Friday, April 17, 2020

The Post Easter Egg Diet

Easter 2020 has been and gone, Good Friday was over a week ago and I’ve been social-distancing for thirty-eight days… and counting. 

The temporary but at this stage, indefinite, closure of my massage therapy business, social-distancing and the threat of a strange, new virus, has not done wonders for my waistline. I don’t know what it is about global pandemics and carbohydrates but I’ve been embracing the latter like there’s no tomorrow.

While some people have been resurrecting their dreams of learning a new language or completing university degrees online, I’ve resurrected my bread machine that has lived unused and unloved under the kitchen sink for the past decade. The resulting deliciousness has not gone unnoticed on my hips. 

There’s nothing like having your weekly income reduced to zero to make you appreciate every item in your pantry. Even those items in the far back corner of the pantry that may have passed their Best Before dates the better part of quite some time ago, are now suddenly looking far too good to throw out. A one kilo bag of mixed dried fruit from 2017 was beautifully revived after soaking it in some cheap brandy for 36 hours – hello, hot cross buns. I discovered a tin of water chestnuts from 2002 – still as crunchie and tasteless as the day they were made. A tiny jar of anchovies from 2013, proved to be a great addition to my eggplant parmigiana the other week. Vintage self-raising flour with a few weevils? Sift out those critters and get baking!

While all this additional experimental cooking has been fun; spending my days cooking and eating is not doing wonders for my physical or mental health. It’s time to introduce a bit of structure and direction back into my life, lose a couple of kilos and perhaps write a bestselling diet book that pays the bills.

Weight loss is a fairly basic concept, you need to burn up more energy than you feed yourself. It’s all so simple and yet so hard to achieve, especially when you are spending your days cooking delicious meals in social isolation… you can’t invite your family and friends around for dinner, so you end up eating the whole lot, yourself.

Meal replacements in the form of shakes or nutrition bars are very popular with people wanting to lose weight and a handy money earner for multilevel marketing (MLM) distributors, retail diet companies and some doctors. I’ve decided that, I want in on this multi-billion-dollar weight loss industry, so I’ve come up with a diet of my own, specifically for this time of year. I give you, “The Post Easter Egg Diet”. Combining the principals of meal replacement, clean eating and AIF (almost intermittent fasting) into an exceptionally easy and affordable two-week diet.

The concept: eat a nutritionally sound breakfast, make lunch the main meal of the day and for dinner, eat one hard-boiled egg. That’s it.

I’m not quite sure how I’m going to spin this out into a bestselling diet book of any great length but at this stage, I’ve got time on my side. 

Annie Barr

Saturday, October 26, 2019

The Eulogy for Edgar Lewis Pickles

Written and spoken by Annie Barr
England's last remaining flying Lancaster Bomber - flying over us at the RAF Waddington International Air Show 2012

“Today is the first day of the rest of your life.” Edgar had an old, grease stained poster of these words stuck prominently on a cupboard door in his kitchen at Cadell; he followed that advice for his entire life. Edgar viewed every new day as a gift.

Edgar Lewis Pickles was born on the 10thNovember 1920, and grew up on a farm near Rand in NSW with his younger brother, Bill and his adored younger sister, Gwennie. 

Towards the end of the 1920s when Edgar was eight or nine, his two favourite aunts paid for Edgar to have a flight over Corowa with legendary Australian aviator, Charles Kingsford Smith in his original tri-motor monoplane the “Southern Cross”. The same plane Kingsford Smith had flown to complete the first ever trans-Pacific flight to Australia from the mainland United States in June 1928. Edgar said it was a tremendous experience, he recalled the floorboards shaking and talking to “Smithy” as they flew over Corowa. Edgar was always very proud of the fact that that flight was the first entry in his RAAF Flying Log Book.

Edgar rode his pony, Dainty, four and a half miles to primary school at Morebringer. High school was in Corowa and Edgar rode his pushbike there each day, a 26 mile (42km) round trip. A keen student, Edgar enjoyed mathematics, geography and technical drawing. Topping his class of fifty students in his first year at high school, Edgar was then allowed to miss the second year altogether and go straight into third year where he completed his intermediate certificate before returning to the family farm at Rand to work alongside his father.

