Just recently I experienced a dark night of the soul.  It had been approaching for some time, but I ignored the niggling negative feelings I had been having and continued to press on living as usual until suddenly there was this huge accumulation of things I couldn’t deal with nor have any control over.  I tried to continue sitting on them.

Then some major things started happening.   Linda, a special lady, who I walked with most mornings, died suddenly.  I had only walked with her a few days before.  I started to realise just how many friends I’d lost.  In fact, I think my dead friends now outweighed the living.

I’m 74.  I started to wonder how much longer I will live?   And whether some of the things I want to achieve may no longer be possible.  Well known people my age and younger were dying.  Not to mention when I looked at the obituaries one day.

Health and body problems started to appear.  An ongoing problem with reflux which affects my throat (laryngopharyngeal) and in particular my singing voice made me think that perhaps I won’t be able to achieve my goal of recording the songs I’ve written.  Due to reflux I also felt nauseous and had lost my appetite.

The osteoarthritis I have in both thumbs has made me give up my guitar for two years.  I’m only just back at it but finding it a challenge to get through the pain barrier of growing the calluses on top of my fingers.

The injury I had in my left groin for three years disappeared.  Then a week later it appeared on the right groin and lower back, and was very much more painful.  I had an Xray and was advised it is not a pulled groin muscle like the left-hand side had been, but in fact is osteo arthritis and won’t be something I can easily fix.  My physio banned me from walking up hills and stairs.  Maybe I won’t be able to walk the Camino del Norte with my Spanish nephew, another one of my long-held dreams.

I am into the thirteenth year of living with fibromyalgia which limits my life considerably and the alpha-gal tick allergy which prohibits me from eating red meat, pork or dairy and probably is the cause of the fibomyalgia.

I gave an excerpt of the book I’ve been working on for the last three years to a friend’s husband who had worked in the publishing business for many years, and he gave it the kybosh and told me I had no future as a writer.  I felt like the mat had been pulled from under me. Writing has always been my preferred way of expressing myself. Needless to say I found it very disconcerting.

My spiritual life, which is one of the most important aspects of my life and has always been a great support, seemed to disappear.  Where was that voice inside which answered my questions each morning.

A few nights later the dark night of the soul occurred.  Everything I ever thought I knew about life was called into question. Who was I if I could no longer do the things I do and achieve the goals I want to achieve. I felt confused, bewildered, angry, desperate, helpless, hopeless and very sad.  God had deserted me. These feelings and nightmares of possible future scenarios continued all through the night.


Fortunately for me it only lasted one night.  For some unfortunate people, it can last any time from a week to a year.


The next day hope started to spring forth and my ever-optimistic self, started to reassert itself.  Thank God.



Do you have a morning ritual?



My morning ritual is one of the most important things I do during the day.  It has changed over the years.  When I was working it was a much more hurried affair.  Now that I no longer have to go down the coal mine each day, I can take my time.

Initially I followed what other people did but now I do what works for me.  My morning ritual has evolved over time.

I am an early riser and fortunately my husband isn’t which gives me two hours of special time to myself each morning.   So what do I do.

Firstly I make myself a large cup of tea.  Anyone who has had tea at my place knows I take my tea making seriously.  The early morning cup of tea was a sacred ritual in our family, and I stick to exactly the same system.  The tea was always made with leaves. The pot was warmed with boiling water first, then the tea leaves were put into the pot, the water re-boiled and tipped onto them, the pot was enveloped in a tea cosy, then left to draw for five minutes.  The pot was turned three times anti-clockwise before the tea was poured. Definitely milk first.

While I drink my tea I listen to French podcasts except on Tuesday when I listen to Spanish ones.

I then meditate for 15 minutes and finish off by doing my tapping exercises.

What is tapping therapy used for?

EFT tapping is a mind-body method of tapping acupuncture points (acupoints) on the hands, face, and body with your fingertips while focusing on an issue or feeling you’re hoping to resolve. This method may reduce stress and anxiety, improve performance, lessen cravings, and help resolve fears.


Next I write in my journal in either French or Spanish, depending on what day it is.  I have keeping a journal for years – ever since I read about Morning Pages in Julia Cameron’s wonderful  book “The Artist’s Way” which since its publication in 1992 has sold over 3 million copies.

