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The Future’s Bright…?

28 Apr

When you are married to the military, events such as Anzac Day suddenly hold much more significance than they once did. When you become a mother, especially to a son, they become more poignant still.

Examining one of dad's medals

Examining one of Dad’s medals

I admit, before moving to Australia I knew little of Anzac Day and the horrors of Gallipoli, but  you cannot but feel moved at the thought of those thousands of young men, boys, who ran head on into a dawn bloodbath, some, no older than fourteen, many never to see their home again; most, never stood a chance.

Anzac Biscuits

Homemade Anzac Biscuits

You can read a little more of what Anzac Day commemorates here. It was the first year that I have not attended a dawn service or watched the parade in the city but with sleep a precious commodity right now, I decided against waking a sleeping a baby at 4am to venture out on a chilly Autumn morning.

This year I found myself not just sparing a thought for the dead and the atrocities of the past, but of the world we live in now, wondering if despite the nature of war having changed, whether we have learnt anything from the sacrifices of our ancestors. I found myself asking what sort of world I have brought a child into: where battles still rage, where people still need to flee for their lives, where people still need to escape the daily threat of bombings, beatings, rape, torture; where people still live in fear for their existence. And it is not just in war-torn Gaza or Afghanistan, it is not just in Syria or Iraq; it is everywhere to a greater or lesser extent. It is in a New York skyscraper, a London bus, a Pakistani school, an African village, a Parisian office, a Sydney cafe…

And for those who do flee and seek a better life for themselves and their own children, are they welcomed across borders and embraced by their fellow humans or are they challenged each step of the way, punished for the sheer misfortune of birthplace and geography, then locked away for ‘processing’ until bureaucracy catches up on its agenda?

My sleep-deprived and baby-addled brain cannot eloquently express my point but really it is nothing more than a mother looking at the world and wondering what my son will make of it and whether this new generation can bring about any changes and learn to live with a greater tolerance and compassion. When you hear of children younger than ten being groomed to continue certain fights in the name of religion, I fear, to use the word again, that in some cases, it is already too late.

Cheeky smiles

Cheeky smiles

I write this as I scratch a remnant of pear puree from my ear lobe, which a seven-month old has splattered with his spoon and I am reminded of his little round face, smeared with sweet potato, and the impish look he gave me just before scuttling off to explore new territory in an undiscovered corner of the room, and I look at him now, curled up asleep, oblivious to all that I have just mentioned, and the world does not seem such a dark place after all.

Times to smile about

Times to smile about

Leaping and Bounding

3 Mar

“Well, hello Mr Sparkles!”

It’s a nice way for your health nurse to address your 5 month old son, and at the time, pretty apt as the little person on the floor began demonstrating his latest new moves; the sort of downward dog, one leg in the air type manoeuvre that would make the most dedicated pilates practitioner proud. Back down on his knees and shuffling along, he looked up and gave her a winning smile before moving into the plank position and then dragging himself around to do a 180. It is quite exhausting just watching him and in those two minutes of action, you catch a snapshot of my day with my baby son. Baby going on acrobatic action man.

The past month has without doubt been the most challenging and that is even compared to when he was a newborn. Toby has been going through huge developmental leaps and changes, now almost properly crawling and up on his hands and feet, moving on to tasting solids, and sitting on his own for a few minutes at a time. Coupled with minor teething, he has been waking a little more at night and been giving me a few screaming protests when it comes to settling in the cot in the day. The result? One already tired mum finding herself unable to “sleep when baby sleeps” because I’ve been having to pound the pavements to get the little man to have a nap in the day.

Enjoying some apple

Enjoying some apple

If you know anything of Wonder Weeks, all this occurred around the notoriously challenging period of ‘leap 4‘. These leaps are linked to a baby’s mental development and the various milestones and skills they  are achieving. It also coincided with a visit from one set of grandparents and so they experienced a slightly more unsettled Toby to normal. It is amazing how quickly these things change. At just before three months, we seemed to hit a magic moment where he naturally found his routine, slept well in the cot in the day and was only waking once in the night. Hello three to four months and hello to an extra wake up (or two) at night, a sudden hatred of the car seat and massive protests at going down for a nap in the cot too.

His timing as ever was impeccable. The car seat issue reared its head on the afternoon we set off on a 1000km road trip down to Melbourne and when we had gone less than 5km and had had to stop three times to get out and settle him, due to a screaming fit in the back, we began seriously contemplating heading home and looking at flight options. Luckily by 10km, he had worn himself out and slept the rest of the way to our first overnight stop.

Pit stop en route to Melbourne

Pit stop en route to Melbourne

These little things become pretty big things when your day revolves around this one person and without playing the ‘single mum’ card too often, having no respite at all, becomes very draining, especially when I am now trying to find time to steam, mash and puree (and hence why I am inclined to offer more finger foods!) The low point came when I was making dinner one evening and realised that not only was I too tired to prepare anything but a bowl of salad, but it was the first meal I had eaten all day. I think it was around that time that I was thinking he had better be able to hold a trilingual conversation at the end of this particular leap for this to be worth it.

After weeks of little sleep, feeling the exhaustion creep in and with a small concern over his tummy, I went to the GP and I think it was as much for my own benefit as Toby’s. I am sure he is accustomed to sleep deprived, anxious new mums, at least, he was very supportive and luckily very happy with how Toby is doing. He has grown very long and is now above the 90th percentile for length but his weight has dropped off a little, probably because of all his daily acrobatics!

Support has come not only in the form of the health centre and doctor but mostly in the form of good friends and the new mum mates I have made over the past few months. Weekly catch-ups are a therapeutic way to let off steam, discuss the latest concerns and applaud the new milestones only fellow mums can get excited about. “He can now burp/settle/feed himself!”

Enjoying a day out in the park

Enjoying a day out in the park

I must add that aside from the above issues, Toby is generally a very happy and smiley little baby. It is a good thing; being on my own with him for such long periods of time, all the hardships melt away with one big gummy grin. I feel very lucky to spend my days with him, especially as his personality becomes more apparent and as I get to know the things he likes and finds funny. Admittedly, his current likes list extends to raspberries on the stomach, games of peepo and Humpty Dumpty and pretending to fly.

Happy Chap

Recently, I can add to the list: swimming (and avocado)! He absolutely loves it. I started taking him to lessons, something which living in a country obsessed with water and in a city surrounded by it, seemed fairly important. Three lessons in and he is already learning to stretch out horizontally to kick, hold on to the side by himself and has now been submerged as well, as he has learnt to close his eyes and mouth when going under. He came up still smiling afterwards so our little man is definitely growing into a little water baby.

