Burning Desire For FIRE

Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

Retirement’s so hard…

As soon as I finish posting this, I’ll be packing for a mini holiday. Two nights in the high country at a resort near Merrijig. Retirement is so hard – all these holidays I’m forcing myself to take!

I had some points with my stupid timeshare that were due to expire at the end of next month. In my previous life as a productive, teacherly member of society, I’d have had to let those points expire or hope that one of my uni boys could use them up.

But now – I’m on a mission to use up every single point from now until I drop in my tracks.

So for the next 2 days, I’ll be reading, bushwalking (moderately!) and generally looking at gum trees and kangaroos. I’m going to go to the Healesville Sanctuary on the way up – I haven’t been there since I was a kid. I remember seeing the Tasmanian Devils and hearing the weird noise they make.

The resort restaurant isn’t open on Monday and Tuesday nights but that’s ok – I was planning on self-catering anyway. The studio apartment comes with a kitchenette. Frugality meets necessity!

I took the boys here on a holiday once when they were a lot younger. We played mini golf, they fooled around in the gym and we went for walks. It’ll be interesting to see if much has changed here since then.

I was planning on taking a leisurely ride home but I have to attend my great-aunt’s funeral on Wednesday in Melbourne, so I’ll be leaving at the crack of dawn. How’s this for a retirement? Doris was 95 when she died. She lived independently all her life in the house that she and her husband bought in the 1940’s. She was adamant that she didn’t want to go to a nursing home and she maintained her independence (with help from her local council with cleaners, shower girls, etc) until the end. She was also a great-great-grandmother – she lived for her family.

I hope I’m still happily pottering around the Best House in Melbourne when I’m that age!

Then vs now.

It’s 8:57 AM on a Wednesday morning.

In my previous life as a teacher, I would have left the house at 7:45 AM, driven all the way to school, parked in Hall st and then made it to my desk in the staff room by 8:30 AM. I’d chat with the colleagues at the desks near mine, then we’d look at the time, grab our computers, our books and whiteboard markers and gallop off to where we need to be for period 1.

The walkways between the buildings and portables would be packed. There were 1,200 kids and around 200 teachers all on the same mission, but all moving to different points of the campus. All of us had to be on time.

By 8:50 I’d be in my classroom, facing the first of the day’s crop of kids, ready to mark the roll. My lesson plan would already be laid out for me, with every class at the same year level doing the same work with the same resources at the same time.

Practically the only point of difference between my class and everyone else’s is that I’d write a couple of Dad jokes on the board at the start of every lesson. The kids loved it.

The bells define the day when you work at a school. The periods go for 48 minutes, lunch is an hour and recess is just under half an hour. There’s a bell at the middle of lunch so that the teachers on yard duty know that it’s time to swap in or out.

Now?

I’m on the couch in my pjs. I’ve written a blog post for the Frog Blog and I’m thinking vaguely about getting some breakfast before I take the dogs to the beach. Yesterday I googled “Quilting shops near me” and found there’s one just a few minutes drive away. I might have a look and see if there’s anything I’d like to buy for the next few quilts I have in mind.

Two minutes ago I was reading a blog post and I absently reached out to give Poppy a cuddle. She stretched out and I felt her silky fur under my hand. I glanced out the window behind her to see the blue sky, with just a touch of wind stirring the trees. I had a flashback as to where I’d be if I hadn’t retired.

I’d be in a room with 28 other people, locked away from most of this beautiful day. I’d have fun some of the time, sure. Kids can always make me laugh! But most of the time would be spent making them do work put together by earnest, serious young teachers that frankly, used to bore even me. Teaching used to be a lot more creative and fun. Now it’s getting more and more “cookie-cutter” style lessons, with the belief that one size fits all.

Thank God I was frugal, paid off my mortgage and was in a position to take advantage of an opportunity to accelerate my retirement date when it presented itself.

The whole day stretches out before me. I can spend it however I want. There’s no excuse for me to be bored! I’m the one in control.

THIS is why I put in the work to retire early(ish).

The ability to control your own time is worth its weight in gold.

Yesterday I went to a free talk at my library. An excellent author, Rosalie Ham, was talking about her books and the making of her first book, The Dressmaker, into a movie. Today I’ll potter around here, maybe go to that shop, while tomorrow? Who knows? I’ll probably decide what I want to do when my feet hit the floor tomorrow morning.

Next week I’m going away for a few days into the high country of Victoria. My timeshare had a few points that were going to expire at the end of June and for the first time – I’m in the position of being able to use them up because I’m free to travel midweek.

Five months into retirement, I’m loving it. My days are filled with quiet contentment and I’m happy.

Little Adventure #1 – The walking tour, May 2021.

Ages ago I read a blog post that said that when you retire, you should make an effort to go out and see things in your city that you’ve never had time for before. I can’t remember who wrote it but I filed that idea away in my head. After I got back from my holiday, I received the usual weekly email from Choose FI and they had a suggestion: Google ‘fun things to do near me’ and see what comes up.

So I did.

One of the options was free walking tours in Melbourne. My vibrant and youthful friend Scott introduced me to walking tours when he showed me around London and Paris back in 2015. They’re fabulous. Even though I’ve lived in Melbourne all my life, I knew I’d learn bits of information that I didn’t know before.

So I decided – now was the time to start the Little Adventures challenge. One Little Adventure a month.

And yes – I paid my tour guide something at the end of the tour. I may be frugal but I’m not a barbarian!

Here are some of the photos I took.

The old Magistrates Court. People like Ned Kelly would’ve walked these steps.

The Old Melbourne Gaol is right next door. Lived my whole life here and never been. Now I know where it is.

The Royal Exhibition Building. They were giving covid jabs in there. If I hadn’t already booked my appointment, I would’ve raced back there to get one.

