Thursday, July 31, 2008

July Birthdays

July is a very celebratory month in the Duffy family. My birthday comes first and then there is Bill, Larry, Pete, Rose, LJ and Will. I hope I have remembered them all!!

We had lots of fun during the month from special dinners and parties in Canberra to a long visit from Bill here in Ballina where we had some quiet time before we travelled to Caloundra and Southport to help celebrate with Larry and Rose. We didn’t get to celebrate with LJ but photos from his blog indicate that a great time was had by all up in Darwin. I hope Will is celebrating today in Adelaide.

Dymp and Bill at the Coolongatta airport.

Dymp and I drove to Coolongatta to get Bill. It was a windy wet night so I appreciated the company and the driver! I had just discovered that my license had expired. It took me four days to get the necessary paperwork through the system so I could get re-licensed – now I have a nice new NSW license. Thanks Aunty Dymp we had a fun drive up!

A pub lunch on a cold and rainy birthday in Ballina!

We enjoyed Bill’s birthday with a birthday lunch at the Pub on Shaws Bay - the ambience was a bit lacking due to having to sit inside because of the weather but the food was delicious. After an afternoon nap!! ... we all went to see Mumma Mia. I really enjoyed the movie – we all did – and then we went out for a Chinese meal to talk about the finer points! Great music and vitality – loved Meryl Streep and her friends! I was reminded of the Ryall girls misbehaving at Chris’s wedding!
Billy helping us inspecting the view from our accommodation in Caloundra.

Next was Larry’s party up at Caloundra. It was a bit special because it came so close on Mumma Duffy’s death and it was good for all the family to get together again after that sad occasion. It was also special because of the wonderful birthday package Carmel had put together for the guests - a cruise down the Pumiceton Passage followed by a special dinner and then a recovery breakfast in the park the next day. It was hard to pick what we appreciated most – it was all good fun, good food and the company of all our family and friends.

A quiet moment in a busy schedule - on the beach at Happy Valley.

We were lucky to have Claire, Jordan and Billy join us. We missed Alan but he was bogged out at Charleville and didn't get home until the next day. We gave his room to Cathie and Anne so we had a bit more time to catch up with the familynews from Perth and Brisbane.

Billy got special food while we dined liked the kings and queens we were!

It was great catching up with our relatives and friends including family from Perth. The party was a mediaeval theme and it seemed all the guests got into the spirit of the theme. I was being bossed around by a very royal king! Because of the cold weather some of us ditched our gowns and glamour after the first event!!

Larry, Anne, Cathie and Bill at the dinner.

After a long breakfast in the park we drove to Brisbane where we lunched with Cathie and Anne and Bill took the time to do some computer repairs for Cathie. After that we travelled down to Coolongatta again to put Bill back on his plane to Canberra. His plane was delayed this end so he didn't get home until 2am. He has a lot of stamina - he was at his desk next morning at 9am!

Luckily we had called into Pete and Ret’s on the way to the airport and they provided wonderful sustenance in the form of fresh salmon and prawns for starters and delicious pork with crunchy crackling and my favourite chicken wings! We left there and drove on the the Anglers Arms where Rose offered to drive us tot he airport. we took our car so we could manage the luggage better - Bill drove out and I drove back with
Rose as the navigator. We did it!! Rose and I spent the night at the Anglers Arms. It wasn't so fancy but we had a good gossip, fell asleep and then woke up when we remembered Rose's mobile was outside somewhere. She spent several minutes going through her luggage looking for the phone and then I spent several minutes going through my luggage looking for the keys to the car! It was quite a spectacle - I gave Rose my little booklite to use as a torch. Yes...she did find the phone.
Pete laying out the seafood before dinner.

It was a bit quieter pace when Rose and I celebrated her birthday on the Monday. We commenced with a morning tea with Mum and then enjoyed a nice lunch at our favourite spot – CafĂ© Aqua on the Broadwater. Mum was well - seemed a bit quiet but was happy to play her part in the birthday celebrations.

Mum giving her birthday gift to Rose.

Rose, Tony and Yudian with Chico!

We had a nice long visit with Tony and Yudian. Had a chance to inspect the charm bracelet Yudian received from the family to celebrate her Australian citizenship. It was lovely and warm in Tony's unit and we caught up on all the family news.

Soon it was time for my long, long weekend to end. I left Southport for Ballina and was so happy to see the Shutters again and to settle in for a nice quiet night. I did send of a parcel to Will though!! Hope he has a lovely day today.

