An Avalanche Of Thirsty Punters

by Jac Dowling

On entering the hallowed and welcoming portals of our library last Friday, I had a down the rabbithole moment thinking I’d come to entirely the wrong place and looked around for the Mad Hatter’s table, the dormouse and White Rabbit. None of whom was present because the cacophony of happy human voices, clashing teaspoons and whooshing tea leaves was The Bhuki Cafe: open again after a month’s break. And would, in any case, have sent any self-respecting rabbit zooming off in search of a friendly hole.

The sound of laughter and chat pitched molto molto vivace interspersed with the odd rumbling baritone of a spouse (plural – spice) wanting attention, countered by a strong coloratura carolling in vain for her ‘almost organic’ spinach, the last bunches just sold: and the sea of wagging, laughing heads brought such happiness to me in that moment. Like two large families coming together in a tectonic shift of joy and pleasure . The Friends of The Library were once again weer op pad.

We’re actually pretty much gender correct. Everyone’s welcome to our Friday coffee mornings and our Bhuki Boys tea team launched itself with sartorial aplomb and mounds of excellent bakes and makes, late last year.

Come to think of it, they probably fit the pluralist Spice category quite well, and give their fairer counterparts serious competition. In fact, I know of at least two Spice who make exceptional sandwiches for their nearest and dearest on ladies’ days. One retired spouse declares himself under new management and has the cleanest hands in the Overstrand due to his willingness and dexterity as a plongeur . Overseen by guess who – his spouse, of course! And, omitting the dreaded ‘help’ word, there’s generally a fair presence of Spice each week who catch up with their mates, cricket (not at the moment perhaps), while keeping an eye out for anything heavy that needs lifting, or moving. On the flip side, the Spices’ Spouses are able to cast an eye across the tables from their position of power behind the teapots and keep control with their beady eyes. In fact, we’re considering renting the lifesavers’ highchair in the offseason, and installing Queen Teapot to conduct affairs from aloft, while keeping things moving!

Let’s not forget the children. Each week various small and medium sized little members are brought in with their books and allowed to choose whatever they like to eat and, if their hands are clean and remain so, books may, for once, be read at table.

The Bhuki – A Happy Place To Be.



Grammatical Addendum: One Mouse = two Mice therefore One Spouse must = two Spice

Picture from


Yoga, just do it

I got dragged to my first yoga class about 10 years ago. It was 6am and I was ‘helping’ a friend through some troubled times. She thought yoga may be the answer. The instructor was Phil at Virgin Active. I laughed my way into the day and fell in love with yoga.

I still have no idea which pose is an Asanas, although I do know the downward dog and I have never aspired to conquering the Sirsasana (headstand). But I recently joined a class with Nikki a lovely yogi who dabs us with essential oils during the class. She says things like, ‘if you can’t do this, smile and do this instead’. It’s rejuvenating and invigorating. It’s hard not to be fabulous when you’re feeling bendy and twisty. (I’ve learned to avoid the mirror, because I’m not half as bendy or twisty as I think I am!)

Yoga is for granola types. Yoga is for the spiritually aware. Yoga is a select club. Wrong, wrong and wrong again. I’m not good with snobbery. I’m never going to be a guru. I like meat and wine and  …

There’s a ‘Bad Yogi’ on Facebook, who posts pictures of herself contorted on the streets of Nice, holding a large glass of red wine. She inspires me too.

So, if you’ve never tried it before I dare you to ease up on the cardio and burn slowly in a yoga class. It’s much more fun than it sounds. And, now that I’m full of creative energy I’m going to get off the computer and put it to good use.

Looking Forward, Looking Back – the Two Faces of Janus

By Susan Roberts

Like many people, I’ve been reflecting on the past year and looking forward to the new one. My long ago classical education makes me think of the ancient Roman god Janus, keeper of doors and gates. He has two faces, one looking forward and one looking back.

To be honest, I’m glad that 2015 is over. I didn’t enjoy the first half of it much because I was sorting, packing and leaving the country of my birth. Saying goodbye to friends is never easy. The second half of the year was a complete change for me, suddenly surrounded by family I had been missing for several years.

Yet it still took me half a year to adapt. Why did I spend so long finding my feet?

Gradually it sank in that the big move I had just done was no ordinary occurrence, but a life changer. Most people in the world don’t do this type of thing, and those who do, rarely do it more than once in their lifetimes. I certainly hope I never have to make such a change again. The enormity of it almost overwhelmed me, but the excitement of actually embarking on such a journey won out in the end.


I’m not sorry for the change itself, but I am sorry that it took me so long to relax into the adventure of adapting to my new way of life. I’m sorry that I stupidly didn’t think it would take so long, so I didn’t prepare myself mentally for that. Consequently, I wasted a lot of time in my first few months in Australia, but instead of feeling guilty about it, I have decided to see it as a necessary break for recharging the batteries that ran down. A time of recovery for the sleep and body weight I had lost. A deep breath to acknowledge the gratitude I feel for this chance to start afresh.

2015 is over now and we’re into a brand new year.

Some bloggers use one word to describe what their experience of 2015 was like, and another word to describe what they hope their 2016 will bring. I’m not sure I can squash the whole of 2015 into one word, so in keeping with Janus and his two faces, I’ve got two words: one for each face.

Looking back on the first half of 2015: Upheaval.

Looking forward in the second half of 2015: Recovery.

What are my two words for 2016? I’ve done enough looking back, but the past forms who we are, so one face of Janus is now looking inside to focus on what I have brought with me. I have the chance to take what I have learned and gained from all that has gone before, and use it.

Since I intend to throw everything I have into focusing on my new life in general and my writing in particular, my inner word for 2016 is: Focus.