In 1939, Edgar joined the 8thLight Horse Regiment. In 1940 Edgar was part of the 3rdCavalry Division in Torquay while bushfires were raging in the area, half of the township of Torquay was destroyed by fire but Edgar said, “We fought valiantly and saved the pub!”

Later in 1940, Edgar enlisted with the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) as aircrew and completed his first solo flight on the 27thNovember 1941 in a DH.82 Tiger Moth. They were an easy aircraft to handle and because they were the first aircraft Edgar flew, they always held a very special place in his flying experience. 

Edgar loved aerobatics and used to fly out over the Fairymead sugar mill near Bundaberg QLD and do gliding loops, loops, slow rolls, and his special manoeuvre – a half roll out of a stall turn.

By 1943 Edgar was in England with the British Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command and piloting an Avro Lancaster heavy bomber powered by four Rolls Royce Merlin engines, night after night over Europe. 

A total of 55,573 airmen died flying for the RAF Bomber Command during World War Two. Of the total RAAF bomber crew who served with Bomber Command, 35 percent or 3,486 were killed.

Edgar was twenty-two years old when he flew his first Lancaster and by the time the war ended two years later he risen from Sergeant Pilot to Squadron Leader with a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) and Bar. The DFC is awarded for “an act or acts of valour, courage or devotion to duty whilst flying in active operations against the enemy” and the bar is added to the ribbon for holders of the DFC who received a second award.

His first DFC citation reads: Pilot Officer PICKLES has displayed outstanding courage and determination in many attacks on major and heavily defended targets in Germany. 

One night in July, 1943, this officer was pilot and captain of a bomber ordered to attack Hamburg. While proceeding to make the attack the aircraft was engaged by enemy fighters and two of Pilot Officer PICKLE’S crew were killed and a third seriously injured.

Nevertheless this officer displayed masterly airmanship and succeeded in evading his assailants and flew the aircraft safely back to the United Kingdom.

Edgar’s second DFC citation reads: Throughout two tours of operational duty, Squadron Leader PICKLES had maintained his zest, enthusiasm and determination for operational flying.

Since the award of the Distinguished Flying Cross he has flown on sorties during the worst winter weather and in the face of the enemy’s heaviest defences but, undaunted, has ensured by his skill, efficiency and brilliant leadership the success of his own missions and assisted and encouraged other captains and crews under his command to equal his own achievements.

At the end of the war, Edgar was commissioned to get a crew together to fly a Lincoln bomber out to Australia. He said “I had to locate this illustrious and cosmopolitan group of difficult countrymen, and extract them from pubs and units all over Bomber Command and form them into an efficient crew.” His navigator for that trip was Flight Lieutenant Douglas McDonald DFC, known as Mac and they became lifelong friends. I can still remember Mac sitting in the kitchen at Cadell recalling the day that they met. 

Mac was to be interviewed by Edgar for the role of Navigator for the trip, he arrived with a list of all his credentials but all Edgar asked him was “Do you drink?”
“Love it.” replied Mac
“You’re in.” said Edgar

In the early 1950s, Edgar purchased “Cadell”, once the original “Barham Station”, near Barham, where he grew rice, cereal crops and ran sheep and cattle.

The Vee Dub Beetle was Edgar’s preferred mode of farm transport and I’m sure many of you here today, would have experienced touring Cadell in one of his favourite beetles. My first farm tour of Cadell was early in July 2005, I was in the front with Edgar and my three sons, Max, Sam and Henry were in the back. Henry (who was two years old at the time) was standing in the middle, holding onto the back of the front seats. I was somewhat disconcerted to discover about halfway through the tour, as we bounced up and over rice check banks, that Henry was straddling a “Henry sized hole” in the floor! 

Edgar’s love of aircraft and all things aviation, never left him. After the war, he owned and flew several aircraft, including a two seater Ryan Trainer, an ex-RAAF P51 Mustang and a four-seater V tail Beechcraft Bonanza.

Many of you will remember trips in the Bonanza during the late 1970s and later and coming home in the dark with only the kitchen light at Cadell to guide the plane in. (Before leaving Hay or wherever he had been, he would phone Taffy, who used to work for Edgar, and ask him to turn the kitchen light on.)

