Tagged: family

2017 Resolution: Don’t be so polite

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Lose weight. Work less. Be kinder to my family. Listen more. Take time to smell the roses. Enjoy sunrises. Read more. Exercise.

If 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that freedom of speech is more important than ever. It’s taught me that there’s people from both sides of the political spectrum that prefer to use insults and smear to respond to things that cross their sensibilities (or insensibilities!). I’ve learned that there’s a huge movement against free thinking. There seems to be people, ideologies and movements that want to police your very thoughts and closely held beliefs.

2016 has taught me that there are people that are very well prepared to label uncomfortable facts as an ‘ism’ or a ‘phobia’. 2016 has taught me that there are some people who’s default response to my beliefs, thoughts or ideology is to call me all manner of things, without actually asking, engaging or seeking to find out the why of these beliefs.

I’ve found that there’s a large swathe of people, like myself, who for too long have been polite. Perfectly rational, normal people who for too long have bitten their tongue, either publically or privately. People that have literally been too scared to voice conservative or libertarian viewpoints. Kind, hard working, compassionate people who have been scared to speak out on important issues because any dissenting view gets dubbed as racist, intolerant, bigoted, nationalist, unkind or uncaring.

2016 has taught me that there are people who passionately argue ‘against the rich’, but never say how much of their own personal income or assets should be ‘redistributed’.

2016 has taught me that there are Christians who worship a Jesus who’s big on acceptance but silent on all that horrible sin stuff, mute on repentance and uncomfortable with a Sovereign Lord.

2016 has taught me that there’s a stack of people who resent being told what to do. That there seems to be a class of people who make decisions based on good intentions, rather that good outcomes. It’s taught me that even within a so called Liberal party, there are people who want to placate and pander to illiberal policies and outcomes.

So if 2016 has taught me anything, it’s that my opinion is worth just as much as anyone elses. It’s taught me that I’ve still got a voice, and I’m still going to use it. It’s reminded me that freedom of speech, freedom of thought and liberty are more important than ever. It’s reminded me that I will not be told what to think, or say, and I’m not going to be silent.

So my resolution for 2017 is to remove the shackles of politeness and timid silence. I don’t expect to ruffle any feathers or change anyone’s opinion. I’m not looking to cause a stir or be unkind. I’m just resolving in 2017 to exercise my voice. It’s probably the only exercise I’ll do!

 

 

Lamenting a culture that never was

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I was privileged to go to a Samoan wedding last night. It was the first Samoan wedding I’ve been to. Actually, it was just the wedding reception, but there was enough Samoan to know it was almost exclusively a Samoan wedding. I’ve been to other cultural weddings in the past. I’ve been to a Macedonian wedding, an Indian wedding and plenty of Aussie weddings. Incidentally, do you know the difference between an Aussie wedding and an Aussie funeral? One less drunk.

Jokes aside, it was a beautiful reception. The groom was a couple of years younger than me, and is currently a professional rugby league player. To be honest, no-one really mentioned the bride, as lovely as she was.

Now, I don’t know how indicative this reception was of Samoan wedding receptions, but there were many things that the MC would preface much of the proceedings by saying ‘in Samoan culture’. For example, he’d say ‘in Samoan culture, we always invite the priest and his wife to eat first’, or ‘in Samoan culture, we share dances and songs at gatherings like this’. Indeed, there was much singing, dancing, prayers and formalities. Most of the reception, save for a few speeches, was done in Samoan. One of the grooms family members was a tribal chief, who gave a very ostentatious speech in Tongan. The women all gave dances, the men gave dances, they all gave dances. At various times during the evening, they broke out into beautiful Samoan songs – many of which I recongnised as old church hymns, except in Samoan. It was truly a beautiful experience, and it gives me goosebumps even now thinking about it. Regardless of your views on faith, there is something totally inspiring about spontaneous hymns in a beautiful language.

