Tasmania Day 12

My catch up with Mil yesterday ended up being a beautiful walk from Ritchies Mill to the Cataract Gorge Cliff Grounds. The weather was absolutely perfect for the walk, sun shining, not too hot and not too cold. The Cataract Gorge is a ‘must see’ in Launceston. Mil commented that it is not a place that they go anymore and I marvel at the complacency that you feel about a place when it is on your doorstep. I can easily say now that if I lived here, I would visit this place regularly. In reality I know that I would be the same as Mil and take for granted that the beauty would still be there when I made time in my busy life to enjoy it.

I was very thankful that I took my camera with me on our walk as the photo opportunities were abundant. The gorge was in flood with water washing over the public baths that I remember so well from my childhood. Surprisingly, despite the floodwater, which was very brown and must have been cold, there were children swimming in the pool with their parents watching on.

The majority of the people I saw in Launceston yesterday had shorts and t-shirts on; I remember well the desperation of living in a cold climate and shedding layers at every opportunity to ensure that you make the most of the weather. I feel sure that we who remained covered, like me, hail from warmer climes. I however must admit to the cat-like delight that warm sun elicits. Sometimes I wish I could purr.

The gorge is picturesque in any of its personas. The one that yesterday presented is wild, anything but tranquil but the location takes me back to my teenage years when the youth of Launceston would bask in the sun, preen, swim and preen some more. I was a strong swimmer in those day. We would enter the basin and swim across taking up positions under the natural waterfall that develops under the suspension bridge. We would sit with the water rushing over our heads, breathing in the natural pockets of air that the water flow produces. It’s in my imagination today as the flowing floodwaters mask my special spot.

I looked across the gorge to a spot that always held a degree of fear for me. The spot is called Hogs Bottom and the legend of my childhood was that no one had even found the bottom; it was so deep and dangerous. I remember distinctly my brother taking the leap of faith and jumping from the ledge over Hog’s Bottom (several metres up) but I don’t remember doing it myself. I can’t remember whether I was afraid of the height, the legend or my parents should they learn of my folly. I just remember good times, great times, carefree times when it comes to the basin, a lovely walk down memory lane.

We then walked back and visited the providore and art gallery at Ritchies Mill, another absolute must visit in Launceston, with fine displays of Tasmania art work and crafts on display and sale.

Last night I went to our wine tasting, a monthly event that started more than 27 years ago; a group of 16 friends who enjoyed each other’s company, enjoying lovely wines and a monthly get together. I was saying last night that we left Launceston 21 years ago and the group was incredulous; no surely only a year or two ago; surely you were here for longer than that. The lovely fact is that with that group it feels like we never left. Last night I learned that the group has the same arguments as they did 21 years ago (about whether you number each bracket of wines from 1 to whatever or whether you number the reds for the evening from 1, with the second bracket starting at 5 (if there were four in the first bracket).. It is still unclear whether the one that you like the most is number one or the one you like the least is number one….. In fact they stopped ranking a few years ago (maybe because they couldn’t decide). It’s not just the tasting though. This is a strongly opinionated group of colourful characters. They hold strong and diverse opinions about everything and friendly banter is a sport. I love this group of people with all my heart. Every time we come back to Tasmania we try to catch a wine tasting. They never disappoint.

Today I am being picked up by a lovely friend, J, and we are heading out for a road trip lunch to Piper’s Brook; looking forward to it, must move!

Tasmania Day 11

Sitting in a café in Launceston waiting on lunch and the Tasmania I was expecting is here. Not only am I not cold for the first time since I arrived, I am positively warm. I am sitting in Yorktown Square. It is a spot that I never really frequented but always liked when I was here. Clearly form the relative number of people here to elsewhere in Launceston, people still don’t frequent this area often.

We farewelled Dolphin Sands yesterday. I had a lovely walk on the beach before leaving. It was cold and blustery; the ravages of the storm still well apparent with no blue at all in the sea but the distressed mutton birds were either flown away or out of their misery so it was a much easier place to be. The sea had grafittied seaweed on the sand and the foam still remained. The beauty of The Hazards cast their spell. Out of the wind, the day was superb.

Larger than life Tasmanian icon normally axe wielding David Foster is sitting at the table next to mine and he is charming all of those around. I had seen the ‘man-mountain’ order in front of me but not realised who he was. Clearly, from his interactions with all around, his persona as well as his prowess are the stuff of his legend.

Mostly from here on, my Tasmanian adventure will be about people. Tonight I am headed off to our Wine Tasting Group. I still say ‘our’ despite our 20+ year absence from the group. I am well aware that tonight, it will be like I never left.

This afternoon, I am meeting my dear friend, Mil (not her real name but the name I have called her since I first met her in 1977). To her I am Maud. We country cousins are set for a walk around the Tamar River foreshore to Seaport. Seaport did not exist in my Launceston but its presence is a welcome addition for both locals and visitors alike, a truly lovely spot.

My catch up with Mil and visit to Seaport beckons….

