Writing on, and about, an island

Archive for the ‘Island Life’ Category

The 5 Things that Matter Most

In Career, Freelance, Island Life, Minimalism, Tasmania, Writing on February 3, 2012 at 1:35 pm

My days have always been filled from end to end. I love being busy, and I am more productive when I have a lot on. Until recently, however, there were a lot of things in those days that frustrated me, didn’t satisfy me, and made me feel stressed. Things like:

  • committee meetings
  • an overloaded to-do list
  • freelance jobs that didn’t reward me enough for the time/creative energy invested
  • the feeling I had to reply to every single one of millions of emails in my inbox

Managing them meant I was losing valuable time for no gain – I was doing things through obligation not passion – and it took me a while to work out what was going on (obviously, because I’d been too busy to stop and think).

I only realised that I was giving away my time too cheaply during a 10-day holiday I took to paint my living room black and white. Spending every day doing nothing but sanding, plastering and painting was very zen, and although I didn’t plan on thinking about my life, and what matters most to me, it happened anyway.

I have spent the past 6 months thinking about what matters most to me, and got it down to a very minimalist top 5.

The 5 things that matter most to me:

  1. Eating homemade meals with my family
  2. Writing
  3. Reading
  4. Running by the ocean
  5. Living in Tasmania

I make sure those 5 things come first every day. (It’s almost like a muscle you need to keep using so it doesn’t waste away.) Pay yourself with your time first.

I’m not perfect at this. And, of course, there are many things I want to do, and many things that interest me – going back to uni or starting tango lessons, for example – but I’ve had to let go of the urge to do them all right now. At the moment, anything that’s not in that top 5 are just distractions from my main goal: learning to focus on what really matters most.

 

Agatha Christie’s Tasmania

In Crime & Mystery Writer, Island Life, Tasmania, Travel, Writing on January 30, 2012 at 2:28 pm

Agatha Christie came this close to being a Tasmanian… Sigh. I was born the year Agatha Christie died: 1976. I’ve also got the same initials as Agatha… I’m not superstitious, but I do admit to being inspired by this. To me – as a crime writer and reader – the great AC is hard to top. I have a bookcase devoted to her books. All of them.

I love how her books are the perfect example of what I admire most in writing – my ‘mantra’, I guess:

“Stylistically simple; intellectually interesting.”

Agatha didn’t aspire to any pretensions. And she’s sold over a billion books.

Agatha wanted to move to Tasmania…

Yes, AC travelled to Tasmania, as part of her grand world tour in 1922. She was entranced by the colours and stories of this island; she even checked out some skulls and skeletons.

There’s a great map of her 1922 travels at the official Agatha Christie site. However, when I originally looked at it, it didn’t include Tasmania. So, I contacted Chorion to pass on this info I’d found on Agatha’s time in Tasmania.

 

(The above taken from Nicholas Shakespeare’s book, In Tasmania.)

 

 

(Taken from Janet Morgan’s Agatha Christie: A biography.)

 

More will no doubt be revealed this year, when HarperCollins publishes Agatha’s diaries and letters from her travels in The Grand Tour – compiled and edited by her grandson, Mathew Prichard.

“Leaving behind her two-year-old daughter, Christie began her adventure at the end of January as part of a trade mission ahead of the British Empire Expedition in 1924. Travelling to Hawaii, Canada, America, New Zealand, Australia and South Africa, the young author – who had already published two novels – described her adventures in weekly letters to her mother, also taking photos on her portable camera of the places she visited.”

Can’t wait to read it. And see what it says about Agatha’s Tasmania…

The French Five (aka The Island Five)

In Island Life, Minimalism, Tasmania on January 30, 2012 at 11:39 am

This post could easily be called ‘The French Fashion Diet… Anyone who knows me, knows that I have a thing for clothes. I worked as a fashion editor, stylist and writer for a long time; to me, beautifully made clothes are art. Which makes it hard for me to get rid of them…

Repeat: I have A LOT OF CLOTHES.

But, my move to an island means reassessing my style. I’ve written about how I didn’t buy any new clothes for more than a year after arriving here, due to debt reduction… (tip: shop your own wardrobe before buying anything new).

It’s not just about cutting spending however, as I’ve never really spent much money on clothes (lots of freebies in the magazine world!). No, it turns out that my Sydney clothes are also now somewhat obsolete in Tasmania.

Sydney style vs Island style

In Sydney, I actually did wear everything I owned, so there was no guilty or wasteful ‘excess’. However, since moving to Tasmania, there’s no getting away from the fact that, for whatever reason (weather, work… whatever…), I am only wearing about 5% of my wardrobe. And the rest is clutter which I seem to spend way too much time ‘managing’ (ie moving from one chair to another; from bedroom to spare room).

I made a concerted effort to get rid of stuff last year (all donated to charity), in order to clear some space. But it’s obvious I need to do more in 2012. I want more time and space for me. And less clothes = more time + space.