Swimming with Daddy

Swimming with Daddy

A dip in the pool

A dip in the pool

Ready to jump

Ready to jump

I am also pleased to say, the past week seems to have been a bit of a turning point. Suddenly the past few weeks of adapting the bedtime routine, steeling myself not to pick him up at each cry and soothing him in other ways really seems to have paid off. He settles himself after just a few minutes in the cot and is now having two-hour naps in the day. These are the small accomplishments that only another mum can probably appreciate!

We have come through and survived leap four, we are now mid leap five but he has been taking regular day naps in the cot again, which means not only can I occasionally have a nap too, but can actually do laundry, clean the house, make some food, and tend to various admin such as passport applications for a soon to be world travelling baby.

He is definitely coming on in leaps and bounds and I am sure when James next sees his son, he will be amazed at how he has changed. Two and a half months is a huge time span at this age. In fact, it’s almost half his life.

Happy Days

Lying and chilling

Sitting up

Crawling

On the move

He will be reunited with a baby who will be crawling, sitting, eating food and grabbing everything in sight and the small things which change over time, will probably have much more impact. He now sits in a seat, not the pram bassinet; he sits up in the bath; he engages with you; he smiles at himself in the mirror; he knows his name when you call it; he has a high chair; he can play in the pool. Basically from four to six months there has been a monumental change. It has certainly taken its toll on my sleep state at times but I am seeing him grow into a very loving, happy little boy, and that makes it all worthwhile.

And then there were three

19 Dec

The hiatus in blogging is hopefully understandable. Two days after our last entry, our son, Toby was born. In fact, I’m pretty sure my contractions were underway as I hit publish on the post, as I was in the midst of getting everything ready and doing last minute jobs. Going into labour, for me anyway, is one sure fire way of finishing anything I’ve been procrastinating on.

Thirty-six hours later and two days before his due date, Toby entered the world, weighing a bang on average 7lbs 8oz (not the 9llb plus I was fearing) and measuring a little longer than average 52cm.

Two days old

Two days old

So where did the last three months go? To summarise the time in one post is almost impossible (unless feeding, crying, sleeping, pooing will suffice) and there are too many pictures and moments already to recap in detail. Toby is now almost 14 weeks old and those first few days and weeks are already a bit of a distant memory. My newborn has been replaced with an energetic and active three-month old little boy. Newborn clothes have been long consigned to the back of the wardrobe and the days of him doing nothing but eat and sleep are also behind us. Still, I won’t go into too much detail about a day in the life of Toby as it pretty much involves eating, sleeping, playing, sucking on fists, crying a little, being shushed, patted, rocked and wheeled around in the pram.

My day involves much of the same, perhaps with a little less drool and I tend to be the one doing the patting and rocking, although could probably do with being on the receiving end some days! Who knew smelling of baby sick and analysing nappy contents could bring so much pleasure?

They say babies change and grow so fast but until you live with one 24/7  I’m not sure you can really appreciate just how much and just how fast. It happens right under my nose but it’s gone in a  flash. Each day he seems to do something new. There have been first smiles, first giggles, first rolls, first grabbing of toys and babbling conversations.

10 weeks old

10 weeks old

With James having been away a great deal, the separation has been a lot harder for both of us this time round and even more so for James, who feels he has missed out on a lot of those initial changes. I keep him up to date with daily photos but of course, this is not the same and no compensation for missing out on bath time and cuddles.

I am waiting patiently for him to come home for Christmas and have a few weeks of respite. I absolutely adore being a mum to Toby, but the days are long when there is no one else just to share the load for a little while. (And that load is getting longer and heavier by the day!)

Twice a week I manage to meet up with other mums, now friends, from my mums group and antenatal class. There is great relief in hearing how another mum is coping with a particular feeding issue, or worrying about that weird coloured poo and there is mutual sympathy for the sleep deprived mess you may arrive as, and those non too glamorous moments where your baby decides to release the contents of his bowels over him and you while out and about with nowhere to change, or you realise your bra has been casually exposed all afternoon after you’ve forgotten to do it back up.

Along with the support of these ladies, I also had the luxury of my parents visiting and my mum staying out for the first six weeks, which was a huge help, especially during the first few nights after he developed reflux. Ah, those nights spent holding him upright while he cried and cried… Fortunately another (fingers crossed, touch wood etc) distant memory. With her help I also felt able to get out and about and it was important for me to start doing this early on so as not to become confined to the home. Toby’s first lunch date was at four days old. In his short life so far, he has already visited the Botanical Gardens, Sydney Harbour, the Opera House, travelled on a ferry, had walks along Bondi and Manly beaches and had many a lunch and brunch outing. He is oblivious to it all of course, but we will show him the pictures one day.

First visit to the Opera House

First visit to the Opera House

Luckily these are the moments, which keep me sane, as do the smiles, especially the smiles, which are an utter joy, but needed when you’re surviving on less than six hours sleep from time to time. Six broken and not always settled hours at that. We have had breakthroughs where he has slept through until 5am but we still get the odd night where he wakes a couple of times as well. But on that note, I would like to know where the phrase “sleeping like a baby” comes from because if someone told me they had slept like a baby, I would now imagine they had been snoring, grunting and sighing all night. Things seem to have quietened down recently but why does no one tell you that newborns sound like miniature steam trains and as if they’re always about to take their last gasp of air? Why too, are you not warned about the periodic breathing, that they occasionally breathe really fast and then stop for a few seconds, to resume normally again. “It’s all completely normal” is a comforting phrase and one that became familiar throughout pregnancy as well, but it can be pretty alarming at the time.

Night feeds

Night feeds

Just hanging out being cute

Just hanging out being cute

It’s amazing how these precious little bundles, so small and cute can be actually quite daunting and cause all kinds of anxiety. A friend described it well when she told me “he scares me because I love him so much.” Only in the last few weeks have I started to feel less worried than those first nights, lying awake, checking that he wasn’t too hot, too cold, breathing, sleeping… And as he grows, there will be more concerns than basic survival to add to the list.

With Toby asleep, I have managed to grab a few spare minutes to write this finally, as we have got our day naps in the cot sorted. Yes, these are the things in which only a mother can feel achievement. Of course I’ll be dashing away periodically to check on him as he has taken to lying on his tummy. This is the latest new thing; he has learnt to roll from his back to his tummy so gone are the days of lying him down and knowing he’ll be in the same position a minute later. Sleeping now takes place on the stomach, whether I like it or not, so to add to any other worries I might have, the “is he breathing?” one has just ramped up a notch.

