How to travel with a hydrangea

I visited my dad and stepmother today. Seeing how lovely their garden is looking, I confessed to a little hydrangea envy. My stepmother promptly produced a shovel and insisted I dig out a small bush to take home. She then took a cutting from a second hydrangea to give me as well.

I’m spending tonight and tomorrow night in (different) hotels, and I’ve never transported hydrangeas before. They’re spending tonight in a bucket of water in the bathroom, but have a fairly long (and bumpy) car ride tomorrow before I can get them back into the bucket.

Umberto Eco once wrote an essay called ‘How to Travel with a Salmon.’ I’m hoping the hydrangea proves a more rewarding — and less expensive — travelling companion.

The Changing Seasons: February 2019

Still life with gym shoes, water bottle, towel, keys and muscle rub. Image: Su Leslie 2019 Still-life with gym shoes. Image: Su Leslie 2019

Ok, let’s just get it out of the way. I’ve joined a gym.

It wasn’t entirely by choice, but I finally sought help to manage my arthritic knee, and this is part of the programme.

I don’t like gyms. Even when I wasn’t middle-aged and overweight, I was still uncoordinated.

And philosophically …. people getting in their cars to drive to a brightly-lit, air-conditioned building full of expensive equipment designed to simulate the exercise humans evolved to get doing that thing called living? I know that’s simplistic; I am genuinely concerned about the environmental costs.

But it seems to be working. After just a few weeks, I have significantly better flexibility and strength.

So having more or less captured my month in one image, here are a few shots that haven’t made it into other posts.

About The Changing Seasons

The Changing Seasons is a monthly challenge where bloggers around the world share what’s been happening in their month.

If you would like to join in, here are the guidelines:

The Changing Seasons Version One (photographic):

  • Each month, post 5-20 photos in a gallery that you feel represent your month
  • Don’t use photos from your archive. Only new shots.
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so that others can find them

The Changing Seasons Version Two (you choose the format):

  • Each month, post a photo, recipe, painting, drawing, video, whatever that you feel says something about your month
  • Don’t use archive stuff. Only new material!
  • Tag your posts with #MonthlyPhotoChallenge and #TheChangingSeasons so others can find them.

If you do a ping-back to this post, I can update it with links to all of yours.

Please visit these amazing bloggers for their accounts of the month just gone:

Pauline at Living in Paradise

Joanne at My Life Lived Full

Tracy at Reflections of an Untidy Mind — this is divided between two posts; so make sure you see both Part 1 and Part 2.

Marilyn and Garry at Serendipity — Seeking intelligent life on Earth

Judy at lifelessons

Jude at Life at the Edge

Little Pieces of Me

Sarah at Art Expedition

Tish at Writer on the Edge

Gavin at Firehorseworld

Ju Lyn at All Things Bright and Beautiful

Vast reservoir

Sandy Bay, Northland, New Zealand. Image: Su Leslie 2019.

The sea is the vast reservoir of Nature. The globe began with sea, so to speak; and who knows if it will not end with it?” –  Jules Verne

Beyond the headland, the Pacific Ocean.

A summer day, when the sea is calm and the water clear, bodysurfers catch gentle waves and kids play in the shallows. On such a day it is easy to imagine that the vastness of the world’s largest ocean can absorb all the plastic and garbage and toxic marine-life-killing pollution we humans feed it, and that all our shit will somehow be absorbed and disappear.

Easy — and potentially fatal.

Posted to the weekly quotation-based challenge hosted by Debbie at Travel with Intent.

Postcards from Sydney #1

I’m indulging my love of art — sculpture in particular — with a visit to Sydney to see Sculpture by the Sea at Bondi.

This involved a five am start to catch my flight, which was surprisingly not full and I had a whole row of seats to stretch out in.

I’m staying in a new hotel, in a part of town I’ve never been to before. So far, so awesome.

One of the cool things about The Collectionist is that all the rooms are designed by local artists — and they are all different. The other cool thing is that you get to choose your room. I had a choice of three and picked The Santa Rosa Suite. I’ll give you a peep inside tomorrow.

I’m not sure if it’s a legacy of my recent cold, or a sign that I’m getting old, but the last time I came to Sculpture by the Sea three years ago, I headed straight from checking in to Bondi Beach and walked the sculpture trail to the end at Tamarama Beach (and then walked back).

Today, I felt too tired to face the 12km bus trip to Bondi, let alone a 3km (return) walk around the exhibition, so I’m saving my energy for tomorrow.

