Up the Garden Path

I recently watched a story on ABCs Australian Story on Wendy Whiteley, which prompted me to dig into my archives and pull out my own memories of the time I met Wendy in her secret garden some 5 years ago.

WendysSecretGardenOn Sydney’s North Shore in the suburb of Lavender Bay, squeezed between Clark Park and the North Shore Railway line lays a little patch of land that resembles somewhat of a Monet canvas. Wendy’s Secret Garden is the creative work of Wendy Whiteley, best known as the wife and muse of Sydney artist Brett Whiteley.

Owned by the NSW Rail Corporation the derelict bushland site opposite the Whiteley’s home had become a dumping ground for rubbish, household appliances and train carriages and was also home to a handful of the homeless.

For the past 20 years Wendy, an artist in her own right, has moulded this landscape into a creative masterpiece. Getting her inspiration from the throngs of daily lunch goers at Clark Park soaking up the sun and the view, she took it upon herself to clean up the mess.

Exquisite pathways “I thought what a waste, all this land here, that all these people could be enjoying,” says Wendy.

Steeped into the hillside are a cluster of walkways laden with blooming fragrant flowers, ferns, palms, shrubs and Australian natives. It’s a feast for the senses.

Wendy confesses she’s not very good with the names of the plants, but it’s what it looks like that’s important to her. “I’m a visual person and go by what looks good. I didn’t have a plan for what I was going to do it just happened,” she said.

Dotted amongst the garden are several secluded nooks and crannies with tables and chairs or grassy mounds. They are so inviting you can’t help but steal a few moments to escape reality. Or pull up a pew under the great Moreton Bay Fig and enjoy the sweeping views across Lavender Bay to the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Garden ArtLocal resident Joanne is a regular to the garden and says that sometimes it feels like you have it all to yourself. “I think what Wendy has done here is amazing, it’s so peaceful and never overcrowded”.

Not only admired by the locals as a place of tranquillity but by tourists, students and families alike.

Peter and Jill are from out of town but have known about the garden for a while and make frequent visits to meet with friends at the nearby Kirribilli RSL. “We come here first and enjoy a little peace and quiet before we meet friends, it’s such a magical place”.

Wendy WhiteleyWendy herself maintains the gardens with a little help from a few gardeners she’s employed. “I just love being in the garden, I’d do this all day everyday, especially when the weather is this good”, she says bathed in sunlight sitting in a garden bed. “I’m glad I’ve been able to create something that everyone can enjoy”

She looks so happy and content it inspires me to want to create your own garden, and that’s saying something since I can’t even keep a pot plant alive!


Growing up is hard…

It’s been more than 6 months since my last blog post, which is a pretty poor effort for someone who wants to make a career out of writing!

I-may-not-be-there-yetI’ve spent the last six months busily trying to grow up. Growing up is hard.

As much as I would still love to strap my backpack on and jump on a plane back to the magical mountains of Canada or go trundling off on a new adventure; I’m not, I’m doing the right thing, getting myself out of debt, maintaining a stable income, honing my craft and trying to grow up.

It’s been easy to lose sight of this travel writing/photography dream and sometimes it seems easier to give up on it altogether. But then I’m not a quitter, when you fall off the horse you just have to get back on.


So I’m trying to stay positive and motivated and realizing that going backwards is actually forwards, it’s setting the foundations for the future. One step backward, two steps forward…

“All our dreams come true, if we have the courage to pursue them” – Walt E Disney.

A speed date with Scotland

Several months ago my friend Pete told me about a travel competition – My Destinations Biggest Baddest Bucket List. On the line is the opportunity to be a globe trotting travel reporter for 6 months without having to pay a penny! The ultimate dream prize if you ask me!

The requirement… write a 500 word travel story, include 3 photos and create a 3 minute video on a destination of your choice… Meh… tick, tick, tick… easy as…

Massive underestimation. It’s been 2 months mostly of procrastination, requiring a bucket of self belief and a few cups of will power in not giving up.

