Posts Tagged ‘family’

The Christmas that was

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

A friend just asked me what my New Year resolutions are and I told him that I didn’t have any. I think this might be a slight lie. I always set resolutions, well aware that I won’t stick to them. But I need something to work towards and challenge myself with. I’m not entirely sure what they are yet (although reducing my sugar intake from its current excessive heights is definitely up there) but I know I want to return to writing more on my blog. I have been neglecting it lately and now that I have two large essays to write I find myself drawn back to the safety of my own personal writing. So much easier than scary academia.

December has been a crazy month – I spent a lot of it laughing/crying hysterically and pulling on my hair whenever someone asked me how I was. A lot of people had to put up with a manic Jess as I went a little bit nuts working on a group exhibition for uni. Thirty five people attempting to organise one exhibition does not make for relaxed times but the end result was surprisingly great. I will write about this in a separate post a little later.

exhibition

Proof that I am learning stuff.

I also had a written group assignment to put together, plus two other large essays looming. They’re still looming. Really. Need. To. Write. Them.

Plus paid writing work has been flowing in steadily which has kept me fed and housed. It has been lovely that so many of my clients have been willing to stick with me as I country hopped over the last few months. Being able to juggle university and paid writing work has been life saving. I don’t think I could handle a ‘real job’ at the moment.

And then there was Christmas. Once again, Jess McScrooge came out and I managed to avoid the Christmas markets until the final day when I stocked up on my favourite dutch almond slice. I am exceptionally lucky to have some exceptionally welcoming family members in this country and was invited to spend Christmas with them. It was a small and relaxed gathering (well, relaxed for me because I didn’t have to do anything!) with plenty of delicious food and a mulled wine or two.

On Boxing Day we went for a windy walk up Bosley Cloud, somehow managing to avoid the rain. We ate fruit mince pies at the top, a feat that required two hands in order to stop the wind from steal our pastry crumbs.

mince pie at Bosley Cloud

Pie and a view.

I had another large family gathering yesterday at another cousin’s house and it has reminded me of how fortunate I am to have such a great family around. Sure, they may all be a bunch of oddballs, but who isn’t? Much laughter was had. They’re a good bunch.

Now New Years approaches. I’m quite excited to see what 2016 brings – I already know it will be challenging as a dissertation awaits. If anyone has any thoughts on what I should write about, please let me know because I currently have no idea. Thanks.

Getting Old

Monday, September 7th, 2015

After running 42 kilometres I then had a birthday party. I wasn’t sure about whether or not my local bar, The Nic, would be an appropriate venue or if it would even be open, but it turned out to be perfect. From 3.30pm until around 6pm, my friends and I essentially had the place to ourselves!

Every time I leave a country I am reminded of how lucky I am to have such awesome friends and family. I had an unexpectedly large turn out to my party and despite it being a very random selection of people, everyone seemed to get along. There were no bar fights so I count that as a successful birthday party.

The post-marathon tiredness hit me at around 6pm as I lay down on a bench seat next to my friend Ellice who proceeded to stroke my hair as I nodded off. Good times! Wild party. Any shindig that ends in me having a head massage is a winner in my books.

My actual birthday was on Tuesday and it crept up on me quite suddenly. I didn’t find the ‘turning 30’ thing as scary as I could have, mostly because I have declared that 30 is the new 20. The fact that I am heading off on yet another adventure and starting a new life direction means I don’t have much choice than accept that I’m not being a typical 30 year old. No mortgages, white picket fences or weddings are on my radar. Instead I am going to become a student again.

birthday card

My brother knows how to choose a birthday card.

*Small aside* The flight attendants have just handed out bags of sweetened popcorn to everyone on the plane and it sounds like the start of a film. Packets are rustling and there’s the crunch and chomp of popped corn between teeth. Pity it is coated in caramel and a bit soggy. Mmm… plane food.