Instead I’ve been exploring the neighbourhood and back towards the CBD, where I found dinner at Fishbowl.

A note to all The Changing Seasons contributors.

I will update the blogroll with links to your posts whenever I am able to, but I may be a little slower than usual.

A farewell favourite


Rātana Church, Raetihi, North Island, NZ. Seen from the road en-route to Whanganui and worth the slight detour. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014

My dad is ill and I’m off to Whanganui to visit him tomorrow.

My journey will take me past this beautiful church in Raetihi. It’s a journey I make regularly, but I’ve only once managed to stop and photograph it.

Its slightly unusual design is characteristic of churches built for worshipers of the Rātana faith. The Rātana church was founded in 1925 by Tahupōtiki Wiremu Rātana, a Maori spiritual leader who also campaigned for social justice and racial equality.

The church, and the movement it forged, continue to play important political, social role and religious roles in New Zealand life. Annual celebrations of Rātana’s birth attract thousands of people (including the country’s politicians) to his home marae at Rātana Pā, just outside Whanganui.

I posted this photo originally to the Daily Post Photo Challenge |On the Way, on 31 May 2015. It seems fitting to post it again for this final challenge | favourites.

Daily Post Photo Challenge: “… a good day ain’t got no rain”

I have probably said it before, but I am a “glass half empty” person. In truth I usually feel that my glass is three-quarters empty — but that doesn’t make much sense as a pithy observation.

I have a profound capacity to see and dwell upon anything negative in a situation, even whilst those around me experience great joy. The best I can say about this is that I’ve gradually learned to keep my mouth shut (usually), so I don’t spoil others’ pleasure.

The American musician and comic Oscar Levant said that happiness isn’t something you experience, but something you remember. While I subscribe wholeheartedly to that view, I often struggle to even remember happiness, such is my Eeyore-like nature.

So my personal challenge for this week’s Daily Post’s Weekly Photo Challenge has been to bring together the things that make for a good day; those things that get me out of bed and willing to try on a happy face.

In choosing these images I am paying tribute to the scenes, moments, rituals, and above all people, whose presence contribute to a good day — if only I let myself see it.

The title for the post comes from Paul Simon’s Slip Slidin’ Away. I could be the woman, but am trying to choose not to be.

I know a woman
Became a wife
These are the very words she uses
To describe her life
She said a good day
Ain’t got no rain
She said a bad day’s when I lie in bed
And think of things that might have been
Slip slidin’ away
Slip slidin’ away
You know the nearer your destination
The more you’re slip slidin’ away

Paul Simon, Slip Slidin’ Away


The boy-child aged 8; punting on the Cam. Cambridge, England. Photo: Su Leslie, 2006

The boy-child aged 8; punting on the Cam. Cambridge, England. Photo: Su Leslie, 2006

I have to admit it; I’ve struggled with this week’s Daily Post Photo Challenge. How can I show what inspiration means to me when I am feeling so uninspired.

I don’t know if it’s the gloomy weather or the sense that my life is in limbo while we get ready to sell our house. Maybe it’s just the lack of challenging projects at the moment. Whatever the reason, nothing much seems to have got me out of my chair recently.

So the challenge was to work out what, in the big scheme of things, does motivate me and lift my spirits?

The answer basically is travel — and my kid.

Like most parents, I try to do the best I can for my child, and to be a positive role-model. A chronic avoid-er of conflict, I know that over the years I’ve gone into bat for him over issues that I’d probably have tried to ignore (and silently eaten myself up over) if they were just for me. I’ve not taken the path of least resistance because I want him to grow up knowing that you don’t have to blindly accept everything that happens to you — that you can shape your own destiny.

I’m inspired by his very existence to be the best person I can.

And then there’s travel. Even the smallest opportunity to be somewhere new, to see new sights, eat new foods … I’m in. Maybe that’s part of my current malaise; I have been at home too much lately.

So my contribution to the challenge isn’t the best photo I’ve ever taken, but it’s the shot that reminds me of the things I love (and actually I’m pretty fond of Cambridge too), and that get me out of bed in the morning.

You can see more bloggers’ Inspirations at the Daily Post.






On the way: Daily Post weekly photography challenge

Ratana Church, Raetihi, North Island, NZ. Seen from the road en-route to Whanganui and worth the detour. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014

Ratana Church, Raetihi, NZ. Seen in the distance, and worth the detour. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014

I love to travel.