So, I’m taking inspiration from the French on this one. (Well, the cobbled streets and pretty parks of Hobart do have a Parisian flavour, especially during spring and autumn.)

Obviously, I’m not going to be living with a mere 5 items of clothing, but I consider the following to be the basis of any decent minimalist wardrobe.

My French Five (accessories not included*)

  1. Black blazer
  2. White t-shirt
  3. ‘Cigarette’ pants (ie skinny)
  4. LBD
  5. Pencil skirt

*It almost goes without saying… ballet flats, silk scarves, leather shoulder bag

My Island Five (accessories not included*)

  1. Leather jacket
  2. White tank
  3. Skinny jeans
  4. Shift dress
  5. Denim skirt

*Ankle boots, Havaianas, Indian shawl…

On top of this French/Island Five, you should really only buy 5 additional items per fashion season (ie 10 items per year). And make sure you get rid of something each time you buy something new.

Finally – I do not (and never will) fall for fashion trends and cheap copies. Work your own style and make more space for yourself in doing so!

If There’s One Place You Must Travel to in 2012…

In Island Life, Tasmania, Travel on January 27, 2012 at 12:59 pm

… it’s the Huon Valley. A bunch of influential global travel experts – Mr & Mrs Smith, for example – have named Tasmania’s Huon Valley as one of the top-10 places to check out this year. This in partly due to the Valley’s growing and well-deserved reputation for artisan and organic produce, but the vistas are also stunning, and the locals are keeping alive traditional processes (spinning and wooden-boat-building, anyone?) that would otherwise disappear.

The Huon is also where Matt Evans’ Gourmet Farmer is set, it’s where Tetsuya built and launched his boat from, it’s where you can check out the up-coming Taste of the Huon, it’s where Tassie’s Apple Isle moniker was born… and it is easily one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever seen.

I’ve been compiling an arts and heritage strategy for the region, and have had to spend a lot of time in the Huon’s five main townships of Dover, Geeveston, Huonville, Cygnet and Franklin. Each has a distinct flavour, and travelling the full ‘circle’ from Hobart and back is a memorable journey. I remember childhood trips to the Huon with my English-born grandparents (who loved to go to there to experience a little bit of the ‘home country’), and the winding country roads lined with autumn’s vibrant trees and Cape Cod-style cottages. But I hadn’t been back in decades, and I now see I’ve been missing out. Little has changed the Valley’s gentle, peaceful ambience over the years, and it’s the first place I send visiting friends when they arrive in the state.

So, when you’re in the Huon, you must get your art on at the Church Studio, you must anchor in Charlotte Cove (and dream about buying property there), you must buy a Summer Kitchen pie (go the Hunza or the Humity), you must stand on the enigmatic shores of Dover, you must listen to a gig at Red Velvet Lounge, you must stay in the teepees at Huon Bush Retreats, and you must buy some wares from Steenholdt’s Organics – which my mates at Island Menu have often been inspired by.

 

NOTE: Take the long way back to Hobart from Cygnet (not the short-cut), and you’ll be rewarded with breath-taking views along the coast – and the chance to pretend you’re time-trialling (just don’t tell the authorities I said that).

PS: I know I said I was Not Using Images, but thought a little context would help in a travel post.

4 New Years on an Island

In Career, Freelance, Island Life, Tasmania, Writing on January 20, 2012 at 5:15 pm

What will island life in 2012 bring? Living in Tasmania has been, at times, very hard. It’s three years since I moved from Sydney, and this bloody island has challenged everything I thought about myself, my career, my purpose, what matters to me…

Why are islands demanding?

Why are islands so linked to artistic endeavour? Maybe it’s the isolation, maybe it’s the natural physical boundary – wrapped in a coast, an island presents the potential for complete exploration, and people always have a need to define their surroundings. It’s akin to collecting: collectors often desire things that are limited, because there’s some sort of possibility of completing that collection.

The above is a pretty accurate description of what living on an island means to me (I’m sure the Mercury won’t mind me paraphrasing myself).

Of course, I wanted Tasmania to challenge me, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t also wanted to throw in the towel.

So, prompted by the fresh western New Year (and tomorrow’s Chinese New Year), I’ve had a think about what each year in Tasmania has taught me.

For better or worse…

… 2009 was The Year of Recovery and Mistakes (and Magic)

I landed in Tasmania an exhausted, burnt-out thing. The preceding couple of years had been emotionally and financially debilitating. I was so tightly wound, I even had to learn how to sleep all over again.

As a prodigal son, I also made mistakes. I tried to transplant my Sydney way of doing things into Tasmania. My high expectations, my way of doing things very fast… not the most successful approach. There was a lot of friction. Oh, and I was fired for the very first time in my life.

Which, as it turns out, did me a favour – I launched my MADE Tasmania business not long after. I also started, and paused, my Masters (as one of the many fumbling ways to try to work out what I wanted to be doing).