Anyway, good birthday times were had – I started my day with a massage in the hope to alleviate some of the pain from the marathon. It wasn’t quite the ‘dolphin sounds’ relaxation session that I was hoping for and more of an intense pummelling but my muscles thanked me for it afterwards. I then had coffee and cake with Dad and Eva before meeting my friends for lunch in the park.

Dinner was at the Beaufort Street Merchant where we were served by a charming waiter who sounded like Jamie Oliver. The food was excellent – cauliflower and lentils followed by a delightfully rich chocolate mousse with peanut butter ice cream. Somewhat unfortunately all of the desserts were covered with exceptionally teeth-sticking toffee. We all ended the meal trying to discretely remove chunks of sugar from our teeth with our fingers. Classy!

In this soft candle light, the wrinkles are far less defined.

In this soft candle light, the wrinkles are far less defined.

Working with my Great Grandfather

Friday, July 3rd, 2015

Two weeks ago, I started yet another role within the City of Subiaco. This time, not only did I move desk, I also moved office to the other side of Rokeby Road. The council rents an office space in a strange orange clad building that from the outside appears to wish it was located in the mediterranean. It has an internal atrium space with a balcony and the front windows dream of housing a fair maiden.

In reality it has been divided into clunky offices, some of which can only be accessed via stairs and it has some serious heating issues.

230 Rokeby Road

230 Rokeby Road

Despite all of this, I am feeling a very odd sense of pride working here because in the years around 1918, my great grandfather and great grandmother lived at 230 Rokeby Road. Obviously their house wasn’t this ridiculous office block and was most likely a very small cottage with not a lot surrounding it, but every day as I walk into work and see the number on the letter box I wonder how on earth this happened.

I very much doubt that William thought, “In 100 years time, my great granddaughter is going to monitor the City of Subiaco’s Twitter accounts from my lounge room.” And on my return from Manchester, I didn’t expect to work in his old house. Yet somehow this has happened and once again William and I have crossed paths three generations apart.

I also bet he didn’t think that Advanced Hair would be operating from his second storey and that these good looking fellas would be hanging on the wall.

Advanced Hair, yeah yeah.

Advanced Hair, yeah yeah.

Puppy Love

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Last night it dawned on me that Sinead O’Connor is clearly singing about a guide dog that she has been training in her song Last Day of Our Acquaintance. A trainer and a dog who have a final day together before being separated forever. They will meet again when the dog graduates but when the trainer tries to say hello, the dog will be so focused on being a good guide dog that it won’t respond. And we already know this will happen.

Today my family is understanding exactly what Sinead was getting at. Tomorrow Cali is leaving our house and moving on to help a visually impaired woman live her daily life. She has made it through the training, been declared as one of the top 20 dogs EVER (of course, she’s a Davies), and is now going to spend the rest of her life providing an amazing service to someone who needs a bit of help. And while we’re ridiculously proud of her, we all want to cry.

Cali, the smartest dog in the world.

Cali, the smartest dog in the world.

My parents have just spent the last two and half years training Cali, pretending not to be getting attached while really falling in love. My brother has spent almost a year with Cali around while I have gotten to know her in the last three months. When I moved back to Perth I wasn’t all that thrilled that a dog was living in my house and stealing attention from my parents away from me. And now I rush home in order to have pats with Cali. I call her over, rub her tummy, take her for walks every evening, I have given her a soppy nickname and I will do anything she wants when she looks at me with her loveable dog eyes. When I’m sad, she cheers me up faster than chocolate ice cream.

WHAT ON EARTH HAPPENED?! No one in my family quite understands how a four-legged furry creature who really is ‘just a dog’ has managed to have such a resounding impact on all of us. We have all been affected by Cali’s presence and she didn’t even do anything other than lie around on our floor. Perhaps this is what all animals manage to do, or maybe Cali is a wonder dog. Whatever the reason, we’re going to miss her and she will always be my favourite dog. I still hate dogs, but I love Cali.