During the mid 1980s, Edgar’s niece, Jen and her husband, Ian were visiting Cadell with Ian’s parents, who were out from the UK. Edgar insisted on a flying tour but the Bonanza wouldn’t start. Not to be deterred, Edgar got the battery out of the VW and put it in the plane. Once they were airborne, Edgar passed the controls over to Ian (who I must state, is NOT a pilot), instructed Ian to fly straight and level, then proceeded to roll himself a cigarette and turned around to chat with Ian’s parents, Jim and Agnes.

Keith Berwick was a flying friend from Albury. After staying at Cadell one time, Keith had inadvertently left his underpants there. Edgar took it upon himself to fly to Albury to return them. He chose a day that Keith was entertaining guests at his home – Edgar tied the underpants to a brick and threw them out the window of his plane as he flew over Keith’s home (fortunately no one was killed or injured… except perhaps, Keith’s dignity).

Paying bills was not one of Edgar’s strong points… at one point Edgar was having some difficulty with the ATO and his tax bill; he offered to drive a mob of steers up to the lawn in front of Parliament House in Canberra in lieu of paying his bill (the ATO declined his offer).

Edgar loved entertaining but his catering often left a little to be desired… numerous times over the years friends were invited out to dinner at Cadell only to be greeted by the complete absence of cooking smells on arriving at the house. Drinks and merriment would ensue, several hours would pass and then Edgar would announce, “Well, I’d better put the roast on!” Usually this would be about 8.30 or 9 o’clock at night and we’d be sitting down at the dining table in the bistro for a roast dinner at midnight.

Edgar loved a party and attending one with Edgar often meant getting home at 5am… even when he was in his 90s.Edgar loved women. He was renowned for turning up at the local Rice Balls with a string of gorgeous young women on his arm. A number of years ago, Edgar said to me, “Annie, if I was twenty years younger, I wouldn’t let you out of my sight.” I did a quick mathematical calculation (Edgar is fifty years older than me), “Edgar,” I said, “If you were FIFTY YEARS younger, you’d be in with a chance.” To which Edgar replied, “Oh Annie, that’s the nicest thing you’ve ever said to me!”

Edgar with Annie Barr attending Royal Ascot to watch Black Caviar 2012
Edgar with Squadron Leader Bruce Farquhar
Edgar in Bruce's Hawk Fighter jet 2012
In 2012, I was fortunate enough to accompany Edgar on a trip to England for the Bomber Command Memorial dedication in London. Highlights of that trip for Edgar included meeting the Queen for the second time in his life; watching Black Caviar win the Diamond Jubilee Stakes at Royal Ascot; having dinner at the Savoy Hotel in London; sitting in the pilot’s seat of a Lancaster bomber for the first time since 1946; attending his 550 Squadron’s reunion and the RAF Waddington International Air Show; visiting the Lincoln Cathedral in Lincoln and a personal tour of RAF Leeming, the home of 100 Squadron, with the then current Squadron Leader Bruce Farquhar. 

Edgar enjoying a visit with Miffy October 2019
Edgar loved children and welcomed them to Cadell with open arms. Max, Sam and Henry got along with Edgar like a house on fire, right from our very first visit in July 2005. Once we moved to Barham in 2009, Max in particular, spent many weekends with Edgar, often catching the school bus out to Cadell on a Friday afternoon and then back on the bus to school on a Monday morning. (Although this morning, when I was having a practice read at our kitchen table, Max informed me that he never caught the school bus in on a Monday… Edgar used to drive him to school in his big, old Fairmont Ghia, often at breakneck speed!)

Long-time friend, Dr Johnny Howell is unable to be here today but he sent through this email last night explaining how he came to know Edgar:

“Edgar’s sister, Gwen lived opposite my parents in Sydney; that was my first contact with Edgar.

In 1963, I failed second year Medicine at Sydney University – my parents were not happy!

A couple of weeks after the results, I found myself on a DC3 to Deni having been told by Dad “...Edgar Pickles will straighten you out, boy.”

