DSC06616DSC06580Welcome, brand new year. Please don’t bother to wipe your feet at the door – it’s likely that my floor needs a reasonable sweep and a bit of a mop, and that’s OK.

So how did you greet your New Year? We swan and frolicked at Cottesloe Beach, consumed chips and ice cream and bathed in the gentle surf and lovely summer sun. I am currently relishing that feeling of being able to feel and smell the salt and sunscreen on my skin.

I feel that this year will be a big one. You know when you just feel as though you are teetering on the edge of New and Exciting Things? that’s the feeling I get.  This festive season has been a most delightfully relaxing one, with a gentle focus on cleaning and rejuvenating our home over our holidays. As a result, I feel cleansed and open to the year that will unfold.

I do love the fresh new feeling that holds hands with the first day of January, don’t you?


Waterslide Sunday




OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYesterday, on my way home from a trip to the supermarket, I stopped in at a local second hand shop. Whilst chatting to the owner I spotted a waterslide – made in 1988! – on the top of a shelf. Upon enquiring about the price he said it not for sale and more for show – he liked it because the box looked so outdated. So did I.

A little bargaining and he agreed on a $20 price tag and the assurance that I could return it for a full refund if it was missing anything, as it was open on one end. I figured it was worth a chance (I had been meaning to buy one all summer), and took it home without checking the contents.

Immediately following breakfast this morning Ruben was keen to try it out. We unpacked the box and were most delighted – it had never even been used.  How amazing – 26 years old and never opened.

A lovely sunny Sunday morning spent slipping and sliding on our front lawn. I hope you had a lovely weekend also.




Life & Art

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe days roll by and I find myself amidst a swarm of fresh ideas.

Why do I blog? Why is it sometimes so very difficult to get around to putting thoughts to keyboard? Perhaps it’s just because I have lost my way, so to speak. Maybe it’s time for a new look, a new direction and an opportunity to rethink why I do, what I do.

So there’s going to be more about me, and what I think and feel, on topics that I find most compelling, intriguing or inspiring. I want to share my thoughts on everything from education, consumerism and sustainability to habits and organisation.

But most of all, I want it to be a celebration – relishing the beauty in the everyday, with a focus on daily adventures.

People say that your key theme in any endeavour should be able to be understood by someone within 1 minute when you shout out across a crowded room. That’s a lot of focus, so here goes…

I want to write about Life and Art. Living life and breathing art.

I hope you like it.

Please do feel free to comment – all feedback happily received.

Warm Regards




Farewell Breastfeeding

Michelangelo, Madonna and Child

I loved breastfeeding both Ruben and then Adelaide. That closeness, the bond, the hours spent gazing adoringly upon their little faces. The changes that you witness when you have them that close for so long each day. It really must be one of my favourite experiences.

It was fairly smooth sailing with both of them. No teething issues (in the beginning, or as teeth came through). I was happy to express at work during the day, and they both switched between breast and bottle without a problem.

Adelaide, towards the end, was clear when she was ready for breast milk, asking to be picked and slapping me enthusiastically on the chest with a “muuuah?  Muuuuuuah?. She smiled, snuggled and loved the whole experience.

Then, about about a month ago, she just stopped.

Feeding before bed was a ritual – soft night light, gentle music (Angus & Julia Stone are a bit of a favourite for us both), a little feed then into bed.  Until – not. One day, just she declined. She still woke up during the night, was brought into our bed (as she has done and continues to do), and had a small comfort feed.

Then the next night was the same. Then night feeds stopped. And that was it.

Ah, I’m sorry, what?  I was enjoying breastfeeding. A lot. 14 months and you get to make such decisions? That’s highly unimpressive.

I was tempted to be a little neurotic about it. Have I done something wrong? My diet hasn’t changed and we eat lots of fresh food. My stress levels are the same as usual (not particularly low, but not heart-issue high).

Knowing that she is my last baby (2 is enough, measures have been taken) makes it feel quite significant. The finality of the End of Breastfeeding makes me feel a little lost. She loves me and still needs me, fine, but it feels like she doesn’t want me in that base level sort of way.

I was – and still am – tempted to stray into the land of self indulgence, wallowing in grief for the passing of this era.  But then, when I am with her and she pulls that squishy face that makes me burst out laughing, or she clings to my legs, stretches her little arms up and beckons with “uuuupa”, my heart melts. She is fine and I am fine. We just don’t need to breast feed anymore.

How good is breast feeding. I do feel blessed to have had such rosy experiences.



DSC00167-001DSC00190Helen Fraser Black, 1917 – 2013.

The following are excerpts of my father’s speech at her funeral. His words made my heart ache with love and loss, and I would like to share some of them here.

Helen was born on 24 June 1917 in Inverness in the Highlands of Scotland. However it was here in Perth where she was conceived. Pregnant with Helen, Annie Cook, her mother, returned home to Scotland, unimpressed according to Helen, by the desolation and uncultured life that was Perth at the time. That early trip to Scotland was during wartime when ocean crossings were dangerous. Perhaps that early sea voyage instilled in Helen a life-long love of travel.

