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Serpentine National Park

Transperth – or public transport in WA to be more general is NOT brilliant. In Slovakia – a country you wouldn’t expect to have a well organised or easy to use transport far trumps what Perth has to offer. In Slovakia I went on a number of adventures – weekends and day trips, and although sometimes complicated ( there are a number of posts offering examples of this in Slovakia Stories ) they were never impossible. My point being that I have found it incredibly hard – in fact impossible to have adventures that don’t require a set of wheels. Places of interest are simply not served by public transport – or at least they are but require a number of changes, lengthy transits or not enough time to meet connections or return trips. In Slovakia I travelled far and wide on a network of trains, trams and buses and never found anywhere I couldn’t get to.

So on Friday night, after pulling my hair out trying to find somewhere I could get to and spend a reasonable amount of time in – I texted a friend on the off chance they wanted to accompany me on a day out… and drive their car there and back. Fortunately the response was positive, making me very happy to set my alarm early for Saturday morning.
I needn’t have bothered as I was awoken at some antisocial hour by an incredibly loud thunderstorm, that seemed to be directly above my head, shaking my little cabin.

Two hours later, when the thunder, lightning and torrential rain had ceased chariot arrived and we set off for Serpentine Falls.

First stop was Serpentine Dam. A vast expanse of water on the Serpentine river whose catchment is one of the major supplies of drinking water for Perth. Do not quote or correct me on this please – I don’t make notes when I go exploring – I remember and recount information and openly admit to getting it wrong sometimes!

This dam was not on my do list – didn’t even know it was there. We stumbled upon it first of all, missing a turning and completely bypassing the falls. A wrong turn worth taking I believe…

Serpentine Dam

Serpentine Dam

Serpentine Dam

Next came the falls. Entering the national park from the opposite side we pulled up into the central picnic area – a smell of sausages on the barbecues greeting us as we assessed the trail maps. There was a damp, yet pleasant smell in the air – of fresh, green plants – ready to spring into bloom. It reminded me so much of Železná studničk – Bratislava Forest Park – and a wonderful day I had spent hiking there at the beginning of Spring some time ago.

We took an alternative path to get a higher view of the Falls, only to realise that the easier, simpler route led you to a far better viewing platform – purposely built with steps into the upper pool for warmer days when the water invites you for a swim. It wasn’t particularly cold – so with a little more planning ( bikini and a towel ) I could have been persuaded to have a dip. I have had a waterfall swim already which was up near Cairns (QLD) last year, so that box had already been ticked. Thankfully.

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After an ample amount of time taking in the scene and sitting on a rock that plenty of other people wanted to sit on, we headed off on another trail. A 6km, grade 4 hike up to Baldwin’s Bluff. This very much reminded me of my hiking weekend, again in Slovakia – in Terchova where the weather, climate and hiking grades were similar. Yes – it has been 2 years since I have enjoyed a good hike!
Our trail was a steep, stony path up the side of a gorge to a lookout over the waterfalls and Kitty’s Gorge. It was flanked either side with nature’s display of Spring bursting into bloom. The smell was worthy of being bottled – a fragrant reminder that Spring has sprung and Summer will be arriving fairly soon. The humidity and threat of rain enhanced the aroma and as the climb evened out, the flowers grew brighter and smelt fresher.

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I could have joined the masses who stopped to photograph every flower, but I would have bored my companion to tears and I wouldn’t have enjoyed the exhilarating high I got as I sprang onwards – pain in my back or legs totally eradicated as my heightened senses absorbed everything available. I don’t get what they call Runner’s High – but what I feel when I walk or hike in a place of natural beauty is something I imagine can be equated to that feeling.

view from Baldwin's Bluff

Serpentine Falls

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Perth in the distance - 50 km away

Long distance Perth

The walk down had a few slips and slides, but no injuries were obtained other than a large bite I, of course, (wouldn’t be anyone else) received right on the kneecap of my still sore ice skating knee!