Just over a year ago, I was in Fiji. Going there, it weighed heavy on my mind the disparity between my Western wealth and the humble, austere living of the Fijians. Anyone who has been to Fiji will know what I’m talking about. How do I reconcile having a plate of food, served by a beautiful Fijian man or woman, who goes home to a simple home, perhaps without even electricity. It wasn’t until I visited a nearby village and partook in a kava ceremony that it made sense – how the Fijians could live like this – really in what we would describe as poverty.

During this ceremony, the village elders described how they were deliberate in preserving their culture. How they were committed to seeing their culture and their way of life preserved and passed onto their children, and their children’s children. They were describing their love of their culture. So we sat there, on the floor of this wall-less shelter listening to the elders, sipping kava, being mesmerised by this simple way of life. It wasn’t until that moment that I realised that even though there was a huge disparity – and I mean huge – between my shallow wealth and the depth of their culture that I wondered who was missing out.

I can’t help wonder, now, what is my culture. Even as a fairly conservative kinda guy, I don’t have any real rituals, customs or rites. I had no formal initiation into manhood. I have a personal faith, but to say the predominant culture I find myself is in anyway religious would be incorrect. I have no tribe with a chief, I have no songs of my forefathers, even at significant events (weddings, funerals etc), to say there are cultural expectations would be a stretch of the imagination. I have no special language to pass onto my son or daughter, no lore nor rites. I pray I will train them up in the ways of the Lord, and this is one inheritance I am very proud to implore them to find their faith in Him.

So, we – I – have very little in the way of culture. What do we have? I have been searching for the answer. What have we found our new culture? I look back to the social revolutions of the 60’s, where there was a very clear rebellion against the conservative ways of the 50’s. It is very easy to see the difference this rebellion, if you want to call it that, had on our Western society. But even now, if one was to rebel, what culture would they be rebelling against? If I was to tell my culture to ‘stick it’, so to speak, what would I actually be rebelling against, for the cultural rules and expectations placed on me are so minimal.

In the years proceeding 1990, Latvia, along with many other former Soviet republics regained independence after being occupied, bound by the evil yolk of communism. During those oppressive years,  the Communists imposed their might on the Latvians, forbidding the language, the culture, the stories, the lore. In the three decades since independence, Latvia, as well as her sister states Lithuania and Estonia have been deliberate in nurturing their culture, their language and traditions. Jay Nordlinger writes that for many Lativans returning to Latvia after Communism it has been both a physical and spiritual experience. Many Jews similarly express similar sentiments when they return to Israel.

I love capitalism, and firmly believe ethical capitalism (I know some friends will scoff at that term!) does much more benefit than controlled economies. What capitalism can’t do, what it cant buy or produce though is connection, culture and being. I wonder, if, here in ‘the West’, we have traded culture, connection and a sense of being for a never-satisfied need for ‘things’ and ‘stuff’. I wonder.

Culture, in the traditional sense of the word, doesn’t spring up overnight, but something I think needs to be practiced daily. One only needs to look at the Jews to see how, especially for observant Jews, their culture is a daily practice. It’s a culture that’s sustained them through over 3500 of human existence, through being scattered amongst the earth, through Pogroms and Holocausts and ever present promises of destruction.

So I ask – do you come from a strong culture? How do you see culture in terms of identity? Is it a culture you wish to impart into your children? Do you find comfort in the company of ‘your own’?

You may think this blog is somewhat somber, and perhaps it is. I guess I’m just missing this idea of culture, this idea of belonging to something bigger than myself. Something that perhaps compliments my faith, and something bigger to shepherd my children in as I guide them through the wilds to maturity. I’m interested. Tell me your thoughts.

 

Picture credit from http://www.qiane.co.nz/anele-nigel-le-lagoto-resort-savaii-destination-wedding/

Your best self vs your real self

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They say marriage is a lifetime of getting used to someone. Without a doubt, any long term relationship is a rollercoaster. You get the good, the bad, the ugly. Sometimes you can get all of that in the space of an hour!