Having to look after him on my own has helped me to grow in confidence with him; knowing you are solely responsible means you get on with it and do what is needed and muddle through somehow, but having to take care of yourself and the house at the same time means there are probably moments when I coddle him less than perhaps I would have otherwise. He is already learning that sometimes Mummy has to put him down so she can have a shower, get dressed, do the laundry, take the rubbish out, make some dinner…! But we do have lots of cuddles in between and I have been blessed with a happy, smiling and tolerant little baby.

Smiling for the camera

Smiling for the camera

He loves his milk, likes looking at books (I like to think) and the pram and car have the bonus effect of sending him to sleep. So if I were to do a day in the life of Toby in pictures, it might look a little like this:

Milk Drunk

Milk Drunk

Enjoying Noddy

Enjoying Noddy

Loving my car seat

Loving my car seat

Me like milk

Me like milk

Daddy comes home very soon and we have our first Christmas to look forward to, together for the first time as a family of three.

Family selfie

Family selfie

 

 

 

 

 

New horizons

12 Sep

It has been a very long time since I last contributed to this blog of ours, it might have even been this time last year. Louise does such a good job of keeping up with our comings and goings, I sometimes feel that what I can say will be of any interest. Besides I am a much more passive communicator; listening and reading are more my comfort zones!

Talking of comfort zones this is a year for us to be well and truly tested with a baby on the way.   The due date in the middle of September is fast approaching, having seemed for so long to be have been a point far on the horizon. I am incredibly excited, but daunted at the same time. I know that our lives will never be the same again in a matter of days. Louise, as ever, has been extremely organised and we have been busy shopping for baby ‘essentials’, she even managed to bring me along to a baby expo in Sydney a couple of months ago. I will be honest, it was not my idea of fun as I don’t have the best patience for shopping at the best of times, but it was a useful trip and we came home with a pram!

Ardent 2 on the uniform

Ardent 2 on the uniform

Along with fatherhood, 2014 has also seen me taking command of a warship for the first time in my career. I joined my crew, called ‘Ardent Two’ in Darwin at the end of May and we embarked in HMAS Wollongong, an Arimdale Class Patrol Boat (ACPB). The patrol boat community in the RAN is unconventionally manned, with more crews than hulls, and a rotation system of 8 weeks ‘on’ and 4 weeks ‘off’. This means that each crew goes back to a different Ship each time, odd, but it almost works. Anyway, Wollongong was my first and I have since been back briefly to Sydney and am now back for a longer duration, until the birth and hopefully, for a few weeks after it as well. I have immensely enjoyed the first four months in command, have quickly come to realise that all my time in the Navy to date has prepared me for this one job. Each day on board I seem to find myself remembering instances when something similar occurred under different commanding officers and how I reacted then and now. It surprises me how lessons were imparted to me in all manner of situations.

July also saw me reach the halfway point of my Masters of Business programme, which I am being funded to complete by the RAN. It is a pleasing milestone, but the end still seems some way of, particularly as I have taken a break for the first six months in command whilst I get myself settled into the job at sea.

After my first stint in patrol, I had to find myself a place to liven Cairns (well, Louise did, and I just inspected on my arrival in Cairns!) I managed to secure an apartment in the city, which gives me a base up there  and somewhere for Louise and the baby to visit occasionally as well.

The new Cairns pad

The new Cairns pad

Winter sun at Bondi

Winter sun at Bondi

Physically I have also embarked on a press-up (push-up) challenge. I saw this being talked about on Facebook at the end of last year and it intrigued me. The challenge is simply one press-up on Jan 1st, two on Jan 2nd continuing in this vein until Dec 31st! Today I have had to complete 256 press-ups, not in all in one go thankfully, but it is a physical and psychological test that I am determined to complete. In total I will have knocked out over 66,000 over the course of the year.

Doing the push-ups in front of the Ship

Doing the push-ups in front of the Ship

By the end of this year I will have taken on a hugely responsible role in two regards, both in my personal and professional life. They are both responsibilities I feel ready for, although something tells me a tiny newborn may prove more testing than a crew of grown men. Either way, Louise and I are about to find out very soon.

 

 

Making our way down the produce aisle

18 Jun

So as of yesterday, our unborn child is the size of a cauliflower (a pretty large one if the measurements from my last ultrasound are to go by). He or she has grown, however, from being a red cabbage last week and the length of a cucumber the week before. It’s quite amusing to do the weekly shop and think you are holding the fruit or vegetable, which corresponds to baby’s weight or size. We have graduated from the little peanut to the runner bean and continued to blossom from fig to avocado to grapefruit to well… the slightly less glamorous cauliflower.

These small increments are helping me tick off the milestones as I reach them. Finally, I have hit the third trimester and that is one big hurdle to have crossed. It started with just wanting to reach the ‘safe’ twelve-week mark, to then making it another couple of weeks into the second trimester. Then came the 20-week milestone and waiting for the “all clear” from the morphology scan. After this I breathed a little easier and allowed myself our first purchase of one babygro! (Or bodysuit depending on where you are.) Then the parameters were pushed further to just wanting to reach 25 weeks, the next ‘safe’ mark when in theory, a baby can survive outside the womb (with a lot of medical assistance) and now I’ve made it to almost 28 weeks, I’m already looking to the next big one: 35, when I’ll have my next scan.

Profile of baby at 20 weeks

Profile of baby at 20 weeks

This pregnancy has definitely been one of stages: the nausea stage, the worrying stage, the itching phase, the “I think everything’s ok now” stage, the baby brain stage (not sure I’ve quite got through that one yet) and I’ve almost got to the ‘home-stretch’ stage. By the time James is back I’ll be past 31 weeks and when he leaves again, I’ll be nearly 35. Then we just have to hope that baby decides to stay in there until at least 38 weeks when James will finally return for a few weeks, and at least until after the birth.

I’d like to say it’s been a completely smooth ride and in hindsight, there has never been anything wrong; the ‘womb child’ as my meditation CD likes to call it, has been measuring correct for dates, growing consistently and has shown no signs of problems. But after the relief of subsiding nausea from week 15, I started getting the abdominal pains. They weren’t too severe but enough for the GP to recommend an abdominal scan (probably to check for any gall bladder issues.)

I got the call that evening with his first line being, “Well, the baby is fine.”

After that I almost didn’t listen to the next bit. The baby was fine, that was all that mattered.

“But they did find a small mass on your liver.”

“Right.”

“But we don’t think it is sinister.”

OK. That doesn’t sound so great but still, the baby was fine. I hung up.

It was only lying in bed that night that I played through the conversation and suddenly “mass” became “tumour” and “don’t think it is sinister,” translated to, “it could be.”

