Saturday, January 31, 2015

5/52 - finding our feet

- Sprocket, heading into the mangrove swamp.
- Poppet, running on the beach at twilight. She seems to be all legs nowadays. Clothes in her size are too short and I have to go up a year or two.
- Littlest, so happy to be sandy, she crawls into the water without fear - "Da-da-da-da!" after her daddy. Here's too gorgeous pudgy, sandy, baby toes.

We're slowly finding our feet, starting a new school, new kindy, new activities. Working out where everything is, how to fit everything around the shifts and stresses of my beloved's new work as a freshly minted doctor - starting out in the emergency department.

We're all a little unsettled, but each day we find our feet a little bit more, and it's hard not to with lovely beaches so close!

Joining with Jodi for a portrait of my little ones once a week, every week in 2015.

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Poppet - with her favourite book at the moment. Jane Ray's beautifully illustrated and beautifully written The Apple Pip Princess. We've been reading it at least once a day and often two or three times all week.

Sprocket - his Grandpa aims to turn him into a pigeon flyer. He's just released one of the young birds to the sky.

Littlest - my sleeping beauty - with her little doll from Paris. Paris was a bit of a disappointment (possibly because I had a flu that turned very nasty) but we found a very good toy shop and went a little bit wild on a we're-sorry-we dragged-you-half-way-around-the-world-and-it's all-so miserable way. Note: even the toy shop owners in Paris are snooty. This made me giggle between coughing.

Joining with Jodi for a portrait of my little ones once a week, every week in 2015. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Swan Love

"You really love swans, don't you mummy," my Poppet said sagely, in the tone of one clarifying the self-evident.
"Yes. Yes I really do," I said.
And while I also love the black swans of Australia, there's something about the way the light falls on the white swans of the Northern Hemisphere that increases my heart rate every time I see them. Maybe because there are so many beautiful stories about the white Northern swans? Maybe because when I do see them they're beneath snow capped mountains or on gently lit lakes - whatever it is - their beauty never fails to fill me with gratitude and awe.
I love the way their long necks twist so gracefully. I love the way they glide so serenely. I love the way they stretch their wings into such a light filled, angel-like, swan-rampant. I love the way they carry their young on their backs. I love the way their heads seek beneath the water while they float above, straddling air and water. I love the look of them in flight - they seem the epitome of romance.
I love them so much that my engagement ring (sent out from Ireland) is a stylised, Celtic style swan… Which I know is sort of getting into teen territory but… they are just so beautiful.
It is probably no surprise that one of my favourite manuscripts, that I've been tinkering with for years now, (oops, I don't like to admit it, but I've been writing and rewriting it for over a decade now. Cut. Paste. Rewind. I refuse to admit that!) is based around a re-telling of an Irish legend of four children transformed to swans for nine hundred years…
So when I saw these swans, so many and so close on a lake at Hyde Park in London, it was a little bit of Kirsty-Heaven. The kids were not quite so enthralled so the photos were taken on the run. But there was heart fluttering and exclamations of delight.
And they were just so beautiful.
(Just imagine them on a remote loch in the highlands instead, surrounded by snow - with snow falling around? let me consider - instead of the highly populated and tame Hyde Park, surrounded by people and city and close to cafes and winter wonderland rides!)

Saturday, January 17, 2015


Littlest - her early morning weetbix is serious business. 
Poppet - dancing down the back of the garden. Only seven am and already unpleasantly hot and so muggy the camera lens fogged up. 
Sprocket - still a little jet lagged from our big trip. We've stopped falling asleep at 2pm and waking at 2am but we're still taking a little while to wake in the morning. 

Joining with Jodi for a portrait of my little ones once a week, every week in 2015.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Littlest: Eight Months

Dear heart,

The time is just racing by and you are getting so large (in a small kind of way!) and so very much yourself. Each day that goes by you seem more entirely you and we are even more besottted. The way you carefully observe before your smile slowly blooms, your great determination, the complete joy and delight you take in your siblings, almost matched by your wariness, the way you're always craning around my shoulder to see more, your great delight in people and play.

Your colouring is very pale and pearly, your large eyes an indeterminate shade of dark blue and grey with flecks of this and that thrown in, your skin pale and opalescent, always gently catching the light, your hair still waiting to make up its mind and blond or darken.

I didn't actually believe it was possible for you to become more beautiful and even more loveable, but each day you seem to grow more endearing. The way you curl your toes, the way you reach up to be held, the way you say 'mummmm' and 'dadddd' and that amazing deep gurgle giggle. The way when I pick you up, you immediately cuddle into my neck, content, leaving behind all crying instantly.

As usual, this post is a little late. You turned eight months the day we left the United Kingdom for the continent, almost two weeks ago now. (A bad move, to be honest, although in my opinion leaving Scotland was a Bad Move, so the further Southerly trend was just bad on bad, although I could be biased due to illness. Although in theory, and my over active imagination, seeing more cities since we were over there, was a Good Idea, when it came to leave Scotland I was in tears - so many people we hadn't managed to see, so many places we hadn't managed to go. Leaving the continent I was also in tears - but of sheer relief to be going home!)

