Heading north – part five


Every evening they promenade along the breakwall that runs from the town green to the river entrance. It’s a never ending procession of young, old, handsome couples, pretty girls, joggers, women with prams, lovers walking arm in arm, teenagers on skateboards and then there is me walking on my own.
On a day that was full of emotions for me, finding this message on a rock along the breakwall was just what I needed. ‘Follow your heart’ seems such a simple and clichéd message but without dreams there is just life in all its day to day dreariness.
I had spent the day wandering the beaches that I had often visited with my family during holidays as a child. Every grain of sand held a memory and my heart fluttered in the wind as I thought of those many special moments and how they are so fleeting. Like the ‘core memories’ in the movie Inside Out, I think my time here as a child was one of those defining moments.
I stopped walking and sat on a rock for a moment and watched the passing parade of walkers. Slowly my mind drifted back to that young girl playing in the sandhills.

It was many years ago and the train was sliding into a little railway station, coming to a stop beside the platform as I followed my sisters to the door. All of a sudden the door was open and Mum was helping me jump over the gap between the train carriage and the platform and then I was standing in front of Grandma and Grandpa. It had been so long since I had seen them that I suddenly felt shy as Grandma started kissing everyone hello.
‘Oh Molly, you keep growing all the time,’ said Grandma. She wrapped her arms around me in a big hug and kissed my cheek. She smelled of soap and hairspray. I didn’t know what to say so I just hugged her back. ‘What’s the matter, Molly?’ she said, ‘Has the cat got your tongue?’
Grandpa was busy picking up everyone’s bags and putting them in the boot of the car, and then I was squashed in the backseat between Jasmine and Catherine and we were on our way. I couldn’t see anything because the seats in Grandpa’s car were so deep that I had no idea where we were going, but eventually he pulled up and when I climbed out I was standing in the driveway of Grandma’s house.
Since we had been here last, Grandpa had built a little bedroom at the back of the garage and I slept in there with Mum. It was just like having a little house of our own and it made me feel important that I wasn’t just in Grandma’s house with the older girls. Rather than sleeping on a mattress on the floor like I usually did, I had my own bed covered with a beautiful quilt that Grandma had sewn. I sat on the bed and looked at all the little panels of the quilt and tried to work out the story they were telling. There were lots of pictures of cows and tractors and other farm things and I thought that maybe Grandma had made it to remind herself of the farm she used to live on with Grandpa all those years ago when Mum was a little girl.
Every morning after breakfast during the holiday I went to the beach with my sisters and I played in the sand and read my book while they swam in the surf or sun baked. I didn’t like the taste of the salt water or the way the sand would get pushed into my bikini bottom by the waves, so I was much happier building sandcastles on the beach than swimming.
After I had built my sandcastle up nice and high, I used a stick to draw patterns and pictures in the sand around it. I pretended I was an artist working on a painting, but every morning I would have to start all over again because the wind and the waves washed some of it away overnight.
Sometimes I just sat on a sand dune and read my book, getting lost in the world between the pages. The words would float past my eyes as I devoured every sentence and eagerly turned each page to find out what happened next.
Then I would put my book down at the end of each chapter for a rest and just gaze out to sea. The beach curved away for miles to the south until it was lost in a haze of salty seaspray. The other end of the beach ended in a rocky headland that stood tall above the curve of sand. There was a pathway to the top of the headland but I had never been allowed to go up there. Mum always warned me that it was too dangerous and I could fall off the cliff into the sea if I wasn’t careful.
As I looked out to sea, I could see yachts sailing across the bay, gently moving against the waves with their white sails flapping silently in the breeze. There always seemed to be yachts coming or going from somewhere, always just sailing out of my reach.
Seagulls high overhead called out to me, and as I looked up I wondered what it must be like being able to fly so high above the beach and look down on my sisters below as they played in the surf. I could hear the girls screaming every now and then from my spot on the sand hill as they jumped in and out of the waves.