It’s funny when the carrot is dangled for something like this it’s so easy to talk yourself out of it. My photos aren’t really that great… someone will have a better story than me… and as for the video, I’ve never been in front of a camera before let alone have a clue about how to pull it all together.

But as they say, ‘You’ve got to be in it to win it!’ And so I trudged on learning lessons and making mistakes – some unfixable. And after 8hrs of takes for a few minutes of footage I have a new respect for those on the other side of the lens!

Will I win? Who knows? Maybe… Probably not, but I prefer not to think that way otherwise what’s the point. I’m sure there’ll be better photos and better stories and better videos but I’m proud of what I’ve acheived.

So come on a speed date with me to Scotland and if you like it vote for me, heck even if you don’t like it, vote for me anyway and help a girl follow her dream!

Vote for me

My attempt at growing up…

I’m not one to make new years resolutions. Personally I think it’s a cop out. Why do you need to wait for the New Year to make a promise to yourself? Just start now. This year however I’m breaking my own code. I’m making a resolution… (drum roll please)

My resolution for 2013 is: Not to make any plans.

IMG_2802No I haven’t been taking happy pills or smoking the whacky weed, and my blogging absence isn’t because I’d run off with the flower hugging children of the past generations.

The simple reason for my resolution is, when I make plans they turn to sh*t. Pessimistic? Perhaps… or maybe it’s just fact. When I say my plans turn to sh*t, it’s nothing disastrous it just wasn’t what I had planned.

Some people may say that this is actually life. Perhaps but why make a plan and be continuously disappointed when they don’t turn out? Why not forget about the plan and just enjoy the ride. (Nope still no happy pills)

So why the change now?

A few months back I got a rather serious lecture from my brother (the first in history I might add) about growing up and sorting my life out. When was I going to get some responsibility and stability in my life and start acting my age? Yikes… For 32 years of my life he’s made no comments, now… wham… He must be serious. I’d better sit up and take note.

Well bro you’ll be pleased to know for the first time in my life I actually listened to you!!  This is my attempt at growing up and getting responsible!! I’m not going to go buy a house or save money for nothing and I’m not getting on a plane to the other side of the world (for now). But am going to take life as it comes. How can I say that not making a plan is responsible?

A close few of you will know that when I returned from holidaying in Canada I decided I wanted to go back and live there for a few years. Yes I was going to put my career ‘on hold’ and go gallivanting off around the globe again. (Now insert said lecture from brother here).

Prior to Canada I left a job I loved because of a new boss I hated. Hate’s a strong word (and one I’ve probably not used since I was bullied by Katrina C***hill at primary school). Never in my life have I come across one person that had the ability to make my life such a misery. The constant insults and continuous criticizing made me start to doubt my own abilities. It was a toxic environment that couldn’t have a happy ending.

IMG_4185Insert escape-ist holiday to Canada. Whilst hiking up a mountain in Banff with some new found friends (travellingcoeliac.blogspot.com) we talked about our shared love of travelling and taking life by the horns and doing what makes you happy. (Nope still no happy pills or whacky weed). Halfway up the mountain we witnessed a medivac and came across the distressed hiker whose buddy had just been airlifted out. Turned out he’d suffered a seizure. He had an inoperable brain tumour and despite doctors orders was making the most of what time he had left.

So you experience something like this and you can’t help but want to embrace life yourself. You only have one of them. So I forged a plan… I was going to return to oz, work for a few months, save some dosh and head back to Canada and live in the mountains. I was going to work my ass off writing and hopefully get a few things published, meet a husband and life would just turn out…

cloudsThen suddenly the fluffy white cloud you’re sitting on dissappears and you come catapulting back to the real world. There are bills to pay, stuff to organise and then you can’t get a job (over qualified, under qualified or my favourite – we thought it just wasn’t right for you) and you realise that yet another plan you made has turned to sh*t.