As usual, you travelled brilliantly - the only one of us that did! While you rebel against being put in your car seat (me, kept captive, again? I think not! seems to be your general thought) you adore planes - mainly because of the scope of people to smile at. While you are still very much in your "I-need-my-mummy" phase, you do love smiling at strangers from the safety of my arms. You believe air stewards are put there purely for you to grin at and you could always be settled by showing you all the people on the plane. If you can believe it, some philistines did not smile back. (They could have been a bit weary from the antics of your brother and sister…)

You have seen snow. You have seen snow fall (briefly!) While from here on you're going to be a daughter of the tropics, you have seen snow fall.

You learnt to crawl in Scotland, my darling. As your Grandpa says, that means you're practically entitled to represent Scotland in the Olympics. (Let's hope you get your daddy's sporting ability!)
And… you had your first Christmas. Not a white one - but it was chilly, and it was in Scotland and we did rug you up warm and you did see a castle! It was lovely seeing five little stockings lined up, our little family complete.

You suddenly went from not many toys to a superabundance! (Many with a Scottish theme, Edinburgh Counting Board Book anyone… One Castle etc... (And that's not going into things picked up later in other places… but the travel is boring and you're suddenly at the stage where you like toys!)

We did not get to see as many of our Scottish relatives as I had hoped - the mastitis I traveled over with, on top of all the illness before that, knocked me around a lot, and we were slow getting our phones organised - alright, we never actually got them organised - they routed back through Australia. But you did see your Great Great Aunty, and while she didn't have a clue who any of us were, she did love holding you and playing with you. This was the first time I've been over since your Great Granny and Pappy died, and it was very hard being there without them, although even last visit your Granny's dementia meant she hadn't recognised me, but she'd loved holding your brother, a little one year old then.

I've been carrying you in your new winter carrier, my little-bundle-of-close-held-warmth, and while you don't like getting it on, you do have a tendency to fall asleep as soon as it is on, and it keeps us both snugly warm. And I love having you so close. I love feeling your breathing, resting my cheek against the softness of your hair, holding your hand or little feet (your shoes just refused to stay on, even putting hair bands on them - thank goodness for tights and layers! And they were such gorgeous little shoes!) Dressing you in cold-weather gear has been a constant delight - finally getting to play dress-ups with all the soft-as-soft hats, faux fur vests, velvet dresses, mini-coats and merino bodysuits was so much fun. I'm already looking forward to going back down to Victoria in the winter and hoping as least some still fit!

Your brother came over to me yesterday as I was feeding you and said "I'm glad we have Littlest. Now I have two sisters." Frown. "It's a lot of responsibility." (You have a habit of grabbing his hair, or crawling up to sink your two little teeth into his foot to get his attention, then grinning, so he knows we need to teach you to be a well behaved baby who strokes, not pulls, kisses not bites.)
And it is a lot of responsibility, but we love you so!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

A Play of Stone & Sky

Under a high, clear winter sky we walked the road to Stonehenge. The winter timing seemed right - the alignments were built around the winter solstice - the old sun dying and a new sun being born. We were only a week out.

The landscape was very open, the hills rolling softly, holding their burials gently. Coming so recently from Scotland the drier, more open landscape was very noticeable.

Frost still coated some of the ground, outlining fallen leaves and there were traces of ice on the puddles but the air was mild. I wondered how the people of the neolithic - the ones who spent so long constructing all their many earth and wood and stone works saw their land, how the weather fell upon them. Was the land already as cleared of trees? Before all their barrows, ditches and cursus' how flat was the land?

We reached the stones - Poppet rebelling after the long walk, after the longer drive, Sprocket more interested but wondering where the magic is and why he can't do any magic, and I was held in awe. I'd read about the stones, studied them so long and here they were.

They played with the light. They drank it up, cast constantly changing shadows. The many people milling around taking photos, selfies, listening to the earphones, didn't matter as the stones themselves were so constantly interesting from each new angle, the sky around us so large. I had not been under a sky so large since we left Australia.

A crow flew down to land upon one of the lintels. There was a pale smudge of moon behind it.

I was in love.

It was a monument built around death, around the ancestors - there were over three hundred cremation burials in the bank and ditch and it was likely that it was built to usher out the old year and usher in the new - let the sun start staying longer, let light return to the lands.

But now, under the high, high sky, it seems to hold a certain peace. The rocks have aged well. The circle built millenia ago, some of the stones fetched from scores of miles away, using millions of man-hours, they stand sure.

Imagined and re-imagined over hundreds, thousands, of years, going through many different transformations, once, in the long ago, Stonehenge would have been approached on the shortest day of the year, the people feasting further away (on fatted pig, in shades of Asterix and Obelix, although their boar was wild), sailing down the nearby river and then disembarking to walk the big avenue. They would wait to see the sun rise again, aligning on this last day of the old year, and then the New Year would begin again, their ancestors around them, and all would be well.

