Tag Archives: Australia

Black and White from Ballarat

Just a quick flashback to a walk around the lake in Ballarat, Victoria, Australia in the winter. With the exception of one bizarrely bright bird, absolutely nothing was colourful that day and the wind was icy cold and quite gusty.

I briefly glanced at these when I first took them, but since we were already up to our eyeballs in packing boxes and mess, I didn’t have the energy to devote any time or inspiration to them back in August.

Here I am back in France, happily and cozily parked in front of the fire in December, and now I’m glad I saved these for the right time. Some of these are potential book covers or perfect for doing a matte and frame treatment. I can tell when my heart is happy again because my productivity level just soars. That’s a lovely thing to be able to say at my age!

All of the images in this short photo essay are from Lake Wendouree in Ballarat. Enjoy!

Unidentified woman and child walk along the lakeside on a cold winter day.

Unidentified woman and child walk along the lakeside on a cold winter day.

Partially submerged tree and water grasses in a rain-swollen lake.

Partially submerged tree and water grasses in a rain-swollen lake.

A bench at the edge of a swollen lake.

A bench at the edge of a swollen lake.

Wind whipped dunegrass alongside the water's edge of a lake.

Wind whipped dunegrass alongside the water’s edge of a lake.

And finally — the ONE SPOT of colour…

An Australian bird with a bright red face and deep blue chest picks its way through the marsh grass of an inland lake.

An Australian bird with a bright red face and deep blue chest picks its way through the marsh grass of an inland lake.

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Sometimes You Stop — Simply Stop

When nothing is working, flowing, creating any joy or satisfaction in your life — sometimes it is necessary to stop — simply stop.

The past few years have been a bit like that and it reached a cymbal-crashing crescendo this year. We knew in our bones that we were never going to settle into Australia, our options seemed to be narrowing instead of expanding no matter how we tried to manifest change, and we finally gave in and realised that we needed to sell our JUST renovated Mid-Century house, downsize, and go back to Europe.

Mid-Century dining

Mid-Century dining

Amidst all of that, my darling husband Mark (and yes, he has given me permission to discuss this) began facing the facts about his chronic depression and anxiety and he began treatment. He hasn’t worked at all this past year and it’s been a real juggling act financially. But I don’t actually care about that because the charming sweetie that I met almost 23 years ago is back — well and truly back. Having the gift of time was a blessing and it brought a clarity that may not have arrived if he had been juggling work and 3+ hours per day of commuting. So hooray and then some!

The lovely house sold in 7 weeks, settled 8 weeks after that, and we had a lot of decisions to make about what to sell or donate or keep and ship overseas. None of that was easy, there were moments of frustration, but at the very last minute everything FLEW out the door — from cars to refrigerator to furniture. Hooray again!

On that last night before the movers arrived at 8 AM to put our now-reduced household items into a 20 foot shipping container, we each slept for 45 minutes at most. We stayed up all night long to make SURE that it was all packed and ready — and there was still an overlap in spite of our best plans.

Once the men had left and the house was clean and ready for the new owners, we took the train from Ballarat down to Melbourne and checked into a pre-booked apartment by the sea in our old neighbourhood — the beachside suburb of St. Kilda. Something told me that we would need a few days of decompression before we got onto a long-haul flight across the world — and that was more accurate than I could have imagined. I was shattered and on the verge of being seriously ill. But we slept and ate and walked in short bursts until I was just about back to normal after 5 days.

Sunday in St. Kilda

Sunday in St. Kilda

On Melbourne Cup Day, we headed for the airport HOURS ahead of time and eventually got onto our 25 hour flight towards London. By the time we arrived, we had been awake for over 40 hours!

Again, I knew that we would be two zombies when we arrived at Heathrow at lunch time on the 2nd of November, so I booked us a hotel nearby and we checked in and slept, slept, slept. The next day we headed to Mark’s parents’ house on the east coast of England. That’s where we are now — still resting, still recovering after 10 days, getting ready to leave here on Sunday.

We’ve slowly and carefully picked a new car, bought insurance, reopened accounts, sorted out the banking, purchased proper winter clothing, and done mundane things whilst being spoiled rotten by Mark’s darling family. We are feeling very blessed.

The new car...