If you look up towards the top, you can see a lorikeet in a hole in the branch.

Looking towards the Treasury building. It was built sturdy – it was holding all the gold from the gold rush. We had the biggest gold rush in the world, back in the day.

This one is for Scott, who dragged me to a Babushka doll shop in Lincoln when I was over there in 2015. I could’ve come to The Block arcade and purchased one far more cheaply!

Back last century, these laneways near Flinders st were home to the rag trade. My grandfather worked all his life for a wholesale clothing retailer and this was where he spent his working days. Now, all of these little laneways are home to cafés and restaurants.

The dome at the top of Flinders st station.

As I was crossing the bridge over the river, I saw the patch of lawn in the gardens that I always met my year 12 students for lunch when we were going to see a play. It was nice to see another teacher had the same idea.

We finished at a little-known picnic spot with breathtaking views of the city up and down the river.

The walk took around two and a half hours and it covered a fair whack of the city centre. It finished soon after 1PM and I debated – should I go back to Degraves st to one of the little cafés and grab lunch, or zip home? I had a muesli bar leftover from my South Australia trip in my bag and I was right beside the station…

I went home. BIG MISTAKE.

This is when the unexpected adventure happened.

When I got back it was 2:30.

The dogs were inside. No one else was. I’d taken the train into the city so I didn’t have my car keys with me.

I texted Ryan26. “Are you on a walk?”

He texted back, “I’m in class.”

Shit. I knew both David27 and Ryan26 were due home at 6 PM. I had to wait.

The dogs came out through the doggie door and I met them in the back yard.

I did some weeding.

I had an excellent book in my bag that I was reading on the train – Klara and the Sun’ by Ishiguro. I finished it, sitting on the back couch with the dogs all over me.

It began to get cold. I threw the ball for Scout and Poppy for a while, then I grabbed a towel that was hanging on the line and wrapped it around me.

It got colder and darker. We moved out to the couch on the front verandah. Scout huddled on my lap under the towel and the cavaliers wedged in beside me. They were warm.

I sat there, thinking philosophical thoughts and vowing to install a key safe TOMORROW.

I’ve never been so glad to hear the latch on the front gate click and to see Ryan26 come home!

Apart from the being locked out thing, I count my first Little Adventure as a success. I got to see and hear things about my city that were new to me, it was a great way to get some exercise and I have some places filed away in my head for future Little Adventures.

I think this could be a great idea for retirement!

So how’s the reading challenge coming along?

Dory.

We’re half-way through May so I guess it’s time to check in on how my challenge to make back all my rates by reading the equivalent value of books from the library is coming along.

As in the picture above – it’s going swimmingly. 🙂

I was prompted to write this post by the following tweet:

I answered that I’m currently up to 62 books in 2021 – (it’s now 64) – and someone asked for some recommendations.

So, roughly a third of the books I’ve tackled so far have been Thumping Good Reads.

Both the McTiernan books were audiobooks that I borrowed from the library and listened to while I was driving around South Australia. It was a terrifically efficient way to read, except that now the big burly male protagonist will forever have a deep woman’s voice in my head. But the reader had the Irish accent down pat.

I really enjoyed the Hayfield novels ‘Wife After Wife’ and ‘Sister to Sister’ too. I absolutely love Tudor history and she had the brilliant idea of transferring the Tudor story to modern times. For example – Henry VIII isn’t a king anymore – kings have no real power in our society. Instead, he’s a media magnate. He can’t behead his wives either, so how would these marriages come to an end nowadays? I particularly enjoyed how she got around the thorny problem of Anne of Cleves – there’s no blaming Hans Holbein for a flattering, deceptive portrait when we have cameras, phones and videos!

I read ‘The Queen’s Gambit’ before I watched the Netflix series. This book was so beautifully written that, instead of galloping through it like I usually do, I’d put it down after nearly every chapter just so I could savour the language.

‘The Thursday Murder Club’ was completely unexpected. It’s written with such clever, witty English humour, while the premise of a group of old=age pensioners getting together to solve a murder is something I’ve never come across before. I loved it and can’t wait for the next in the series to be released.

I’m reading all of the books Rosalie Ham has written because next week I’m going to a free talk at the library -( should I count this for… say… $10 off my total for the challenge???) – about her sequel to ‘The Dressmaker’ called ‘The Dressmaker’s Secret.’ She’s a very good writer, but ‘There Should be More Dancing’ had me hooked from the start. The protagonist, Margery Blandon, sees herself as such a virtuous, upright person but she’s simply AWFUL. I killed myself laughing when her husband said, ” I thought that when I opened you, Margery, I’d find a pearl. Instead, I found an oyster.” This is such a poignant, sad, yet funny book.

Stephen King recommended ‘Find You First’ on Twitter so I tracked it down. It’s a fast-moving thriller and it kept me guessing. I also included his own book, ‘Later.’ King has written so many books. When he’s on point, his stories crackle. This one was great.

‘Olive, Mabel and Me: The story of two very good dogs,’ is written by Andrew Cotter, the Scottish sports commentator who found internet fame by posting videos of his 2 labradors when he got bored during lockdown. Of course, I was always going to love this book. 🙂 If you haven’t seen them before, the videos are well worth watching.

The other books in the list are all very well-known and I was just late to the party.

A quick glance to the side and you’ll see that I’m past the halfway mark – I’ll be gliding smoothly towards the finish line now!

An added bonus that i didn’t expect is that because I’m reading, reserving and picking up so many library books, the dogs and I are walking to the library at least twice a week. That’s a 5KM round trip. It gives me over half my 10,000 steps for the day and leaves me with a feeling of having accomplished something. Today we left at 10 AM to drop off ‘The Good Sister’ by Hepworth – (an excellent read – I couldn’t put the bloody thing down so I finished it in a day) and a Lincoln Rhyme novel. We were back by 11 – our walking times are getting better!

