A year ago…

A year ago today, we stepped off a small plane at Hobart airport, to be precise Hobart International Airport. I took a deep breath of Tasmanian air and it smelt like… it smelt like… it smelt so familiar it was almost like coming home. I later learned that the airport is at a small place called Cambridge – coincidence as I was born and grew up in a city called Cambridge – the one on Cambridgeshire England.

We were getting off an internal flight so we just collected our luggage and drifted out of the doors, not sure of where to go or what to do next – taxi? Bus? There was an airport coach and a friendly man called Phil took our bags and loaded us on board and we said hello to the driver who I think was called Mary. On the way into Hobart, Phil gave us a commentary on the island, the city and the areas we were passing through. My eyes must have been so wide to capture everything we passed by.

This was just the beginning of a wonderful adventure lasting five weeks. The warm welcome we received was typical of the people we met everywhere. Apart from a ten-day tour of the island in a hire car, we stayed in the city and we had the most wonderful time. We walked and walked and walked, explored everywhere we could and also took time to just sit… by the harbour, in the parks we discovered, along the shore line as we followed an art trail, and of course in coffee bars, tea room,s, cafés, restaurants, bars and pubs… yes pubs. We found a local, the Shamrock where we met friendly people and drank good beer, and the Duke of Wellington where we also met friendly people and enjoyed a pub quiz night!

We saw so much, we learnt so much, we experienced so much… and I just wish I could go back… maybe if I work very hard at my writing I’ll be able to save enough to go… if not, well I will just have to dream!Here is a link to my books, maybe I’ll be able to save enough to return!


My 2017: February

February 1st this year and we were still in Hobart Tasmania; I know I’m the sort of person that when I visit a place I want to live there and be there for ever more… it’s always mostly fantasy; much as I loved Iceland I actually don’t think I could live there (well, maybe I could, but it isn’t likely) however Ireland I really do think I could spend my life there. This isn’t just for foreign parts, the north-east coast of England enchanted me, but is it really practical… whereas I also loved Monmouth and I think it would be a practical place to live. However Tasmania… I completely lost my heart; it appealed in every way and I felt comfortable and at home – from the moment I stepped off the plane and smelt the intoxicating and strangely familiar Tasmanian pepper plant, Tasmannia lanceolata, I wanted never to leave…

Halfway through February, with a tear in my eye, we left and flew to Brisbane to stay with friends. Our lovely and marvellous hosts there managed to squeeze a wonderful variety of trips to every sort of interesting place you could imagine – rain forests, art galleries, museums, mountain top breakfasts, river cruises, botanical gardens, Australian animal sanctuaries (kangaroos and koalas, dingoes a platypus!) the Gold Coast, historical places of interest… and of course, the bonus of being with people we like very much!

We came home from the Sunshine Coast to a rainy, sleety, slushy cold England. We were delighted to see our family again of course, but I felt slightly heart-broken at being on the other side of the world from a place I loved so much!

Apart from our memories, what else did we bring back? A healthy tan for a start! We were also much fitter; we had walked and walked and walked, nearly a hundred and thirty miles, which might not seem a lot for some people, but for us who are so sedentary usually (writing, painting, and drumming don’t involve much movement!) and considering we had days of flying, driving, being on boats, or days where we were wandering round galleries and museums, was an achievement! I confess we had also put on a few pounds..

We spent most of the holiday apart from the last week with just the two of us and it was wonderful – we always get on well anyway, but we had so much fun, so many funny things, shared so many experiences… it was marvellous, and a fitting celebration of our silver wedding anniversary the previous October.


The Hobart Rivulet (1)

When we went to Tasmania earlier this year, one of the delights was walking along the banks of the Hobart Rivulet; it was a lovely riverside walk, partly through natural (but tidy) woodland, partly though landscaped parkland – although on a small scale! The Rivulet was low, it was summer and there had been no significant rain for a while, but we noticed that flood defences were in place, and at intervals there were grills across its course to stop bits of tree, branch, debris etc being washed downstream or causing a blockage and so a flood. All was fairly neat and tidy although we did see some litter, the detritus of modern life, plastic bottles (inevitably) bits of paper and plastic, cans etc.

We really enjoyed our walk down as far as where the Rivulet became culverted, and if we had time we would have walked it again. Definitely on the list for next time we visit! However all is not well, as I shall reveal in further posts…

Meanwhile, partly for the series of 73 (73 blogs on a variety of different given subjects) and partly because I want to respond to what has gone wrong for the Hobart Rivulet, I have begun to write about it.

Here is part 1 (and if anyone spots any errors i will be so grateful if they tell me!)