I went back to drawing pictures in the sand, dragging my stick through the golden grains to make swirling clouds that followed the little wave patterns. I was intently drawing a sailing boat in amongst the sand clouds, when a shadow suddenly blocked out the sun.
I looked up and got a fright when I saw a boy standing there.
‘What ya doin’?’ he said.
I was so scared that I didn’t know what I should do. I quickly looked down the beach to see how far away my sisters were, but they were all in the water and a long way off.
‘Nice drawing,’ the boy said, ‘Don’t ya talk?’
I just looked at him with wide eyes, hoping that he would go away and leave me alone. Instead, he squatted down on his heels. ‘I like your boat. You’re pretty good at drawing, you know.’
I looked down at my sand drawing then looked at the boy again and he grinned at me.
‘My name’s Shawn,’ he said, ‘What’s yours?’
I was still too frightened to answer so I just looked away.
‘Don’t worry, I’m not going to do anything,’ he said, and then sat on the sand and hugged his knees. He was wearing blue shorts and had dirty knees and hands. ‘I just want to watch you drawing.’ He grinned again and I could see that he was missing a tooth. It made him look a little lopsided and funny.
I thought if I went back to my drawing he might just go away, so I picked up my stick again and started to add some sails to my boat.
‘Why don’t you draw some fish?’ he said suddenly, and pointed with his chin to where I was drawing.
I still didn’t answer, but I thought for a moment about how to draw a fish. I curved a couple of lines together in the sand until my fish took shape and then added a tail so that he could swim. He looked like a great big fat fish swimming just below my boat.
‘Beaut fish. Do you wanna play with me?’ the boy suddenly said.
I looked at him and shook my head slowly.
He rested his head on his knees and kept looking at me for a few moments, before he stood up. ‘Okay, maybe I’ll see ya tomorrow.’
He walked off into the sand dunes and disappeared behind a banksia tree. I quickly picked up my book and towel and ran down the beach to where the girls had left their bags and waited for them to come out of the water so we could go back to Grandma’s house.
I worried about the boy all night, but when I got back to the beach next morning there was no sign of him. I thought he might have come back and destroyed my castle and drawing, but I was relieved to see that they had only been partly washed away by the tide and wind as usual.
I soon forgot all about him as I went back to rebuilding my sandcastle. As the morning sun climbed higher and the sand got hotter I sat under the shade of my big straw hat and read a bit more of my book. I only had a few chapters to go and wanted to finish it before bedtime so that I could start a new book the next day.
I became so engrossed in my book that I didn’t even hear anybody coming until suddenly a shadow fell across my page. I looked up with a sharp intake of breath as I saw it was the same boy again. I tensed, waiting for him to kick over my sandcastle or say something nasty, when he flopped down on the sand beside me.
‘What are ya reading?’ he asked.
I was so surprised by his question that I didn’t even think and turned my book around to show him the cover.
‘ ‘Gold at Lambing Flat’,’ he read out, ‘What’s that?’
‘It’s a story,’ I said softly.
‘Can I read it with you?’
I was surprised again and just nodded. This boy wasn’t at all like I expected boys to be.
I opened the book and he leaned his head toward mine to see the page better. He got so close that his head pushed my hat back and I could feel his wiry hair tickle my forehead.
‘Is that where you’re up to?’ he pointed to the page. I nodded and he began reading. ‘J-James c-c-came to the c-c-cottage door. Mary, where are you he c-called…’ I looked at him as he read and saw a big frown of concentration on his forehead. He kept licking his lips as though the moisture would make the words slide out of his mouth easier. I felt a little sorry for him because he didn’t seem to be very good at reading. ‘… the old man was down in the dry c-c-c-creek bed…’ he paused for ages and stared hard at the page. ‘What’s this word?’ he asked. My eyes followed his finger down the page.
‘Fossicking,’ I said.
He frowned again and his lips moved slowly as if he was trying to get them in the right shape to say the word.
‘Fo-ssick-k-king. I wonder what that means.’
‘I think it means ‘looking for gold’,’ I said, ‘That’s what the book is about.’
‘Oh, cool.’ He looked around and picked up my stick and started scratching in the sand. ‘Do you want to play?’
‘Ummm… I don’t know if I’m allowed.’ My heart was racing and I looked down the beach again to see where the girls were, but just like yesterday they were a long way off.
‘Come on, it’ll be fun. I’ll show you.’ He stood up and held out his dirty hand for me. I hesitated and then reached my hand up and he helped me to my feet. His hand felt all rough and I didn’t like the way it was so dirty.