I know that this is a FIRE blog and that there are absolutely no finance books on my list. That’s not to say I didn’t read any, but life isn’t made up of finance alone. There’s absolutely nothing better than getting lost in the world of a good book.

As George RR Martin said in ‘A Dance of Dragons’ –

“A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies… The man who never reads leads only one.”

Smarter than Before.

Soon I’m going to be interviewed about FIRE on a brand-new podcast. It’s called ‘Smarter than Before’ and the aim of it is that each guest will teach the host about a skill/career/something that isn’t usually talked about.

As we all know, financial skills aren’t normally talked about!

I want to make sure I cover everything I need to. It’ll be a 45 minute chat.

If you are following the FIRE path, what do you think I should include?

If you’re newish to this, what would you like to know more about?

I’d really appreciate any and all feedback.

A petrified forest, a blowhole and a walk down memory lane.

The man in the motel in Portland told me to back-track a little and to go and see the Petrified Forest. After I checked out, I raced down to have a look.

You park your car and walk along the cliffs to see it. On the way, there’s a fork… right to see the Blowhole and left to see the petrified forest. I decided to save the Blowhole for the way back.

I was a bit sad to read the explanation of how these tubes formed. It’s much more romantic to think of trees being slowly buried, rather than being all drippy and watery things making these strange tubes.

It was an eerie sort of place. I was the only one there and it was blustery and cold.

It was definitely the perfect place for a wind farm!

Looking out towards Antarctica again…

I walked around for a fair while, feeling all broody and mysterious, and then I walked back to see the Blowhole. I was so glad I did.

This was taken from the lookout. The waves smash into the cliffs and they rise up. Every now and then I could feel light spray on my face if the wind happened to be blowing in the right direction. The sound was amazing and it felt so wild and free.

I glanced at my phone and saw that it was morning recess time at school, so I texted a few people at work with this photo. The contrast between the crowded staffroom and this isolated place was huge.

I stopped the car to take this photo. The fence was hung with shoes for hundreds of metres.

Then I headed into Port Fairy for lunch. Found a nice little bakery and had a lovely lunch. Then I went out to explore.

I was in two minds about how long I should stay here. I was looking forward to seeing this place. Everyone says how pretty Port Fairy is and I was keen to have a squiz. I was going to book a lace for the night so I could really have a good look around.

But honestly, it was really boring.

Sure, there are plenty of pretty little cottages but most of them are privately owned. The lighthouse walk was closed because they were resurfacing the path, so I drove around for a bit, looking at the picture-postcard cottages, then yawned and headed off to Warrnambool.

I was meeting a blog reader for coffee there!

Loretta has been reading the Frogblog for years and was also a member of Simple Savings, so we knew we’d have a lot in common. We met at a café by the beach and talked our heads off and then went for a walk along the boardwalk.

“Now that we’ve met each other and we know we get along, would you like to come back to our place for dinner?” she asked as I was huffing and puffing along beside her. I’m slowly getting fitter but it’s clear I need to make more of an effort!

So off we drove. On the way, I rang Ryan26 and told him where I was going – safety first! (I could see that Loretta was ok, but what if her husband was an axe murderer??? ) Only joking, but as a single woman travelling alone, I sent Ryan26 texts everywhere I went. He must have loved being in so much contact with his Mum…

I had the loveliest evening with Loretta and her family. When we got there I met the dogs – it was so good to see some waggly tails again. Her husband made dinner for us all and he cooked the most tender steaks I’ve eaten in years. Paired with home-grown potatoes, which, when I got home, made me start harvesting mine. It’s too easy to forget them when they’re under the ground.

When it was time for me to go, she walked me down their driveway to the car parked on the street outside. You forget just how dark it is out in the country. She said that she and a friend take walks in the evening all the time. I’m sure I’d fall down a hole and break my leg in the first 5 minutes if I tried that. It was pitch-black. She’s an intrepid woman.

The next morning I was on the road again, heading back to the Port Campbell area to see the 2 sights I didn’t see on the way up, due to rain. Here’s the Bay of Islands.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

The sun was shining over me and in the bay, but the grey clouds were gathering behind me. I stayed savouring the view for quite a long while, then jumped back in the car to go and have a look at the Bay of Martyrs.

By the time I got there, the sun had moved on.

So had the rain. Towards me.

I ran back to the car. I didn’t get too wet.

Then I drove on.

The rest of the day was me basically driving juuuust ahead of the rain. The Great Ocean Road ducked inland for a bit and I suddenly realised that I was getting low on fuel. There was a tiny dot on the map in the middle of nowhere that had this petrol bowser outside a shop. I thought for sure that it wouldn’t be operational but thank goodness it was. Saved my bacon!

They’d just filled the bird feeder out the back before I arrived. We get lorikeets at home but we don’t get rosellas. Pretty, aren’t they?

Lots of twists and turns but I was listening to a shockingly bad audiobook, (Hamish McBeth – don’t even go there) so it helped take my mind off the awfulness.

By the time I reached Apollo Bay I’d pulled ahead of the rainclouds a bit.

WHAT a beautiful place!

I tried to capture the turquoise water but my iPhone camera doesn’t do it justice. There’s a lovely beach so I took the chance to walk along it.

I met the beautiful Heidi. She made me miss my snag, Scout. Heidi was just as tiny as my girl.

By the time I’d finished my walk, the sky was beginning to darken. Time to push on.

The drive along the Great Ocean Road was so weird, because the sea was 2 different colours. I’ve caught it here. Right where I was driving was the line between the rain and the sun. The left is bluer than the right, can you see?