Wherever you go in Hobart you can see kunanyi – now known as Mount Wellington. In the winter it is covered in snow and it must look strikingly marvellous. We saw it in the middle of summer, a reassuring presence overlooking the busy city. We took a trip to the top… on a day which was wet and rainy, and all we saw was cloud and mist… it was tremendously atmospheric – literally, and although yes, I would like to travel up to its peak again on a good day to see the view, there was an almost mystical sense of it being a special place.

The first people who lived here were the mouheneener people and the pure fresh water flowing down the mountain was a precious resource… It flowed down and joined the mighty Tasmanian river, timtumili minanya

… and then at the end of the seventeenth century wooden ships sailed into the bay bringing white people who would colonise the area, and eventually the whole island. This land was then named Van Diemen’s Land. The English colonists, mainly prisoners from Britain’s overflowing jails and soldiers to guard them, had tried to establish a settlement at piyura kitina, which they called Risdon Cove, but lack of drinking water sent them in search of a more ‘suitable’ site. They found it at the confluence of that little fresh water river, where it joined the timtumili minanya, which the new arrivals named The River Derwent.

It wasn’t many months after their arrival that a flour mill was built on the rivulet in 1805, and by 1820 there were three more. The settlement was called Hobarton and was named after Lord Hobart who was the British secretary of state for war and the colonies – or to be precise, Robert Hobart, 4th Earl of Buckinghamshire, the Lord Hobart. Hobarton became Hobart, and the river flowing off the mountain became the Hobart Rivulet. Originally the Rivulet met the Derwent at what became Franklin’s Wharf, but later is course was altered, the water piped and culverted and it now emerges into the river near the Cenotaph.

Now the area is named the English way, any mouheneener names have been forgotten although many features are being renamed with new Aboriginal names. The Hobart Rivulet flows from its source on the slopes kunanyi, over O’Grady’s Falls and the Strickland Falls until it reaches an imposing edifice opened in 1828 as a prison for female convicts (and their children), a prison and workhouse, the Cascades Female Factory. In actual fact it was originally supposed to be a distillery – what does a distillery need to operate? Water – and what as flowing past the proposed site? Pure mountain water. However, by the time the owner arrived from England and opened it in 1824, there were at least sixteen other distilleries already operating and he went out of business. The Cascade Brewery, which still is there today, was opened in 1824, again using the fresh pure water to make its world famous beers, lager and cider.

© Lois Elsden

Here is a link to me e-books and paperbacks:



Soap, lovely soap… I really like ‘proper’ soap, a bar of soap not the liquid goo in containers – although that is useful too, especially in kitchens and when there’s just a small hand basin in small bathrooms… but a bar of soap, what could be nicer? I keep my new scented soap in my clothes drawers so it has a double purpose!

When I was little I remember keeping the odds and ends of left over soap (no liquid soap then) because there was supposedly some method you could do use to reconstitute the scraps into a new bar of soap – I never found what the method was and the scraps  were all thrown away!

I love receiving soap as a gift, and I also often give it – I’m not sure if all the recipients feel as I do about it, I hope they do! Earlier this year we were in Tasmania, and had the most wonderful time, and of course we bought gifts for friends and family. One of the many interesting places we visited was the Tench – the Hobart Penitentiary – which gave a fascinating glimpse into prison life – and death, in the nineteenth and twentieth century:


There was a small but very good gift shop, which smelt just lovely. I bought a few gifts and then followed the lovely scent to a basket of soaps… the ideal gift for my friends! I must have bought a dozen blocks of the most beautifully perfumed soap, Blue Rocks Soap which I saw was made on Flinders Island which I thought would make it unusual and interesting as well for a gift

As well as the scents you might expect, rose, patchouli, sandalwood, there were other intriguing ingredients eucalyptus, for example – everywhere we went in Tasmania we were overawed by the towering, elegant eucalypts! – lavender, seaweed and leatherwood – we had absolutely loved leatherwood honey, a local speciality – Flinders Island Black Soap – how exotic it sounds!

I bought a whole selection of Blue Rock Soaps for my friends, one each of the generous big blocks; for the rest of the holiday, my clothes were perfumed from the soap in my suitcase. When I got home I shared out my gifts and then found I had one left over… well, lucky me! I actually didn’t know how lucky; this is the nicest soap I’ve ever used, even though there is only a sliver left, it still smells as beautiful. It is so creamy and lathery and soft, I’m sure it is good for my skin!

Unfortunately, I think I might only be able to get some more by revisiting Tasmania… oh what a hardship (not!) that would be… I’m saving already!

If you do visit or live in Australia look out for Blue Rock Soaps, or follow this link for how to get some!


Ginger cake

I love ginger – in sweet or savoury dishes, and the hotter the better! For a family get together I’ve decided to make a ginger cake – cousins are bringing fruit, lemon, chocolate brownies, flapjack, all sorts of delciousnesses.