Now try telling a first time pregnant lady (or indeed any pregnant lady) that she has a growth, which they can’t properly diagnose because of the limited procedures possible during pregnancy, and expect her not to worry. Try telling her it will be ok when one possible diagnosis is a hormone-related growth, which could continue to enlarge and even rupture and requires constant monitoring and then ask her not to go to bed worrying that something terrible is going to happen while she sleeps while those lovely hormone levels continue to rise.

I managed to put it to the back of my mind until the itching started. I’m not talking the odd itchy moment, or the normal skin stretching type of itching as your belly expands, I’m talking all-over body, drive-you-nuts itching that wakes you up every hour of the night and is only temporarily soothed with an ice block, kept by the side of the bed. I bought out the local chemist’s supply of calamine lotion and oatmeal moisturisers, even took tepid baths with oatmeal, which made the bathroom smell of porridge. I would like to say I stepped away from Doctor Google but during my frantic scratching sessions, I found some reassurance that itchy skin is quite common… Oh, hang on, unless it’s the condition linked to your liver function, which is actually potentially very harmful.

Back to the GP. Liver panel test immediately ordered and results: normal. Itching continues. More googling. Apparently it is the bile acid levels that should be tested. Back to the GP. Bile acid tests done. Ten days of waiting. Results: normal.

A week later a third liver scan reveals no change and the likely diagnosis is a completely benign hemangioma. By this point I am more reassured, even though I had already been referred to the obstetrician for a second opinion and was told, with a roll of the eyes, that there was, “no need to worry.”

Finally, I can relax (with the help of the womb child meditation CD, lent to me by a friend.)

I am pleased to say that so far since then, all has been going well. I have been going to prenatal yoga, which has been amazing, and taught by one of the midwives at the hospital. It is great to stretch but not always so great when one of the other ladies informs us that one particular move is meant to bring on labour. We were assured, the move was entirely different. I seem to have a fan inside me too judging by the jabs in my stomach as I touch my toes. (I can still do this… perhaps it’s being squashed.) Mind you, the jabs are fairly frequent and have been pretty strong for several weeks. He or she seems to perform a Hakka inside me every night, which does not always make for a comfortable sleep, and I am fairly used to my stomach pulsing away as I sit down for my nightly dose of Masterchef.

In fact my only issue has been with me, and my brain, or lack of. Quite how I went from being completely able to hold a normal conversation one day to forgetting half of my vocabulary the next is beyond me. I have at times driven the wrong way home from the hospital, which has become quite a frequent trip of late, spent fifteen minutes looking for the car I’ve ‘lost’ in the car park, burnt toast because I’ve put it down in the toaster twice, and even left the hob on for hours after cooking. Worse still, was returning home from the shops to the unlocked front door, the lights on and the balcony doors wide open. After tentatively opening doors, thinking a burglar was hiding somewhere, I realised that in fact, it was just me, who had left the house completely wide open. Try telling me that ‘baby brain’ is all in my imagination.

The bump is growing (although have been frequently told it is “very compact”.) During a maternity jeans purchase the other week, the sales assistant said he hadn’t realised I was pregnant and had been about to point out that I was buying maternity jeans. When I informed him I was six months pregnant, you could have prised his jaw from the floor. More disconcerting was the lady at the swimming pool who said she thought I must be “just a few weeks along” when I’m stood there in a wet costume, clinging to what is most definitely a round bump – holding a cauliflower no less (or I think it might have been a cabbage at that point.)

I guess now I should actually start to buy things. Thanks to my mum he or she will at least have a couple of things to wear. This arrived in the post the other week to much excitement!

Baby outfit

Baby outfit

 

However, the poor child as yet has nowhere to sleep, nothing to ride home in from hospital, will be wearing one of a total of three newborn vests and certainly has no blankets, nappies or anywhere to be changed. I have a good few weeks left to go but would rather have finished the shopping before I get to elephantine proportions where a trip to the shops is more of a breathless waddle interspersed by dashes to the toilet. By that point the baby will have gone through the pineapple stage to more of a watermelon, but at least that’s a little more exotic than a cauliflower.

 

Can I breathe yet?

20 Mar

When we started this blog, we titled it Upside Down because not only were we making the move ‘down under’ to Australia, but we were changing our jobs, home and entire lifestyle. We were turning our lives “upside down.”

Well, if we haven’t already, in about six months, we are going to understand the true meaning of that phrase because James and I are expecting our first baby in September.

Hopefully, this news explains the recent hiatus in blogging. Shortly after landing back in Australia from the UK the nausea hit and after several days of feeling less than wonderful and wondering why a walk down to the beach and back (uphill) had take it out of me, I began to assume something was up. Turns out it was, and by the time we had the first dating scan, I was already nine weeks pregnant.

Before then, the little person growing inside me had already been well and truly making their presence felt. The fatigue was one thing but it seems I was a text book case in every way: from the strange tastes in my mouth, the food aversions, and the nausea to the more weird symptoms of constant sneezing and odd aversions to certain smells. In fact I think I suffered the full gamut of early pregnancy symptoms.

What I hadn’t realized was how debilitating that lovely misnomer, “morning” sickness can be. There were days when I could not leave the sofa and any position other than horizontal had me running to the bathroom. On the plus side (there had to be one) it was mainly nausea rather than sickness, but a day when I felt well enough to make it out into the fresh air and even do something normal such as pop to the shops became a lovely novelty.

Food was fun as well. Carrs probably saw their profit margin double during January and February as I munched my way through packets of water biscuits. The things I usually don’t care about, my body seemed to crave, and the things I used to love became the food of the devil. I still can’t look at a pepper, worse still if it’s roasted.

Luckily, if only on a nutritional level, I can face broccoli again and my penchant for salt and vinegar crisps has died down to maybe just one bag a week!

James had to put up with the brunt of it; for a start, he was often left to fend for himself in the kitchen, although he got his revenge by cooking some stinking concoction, which meant I had to spend a good half hour out on the balcony while the smell dispersed.

My newly developed bloodhound sense of smell meant I couldn’t (and at times still can’t) abide the smell of his shower gel or deodorant. As he steps out the shower, thinking he’s clean and fresh, he is greeted with me retching in the bedroom and ordering him out the room. It got to a point where I had to buy different soap for the bathrooms because the scent, which I usually love, was turning me green.

If that wasn’t bad enough, he had to be on bathroom cleaning duty as well until I changed to the eco-friendly, less potent products. (I should have done that a while a go to be honest).

On the subject of eco-friendly, the things you are advised to buy and not buy nowadays when you’re pregnant can be a little like navigating a minefield.  I have to say if I envy mothers-to-be of the pre-digital age, it is because of one thing: they didn’t have Google.

Google can be at once a question-answering God send and a panic-inducing scaremonger. Sadly when it comes to pregnancy it is quite frequently the latter.