The punishment started right from the jump. Edgar duly arrived in Deni and into the back of the Falcon ute I went (along with some dead wool) for the 50-mile ride to Cadell (the entire road in 1963 was corrugated dirt).

At Cadell Edgar said “You get 30 pounds a month plus keep - and you sleep on the open veranda”.

There followed weeks of digging stops (dig by hand/formwork/mix concrete by hand/pour) at the rate of one a day. Then it was endless sessions on that effing****#! Little blue Fordson tractor (which Edgar bought in Shepparton and drove nonstop to Cadell-he said it took him forever.) I told him the work was purgatory and he told me “this was the easy bit”. After a while, we got on really well together owing to the fact, in those days, I could drink Edgar under the table. Cadell turned out to be like a “New Year’s Eve party” every night.

I returned to Cadell every summer until the senior medical years and then regularly for over fifty years.

Punctuality and Edgar, rarely belonged in the same sentence. “Edgar Time” was anywhere between three hours and three days behind Eastern Standard Time.

I once asked Edgar when we were blotto, what was the greatest love of his life; without hesitation he replied, “The Rolls Royce Merlin engine!!”

Annie, both of us are very fortunate to have known Edgar - he was unique. He was a true warrior and a loyal friend.


A few days before Edgar died, I was up at Murray Haven visiting him. Edgar had been asleep for most of the day. Gwennie, Kate and I were sitting around his bed talking, after about an hour or more, Edgar opened his eyes, gave us one of his big trademark smiles, turned to me and said, “Hello Annie, you look well… give us a kiss!” (I did) The four of us laughed and talked for about fifteen minutes before Edgar squeezed my hand and said, “Give us another kiss.” To which I replied, “Oh come on Edgar, you’re milking it now!” (I gave him another kiss) We all talked for a few more minutes before we said our goodbyes for the afternoon and Edgar slipped off to sleep once more.

Edgar loved his community and his community loved him. In his later years, Edgar had a team of locals assisting and caring for him, and I would like to make special mention of our dedicated professionals at Barham Hospital and Community Health, Murray Haven, Damien Congram who assisted him at Cadell and also accompanied Edgar on his last epic adventure to England and France last year with Edgar’s niece, Kate; Wendy, Josie and the team from home care.

Annie attending the 550 Squadron Reunion with Edgar in the UK 2012
It has been a great honour to be asked to write and deliver a eulogy for Edgar here today and a seemingly impossible task to condense his almost 99 years of extraordinary life into a few sheets of paper. This is but a snippet of his many stories and adventures and the thousands of people who knew and loved him. I will leave you now with Edgar’s immortal words, “Merry Christmas and God bless.”

Edgar Lewis Pickles 10.11.1920 - 20.10.2019

Sunday, March 31, 2019

Woolworths Supermarkets Appear Hell-Bent on Destroying Life in Rural Australia

Ten years ago this month, I moved my family to Barham. I had built up a little weekend clientele in Barham while completing my Diploma of Remedial Massage in Echuca and figured a few months in Barham with my friends, Ilka and Simon Oster, would be fun before the boys and I returned to our home near Hay.

Six weeks after arriving, we rented and moved into a beautiful and much-loved family home on the river, Willow Bend in Teddy’s Lane. The months went by and the boys settled into school at Barham Primary. Thanks to the support from the local community, my new massage therapy business, Rosedale Health and Wellbeing, flourished and thoughts of returning to Hay began to fade.

Fast forward to 2019 and I while I will always have a soft spot for Hay and its community, I now well and truly regard Barham as my home. I feel incredibly fortunate to be able to live and work in such a beautiful part of the world and to have raised my three sons here; I find our local community supportive and inclusive. 

While poor seasons and even poorer government water policies have badly impacted our farmers and in turn all of us, Barham has continued to bat well above its average for a little country town. We have a diverse range of quality shops, restaurants, pubs, numerous accommodation options, clubs and sporting facilities, schools, hospital, medical clinic, pharmacy and two excellent supermarkets.

A couple of weeks ago, a post shared locally on Facebook greatly disturbed me. The post was shared widely throughout our greater district along the Murray from Echuca to Swan Hill. This post was advertising that Woolworths Kerang was now offering online shopping with delivery for a fee. And would deliver to numerous locations, including Koondrook, Barham and Cohuna. 

