australia

nan's anzac biscuits

Last year’s batch, made in London, to Nan’s original recipe!

Last year’s batch, made in London, to Nan’s original recipe!

This is the only recipe I have ever used for Anzac biscuits. They are just the way I like them and remember them from childhood - slightly soft and chewy!  Tom loves them too because they taste like his childhood favourite, flapjack!

Nan's ANZAC biscuits

Makes about 40 (I usually double the recipe!)

1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup self raising flour
1/2 cup plain flour
3/4 cup coconut [if you don't have this use an extra 3/4 cup oats]
3/4 cup sugar (brown, raw or white)
1/2 teaspoon bicarb soda
2 tablespoons boiling water
125g butter, melted
2 tablespoons golden syrup (I often use rice malt if that’s all I have)

Mix all dry ingredients. Dissolve bicarb soda in boiling water and add to melted butter and golden syrup. Add to dry ingredients and mix well. Place in teaspoonfuls on a greased tray.  I roll them into balls in my hands first, which really does remind me of making these as a kid! 

Bake in a moderately slow oven (160 C, 325 F) for 15 minutes.  If you want harder biscuits cook for a few minutes longer.  Let them cool and then store in an airtight container.

They last a long time - they were originally designed to be sent to troops overseas so they had to travel well and not go off for months and months - but in this house they last as long as my and Tom's willpower allows!

Happy ANZAC Day - lest we forget.

january

kelvedon-seashells

I always find January a mixed month, no matter what part of the world I'm in.

Everything about my life is different now, and I've been reading many books - including one on parenting, but it was written by one of my favourite psychotherapy writers and I'll read anything she writes! (sidenote: it’s fantastic, I learned so much reading it and would highly recommend it) - that have all had the same themes in common....surrender. Listen to your feelings and honour them. And invest time in doing the right but hard thing, not the comfortable thing.

To be honest, being back in Australia has brought up a lot of discomfort for me.

I spent the first days of January scrambling around, full of raw vulnerability, feeling panicked and desperate to regain control, recreate the life we used to have with walls, boundaries, safety. The armour I had on in London, and the distance that kept me safe, is gone and I didn't know what to do without it. But all the reading and self-reflecting I've done has helped me see that being flexible and accepting will be a far better use of my time than trying to reclaim what we've left behind.

So, for the first time, I am not running away.

Instead, I’ve been leaning in to the discomfort. When unresolved sadness and anger from the past has presented itself, I’ve tried to welcome it and give myself what I couldn’t give at the time. But there have been moments where that has been excruciating. A few wounds are still raw. Wounds reaching back, far back, perhaps they are my earliest memories - not things I logically remember but deeply rooted within me on a soul level, things that formed my perception of myself, that were the foundation of my deepest fears. It’s been quite exhausting, so I’ve needed a lot of rest and gentleness.

But even though I’ve felt frightened, sad and very vulnerable at times, I’ve also felt very loved. I’m back with my people. Being home is a lot of fun. Tom and I are soaking up all the things that make this place wonderful and why we wanted so very much to be here - the fresh air, the clear waters, the endless expanse of sky and beach and mountain, the raucous birdsong, the warmth of the sun, the friendliness of the people (seriously, people in Hobart are SO nice!), the generosity of my family.

And I know deep in my core that this is exactly where we need to be.

As January is slowly turning into February, I feel calmer, more like myself and more secure that the woman I've become in the years I've been gone will quite like it here, back home. There is space for her here.

no matter how far or how wide i roam

chalk-map-of-australia

and the way forward always in the end,

the way that you came, the way that you followed,

the way that carried you

into your future, that brought you to this place,

no matter that it sometimes took your promise from you,

no matter that it had to break your heart along the way:

the sense of having walked from far inside yourself

out into the revelation, to have risked yourself

for something that seemed to stand both inside you

and far beyond you, that called you back

to the only road in the end you could follow, walking

as you did, in your rags of love and speaking in the voice

that by night became a prayer for safe arrival,

so that one day you realized that what you wanted

had already happened long ago and in the dwelling place

you had lived in before you began,

and that every step along the way, you had carried

the heart and the mind and the promise

that first set you off and drew you on and that you were

more marvellous in your simple wish to find a way

than the gilded roofs of any destination you could reach:

as if, all along, you had thought the end point might be a city

with golden towers, and cheering crowds,

and turning the corner at what you thought was the end

of the road, you found just a simple reflection,

and a clear revelation beneath the face looking back

and beneath it another invitation, all in one glimpse:

like a person and a place you had sought forever,

like a broad field of freedom that beckoned you beyond;

like another life, and the road still stretching on.

-- David Whyte, “Santiago” from Pilgrim

And so, this is my next adventure! After nearly 12 years in the UK, Tom and I will be calling Australia home again soon.

When I heard David Whyte read this poem in the recording of the On Being Gathering at the weekend, tears started falling down my cheeks and the hair stood up on the back of my neck. He put it so perfectly. Because that is really the point I have reached in my life….where I know the way forward is the way I came. It is another invitation. And the road still stretches on.

