The joys and tribulations of the driving commute

Every Sunday morning we get up and get ready to head down south where I work two days a week.  It’s a tedium we try and mitigate by doing nice thing for ourselves, like either going to yoga or having an indulgent breakfast.  And then into a quick clean and pack before heading out.  We generally leave at 2pm with a view of arriving somewhere around 5pm.

The drive should only take 2.5 hours.  But Ms Google has informed us today that there is a long delay – 30 mins of red highway and so our arrival is timed for after 5.30pm.  Why?  Who knows.  Ms Google doesn’t seem to know.  All she knows is that there’s congestion.  At the moment we’re stopped.  Traffic isn’t moving. All seems to be going well the other way – cars moving fast with no congestion.  On this side of the road: nada.  No movement.  It’s an exercise in frustration.  It seems to happen a lot.  And it doesn’t seem to matter what time or day we leave.  Heading back to the sunny coast we leave after 4pm on either Tuesday or Wednesday and same thing: delays and congestion.  The supposed 2.5 hour journey generally takes 3hours+.  Its tedious but also gruelling.   But the most frustrating part of it is not knowing the cause of the congestion.  Too may cars?  Or is it just the roadworks (that have been going on for over 10 years – without sight of person or vehicle making any progress)? Or something else.  

I had considered public transport.  But the logistics are impossible Queensland is just not commuter friendly.

And now Ms Google has revised her calculations:  delay = 1+ hr. Grrrrr………

Yoga and the chanting of mantras

When I first started practising yoga in Sydney it was usual to start and end the class with a collective ‘Om’ which is sounded out as A-U-M – three different sounds with a vibration felt in your throat and then your lips (although in the Hindu tradition its just a very nasal reverberating Oh sound).  It’s a sacred sound and mantra in Hundiusm, Buddhism, Jainism and Skikhism and is traditionally chanted at the beginning and end of yoga sessions. 

It’s a weird thing to do at first – the expelling of breath whilst projecting the sound – you never know how your voice is going to sound out loud and there are always concerns of self-consciousness: “will I sound off-key?” etc.  But it’s a powerful way to connect and at the end of a class its always interesting to experience how much more energy and freedom that mantra emits.  It’s a great way to open and close the practise and gives a tangible sense of connectivity.  Rolling Oms are my favourite: it’s where you just keep chanting Om in your own breath cycle and it creates a beautiful mellifluous sound because everyone’s breath cycle is different.  It also removes the fear that you will start before anyone else.

Having moved to the Sunshine Coast I’ve discovered two lovely yoga studios – one of which incorporated a more elaborate mantra (Shanti Om) which took me a while to figure out (and therefore left me sitting with my discomfort).  But the other studio I joined doesn’t Om.  It struck me one day that there was this sense of incompletion at the end of each session and I realised that what I was missing was chanting this mantra Om.  I asked the yoga teacher who informed me that it was part of studio’s policy (part of their ‘brand’) to not Om.  Why?  Because it might put people who are new to yoga off – make them feel uncomfortable .  She suggested that I could always chant inside my own head.  But that defeats the purpose. Two things struck me as being really strange:

  1. that the yoga studio considered itself a brand; and
  2. the assumption that people couldn’t cope with having to make the Om sound. Conversely it was considered OK to sit with hands in a prayer mudra and all say ‘namaste’ at the end of class.

What gives? 

It led me to think about the business of yoga: what yoga has become/morphed into and how muddle-headed it all is.  On the one hand it’s promoted as the contemporary panacea to all the world’s (individual’s) ills, yet on the other hand it distances itself from the root of its origins as a spiritual practice. 

I have to say, I have had the privilege to be part of what I consider a truly authentic yoga studio and have come across many wonderful yoga teachers , and it is thanks to them that I have been able to develop and deepen my understanding of yoga – physically and beyond.