Type in the phrase: “Is (insert food/product) safe when pregnant?” into Google and inevitably some website will tell you explicitly: No.

We’re not just talking soft cheese, raw fish and alcohol, but over the past few weeks I have seen warnings about eating rhubarb, pineapple, mango, basil and parsley to name a few. I think some people seem to think we plan on munching on handfuls of poisonous rhubarb leaves, drinking mugs of essential basil oil or eating ten pineapples in one sitting (which I admit, could cause a few problems).

It’s not just what you put in your body, but on your body as well. I am all in favour of eliminating toxic chemicals from your life but I am starting to wonder how so many healthy babies have been born in the last decades when their mothers washed their hair with shampoo, put moisturizer in their bodies and maybe even did their makeup once in a while. If you were to take heed of every warning out there you would spend hours searching for products that not only did not contain sodium laureth sulfate, parabens and other ‘nasties’ but are also organic and have no essential oils, which can be “harmful”.

In fact, I was reading a blog by a lady discussing her pregnancy who said she avoided anything with citric acid in during the first trimester because she had heard too much vitamin C could be dangerous.

If you add this to some advice out there such as avoiding new cars (chemicals used to clean interiors) and not getting your hair cut (fumes from the salon), and you can begin to understand why I might be wondering if it safe to breath.

By some miracle I have survived the first trimester and I even managed to keep clean and not starve in the process. Now we feel able to tell our friends and family, it has been very reassuring to see how many friends out here have come forward offering any help they can, whether it be from accompanying me to appointments if James is away to simply coming over and having a chat if I am worried about anything. One of our good friends even sent James home with a lamb casserole for us to heat up one evening because she knew I was struggling to get out to do food shopping and cooking.

Already saluting and getting ready to meet "dad"

Already saluting and getting ready to meet “dad”

Luckily the symptoms have started to ease and although our plans for a romantic meal out after our 12-week scan did not go quite as planned after I started feeling so sick after ordering that we ended up taking the meal home in a doggy bag, I am feeling a lot better.

I do sometimes look down at my stomach and think, “(insert expletive) when did that appear?” but judging by the fact people aren’t leaping up out of their seats to offer them to me on the bus, I am not actually showing very much… yet!

I look forward to that day, because as much as everyone tells me, “the time will fly by”, right now I am looking ahead at six months and I feel as if there is a very long way to go!

Friends and family reunited

13 Jan

I found an old jumper at the back of the wardrobe a few weeks ago. I tried it on again; it felt a little odd at first, cold and misshapen, but after a while the fibres stretched and relaxed and it was comfortable and cosy again. Coming back to England felt a little bit the same.

It was always going to happen., it was just a matter of when and for how long. We were both curious as to how it would feel; would that walk along the river still seem familiar? Would stepping back into the house I grew up in still feel like home? It is amazing how much and yet, at the same time, how little  can change in just two years.

Babies have been born, dogs have been bought, walls have been knocked down, rooms have been redecorated, barns have been renovated, but the weather is still wet, the Underground still heaving and the conversations are still the same (apart from when now interrupted by an 18-month old.)

Despite our reservations about how hectic our trip would be, we had a proper break and thanks to so many friends and family who put us up, fed us and basically made the effort to come out on cold, wet and windy days to see us, we had a a fantastic time. It was the people we had come to see and they are what made the holiday, but we surprised ourselves at how much we enjoyed being back in England itself. There was something strangely comforting about a howling gale and lashing rain and there is nothing so good as coming in to a log fire or a glass of mulled wine, which just aren’t appropriate at Christmas in Sydney! In fact, if there is one thing England does well, it is a cosy Christmas.

Our trip took us from London down to the south west, back across to Chichester and Portsmouth, up to Stamford via St.Albans and Bedford, over to Staffordshire, into Wales, down to Bridgnorth en route to London, and ended up full circle, back in Somerset for the last few days.

Although we knew we had missed our friends and family and admittedly, a traditional English pub, we had also missed green, rolling hills; historic towns and churches; and yes, perhaps even the cold! We were lucky to visit some of the picture postcard, quaint English towns and villages, experience London in all its illuminated, Christmas glory and see nearly everyone we wanted to while they were off work and enjoying the holidays.

Sloane Square at Christmas

Sloane Square at Christmas

 

Eccleshall Church

Eccleshall Church

 

View from Bridgnorth

View from Bridgnorth

Stormy Lyme Regis

Stormy Lyme Regis

As we headed back to the airport for the final leg of our trip, we had to remind ourselves that we had come at a very special time, that the things that frustrated us two and a half years a go still existed and that ordinarily we would not be seeing ninety of our friends and family in three short weeks. Even the thought of heading back to summer did not appeal that day; we were leaving again and the only thing that made it a little easier to say goodbye was driving back in the grey, the Christmas lights extinguished, the trucks towing away the town Christmas trees and seeing the resigned faces of those returning to work for the first Monday back after New Year.

For our friends and family who read this, thank you for your hospitality and for looking after us so well!

Friends Reunited

Grandad

Family walk

New Year friends

Father and son

Edmondsons_photo

Despite having established a new life in a new country with new jobs and friends, when coming back it really felt as if we had never been away and just like an old jumper, England was cosy, comfortable and it was really good to be reunited.

Mulled cider

T minus 10 days

6 Dec

At the risk of sounding like my mother, where has the time gone? It seems hardly any time ago that we were talking about coming to the UK for Christmas “next year” and now it is ten days until we actually land back in the Mother country! It will have been almost two and a half years since we have seen some of our friends and family so we are, undeniably excited. However, ten days before we arrive means only three short days before we actually fly and that means a sudden panic about what I need to pack, buy, sort, post and finish before we head off.

With our birthdays both happening this past week, a huge amount to do for the new business, especially prior to leaving, and trying to arrange seeing people before Christmas and buying Christmas presents in time, the past few weeks have been hectic and at times, stressful.

With so much else going on, we kept our birthdays simple and organised a picnic with just a few friends on the beach last weekend. It was a lovely day and probably the first time we have purposefully gone to the beach for the day this Spring/Summer, as well as hung out with some of our friends for a while. Having Shan’s baby there kept everyone entertained as well!

Birthday picnic

Birthday picnic

Picnic in the park

Picnic in the park

James and Ash

James and Ash

On the days themselves, we went out to one of our favourite restaurants for dinner for my birthday, followed by ice cream at our favourite gelateria (both have coincidentally just opened up shop a short walk from us near Bondi – dangerous for the wallet and the hips!)

On James’ birthday I surprised him with some cake at the beach after work but these days it’s about as exciting as it gets!