A clean dog is a good dog

A clean dog is a good dog

On that note, we will learn more tomorrow evening whether or not it is possible to like more than one dog, when Dad has taken Cali to school for the last time and returns home with Eva (aka Cali II). Yes, we’re getting another one, because rebound guide dogs are always the best option.

I’m Back.

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

This time one week ago, I was squished between a window and a fat woman with a beard on my flight back to Perth. Having just spent 11 hours in the foetal position avoiding any contact with the excess flab hanging over into my side of the arm rest, I was quite keen to get off the plane, collect my luggage, assure Australian customs that I wasn’t smuggling any dead animals into the country and give my mum a hug.

Since then I have spent my time re-adjusting to life in Australia and drinking a lot of ice coffees.

Jet lag.

I thought I had done so well. After arriving home on Saturday afternoon, I managed to stay away until 9.30pm before having 12 hours sleep and waking up feeling relatively adjusted. However, Sunday evening I lay staring at the ceiling until 4am when I finally felt tired enough to go to sleep. It is a strange feeling to lie in bed knowing that you’re supposed to be tired and that now is sleep time, however your body thinks it is still living on the other side of the world.

Anyway, my body clock is functioning properly now and I have even managed to get into the obscene Australian lifestyle of getting up before 6am to do exercise. Who does that? A lot of people around here it seems.

The weather.

I hear it is a bit chilly in England. My plane was delayed by over an hour when I left Manchester as they had to clear snow and ice from the runway. Apparently the canals have frozen and people are complaining about the cold.

manchester airport

From this…

It isn’t cold in Perth. This weekend we’re expecting 37 and 40 degree temperatures which is a little unnecessarily warm. I had forgotten what it feels like to sweat and I have managed to reach ‘beetroot’ level where people gawk at my red face and ask me if I am ok after my morning runs. I had also forgotten that everything melts and all of my lip balms, hand creams, chocolates and pots of Nutella are particularly runny.

Perth skyline

To this.

My family.

I have managed to catch up with a lot of my family since my return and have spent many hours sitting around chatting with my Dad. We have managed to come up with many great plans of things to build, books to publish, jobs to complete and adventures to have over the next 6 months that I may need to extend my stay.

And I am catching up on four years’ worth of Mum hugs.

Mum lasagna

She may not be Italian, but nothing beats my Mum’s lasagna.

The dog.

While I have been living overseas, my parents have replaced me with a dog. My tendency to sneeze in the presence of any furry creatures and the fact that I was terrified of dogs as a child has meant that I have never been much of a dog-person. However, Cali isn’t any old slobbery mutt – she is a guide dog in training and understands the word ‘sit’. She doesn’t jump, bark, slobber, lick (that much), smell or make a mess. She doesn’t even seem to molt which is particularly impressive. While I still dislike dogs, she has managed to convert me into a Cali-person.

Cali

Cali rests her head after a long day at Guide Dog training school.

The beach.

Oh, the beach. Glorious, glorious beach. Tuesday morning saw my return to the early-morning-swim-at-the-beach ritual as Mum, Dad, Cali and I headed to North Cottesloe for a 7am swim. It was nice to see the regular beach-goers again and for them to recognise me and welcome me back. There is nothing like the smell of ocean air and the feeling of being immersed in salty water. Those 15 minutes of bobbing around really kick start a day. Both Paris and Manchester are definitely lacking on that front.

So I am back. Physically, at least. I’m not sure where my head is living and I have no idea where ‘home’ is exactly. But it is nice to know that I have multiple places across the world where people will be happy to see me.

So Long, Christmas!

Monday, December 29th, 2014

My inner Scrooge is pleased to see the end of all that tinsel, mulled wine and festive cheer, although I am willing to admit that Christmas Day turned out to be a lot better than expected. Some forward planning based on the knowledge that I would be spending the day on my own meant I could fill it with all things “Jess”.