I snapped away at a few views and flowers, as an excuse to catch my unfit breath but was disinterested in hiking behind my camera lens so hope the atmosphere has been sufficiently captured from my relatively spontaneous, yet wonderfully rewarding day in the park!

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What does an Au Pair do?

My day officially starts at 7:30am when I leave my “house”, that is my granny flat in the garden, and I walk about 12 steps to the back door of the house.
On a good day I will have had time for a peaceful breakfast and might even be strolling over with a cup of tea in my hand. Yorkshire Tea, purchased recently, which makes my day start an awful lot better than Bushells.

Breakfast time consists of teamwork to get T & S dressed and fed, so T can get out of the door for school on time with Dad. It doesn’t always go smoothly – Fridays are particularly painful mornings. When the TV is switched off – my preference – the morning is a breeze. When it’s on, which it usually is – it’s anyone’s guess what will happen.

After T goes to school, S and I can start our day. My morning tasks are getting S to have some breakfast, as it’s unlikely this was successful earlier, and a second attempt at dressing her. When she is pottering about with the dog, or today’s teddy, I unpack and repack the dishwasher, tidy the kitchen and make a start on the laundry, make the beds and have a think about today’s plan.

If I haven’t already had a conversation about tonight’s dinner, it will be written down somewhere. Making dinner is an important and enjoyable task for me, so it needs to be factored into the day’s plan.
Very often S and I will pop to the local shop to top up on ingredients. She will go in the pushchair, and my bag will be loaded with snacks and supplies and off we go. Sometimes we pick something up and turn around and go back. Sometimes we have coffee together in the cafe. And less recently due to bad weather, we will come home via the park.

Most sunny days lunch is a picnic at the park. We sit on the picnic benches together making crow noises and discussing what dogs are doing. We lie on the grass and find shapes in the clouds, sing songs on the swings or we go on an adventure to the wooded area of the huge park we live near to “see what we can see”. This is a general term I use for any journey we embark upon, as it seems to give it some purpose.

After lunch S usually has another energy spurt, so whizzes around the back yard on her bike if we are at home, and I use the opportunity to lock the dog away and make dinner. Not locking the dog away, as I very quickly learnt but surprisingly often forget, very often results in something or everything being stolen by the pesky Labrador.
S often helps me make dinner: I give her a bowl and she does “mixing” which consists of her collecting all the peelings and leftovers in her bowl – we often season it, add water and “taste” it to see what she has created.

On these recent boring rainy days I have been doing a number of little baking activities – scones, or cupcakes perhaps, which we later eat at a teddy bears’ picnic in my granny flat, sometimes under the table if it’s raining really heavily! Getting a 3 year old interested in baking isn’t difficult. I measure things out, she pours them in: complimented all the time on her great pouring skills. We can’t wait until it’s in the oven, so we can both be naughty and lick the bowl.

After a few stories and cup of tea it’s time to locate shoes (never an easy task, as they never stay on for long) and a cardigan, a book or two, some snacks for the ride, water and anything else I can think of before we head to school to collect T. Very often I have to do “fast walking” because the previous tasks took longer than I wanted them to and we race to school, nattering all the way, looking for things to point out, so S doesn’t fall asleep.

T gets a high 5 if he’s eaten all his lunch. If he hasn’t, “nasty nanny” makes him eat his sandwich before he plays footy. We hang out at school for as long as the weather and the caretakers allow, or we head to a park and we kick and pass the ball or have running races before heading home. Apparently I am “awesome” at this. I have tried to teach him “English football” (I refuse to call it soccer) but I can’t get him to stop picking the ball up!

Dinner comes round pretty quick, as I’m doing a few last minute adjustments and bringing in the washing, it all happens at once. Countdown is on: tidy up music is playing on my computer, play area is tidied, hands are washed, table is set and bottoms are on seats for a 5pm sit down. The 3 of us sit together and enjoy our dinner with silly conversations and mostly good manners. Politeness and table manners are greatly rewarded and seeing empty plates and smiling faces makes me happier than I can express. Dinner done, everything is put away and we might just have time for a story before mum gets home. Or if she’s stuck in traffic we run the bath and they hop in. To pass the time we sing songs about frogs, or tell stories.

