Category Archives: BLOG: The Duchess of Charlestown

Why I refuse to take a #NoMakeupSelfie

Just a 'little' makup Image by Shesarii at

Just a ‘little’ makeup
Image by Shesarii at

There’s something really quite wrong about this ‘No Makeup Selfie’ craze that’s been doing the rounds. I have a big problem with it.

I’m not really bothered by the fact that it was meant to raise cancer awareness (and it didn’t), nor do I care that most people out there have cheated by using Instagram filters or they still wore just a little makeup (ultimately they can do what they like)…

The problem I have with this whole phenomenon is the comments people make when someone posts a No Makeup Selfie: ‘You’re just as beautiful without makeup!’ ‘I wish I looked that good!’ ‘Stunning!’

Let me explain.

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The writer who doesn’t like reading

I don’t like reading.


Yes, that’s right. I think it’s time to come clean with you all and admit that I’m a writer who doesn’t like reading.

So when I saw this week that the UK Telegraph published the list of ‘100 novels everyone should read‘ I decided to set myself a goal: I would read every one of the books on that list before I die.

4 books at home

Our bookshelf at home has 4 of the 100 on the list – seems like a good place to start!

I then did what every person does when they see a list like that and counted how many on the list I’d already read.

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The Blog Hop – why I write and other notes about writing

It’s time to do my very own ‘Blog Hop’ where I answer 6 questions that reveal my writing process and why I write. Kel from the Naughty Corner of Social Niceties posted her blog hop last week and kindly passed the baton to me.

I’ve also nominated three of my favourite bloggers (and favourite people, come to think of it) to do the same.

It's Blog Hop time! Image by Dean McCoy at

It’s Blog Hop time!
Image by Dean McCoy at

1. Why do I write?

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What’s the one thing you’d do…

…if you knew you wouldn’t fail?

You may have been asked this before. It’s the type of thing that’s asked at the beginning of motivational business conferences as the ‘icebreaker’. Or it’s written in curly font with butterflies on a meme shared around Facebook getting one million likes and comments such as ‘so true’ and ‘luv this’.

But have you ever taken a moment to sit back and think… what’s the one thing you would do if knew you wouldn’t fail?

Do it now. Think of an answer!

Then I’ll let you read on.

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Purple pirates solve the clues (my appearance on ABC Treasure Hunter)

Last weekend I learned that if you mix up the letters to ‘Weak anteater girth’ you get ‘Heritage water tank’. And not just any old heritage water tank. It’s the water tank at number 10, Summit Street, North Lambton.

Let me explain.

Last Saturday, me and my writing group buddy Margaret Jackson (who blogs here at Marg’s Slices of Life) were invited into the ABC Newcastle radio studio for Treasure Hunter with Jenny Marchant. It was our job to solve the clues – with the help of some very clever listeners – and navigate the ABC car around town in search of the elusive red envelopes.

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Rooms without windows can make you crazy

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My boss says, ‘Although I can’t see out any windows, I can sense when it’s suddenly dark outside.’

No, we’re not in gaol. We’re at work. And unlucky for us our office is completely disconnected from the outside world. That’s right, whoever designed our part of the building forgot one crucial element.


So it makes us rely on our other senses. Feelings about cloud cover. Sounds of light rain. Smells of fresh flowers opening in spring while we’re stuck inside slaving away at our desks.

It reminds me of Alcatraz, the former US prison in San Fransisco Bay. Some of the worst criminals in the United States lived out their days in the prison blocks on that island. Solitary confinement, deaths, horrific riots… it all happened at Alcatraz. The cells are small, dirty, cold and dark, with very little natural light. When you visit you feel its sordid history and it sends chills up your spine.

Imagine never seeing natural light. Image by David James at

Imagine never seeing natural light
Image by Nicolas Vollmer at

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Back to the daily commute

Everyone hates traffic right? The words ‘daily commute’ send shivers down spines. People dread traffic jams; they bang their head on the steering wheel, blast their horn in frustration and tear actual chunks of hair from their head.

Traffic sucks.

Well, not necessarily. Over the past 8 months I actually grew to miss it. Call me crazy, but in my experience ‘you don’t know what you’ve got till its gone’ can even apply to the daily commute.

Is it possible to enjoy the daily commute? Image by Peter Blanchard at

Is it possible to enjoy the daily commute? Image by Peter Blanchard at

You see, Prince G was born in August last year and I gave up work for 8 months. I gave up meetings, documents, difficult stakeholders, staffing issues and cake. I didn’t use a desktop computer for more than half a year (nor a desk come to think of it). And I also gave up driving to and from work five days a week.