1. Get up early and run a half marathon.

I don’t know many other people who would set their alarm for 7am on Christmas morning in order to get out of bed, eat breakfast and digest before heading off for an extended run. I figured if I had all day I may as well make it a decent jog so I set myself the goal of a Christmas Half Marathon. Seemed like a good idea at the time.

My running route.

My running route.

It was a beautiful, crisp, blue-skied morning and by the time I left home the sun was attempting to show itself. Perfect running conditions as I headed off, getting slightly lost along the way and having to re-route due to muddy conditions. My final distance was a comfortable 24 kilometres, the last seven of which were slightly less comfortable. I fed myself chocolate flavoured energy gels and recovery shakes as reward for my long slog. Holy moly, those things are good. I would run excessive distances every day if it meant I could eat chocolate-flavoured protein bars.

Run, rabbit, run.

Run, rabbit, run.

2. A little bit of stollen.

After de-stinking myself, it was time for morning coffee and a slice of Aldi Rich Fruit Marzipan Stollen. While it wasn’t bad for a budget supermarket cake, it certainly couldn’t compete with my brother’s version and there definitely wasn’t enough marzipan. But then again, is there ever enough marzipan? Ooh, deep.

More marzipan, please.

More marzipan, please.

3. Christmas lunch for one

A week or so before Christmas I saw a recipe on the Sweet Paul Magazine website for a beetroot salad that instantly screamed “EAT ME FOR CHRISTMAS LUNCH!”. Unable to find half of the ingredients (Dear British Supermarkets, please sell fennel. Thanks. Jess.), I adapted the recipe to include roasted beetroot, kale, blue cheese and an amazing mixed nuts selection that I had found at Aldi. Served with a glass of elderflower champagne made by my friend, Garden Boy (aka Jon), it was potentially the BEST CHRISTMAS LUNCH EVER.

beetroot salad

Wow. Just wow.

I Skyped my family back home while munching on my lunch and it was lovely to be able to sit and chat with the folks and the bro. Thank you for existing, Skype.

4. Christmas bake-off.

Thinking I would have all of the time in the world on Christmas day, I had decided to bake biscotti as a Christmas gift for Sir Pubert’s mum and her partner. I suddenly became aware of the rapidly decreasing amount of time I had to achieve this, so I bid adieu to my family and then raced around the kitchen creating what ended up being the best biscotti in my baking career. Boom.

biscotti

Crunchy nutty chocolatey goodness.

5. Father Christmas really does love me.

Sir Pubert collected me and my hundreds of bags and we headed to his house for Christmas dinner with his mum, Katy, and her partner, Ken. Over a glass of champagne I was overwhelmed to discover that Father Christmas hadn’t forgotten me and had left a plethora of presents in a PaperChase stocking just for me. Plus additional gifts from Katy, Ken and Pubert – spoilt, I was.

6. Turkey.

A whole turkey for three adults and a vegetarian is a little excessive. Plus parsnips, potatoes, peas, bread sauce, stuffing and red cabbage. Followed up with homemade and hand-fed Christmas pudding with custard makes for many a stuffed belly. There was plenty of moaning and regret following that meal but a content bunch of over-stuffed humans we were.

christmas dinner

Mmm… too much food…

So while I may whinge about Christmas and its ability to make human beings act like piggish idiots, it was the simplicities of the day that made my Christmas very enjoyable. Great weather, wonderful family and friends, delicious food, and a bloody long run.

A Trip to Northern Ireland

Monday, December 1st, 2014

Last night I returned home from a four day visit in the land of limericks and leprechauns. Early Thursday morning, Sir Pubert, his mum, Katy, his mum’s partner, Ken, and I loaded ourselves into a BMW with sports suspension and low-profile tyres and drove to Northern Ireland. We drove through three countries in one day – England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Neat.