‘First of all, we’re spies and we have to make sure nobody catches us. You need a name, so I’m going to call you ‘Blue’,’ he said with his lopsided grin. ‘How old are you, Blue?’
‘I’m eight.’
‘Good, well I’m ten so that makes me the boss. Quick let’s get behind the bush before anyone sees us.’ Shawn grabbed my hand and dragged me behind a banksia tree before pulling me to the ground. ‘We have to lay low,’ he whispered in my ear, ‘But when I say ‘run’, we have to run to that tree over there, okay?’
I just nodded my head and was wondering why he called me ‘Blue’ when he yelled ‘run’ and took off for the tree. I jumped to my feet and tried to keep up with him but I kept stumbling in the thick sand. I was puffing heavily when I finally joined him at the foot of the tree.
‘Good work, Blue,’ he said, ‘We can rest for a bit now because the enemy don’t know we’re here.’ We spent the next hour running from tree to tree, and each time I would get hot and puffed and my legs were starting to get really tired. We were resting for a moment in the shade of a big green tree when I heard Catherine’s voice calling.
‘Molly… Molly, where are you?’
‘I have to go,’ I said to Shawn, ‘That’s my sister.’
‘Oh, okay,’ he said, ‘Just be careful you don’t tell anyone you are a spy.’ The last I saw was his lopsided grin and then he was bounding away to hide behind another tree.
The next day I looked for Shawn when I got to the beach, but there was no sign of him again. I went back to my usual game of fixing my sand castle and then my drawing and had just sat down to start reading my book when I heard a loud ‘psssst’ from behind me. I turned around and there was Shawn grinning at me from behind a tree. He came and sat down beside me with a thump, and just like the day before we read a page of my book together before he got bored and wanted to play a game.
‘Today we’re soldiers,’ Shawn said. ‘I am the Captain and you are Private Blue.’
‘My name isn’t Blue,’ I said, ‘It’s Molly.’
‘I like Blue,’ he replied, ‘So that’s you’re codename, okay? It’s because you’ve got red hair.’
I was a bit confused about what he meant, but before I could say anything he started laying out his plans.
‘Okay Private Blue, we need to attack the enemy in that castle over there. We have to sneak up on them, and then throw these bombs at their castle.’ He pointed to a little pile of gumnuts and banksia men on the ground.
‘Stay low, and follow me,’ he said. He filled his hands with banksia men and began crawling across the sand on his stomach. It felt a bit silly but I didn’t want to upset him so I did the same thing. As we got closer, he yelled ‘NOW!’ and started hurling the banksia men at the tree. I threw mine but it didn’t go the whole distance. Shawn then grabbed my hand and dragged me behind another tree.
‘Look out, they’re firing back,’ he said, then made some noises like bullets flying through the air. We played like that again all morning until Catherine came looking for me to head home.
‘See ya, Blue,’ said Shawn. ‘You’re a lot of fun to play with, for a girl.’
‘’Bye Shawn,’ I said shyly and then ran down the sand dune to find Catherine.
As the week went on we played soldiers, and space men, and outback explorers, and one day we were even washed up on a deserted island! There were pirate ships, and monsters, and space aliens, and time travel, and giant bugs, and wading through swamps, and spying on the enemy, and we did so much running that I kept getting puffed all the time, but Shawn was always right there beside me. ‘C’mon Blue,’ he would say, ‘You can do it.’
We never had time to just sit and talk, other than spending a few minutes each morning when we would read some of my book together. Because Shawn was such a bad reader, I started reading out loud to him and sometimes we would get through a whole chapter before we went off to play in the sand dunes.
We began to read ‘Storm Boy’, a story about a boy who lived with his father in the sand dunes of South Australia’s Coorong, and it was Shawn’s idea that we collect driftwood and build ourselves a humpy just like the one Storm Boy lived in.
‘I’ll be Storm Boy,’ said Shawn, ‘And you can help me save Mr Percival.’ We wandered all over the sand dunes looking for a lost pelican to save, but the week came to an end before we found him.
I was sad when I had to tell Shawn that I was going to be heading home tomorrow and I didn’t know when I would be back again.
‘No worries, Blue,’ he said. ‘It’s just like when Storm Boy had to go off to school. We can play again next holidays.’
He bent his head down to reach under my hat and quickly placed a little kiss on my cheek before racing away over the sand dunes. I stood there and watched him until he disappeared. I didn’t know if I was sad or happy but I could still feel his rough lips against my cheek.