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Is travelling with a baby difficult? Not necessarily…

We’d planned our trip to Singapore while I was pregnant with Prince G. It was to coincide with my last month of maternity leave and give us the chance to visit Bill’s uncle and aunt.

Some thought we were crazy for even considering it.

‘An overseas holiday with a 6 month old baby? Don’t be ridiculous.’

‘Don’t go booking anything yet. You don’t know what type of baby you’re going to have!’

‘He’ll probably be teething and ruin every minute you have…’

But we did it anyway. And you know what? It was better than expected. In fact, it was almost easier than traveling without a baby. Let me list a few of the privileges we experienced when we had baby Prince G in tow.

Queue-jumping at the airport

Passport control at Sydney International Airport is a zoo. There are usually always massive queues that snake ten rows deep at passport control.

Bill and I weren’t in a rush. We’d left plenty of time and although I had Prince G strapped to my chest in the baby carrier, he was happy enough staring at all the strange faces passing by.

A couple behind us were hopping from foot to foot impatiently. The woman, between bites of her nails, was telling her husband repeatedly that their plane was due to leave in half an hour. At a turn in the queue, I waved them ahead of us and they thanked us gratefully.

A few minutes later, a security guard pulled us out of the queue and sent us directly to an empty passport check desk. ‘Can’t have the baby waiting,’ he said.

Once through the checkpoint and amongst the perfumes and spirits of Duty Free, I turned and saw the frantic couple, still in the queue not far from where I’d let them in.

Oops! They should’ve brought a baby.

Travelling with a baby is like a walk in the park (image by Jessie Ansons)

Travelling with a baby is a walk in the park (image by Jessie Ansons)

VIP check-in at the hotel

We stayed three nights with Bill’s uncle and three nights at the Marina Bay Sands. The hotel is monstrous; the hotel foyer is a cavernous space full of people scurrying about.

So many people stay at the hotel each day that they have crowd-control ropes at the check-in desk to manage queues. However, with Prince G in the stroller we had barely joined the queue before we were whisked away to the VIP check-in room hidden behind the main desk.

I didn’t know that rooms like this existed! This magical world was like a top-notch airport club lounge. There were snacks and drinks, soft lounges and magazines. You sat down to check-in. The room had no one else in it expect for a businessman who looked like he was rich enough to belong there. We on the other hand, in our jeans and boardshorts with an $80 stroller from Mustafa’s certainly didn’t belong.

Marina Bay Sands gets brilliant online reviews. It’s the one with the Infinity Pool 50 storeys above the city. There’s only one main thing people complain about: the time it takes to check in.

Oops! They should’ve brought a baby.

A special exit ramp at the Tea Shoppe

We had afternoon tea at this fancy tea house that served over 1000 different types of tea. The café seating area was raised, so Bill and I quickly lifted the stroller up and climbed the stairs.

When it was time to go, we bent down to lift the stroller once more. The head waiter immediately appeared and said ‘Oh you mustn’t!’ before ushering us around a corner to a ramp that was cordoned off by a velvet rope. He unclipped the rope and, feeling like no less than the royal family themselves, we walked down the ramp.

Everyone else had to use the stairs. Even the man with a limp and the elderly couple who shuffled their feet along the ground.

Oops! Well, they should’ve brought a baby.


In Singapore, we felt like royalty at every turn. With Prince G on board, in the baby carrier or the stroller, it was as if the sea parted around us. People would hold lift doors, let us go first and stop to say hello to Prince G, even when every other part of the bustling city seemed to moving at great speed. A couple of times strangers took photos of him just because ‘he’s so cute!’

Well, who am I to argue?

When we were first off the plane back in Sydney and first in line at passport control I turned to Bill and said, ‘We should have had a baby sooner!’

He nodded, in one of those rare moments where we actually agree, ‘Or at least borrowed one for travelling…’


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Why living with a brainiac is annoying


Brains are so annoying
Image by Steve and Shanon Lawson at

Bill knows a lot of stuff.