Friendships

In the air on the way from Brisbane to Hobart. G and I are going to spend a few days in Hobart to catch up with his father and to revisit his old stomping ground. G flies back to Canberra on Sunday and I am spending an additional 10 days in Tasmania catching up with friends. I love catching up with my Tasmanian friends. There is something both comfortable and comforting about spending time in the company of people who have known you for many years. A couple of my friends have been friends since the mid 1960’s. It is always very special to spend time in the company of someone with 50 years of shared memories. That is not to say in any way that I don’t value my newer friendships. In fact over the years spent in Queensland, it is the newer friendships that have had the time invested in them. I am always humbled by our old friends who welcome us with open arms and go out of their way to make us feel like we never left.
We are a minority in having moved away from Tasmania. Our friendship group, but for us, is pretty much intact and continuing to enjoy life in Tas. It is not only our friends that keep dragging us back to Tasmania. Tasmania has some of the most beautiful places that I have seen anywhere in the world, its food and wine are second to none and the pace of life is a step back to something way more sensible than what I have lived for a number of years.
When I come back to Tasmania now, I feel as though I belong. That last sentence just appeared and yes it’s true, I do feel as though I belong. I always felt as I grew up in Tasmania that I didn’t belong. I had quite different and distinct friendship groups and often felt as though I sat on the periphery of all of them. I never quite felt as though I was accepted. I am not sure why I thought that these people had stayed in my life as long as they had. Looking back, they had plenty of opportunities to escape. I did not hold any of their deepest secrets, they had as much dirt on me as I had on them. We actually hung around together because we wanted to. But I could never see that.
The groups that I hung out with were diverse. My school friends and I were good kids; we gave our parents limited grief, no grey hairs and having to bail us out was never really going to be necessary. We did well at school, studied hard and achieved success. We looked out for one another; we were never cool. At school I was very tall. I was 5’7” at age 11 which made me easily the tallest person around in primary school. When I moved to high school I found my niche by being sporty. I didn’t grow to too much taller than my 11 year old self (maybe 5’8 ½”). Even in early adulthood I thought I was tall and gawky. I aspired to petite but that was never going to be! Certainly no one ever messed with me and looking back, my school years were charmed. I guess even then I was looking at what I didn’t have. I had dark short curly hair and thought that the only definition of beautiful was long blonde hair (and petite). I didn’t have boyfriends; I believed that no one would ever love me.
Apart from my feet (which are size 41), I actually like what I see when I now look in the mirror. My feet? I will never like my feet and often feel like I should just wear the boxes and throw away the shoes. C’mon, give me a break. I’ve come a long way towards accepting awesome. I don’t need awesome feet to be content! Having said that, I bought the most awesome pair of shoes ever to be donned by these size 41 feet yesterday. (I’ll attach a photo). So maybe my relationship with my feet is improving 
I feel I’ve digressed, let’s get back to the subject of belonging. I had another group of friends at Coles Bay, the location of our holiday house as I grew up. We would hang out on the beach, hold nightly camp fires and drink. I tried really hard, in the company of these friends, to take up smoking. I have probably smoked a packet of cigarettes in my life time but I am sure I never drew any smoke into my lungs. I thought it was revolting but thought that if I smoked I would definitely belong.
In Launceston, after school, I still kept in touch with all of my school friends (and still do) but I branched out into a new group. We were all studying. We all got our degrees from the then Tasmanian College of Advanced Education. The disconnect that I felt with this group is more difficult for me to fathom than any other. We shared dreams and ambitions, we worked hard; we partied hard. It was at this time that I met my husband, G. We started out just as friends, this growing into something more over time. The first few years for us were tumultuous with us each questioning our relationship on many levels. I always felt that my friends did not approve of our relationship (and given the angst it caused me, I would not be surprised if that were true). Having said that, when we did finally agree that we belonged together, I never let go of the feeling of not belonging. I always wondered whether I was living up to the expectations of the group or perhaps whether the choices I was making were acceptable to the group of people who were my friends.
We left Tasmania in 1992 and spent 3 ½ years in the Middle-East. Going to a country where no one had any expectations about who G and A were and what we would be like was liberating. I felt a high level of self-acceptance and belonging. It’s quite interesting really, given that everyone goes to a place like Saudi Arabia for their own reasons. I don’t think that any of the people there would have been saying, “I’ve come to Saudi Arabia. I really felt as though I belonged at home but I came here anyway.” We made lots of friends during that time, some with whom we have kept in touch. I value those friendships highly and I actually never wondered whether I belonged there.
In Brisbane, my network is small, tiny even, but it is strong. I count my close friends on one hand, would do anything for them and know that I can go to them if I need to. My nephew, M, who I feel particularly close to, told me recently that he has three friends. He is happy with those three friends. He trusts them, likes them and he doesn’t need any more. I met one of them and was impressed with the way they were together. He has had previous friends who had the potential to derail his life along with their own. I admire his astute summation (at the ripe old age of 24) of what is required, relationship wise, in order to be content.
Why is it that we spend our lives questioning what we are doing instead of just enjoying the moment? I guess that if I had the answer to that question, I’d have the key to accepting contentment as a way of life.
Tasmania; bring it on! Looking forward to a great visit!