Sir Pubert was born in Northern Ireland and we were off to visit the plethora of aunts, uncles and cousins who live in and around the Antrim/Ballymena area. My recent experience discovering new family members in my own clan has made me an expert at understanding family connections. I had been provided with general descriptions of each of the relatives I may or may not meet prior to departure and again at regular intervals throughout the trip. I am now very well versed on the Unique Personality Traits (UPTs) of Sir Pubert’s various family members and could almost draw a family tree. Almost.

Northern Ireland

Sunny Northern Ireland.

Having never previously visited Ireland or Northern Ireland, I was a tad excited and also somewhat surprised to discover that it was located so far south. In my somewhat naive head, I had always imagined Ireland as being significantly further north than England, but it turns out I was wrong. So there we go. This was good news, as it meant the drive to get there would be much shorter than I expected.

At this point I would like to mention that never before have I travelled in a car from England to Northern Ireland with such a good looking, fun and intelligent group of people. I may or may not have been told to write that.

With a brief coffee break in Dumfries, we made our way to Cairnryan where we drove the car onto a large P&O ferry that took us across the Irish Sea to Larne. This was definitely more enjoyable than my last car-on-boat-crossing experience that I had had in 2007, travelling from Custines to Bognor Regis with a bus load of french teenagers who were hyped up on sugar and pretending to not be homesick. This ride was smooth, the boat was half empty and Toblerone cost £5 in the gift shop. Ridiculous.

P&O Ferry

All abord the P&O ferry to Larne

Having arrived in Northern Ireland, I cheered for having added yet another country to my extensive list, and we drove off to visit family member #1. And so began a weekend of conversations where I desperately tried to work out which Aunt was being discussed, who they were related to and what their UPT was. I eventually gave up and just sat around eating for four days.

More adventures in Northern Ireland to follow.

Speculaas Induced Memories

Wednesday, October 1st, 2014

I am currently sitting at my kitchen table working on my laptop and being easily distracted by Facebook and photographs from last night’s Yelp event. I have just made myself a cup of coffee and am eating a speculaas biscuit that was hand couriered from The Netherlands by Sir Pubert Gladstone when he last visited his Dad.

Speculaas biscuits

Speculaas biscuits – Photo from www.enjoybettercoffee.com

Despite the uniquely spiced flavours of this Dutch speciality, all I can think about when I eat speculaas are summer holidays in Perth when I was a kid. Every day mum would take my brother, his friend, Alan, and me to North Cottesloe beach for a swim. After an hour or so of catching waves on our boogie boards or floating on our backs in the flat water, we would run back to our towels and Mum would give us speculaas biscuits. It would taste of sun-warmed spice, sea salt and sand. After scoffing one or two we would race back for more wave action, squealing a little as our bodies readjusted to the water temperature.

North Cottesloe beach

North Cottesloe beach – photo by Al Black on Flickr

Midday would approach and we would brush the sand from our feet and sit on the hot car seats, the seat belts scolding our bare skin. On the way home, mum would stop at the bakery in Claremont for poppyseed rolls and jam doughnuts. As we waited in the car, Ben, Alan and I would compare who had the most sand in their bathers and think about what video we wanted to watch that afternoon.

It is amazing what a flavour can spark in your memory bank. This week I was fortunate enough to be given a piece of homemade Princess Cake. The making of the cake was inspired by The Great British Bakeoff but for me, Princess Cake means family gatherings at my Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Out of date juice boxes, teal coloured floral plates, cake forks and the celebration of one of my grandparents’ birthdays. Green marzipan domes will always remind me of this, and while Princess Cake was never my favourite (I’m not a huge fan of soggy sponge and cream), spending time with my family has always been something I have enjoyed. So while they may all be living on the other side of the world, as I ate the green marzipan I felt like my grandma and grandpa and the Miss Maud’s bakery were just next door.