When mum gets home, we have a debrief and the children turn from calm collected creatures to manic little monsters on their second, third of fourth wind of energy, so I bid my farewell and head to my room.

I later meet with a fellow au pair and friend and we go for a good stomp and a vent… often all the way to the shopping centre for frozen yoghurt.

Doesn’t sound bad? No, very often it’s wonderful. I adore T and S and on GOOD days they are my two best friends…

Perhaps I need to write a post on the trials and tribulations of life as an Au pair…

what happened to my blog?

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17/06/13
Perth

“What has happened to your blog?” My mum asked me a while ago.

“I logged onto your blog, but you don’t seem to have written in it for some time” wrote
my aunt this morning.

What HAS happened to my blog? I am asking myself whilst sitting in my little cabin in the garden on a chilly Perth evening. It’s certainly not as though I have nothing to write about – I have a number of blog posts circulating in my head continuously but they never make through my fingers to my keyboard. I even took a notebook to work today, hoping to find a moment to scribe my thoughts, but alas it didn’t happen.

It seems the last time I wrote I was enjoying reflecting on life in Australia – opportunities and obstatunities that were presented to me throughout the year – this was MONTHS ago! Back then I was living in the tranquility of a farm in northern New South Wales and desperately looking for work to ease my finances, but secretly wanting to not work very much at all and soak up everything Australia has to offer on the final stretch of my visa.

So that’s how I find myself in Perth, where I currently live in “donga” in the garden of the family whose children I care for. I am now a Nanny, or an Au Pair, or Mary Poppins? I think I like that one best. Is it easy? Sometimes. Can anyone do it? No way. Why am I doing it? Because why not?

I escaped another cyclone warning in NSW to get to Perth for a full time nanny position back in February. That job may well have been the reason I had writer’s block for so long. I think I was physically, emotionally and most importantly, creatively drained working for a family who wanted a service, not me. I gave 100 %, which wasn’t enough and although I couldn’t admit it at the time I was incredibly unhappy. After one too many unkind words, I started to look elsewhere, in search of a family who wanted Grace and not just someone who was great with their kids, could cook and didn’t mind cleaning. I now look back on that experience and only wish I had swallowed my pride sooner and not wasted some two months feeling trapped and not enjoying what Perth had to offer me.

Long story short, I am now working for as family whose ideals are closer to mine, who don’t have me as an accessory, and whose children’s challenges and warm smiles make everyday a wonderful day.

So I live in a self-contained container in the garden. Having my own space, I now realise, is paramount to my sanity and enjoyment. I was spending every moment I wasn’t working out of the house: throwing away money I didn’t have in order to avoid being there or I was locked away in my room hiding from awkward, uncomfortable conversations.

I now work half the hours I used to and earn almost the same. I have freedom, trust and no checklists. I have never been told off, nor checked up on. Not been giving rules or written instructions or lists to sign. I’ve never had to detail where I take the car, nor justify how I spent my cleaning day. It’s wonderful!

Every day is different – some more challenging than others – as anyone who has ever spent time around young children will understand. I enjoy picnics and adventures in the park, stories in the garden, football in the playground, baking in the kitchen, trips to the beach, swims in the pool, crafts, trips to the library, road trips in the car and everything I thought I would enjoy about being an Au Pair. At the end of the day, I bid my farewell, walk over to my little house and enjoy doing whatever I please until the next morning. No questions asked. I can teach and entertain in my own space whilst enjoying comfort in the proximity of my neighbours, yet gratitude for the space between our two buildings.

I now realise how much more I have to write and show as I get to know a new part of Australia and live in perhaps its most expensive city on the lowest wage I have had since arriving here.
Watch this space for hopefully some more regular thoughts…

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