Travelling to Malacootta a year after the bushfires

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Image by sippakorn yamkasikorn from Pixabay

There’s a sign leading into Mallacoota; one of those government warnings dotted along the highway. I can’t tell what it’s about because half of it has been burnt away by fires that ravaged the town last year under a blood-red sky.

All that remains is ‘…could save your life’, which feels unfair not to know. Seatbelts? Getting out early at the first sign of smoke? Not drink driving?

We wend through the arterial road cutting through thick bush with blackened trees sprouting fuzzy bright-green growth, like pipe-cleaners. …

The end of life can illuminate precious truths about what it means to be human

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Image by Peter H from Pixabay

His name was Kevin. I know this because he pulled up next to me at the pool and introduced himself. Like a specimen you’ve studied in school but never seen up close (and in Speedos)

Kevin, a geriatric man with wispy white hair and thick dark age spots all over his hollowed-out, paper-thin body.

“Do you mind if I share your lane?” I asked.

“Hey?” he yelled back.


“Oh, yes be my guest. What’s your name?”




“Oh. I’m Kevin.”

“Hi Kevin.”



“Sorry I’ve got blue-tac in my ears.” …

Dispatches from Australia in a crumbling Christmas

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Photo by Lynda Hinton on Unsplash

One Christmas, many years ago, I had chickenpox. I was shut off in my room, itchy and irritated, dotted with calamine lotion, while wafts of festivity tendrilled through the door; fresh-cooked turkey and garlic prawns, family chit-chat and in-jokes. It was an exquisite kind of torture.

This pinnacle on the calendar; looked forward to, talked about, planned for, I was suddenly uninvited, watching it through a frosted window like a pauper in a Dickens novel.

After returning to Victoria from Sydney this week to the news of a growing COVID outbreak on the Northern Beaches, I went to get a COVID test and told them I had been in that vicinity. …

My toddler and I grapple with the new stages of development we’re both going through.

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Image by tookapic from Pixabay

We prepare to do battle, this bright-eyed baby and I. She’s in her cheap Target high-chair, the one that can be blasted by a high pressured hose at the end of a session involving smooshed bananas and projectile mince. I try to keep the tone light: Here you go darling! Yummy dinner!

I know what’s in store.

She eyes my offering which I carefully place on the tray: a plate full of veggies and mince with a small plastic fork poking out.

I want her to feel independent, like an adult! Not a little baby who hurls her food across the room. …

Reflections on the places which shape us, for better or worse.

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Image by Anja🤗#helpinghands #solidarity#stays healthy🙏 from Pixabay

Some people grew up around the sea, others near dense rugged bushland. I grew up near a suburban Sydney shopping centre. Like the McDonald’s of nature, this artificial environment was the backdrop of my youth.

There were the sliding doors and huge glass panels showcasing travelators and shops packed liked sardines with lounge beats playing dimly overhead. The food court bursting with kebabs, burgers, sushi and curries, and tired workers constantly clearing trays off tables.

It was a well-ordered organism fuelled by the worker-bees I would one day join.

Hornsby Northgate was replaced by a Westfield in 2001, conveniently for me, around the age I was starting to think about getting a casual job. …

Learning to cultivate house plants is so much more than being a trendy plantfluencer on Instagram

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Photo by Huy Phan from Pexels

House plants are so hot right now. Just look at the plantfluencers propagating Instagram complete with #monsteramonday (#flytrapfriday still isn’t a thing).

We’ve got this 1970’s return-to-nature vibe going on and it’s not hard to see why. Millennials renting inner-city flats you can’t swing a cat in; the terrifying deforestation of the earth leading to mass extinction (thanks to David A. for that little wake-up call).

If that’s not enough to make someone go out and buy a philodendron, I don’t know what is.

Which is exactly what I did.

I didn’t have any existential motivations, I just wanted to be a person who could keep a plant alive. …

Our most fundamental desire may explain our love/hate relationship with politicians.

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Photo by Tobi Oluremi on Unsplash

It’s that time of year again when people’s huge mugs are printed on big boards and plastered on fences and front yards and busy street corners. Their name, big and bold, with a ‘1’ somewhere, striking, against bright colours.

They’re usually ‘fighting for you’ or ‘looking to your future’ as they do their best to project a friendly, trustworthy smile into the camera, causing immediate suspicion.

The local elections have rolled around bringing with them the self-promotions.

‘Trust me, I’m a politician,’ must be the most oxymoronic statement possible.

It’s no surprise that trust in politicians is at an all-time low; we’ve lost trust in most public institutions. …

Where do our memories live and what happens when we throw them out?

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Image by Rudy and Peter Skitterians from Pixabay

I step inside the cavernous warehouse and breathe in a sweet, musty old-worldly smell. Like your Grandma’s cupboard times a hundred.

This place, The Mill Markets, is made up of hundreds of little shops, small corners packed with curated vintage items, people specialising in records or action figurines.

My mother-in-law took me there for the first time and said she often comes to walk around and think. I’ve started doing the same. It’s like stepping back in time, when we weren’t all plugged into our phones like bodies to the Matrix.

Stepping into other people’s lives and memories.

There’s creepy dolls in rounded prams staring stunned into the brave new world, Coke bottles from different decades, some still full of Coke, records from the 60s with long-legged, mini-skirt wearing girls in big sunnies and long boots living their best life, a framed photo of a Victorian era family looking sternly into the camera, a book on how to hypnotise chooks, a commemorative biscuit tin with Charles and Diana smiling happily, oblivious to their (literal) car wreck of a future, a wall of pendulum clocks all ticking in unison, accenting the passage of time. …

When you’re stuck at the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid

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Photo by Artem Labunsky on Unsplash

So, I’m pregnant again. Hooray, yada yada congratulations etc. There wasn’t much on TV during lockdown. Number 2 is like the follow-up album anyway, right?

‘How are you feeling?’ people ask and one word forms in my mouth as I stare at their sandwich: hungry. Like, wasting-away-on-a-desert-island level hungry an hour after eating a big meal.

Such a cliché; the pregnant woman who wakes her husband in the night with an urgent ice-cream craving. I get it. If I’m not eating food, I’m thinking about food: anything with hot oily salty salt.

Honestly, it’s debilitating. I get panicky if I’m out and about and start feeling the growl. I’ll feed my daughter and end up eating half her dinner. …

In difficult times, nature offers itself up to our imagination

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Photo by Pietro Jeng on Unsplash

I’m in a funk. It’s another day in Victoria. Just like the last 39 days in Lockdown 2.0 but a bit sunnier. I imagine scratching a tally onto the walls of our house with my nails.

The first lockdown was exciting, I was buoyed by a sense of altruism: we can do this. Staying at home for a noble cause; finally clean the cupboards out, sort my art supplies.

I reveled in chance to be antisocial, to kick around in my ugg boots all day in the name of saving lives. …


Cherie Gilmour

Writer. Aussie. New Mum. Tired.

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