Friday, July 25, 2008

My Sisters come to visit

Down at Lighthouse Beach looking for dolphins! Rose, Dymp and I.
This has been another special week experiencing the joys of retirement. Time to enjoy visitors, time to do some special things like entertaining friends, time to plan for other visitors!! My sisters came to visit this weekend– after a lot of planning and cancellations due to my erratic behavior! Finally we were all free for the same weekend.
Rose arrived first on Friday evening and we had lovely spaghetti bolognaise supper and sat and drank our red wine until late. Caught up on things and celebrated my birthday AGAIN! Rose was first so she got the Wallbed and the very nicely appointed visitor’s room. We slept in Saturday morning and then we picked up Aunty Dymp and went for a walk along the Lighthouse Beach wall. We saw some dolphins but the whales were in hiding that day. BEfore Ret arrived Rose and I took the opportunity to have a photo taken with Aunty Dymp so we could compete with a lovley one she has on display with Ret and Sha!! Nothing competitive with us... !

Rose and I with Aunty Dymp

Ret arrived mid afternoon, loaded up with goodies from the markets on the way down from Southport. She had some delicious cakes for afternoon tea and a beautiful jade tree in a white pot with such a friendly elephant to stand guard. These were housewarming gifts that came with well researched feng shui meanings! We experimented where to put them for a while and finally they have settled into very auspicious positions where they are loved and admired.
My lovely Jade plant
We had a quiet afternoon, picked Dympna up for evening Mass and then we three Ryall ‘girls’ piled into my car and headed for a Chinese Restaurant which we had not visited before. It was a great menu and we had fun deciding what to order. As the nominated driver, I drank my lemon squash while the others enjoyed some good red with their meals. We laughed and talked and had a great night. Then we dropped Dymp home about 10pm and went to bed… we didn’t! How sensible that would have been. We thought we should have a nightcap and we put our pj’s on - and the heater - and we sat and talked and talked and laughed until…..2am!

We were very subdued next morning but we all agreed it had been a very special night. We all slept well.
It was sad to see them go again.
Party girls before we changed for dinner.

Ret left Sunday morning but Rose and I had another day exploring Ballina and having some quiet time together. She left Monday morning after another good sleep and I appreciated again how good it was to be so much closer to my family. Rose called me from Mum’s on her way back and I was able to have a little chat with my mother as well!! What a great little sisterly interlude it was. Every day we missed our sister in America and we kept sending messages to her about the great time we were having here and that she should hurry back and join in!!

Sha responded by accepting an offer on a unit just down the road which she will rent for six months from October. I can see some fun times coming!!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Canberra Visitors

Pre-dinner drinks before the Thai Chicken Curry

Shortly after my return from Canberra I had a quick visit from Rita and John. Rita and I have worked together in various Commonwealth Departments over the last ten years or so. I really enjoy her company and Bill and I have really come to appreciate the quiet and gentle John. They tested out my Wallbed and gave it the thumbs up! We had a really relaxing time – checking out the local environment and the RSL. Rita and I had a nice lunch there and then a walk on Shelley’s beach while John was escorted around town by his friend.
Rita and I enjoying the walk along Shelley Beach.

I had to show off my kitchen so I cooked one night – did a nice Thai chicken curry with the Kaffir lime leaves from my tree in Canberra. The tree was a gift from Sha and Murray and it now doing very well at Ally and Joe’s. Bill brings me up a few leaves each trip. Aunty Dympna joined us and then John & Rita walked her home. They were quite impressed with the Shutters, Crowley Village and Ballina itself.

Rita, Dympna and I enjoying dinner - photo courtesy of John!

Rita and John continued on their way up the coast and were back in Canberra before I knew it. Good luck with the new job Rita. Hope John accepts the job offer up here soon….!!!

World Youth Day in Australia

Well it is all over now but last week was a very uplifting week seeing so many young people from all over the world come together to celebrate their faith. Here in Ballina the masses were spectacular and very spiritually uplifting for the locals. We Australians seem to have lost the ability to demonstrate our enthusiasm and joy when we are in public. The pan pipes leading us out of Mass

I was particularly excited by the young Solomon Islanders playing their pan pipes with such abandon. They jigged and smiled but at the same time were very reverent. The Korean girls did a wonderful liturgical dance that silenced us all for a long time after they finished – it was so gentle, and holy and graceful that we all knew what they were expressing so quietly, even though we didn’t understand the words of the choir.

We hosted the Archbishop of Vienna here in Ballina. He is rumored to be a front runner to be next Pope – he just laughed at the story. He gave a nice homily and seemed genuinely happy to be in such a small town in Australia. I didn’t get the chance to tell him I had visited his cathedral. It was another lovely gesture when the Viennese pilgrims glided up the stairs to our choir loft to help out singing the hymns! It certainly improved the quality. Rose was here for the last Mass and we all crammed in to a crowded church for a long but inspiring Mass.
Rose and Pip enjoying the pan pipes.