You’ve probably noticed your slightly (or very!) different, depending on who your with. Some people are quiet and industrious at work, but put them in a grandstand at the football and they are boisterous and uncouth! Some people are relaxed everywhere, except behind the wheel of a car. You probably have variations on who you are, depending on the context of the situation.

Another way of looking at this is do you give your partner what’s right, or what’s left. For example, do you find yourself planning your life on how you can invest in your partner, or, do you find yourself giving them the scraps of your energy after everyone else has had a piece of you?

There’s an interesting dynamic though, in marriage. It’s the dynamic, or tension between being your real self, and being your best self. It’s the tension between doing what’s real to you, and doing what’s best for your relationship. It’s an interesting, and difficult tension.

It’s the tension that you get after you and your partner have had really huge weeks, and you want to sit quietly and they want to talk through the week. Do you be your true self, or your best self for your partner?

It’s the tension in silly things – leaving the toilet seat up because you don’t care what way it goes, and putting it down because your partner likes it down and you want to be your best for them.

It’s the tension between just wanting to go to sleep, because that’s what you want, or choosing to open up physically to your partner because you want to give your best to your partner.

It’s the tension between listening enough to hear the key points, or giving your whole attention to your partner.

I think this tension manifests itself in many things.

So what is the answer? I used the picture above because I’ve met some people who seem to think that love is a licence for bad behavior. They seem to use the ‘if you can’t love me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best’ mentality to really just be selfish. Inversely, I’ve met other people who do literally everything they can to support their partner. It might be in the way they put their life on hold to support their partners career, or family, a project or lifestyle.

Is there a point where you give up being your real self, and give your best self, for the sake of the relationship? What about vice versa?

You can only every control yourself, your actions and emotions, so this isn’t about changing your partner. What I’m asking is how have you managed that tension between giving your best self to your partner, and being your real self? Can the two ‘selves’ exist? Can you be real, but still give the best of yourself to your partner? I’m curious, let me know.

I’m proud of my privilege

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Danny was the odd kid out in class. He had ADD, he couldn’t play sport to save his life, his mother had recently shacked up with a new man. Being the eldest, he took up the mantle of looking out for his younger brothers.

Steve was an outsider. He was from a non-English speaking background, didn’t have his dad around growing up and both wrestled and accepted his mothers’ view on faith.

Grant changed schools a bit. By the time he finished school, he’d been to 5 schools across two states. Sure, he’d met some mates, some good mates, but never really felt popular.

I’ll tell you about Danny, Steve and Grant. They are all me. Let me turn the story around, and change the perspective:

I grew up in the confines of my parents loving marriage, that also produced my two amazing brothers. My dad went through a trial or two – he was laid off in the coal mines and managed to carve out a landscaping business to support his wife and boys. Sadly, he contracted cancer and was dead just after his 33rd birthday.

I started school at the local state school. My mother re-married a man who I am proud know, a man that supported us the best way he could (and did a solid job of it), a man who always followed the call of his very strong convictions, even when they were unpopular.

My parents (meaning my mum and step-dad) somehow managed to send me to one of the best schools in the district. I don’t know how they did it, but I know it would have been a sacrifice for them. It was there that I was diagnosed with ADD, and despite my best efforts, was never really one of the sporty boys. I can’t say why I moved schools after that, but I did, and was equally happy in all of them. I found a few good mates (the benefits of being an introvert), and some of them I am proud to still call mates decades later (geeze, I’m showing my age!).

Why do I tell you these stories?

I’ve noticed a creeping word in our lexicon. Privilege. You see it more in America, but it’s creeping up here.

Privilege. What is it? It’s a benefit you derive really by the luck of the draw of your birth.