Within a very short amount of time from that post being put up, the Woolies delivery van could be spotted on the streets of our town. That white delivery van with the Woolworths insignia and the people who choose to support it could well herald the retail decimation of our community. 

Never has it been so important to “shop local” in rural Australia. If we want our town to be a vibrant, healthy community then we have to support its businesses. These businesses in turn, support us. In particular, I want to highlight our two supermarkets, Barham IGA and Barham Foodworks. Both supermarkets are owned and run by local families. Both supermarkets provide employment stability and flexible working hours to many local adults as well as providing an excellent start for our district teenage children in the form of after school hours work. This is a fabulous grounding for our children’s future, teaching them: commitment, responsibility, reliability, punctuality, team work, social skills and interacting with a diverse range of people and at the same time, providing an opportunity for our children to begin managing their own finances. 

Woolworths is a massive multinational supermarket spread throughout Australia and New Zealand and owned by the ASX listed public company, Woolworths Group Limited (well known for “screwing” farmers but I digress…) and while I acknowledge, its Kerang store provides employment for many people who live in Kerang it is not a business that supports our Barham community to my knowledge. Every business in our twin towns of Barham and Koondrook, are regularly asked for donations towards local noble causes (our schools, various sporting clubs, hospital, nursing home, local not-for-profit organisations etc) and pretty well every local business I know, contributes in some way, shape or form throughout the year.

And while I’m not immune to out-of-town shopping myself, I do not and will not make a specific trip out of town to shop.

I enjoy supporting our local businesses and in particular my numerous-times-a-week trips to our supermarkets, I appreciate how fortunate we are to have the variety and quality of produce at our convenience, I enjoy the social interaction as I cruise down the aisles and a smile and a chat with whoever happens to be manning the checkout. 

Imagine for a moment, our town minus its supermarkets. Imagine our main streets lined with empty shops. Imagine our children with no part-time, after-school-hours job opportunities.

Will that white delivery van with the Woolworths insignia, fill that void? 

Is this (imagined) town, with no supermarkets and empty shops a town you would like to raise your children in? Is this a town you would like to start a business in? Is this a town you would like to retire in? Is this a town you would like to visit and holiday in? 

Each and every one of us has a role to play in the long-term health of our local town and community and it starts with a commitment to do the majority of our everyday shopping in town.

Annie Barr

Monday, May 23, 2016

An Eighteenth Birthday and an Excellent Adventure

The day of Max's 18th birthday - Max and I swimming with a whale shark.                        Photo: Leith Holtzman

A few weeks ago, just after lunch on a Friday, Max and I headed off on our excellent adventure to celebrate his eighteenth birthday. Instead of a birthday party or material present, my gift to Max would be some lifetime memories.

The itinerary, somewhat to his frustration, was a complete secret from Max and I, somewhat to my amusement, only revealed it bit by bit as we went along. We drove straight to Tullamarine airport near Melbourne and boarded a plane to the other side of the country.

The first part of our excellent adventure was a weekend in Perth. We caught up with cousins Warwick and Thelma in Dalkeith and our friends, Jen and Iain near the Swan Valley.
Max with Thelma and Warwick

Max with Jenny and Iain

Late on Monday morning we flew off on the next leg of our journey; a two-hour flight to Exmouth, 1,253km north of Perth, where we would spend the next four days.

Situated near the northern end of Ningaloo Reef, Exmouth is a base for people wanting to see one of the world’s largest fringing coral reefs. Teeming with marine life, the underwater world of Ningaloo is famous for its whale sharks and one of the few places in the world you can swim with them.

Monday afternoon we settled into our self-contained accommodation at the Exmouth Escape Resort; did a grocery shop at the local Exmouth IGA supermarket and booked ourselves onto a charter fishing boat for the following day.

Just after 7.30am the next morning Max and I and a dozen or more other people, boarded the Blue Horizon Charters’ 60-foot fishing boat for a day of fishing, or in my case, observing.