(As an aside, and just to impress upon you the link she provided to our past, when we were looking at Helen’s birth certificate yesterday I noticed in the fine print on the back of the document reference to the penalties for falsifying information. Those penalties included two years in jail or,“Transportation” for seven years”. Of course transportation had ceased long before 1917 but perhaps the Scots had printed a good number of the birth certificates and were not going to discard them just because of that minor detail.)

 Her father, Thomas Cook, followed his wife some months later and persuaded Annie, now with baby Helen to return back to Perth.

(When Helen was 16) Ken Black saw Helen playing tennis at Karri Banks in the Porongurup’s and began a lengthy courting. Five years later, in 1938, and having considered some alternative suitors, Helen, by then 21, married Ken. The war arrived with the fall of Singapore and Helen spent much of the next few years as a volunteer with the Red Cross. I think she was quite pleased with the certificate showing she had passed a basic motor mechanic course. Despite this proficiency, I cannot recall Helen ever using a self-service petrol station, preferring to hunt out one of the few stations offering full service.

With women there were some friendships that endured for many decades. Perhaps most notable was the book club which started not long after the war ended. A dozen or so young mothers got together and formed the group. A few years ago an article appeared in the local paper about the longevity of their association – which, by the way, never took in new members. When they met, the story goes, the women would talk about everything (children, husbands, and later, grandchildren)… but never about books. The women all outlasted their husbands; Helen was one of the last three surviving members.

And for decades her dairies, which I only just found a couple of days ago at the bottom of
her wardrobe, show a constant schedule of rounds of mah-jong, solo, bridge and volunteer commitments. Indeed if anything characterised her life it was her ongoing role as a volunteer. Right up to the time that she handed in her driver’s license (at age 90) she continued to offer her services. I recall her last role was on the front counter at one of the charity shops in Subiaco.

That was one thing that people remembered about Helen, she was an attractive woman. The years passed but she never seemed to grow older – for some jobs and certainly for male friends she presented herself, very convincingly, as ten, and even fifteen years younger than she was.

People seemed to love her company. She would say modestly that was only because she got people talking about themselves. I think she tried to engage with everyone she met – even at a restaurant she would always ask the wait staff what else they were doing. In later years, when she was hospitalised for various complaints, she would invariably find out about the lives of the nurses and other staff.

In fact, if she had an unconscious aversion to anything I think it would have been a lull in conversation. If you were in her company it was not to share silence; you would be expected to talk. People often felt drawn to confide in her. She was trusted to hold confidences. Perhaps it was because she rarely expressed strong opinions about others (with the exception of politicians) and if she did it was only to those closest to her.

She was genuinely interested and caring of others. I don’t recall her ever putting herself first – it sounds trite but she was undemanding with everyone, including personal carers who sat on her couch, drank her tea and confided in her.

To be frank, it must be admitted that Helen enjoyed the odd drink or two. There is a liquor store on Waratah Avenue that will be wondering why the sales of brandy has dropped so dramatically. I hasten to add that I never saw my mother intoxicated – which is more than she would say of a particular time in my teenage years.

I don’t think of my mother as a quiet or reflective woman. Her views of organised religion were invariably dismissive. In later years her personal philosophy was expressed as “no good looking back” (which she attributed to the Buddha) and “old age is a bugger” (attributed to George Randall, an old friend of the family). Overall, and given the various ailments that she suffered over the past years she very rarely complained. I think there was a strong element of stoicism in her Scottish genes.

Over the past few years Helen and I talked openly of the declining quality of her life and the arrangements she would like to have in place for her funeral.

She would often refer to having passed her “use-by date”. (As an aside I would note that like many of the food jars in her fridge, she remained quite good long after that indicated by the nominated expiry date).

At ninety-five, three months shy of ninety-six, Helen was truly ready to go. Indeed she’d had a couple of false starts, as recently as the week before, but this time she achieved her heart’s desire.

She was adamant that this moment should not be a time for mourning but for celebrating. Her own words were that her passing should be marked by “a bloody good party and toast”.

Last Thursday afternoon I found Helen lying peacefully on her couch, her life ebbing away, I noticed on her patio table the remains of her lunchtime glass of brandy and dry ginger. I’d like to think that Helen had spent her last morning enjoying the autumn sunshine before toasting “farewell” and departing.

Yes, there is a great personal sadness in knowing that we will never again sit together and talk of people and places or share a hug and tell the other they are loved. But I am grateful that Helen found a way to exit life, true to form, at her home, with dignity and held by family in her final moments.

There is a saying to the effect that “When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure.”

Whether your memories of her are many or few, Helen has bequeathed a treasure to each person here today. Her generous nature lives on each time she is remembered.






DSC01502DSC01569One year old.
Every day you make my heart sing.
You are mischievous, boisterous, demanding, stubborn, wilful…  And OH so joyful. Every day you wake up with a beautiful smile and the urge to smother with huge open mouth kisses and shower us with loving headbutts. You love eating, breastfeeding, hugging (and wrestling with) your siblings, and wearing shoes. Your company is just delightful.