Privilege. It’s also becoming an insult, a put down, a slur. It creeps into conversations as a shut down or shut out. For example, someone like me (who happens to be Anglo-Saxon, straight and Christian) can’t have an idea, opinion or suggestion on someone’s life or experience that is different to mine. For example, I can’t say ‘he got the job because he worked hard for it’ because that would mean I am privileged and supporting a system that uplifts men (and by implication, pushes down people who aren’t men).

This idea of privilege manifests itself in other ways. You may have heard examples of some teachers saying parents shouldn’t read to their children at night, because this is promoting privilege (because some children don’t get read to at night, and this reinforces an unfair system).

Essentially, the idea of ‘privilege’ gets used to say that all my success in life is because I was born into a system that fully supports me and will do whatever it can to ensure I succeed. It also says that people who are different than me (for example, minorities) are born into a system that actively discriminates against them, and will do whatever it can to keep them down.

It says I got the job, because I’m a white, straight man. It says I got the promotion for the same reason. It says I don’t get pulled up by the police because I don’t have coloured skin. It says I don’t get stopped at the airport for bag checks because I don’t look like a terrorist.

Some people use the phrase ‘you got that (whatever) because of your privilege’. For the people that say that, here’s what I think.

My privilege (and make no mistake, I’ve been privileged with plenty) isn’t a ticket to an easy life. It’s a set of expectations. A set of expectations whose results yield rich dividends. A set of expectations that is open to everyone. Everyone.

Expectations?

My privilege expects me to work. There’s no two ways about it. My privilege expects I get up every day, dress appropriately and work.

My privilege expects me to be present in my family. It expects me to be a husband and father who is loving, present, who leads with integrity.

My privilege expects me to look after my family. It expects me to work out problems in my family with my family. It expects me to make future plans, to discipline my children in love, to listen to my wife.

My privilege expects me to show my peers, colleagues and managers with respect. It expects me to respect the delegations and decisions my workplace entrusts to me. It expects me to be a good steward of the resources entrusted to me.

My privilege expects me to respect those who have delegated authority. It expects me to comply with lawful directions in a respectful and honest way. My privilege expects me to obey the road rules. It expects me to be a participative citizen, interested in my community, my state and my nation.

My privilege expects me to be respectful to my fellow citizens. It expects me to listen to differing points of view, ideologies, cultures and ideals, even when I find them offensive.

My privilege expects me to have consequences for not meeting my expectations. Very real, very tangible consequences.

I mentioned the story of Danny, Steve and Grant above. Danny, Steve and Grant could have all been victims of circumstances. Medicated, minorities, single-parent households, austere upbringings, but I’m not a victim.

I’ve been blessed with privilege, but I’ve been blessed with something much more onerous. Expectations. Expectations that I meet and don’t meet every day of my life. Expectations I put on myself, expectations others put on me.

From time to time, you’ll hear people saying you (or me) have gotten an easy life because of our privilege. You’ll hear this loud and clear with ‘victim’ groups who both act like all their problems are someone elses fault (read: yours) and they have no agency in changing their lives.

I’ve benefitted from my privilege, but here’s the rub. If I start failing in my expectations, that privilege is going to evaporate, and quickly. Stop turning put at my job? No amount of privilege will keep me employed. Tune out to my family? Eventually they’ll get the picture that I want to be elsewhere, and they will probably make the first move. Start breaking the road rules, or not complying with the various laws that govern my life? You can bet your bottom dollar that before too long, no amount of privilege will keep me on the right side of the law.

Privilege only works because the privileged keep on practicing self-discipline, and keep meeting the expectations they have for themselves – good expectations, but expectations never the less.

The next time someone accuses, or even casually mentions that you’re privileged, ask them what expectations they put on themselves to better their life. Ask what responsibilities they are taking on board – not who’s supporting them, not who’s keeping them down, but what disciplines they are putting in their life, then tell them to stop practicing privilege.

 

My son has started playing AFL

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My son has just started playing AFL. For the un-initiated, it’s Australian Football, and it’s a magnificent, athletic sport.