And in the spirit of looking forward to the brighter future I am hoping for, my second word is: Hope.


How about you? What was the biggest thing you did in 2015? What would you do over if you had the chance? What are you most looking forward to in the New Year?

Here’s wishing you all a joyful year in 2016!


By Jac Dowling

Perhaps it’s the great heat which lowers my biological clock and dulls the senses. Lassitude and a total unwillingness to move more than a whisker sent me on a retro trip to cooler climes, brain nudged up a notch and I decided to carve up an old piece, making no excuse for use of adverbs, adjectives and the like because . . . this is how it was.

‘Why Iceland?’ our friends asked. ‘It’s so far away.’

And it is. Right at the top of the world. Remote, dramatically wildly magnificent.

Which is precisely why we chose it as our destination. After all, hadn’t master adventurer Riaan Manser and rookie Dan Skinstad just circumnavigated Iceland, on a kayak, against all odds? And they saw lots of puffins…and lots of water. It seemed a good choice.

The sea was flat, milky green. Mountains echoed with the sound of rushing waterfalls which hovered and fell in drifts of spume to the ledges below. Gliding through a fjord in the early dawn, cliffs on either side of the ship catching stray skeins of first light, a tiny figure appeared standing by a tiny tent, orange and solitary. Beside it, on the lava, a kayak.

Late summer throbbed and hummed all around as our ship nudged the harbour wall, shuddered gently, and was still. Iceland, at last, with Ìsafjarđardjúp bay stretching out calm, silken and misty before us. Fingers of timid sunlight teased aside ragged clouds, making holes through which it peeped, washing the land in dawn pastels, pushing lingering shadows into corners and breathing a gauze of blue across the sky.

The weather was perfect. Boats glided over craggy inlets gnawed into shorelines over millions of years in this isolated part of Iceland, the Vestfirđir peninsula- West Fjords, northwest Iceland, edge of the Arctic.

Across the bay towering mountains and volcanos shouldered into the light. Snowfields gleamed in hollows and seals flopped their way across pebbly beaches, somnolent and fat. Behind the town, waterfalls cascaded down mountainsides, the sibilence of their fall echoing from the crags. The sky was alive with seabirds wheeling, screeching as we boarded our craft in the small fishing harbour and set sail for the magic of Vigur Island.

A thirty minute boat trip took us to Vigur, home to the last windmill in Iceland, the smallest post office in Europe, and thousands of sea birds. It’s an enchanted place; the little grey wooden windmill perched on a hillock, looking for all the world like a character from The Wizard of Oz, toothless mouth agape in a dozy yawn, little eyes watching, expectantly. Built two hundred years ago, it last ground corn in 1915. A great peace lay over the island; sea-polished pebbles lined the shore in water so clear it seemed to blend into infinity. Delicate strands of seaweed, amber, indigo and rust floated gently on the tide and everywhere the calls and cries of birds filled the pockets of silence and beckoned us on.

Clutching white flags on sticks, our protection against dive-bombing arctic terns, we hiked along the coastal path of the tiny 2km x 400m island. Hundreds of puffins bobbed like dumpy barrels in evening dress, on the calm water. Ruminating calves lay in lush pasture, everything washed in the purity of the air. A farming family has lived here for generations, protecting, nurturing the birds and environment; harvesting down from the abandoned eiderduck nests after the birds have flown.

In the past, sheep were transported to the mainland each May in a traditional two hundred year old eight-oared wooden boat, to graze in rich foothill pastures. The round-up in September brought the hills alive with raucous sheep-gathering yells, and much running up and down steep slopes, sheep-finding, until the flock was safely returned to the island. The boat remains, perfectly preserved, the sheep have moved on.

It didn’t take long for the terns to attack. Fearless, they came at us like Stukas, screaming and wheeling, diving at heads, camera lenses and hats – a scene straight from Hitchcock. The flags were pretty useful as they provided a target above head height for the cruel, stabbing blood-red beaks and, with vigorous arm flailing and flag waving, we managed to pass through their breeding colony more or less unscathed.

Summer flowers starred the grass; buttercups ankle deep, wild geranium and sea thrift. Tiny mottled fledgelings waited expectantly under grassy tussocks for their next meal; we trod carefully, as speckled eggs, well camouflaged, covered ground riddled with puffin burrows. Coppery lichened rock stacks provided platforms from which puffins launched themselves into rapid dives, emerged with beaks full of sand eels. Ricocheting off the rocks, they missiled back to their burrows, delivered the goods to hungry pufflings, and returned for yet another exhausting display of frantic flapping and appalling aerodynamics. Yet they are possibly one of the few bird species that walk, fly and swim – and form part of the national cuisine.

‘One for a lady, two for a gentleman,’ preferably served with wild berry sauce.

There are approximately ten million of these little sea clowns in Iceland, they mate for life and produce one egg each year. Their brilliantly coloured red, blue and yellow beaks can hold at least twelve sand eels at each dive; the record being sixty two. And all this to feed one puffling which is eventually left food-less for a week, scrambles out of the burrow and starts the whole process of fishing all over again. Puffins use their beaks as picks and their feet as shovels during their burrowing and, being old fashioned in their personal habits, the male makes gifts of grass and feathers to the female to line her nest. Any subterranean growls during this process are strictly puffin based and not incipient volcanic eruptions.

The short summer was almost over. Scents of late pasture, wild flowers and sea lulled our senses as the early Icelandic Fall cast its spell in the tiny island. Bird cries filled the sky, whirling spirals of gulls, auks, puffins and guillemots fiercely protecting their breeding grounds. Soon they would launch their fledgelings and head south. Which is what we did, leaving this puffin paradise with memories and images which will remain with us forever.