There was no shortage of fish but there was also no shortage of sharks... within twenty minutes or less of finding a good fishing spot, the sharks moved in and chomped up the fish before we could land them onto the boat. Exciting to watch but no good if you’re trying to catch your dinner! Unluckily for Max, twice he hooked big spangled emperor fish (that would have been just perfect for Tuesday Night Dinner) and twice a great big lemon shark relieved him of his catch.
The lemon shark, munching on Max's fish!

The next day was Max’s birthday and I had planned our whole Excellent Adventure around it. Months earlier I had booked both of us onto a full day tour with Kings Ningaloo Reef Tours to swim with the mighty whale sharks.

Arriving every year from March until August to feed in the plankton rich waters of Ningaloo, these enormous sharks are the biggest fish in the sea… and fortunately for Max and I, "filter feeders" and harmless to people.

Marine biologists and our instructors for the day, Zoe and Sasha, arrived at our accommodation at 7.15am and drove us out to the Tantabiddi Boat Ramp on the western side of the North West Cape. From here we, along with about eighteen other keen swimmers, were taken out in a tender to the Magellan, our boat for the day.

Max and I were put into Zoe’s group and she was a font of information about the whale sharks and the reef in general.

We were fitted up with a pair of goggles, snorkel and fins and given instructions on whale shark swimming etiquette: a maximum of ten swimmers in the water at any one time (plus Zoe, our spotter/instructor and Leith the photographer/videographer) we weren’t to swim in front of their mouths (in case we were inadvertently swallowed), to keep a minimum of three metres from the side of their bodies and a minimum of four metres away from their tails.

A practice snorkel on the reef ironed out any equipment glitches and gave us our first glimpse of the magical underwater world we would be in for the day. A multitude of different coloured fish of all shapes and sizes swam in and out of the coral around us and Max caught sight of a large turtle cruising past.

Once everyone felt confident with their snorkelling ability, it was back onto the Magellan and we headed out into the deeper water, where the whale sharks would be found. With a spotter plane overhead searching, it wasn’t long before Bill, our skipper received a call on the radio from the pilot, directing him to the closest whale shark.

Our group quickly assembled on the marlin board of the boat and seconds later we were in the water, swimming in a line next to Zoe who directed us to put our faces into the water and look down about five metres to our right.

Out of the dark blue deep water came a sight I will never forget: a huge spotted whale shark about seven or eight metres long, glided silently up towards us.
Max and I, swimming with a whale shark.                                                      Photo: Leith Holtzman

The whale shark set a gentle pace, swimming smoothly and effortlessly through the crystal clear water, seemingly oblivious to us as we swam along beside it. I found it difficult to judge just how close we were in the water and a number of times I felt as though I could have easily touched it, if I had stretched out my hand only slightly.

It was truly a sight to behold.
Me, swimming with a whale shark.                                                            Photo: Leith Holtzman

After what felt like a good swim, maybe ten or fifteen minutes (I had no idea of the time), we swam back to the Magellan and the second group had their swim with the whale shark. We kept swapping like this for the duration of our whale shark swimming experience. All up, we were lucky enough to swim with three different whale sharks and a total of about six or seven swims.
Max and I, in the water with the whale shark.                                                    Photo: Leith Holtzman

The second whale shark we swam with was a young male, about five metres long. He set quite a pace and we were all feeling pretty puffed by the time we got back to the boat. Our last deep water swim for the day was with an enormous whale shark, over nine metres long at Zoe’s estimation. I felt completely overawed by this huge, gentle shark as it dived down and disappeared into the dark blue water below us.
Max and I, after our whale shark swimming experience.

Back on the boat we motored out of the deep water and back through a break in the reef to the calm waters of the lagoon where we enjoyed our lunch of cold meats and delicious salads and then afterwards, snorkelling amongst the corals and brightly coloured fish.