Many moons ago, I would regularly go and watch the Brisbane Lions, back when they used to do things like win matches and premierships. The seats we had were next to the ‘general admission’ area, where the visiting team supporters would often sit. A half-metre wide step would separate ‘us’ from ‘them’. Richmond supporters aside, there was always a healthy rivalry. We’d kick a goal, we’d cheer. They’d kick a goal, they’d cheer. The umpire blew his whistle, we’d all boo. After the game, there’d be good-natured ribbing from the winners to the losers. We’d pack our bags, furl our flags and make our way back to the bus.

Do you know what I loved about going to the football? No, it wasn’t the overpriced beer or the warmish hotdogs. It was, believe it or not, watching the football. Watching these young men band together, play together, and hopefully, win together. Brisbane had a collection of players from all over the nation, and from a stack of backgrounds. Queenslanders, Victorians, Western Australians. Whiteys, darkies and everything in between.

One thing I’ve noticed about sport, and Australian sport in general, is that once you put on the team colours, you’re not an individual anymore. You’re part of the team. The club. The family. Anyone who has been to a State of Origin match would know that feeling of donning the blue or maroon, and sitting in a stadium of 50000 likeminded punters. It’s a feeling that you’re part of something much, much bigger than yourself.

I mentioned at the start of this blog that my son has started playing AFL. Now, my particular branch of the Vidins family tree hasn’t been blessed with sporting prowess, so I really hope he gets some of his mother’s athletic ability. I’ll practice hand passes, kicks and catches with him, but I know my ability to teach him is limited.

I hope that as he learns this sport, he learns the physical aspects of the game. I hope he learns to run and hand pass and kick and catch. I hope he learns the field, his team and his coaches instruction.

I hope he learns teamwork, esprit de corps, winning graciously and losing with dignity. I hope he learns fair play, to keep his chin up when he makes a mistake and to be self controlled when the chips are down. I hope he learns that his team is only as strong as he is, and he is only as strong as his team. I hope he learns his strengths, and the strengths of his peers. I hope he learns that just because someone is faster, fitter or stronger than him, it doesn’t detract from his skills or talents. I hope he learns that just because he is faster, fitter or stronger than some of his peers, it doesn’t make him intrinsically better, or them less.

Here’s what I hope he doesn’t learn though. I hope he doesn’t learn that some people need special recognition because of an idea, a belief or a characteristic they hold, are or subscribe to. I hope he doesn’t learn that the different kid in the team needs to be treated differently because he likes boys, or his family pray to a different god, or his skin isn’t the same as the rest of the guys. I hope he sees the game of footy for what it is – a game, and enjoyable pastime, an opportunity to mix it up with the boys on an even field, where teamwork, dedication, skills, ability and hard work are rewarded and upheld.

You may know what I’m eluding to here. The AFL recently held a ‘pride game’ between Sydney and St Kilda. Players wore rainbow-inspired team colours, and umpires had rainbow inspired flags. The idea, from what I could see, was to make GLBTI people feel more welcome and included in the game.

Interestingly, and inversely, the ALF also have diversity traineeships, specifically for young Muslims to gain workplace skills in administration within the AFL. Side fact, did you know sodomy is illegal in every Islamic country, with most attaching the death penalty to such convictions?

My son has recently started playing AFL. I hope he learns to treat his team, and the individuals in his team, regardless of their background, ideals, identity or colour with respect and dignity. I hope he treats opposing teams with determination, tenacity and with pride, knowing he has executed an honest game plan, and with honest gameplay. I hope he learns to give everyone a go. To encourage his team mates to achieve their highest and to have the same high expectations across the team.

I hope my son learns that he can only control one person, and that’s himself. I hope he learns that he can be a positive influence on his team, that he plays his hardest, with honesty and integrity.

My son just started playing AFL. It could be worse. He could be playing soccer.

When was the last time you saw someone fighting in a tuxedo?

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You’re answer is probably the last 007 movie you watched!