So my theory is that if I don’t make a plan things might just work out for me. I may just sort my life out and grow up. This doesn’t mean I’m giving up on my photo-journalism dream or I’ll stop making the most of what I’ve got. I’m just not making a plan on how I should get there.

So roll on 2013… I’m strapped in, ready for the ride.

Mount Rundall – Banff, Alberta, Canada

Australian Centre for Photography Students Exhibition

Earlier this year I did a photography course at the Australian Centre for Photography. We all had the opportunity to submit a photo we had taken during or since participating in the course. A small number of the submissions are printed whilst the rest are on display on a rotating digital screen. Little bit excited that my image above has been selected to be printed so will be hanging in the gallery at the exhibition from 22nd – 25th November 2012.  YAY!! 🙂

It’s the people that make the place

I often get asked where my favourite place is? This is almost an impossible question to answer. There can never be just one.

When you travel in a world as diverse as ours you can’t compare one destination to another and simply determine which one is ‘best’.  Kenya, Rome and the Scottish Highlands are among some of my favourite places. But trying to compare them would be like trying to compare Stilettos to Flip Flops. It just doesn’t work.

So, what is it that makes these places ‘favourites’ to me? The more I thought about it, the more I realised that it comes down to the experiences with the people that I met in these places or along the way.

It was my dream to visit the Sistine Chapel in Rome. In 2005 I did just that and to this day Rome still rates as one of my favourite places. But not just for the Sistine Chapel (don’t get me wrong it’s truly amazing) but for a very different reason – the people.

I had a dining experience with two strangers I met at a hostel, I don’t even remember what their names were (I’m terrible with names) but they were backpackers like me from across the globe. We headed out one night and found ourselves a little lost in the back streets of Rome and ended up in a restaurant where nothing was in English and no-one spoke a word of it. With only the knowledge between us to say hello, please and thank you in Italian it could have been a disastrous evening.

Instead what followed was a hysterical evening of laughter and entertainment with the restaurant staff as we fumbled our way through the evening, pointing at other patron’s meals, guessing off the menu and playing our own version of charades to communicate. Instead of looking down their noses at us clueless tourists they embraced us into their world and my two new friends and I were temporarily a part of their family.

I’m still not really sure what half the things were we ate, but it was amazing and because of the kindness of these locals I saw Rome from a different perspective.

A newbie to my list of favourites is the Canadian Rockies from which I have just recently returned. When I think of the highlights they once again revolve around people; the locals and the travellers I met along the way. The Aussie couple I bumped into whilst hiking up a mountain in Banff, or the Canadians that I met sitting around a bonfire in Lake Louise or the guys in the bar in Whistler who offered us a seat at their table. Most of these people I will never see again but the memories of the moments we shared will stay with me for years to come.

Conversely, I think of the places I’ve been that don’t spring to mind, Paris, for example. Its not that I don’t like Paris – how could you not like Paris? Heck, I’ve been there four times! But for me none of my visits were influenced by people. I’m not saying that the French or those that travel there are unfriendly or unkind or that there aren’t things that I absolutely love about Paris, there are, it’s simply that I just didn’t meet people here to entrench these experiences in my mind.

Perhaps it’s because I’m a solo traveller and these ‘people experiences’ fill the sometimes lonely void that creeps in when you travel alone. Or perhaps it’s simply a matter of being in the right place at the right time? I don’t know. All I know is that my highlights mostly involve people, so for this I believe it’s the people that make the place.

Photo of the Day 16.10.12

Tuesday 16th October 2012

Seattle Waterfront
Seattle’s waterfront piers house a host of fish restaurants and cafes with Pier 57 Miners Landing being the most commercialized of them all. Chock full of ‘tourist stuff’ you can feast at The Crab Pot, whizz around on the carousel, shop for souvenirs or take a ride on the Great Wheel. If you ask me I’d say skip it all and head to Pier 52 and take the Ferry to Bainbridge Island. Seattle, Washington, USA.