Posted in Life sparks, Sydney sparks

Some Lockdown Reflections

So it feels like we are finally coming close to the end of our strict lockdown in Sydney. It has been an interesting time. I think everyone has been bitten by the lockdown in different ways, often feeling as though they can’t complain about how rubbish it has been for them because of how rubbish it has also been (in different ways) for everyone else.

Those who live by themselves have likely never felt as isolated as they have in these past months. But check that complaint if you can work from home, live near the beach, and don’t have to home school anyone.

There are the families who have been spending way too much time together as their homes have become offices, schools and (in the case of some areas of our city) almost prisons for months. An impossible juggle. But pipe down if you can work from home, are surrounded by people you love, and have a new respect for real teachers.

Our elders have been disconnected from life (often without the technological capability that has helped most of us stay connected). With no access to family, friends and community, missing out on marking important milestones like funerals and weddings. But shush if you are generally in good health, have been vaccinated and have a comfortable home.

And that’s not even talking about our friends in Melbourne, or people stuck overseas, or people unable to get to family overseas. Or frontline workers or essential workers. Or people who can’t work. Or students starting school or finishing school. Or people starting jobs or finishing jobs. Or folks with mental and physical health challenges trying to cope with this added weight on their shoulders. Or new parents or people who have lost loved ones.

Lockdown has bitten everyone. In different ways and at different times, sure, but we have all been bitten and it freakin hurt. Of course, we don’t yet know what the impact will be – what will bounce back, and what has been permanently changed.

I hope we will keep our appreciation for our neighbourhoods and being part of our communities. I hope we will continue to check in and stay connected with our colleagues, friends and family – even if it’s just by sending a text to show you’re thinking of them, or sharing something funny or interesting that we’ve seen. (If you care, I think it is really important to show it.) I hope we will continue to find ways to help the vulnerable in our community who are faced with risks on so many different fronts, all the time. I hope employers will find a way to balance the return to a (incredibly important) workplace community with the flexibility and personal gains that we have created during lockdowns.

And if you’re reading this and you’ve survived a lockdown, give yourself a pat on the head. By making it through, you have shown resilience and strength and courage in the face of a time that we could never have imagined. And that is something to be celebrated – soon (likely with more distancing and hand washing, which is not a bad thing). WELL DONE, YOU.

Posted in Sparks in the wild, Sydney sparks

Hello, sunshine!

Hello there. It’s been a while. And I figured that there’s no time better than the present to get back into sharing everyday sparks. Maybe not quite every actual day, but if I notice things that you might also like. And that might take our minds off whatever we are going through for a minute or two. Whether you’re in lockdown, or enjoying the fresh taste of freedom on a European holiday (deep down I’m happy for you friends, really), or somewhere in between, it seems like the time to celebrate the little things.

The first day of a new month seems like a good place to start again, so here is the sunrise from Sydney’s northern beaches this morning. The sun is now rising around 6.45am and there have been some spectacular morning and evening sky shows over the past few weeks. Almost like nature knows that lockdown is no fun at all, so it’s throwing an amazing opening and closing ceremonies to make us feel a little bit better.

As backyards go, it’s a pretty lovely one and we’re very lucky to be stuck in this part of the world, although things do feel like they’re getting a bit out of control. People are getting very cranky and the divisive cracks seem to be widening. I’ve stopped watching the news and reading comments because they are not helpful and just make me mad or sad – both of which are bad.

You know what makes you feel glad? Sunrise. 10/10 would recommend.

Posted in Sparks in the wild, WWWhat?

Do you wanna see a mermaid?

I am not entirely sure how I found out about the Weeki Wachee Springs State Park in Florida. But it is now on my bucket list. Would that be because it is, “one of the deepest, naturally formed underwater caverns in the U.S.”? Maybe for some people. Or because of its super catchy name, which means, “little spring” or “winding river”? Not really, to be honest. It’s actually because it is, “THE ONLY CITY OF LIVE MERMAIDS!” (or so they say on their website).

Yesteryear Mermaids

Apparently it all started back in 1946, with a former Navy guy called Newton Perry, who trained SEALs (the Navy ones, not the ones who do tricks and catch fish) to swim underwater in World War II. No notes on whether he was a mermaid/merman, but apparently he, “scouted out Weeki Wachee as a good site for a new business”. And then he invented a method for humans to breathe underwater via oxygen hoses connected to an air compressor (so it could look like humans were, “thriving twenty feet underwater with no breathing apparatus”. Genius.

Then he built an 18 seat theatre into limestone, six feet below the water’s surface. And then? Well, I can’t paraphrase, as I won’t do it justice: “Newt scouted out pretty girls and trained them to swim with air hoses and smile at the same time. He taught them to drink Grapette, a non-carbonated beverage, eat bananas underwater and do aquatic ballets.” AMAZING.

And so the mermaid show drew large crowds and was quite the place to visit in the 1950s (even Elvis stopped by). And then in the 1980s they opened a water theme park and beach. Then in the 1990s they started the popular “Mermaids of Yesteryear” shows. Apparently, the former mermaids’ motto is, “Once a mermaid, always a mermaid”.