I got the title of this blog from a news article. You can read it here. It talks of a teacher in America who, on Wednesdays, holds the ‘Gentleman’s Club’. On that Wednesday, he dresses the boys in shirts, ties and jackets. He teaches them things like how to shake hands, how to make eye contact, open doors and address adults. The take away quote from the article for me is this:
“I know a lot of them struggle because a lot of them don’t have men at home, so I just want them to grow up and think of the things that I teach them…A lot of my students perform well when they know someone cares about them”

A lot of them struggle because a lot of them don’t have men at home.

A lot of them struggle, because a lot of them don’t have men at home.

You can read the correlation between the outcomes for children who don’t have their biological father living at home. Do some reading for yourself, and investigate the family patterns of people who are incarcerated, have higher rates of illicit drug use or dependency, teenage pregnancy and mental illness. One of the strongest indicators for these is a child not having their biological dad living at home with their biological mother.

Sociologists and politicians, I’m sure, will have a lot to say about this, most of it claptrap. The solutions inevitably will focus around building a bureaucracy, programs, incentives, studies and commissions to support the drug dependent, the criminal, the mentally ill, the pregnant teenager.

Here’s what it comes down to for me however.

Self control. Specifically, a man displaying self control. This is probably one of the rare times feminists and I will agree, but for different reasons and different outcomes.

It begins with a man displaying self control around women. Around his girlfriend, the girl at the party, the girl down the road, the girl he sees every now and again. Self control that he doesn’t put himself in a situation where he could get her pregnant. Self control to stop way before that inevitable temptation starts, because honestly, once he gets that girl pregnant, his choices are limited, and his responsibilities increase. We know from the boys in the abovementioned story how much they suffer not having an active, committed, hands on dad at home.

It begins with the man who finds himself getting frustrated with his partner, and pushes her once. Then again. Then it’s a shove. Then it’s drinking, and another shove. Before he knows it, he’s lost control. He’s out of control, and the people who should be trusting in him for their safety and security fear him. His partner doesn’t know how long this good, or bad turn will last, and life is lived on eggshells. His daughter learns that this is how men are, his sons will have this destructive path imprinted on them. Because he lacked self control, his missus leaves, he’s involved with the courts, the police, the law. Who will teach his sons self control?

It starts with a promotion, and a payrise. It comes with a bit more prestige. A bit more entitlement. Maybe a business card, maybe a car. He finds he gets more fulfilment from work than his family, more adoration from the juniors than his wife, more respect from his peers than his kids. He finds himself surging in a tide of success, and his control at home diminishes. It becomes an annoyance. His influence at home becomes transactional, not relational. Who is there when his son needs loving guidance and firm direction? Who is there when his son loses his cool?

The path of a dedicated husband and father is, in my opinion, one of the hardest things to do. There is a delicate balance between just providing and influencing. There is an ongoing tension between taking the easy road, to loving guidance, to punitive discipline. There’s the unrelenting and oppressive lure of sexual temptation, available literally at the tap of your fingers. A man has access to instant credit. Gambling on his phone in real time. Endless entertainment on the computer or TV.

I started this article talking about the Wednesday Gentleman’s Club, and how one teacher influenced these precious boys just by meeting some BASIC needs – providing good clothing, teaching them to shake hands, teaching them to open a door. These are BASIC needs – needs these precious boys hadn’t received at home, because of an absent father. Because a man lacked self control, because he used a woman to gratify his own selfish desires, and now isn’t taking up the mantle of his responsibility.

The purpose of this article isn’t a critisism, it’s a challenge. It’s a challenge to all the dads and fathers out there. It’s a challenge to the single guys.  It’s a challenge to me. What is the Wednesday Gentleman’s Club in your life? Are you the one teaching your boys to dress like a man, talk like a man, shake hands, open doors address others with respect? Are you the one teaching your boys the enduring gift of self control? Are you practicing self control now, so you can teach it later to your sons?