But I’m not at all certain about the business of yoga.  The yoga studios who set up chains and become a ‘brand’.  What does that mean?  My experience is that they train their staff in a certain way and present their classes in a certain way (despite each yoga teacher having their own personal style, it remains very formulaic) and are not really interested in their community unless it benefits them.  That sounds cynical doesn’t it?  It is.  And I hate that I’ve become cynical.  But I also hate the imposition of a certain way of being that is purported to be either ‘zen’ or ‘yoga’ that really has nothing to do with what yoga is about.  A lack of authenticity.

So I’m curious:  to Om or not to Om?


Passwords and remembering

We live in an era where everything has to be password protected.  I remember when this phenomena first hit us – back then you just needed something simple; something you could easily remember.  But then came the hackers and the warnings:  never use the same password on your accounts.  So we modified (the same password); after all, we needed so many that it was hard to remember them all.  You needed to write them all down (sometimes in a straightforward way, but often a bit more cryptically).  Then came the apps that could keep all your passwords safe and protected in one place – you only needed to remember one and it would unlock the safe to reveal all the others – you just needed to remember to update them whenever you had to reset a password.

Next came injunctions for more complex, less memorable passwords consisting of a combination of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols.  And now whenever you are asked to set a new password you’re offered a dazzling combination that is impossible to make any sense of in order to remember – you need to write it down before you do anything else (including setting your password) which inevitably leads to either not writing it down correctly or not entering it correctly (especially on iPads and phones) which then necessitates having to re-set your password and then remember to record it and so the cycle goes on.

I confess to being one of those people who make use of the same password with clever variations (actually, they’re very standard and I’m sure a hacker would easily figure each and every one of them out), but even this gets me into trouble as inevitably, I can’t ever remember what the variation was.  And because it’s often ‘three strikes and you’re out’ I’m forever having to reset my password, with, you guessed it, another variation on a theme.  How else do you remember?

Pachydermal therapy

My brain’s tired.  More specifically, my right brain is tired. I’ve been overusing it. Too much computer work, thinking work, analysing and problem-solving. So today I’m going to give it a rest and be free of thinking.  I’m going sit in the sun and read my book, go for a walk along the beach and then I’m going to crochet an elephant. Ha? Really. I am in fact, crocheting a baby elephant.  Well, a soft, cuddly toy version of a baby elephant.

It all began when I decided to knit a beanie. I live in Noosa where the weather is never really cold enough for winter woolies but for some reason I decided I wanted to knit a beanie. I went to extraordinary lengths to purchase my pattern and wool (finding places to buy yarn here is an exerBeaniescise in logistics).  I managed to find the perfect pattern on-line but the wool that was recommended was impossibly expensive to send (it was from Germany and the shipping costs were $55).  A trip to Brisbane resolved the problem, though there too it was a bit hit and miss.  Long story short I knitted my beanie and proudly wore it on a visit to frigidly cold Melbourne.  Both my daughter and my gf loved the beanie; I left it with my gf and resolved to knit my  daughter another one.   Which I did.  By then I had become quite enamoured of knitting – especially beanies because they require knitting on 5 kneedles, which is both challenging (keeping the stitches from dropping off not just one end of the needle but two – or in this case 8!!) and fun.  It was a good thing to do in front of the telly – less drinking too (you can’t very well knit and drink).
However four beanies later, I’d had enough.  But I still wanted to knit something.  I came across some very cute toys and things on Pinterest and then I found a photo of a crocheted elephant.  I was sold.  I used to crochet way back when (remember back in the early 70’s crocheted ponchos?) so I knew that it was something I could do.

crocheted elephantOnce more I went in search of yarn. I couldn’t find the specified yarn but figured something approximating it would do – the most important thing being the colour. It didn’t take long for my brain and fingers to remember how to crochet and all was going well until I suddenly realised that this cute little cuddly toy was going to end up being rather big.  I had envisaged something that was maybe 15-20cm but the head of this elephant is looking more like an elephant cow than a baby one and I suspect the entire thing is going to be the size of a toy poodle – the real ones, not the stuffed toy variety.