 

Princess Cake

Mary Berry’s Princess Cake

Aye, Nessie

Thursday, August 21st, 2014

It has been far too long since my last entry. I have many excuses – great excuses. They mostly involve ‘real work that pays and helps me to afford to eat’ and a significant lack of internet in the Scottish highlands. Yes, since I last wrote, I have travelled north and found myself in the land of green, green, green mountains and not very many roads.

Scotland is a bit like a lumpier, greener, lusher, colder, wetter version of Australia. By that I mean I finally accepted that it would be potentially possible to get ‘lost’ in the UK. Up until recently, I had laughed at anyone who had tried to tell me it was possible to get lost and die around here as I have always felt that there is a road/house/shop/farm within a five mile walking distance of practically everywhere. Not in bonny Scotland! Start heading into the mountainous highlands and you soon find a lack of roads and a lack of inhabitants. It is vast and open. It is wonderful.

Scottish mountains

Rainy Scotland from the comfort of a car

I spent two nights with my Mum’s dutch cousins in a small village near Perth in Scotland. They then dropped me off in Edinburgh where I met up with my English third or forth cousin, Les. From the blissful nothingness of a small Jane-Austen-esque cottage in the middle of nowhere, to the manic insanity of “FREE COMEDY!” at the Edinburgh festival, it was quite a see-saw holiday for the senses. Both extremes were fantastic and I promise I will expand further when I am not about to be kicked out of my office (I have seven minutes until the security guards suggest I leave) but I just wanted to quickly write something to let you all know that I am still alive. So here is a quick piece of news:

I SAW THE LOCH NESS MONSTER!

Ok, that’s a lie. No one has seen Nessie, but my Dutch rellies did perform a wonderful service by driving for over two hours to get me to Loch Ness. And then another two-plus hours to get back. I have been able to tick one of my ‘Must Visit’ boxes in a very unexpected and last minute sort of way.

(Short aside – I wrote the above last night. I was then kicked out of my office three minutes earlier than expected and therefore couldn’t finish. It is now another day. Moving on.)

Loch Ness was… well… much like the many other lochs that we had driven past in order to get there. A large body of water, surrounded by trees. It did have the additional feature of ‘Tourism’ with the town of Fort Augustus filled with buses, American and Italian tourists and stuffed Loch Ness monsters. We didn’t stop for long – we drove through Fort Augustus, found a small car park to stop in, and took photographs of ourselves with the lake in the background. And then we drove home. There were no signs of giant, lake-dwelling creatures but it was raining so maybe she was keeping a low profile.

Loch Ness

This may or may not be the Loch Ness Monster.

Every Dark Cloud Has a Silver Muesli Lining

Monday, July 28th, 2014

I am taking the “Why haven’t your written on your blog? Are you lazy or useless or something?” comments that I have received lately as positive signs that people are actually reading my words. So FEAR NOT, dear friends, I am back in action. Life decided to take a bit of a dive and throw multiple large spanners in the works, along with a large pile of P-O-O-P. But with this came some big bonuses – I was able to hug my Dad after almost two years of separation. It is amazing how much you can miss this basic physical support and my various exploits on the other side of the world have meant that I have spent very long periods of time without parental embraces. I may be 28, but my inner child still needs a hug every now and then so it was nice to finally get one.

The even bigger bonus was that after giving me a hug, my dad handed over two bags of AMAZINGLY FANTASTIC HOMEMADE MUESLI. To any onlookers, this exchange of plastic zip-lock bags would have looked like we were dealing in contraband drugs. They would almost be correct – this muesli is as addictive as any hardcore drug. Oats, rye, sultanas, apricots, hazelnuts, almonds, brazil nuts, dates, figs, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, cashews – The Davies Family Muesli has been posted to Paris and transported to China. It has now made its way to Manchester where I have been greedily devouring it while also trying to save it for best. This morning I finished Bag #1 and almost cried. I am saving opening Bag #2 until I feel I will be able to cope with it disappearing. I won’t have access to any more for at least six months. I don’t know if I can handle that.

Drool.

Drool.