

So cheers to enjoying our lives Mr Lowe, to the month of June and the promise of happy happy days with those I hold nearest and dearest.

 

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