Not convinced? Then have a look at some of these amazing mermaids from the “Mermaid Roster” on the site (which is almost too good to be true)…

MermaidStayce
Don’t be surprised if Mermaid Stayce beats you in Candy Crush.”

MermaidCrystal
“Mermaid Crystal enjoys track & field and is always up for a game of Trivia Crack.” 

MermaidBrittany
“You can find Mermaid Brittany hunting when she’s not performing.”

I salute you, Newton Perry, for your fabulous vision. And you too, multi-talented mermaids. I very much hope to see the mermaid show for myself one day (they are open 365 days a year, fyi). [I did check out the ‘Careers’ section of the website – no current requirements for additional mermaids.] “Being a mermaid is a magical job. As the mermaids sing in The Little Mermaid show: 

We’re not like other women,
We don’t have to clean an oven
And we never will grow old,
We’ve got the world by the tail!”

Sing it, sisters. [You can check out the website here.]

Posted in Sparks Book Club, Travel sparks

New York books and things 

I love New York. I don’t have the t-shirt or mug or hat with that message plastered on it, but I really do heart New York. So many amazing things to see and do and watch and eat and drink, but today I wanted to tell you about a book shop (book store, if you prefer). It’s called Book Culture, and it’s brilliant. 

But first, here’s Central Park under snow this week…

Anyway, my favourite link in the Book Culture chain is the store on Columbus. If you’re in town, it’s a great place to look around and spent some quality time with books and gifts and trinkets and cool things. Even if you’re the fussiest fuss-pot, or if you’re looking for a gift for said fussiest fuss-pot, I’m pretty sure you’ll find something (or things) here.

I was lucky enough to visit again this week, and wanted to share a couple of examples of their awesomeness with you: a blind date with a book; and a beautiful desk with stationery and encouragement to sit down, relax, and write a letter. 

The “Blind Date with a book” table is full of different novels wrapped in brown paper. On each mysterious package is a note that helps you choose the best match for your date: with a list of three other novels (if you liked them, you’ll like this book too). Like an old-fashioned book match making service / lucky dip. Love it. 


And then there’s this desk, with a note encouraging letter writers to sit, write, and have their letter posted by the good people of Book Culture. With nearly 2,000 letters sent from this very spot, it’s clearly helping to rekindle the art of letter writing. And they have included some political addresses, but you could also write to your granny, kindergarten teacher, or boy next door. (Or anyone else.) Such a great idea.


And now here’s the city lit with a few touches of green on St Patrick’s Day. (The beautiful view is from the fab Top of the Rock experience.) Just because.

‘Til next time, NYC. Love ya.

Posted in Life sparks, Sparks Book Club, WWWhat?

Three things I like a lot right now

Oh, hello. I just wanted to tell you about three things that I am liking a lot right now. In case you might like them too. A book, an app, and a podcast – they won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but I think they’re great.

Firstly, the book. It’s Hillbilly Elegy by J.D.Vance – I’d heard good things, and when the Independent is quoted on the cover: “a great insight into Trump and Brexit”, then I really couldn’t resist. I guess it’s a great insight into that, like a window into a different world. 


I have always known that I couldn’t go on one of those tv talent shows – sure, mostly because I can’t sing and/or dance, but also because I don’t have a particularly interesting back story to my life. Family, friends, education, health, opportunity – this book made me realise that what I consider “normal”, or maybe even “boring”, must sound like fairyland to so many people. And this J.D.Vance kid was born in the 1980s, so it’s not as if it’s a story of how life used to be in ye olden days. It’s interesting and well-written – easy to read on a rainy weekend – and I like that it asks more questions than it answers. Definitely got me thinking.

The app is Lumosity, a “brain training” app that I bought a family subscription to for Christmas. When you google, “apps to prevent dementia”, it always gets a run, and although my parents are (a) reading this, and (b) currently in possession of all of their marbles, I figure it never hurts to give these things a try. We are a competitive people, so the fact that this tracks your performance and compares you to your age group (with an impressive global sample size) is appealing. Some of the games are also quite addictive (looking at you, Train of Thought) and you feel like king/queen of the world when you beat your previous score or get to the next level. 

I think they recently got busted for deceptive / misleading advertising (allegedly over-stating the scientifically proven benefits for dementia / aging etc. But I think as long as we’re enjoying it as a fun challenge, and not expecting miraculous results, then that is all good.

The podcast was discovered by my lovely sister-in-law, Rocky, who shares my interest in slightly quirky books, people, things in general. It’s called Missing Richard Simmons, based on the fact that colourful character Richard Simmons disappeared from public life a few years ago and seemingly flicked the switch on his former life – no contact with his former staff, friends and associates. For someone who was so gregarious and seemed to thrive on his relationships with people, this dramatic disappearance has stumped lots of people. Hence the podcast – the guy is a former friend of Richard and is determined to find make contact. The colourful characters that he meets along the way make this podcast so great – I am sure I have been caught shaking my head or giggling as I listen to it on the way to work. 


It’s become a very popular podcast (we’re up to episode 3, with a new episode released each week) – even if you don’t love Richard Simmons (you monster!) then there are surely enough bizarro people and stories in this podcast to keep it interesting.

And they are three things that I like a lot right now. Hope you like them too!