Then I came to Lorne and I as I was driving through, I passed a place that I haven’t seen since I was 18. I did a u-ey and drove back.

There’s a caravan park beside a bridge on the foreshore. It has a creek going through it.

At the end of year 12, back in 1981, we all drove down here and camped for a week in tents by the creek. This is exactly where we were.

Nowadays they’ve got cute little cabins, but back in the day it was just our tents, then caravans further back. We had such a good time!

I took a short walk along the creek bank, being mindful of the rain chasing me. All I could hear was the sound of the water and birdsong. It was beautifully calm and peaceful.

One thing that I found out about when I was doing my all-too-quick research about what to do on this trip was the ferry from Queenscliff to Sorrento. Rather than driving through Geelong and then battling peak hour traffic all the way through Melbourne and then around to the bayside suburb where The Best House in Melbourne is; I could drive to Queenscliff and take a short ferry ride to the Mornington Peninsula, then have a 30 minute drive home.

I was excited to try it. Every ferry ride I’ve had has been fun. What an exciting way to end the holiday!

I was lucky enough to arrive 5 minutes before it was due to leave, so I drove straight on. I went up to the deck to get the full experience of what was sure to be a dashing ride across the bay.

Here’s a photo of the most boring ferry ride ever. Honestly, I think I could’ve swum quicker than the ferry. It slowly chugged chugged chugged its way through the water while I gave up and turned to the book in my bag. It was far more interesting.

And then home I drove. The dogs were ecstatic to see me and so was Ryan26.

“The dogs are SO ANNOYING!” he said. “They’re so clingy. They’ve got to be with you 24/7. I never thought I’d say this, but when I leave home I think I’ll get a cat before I get a dog. At least the cat will come up and want a pat, but then it’ll leave me alone!”

But that’s the best part of being home again. 🙂

Costs of the Trip:

Running total: $2,096

Costs of Day 9 :

$108 accomodation. (No bowl supplied here either.)

$12 lunch

Total for Day 9: $120

Costs of Day 10:

$88 fuel

$5 lunch

$69 ferry

Total for Day 10: $162

Total for the trip: $2,378

That’s not too bad for a getaway like this. (Though as Dave from Strong Money Australia asked me on Twitter, “What are you getting away from?” LOL.)

If you take away the $1,100 painting I bought, it’s only $1,278, which equates to an average of $127.80/day.

These figures are slightly smudged by the fact I used my timeshare for 5 nights’ accomodation. I pay 1K/year for costs for the timeshare, but because it is calculated by points rather than by weeks it’s been used for a fair few holidays by the kids and now me. The points blend into each other year by year.

In fact, I’ve just booked a 2 night break (from what?!?) up in the mountains to use up 280 points that are due to expire on June 30. In previous years they’d just have to expire, but now I’ve go the time, by God I’m going to use them up!!

Penola, a saint and a sinkhole.

I stopped in at Penola for lunch, and while I was walking around I saw this sign. Petticoat Lane. How could I NOT take a look here?

Apparently this street got its name because in the 1890’s so many girls were born here. It has quite a few National Trust houses and one of them was open.

Gammon Cottage’s front gate was ajar so I prowled around the yard. It even has the old well!

Have a read in the next photo of what happened to the builder of this cottage when he went to find gold!

Not everyone who went to the goldfields had a rollicking good time.

This is one of Sharam’s cottages. This couple had so many kids that he had to build another house next door, just to house them all.

This reminded me of Wordworth’s cottage in the Lake District.

The roof was only just above my head and I’m only 5’2″.

And people have the gall to say that I have a large family. Compared to this couple, I was positively restrained! Only 4 boys.

At least the poor woman ended up with one nice room.

This is inside the original cottage which was only divided up into 2 rooms. As you can see, the wall didn’t even go up to the ceiling. Not much privacy going on here…

But look! At some stage she got a pump to get water instead of a well. LUXURY!

The garden out the back is still run by volunteers. There was a woman working there when I walked through and we started chatting. At first she was merely polite but when I showed that I recognised most of the herbs growing here, she warmed up and I walked away with a packet of lovage seeds from the garden. I’ve never grown lovage before. Its like a strong tasting celery.

Growing food means that you can bond with people wherever you go.

Next door was the McAdam slab hut. Anyone who wants to romanticise the lives of the pioneers should have a quick look inside this place.

I would NOT have been happy in this place. Can you imagine the wind whistling through all of those cracks in winter? Plus every neighbourhood Peeping Tom could be glued to your every move and they wouldn’t miss a thing.

Penola also has a museum dedicated to St Mary McKillop. She started off her teaching here and due to her efforts, Penola had the biggest library in South Australia outside of Adelaide. I guess that’s what happens when you raise the literacy level of an entire district by educating every child, not just the rich ones. People need reading materials, once they know how to do it.

I knew very little about Mary McKillop, aside from the facts that she was on the $5 nots and that she’s Australia’s first Catholic saint. I don’t have a religious bone in my body. I decided to invest $5 in an entry fee to the Mary McKillip museum and see what I could find out.

First I went to the church where they have this little ante-room where you can have a chat to her, if you’ve a mind to.

I went to the museum but the only new information I came away with was that she and her fellow nuns were excommunicated for a while. Can’t remember why, but the bishop who did it reconsidered on his deathbed and lifted it.

The $5 fee also allowed entrance to the schoolroom where Mary and her fellow sisters taught school. It was all a bit interesting but for me, once is enough.

I jumped in the car again and made it back to Mt Gambier. I drove around the Blue Lake again, then headed for the Umpherston Sinkhole.

This was originally just a huge hole in the ground but the guy who owned the land back in the 1890’s decided that summer in South Australia was too damned hot. Why not build a pleasure garden down in the big hole where it was so much cooler?