For years I have heard that Stonehenge is a disappointment, that there are too many people, that you cannot get close, but as I walk around, observing the play of light and shadow, how one slant of rock will swallow the sun while its side stays in shade and how things change as I walk around, how the stones fit within the man-changed landscape, all my expectations are exceeded.

I have been to different stone circles, Callanish in the Hebridres, the Ring of Brodgar up in Orkney, as a child I was taken to smaller circles around Aberdeen. I remember a small ring of red mushrooms next to one and wondering about fairies.  Each time they awe me. East time to see the thoughts and beliefs of people so long ago, my people, so long ago, made stone and risen, fills me with wonder. I love to run my fingers along the ancient stone, but it's enough to look.

The stones, the raven, the moon, the high mid-winter sky.
I'm well content.

Saturday, January 10, 2015


Poppet, laughing with her Aunty on a boat on a canal in Amsterdam. 
Sprocket, in a favourite pub in London, a double decker bus passing. 
Poppet. My Joy. Somewhere in Europe. 

We're home now, having journeyed from Paris to Brisbane in the space of forty-eight hours, in my in-laws place in Queensland, where we'll be until we find or build our own place. Sick. Jetlagged. So completely bone weary it doesn't bear thinking about.

The kids are pulling the house apart. We got home at 11pm last night and by 7am this morning Sprocket hadn't managed to sleep for more than an hour but had found four cane toads (that I know of) and dozens of  skinks. One of which lost it's tail in the living room. There was also talk of a brown snake sighting but when we traipsed out after him to the stand of bananas he claimed to have made the sighting I became a little suspicious.
"How many snakes were there, Sprocket?"
"Forty! Forty king brown snakes and forty taipans."  Wordless return (coughing) to the house.
"It was real. Really really real." A-ha.

Joining with for Jodie for a portrait of my little ones once a week, every week, in 2015.

Saturday, January 3, 2015


My Sprocket - my knight, up a beautiful twisted old tree in Thorndon Country Park, Essex, England. We were visiting my Great Aunt and although by the time we reached there the accumulated travels had caught up with the wee ones and they were unwilling to explore far, the tree was irresistible.

My Poppet - my Princess, holding out her hand to her royal subject, Beloved. (Or as I like to think, reaching out to the New Year. It was New Years Day. She is wearing a dress her Nana got her at the Tower of London which she was completely unwilling to cover up for so minor a thing as mid-winter.

And totally not matching, and even in a different country - Littlest, my kitten. On a boat on a canal in Amsterdam. Amsterdam has exceeded all my expectations. Its links to its merchant past are so close, so tangible it is enchanting. The canals and narrow streets and beautiful merchant buildings are so fascinating and bring a world searching for spice routes to life so vividly...

The first portraits of my little ones for the New Year - joining with Jodi for a portrait a week, every week in 2015. 

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Moments of Magic…

Loch Lomond was a revelation of wonder.  Driving (slowly and with terror) around the narrow, twisty-turny road alongside the silvered water, the slopes beside us covered in velvet green moss, bracken vividly green and brown, rounded stones and fallen tree trunks easing by, forests of ancient trees and falls of darks striated stone and the mountains lost in cloud opposite, I was caught in awe. Ideas for stories rushed and changed and reformed.

The last time I came this way I believe I was eighteen and hung over from going out to my first ever Grow Ups nightclub the night before. My memories are of a dreamlike tiredness and restful green.

Family history tells me that after coming to Europe to train during the first World War my Great Grandfather looked up distant relatives in Scotland, took one look at young Constance Keil and decided she was The One.

"Will you come to Loch Lomond with me?" are supposed to have been his first words. We have photos of her, laughing and entrancing, holding the oars in a small wooden boat on the Loch.

We drove further, searching out snow, and beside Loch Tay the sign for the crannog had me yelping. "We have to stop! We have to stop!" Months earlier I'd looked it up and saw it closed for the winter… but I lived in hope. The sight of it, mist surrounding, sitting so still and at home upon the Loch brought deep happiness. The mist surrounding, the hills beyond.

I could see my characters crossing the wooden bridge from land, see them ducking their head as they came out into the open. I see four white swans wheel down through the grey mist to land on the grey waters around. For three hundred years I have characters of mine live in a crannog in Ireland (they were of the old and magical sort) and it was deeply stirring to see a real one.

When, shortly later, passing an unnamed Loch containing an unnamed islet of firs, its banks frosted and iced, white swans gliding sedately, I squealed. The car was stopped, we loaded out, and as I exclaimed over the swans, large flakes of snow began to fall around us.

Happy, happy happy dance.

(It is New Years Day now, London. I write in the pre-dawn darkness, the sky dark and pinkish. The children and Beloved still asleep in the dark room. A new year starts and I consider the moments of wonder, the moments of magic…)