The really exciting news is that Apple have approved the app and as soon as we give the green light, it will be available for sale in the App store… I have yet to break open the bubbles because the website and back-end functionality all needs to be smooth and fully operational before we do this and there are a few adjustments that need making. To add to the drama, a few weeks a go we learnt about the Inside Bitcoin Conference, taking place in Las Vegas and decided the timing was perfect to coincide with the app being in the store and for us to start promoting. So, we are now heading to Vegas for a few days before returning to LA and jetting off to London as originally planned.

Work aside, and it has been busy for both of us, it had almost escaped our attention that it is in fact nearly Christmas. It struck me as I walked into the Westfield mall the other week and heard ‘We Wish You A Merry Christmas’ cheerily jingle out against the other sound of the slip-slap of flip flops walking along the ground. The wreaths, however beautiful, jarr against the stark white, sunlit walls as does the juxtaposition of the Polar Bear, pointing his way toward Santa’s grotto, while all around his frosty podium the shop windows display summery brights and neon prints. I never thought I would say we are looking forward to the cold and dark but at this time of year, it just seems right!

Having said that, once night falls and the lights come on, Sydney still puts on  a good effort and we went to see the Martin Place Christmas tree in all its glory when we met up with a couple of friends for a drink last week – as you can tell from the picture, the tree was perhaps not that interesting!

 

Martin Place Christmas Tree

Martin Place Christmas Tree

The traditional arcades, such as The Strand arcade also look lovely at Christmas and if it wasn’t for the 27-degree sunshine, you might almost believe there was a quaint English town outside.
Strand Arcade

Strand Arcade

 

As I mentioned, we have been trying to fit in seeing people before we fly off, and so last weekend we drove up to see James’ dad’s cousin out in Windsor. Ibby moved a year a go and has done a huge amount of work to the house and garden, which, looks out across the flood plains of the Hawkesbury River. We also managed to catch up with her daughter, Liona who popped in for tea as well. We were particularly impressed by Ibby’s sunflowers!

The 10ft sunflower

The 10ft sunflower

Liona, Ibby and James

Liona, Ibby and James

 

I expect this will be the last post before we land arrive in England and this has been a bit of a rushed summary of everything that has happened over the past month. One thing I should mention, as you have probably noticed, James is sporting a little more facial hair than normal, which was his ‘Movember’ effort, seeing as they can’t have moustaches in the Navy. He reckons he is keeping it. I gave him a really nice shaving set for his birthday…

 

Marking a milestone

25 Jun

My 100th post! Wow – it seems a long time a go since I wrote the very first post on this blog, documenting our move from the UK to Australia. Since then we have also moved within Australia, although not too far! What is a few kilometres up the road compared with thousands of miles around the globe?

So I did wonder what I should write about for the 100th post. It feels like a kind of milestone and so the post itself should reflect this. I thought and then decided I would write about a special someone. I say someone, but actually, I’m talking about my dog, well, my family’s dog, who sadly had to be put down last Monday. I was hoping I would get to see her again when we come back to visit but it was not to be and at 14 ½, her time had come.

I suppose living so far from family means these events do happen and pass by without you being there and over the past 100 posts I have had to learn about the death of my Gran, the marriage of friends, the births of friends’ babies and now, the death of my dog.

I know she was only a dog, but you know, if you have one or have ever owned one, you know, they are not just dogs. Like all pets they become a member of the family, the friendly, familiar face that greets you when you come through the door, their tail wagging and in Jess’ case, a blanket or some such gift in her mouth.

This is not a Jess autobiography — I mean, she was a dog, a Labrador; she ate, slept, ate, walked, ate, played and ate some more.

©Louise Edmondson

I was a teenager, still at school when we went to the farm to choose a puppy from the litter and Jess was the one that scrambled on to my knee and sat there contentedly as a tiny, furry black creature that fit in the palm of your hand. One of my last memories is of her running across the fields near the reservoir, trying to chase the kite we were flying.

She had a crazy run, her ears always flew up in the air when she bounded through the corn fields so you simply saw a funny black head randomly appearing above the corn ears. As a puppy she licked everything and everyone in sight and as a dog she ignored the garden boundaries and saw the entire village as her back yard. A call from the local shop, a neighbour, or even the pub, was not unheard of. Jess was notorious, but if you were ever out walking her, somebody knew her and she was all too happy to receive their pets and strokes.

She was the most good-natured and friendly dog I knew but she had her mischievous streak. If an angler on the river made the mistake of leaving his bait unattended, Jess would have it; if a farmer left a brace of pheasants hanging in his shed, well, the contents might end up in Jess’ stomach and if someone accidentally dropped a Cornish pasty in the verge, it would be Jess’ next meal.

Incidentally, that was Jess’ last meal. On the way back to the vet after a walk in the sunshine, she came across said pasty and devoured it with the same gusto as when she was a sprightly, waggy-tailed pup. Some things did not change.

Like all animals, she had her own personality, her own quirks and plenty of endearing traits, which mean now she has gone, I know the house feels very quiet and a little empty. There is no longer a little dog padding about, sniffing the kitchen floor for any crumbs, sun bathing in the window or curled up asleep next to the armchair.

Although I have not been around to see her these past two years, I still miss her and have an abundant supply of memories, which I will not go on about here.

A sweet, funny, lovely dog and greedy to the last. She had a final walk in the sun on Monday and then fell asleep peacefully.

jess

18

28 Feb

Well, it’s been a while since we (I) last blogged! I guess that’s not for lack of things happening, but more that the things that have been happening have been very ordinary, some might say, dull! I think it’s also just symptomatic of the fact we have adjusted, settled and are getting on with the day to day. The weekly shop is not that blog-worthy (even if you have an experience as I did the other week involving traffic, closed down car parks, forgetting wallets, a second run to the shop and then said shop running out of what you need); the housework is really not that exciting (the laundry basket is constantly full of uniform, the patio is constantly full of leaves and the sink is constantly  just full) and work is as it is for most people: frustrating and slow at times, stressful and demanding and always needing to be done!

On that note, can you tell we have been here 18 months? Yes, 18 months! It is the second longest period of time either of us have ever lived in one house in our adult lives. 18 months, 180 degree flip to the other side of the world. Here we are. So here are 18 photos to celebrate the milestone and the journey so far 🙂

James@Sydney Harbour

Coffee in Frankston

Roos on the quarterdeck

Harbour Highlights

Louise & James - 1920s style

Festive friends

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Three Sistas!

James

Sunrise

Newcastle arrives

Cute Koala

Sculptures By The Sea: View

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The rough with the smooth

9 Jan

James’ dad and step mum arrived safely just after Christmas and spent their first week with us in Sydney before we all headed off to the South Coast. We had a day in Jervis Bay before we went our separate ways: David and Lindy staying in the area for a little longer, exploring the south of NSW and visiting family near the border and us back up to Sydney (via Kiama because we decided we quite liked it and have added it to our list of potential ‘future home’ destinations.)