Heading north – part four


All through the night my dreams were set against a backbeat of waves crashing on the beach, while I danced across the sand, pirouetting between sunbathing teenagers and families of small children, remembering how I was once that small child with a bucket and spade making my sandcastles of dreams, further along among the rocks where lovers perform a duet hidden from prying eyes and rock pools full of starfish and crabs that are like me and scurry away from danger and hide in holes with only their eyes peaking out, but there is no danger today, only a sense of calm as the soft sand squishes between my toes and I look at my friend and can’t help smiling as he smiles back.
I remember this beach. I was about four years old and visiting my grandparents. After breakfast one morning, Grandpa took us to the beach while he went fishing. I remember jumping out of the car with my towel and hat and racing across to the sandy beach before the others could get there. I loved the way the sand squished between my toes as I walked across the beach, but it was quite hot until I got to the damp sand closer to the water. I put my towel on the sand and lay on my tummy watching the ocean. I could hear the waves crashing on the beach and I liked the way there were little wave patterns on the sand. My brother said they were made by the wind but they looked the same as the waves of the ocean so I thought they must have been made from the water.
I sat up and started building a sandcastle, decorating it with pretty shells that were lying around. My brother helped by digging a hole and giving me all his extra sand so I could pile it up higher and higher until it looked like a castle from a fairy tale. Every now and then the waves came closer and filled the moat around my castle. I built a little bridge across the moat for the princess to ride across on her horse.
I looked up and my brother was standing at the edge of the water trying to find pipis in the sand. I went over to him and he showed me how to wriggle my feet into the sand until I could feel a shell under my toes. I wriggled and wriggled like I was dancing and then I felt one and bent down to pick it up. Suddenly a big wave knocked me over and as I screamed I got a mouthful of salty water. I couldn’t stop crying as my brother picked me up and carried me back to my towel. I didn’t want to be a mermaid anymore.

Heading north – part three


So apparently it was Monday morning but for me it was just another magical sunshiny day where I didn’t have to rush off anywhere. That didn’t stop me from slipping into my running clothes and setting off along the harbour foreshore with the shine glinting off the turquoise water and me smiling and saying good morning to all of the other joggers and walkers, then a quick shower to cool off and sitting up in bed with my laptop to work on the next chapter of my novel and just feeling the words flowing out quickly through my fingers.
Eventually Stephen the sleepy head woke and we had breakfast and made our way to the beach. I had been to this beach once before when I was a small child and the thing I remember the most was walking along the sand spit that joined an island to the mainland at low tide and trudging along a sandy path to reach the lighthouse on the other side than dragging my feet all the way back only to find the tide had come in and the sand spit wasn’t there anymore and panicking as the waves nearly washed me off my feet. But today the tide was low and the beach was exactly as I remembered it, even better and I was filled with the most tremendous feeling of peace and had an urge to put my arm around Stephen and hug him to share my peace with another human being.
We had a swim in the surf and then back in the car to head further up the highway, this time with the Dixie Chicks on my ipod and me singing about ‘taking the long way home’ at the top of my lungs and tapping the steering wheel while Stephen fell asleep again.
Arriving at our destination and Port Macquarie is everything I remembered. I spent a lot of time on the beaches around here as a child but I might write about that tomorrow. Right now I want to go for a walk along the breakwall and check out that nice looking pub overlooking the water.


Love is a sandcastle,
Child’s play;
Secret smiles
Overlooking the ocean
Separating our worlds,
Salty tasting tongues,
Sea breeze caressing cheeks.

Remember sandy skin
Sinking to the beach
With soft sighs;
Gentle lovers touch
Waves crashing on the shore,
Relentless roar of surf
Drowning whispered promises;
Dreams washed away by tides.