The magic part of 2009 came in getting married (to someone who is the support and inspiration I didn’t even ever know I needed).

… 2010 was The Year of Consolidation and Learning

New year, new full-time advertising job.

And the clear decision to clear debts. I was on a mission. So, 2010 was a blur of full-time and freelance work… Seriously, I don’t really remember much but the fact I was working every minute. However, in hindsight, it was a year where I put down some solid foundations in the search for freedom, even if at the time I wasn’t sure what I was peddling so hard towards.

And yes, I did clear my debts. A little closer to freedom…

… 2011 was The Year of Frustration and Questioning

What. On. Earth. Am. I. Doing.

I spent the whole year asking this, in-between spinning like a mouse on a wheel. I was working hard, still managing a freelance business while working full-time. Trying to finish my novel in snatched moments. There was so much stress, and not enough time spent with my new family. The year was a whirlwind of doing – but doing for others, mind you. There was nothing I was genuinely doing for me. I said yes to a squillion projects, hoping that one of them would show me what I should be doing, yet none of them did.

I got to the end of 2011 and realised every day had been spent in a state of responsibility and commitment. No personal creativity or expression, no free weekends, no reflection, no sweet spots of getting lost in something for the simple joy of it… Everything I did, I felt obligated to do. When prompted, I couldn’t even think of one thing I loved doing just for the sake of it.

BUT it was a massive wake-up call to even realise this, to realise I was reincarnating my Sydney habits all over again, and it propelled me into having a good hard look at myself and my life.

… 2012 is shaping up to be The Year of Freedom

Ah – the Year of the Dragon (which I am; a Fire Dragon actually). My year? I’m going with that.

Only 3 weeks old, and 2012 has already brought breakthroughs of beautiful clarity. Clarity in how I want to respond to the world around me. Clarity in my purpose for being here. Just clarity for the sake of clarity…

And that is such a weight off my shoulders.

Sailing…

In Island Life, Tasmania, Travel on January 4, 2012 at 1:32 am

I am no good at living in the moment. No good at mindfulness. I am a master multi-tasker, have made a career out of it, and every day is a series of insignificant tasks sticky-taped together.

However, I have come to realise that this is not something to be proud of. I react to outside demands, rather than consider what matters to me. Days are filled with busy-ness and to-do lists that fool me into thinking I’ve achieved something. Countless days that have left me exhausted and unsatisfied… and rudderless. The end result being that my life controls me – not the other way around.

Perhaps sailing will change that.

I sailed when I was younger (my father helped found the Wooden Boat Centre, and our boat, Lady Franklin, was the first to come out of the School’s shed on the Franklin waterfront. Tetsuya’s boat recently launched from there, also.)

Then I moved to Sydney – one of the world’s most beautiful sailing playgrounds – and despite living opposite the Cruising Yacht Club (home to the Sydney to Hobart), I skipped the boat part and instead made full use of the beer part.

Now: back in Tasmania. Tasmania has the highest amount of boats, per capita. As an island, sailing is inseparable from our history and our identity. I am now the proud owner of a beautiful 100-year-old, 35-foot Huon Pine yacht. Royal blue hull, white sails, oiled decks – the full cliché…

This Christmas holidays just past was spent sailing around Bruny Island on that boat – with a five-year-old (mine) and a husband (also mine).

The romanticism of sailing was given a beating by a 100-year storm, endless games of Snap and a port-a-loo that turns your poo blue (nice view from the seat, however).

It was a real test for me. Not the lack of creature comforts, although that was bloody hard. The test came in the lack of space and distractions. The fact that every simple dry-land task was made long and thoughtful at sea. Making coffee, for instance. You had to concentrate on making coffee. Not 12 things at once.

Somewhere between day three and four, between rain-damp sleeping bags and bottles of Gordon’s Gin*, it occurred to me that there was a lesson in my discomfort. Being forced to focus on the basics of daily living gave me space – not physical space, but the mental space to listen to my mind. Something I very rarely do.

(When I first had a baby and was going mad with the insignificance of each day, a wise woman said to me that it was the ultimate ‘Zen’ lesson. To learn to live in the moment. To realise that the past and the future don’t exist. To stop trying to ignore/escape stillness and stop trying to crowd out the chatter in your brain with ‘doing’. With a new baby there’s not a lot you can do on a grand scale – you have to embrace the small things, each moment. And the sooner your realise this, the better)

Perhaps sailing will strengthen my mindfulness muscle. Perhaps Tasmania will teach me mindfulness. The frustration I’ve felt since moving here – with how slowly things happen, how apathetic people seem in contrast to what I’m used to – is perhaps less an indication of something broken in Tasmania, and more an indication of something I need to address within myself.

Perhaps slow Tasmania has it right, and I have it wrong.

Here’s to more sailing.

*Gin and boats just go together. Gin is best kept in a dive bag, slung over the side of the boat. Tassie’s cool oceans make the perfect bar fridge.

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