I am just going to follow an ordinary recipe (too often I get too clever and it doesn’t turn out right) but I’m adding chunks of preserved ginger cut small and also I have some ginger preserve to either go on top or go through the middle once it is cooked and cooled.

I know ginger is a rhizome, but I’m not sure I remember anything else very much about it… Well, on looking it up I find it is a perennial plant with yellow flowers, and its cousins are turmeric, cardamom  and galangal. It came originally from tropical rain forests, but it seems there is no wild ginger growing anywhere, it is all cultivated. The word ‘ginger’ goes back over thousands of years, to Sanskrit, maybe.

As well as being an excellent flavouring for all sorts of foods, in combination with other spices or on its own, it is also used medicinally for various things, mainly to do with digestive problems. While we were on our wonderful Tasmanian adventure, we went on a boat trip which was expected to be very rough, and everyone was offered ginger tablets. We thought we would be ok, but we accepted the tablets and took them… and we were fine. Now whenever I think of ginger, I think of that wonderful cruise… in fact, that’s where my featured image is from!


Tasmanian adventure – Wonderful Mr Wolfhagen

Although we spent most of our time in Hobart while we were in Tasmania, we did hire a car and go on a ten-day tour of the island. We spent a couple of days in Launceston, a beautiful city in the north of the state, which is at the junction of two rivers, the North Esk and South Esk. Once they have joined they become the Tamar River. We parked our car when we arrived, and we didn’t get into it again until we left two days later.

We wandered the city, admiring the architecture, taking photos, and visiting the two site of QVMAG, the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery. As with all the museums and galleries we visited while we there, big and small, they were exceptional, wonderful, inspiring places. it’s going to take a while to properly process and reflect on all we saw and experienced, and little memories keep popping up and returning unexpectedly.

Today, the sky here was a lovely spring blue, the wind had died and we had a very pleasant and sunny day. Something about the quality of the blue triggered my thoughts of visiting Launceston, and seeing some of the works of Philip Wolfhagen in an exhibition called ‘Transformations’. Mr Wolfhagen is an artist born in Launceston in 1963. He went to the Tasmanian School of Art in Hobart, and also the Sydney College of the Arts, but now he resides and works back in Tasmania.

On his website he is described as being ‘recognised as one of Australia’s leading contemporary landscape painters. His paintings are inspired by the atmospheric landscape of northern Tasmania and the emotive qualities of light and weather.’

That absolutely sums up his work; I sat in the gallery just immersed myself in his wonderful paintings – I was just pulled in and overwhelmed in a peaceful, energising and positive way by the power of his work. There was a huge single painting,  a panel of seven different but linked work, and then twenty smaller paintings hung together to form a complete work – I don’t think I have explained that very well!

I could have sat there all day, but there was so much more to see, more to do… and the gallery was closing too!




The Winter Over

My favourite genre of books is mystery and crime… I do read all sort of other books too, but this is the particular sort I most often read. I don’t just read British and American crime novels, I read lots translated from other languages and set in other countries.

While we were way on our Tasmanian adventure recently we learned a lot about Antarctic exploration as Hobart is where many expeditions set off from historically, and where many ships still leave from on their way down south. We saw several scientific ships ready to depart for the southern most continent. There is a museum in Hobart about the explorer Douglas Mawson and his trip to the south in 1911, which is well worth a visit – in fact I went twice it was so interesting.

So having leaned a lot about the Arctic from visiting the Mawson’s Huts replica museum, I was intrigued when i saw a crime novel set in the Antarctic, on a scientific station based there. The book is The Winter Over by Matthew Iden – the title referring to the situation for those at the antarctic station who have to stay there over winter as it is impossible to leave because of the weather conditions – they are virtually trapped!

The blurb says:

Each winter the crew at the Shackleton South Pole Research Facility faces nine months of isolation, round-the-clock darkness, and one of the most extreme climates on the planet. For thirty-something mechanical engineer Cass Jennings, Antarctica offers an opportunity to finally escape the guilt of her troubled past and to rebuild her life.
But the death of a colleague triggers a series of mysterious incidents that push Cass and the rest of the forty-four-person crew to the limits of their sanity and endurance. Confined and cut off from the outside world, will they work together or turn against one another? As the tension escalates, Cass must find the strength to survive not only a punishing landscape but also an unrelenting menace determined to destroy the station—and everyone in it.

I hadn’t heard of Matthew Iden before but he has written many other books, great news for me, more to read! “In addition to his most recent thriller THE WINTER OVER (set in the harrowing landscape of a South Pole winter), Matthew Iden is the prolific author of the Marty Singer detective series—A Reason to Live, Blueblood, One Right Thing, The Spike, The Wicked Flee, and Once Was Lost—as well as several acclaimed stand-alone novels.

I’m a good way into the novel and it is really fascinating, as well as being a gripping and puzzling story. I will report back when I’ve finished it!