It was about 4PM when I arrived.

You walk along the top of it…

… and then you see this.

Down the steps you go.

View from halfway down the steps.

Imagine being able to punt along in your own lake…

I wandered around here for. little while, then decided I could push on a little bit longer. It was that time of day when it was too early to think about stopping, but too late to think about driving for too much longer.

I saw some cool things as I drove along to Portland for the night.

There were contented cows.

This farm decided to put old bikes at the entrance and up the driveway. I suppose that’s one way of making sure that when they give directions to their place and say, “You can’t miss it,” then they’re correct.

Lots of pine plantations. It worries me to think of bushfires happening here – pine trees go off like rockets.

I got in late-ish to a cheap and cheerful motel. One thing I’ve found about motels for around $100 a night – they don’t include bowls in the crockery they supply. So annoying if you’ve planned on making oats for breakfast and you have a sneaky tin of baked beans to have for a dinner.

But I wasn’t going to let them steal my rights and repress me. If I want a disgustingly cheap dinner in a sad motel room then I’m going to have it, dammit!!

Baked beans in a mug… mmm mmm!

The dinner of champions.

Costs of the Trip:

Running total so far: $1,935

Costs for Day 8:

Entrance fee for Cave tour: $35

$13 lunch

$5 St Mary McKillop musuem

Accomodation: $108

Total for Day 8: $161

Running total: $2,096

Cars and Caves.

Cute car.

When I was a kid we’d go to vintage car rallies ALL THE TIME. Dear God, it was so boring. My Dad was a Riley enthusiast – beautiful British cars. Dad has a 1930 Riley 9, a Drophead and a couple of others. My first car was a Riley Elf, which is basically a mini with a Riley grill on the front.

We’d drive to car parks/wineries/paddocks/whatever. All of the Rileys would line up in a row and the men would crawl all over them, the women would pull up picnic chairs and chat and the kids would be bored. I think this is when my addiction to reading became cemented.

So when Jenna’s parents suggested that we go to a car rally in a town on the peninisula, I inwardly groaned.

But it was actually quite fun.

Red Morgan. LOVE!

I think the difference was that it was a huge mix of different cars and they drove down the main drag of the town in a procession that lasted around an hour.

Black corvette.

Jenna’s parents and I drove to a mid point to meet up, then I hopped in their car and off we went. No, the corvette is not their car!

We found a spot at a table under a verandah and settled in to watch the parade.

Cute cop car.

There was everything from a model T Ford, dune buggies, Morgans, VW combis and beetles, muscle cars, sedans – something for everyone.

Red 3 wheeler.

There was even this 3 wheeled thing!

For a while I stood on the kerb with Andrew and watched the parade, looking for any Rileys, but after a while I got a little bored and thought I’d better go back and sit with Ann-Marie.

We were chatting away when I glanced over at the parade. A car was smoothly driving past with a silhouette that has been ingrained on my psyche since childhood.

“Holy shit, that’s a Riley!” I exclaimed, ever the lady, and I leapt up to join Andrew. I was ridiculously excited.

There were about 5 or 6 of them, one of them a mint-green Riley Elf. I could’ve taken photos but I called Dad instead and described what I was seeing. He was reliving his glory days as I was talking. It was pretty special.

Then we went to a winery for unch. I thought I did pretty well to get to pay for their lunches – I’ve learned from David27’s “in-laws” that you have to be quick to stop them paying for everything. Jenna’s parents are the same.

I sneakily overheard what they were going to order, then made sure I was ahead of Ann-Marie in the queue to order. When I ordered my meal, then went on to list theirs, I heard, “Oh you better not!” behind me. I put my card on the payment thingy, then turned around and said, “OMG, my card just slipped. Oh well…”

I thought I got away with it too, until we went to another winery for a wine tasting and I raved about a shiraz that was priced in the 3 figures and made them taste it. Guess who went home with a bottle of it? I’ve told them that they’re invited to my 60th and we’ll all crack it open then.

It’s so nice to see that my boys are choosing to be with partners with such lovely families. Andrew and Ann-Marie let me stay with them Friday night and they gave up their Sunday to spend time with me. That’s going above and beyond! I’m looking forward to enjoying that bottla wine with them in a few years time.

Pretty house.

Monday. Time to start heading home. I had no fixed plans, other than wanting to see the Ulpherstone Sinkhole in Mt Gambier that I missed on the way up – and I knew I wanted to spend ages in Port Fairy. Everyone says how pretty it is.

I wanted to learn from the mistake of my rushed trip over and take my time on the way back.

As I headed out, I thought I may as well drive up to Murray Bridge and have a look at the river. Why not? I put a generic address into the TomTom, ( 1 Main st / Smith St /First st ; whatever works), and I set off.

Then I started seeing signs to Harndorf.

I’ve been hearing about Hahndorf for 17 years. It’s the first German settlement in Australia and every year the German students from our school would go over there for an excursion and report back at the next General Assembly.

I had to see it for myself. I wanted to follow my nose home and this was an ideal place to start.

Pretty restaurant.

I pulled up in the Main st and parked outside an art gallery. Following my nose, I walked in.

And you wouldn’t believe it – I finally found the perfect painting for my dining room. I’ve only been living here and looking for the last 5 YEARS.

It’s absolutely nothing like I thought I’d buy. The subject is SO not me, it’s smaller than I visualised and the colours are different to what I was looking for, but when I saw it I knew it’d fit really well. So $1,100 lighter I walked out of the shop.

What are the odds? I had no plans to go to Hahndorf and there just happened to be a spot for my car directly outside the gallery. The painting had been put up less than 24 hours before I arrived. Maybe it was meant to be?

It’s being delivered sometime this week. If it looks awful then I only have myself to blame.