I want to write more about this, and I will, once the fatigue and stress and brain fog of packing up our life here - all the possessions and memories and clutter and baggage - begins to subside. Once the removalists have been and the belongings we are taking (or are allowed to take - nothing made of cane, bamboo or untreated wood! We had quite a bit of it as it turned out!) are on the container, and suddenly it’s just us and our suitcases, perhaps it will sink in. Perhaps I will be able to string more than a few paragraphs together.

We had hoped that our life here might burn down gently and quietly, like a big church candle. Instead, as I put it to a friend, it has been like a raging dragon riddled with syphilis, and every time we think we’ve cut its head off, it sprouts back and we have to fight it again. There has been a lot to deal with. It’s not been an easy year. It has not been easy couple of years, really. A lot has changed, in our lives and in this country. But we have faced everything together and we are a stronger, more resilient couple for it. And, as we’ve reminded ourselves often, if packing up your life and moving to the other side of the world were easy, everyone would be doing it!

Moving back to Australia is 100 per cent the right decision for Tom and I. We haven’t had a moment’s hesitation. At this point in our lives, Australia is where we need and want to be.

It will be an adjustment, for sure. I have been gone a long time. The Australia I lived in and left isn’t the Australia I’m going back to. John Howard was still the Prime Minister the last time I lived there, for a start! I will have to get to know a lot of people again, as they will have to get to know me - we haven’t been parts of each other’s daily lives for over a decade. I’m trying to have realistic expectations (actually, having no expectations would probably be best). But despite knowing that there will be some tricky moments, I also think it’s going to be amazing. For Tom and I to have some time out after a very stressful couple of years, to recharge and figure out what’s next for us, with the support of family around us…..well, that sounds like heaven right about now.

Australia has been calling us back for a while. We just had to wait until the time was right. And that time is now.

More soon, once I have emerged from packing hell!

xx Phil

white heart: my stella spark

white heart

A Stella Spark is the book by an Australian woman that struck a spark for you, igniting ideas, creativity and a passion for great writing.

That book for me is the novel White Heart by Heather Rose.

A year ago, whenever I mentioned Heather Rose as one of my favourite writers, I'd get a blank or curious look in return. Now, thanks to her most recent (and brilliant) novel winning last year's Stella Prize, her work has been getting some long overdue and much-deserved attention in Australia. I'm thrilled to hear it. I've been a Heather devotee since White Heart, her first novel.

It came out in 1999 and I read it in 2000, when I was 19. I have re-read every year since. I believe it's sadly no longer in print, which makes it all the more precious to me.

It’s a novel about a woman named Farley who grows up in Tasmania and who, in the face of a devastating loss (though we don’t realise exactly what this loss was until near the end), goes searching elsewhere - overseas and mainland Australia - for meaning, wholeness and love. 
It was one of the most beautifully written books I’d ever read and it still is. It was quiet in its beauty though, if that makes sense. It contained a wildness and a fiery spirit, yet was so gentle.

It sounds trite to say ‘it changed my life’ but it did. Before White Heart, the only glimpses of Tasmania I'd really seen in the literature I'd read was of a gothic, wild and quite oppressive place, but this novel had snapshots of the Tasmania that I actually knew and could relate to, as well as capturing its darker side. It made me realise that I could write about the Tasmania I knew as well.

It was also thanks to discovering White Heart that I started noticing other amazing Tasmanian women writers who had been somewhat unknown to me up to that point, and it opened up a completely new world for me. 

But in terms of actually changing my life…well, *I* had to do that. I was 19 when I first read White Heart and if you’ve read my own book, you’ll know that at that age, I really lost my way. It took a while for me to find my path. But it did spark something. 

And remembering that has reminded me, like Farley in White Heart, I too had to go on a soul-searching journey to heal and find my true self.

I love everything Heather Rose has ever written but I always, always come back to this one. If you ever see a copy, get it! You won’t regret it.

What's your Stella Spark?

departed australia

Ten years ago, I took the biggest leap of faith of my life.

In the lead up, I was permanently anxious, trembling inside, terrified of it all going wrong.

But I chose to push through that discomfort, for underneath it all was a wise, calm voice that told me I simply had to do this.  And I trusted that voice.

I couldn't have told you why. There was only a knowing that I had to listen, I had to trust. I couldn't explain it. Sounds dramatic, I know - it felt dramatic at the time. I was reeling from the breakdown of my marriage the year before, feeling restless and shaky-footed in Melbourne, like a baby giraffe learning to walk. Every step towards this dream felt so freaking hard. 

But healing is hard. Change is hard. Finding out who you really are is hard. Moving away from the familiar and into the unknown, alone, is hard. 

It didn't feel particularly brave at the time - it felt exhilarating, terrifying and a little bit reckless. I didn't know what I'd find on the other side. 

But I had to depart so I could arrive.

Whatever your dream, I hope you find a way to face your fears and make it happen. It's so very, very worth it.