THE ARTIST’S WAY by Julia Cameron is not exclusively about writing–it is about discovering and developing the artist within whether a painter, poet, screenwriter or musician–but it is a “lot” about writing. If you have always wanted to pursue a creative dream, have always wanted to play and create with words or paints, this book will gently get you started and help you learn all kinds of paying-attention techniques; and that, after all, is what being an artist is all about. It’s about learning to pay attention.”

Like my morning ritual, my Morning Pages have evolved.  Initially I religiously wrote three pages as recommended by Julia Cameron.  These days I write what needs to be written.  I offload my problems, ask myself questions, ponder but I always finish off my asking myself what is the most important thing to do today.  So if I get distracted or caught up in life’s busyness, I achieve at least that one thing.  Usually I do.  If I’m traveling I write what happened the previous day.

At 7.00 I listen to the news on 7.02 then Markus and I have a morning cuddle.  At 7.30am I go for a walk or a bike ride.  While out walking or bike riding, I do my voice exercises and sing my scales and as my Facebook friends know, take photos.  As I grew up in Narrabeen and ran a real estate business for 30 years here,  I often run into people I know and have a chat and other times I meet someone new.  I also pick up rubbish as I go – 968 bags last year.

I find my morning ritual sets me up for the day

I often wondered why I was called Susan.


I often wondered why I was called Susan!

There were Grandfathers on both sides of the family who were called John, so it was a no brainer to see where my brother got his name from. My sister Annette was named after one of my mother’s sisters who had died in early childhood. Mum finally told me that I was named after Susan, a delightful, young Aboriginal girl who lived in a camp beside Commissioner’s Creek at the bottom of the garden at “Earthorpe”, the property where my grandmother spent her childhood. Susan used to love helping in the homestead. She always went about her work humming. Later on, she started her own washing business in town and that was when Mum got to know her. My grandmother used to take in boarders after her husband shot through to Adelaide to avoid facing a very public divorce in Armidale where he was the well-respected editor and owner of the Armidale Express, leaving my grandmother and her five remaining children in dire financial straits. As my grandmother had plenty to do cooking, doing the housework, tending the garden, looking after the five children plus the boarders, she employed Susan to do the heavy washing. Mum told me that she was very fond of Susan. She was always such a happy person and was still humming as she went about her work. I am privileged to be named after Susan and feel a certain kinship with the Aboriginal people so I was very disappointed when I encountered them on our trip to Cape York, that a lot of them looked at me with abject disgust, cast their eyes downward or turned their backs. Very few returned my smile. I feel sad that I didn’t learn anything about the Aboriginal people at school. While researching material for “The Reluctant Camper Goes to Cape York” I have learnt a lot about what happened to them after the arrival of Captain Cook, and afterwards the first settlers, who took over Aboriginal land, shunting them off, not realising that it was their land, because they didn’t put up any fences. During my whole time at school I had only learnt a few basic facts about Australian history. We were even given a bum steer about the first explorer to discover Australia. We were taught that it was Dirk Hartogg who landed on the coast of Western Australia in 1616. When in fact he was the second arrival. Another Dutch Explorer Willem Janszoon had beaten him to the punch in February 1606 when he landed on the western side of Cape York Peninsula. During my research I also discovered that our Australian history is absolutely fabulous, full of wonderful characters and amazing exploits including Captain Cook’s voyage of discovery up the eastern coast of Australia, his initial interactions with the Aboriginal people, the decision to send convicts here, the terrible treatment by the government officials, the police and early settlers of the Aboriginal people, the missionaries endeavouring to convert them, the brave explorers albeit sometimes foolhardy, not to mention the hardship underwent by the early settlers themselves.



Raised eyebrows and foreheads creased in consternation greeted me when I divulged that my husband, Markus and I, planned to go camping on our next holiday.  My friends and family are only too aware of my predilection for comfort.


People who didn’t know me so well either assured me that I would absolutely love it or hate it, depending on their own experience.

Camping, tents, camper trailers and caravans are not words which have ever existed in my vocabulary.  However, it has always been my husband, Markus’s dream to travel around Australia when we retired.  I did not want to be the one to thwart him.  I know how frustrating it can be to want to achieve something and having everyone “agin” me. And Markus did heroically put up with me writing a book about a love affair with another man for ten years.