I was so excited and relieved to hear Ally and Joe were going to go with Bill to Sydney for the final Mass. Ally has given that story in her blog. I watched the story of Joseph Ratzinger on Sunday night and found it very interesting. I have come to appreciate and respect our new Pope. I hope our children and theirs come to appreciate the importance of spirituality in their lives in a practical way. I have decided to do something about it – this week I signed up for a certificate course in Theology!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Shutters

Bill relaxing at the Shutters

There is nothing like a good nights sleep in your own bed, in your own home with your loved ones close. We settled quickly back into our Ballina environment and finally recovered from the last of the jetlag. I didn't even look at unpacking until Bill returned to Canberra. We did the usual tripping around, he visited his favourite fishing spots and we wined and dined. It was another lovely weekend and Bill returned to Canberra very rested and refreshed.

Bill & Dympna at Lennox Head

Travelling Home

Dante with Joes parents Mick and Ida, and brother Tony at the funeral.

On our way home from Perth we had a week or so stopover in Canberra so Bill could catch up with his work project and I could manage my jetlag! Dante was excellent on the trip home, slept most of the way on Ally's lap so we did not help much - but it is still a long way to fly. Frank and Ida and Mick saw us off at the airport and Dante was reluctant to leave his newly discovered Nonna.

We quickly adjusted to the Canberra climate which was VERY COLD and settled in comfortably to Ally's 'being decorated' home. She and I had some fun searching out items to match her new plans for the kitchen. I am sure you have all seen her blog and her new 'decorator' blog at We had a great Sunday night out with Bill's workmates although we disgraced ourselves by being half and hour late for a roast dinner! It was a lovely night and I really enjoyed the opportunity to have some girl talk in the kitchen with some experienced professionals, cooks and mothers while the men talked work and football!

Bill, John, Karen, David & Jenny enjoying some delicious food and great conversation.

On the appropriate day we also celebrated my 65th birthday by going out to our favourite Italian restaurant. It was Dante's first experience with a real babysitter and it all went well. Thank you for all your birthday calls and emails and text messages. We spent some time at dinner sorting out our texting.

Managing the text messages..

I had a chance to catch up with some Canberra friends again and visited my old workmates. I also got the opportuntity to teach Dante how to walk. He also learnt how to hang the washing on the line! It was a freezing cold day and except for the company I was so glad we decided not to retire in Canberra!

Ally caught up with one of her teachers from Catholic High in Alice so she invited him home for dinner one night and we had a great time. I always regret that I have not been able to let my teachers know how important they were in my life. Since leaving the NT I have lost contact with all of them. Alex is now working in Adelaide and it was great to catch up on all his news and special events from our time in Alice. Rita and John joined us for the night and it turned into another birthday party!! I was excited to hear that Rita and John are planning a trip to Ballina very soon.

Bill, John, Rita, Alex, Gemma, Joe and Ally..celebrating & catching up.

On a wet and cold Friday night Bill and I flew home to Ballina. We flew into the Gold Coast and picked up a hire car for the weekend. We were both exhausted by the time we drove home to Ballina but it was good to finally reach our haven. Aunty Dymp had left us some bread and milk and coffee cake and we enjoyed a late supper before falling into OUR OWN BED!!

Back Online Again

Hello Everyone,
It is nearly three weeks since I returned from Perth but I have been unable to sit and write. I thought about lots of things to write about and often sat down at the computer but never had the emotional energy to see it in print! It gave me a lot to think about - I wondered if death is something that diminishes our feelings for a while. I felt diminished.
I love the John Donne meditation that goes

"...No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were. Any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee..."
Keeping the vigil...

We buried Mumma (Bill's Mum) on Monday 23rd June. She had a peaceful death and it all happened as she wished. During the last few years of her time in our home Mumma lost a lot of friends and relatives through death and we oftened talked about death and dying. I asked her once what she thought would be a "happy death" and she said she wanted to die in her bed, in no pain and with her family around her and her rosary in her hands. The last few days she was able to experience all of this. While it was a very sad occassion to lose such an important person in our family it gave us all time to be together and to remember and celebrate a life that was such an example of fortitude, courage and faith to us all.

Tom, Brianna and Grace spending time with their Great Grandma

Mumma gave us something precious in her last hours - the chance to have some wonderful time with our children and grandchildren, in her company, and with no distractions. I remember wonderful conversations sitting around her bed and a lovely farewell ceremony organised by Carmel. It was surprising how well the grandchildren and great grandchildren responded to this ceremony and it provided a wonderful pathway to discuss death and dying with the very young.

Francis, Tom and Grace, Claire and Billy, and Ally and Dante all joined us at Monica's home where we all managed to fit in and have some wonderful family time. Steve was master of transport and we never wanted for a vehicle. We took it in turns to sit with Mumma and had lots of opportunities for quiet meals with our children. We also had some wonderful meals at home , Francis and Monica did a great job with one memorable meal that featured yorkshire pudding and the young ones contributed with menu's, table setting and washing up! It was a very special time and I think we were all blest..

A family meal a family home!