What to do?  I wondered if it was the yarn I was using – I had purchased 8ply but perhaps it needed to be 4ply.  As I’ve said, I can’t leave problems alone – I have to fix them, so once more I went in search of yarn.  I did manage to find some 4ply but it wasn’t in the right colour (too pale) but never mind, I figured I could dye it a darker grey later.  Turns out that it doesn’t really make much difference and that the pattern is indeed for a somewhat larger toy elephant.  I’m going to persevere because once I’ve started something I’m determined to finish it.  Perhaps I can stuff it with something a bit sturdier than fluffy toy stuffing and use it as a door stop.  Not sure quite what that stuffing would be – maybe poured concrete? Or perhaps I could just donate it to a creche.

I have to admit that I really had no idea of what I was going to do with this little elephant – I don’t know anyone with babies.  It was just a cute project to keep me occupied.  And keep me occupied it has.

Now I think I’ll move on to my linguine doll.

linguini doll

My mini break – indulging the day away

The other day I accompanied my husband on his business trip to Brisbane – the big city for us these days.  It was just an overnight trip but it provided the opportunity to get to all those shops that were no longer available to me – the Fabric Shop, Lulu Lemon, Mecca, etc.

Although the experience began a bit wobbly – we turned up to check in at the hotel only to find our booking had been made for the previous week – the hotel staff very efficiently righted wrongs and turned things around. Checkout was at 11am – not really a problem but I wanted to go to the gym in the morning and didn’t want to get up very early or rush so asked if a later check out was possible.  No problem – 1pm!  Our room was on the 18th floor with city views, large and spacious and well appointed with a comfortable king-size bed and lots of comfy pillows.  I’m a real pillow fanatic and can’t sleep if the pillow isn’t right.  These ones were perfect.

The bathroom was also nice and big and even better – had a big bath.  Ah, I thought:  gym followed by a luxurious soak.  But meantime, having unpacked it was definitely time to have a drink in the bar downstairs.  We were staying at the Marriott and although it’s a bit staid, the service is impeccable.  The bar downstairs felt like something out of a 50’s movie – all dim lights and small tables – perfect setting for a dirty martini.  Don’t know why but I was surprised at how good it was.  I suppose it’s not a drink that’s commonly called for but then again, in the service/hospitality industry, isn’t that what a good bar tender should do: mix the perfect martini?  So, another tick for this hotel’s staff.  Excellent service all round.

I had planned to sleep in the next morning but woke early (why is it that men can’t move about quietly?) and couldn’t get back to sleep.  Not wanting to get up and start my day I switched on the tv, made myself a cup of tea, got out my knitting and hopped back into bed. I spent the next hour or so knitting in bed and watching tv.  Not something I’ve ever done before.  Not something I imagine anyone has done before. It felt very indulgent.

Eventually I’d had enough knitting – and was ready for a coffee – so it was time to get to the gym.  An hour later I was back in my room and running the bath.  There’s something rather decadent about having a morning bath.  Pure luxury.  The only thing that was missing was a glass of champagne and while I did (briefly) consider calling down for one, I thought this might be a bit impractical having already submerged myself in a bath full of bubbles.

Bathed and dressed I sought out a good coffee and then sat and attended to emails and other business before packing up and calling down to request my car.  12.45pm.  A very nice start to the day.  It felt like I was on holidays.  Had I been staying longer I would have indulged in a spa session and then had a glass of wine in the bar. And then perhaps gone to see a movie.  As it was, I ran my errands and had a leisurely lunch before picking up my husband and driving back home.

I realised that it’s that easy to give yourself a treat – a day off.  Make use of all the facilities in the hotel and pamper yourself.  A real ‘go slow’ day.  It was the best mini break I’ve had in a long long time.