As we made our way home, the sharp eyes of one of the crew spotted an ornate eagle ray; a large spotted and striped ray with a very long, 12-foot tail, classed as rare and endangered. Cameraman, Leith quickly got into the water to capture the ray on film. He said afterwards, it was like winning the underwater photo lottery and there had been less than a dozen sightings of the ornate eagle ray in Australian waters.
Ornate Eagle Ray                                                            Photo: Leith Holtzman

Before we arrived back at the Tantabiddi Boat Ramp, the crew from Kings has one final surprise – a beautiful dark, rich chocolate birthday cake for Max – a yummy end to a memorable day.
Our tour group on the Magellan                                                           Photo: Leith Holtzman

The next day Max and I hired snorkel gear from the Exmouth Visitors Centre and drove out to Turquoise Bay in the Cape Range National Park. We spent a couple of hours enjoying the “drift snorkel”.
Max at Turquoise Bay, Cape Range National Park

Starting at one end of the beach, we swam out into a current that allowed us to drift over the coral and get out at the other end of the beach. I felt as though we were on the magical film set of Finding Nemo. There were so many different types of colourful fish swimming around the coral…  I was relieved we didn’t see any sharks.

On the drive back through the national park we came across a large dingo chasing down a small kangaroo. The kangaroo didn’t stand a chance and the dingo killed it within seconds, right in front of our car; no doubt a welcome meal for the dingo.

The third and final part of our Excellent Adventure was a trip out to Hyden for a short weekend with our friends Astrid, Andy and their son, Max M.

Hyden is a small rural town, 323km east, south-east of Perth in Western Australia’s “Wheatbelt”. Two years ago, Max had flown west and stayed with Astrid and Andy for two weeks work experience in their family run business, The Ag Shop.

Andy met us at the airport on Friday afternoon, along with Astrid, who had just flown in from the eastern states. It was a happy surprise for Max, who had no idea we were going to Hyden for the final leg of our Excellent Adventure. On the way back to Hyden we collected Max M from his boarding school at Narrogin.

Hyden is famous for it’s geological feature the granite inselberg, Hyden Rock and in particular, the northern side, known as Wave Rock. Shaped like a tall, breaking ocean wave, it is around 14m high and 110m long. After a tour of The Ag Shop on Saturday morning, Astrid, the two Maxs and I drove out to see Wave Rock.
The two Maxs at Wave Rock, Western Australia
Max, Max M, Andy and Astrid

Sunday was our final day of Excellent Adventuring: back in the car to Perth, onto a plane to Melbourne and then back into the Barrmobile to Barham – all up, a total of 3,350km for the day. Home before midnight, safe and sound and with memories to last a lifetime. Happy Birthday Max!
Max and I at Wave Rock, near Hyden Western Australia

Annie Barr

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Parenting, P Plates and the Next Step

Max with his ute when he gained his "L" plates... independence just one short year away.

A disturbing event occurred in my life last year… back in August 2015, my eldest son, Max, graduated from learner driver on "L" plates to probationary driver on "P" plates. Unbeknown to me, those little plastic square plates with a bright, red “P” stamped on them would change our family dynamics and herald a new chapter in my parenting life.

With a weekend job bringing in a handy income and an old Ford ute bought from his uncle, suddenly Max was independent. No longer did he have to rely on me to get him where he wanted to go.

I found the change unsettling.

After years of single parenting, I was used to calling the shots, making the decisions and making things happen in general. Overnight I had to adapt to relaxing my control, trust Max to make good decisions and hope like hell my way of parenting had laid a solid foundation for Max to step out into the adult world.

Just as I was adapting to having an independent teenager in the house, Max upped the ante in December by announcing his intention to leave school before finishing Year 12, got himself a job three hours away and promptly left home.

It’s a cliché, I know, but it really does seem like only yesterday I was teaching Max to ride his pushbike without training wheels or holding his hand to cross the street.

Next month Max turns eighteen and to celebrate this milestone, the two of us are heading off on an excellent adventure for a week or so. Realistically, I see it as the last opportunity I have to kidnap him and spend time together, just the two of us, before he disappears completely into that exciting, parent-free world that is young adulthood.

Instead of shouting him a party or giving him a material present, my gift to Max will be some lifetime memories that (hopefully) won’t give him a hangover or be discarded at the bottom of his wardrobe.

Annie Barr

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

My Personal Weight Loss Experiment

An example of my new style of eating: low carbohydrate, healthy fat.

