Friday, November 30

Family reunion

While in New Zealand several members of the family came together for an impromptu reunion.  The occasion was made all the more special given that most of us had travelled from afar. Auntie Shirley and Cousin Hilary flew in from the UK, Cousin Chris and her partner Steven drove five hours from Wanganui and I flew across the Tasman via Wellington.

We enjoyed an afternoon of coffee, cake and laughter on the patio of my parent's home in Mount Maunganui. The weather was sunny and warm.  My father made a welcome appearance, joining Mum and the rest of us, swathed in a warm rug and seated in a comfortable armchair. Dad finds the outdoors too cold most days, leaving him largely house-bound. However, he loved the experience, making the gathering all the more special.

 

Saturday, November 24

My Dad's home


It's been eventful week. On Monday I flew to Melbourne to present at a national public relations conference. I hosted a breakfast session, sharing thoughts on commerical best practice in the Australian industry. We had about 70 people attend. Feedback afterwards was very flattering; some kindly described it as the best session they'd attended.

My post-event high was dampened by news that my father had been rushed to hospital after collapsing at home. This is second such incident in a month. Fortunately, on both occasions he'd just become very dehydrated, and nothing worse.

As I've mentioned in a recent post, I'd already scheduled a brief trip to New Zealand to see my parents this week. The timing proved very fortuitous as my father came home from hospital shortly before my flight landed in Tauranga, New Zealand.
 
By pure chance my flight was unexpectedly delayed long enough for Mum to take Dad home before heading off to the airport to collect me.  The delay was caused by Mount Tongariro erupting without warning two hours earlier.  The resulting ash cloud temporarily closed flight paths across the central North Island.  The photo of Mount Ruapheu, above, was taken on my return flight.
 
Ultimately, my trip proved well timed as it was clear my parents needed help getting back into a routine. Each hospital visit creates an unfortunate cascade of neglected chores and life activities. As a result I've been busy cooking meals, buying pantry supplies and sitting with Dad while Mum pops out to attend to personal needs.

As the future become uncertain we're increasingly grateful for the simplest of pleasures. For example, my father's happy to be back home, sitting in the sun's daily warmth. As you can see from the photo above magnificant Mount Maunganui simply sparkled in today's sunshine. For now, that's all that really matters.

Monday, November 19

Melbourne

Just arrived in Melbourne. I'll be speaking at the World PR Forum tomorrow morning. I've got a spectacular view of Port Phillip Bay from my hotel room. I can also see the conference venue where my presentation will take place.

Wednesday, November 14

Breathtaking!

I've just witnessed one of the most extraordinary phenomena in nature. At exactly 6:38am this morning the Far North Coast of Queensland was bathed in the eerie twilight of a total eclipse for two minutes and five seconds. Without doubt the entire experience was worth a 24-hour dash to Port Douglas!

The experience was exactly as photos depict it.  However, I cannot begin to describe the sensation that accompanies totality.  The sky turns a dull blue/black, followed by the sudden appearance of a glowing white ring in place of the sun's dazzling disk. It's all very surreal and truly breath-taking. Surprisingly the eclipsed disk is far larger than you expect. The sun's relative size in the sky is clearly masked by its normal, blinding glare.

I arrived in Port Douglas shortly after lunch yesterday. The town was already buzzing with anticipation.  Tourists were pouring in to witness the eclipse, including two large cruise ships, anchored just offshore. In fact, everyone on my flight from Sydney seemed to be travelling north for the same purpose.  I had orginally planned to watch the eclipse from Four Mile Beach.  However, I recently learnt that the approaching high tide was likely to cover most of the shore. 

As a result, I booked a ticket on Calypso, a local tour boat.  With the weather forecast warning of intermitent cloud, a mobile viewing platform also seemed the safest bet.  This certainly proved true as clouds played havoc with our view right up until totality started.  Fortunately, the clouds parted in the final minute providing an unobstructed view of the famous diamond ring phenomenon. A minute or so later clouds swept across the sun's disk and we lost sight of the sun on the final minute of totality. We heard later the southern end of Four Mile Beach enjoyed a unobstructed view for the entire event.

As the clouds rolled in those of us on the boat used the remaining period of totality to soak up the scene around us. As we turned towards the beach, we witnessed thousands of camera flashes burst into life along the entire shoreline.  This spectacle, in the eerie twilight, was almost as stunning as the eclipse itself.  An estimated 10,000 people had gathered along the beach.  You can see them in the photo above about half an hour before the event. Everyone was clearly getting their money's worth!  

I'm totally hooked. I want to see another one. Sadly we'll have to wait until 2028 for the next eclipse visible from Australia. On July 22 at approximately 4:00pm the moon's shadow will once again sweep across Australia on a path that crosses the city of Sydney. It's incredible that astronomers can calculate its appearance literally to second, 16 years in advance.
 
Eclipse photos: Shane Branch, Director, Hibiscus Resort & Spa

Sunday, November 11

Making every day count

The end of the year is approaching rapidly. News stories covering the US economy’s “fiscal cliff” ominously note that January 1 is less than seven weeks away. Between now and then I have four separate trips planned. It seems my days of regular travel aren’t quite done.

On Tuesday I fly to Port Douglas to witness a solar eclipse sweeping across northern Queensland shortly after dawn on November 14. This will be a quick excursion, lasting just 24 hours. Currently the weather is forecast to be partly sunny. Not ideal conditions to watch the sun disappear for two minutes and five seconds.

A week later I fly to Melbourne for another 24 hour excursion. I’m scheduled to host a breakfast presentation at the World PR Forum, a global public relations conference. I’ll be recommending strategic actions that local business owners should prioritize in 2013. Two days later I then head to New Zealand for five days to spend time with my parents.

Sadly, my father is slowly losing his five year battle with cancer. Tumors are spreading through his body so we know that his time with us is limited. His older sister (my aunt), is flying out from the UK to visit him next weekend, along with my cousin Hilary. While I’m in town my brother Matt will bring his family down from Auckland and another cousin I’ve not seen for years is also making her own pilgrimage. It’ll be a moving family reunion of sorts.

My father’s growing vulnerability has stirred an unexpectedly tender, almost protective, chord. I find myself moved deeply by his plight. I’m increasingly compelled to share as many special moments as possible in a genuine expression of love. It’s as if my inner being intuitively knows it must act now; that a unique window of opportunity will soon pass forever.

Then finally, in mid-December, my brother and his family in Austria relocate to New Zealand. They arrive on December 12. Garry and I will fly in ten days later. Our arrival heralds the start of one last Christmas reunion for the immediate family. 2012 has turned into an unusual year in more ways than one.

Oh yes, the photo that opened this post? It's a BridgeClimb to the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge that I took with my parents back in 2001. We're the group of four on the far right. Mum thinks it was a birthday present for my Dad. I cannot recall this but do remember it was a glorious day to be on the harbour. May the memories continue to roll.