This is Queensland

We’ve moved to sunny Queensland – to the glorious hinterland behind Noosa where the beaches are just about the best of any in the world. The main beach has lovely gently waves lapping at the shore and the water is so clear that you can see fish swimming about – even in the shallows. The surf beach is something else entirely – its quintessentially Australia – big churning surf, miles of sand,huge expanses of blue sky and best of all, hardly a soul around. The main beach is safer for swimming but it’s still always something to be able to get in the surf and jump those waves (in Australia we don’t really swim in the sea, we jump waves). The trick is to get out beyond the breakers, which can be scary, but once there the water is just glorious and best of all not the least bit frigid like the oceans down south so its heaven to float about and be rocked by waves, And added bonus is that the water is not frigidly cold like down south. In fact there’s always this lovely surprise when you realise the first waves that crash into you aren’t cold but quite mild (though fortunately not as warm as those flat seas in south east Asia).

Our house is a little cottage that has been renovated and extended to encompass a huge verandah and gazebo-like space – plenty of room to have an outdoor table, recliners, outdoor lounge as well as a small pool and space to laze in the sun. Our garden is like a huge park. We could go and have picnics down on the grass amongst the trees except that we’re quite content to sit on our verandah and just look out. There is wildlife: an abundance of birds including kookaburras and King Parrots that come and perch on our verandah, bush turkeys, ducks (the other day I drove past a family of ducks waddling along – Mother duck and her chicks – so cute!) and the occaisional wallaby hopping past.

“Town” is a 20 minute drive away – as is the beach – but it’s not like city distances – it’s probably a good 20k. I always find myself thinking how far it is and then I remind myself that back in Sydney it would take that long to go 5k in built up city traffic. So it’s just a matter of changing my perspecttive.

The problem is, I feel like I’m somewhere outback. I can’t duck to the local shop for some forgotten item (there is no local shop nearby) and the shops, well, that’s what most makes me feel like I’m in rural Queensland. The other day I was looking for radicchio – readily available in Sydney – I asked everywhere but no, they occaisionally got some in but there wasn’t much call for it. Sigh. Same thing happened with trying to obtain Puy lentils. No one stocks them. Fortunately I found one of those bulkfood places that had them. Whew!! I did think that I’d be sending home for care packages.

But my real problem is the lack of service. Digital/technological service. We have no telephone – the line has not been connected to the house; we have no internet – we have ordered a copper cable to be installed but things take time (and time goes by so slowly); we have no tv service – something wrong with the antenna so we can’t watch anything and without internet/broadband we can’t stream anything. Arrgh. More frustrating is the fact that it’s so hard to download anything.  I have a SIM in both my phone and iPad but the range here is so bad that I can never connect so it’s almost impossible to download emails, or search for anything. Or post/respond to Facebook. Is that bad? Yes and no. I don’t necessarily need to be connected on social media but I do want to stay in touch. And I want to know what’s happening. I can’t seem to download the papers anymore. I have to go to a shopping centre to do that but its not where I want to sit and read. I’m feeling increasingly isolated.
I keep reminding myself that I should regard this as an exotic holiday – like being in the back of Ubud – and it’s an opportunity to not do very much except read and lounge around and go to the beach. But somehow, it’s not very satisfying. This after all, is not an exotic holiday location, it’s my new home. So, it’s a work in progress; an opportunity to drop the city me and accept this new pace of life: slowly does it.

There’s a Scottish joke:
A Spaniard travels to the Western Isles of Scotland, hires a car. The car breakes down and he takes it to MacTavish the mechanic and MacTavish looks at the car and says ” Yes we can do that for you, when would you like it?”
The Spaniard says “maniana”. MacTavish says” I’m not familiar with that expression”. The Spaniard replies, “it means, there’s no hurry, tomorrow will do”.
MacTavish says “aye, we have a lot of expressions like that here too, but none of them quite so urrgent”.
Welcome to Queensland.