Heading north – part two


I woke early in the morning feel fresh and happy and slipped into my running clothes. Every floor board creaked as I tried to move quietly through the house and not wake anyone and then I was outside in the fresh mountain air. The view across the valley was gorgeous and I took a deep breath to soak in the calm before setting off for my run. I felt light as my feet crunched on the gravel road that ran between green paddocks where a bull was bellowing loudly and echoing off the steep hills.
By the time I had returned back to the house my sister and her boyfriend were cooking a delicious breakfast of bacon, scrambled eggs, tomatoes and mushrooms and my mouth watered as soon as I walked inside. I hadn’t realised how hungry I had been as I sat at the table on the verandah overlooking the peaceful valley and the birds entertained us with their cheerful chorus.
After breakfast my sister’s boyfriend drove us to the top of a nearby fire trail where we looked down on the sandy river meandering through the middle of this peaceful valley. St Albans was an early Australian settlement that had provided a river port for farmers along the valley. Once it had been a thriving busy place but it was now just a quiet backwater that had been bypassed by the railways and main roads.
Too soon it was time to say goodbye to my sister and this beautiful valley and with hugs and tears and more hugs I climbed into the car and set off to follow the gravel road deeper into the hills. The road followed the river flats for miles until eventually climbing out of the valley and winding up into the hills and suddenly we were on the coast road and the tall mountain gums had given way to paperbarks and coastal heath.
Our destination was Catherine Hill Bay, a place where I had spent many hours on the beach as a child and I could feel a welling of emotion as I began to recognise familiar sites. I looked down on the beach from the car as the memories came flooding back―building castles in the sand, making a dam to try and hold the water back as the tide came in, finding new friends, eating ice cream, playing in the surf, walking amongst the rocks and collecting shells—but with a tinge of sadness as well for days now past. Stephen put his arm around my shoulders and gave me a hug. I think he understood what I was feeling.
We walked the length of the beach and climbed amongst the rocks before ever so slowly making our way back to the car. Then it was time to find a motel for the night and we ended up beside the marina at Nelson Bay and spent the evening in a bar overlooking the bay while listening to a girl with a guitar and the most magical voice. Yes, this is heaven all right.

Remembering Catherine Hill Bay

Last of the coastal survivors,
Nestled amongst naked bush,
Waiting in her native beauty
For shiny beach front houses.

Summer days drift slowly by,
Unchanged from the days of
Panel vans and Sherbet
Playing from transistor radios.

Young children climb over rocks
Under the shadow of the wharf,
Exploring secret pools of starfish,
Collecting shells in tiny hands.

Where children play in the sand,
Teenagers slow-bake in bikinis
Watching hungry blonde surfers,
Dripping boards under tanned biceps.

Lonely boys take swigs of coke
From the kiosk above the beach,
Music blaring from the radio,
Eyeing the girls in the sand.

Dreaming of long summer nights,
Where stars shine on silhouettes,
Murmuring voices of true love
Interrupted by a cigarette glow.


Heading north – part one


So my exams have finally finished and I have two whole months where I don’t have to be anywhere or do anything! My holidays started with Stephen’s graduation night (he’s one of my housemates and travelling buddy)―dressed up to the nines, table of friends, speeches, dancing, delicious chocolate dessert, more speeches, more dancing, taking care of Karina (my other housemate) because she was feeling unwell, driving home in the early hours to fall into bed, but it was sooooo hot!
Next morning I woke to pack. I know I should have done it during the week but I kept putting it off until the last minute and now that last minute had arrived so I went through everything twice to make sure nothing was forgotten—shorts and skirts and summer dresses because it will be warm and I am going to spend a lot of time on the beach, which reminded me to pack my swimming costume, sunscreen, hat, running clothes because I want to go for a run each day and get fit again, shoes, shoes, shoes and more shoes, toiletries, and then a mad dash to the supermarket and back home then back to the supermarket for the things I had forgotten.
It was nearly 11 o’clock before Stephen and I got away. Karina, had already left while I was at the supermarket so I didn’t get to say goodbye to her. The day was warm and the sky was a brilliant blue as we hit the road and I watched the miles rushing past with Gabrielle Aplin on repeat on my ipod, until the traffic began to build up as I got closer to Sydney and I hugged my little space in the slow lane, eventually stopping at a park for lunch amongst the jacaranda trees, then descending to Wiseman’s Ferry and crossing the river. This is where life slows down to the speed of the tides and the groan of the ferry as it makes another journey to the other bank.
I met up with my sister on her boyfriend’s boat and we drifted lazily down the river, waving to the water skiers and fisherman as we sailed past. There is nothing that I have to think about here and I can feel the peace surrounding me already. I talk and talk and talk with Janelle as the afternoon floats away and it’s suddenly time for dinner. Back to her house to dress in jeans and a pink plaid shirt then off to the St Alban’s pub where I met lots of her friends and we danced to a rockin’ little band until it was time to fall into bed. Oh yes, and I felt the urge to write a little song about it :)