Bust and a row of sketches.
Hans Heysen – bust and sketches.

Look who I found in the museum behind the information centre!!!!

Remember when I showed you the picture of Ruth by Nora Heysen? Here’s her Dad – the way famous one of the two of them. The bust is of him and the sketches are his.

I like how when you travel in an area, the stories loop around. It reminds me of when Scott and I were walking on the battlements of Lincoln Castle, listening to the guided tour through our headphones, when I suddenly heard that Henry VIII and Katharine Howard had walked along the very same stones I was walking on. I’ll never forget the unexpected thrill.

Photo of Prince Philip looking interested.

Speaking of royalty, the museum behind the information centre was tiny, yet Prince Philip had visited it. One huge advantage to being a working royal is the amount of travel you could do. Imagine all the countries he must have seen? But imagine all the hours of tedium he must have gone through as well. No wonder he sometimes said the odd non-PC quip.

Exquisite lace collar.

In its day, the building was a school for boys and also a hospital. Look at the lacework, or is it tatting? This was on a maternity dress. I think I’d go blind, squinting, if I tried to do this, though I have some tatting that my great-grandmother did. Amazingly detailed.

Hahndorf was a very pretty little place. A few shops had jolly German music spilling out onto the street as thr tourists walked by. It was still school holidays in South Australia so there were a fair few people about.

Scott suggested that I mark all the school holidays in my calendar at the start of every year so I don’t make the mistake of travelling while the kids are free. I’m going to have to mark every state’s holidays, I think.

Murray River.

Then I drove to Murray Bridge.

Here’s the river Murray. It’s long. It’s wet. I had a look, ate lunch and drove on. I was aiming for Mt Gambier but then, as it was getting to late afternoon, the heavens opened up. I drove into Narracoorte.

There was a huge sign on the highway just before you enter the town, spruiking their caves. I vaguely remembered that Narracoorte was way famous for its caves, so I thought I’d get a cheap motel, stay the night and have a bit of a look around underground the next day.

Giant extinct wombat.

When I reached the caves the next day, I saw another instance of stories looping around. See this massive Diprotadon? Otherwise known as a giant wombat. What does he look a bt like?

My sculpture.

Remember my sculpture that I bought from the arts festival, thinking that it was going to be my only souvenir? They look like they might be cousins.

Beautiful cave.

The Narracoorte limestone caves are a world heritage listed site. They offer a few different tours but the lady in the information centre said to go on the fossils tour, because that is why they made it to the heritage list.

Don’t make the mistake I did and assume that the caves would be chilly. I wore my duckdown coat. It’s actually really warm down there.

Stalactites in a row.

See how the stalactites are hanging in a row here? Our guide said that in the early 1900’s guides used to clamber up there and ‘play’ the stalactites like a xylophone for their customers by hitting them. Sometimes one would break. Can you believe it???

Incidentally, I learned how to remember the difference between stalactites and stalagmites. Stalagmites MIGHT reach the roof one day, while stalactites have to hold on TIGHT to the roof to stop from falling.

Never say that this blog isn’t informative about the issues that matter!

Hole in the roof.

This fascinating photo is of a hole in the roof that leads up to the ground. This one was man-made to get all of the rubble out so that the tours like the one I was now on could be made. These also occur naturally, which is how the fossils have ended up in the caves.

Animals (and people, probably) would be innocently walking along and then fall down these shafts into the caves below. Some died immediately, but others survived until they died of thirst. They know this because they have complete skeletons of animals who look as if they’ve just curled up and gone to sleep, but with bones that have started to heal from their initial fall.

Drop bear skeleton.

This guy is a literal drop bear. Yes, they used to exist! He was some sort of carnivorous koala-type.

Nasty claw.

See the massive claw on his opposable thumb? Imagine that slicing into your soft underbelly?

Kangaroo bones.

This one was a kangaroo, but with only one toe. I took this photo to show you, but I like this next one a lot better.

Shadow on the cave wall.

That shadow is very Star Wars, isn’t it?

The caves that were initially found were just open caverns full of the rock formations, but then a couple of cavers found their way into some massive caverns further in that were jam-packed full of bones and fossils.

Bones scattered on the cave floor.

These are real bones that have been left as they were.

Behind the cave where we were standing is a massive cave where they’ve removed a small section of bones to study. They plan to leave the rest where they are for as long as possible. Our guide, who is a palaeontologist herself, said that they’ve removed enough bones and other material to keep many universities busy for decades. Maybe by the time they need to take another look, they might have technology that can study what’s in the caves but be able to leave everything untouched.

It’s an interesting thought.

Country road.

And then I was off and away. I pointed the car towards Mt Gambier and off I went. It was just before lunch and the day was still young!

Costs of the trip:

Running total so far: $665

Costs for day 6: $85 for lunch.

Costs forDay 7:

$1,100 painting

$10 lunch (Subway – eat fresh.)

$69 fuel

$91 accommodation

Total for Day 7: $1,270

Running total for trip: $1,935 (Yikes! I hope I still love this painting when it arrives!)

Where we arrive at the extroverted part of the holiday.

I’ve had 4 or 5 people contact me to ask whether I’d died in a fiery car crash on my holiday – some asked it more tactfully than others! – so I thought I’d better get back into the zone to write. I’ve been busy finishing off a quilt, reading, having a rapturous reunion with the dogs (and with the boys, of course!)

LOOK at this beautiful painting. After I finished looking at the Antarctica exhibition at the Adelaide Art Gallery I walked into the next room, just in time to join an hour-long tour, looking at 10 Australian works of art. Exactly the amount of time I needed to kill before I walked back to the restaurant to meet up with the FIRE bloggers for lunch.