I know you can’t be everything to your boys. I can’t be my son’s footy coach, on account that I can’t kick a footy to save my life. Here’s what I can do though. I can teach him to respect his coach. I can teach him to be a team player, to share the ball around, to win with grace and to lose with dignity.

Who will be teaching your sons about self control? Will it be you, or someone else. Will it be the boys in blue? A gang? A magistrate? Their teacher?

I firmly believe that as a society, we will be stronger when more men exercise self control.

 

Vidins in Dubbo :: Day Seven

Before you say it, yes, I didn’t blog about day six. That’s because most of the day was spend driving from Sydney to Port Macquarie. Because you’re all terribly interested, we stopped off to see my brother in law and his family for the night in Wauchope, a quaint little town inland a bit from Port.

The morning of day six was spent watching my nephew play soccer, so I found an excuse to pop into town to fetch some supplies for the drive back to Brisbane. I like Wauchope, it’s old rail yards and country feeling. Check out a few snaps.

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Wauchope Train Bridge

Day six, while spent mostly driving back to Brisbane, was a day of quiet contemplation, and if there’s two things I like, it’s quietness, and contemplation.

Over the last week, we’d cruised the nighttime peace of the Lockyer Valley. I’d taken on the foggy lofts of the Toowoomba Range, and the loneliness of the Gore Highway before dawn. We galloped across the western corridor of New South Wales, and I suspect if we’d come a day earlier, it would have been a picture of dry farmlands, aching for the rain that accompanied us on our drive.   We voyaged past towns of yore, sleepy villages and tired rural centers. Gently undulating mountains and now-green farmland greeted us for many hundreds of kilometers, then offset to the murderous roads of Sydney.

We’d basked in the joy of Sydney Harbour and enjoyed what people travel all over the world to experience. That crystal harbour, the vibrant city, the Opera House and the Bridge, all stunning snapshots of that magnificent city.

But now, as we pull out of ‘the doughnut’ at Port Macquarie, I look forward to the next six or so hundred kilometers to beautiful Brisbane.

You need to understand that pretty much from Coffs through to the Ballina is God’s country, and I don’t say that lightly. In the afternoon sun, this country is about as close to the heavens as one can get.

On the west, as the sun drizzles over the mountain you’ll see see cane farm nestled in the cradle of valleys. Rivers take the path of least resistance towards the sea, carving a curvy glass mirror through the lows of the countryside. Oyster leases peak out of the water and old couples, sipping coffee out of metallic cups look into it. Fortified bridges, like church spires guide the way from south to north, forcing even the most seasoned traveler to cover the break and marvel at the still rivers underneath. I’m reminded of my time doing disaster relief after ex-tropical cyclone Oswald, in a small farming valley of the Lockyer. Old farmers talked with reverence of the waters, which provided life, death, inspiration and fear, and a local to these parts knew only too well how these currently dulcet rivers turned to fists of rage during a ‘big wet’.

To the east, much of the same. Quiet towns, abandoned churches, picket fences and farmhouses held up by ivy. The sun casts long shadows and the cane seems to arch west, aching for the last warms of the winter sun as it ducks behind the western horizon.

We inch north and run parallel to the coast. From Nambucca, we see glimpses of the Pacific, and it continues to reveal itself little by little as we head up the coast. This freeway is built for speed, the country was formed for taking it easy, and part of me thinks it’s a shame that we see this part of the earth as an inconvenience to race past. , rather than enjoy its intricate beauty. Once we hit the Byron hinterland, it’s just over an hour to home, and just over an hour until life kicks back in to its usual gears.

I continue at 110, wishing I could spend a week exploring these Northern Rivers, but aching for my own shower, my own toilet and my own bed.

It’s been a fantastic week on many levels. I’ve learned a lot about myself, my family, this country. Like any travel, it opens doors, gives you this wunderlust, makes you want to leave, and makes you want to come home again.