Four years ago, in February 2012, I completed a 27-day juice fast. I felt fantastic and documented my little experiment here. I maintained my weight easily enough for the next year or so but then as I entered my mid 40s the weight started to creep up again.

My weight gain started innocently enough. Following the successful completion of my first ever Great Victorian Bike Ride in late 2013, an epic cycling journey of more than 610km, I decided to reward myself with a “calorie amnesty”.

I ate and drank my way through the festive season that summer with gay abandon; avocado on several of pieces of toast every morning for breakfast, a big bowl of last night’s risotto for lunch, working days often concluded with a packet of kettle chips, a selection of dips accompanied with half a packet or more of water crackers and a generous glass of wine or three down on the riverbank before a substantial serving of dinner. In hindsight this was not one of my finest ideas.

By the end of that summer, I’d gained 5kg and my appetite had increased considerably, to the point where I always felt hungry. Initially, I had optimistically thought the weight gain may have been muscle. You know, from all that bike riding.

It was the arrival of winter 2014 and my winter wardrobe that dispelled any illusions the extra weight might have been muscle. Muscle does not bulge over the top of your jeans like… like the top of a banana muffin!

Admitting to myself that I needed to trim down and actually doing anything about it were two different things but I did try.

I decreased my alcoholic drinks and increased my exercise… and swapped kettle chips for dark chocolate, all the while allowing myself generous servings of pasta, rice and wholegrain bread because I was a cyclist riding anywhere between 100 and 200km per week and I needed carbohydrates, right? I gained yet more weight in 2015.

Last month, despite the fact I had added swimming three times a week to my exercise regime, I topped my scales at 72kg - proving to myself you cannot out exercise a bad diet or even a good diet that is far too generous in portion sizes. I had begun to feel quite self-conscious about how I looked… and how my clothes no longer fitted me. I decided to get serious about losing the weight.

First of all I wanted to do some research into weight loss diets to try and figure out what would work best? Unfortunately, weight loss diets are renown for their long-term failure rate.

It’s all very well replacing meals with “diet shakes” and smoothies or dramatically cutting out whole food groups for short-term weight loss but if you go back to your previous eating pattern once you’ve reached your target weight, the excess weight comes straight back on, plus a bit more.

I was confident my general diet was pretty healthy and I certainly wasn't slack in the exercise department but I always felt hungry and ate far too much; far more than my body really needed.

A good mindset, I felt would be essential for losing the excess weight and I allowed myself nearly the whole of January to just think about a healthy eating plan. To help keep myself accountable, I also told my family and many of my friends and clients that I would be beginning my personal experiment into weight loss on Sunday 31st January.

The more I read, the more convinced I became that the amount of carbohydrates and refined sugars in my diet were the principal cause of my hunger and weight gain.

My personal weight loss experiment began with a 5-day juice fast; every morning I juiced a variety of fruits and vegetables to drink throughout the day. For the next five days I continued on with the juice but added an avocado and/or boiled egg, a small portion of meat and vegetables and some dairy in the form of cheese or plain yogurt. By this stage I’d read a considerable amount of information on low-carb/healthy fat diets (LCHF) and the similarly principled Paleo diet and I was encouraged by what I’d learnt.

I gave up alcohol, tea and almost all coffee and refined sugar for the month of February.

As the weight started to come off, my appetite decreased and my energy levels started to increase. The less carbohydrates and refined sugar I ate, the less hungry I felt.

Within four short weeks, I have lost 4kg and amazingly, my symptoms from primary lymphoedema (excessive swelling in my lower legs, ankles and feet), have all but disappeared. Some long-term aches and pains that I had put down to aging have noticeably reduced and my skin looks clearer.

I’m still fine tuning my general diet and will write an update in a couple of months time to let you know how I’m going and what I’ve learnt but without doubt the biggest difference for me has been from dramatically reducing the amounts of carbohydrates and refined sugars I consume. I no longer feel hungry all the time, I feel clear-headed and my energy levels have increased. I’m happy with that!

There's nothing like some before and after photos when it comes to weight loss:
Not a recent photo but how my feet, ankles and lower legs typically look by the end of the day

What my feet, ankles and lower legs looked like the other night (21.2.2016)!