Luckily D & L  have escaped any problems from the bush fires, still burning in that region and we have been in almost daily contact to make sure all is well as we track where the fires are still threatening homes and townships.

Now we have had a fantastic time showing D & L around ‘our Sydney’: taking trips to beaches, ferry rides around the harbour, hosting a New Year’s party, walking through the Botanical Gardens, cliff walks from Bondi and brunch at Bill Granger’s. We even had a quick visit to the tyre repair centre (seems to be a common theme when we have parents come to visit) and a very exciting trip to ‘Supa Centa’ to buy a new piece of furniture (I expect this was their highlight ;-)) Well, they did want to experience ‘our Sydney’!

I could blog about all of that but to be honest, you’ve heard it before and I’ve blogged about it before so I thought I’d talk about an experience we had after arriving in the very picturesque and quaint town of Berry, en route to Jervis Bay. We decided to stop there overnight and take a leisurely and scenic route along the coast to get there.

It was a wonderful drive and then we arrived at The Berry Hotel.

I suppose the fact that five bedrooms shared one shower validated the claim we were in an ‘old’ building and certainly the flaking paintwork and holes in the walls gave the old (not dilapidated) building some authenticity. We were taken to our bedrooms via the external fire escape. This was nothing if not a little quirky so I went with it. On being shown our room, I was able to relive school trip and brownie camp days of choosing which bunk to sleep in. Perhaps they were after a dormitory-style ambience? I suppose the several beds gave us options and if we had an argument in the night, there were two bunk beds as well as the double to choose from.

We left our room (this time via the more boring but conventional route – the internal stairwell) to go and have dinner in the restaurant. As we sat in the large dining area we were blasted with a fine mist, which we discovered was actually the air conditioning. A few minutes (and feeling a little damper and stickier later) we decided to move to a smaller, more enclosed, but empty, dining room. The waitress took our order and the door was closed behind us – at least it was private dining then. The food was its redeeming feature and they were certainly large portions. Two pork chops meant an entire pig on your plate and if you ordered the salmon you were very special as you were served ten minutes before everyone else.

It was a warm night and I had noticed we had no fan in our bedroom, although David and Lindy did so I went to ask one of the staff if they had one we could use. Apparently not. There were no more ‘in the entire hotel’ apparently but I was assured it would cool down in a few hours. I suppose that’s fine if you didn’t want to fall asleep before 3am. I thought a cooling shower would help and the shower room was right next to our bedroom, which was handy, although I say shower room as there was no bath and er, no toilet. Yes, the toilet was along the veranda and down the next corridor and also shared with five other bedrooms. Luckily we didn’t drink too much that evening then due to the small trek if you needed to go in the night.

I settled to sleep and was soon dreaming sweetly: I was bathed in a fine, watery film and momentarily thought I was back in the dining room. I woke up – ah no, that would be a fine film of sweat then from the still, hot air and lack of fan. It would actually be quite nice to be back in that dining room now, lightly misted with cooling water…

At least in the morning there was the prospect of a refreshing shower and yes, it was a great shower, if you were under 5 foot tall and once you worked out the cold tap meant hot in this hotel and vice versa. At least there were no bugs around, not alive at least. The dead cockroach in the corner was a nice touch to show pests did not fare well in this place. I’m not sure any of the guest would either if they stayed much longer than we did but you have to have these experinces I suppose. Makes you appreciate the good ones 🙂

The harsher side to a beautiful land

7 Jan

When a place you’ve visited is featured on the news – and the news is not good – it just feels a little bit closer and a little bit more relevant. Suddenly you’ve seen the school they’re talking about, you’ve walked down the street now in devastation and had a drink in the coffee shop now standing amid the rubble. This is true for us now, just two weeks after visiting the beautiful island of Tasmania, the state is now being ravaged by bushfires and some are still burning out of control.

The truly devastating effects and indiscriminate nature of nature are clearly in evidence when you look at the images of the once picturesque coastal village of Dunalley, now smouldering in the ashes, gutted by the flames.

jettyfire

The Mercury

Dunalley Fire Aerial (The Australian)

Access to the Tasman Peninsula has been closed off for days when it was just days ago that James and I drove down that way in the camper car to visit Port Arthur. Now people are being evacuated by boat off the peninsula to Hobart.

I have only experienced a similar reaction to a news story when I saw the scenes in Thailand of the Boxing Day tsunami, a year to the day after I was sat on that same beach in Phuket. Yesterday we watched and were just thankful, not only for the timing of our holiday, but that so far, everyone has been accounted for and no lives have been lost in the Tasmanian fires. It was one of the few times we have been compelled to call the number on the screen and visit the website to donate money to the rescue and salvage operation. When you enjoyed a place so much and had a fantastic time because of its scenery and its people, you want to do what you can to protect that scenery and help those people.

Catastrophic fire warnings are now in place across parts of New South Wales as well, especially along the South Coast, where once again, James and I were just two days ago. When the ‘fire risk’ markers obliterate the map of your area you know it’s not a sensational news story and with temperatures in this part of the country set to soar to dizzying heights tomorrow, we are being told we face the biggest fire danger in the state’s history. Temperatures in Sydney are predicted to rise into the 40s and whereas we may be fortunate to escape to the sea breezes and a dip in the ocean, it’s all too easy to forget some will not be so lucky. With family travelling down the South Coast as we speak, we know people have their bags packed and ready to leave their homes at a moment’s notice.

It’s one of the harsher and sadder realities of living in such a hot climate and if anything makes you have a little more respect for nature, the pictures on our news channels at the moment will do just that.

Fireworks and reflections

2 Jan

We played a few Christmas songs, I made some mice pies, we decorated our tree, put up the cards and wrapped our presents and so despite the sun blazing through the windows, Christmas Eve was fairly festive. When we woke up on Christmas Day, the sky was grey and the rain started an hour later. It did not stop and so for our second Christmas in Australia we felt quite ‘at home’ in the decidedly British weather, had a roast turkey dinner, watched Christmas films and eventually went for a walk in the rain!

2012-12-25 19.35.46

2012-12-25 17.11.35

2012-12-25 17.24.38

It was our first Christmas in our own home in Sydney and our first (and possibly only) Christmas spent with just each other. We were joined by families via Skype later in the evening but all in all it was a very quiet day. I suppose we did miss some drunken relation falling asleep during the Queen’s speech or the dog eating all the mince pies and a family argument over a game of charades but I suppose there were no risks of typical family tensions. In fact  just to make sure I gave James a book and he gave me a jigsaw so conversation was pretty minimal!