We could drift along the Hawkesbury
Or meet at St Albans, if you’re up this way,
There’s a little band playing
On Saturday night,
Where they dance the night away.

Life is there for the living
Never too young or too old,
Come on and meet me tonight
And I’ll take you by the hand
And we’ll move the way
The river people do.

Maybe you’ll be there Sunday morning
Standing where time is always still
Come and meet me there
Under the Jacaranda tree
And we’ll move the way
The river people do.





It is emotion


It is the touch of your hand
Walking by your side
That makes me understand
When fingers are entwined
It is emotion

It is holding your body
Close to mine
In the morning light
The way you smile
And kiss me tenderly
It is emotion

It is the way I feel
When your flashing eyes
Look through me
Wondering what is on your mind
It is emotion

It is the things I have to say
The words I’ve come to know
Make me want to show
It is emotion

It is for sharing the day
In bed late at night
It is hearing your sighs
When we turn out the light
It is emotion

It is yesterday
It is tomorrow
It is you and me
It is emotion

The big issues


It’s two degrees hotter
On High Street,
Shoppers hug the shade
As they amble past
Discount stores,
Pawn shops,
Small retailers,
Cafes lined
With chain smoking
Women talking
About their health,
Kids at school,
Baby’s new clothes,
Food on the table,
Having a punt,
No-one talks about
The environment,
Asylum seekers
Or carbon taxes,
What they really want
Is a bus stop
On the corner,
A new skate park
Across the road.
Out on the street,
It is raining now
As the traffic
Slows to a crawl,
The radio echoing
Their thoughts,
Fear, anger,
Hating the government,
Loathing the opposition,
Cursing the local member,
Just wait until election day,
Then we will get that bus stop.

Tapestry of love


It was just another thread
In our tapestry of love,
Bright colours weaving
A picture of Saturday night,
Slow kissing on the lounge,
Forgetting all about
The movie on television,
Everything perfect
As she whispers in my ear,
Calling me her honey,
Driving me insane
With fingers running
Slowly down my spine,
Moving with the rhythm,
Colours flashing behind my eyes,
Unravelling with each moment
Until we lay there, the movie
Playing softly in the background,
In a tangle of threads.

Every memory


Every memory
Revolves around the scene
When we were together
On Valentine’s day,
Starting all over again,
Getting deep inside ourselves
To search each other’s soul,
It was then I saw you
For the first time,
Looking through eyes
Of cool blue crystal
At the real world,
One regular day
When the earth
Suddenly came alive
In a dream sequence
Of emotion
As your touch
Brought out the magic,
Where everything else
Was forgotten
For this one single moment.

Out in the street


Three thirty in the morning
Woken rudely from my sleep
Lots of commotion outside
Loud voices yelling in the street
“Oh, why did you leave me Sammie?
What did I do wrong?”
Followed by more eloquent screaming
What did he do wrong?
If only he could see the irony
He might be walking home
With a lighter heart
Saying sorry with a bunch of roses
Might just be a good place to start
I didn’t mean to get upset
You know my love
For you is so strong
Every time I think of you baby
Makes me want to break into song
So next time you’re feeling angry
Throw yourself down at her feet
Let her know you’re sorry
Before you scream her name
Out in the street