I love travelling.

I love being away from home.

No matter how I phrase this, it doesn’t seem to come out right. I love being on holiday, away on business, or visiting friends and family. It not that I don’t like being at home; but there is something wonderful about spending time in new (or just different) places. Having said that, it has taken me a long time to actually enjoy travel itself.

As a kid, my brothers and I were piled into the back of the car and taken to our destination with as few stops as possible; the point was to “get there.” Later, when I began to travel as an adult it was often for work, and again the focus was on arriving. Even when I took leisure trips, I didn’t really understand that the journey itself can be savored. My first solo road trips were so ambitious, with such huge distances to cover each day, that I barely saw, let alone stopped to enjoy, the places I passed through.


A two-hour journey (each way) from Munich to Schloss Neuschwanstein gave our family plenty of time to enjoy the wonderful winter scenery  and each others company  — although my son isn’t looking to pleased to be in this shot. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Enjoying the scenery, train ride from Munich to Schloss Neuschwanstein. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Enjoying the scenery, train ride from Munich to Schloss Neuschwanstein. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

If I’m honest, I’ve lived most of my life that way; always so focused on the destination that I ignored the journey — and I’m not thinking only of physical travel.

Recently, things have changed. I’m not sure when or how — it has been slow and subtle — but sometime in the last few years I have actually started to experience (not always enjoy — but at least be aware of) the hills and valleys of  my wanderings and not simply the end-point.

Of course it is easier when I travel solo; I don’t have to negotiate companions’ timetables or boredom thresholds. I can double-back to photograph the amazing church seen fleetingly on my first pass through a town, pull into a tiny road-side cafe or gallery, and stop for an extended chat with people I meet. With family and friends, the pleasures are often simply to be in their company, with nowhere else to go and no internet to distract.

Chatting with commuters on Edinburgh bus. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

Chatting with commuters on an Edinburgh-bound bus. Photo: Su Leslie, 2014.

On the way home from my brother's wedding. The Big T and our son waiting at the tube station. Photo: Su Leslie, 2006.

On the way home from my brother’s wedding. The Big T and our son waiting at the tube station. Photo: Su Leslie, 2006.

Snapped from the top of a London bus. The dome of St Paul's lit up, with the reflections of fellow passengers in the background. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Snapped from the top of a London bus. The dome of St Paul’s lit up, with the reflections of fellow passengers in the background. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

Sometimes the destination is only part of another journey. Cape Reinga is at very top of New Zealand; with only the Pacific Ocean and Tasman Sea (which meet off the coast there) beyond. There is only one road, and no other access. Yet for Maori, it is the place where the spirits of the dead enter the underworld (1) by leaping from the headland into an ancient pohutukawa tree below, climbing the roots to enter Te Ara Wairua, the ‘Spirits’ pathway’, and return to their traditional homeland of Hawaiki.

Lighthouse at Cape Reinga, Northland, New Zealand. This is the end of the road; beyond only ocean for thousands of miles. Yet it too is "on the way" for the spirits of the dead. Photo: Su Leslie, 2004

Lighthouse at Cape Reinga, Northland, New Zealand. This is the end of the road; beyond only ocean for thousands of miles. Yet it too is “on the way” for the spirits of the dead. Photo: Su Leslie, 2004

Travel is so frequently a metaphor for life that we barely think of it as one at all. I am aware that as my attitudes to physical travel have changed, so to has my appreciation of the rhythm of everyday life. Maybe it’s because I get so caught up in the mundane that I lose track of the bigger goals that seemed so all-consuming in my youth? Maybe I’m just slowing down. I will never be the first woman Governor General of NZ (an old ambition, dashed by the 1989 appointment of the wonderful Dame Cath Tizard), nor will I publish my first book by age 40 (where does the time go?). But maybe I will still achieve some of the big dreams.

In the meantime, I cherish each day with a loving partner and a wonderful child who is rapidly becoming a man.

Always on his way somewhere; the boy-child aged 8. Photo: Su Leslie, 2006.

Always on his way somewhere and usually at full speed; the boy-child aged 8. Photo: Su Leslie, 2006.

photo 1-2

The mode of transport may have changed, but he is still focused on the road ahead. Photo: Su Leslie, 2015

This post was written for the Daily Post Weekly Photography Challenge. You can find out more here.

(1) Cape Reinga, Wikipedia.