New Year’s Eve was an entirely different affair. The sun was out, it was hot, James’ dad and Lindy had arrived, a feast had been prepared and a group of our friends and their families had assembled at our house for the pre-fireworks barbecue. As usual, there were too many sausages, plenty of beer and as the sun went down we enjoyed a bit of a party on our patio. Then it was an organised procession to the bus and up to HMAS Watson for a view from the wardroom for Sydney’s famous NYE fireworks display. The champagne was flowing and the display did not disappoint.

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It is strange to think we have now had our second Christmas and another New Year in Australia. Last year we were still growing accustomed to life ‘down under’ having only been in the country four months. This year we’re almost ‘old hands’ and have a brilliant bunch of friends to show for it. As usual, New Year is a time when many people look back and reflect on the past twelve months. For us, 2012 was the year of settling and exploring! After a hectic 2011, a year of change and upheaval, this past year has been about establishing a home, a network of friends and some kind of routine. I started the year freelancing and ended the year having written a novel. James started the year on a ship and spending months away at sea and ended it in a shore-based job just a few kilometres from home. Our friends have actually changed very little but we have met some new ones and grown closer to our other ‘less new’ ones!

In 2012 we had visits from my parents, my friend, my sister and currently, James’ dad and step mum. We have had holidays in Margaret River, Jervis Bay and Tasmania. This year we may do a little less travelling but James has several trips away with the Navy and we look forward to a visit back to the UK towards the end of the year. It will inevitably be a busy one, particularly with James’ job this year and hopefully I’ll find something new and try to persevere with getting my novel published. We shall see…

Laws of Physics

22 Aug

When it comes to laws of magnetism, the basics state that opposites attract and likes repel and I couldn’t help but note that as with magnets, siblings too can sometimes attract and repel each other, so it seemed apt that my sister and I set off for Magnetic Island for a four-day break up in Queensland for some winter warmth! Fortunately, there was no repulsion, although we were probably more attracted to the Koalas, which were living in the trees just behind the B&B we were staying in.

Having never seen a Koala in the wild before, this was a wonderful first sight and welcome to the island and for Caroline, a tick in the box for her list of ‘Aussie things to see.’ After experiencing the cooler climes of Sydney, we were both glad of the sunshine and 27 degree heat that north Queensland in Winter has to offer. We met up in Townsville, south of Cairns (as Caroline had been down in Melbourne) and took the ferry over to the island.

As the majority of the island is national park and uninhabited, it is teeming with wildlife and has plenty of beautiful, unspoilt bays. We were staying near Horseshoe Bay at a B&B where the owners treated us more as house guests than customers: showed us the Koalas, let us feed the Lorikeets, which came to their garden every morning and even offered to drive us to various points around the island if we were heading out to the bus. Mind you, the island is so small, that only a couple of buses are needed to service the whole place and nowhere is much more than a fifteen minutes drive.

We used the walking trails to explore a few of the bays and took snorkelling gear so we could see the coral and tropical fish living in the waters around the island.

Our friendly B&B hosts also took us to a small forested area, renowned for all the butterflies and  a blue tiger butterfly even stayed still long enough for me to catch it on camera. Unfortunately, I stayed still long enough to be bitten all over by mosquitoes but perhaps worth it for the normally elusive shot!

 

Another highlight was feeding the rock wallabies at Geoffrey Bay. They were incredibly tame and after a while came right up and fed out of your hand.

On the last day, we went to take one last look to see if the Koalas were still hanging around and were lucky enough to see a mother and baby – unbelievably cute, especially when the baby turned around for the camera!

Magnetic Island is a beautiful place and hopefully James and I will go up together at some point. I took a lot of pictures, and you can see a selection from the trip in the photo gallery.

City2Surf

13 Aug

What do you get when you take over 85,000 people, 14 km of hilly roads, and one very cold and blustery day?  It can only be this year’s Sydney’s City2Surf. My starting gun went at 8.30 am in the city on Sunday and 73 minutes later, I crossed the finishing line at Bondi Beach after completing the world’s largest annual running event.

Channelling my inner ‘Mo’, I managed to beat my target of finishing in 80 minutes. The training finally paid off and I am sure the added adrenalin and fantastic atmosphere, with the crowds along the roadside, the live music striking up along the route and the huge numbers of runners, spurred me along. I had been fairly nervous the night before the race; the weather on Friday and Saturday had been horrendous with winds of over 100kph and lashing rain. The forecast was not much better for Sunday and it was arguably the worst weather in the event’s 31-year history, but despite a chill in the air and the odd strong gust of wind, Sunday stayed dry and the weather did nothing to dampen the spirits of everyone in the starting groups at Hyde Park.

I have never experienced being right in amongst so many thousands of people before. As far as the eyes could see were bodies, limbering up, jumping up and down, cheering; a sea of colourful running gear, caps and fancy dress costumes. The elite athletes set off first, followed by runners who had a qualifying time and half an hour later, my blue group were off. Minutes before the gun was fired, the sky was obscured with hundreds of items of clothing: jumpers, trousers and tops; flung into the air as people stripped off ready to run. The clothes are collected later by the Girl Guides for charity. I had managed to get as close to the front of my group as I could so it was only a minute before I was running over the starting line pads and from then on, I never looked back and was happy to find myself overtaking as many people as were sprinting past me!

I was aware Heartbreak Hill was approaching (hard to ignore the banners and flags being waved to remind you!) but strangely it did not seem much of a struggle and as soon as it began to flatten, I picked up the pace again and before I knew it, I was rounding the corner of Military Road and Bondi was in sight. I was spurred along again by the sight of James, Caroline and our neighbour, Katie, who were there at Bondi Beach to cheer me on and it was a fantastic feeling to cross the finishing pads 73 minutes and 18 seconds later.

I was so pleased with my finishing time but decided I really could have pushed myself to do it faster, especially as I had enough to put in a sprint finish for the last few hundred metres.

It was a fantastic day, despite the cold, and I have definitely been encouraged to do a few more races now and hopefully City2Surf next year as well. It was a particularly pertinent time for the event with Olympic fever having swept across the country, and having missed the excitement and atmosphere of having the Olympics in our home country, it was a little bit of sporting action we could get involved with. My medal may have been of a very different metal and I certainly broke no records but as a first-timer, I did achieve a PB and who knows, next year, I might be competing against James and a few other friends as well, who have now said they’re keen to take on Heartbreak Hill!

I also have to mention the generosity of everyone who sponsored me for beyondblue. I managed to double my target and raise over $500, which is fantastic and, although there was no blood and very few tears, it makes all the sweat very worthwhile!

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