The new car…

We’ve arrived about 5 weeks before Christmas and it is rather cheerful to shop for winter coats and shoes in gaily decorated malls — especially when the temperatures outside do actually feel Christmas-y!

christmasreindeeratroyals

These aren’t new ideas, but when life becomes overwhelming — sometimes you just HAVE to stop.

We HAD to stop fighting the fact that nothing was coming together in Australia and it was no longer a good fit for either of us. We had to stop avoiding the fact that Mark HAD to get himself back to a happy and healthy state with therapy. We HAD to have those necessary hotel breaks in Melbourne and London or these two over-50 (and then some in my own case!) folks would have been in a state of total collapse. We HAD to stop thinking we’d bounce back after 2-3 days here in England and be ‘right as rain’ in no time. Um — no — it’s taking a lot longer nowadays!

You’ll notice that I have hardly posted for the last 3 and 1/2 years compared to the stream of information and photography prior to that. Australia wasn’t our cup of tea on so many levels — and I’ll leave it at that.

I have a book to finish and it might be a few weeks until I get back into the groove of posting a few times a month — but keep watching this spot. There are NEW things on the horizon!

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Time To Move On — Joyfully

It’s been a challenge — being back in Australia after living in Europe. We returned to find the social and political climate had changed significantly — and it wasn’t our ‘cup of tea’ any longer.

We had a plan and we’ve stuck to it — even if it did all take a bit longer to unfold than expected. We bought a fixer-upper house in a charming and established neighbourhood — a practically derelict 1950 house on a 1/4 acre lot with mature trees. And yes, it was that classic real estate cliche — the worst house on a good street.

The goal was to fix it up and sell it and then head back to Europe. But my oh my — didn’t 60 hour work weeks (on top of the renovations) and BREXIT and other kerfuffles add to the stress.

The house was completed and listed for sale in early July — and 7 weeks later we had an unconditional sale. Now the gritty part begins — deciding what to sell, what to keep, and then the flurry of packing boxes and bubble-wrap appears again. There will be happy moments and wistful moments and we know that it’s all part of the process of getting us BACK to a continent where our hearts are happy and we resonate with the look, smell, art, history, and social ethics of the place.

gladstonestreet-sold-sign

So wish us luck as we transition away from this quite beautiful Mid-Century house and off to the unknown! I’ll post progress updates along the way — and there will be some REALLY big news in the next few weeks about my simultaneous project (as if I didn’t have enough on my plate!) of launching an entire trilogy into the Amazon universe plus re-issuing 2 previous books that have unexpectedly gained ‘traction’ again.

Whew! Back to work!

Calm Determination

This has been an odd week weather-wise and the heavy-soggy-blustery nature of it all finally took a bit of a break today. I feel rather relieved since I don’t sleep well when it feels as if the house is going to lift off the foundations. We’ve had cyclonic bursts of wind hammering the sides of the house along with constant, heavy rain — then it all swirls and hits the exact opposite side of the building. Rain alternates with hail. The temperatures plunge and snow falls then melts. Most unsettling…

The mood of the weather is rather a match to the mood of the world right now — but I choose not to focus on that.

The house has been on the market for two weeks — and now we wait. Oddly, since I am not always known for saintly levels of patience, I am feeling quite calm and purposeful.

Really looking forward to what will be coming in the post in the next few days. I’ve waited and waited until the time was right and the PRODUCT was right size-wise. I no longer enjoy huge honking camera bodies with humongous lenses dangling off the front. They make my wrists and shoulders ache and they’re a pain to worry about because they’re so expensive to replace if damaged or stolen. And with the ever-smaller equipment nowadays, it seems like the right time to downsize before we leave here.

On Sunday I bought a GoPro Hero 4 Session at a 20% off sale. Then I got accessories like hand grips, telescoping mono-pod, foam-cube protectors and the like, and a bike handlebar mount for Mark to try it out. And since this toy-sized video camera is so tiny, it will fit into a purse. It is seriously teeny-tiny — and we noticed that the Tour de France riders were all using them during the last few weeks.

GoProHero4Session

I’m ready to start making videos in addition to doing still photography and my agencies in London and New York have asked if I plan to add that sort of additional artwork to my portfolio since it now sells so well. Even wee burst videos of 2-ish minutes at 8 megapixel clarity seem to do well!

Happy that I will get ANOTHER my-brain-will-never-get-old-and-fuddly learning curve with a new editing program (ask me again how I feel about that statement in a week!) to master.

