I thought I’d show you a few pics from my writing retreat in Sydney. The old heritage house on Cockatoo Island is too big and pricey to stay by yourself, but it’s value really comes into its own when you have 6-8 people to split what is then a very affordable cost. It was large, airy, bright and comfortable and meant that we each had an enormous bed and a (separate) dedicated writing space so that we could concentrate. On top of that were a bunch of shared spaces for winding down.
This was my writing space… The upstairs front balcony(as distinct from the downstairs front verandah and the upstairs back balcony…and the gorgeous window seat in the lounge at the front of the house and the snug study upstairs at the back of the house and the opulent formal lounge with comfy sofas… you get the picture…)
I only left this balcony to sleep, shower or eat. Otherwise I stretched out on the comfy chairs with pillows under my legs, a blanket over me and my keyboard on my lap. It was an amazingly relaxing way to spend a few days. Heaps of interesting activity on the river and below the house to provide temporary distraction from my writing. Mostly the sun shone and the river sparkled and watercraft were active, but even when the clouds moved in and a light, wet mist blew down the river–and even when it finally matured into actual rain–I was warm and dry in my balcony nest.
There was a lovely, green garden and big comfortable outdoor table (hello additional writing space!) which was perfect for late breakfasts or group brainstorming sessions or just sitting and staring up at the rustling jacaranda.
All in all a beautiful and suprising place to visit. Surprising? Cockatoo Island is an old incarceration site and shipyard and 75% of the island is concrete. It’s the last place you might imagine yourself going for a quiet writing retreat. But from inside this house, sitting as we were high on the cliff face with most of the island ‘behind’ us you wouldn’t know. All that granite does something amazing to sound transfer; in fact there was a 6 hour function for 750ppl in one of the giant echo-ey factory sheds on the island about 300m away and we didn’t even hear them. The only clue we had of them even being there was the all day back-and-fro barges which ferried the equipment and catering vans etc across right in front of us.
As for the heading of this blog? On the second last night on the island, Sydney had what they described as a ‘deluge’ in the harbour. It apparently rained for so long and so hard that harbour properties were flooded and overrun. I do remember waking to the sound of thundering rain during the night but our gentle old girl of a house took it in her stride (sitting up on her cliff face) and barely groaned. The only thing pouring on that trip were words on the page…
I slept, there, the best I can remember ever sleeping–deep, dreamless and high quality–in that modest old house’s loving care.
So thank you Sydney for the loan of one of your many old mysteries. and thanks Cockatoo Island for showing me a side to Sydney I’d never seen. I hope to be back.