A sunburnt country

I’ve been away on the Mornington Peninsula the past week and it has been a strange time to go away with the bushfires at the peak of their destruction. A heart-breaking time for those who lost their lives, their houses, their schools, workplaces and their communities as well as the unfathomable loss of habitat and wildlife including an estimated 30% of our koala population. It has been pretty grim and I’ve limited my exposure to news media to avoid overwhelm.

Inspiring has been the swift reaction, not of our politicians, but leaders in the arts and sporting communities as well as every day people who have stepped up to volunteer their energy and time, donate their money and their talent to raise funds to help. I’ve lost count of the money that instagram star Celeste Barber has single-handedly raised on Facebook but think the power of social media and influence has been at its best in this case.

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View from pier to Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron

Scientists have been at pains to explain that climate change increases the frequency and severity of extreme weather events like bushfire, rather than being the sole cause, but whatever the case, our government and business leaders need to institute long term structural change, strategy and infrastructure now as drought, bushfire and other events unfortunately become more commonplace and we as consumers, need to do what we can individually to reduce our footprint and live more sustainably, which includes reducing our consumption of new things we may want but don’t need.

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This has been on my mind this week where while safe from the fires, we drove through thick smoke haze on our way to Sorrento which gives some idea of the frightening poor visibility experienced in bushfire and also the following Monday when we could all smell the smoke outside, apparently from Tasmanian fires rather than in Gippsland and further north.

Like many people, Mr Rosanna and I have previously holidayed on the NSW south coast and I had briefly contemplated booking our summer break this past week in Gippsland. In the end, we opted to stay close and go for the familiar but many of our friends had their holidays curtailed by evacuation or chose to cancel. While disappointing, I don’t think anyone begrudges the fact when so many others have lost so much.

Feeling very thankful indeed, we did have a lovely week away in a house with no wifi walking distance to Cameron’s Bight dog beach where we took our dog most nights for a leash-free walk after 7pm to play with all the other dogs. It also made a nice walk/run route to the nearby Blairgowrie Yacht Squadron. It was a bit like holidays of old with day-time beach walks and visits to London Bridge (part of the Sorrento-Portsea Artists Trail), the Quarantine Station in Point Nepean (where they hold Barefoot Cinema, a craft market and the Portsea Polo. Tip: take your beach gear and bathers to the largely deserted Observatory Point beach stretch which is not patrolled/unsafe in the water due to rips but makes for a lovely spot to walk, sun bake or play at the water’s edge/some beach cricket if you have older kids), doing the 1.7km Wilson’s Folly bush walk and playing Pictionary or reading books during the afternoon and at night. It was also heartening to see not one but two echidnas during this time given the loss of wildlife elsewhere.

I haven’t holidayed in Sorrento for many years but find it and Portsea a little bit la di da – we played ‘Spot the Porsche’ which ended up being pretty easy as it seems to have become the poor rich man’s car and I lost count of them (I reckon close to 100) plus a handful of Maseratis and Teslas on the road while we were there. We did drop in to the Portsea Hotel for drinks and freshly made pizza in the front bar where next door you’ll find Mermaid Vintage (which sells the most beautiful vintage dresses) and further down Le Capucin cafe. The pub has been really well renovated a bit Queenslander-style with its whitewashed interior and not surprisingly was buzzing with lots of blonde people in Ralph Lauren polo T-shirts, white shorts and boat shoes inside and out in the beer garden – a bit cliched I know.

Food-wise while I looked longingly into the window of fine food establishment Bistro Elba which has prices to match ($150 for caviar!), we had fish and chips from Fish Fetish on our first night in Sorrento plus an excellent lunch another day at Greek cafe The Pier in Rosebud (which has a good packed to the rafters second hand clothing shop next door) after buying second hand books at a Rotary Club community hall sale. We shared fried calamari, saganaki, chicken skewers and a greek salad with amazingly flavoursome fresh feta cheese, which took us all the way back to Greece.

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Our last night was spent at Itali.co which not only does great pizzas but also pasta and for me, the fish special of the day, which were all delicious. It’s located next to Morgan’s near the Sorrento-Queenscliff ferry terminal. Also worth a mention is the locally-made gelato from The Yard at Capel Sound – so good that some local CFA firefighters dropped in at the same time as us to get their fix (below).

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We visited the Red Hill Market although found it a bit overwhelming and more suited to women and girls (lots of scented candles, clothing, jewellery and other accessories) with its focus on design. We bought some fresh bread only and there were also some beautiful native flower posies being sold with funds donated to the firefighters (so too were the car parking fees).

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My $5 print

Shopping-wise we visited a number of vintage shops and op shops including My Vintage Addiction in Capel Sound and the Rosebud Vintage Bazaar. We did walk down the very crowded Sorrento Village shops another day – as I mentioned a bit la di da – I spotted the Country Road-branded cafe and concept store called Post 3943 and wasn’t surprised given the demographic of very privileged families who live or have beach houses in Sorrento.

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Second-hand bling jacket

My favourite place is the Antipodes Bookshop & Gallery which not only sells books but also locally made ceramics, jewellery and art including some beautiful hanging fish, ceramic and macrame mobiles made with driftwood and an exhibition of woodcut prints by local Warren Cooke. If I had a beach house, some of them would have made unique pieces for the home.

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I go back to work this week with new challenges ahead, that I hope to rise up and meet this year. Given what many bushfire-affected people have experienced, I am counting my blessings. Locally too a Bands, bowls and BBQ event to raise bushfire funds is being held at the Rosanna Bowling Club on Sunday 2 February if you can make it. I am grateful to be at home, knowing that many people are not. If you are one of them, then I am thinking of you.

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Me and Mr R at Itali.co