You might say it’s a good thing to have a husband that knows so much, but sometimes it’s just plain annoying. You see, it’s really hard to talk to him about anything without him saying ‘I already knew that’…

So I was pretty excited the other day when I found out something about Newcastle’s history that he wouldn’t know. I was with my mum and Prince G at the Lovett Gallery seeing the she: true stories exhibition. It’s a collection of ordinary women sharing extraordinary stories, including a story from fellow blogger Elena Terol Sabino about her mother. In the adjacent room was another exhibition called The Mystery of the Canoe Pool. I would have ignored it, but Mum was attracted to the old photographs and wandered in there so I had no choice but to follow with the pram.

For those who know Newcastle, the Canoe Pool is the round shallow ocean pool next to Newcastle Ocean Baths. Its the one where the kiddies play in the sand with their buckets and spades. It also has a fascinating history.

The pool was opened in 1937 and contained a concrete map of the world where children could both play and learn about geography. Unlike traditional maps, this one had Australia in the centre, with the other countries of the world around it. Children could ride little canoes around the outside. Over time, the map wore away and they eventually removed it. Today, you wouldn’t know anything like that ever existed and the pool has nothing but a shallow sandy shore.

I couldn’t wait to get home and tell Bill about this piece of history.

You see, moments like this are few and far between. Often I’m excited about an unusual new fact, only to find out that Bill has somehow already known about it for weeks. Or, something I find absolutely extraordinary will not surprise him at all.

Like today as an example: I was reading the Open Road magazine and there was a photo of these airbags that they now have on Volvo cars that pop out of bonnet and cover the windscreen. I showed the photo to Bill and he stated matter-of-factly that they were probably for when you hit pedestrians.

‘Pffft!’ I said. ‘They wouldn’t go to all that trouble just for pedestrians!’

So I Googled it. And guess what? Yes, they are for pedestrians.

But it gets worse.

When I was reading about these pedestrian airbags on, I came across some other interesting facts.

‘Wow! Guess what percentage of road fatalities are pedestrians?’ I asked Bill. The article said 13% was the current rate, which had dropped from 20% in 2009. I thought 13% was still surprisingly high!

’15?’ he said, shrugging his shoulders.

See how annoying it can be?

‘No, 13. But you were really close.’

‘I was going to say 13, but I thought I’d round it up.’

Of course he did.

I read on.

‘Oh my God!’ I said. ‘Guess how much it costs to replace one of these pedestrian airbags once they’ve popped?’

‘I dunno. Maybe $3000.’

I felt like throwing the magazine at his face. He’d picked it. Exactly to the cent.

Sometimes I think he’s psychic or something.

Anyway, I couldn’t wait to get home from the Lovett Gallery the other day to tell him about the Canoe Pool. As I burst through the front door, a sleepy Prince G perched on my hip, I said:

‘Guess what I discovered today?’


‘You know that big round pool near the ocean baths where the kiddies play with their buckets and spades?’

Bill twisted his mouth thouthfully before replying:

‘You mean the one that used to have that map of the world in it?’


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The greatest of all marriage proposals

Bill and I have travelled to some extraordinary places.

We had dinner in Bangkok in the rooftop restaurant of the Banyan Tree Hotel, above the noise and the smog of the city below, and ate at a table for two with white tablecloths.

We stood alone at the Byron Bay lighthouse at night and looked out into the dark blue sea from Australia’s most eastern point.

We climbed the Statue of Liberty and gazed back at the city of New York on a clear winter’s day, rugged up in scarves and jackets.


The perfect location for a romantic proposal (near Whistler, Canada).
Image by Derek Purdy at

And every one of those times I couldn’t help thinking, ‘Is he going to do it now?’

You see, when you’re approaching 30 and you’ve been with someone for almost a decade, you start to believe that a marriage proposal is lurking at every romantic destination. Excitement builds, you get sweaty palms, you have trouble breathing as you prepare the acceptance speech in your mind.

Then, at dinner, at the lighthouse, at the top of the statue’s staircase, Bill drops to one knee and…

Ties his shoelaces.

Picks up a $2 coin.

Takes a photo of New York from the lower perspective so he can ‘fit it all in’.

I would let out the breath I’d been holding all morning. Bill, oblivious to my expectations would make a random comment about the view.

Great. Yeah, I guess.

This was how it went a thousand times over. Even at dinner on our 10 year anniversary when I was certain a proposal would happen he didn’t even order dessert, claiming he was tired and felt like an early night.

So how did he do it in the end? How does a man top a thousand magical destinations and declare a lifelong commitment to his wife-to-be?

Sitting on the lounge at home in our pajamas watching Futurama on the TV, he whips the ring out of his pocket and says ‘I was wondering if you wanted to marry me?’


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