This painting wasn’t one of the 10, but it was hanging on the wall near the UGLIEST cabinet I’ve ever seen – which was one of the 10. So while the tour guide was waxing lyrically about the ugly 1930’s cabinet, I was gazing at this. If it was in a different art gallery – one where you could actually buy the paintings – I’d buy it in a shot. I’ve been looking for a painting to hang near my dining table for the last 5 years. And here it was – unattainable. Still, I thought, at least now I know the colours I’m looking for. (More on this later…)

Nolan’s ‘Narcissus.’

This next one made me chuckle. It was in the Surrealism room and is Sidney Nolan’s take on the greek legend of Narcissus – the boy who was so good looking that he fell in love with his own reflection and starved to death beside a pool of water, because he couldn’t bear to leave the beautiful face he saw in the water.

This was the most beautiful sculpture. It’s called ‘Kathleen’ and was made by Marjorie Fletcher in the 1930’s. There’s all this talk about women’s art not being appreciated in their lifetimes, but sometimes not even THEY appreciated it. She worked in sculpture for around 10 years, then got married and had a family and shoved all of her artwork into a cupboard under the stairs. Over time, her work was given away, left out in the hard rubbish and generally spread far and wide. This one was found by her son, who’s made it his life’s work to track down his mother’s art and bring her the recognition she should have received. I loved this figure.

Nora Heysen’s ‘Ruth.’

Nora Heysen had a way famous artist father – Hans Heysen – but in the end she won the Archibald prize while he never did. I can’t remember the woman’s name in this picture, but she used to sit for Nora quite a lot and they became good friends. One day Nora asked her if she would let Nora paint her in the nude. The woman got up, left and never came back.

I saw this fine fellow on the walk back towards lunch. There’s something distinctive about a well-defined chin, don’t you think?

A couple of weeks before, I’d let Michelle from Frugality and Freedom know that I was coming to Adelaide. She’s exploring the boundaries of what FIRE really means, by freelancing and travelling the world, basically living life on her own terms. Ahhh, the freedom! Covid clipped her wings, so she’s biding her time in her hometown of Adelaide until things open up again.

She put the word out and three more bloggers joined us for lunch.

Captain FI is a pilot who’s normally in Sydney but he happened to be in Adelaide visiting family, so we got to meet him. He’s MUCH more numbers-based than I am, though I suppose you have to have that sort of brain to understand what all the dials and gadgets on the aircrafts’ dashboards are all about. You definitely wouldn’t want someone like me behind the controls of a jet.

He’s just done a post on payday lenders and I really liked this paragraph – “This is why the grassroots Financial Independence movement is so important, and can be so powerful. If we can spread the message of financial health and wellbeing, then gradually these unethical pay-day-lending companies will go out of business.”

The other two bloggers were Sarah and Laura from Keepin’ it Frugal and the booming food blog Wandercooks – I’ve linked to the recipe that we went shopping for after lunch to buy the essential ingredient that I’d never heard of – nduja.

Blog-meets are always a success. You all have things in common, otherwise we wouldn’t be reading each others’ blogs, and so the conversation flows right from the start, with very little of the whole awkward “getting to know you” stuff. After 3 days on my own, otherwise known as indulging my introvert side, I was ready for a few days of talking and laughing with other humans.

After lunch I drove to Jenna’s parents’ place. She and Evan24 have been going out for 3 years now and I was going to stay at her folks’ place that night, after going out to dinner with Simone, an old school friend that I haven’t seen for FORTY YEARS.

omg.

I can’t be that old, surely?

It was either going to be a great night – we were really close back in the day – or incredibly uncomfortable with lots of pauses and dull questions about our children and how they were going, just to fill in the space of the silence. You know the sort of thing.

Fortunately, it was great! We actually walked past each other on the street. To be fair, 40 years is a long time. But once we turned around at the same time and started laughing, the evening just flew.

She lives in Melbourne, like me, after having spent most of the intervening years living in Japan, South Korea and the US. She just happened to be in Adelaide for work and so we caught up there. It’s lovely when you meet up with someone you haven’t seen for ages and it’s almost as if no time has gone by.

The next day I drove to Victor Harbor to meet up with yet another person I’ve never met in real life. Extrovert Frogdancer was 2 days into a 3-day people-fest. This time I was meeting with Lara and her husband. We both belong to a couple of investment groups on FaceBook.

Again, I didn’t know who I was looking for, as she doesn’t have her real photo online, but I recognised her dog, so all was well. We had a really pleasant lunch at a café on the foreshore and then after lunch we walked back to my car so I could show them the sculpture I bought. I was in a bit of a tizz because my car was refusing to lock itself. The battery in the cha-ching thing that opens the door was dead and my car door handles don’t have keyholes.

Lara suggested calling around to see if any local locksmiths were still open on a Saturday afternoon. Talk about good old fashioned country service! The locksmith I talked to suggested I drive to Repco and get a battery there. Took 5 minutes for them to replace the battery for only $7 – and a spare battery. The place at home that I’ve been going to charges $10 per battery.

I’ve never enjoyed locking and unlocking my car more.

A whopping big tree.

After I sorted out the battery problem – thanks Lara! – I headed to the little beach outside of town to look around. On the way I saw a quilting shop so I popped in and bought some fabric for a quilt I’m going to make for another old school friend. Simone and Cathy and I were all close, back in the day.

It was a cool, quiet afternoon. I walked along this little jetty and watched people fishing. The waves were lapping against the rocks…

… which were clearly popular with the local seagull population.

Then, after wandering around there for a while, I jumped in the car and followed my nose in a vaguely southerly direction.

Anywhere that looked interesting, I’d stop the car and have a look.

Then I decided that I’d go down to the bottom of the peninsula to Cape Jervis, which is where you catch the ferry to Kangaroo Island. I wasn’t going to go to the island this time around, but hey! I’ve got all the time in the world now. I’ll come back here sometime.