Marriage, I’ve found, is always a matter of compromise.

Markus researched 4 wheel vehicles for a few years before deciding on a VW Toureg. I bought him what he said was the best Christmas present ever – a Weekend 4WD Driver Train Course with Vic Widman. Fortunately I didn’t have to go.

Markus then began researching what kind of camping equipment would be best.  Not tents fortunately – they’re too much like hard work to put up and down at our age. I have also heard tales of leaking tents and flash floods sweeping through campgrounds in the middle of the night taking tents with them.  We also didn’t fancy towing a huge“you can have it all wherever you go” type Winnebago on the back of the car.

Caravan Parks full of people didn’t appeal to either of us.  We planned to go off road into the National Parks so we needed something that would accommodate this.

We drove over to Silverwater towards the end of our summer holiday and checked out the T-Van which Markus had decided was “It”.  It looked sleek from the outside which is important to Markus. It appeased his design background.  It had off road capability and from what I could see it looked okay.  Not that I could talk with any experience.  This was only the second time I had been near any camping equipment and the first time I do not want to remember.

At least both the sleeping area and the annex were off the ground.

Fortunately we were able to hire before we bought so we put down our deposit on the spot to rent it from 26th April to May 10th.  I was hoping that he wouldn’t like camping and would forget about his dream of travelling around Australia in a campervan.

The t-van proved a disaster.  I was so glad we only rented and didn’t buy it.            I couldn’t sit up in bed. To get in and out of the bed I had to wriggle back and forth like a snake.  On several occasions I forgot about this and sat up, hitting my head on the roof usually during the middle of the night. On the last occasion I burst into tears. Tears were prevalent during that first camping experience. I hated every minute and insisted on staying in a motel every couple of days. I especially didn’t like communal bathrooms and in particular having to wear thongs in the shower. Cooking  outside on a gas ring proved a nightmare.  Until we cooked outside, I was completely unaware of the existence of the diverse number of insects, flies, bugs and moths which existed in Australia.  It seemed that most of them presented themselves at our campsite when dinner was being cooked and/or eaten.  The another annoying feature of the t-van was that the inside area was only as big as a telephone box.  There was very little area to sit in if it was raining, cold or windy.

I sincerely hoped that this exercise would put Markus off the whole idea. But he was not to be deterred.  Next, he insisted we attend the annual camping and caravan shows to look at what was available. I hated every minute of it this time too.  Crowds are not my thing and the Camping and Caravan show was packed. I could not even console myself with a decent lunch as the food they served was atrocious.

Markus finally in 2006 came up with the Kimberley Karavan.  It only takes a couple of minutes to set up.  I can sit up in bed.  There is also table with two benches either side.  There is a microwave and a cooktop inside.  It also has air-conditioning and a toilet with a shower over it.

There are negatives. The main one is that I am a clothesaholic and there is only one average sized drawer for my clothes.

I’ve had to make a lot of adjustments and adaptions to be able to go camping without being a complete party pooper, which you will read about in my upcoming book “The Reluctant Camper”.



George Blue – a special man


It is now over 50 years since George Blue died but some people you never forget.  He was one of those special people in my life. He was only 44.

I met him when we were billeted with him and his wife Joan during the tennis tournament at Sutton in Surrey in 1971.  I can clearly remember him greeting us at the door loudly.  He had been a Sargeant Major in India which wasn’t hard to imagine.  George was nothing to write home about in the looks department.  He was short and portly.  He was mostly bald with a big mole in the middle of his head.  But we had an instant rapport.

George and Joan had a beautiful home. Neither of them had come from wealthy families so they treasured every part of it.  To say the least it was immaculate both inside and out.

Joan and her cleaning lady, Hilda spent their days cleaning it lovingly particularly a whole lot of brass which was in the entrance portico. She was a very heavy smoker and used to have several ashtrays positioned in various places with a cigarette burning in them while she went about her work.

George owned butcher shops – 7 of them including one in Paris.  He would be up at the crack of dawn to go to the markets each day to buy the meat and would be still sitting at the dinner table in the early hours of the morning, sometimes nodding of to sleep.  One could hardly blame him after such an early start.

The food and wine at their place was top notch but the lifestyle we lead whenever we stayed at the Blues was probably not ideal for up and coming tennis players.