And other than the %^&*£@! flu that we’ve both picked up from all of the %^&*£@! sick people in Ballarat — life is good!

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©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
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Being Brave and Bouncing Back

Global turmoil and sudden economic instability are beginning to feel less like out-of-the-blue events and more like a set of ongoing challenges to deal with in perpetuity.

To look specifically at the UK and realise that the ‘architects of destruction’ — Cameron, Gove, Johnson, and Farage — have ALL resigned in the two weeks since they schemed and plotted to unravel the decades old alliance with Europe — who could have even imagined such a thing? No matter who ends up inheriting the reins of power as the successors to BREXIT, they will need to have carefully considered solutions ready to implement without delay.

Enough of politics for now…

After our ‘body-blow and mental angst’ reaction to BREXIT — my husband Mark thought he was prepared to just summon up a stiff upper lip and stay in Australia even if it wasn’t our first choice. But then, after two or three days of feeling shell-shocked by that decision, he told me that he hadn’t realised how badly he was going to feel if Europe was totally off the table as an option. That was an interesting admission from the sort of man who usually just gets on with things without whinging. I’m going to be honest — we were both wandering around in a fog and deeply depressed.

We’ve had a variety of ups and downs and rapid changes in our 22 and 1/2 years together, so it isn’t surprising that we were able to brush ourselves off, infuse ourselves with some bravery, and bounce back. It is clear now that whether or not BREXIT is ever actually enacted — there are going to be several years of transition. And during that transition period, we still have a chance to get back to Europe, get back ‘in the system’ in one country or another, and sink our roots into a part of the world that brings us joy.

I called our previously chosen real estate agent, he came over on Tuesday night and we signed our listing papers, and on Wednesday he brought the staff of his office through on a brief tour so that they knew what the house looked like and what the pertinent features were.

In the weeks ahead, I plan to keep you apprised of our progress as we hopefully sell quickly because the market is simply plummeting right now. Brexit didn’t just knock the stuffings out of the financial markets in the UK — it bounced half way around the world and punched us in the gut, too. The value of our tiny pensions have dipped, the banks are suddenly tightening up the money supply, and according to our real estate agent — the values of houses here in our town are a stunning 16% lower than they were a mere six months ago. The time to go is now — not a few years from now.

Wish us luck — seriously! Good vibes add to the energy of success and we need to summon up as much of that as possible. And where are we heading? First stop — back to our beloved France!

Watching the Tour de France on television in Australia.

Watching the Tour de France on television in Australia.

And perhaps Mark will be watching the Tour de France LIVE again next year instead of on television. He would love that.

Allons-y!

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Please respect the words and images on this page.
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A New Kind Of Chutney — Yum, Yum!

There are other things that I do besides writing and photography and one of them (occasionally!) is cooking something special. What’s wonderful about making chutney is that you can enjoy those brightly coloured jars of goodness all year long.

We have loquat trees in our back garden here in Australia that are simply groaning with fruit right now. I had never even heard of a loquat tree until we moved to this part of Victoria, so I had to do some research into them. They’re a stone fruit, originally from China. And since ours are 65 years old, they are HUGE and full of fruit!

The birds have been circling the trees, so I decided that I’d better get cracking and use some of that gorgeous orange-yellow fruit before they ate all of it. So I spent hours today chopping and prepping what turned out to be a very spicy chutney. It smells and tastes like it will be worth it!

 

Bowl of loquats fresh off the tree.

 

 

Cut up loquats prior to cooking.

 

 

Chutney Simmering

 

 

Completed jars of loquat chutney.

 

Here’s THE RECIPE!

Now — back to work on some photos. More soon.

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There are days when I miss the darkroom

There are still days when I miss working in the darkroom. I loved the process of manipulating images with a bit of push and pull, dodging and burning — then going tray to tray with those precious pieces of white paper and watching as an image suddenly bloomed into life.

As I said in an earlier post — I’m uploading new images to stock agencies and every once in awhile there is one that is much better in black and white. At least when I do this in the digital darkroom, I’m not breathing toxic and carcinogenic fumes!

Enjoy…

 

ManReadingPaperInCafe-760

 

WaitingOnTheCurbInMelbourneB&W-670

 

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©Deborah Harmes and ©A Wanderful Life
Please respect the words and images on this page.
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