So I drove through winding roads wth cows, sheep and, once, a herd of goats dotted around the countryside. The area had had a bit of rain so, unusually for Australia, the paddocks were green and lush. I was listening to a really good audiobook ($20 off my challenge!) and all was right with the world.

I got to Cape Jervis just as the sun was going down. There was only one other car at the lookout. The man behind the wheel was looking at the view without getting out of his car, but Frogdancer Jones is made of sterner stuff.

Besides, I wanted to get a shot of these two.

I stayed here for quite a while. It was beautiful. So still and clear.

Then I jumped in the car and drove back to the timeshare in Normanville. Tomorrow I was off to a vintage car rally with Jenna’s parents!

Costs of the trip:

Day 1 cost: $272

Day 2 cost: $67 fuel.

(That’s it. I ate my food I brought from home and basically just drove all day to get to the timeshare.)

Day 3 cost: $70 sculpture. (I’m so happy I bought him. I absolutely love him.)

$9 lunch. (A bagel from the local bakery.)

$33 food for dinners and breakfast in my room.

Total for Day 3 – $112

Day 4 cost- $35 gifts. (For Michelle and for Jenna’s parents.)

$31 parking. (Ouch. Missed the earlybird parking at the market by 15 minutes.)

$12 lunch (Frugal FIRE bloggers lunch.)

$50 dinner (Non-FIRE friend dinner.) 🙂

Total for Day 4 – $128.

Day 5 cost – $7 car lock batteries.

$79 quilting fabric for Cathy.

Total for Day 5 – $86

Running total for the trip- $665

Art, art and more art – plus a Blue Lake.

Kangaroos on the golf course.

Today is the day where I learned a really big lesson about the difference in mind-set between being retired and being on holidays from a job.

Two days ago, I planned to stop at Port Campbell to see all the sights. I’d drive in the morning, then have all afternoon to scurry around. The next day – (Wednesday)- I had to be tucked up in bed in my timeshare, because I’d booked my stay to start that night.

8 hours of driving…

What was I thinking?

Well, I know now what I was thinking. It was the usual “don’t waste precious time on the journey!!! You have to go!go!go! to get there asap! There’s no time to waste!!!”

But of course, that’s simply not trie anymore.

It only dawned on me when I was at The Blue Lake in Mt Gambier.

This was one of the “must-sees” for me on this trip. I have a vague memory of coming here when I was a kid and I thought Mt Gambier would be a good place to stop for lunch. I’d see the lake, the Ulpherstone Sinkhole, maybe take the walk around the lake and then head off on my merry way.

But when I got there at midday, it was raining.

I sat in my car on the other side of the road and read a book while I waited to see if the rain would stop. There was a break in the clouds. I dashed out and stepped up to the lookout and snapped the photo above as the rain clouds swept in again.

Odd to think that this was once a volcano.

Then, after a little while, the sun came out. I drove around to the other side of the lake and finally – it was blue.

Same lake, same day, with the sun out.

The nice woman at the Tourist Centre told me that if I was lucky enough to see it when the sun was out, I should look at the edges. There’ll be turquoise colouring there. She was right. I tried to capture it but the camera couldn’t pick it up. It was beautiful though.

Here’s where the learning happened. I wanted to take the walk around the entire lake. The sun was out – it’d be nice. Then it dawned on my that if I was going to get to Normanville at a reasonable hour, I simply didn’t have the time. I also didn’t have the time to visit the Sinkhole or anything else.

The penny dropped. Why was I racing to travel there? For the first time ever, I have enough time at my disposal that the journey can now become PART of the destination.

As I drove out of town the rain clouds came back and it started to bucket down. At least I wasn’t walking around the lake and getting saturated.

Coonalpyn silo.

If I’d done my research properly I’d have been expecting to drive past this, but as it was, it came as a wonderful surprise.

One day I’m going to do the Silo Trail.

I arrived at Normanville after dark, a bit relieved that I hadn’t hit any kangaroos or wallabies. There were a few sad bodies on the side of the road every now and then. I lugged everything into my room, has a tin of baked beans for dinner and went to bed.

In the morning I looked at a brochure my FB friend Lara sent me. On Saturday I’d be meeting her for lunch. The Fleurieu Peninsula was in the middle of an arts festival, so I spent much of the day driving around to little galleries and enjoying the creativity and the scenery.

I couldn’t leave this little man behind.

The artist makes sculptures out of old nails, screws, metal and wood. He was sitting outside on a table next to another dinosaur. The other one was pretty, but this one spoke to me.

I already had my souvenir for this trip!

Rapid Bay.

When it started raining again I packed it in and went to a bakery for lunch, then bought cheese and dips for dinners. Because I’m travelling alone, I prefer to be out and about during the day, then in my room at night. Safety first!

Rundle Mall, Adelaide.

Friday was the beginning of the SOCIAL part of the trip. I call myself an extroverted introvert, so this trip was bookended by lots of alone time, while the middle 3 days had actual people that I’d be seeing.

I drove up to Adelaide to see some FIRE bloggers for lunch. To while away the time before we were ue to meet, I walked over to the Adelaide Art Museum. My son Tom29 visits there whenever he goes to Adelaide to see his football team play.

Talk about Fortunate Frogdancer!

I get there and ask the nice guard what there is to see.

“In the first gallery we have an exhibition on Antarctica,” he says.

Can you believe it???

They even had a film from the early 1900’s showing an expedition there. The universe is clearly telling me that I’ll get there.

David27 has synesthesia, which in his case means that he sees colour whenever he hears things. This painting is all about that. I sent it to him and he loved it.

I’ve just realised I have to check out in 20 minutes and I’m not ready. I’ll pick this up later.

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