jenn jay tales

Jennifer Johnston shares her travel tales; life adventures; observations, photos and random thoughts


Farewell my beige Billy

Death is inevitable – we all know that.  But if you lose a family member, or friend what you’re not prepared for is the feelings that crop up in unpredictable moments. Subtle reminders the person who was once a part of your life is now no longer.

My father passed away in April this year after a few years of declining heath. It wasn’t from a debilitating disease like cancer where the loved ones suffer so unfairly. My father’s condition was never fully diagnosed, despite numerous visits to doctors and specialists. But he had a heart attack at age 41 and bowel cancer at 58 – so to make it to 82 years he’d actually done well!

Dad about 10 years ago

Unfortunately, his last few years were a constant stream of doctor’s visits with an endless number of pharmaceutical pills to swallow.  Whatever ailed my father caused him to have no energy.  The man who loved to “tinker” on projects around the house was reduced to endless hours in bed, zapped of the desire to do anything.  Without energy, finding breathing difficult due to a build-up of fluid on the lungs and with parts of his body covered in scaly red masses – possibly the result of one of his many medications – dad’s quality of life was low.

The word wretched seems fitting.

Understandably he was frustrated and cranky for a fair amount of those years. And after that kind of existence you know it is a blessing he isn’t suffering any more.

Hang on a sec 

But there are moments that stop you when you realise that person is no longer here on this earth. I can no longer talk to dad, hear his grumbles, be told another of his grand stories (he had a few) or sit in the same room as him and look into his brown eyes and update him with something uneventful.

After dad died, my brother, mum and I went through that inevitable process – sorting through his belongings. We smiled at the amount of beige coloured clothing items we removed from his wardrobe. Trousers, shirts, even an old hat – all various shades of boring beige.  What a drab colour I thought – for a man who was far from dull.

dad in his groovy gear – showing off the planes he made my boys

Dad’s special place

At mum and dad’s home there are reminders everywhere of my father. But whenever I venture downstairs – to the garage underneath their house and go to his work bench, where his tools are stored, that is where it really strikes me – my dad has gone.

his workbench

Looking at the piles of tools he’s used over the years, the shovels, grubbers, the saws hanging on the wall, the clean paint brushes standing upright, the assorted glass jars lining in rows their lids nailed to the floor joists (my Dad’s novel way of storing screws) – I’m surrounded by so many memories of my father. He’d often be at his work bench tinkering – fixing, recycling or creating some project.

Dad’s novel method to store screws and bolts

I pick up what appears to be the last project he’d been working on, the realisation hits me hard. My eyes well with tears at the thought my dad will never touch these things again. He’s now tinkering in a different place.

Gone but never forgotten – my tinkering, story-telling, fan of beige-coloured clothing Dad. It’s father’s day today in Australia. I felt I had to write something.

Dad and I – on holidays (some time ago!)

Happy father’s day Dad.  Miss you. xx

Leave a comment

Win a trip to Cambodia

Thought the title might interest you – but sorry after that headline grabber – this post is actually about me trying to win a trip to Cambodia (not the other way round!)

I’ve entered a blogging competition with a worthy prize – the only thing I need is your vote – so to help me win a trip to Cambodia please go to my entry Naked Communion – a divine onsen experience and follow the links.

This is my last week of campaigning for votes as the comp closes August 3rd. Hopefully in a few months I’ll be sharing stories about Cambodia!




Giving back – an inspirational story

Meet My Huong Le

When travelling through Vietnam, I was fortunate to spend a day in Vung Tau with this amazing woman. She opened up to me about her childhood, being taken from her mother at the age of five during the Vietnam War. My Huong was part of operation baby lift, an initiative towards the end of the war by American President Ford, where children from southern Vietnam were adopted out to American and Australian families as the Vietcong invaded the south,

My Huong Le returned to her country of birth 30 years after leaving. As an adoptee herself, could there be a better person to understand the plight of orphans?

My Huong now helps manage an orphanage in Vung Tau and also works closely with a learning centre for disadvantaged children. She has an incredible life story and is only just beginning it she says!

My Huong Le at her desk

Her story about giving back despite all the challenges in her early childhood is incredible and inspiring.

Please find my story about my time with My Huong Le LIFT Magazine Issue 8 Winter LIFT 8 15-19  published in Lift Magazine.

Long Hai learning centre grounds Vung Tau, Vietnam

Leave a comment

How I lost half of myself

A weight loss journey

Background to the story

It’s well known there is a noticeable drop in the number of female lifesavers who continue volunteering once they reach age 50 and over. To continue as a lifesaver requires passing an annual proficiency test which involves a swim, run and obviously a certain amount of fitness. Maybe it’s hard to make the commitment later in life as other priorities take over? But not for Helen Hallett. She will be 55 years’ young in September.

Helen continues in her voluntary capacity as a lifesaver at the Gold Coast, a role she’s loved since her mid 20’s. She also works full-time for Surf Lifesaving Queensland. I initially met Helen in the Brisbane office of Surf Lifesaving Queensland, while I was working for the Lifeguard team. Helen is one of those work colleagues you love to be around. Upbeat, fun, generous with her time and incredibly passionate about what she does within the lifesaving community. Helen was the reason, as a freelance writer, I began researching a feature story on the 10 year anniversary of the Boxing day tsunami. We were at our desks in the office one afternoon, when a discussion began about Helen and her family’s incredible experience in Thailand during the Boxing Day tsunami – it was a real sliding doors moment. I wrote the story (with Helen and her family a major part of the story) and it ended up being published by QWeekend, titled Fatal shore. Qweekend article 13.12.14

A few months later I spied a call out from an Australian tabloid magazine for an inspirational real life story for “mature” women. I knew Helen would be a perfect choice having discussed her weight loss journey when interviewing her for the tsunami story. She agreed to do the article.  Helen generously gave more of her time to me to share her weight loss story. It’s not easy to share something so personal. That was 15 months ago and I’m not sure whether the magazine ended up publishing the story (I was paid for it.)  One of the many frustrations of being a writer!

So I’ve decided to share Helen’s story here, because I feel it’s a story worthy of sharing. Hopefully I’ve changed it enough to not conflict with the tabloid Magazine article (should they ever publish it!) Continue reading

Leave a comment

Seen better days

I had visions of 2017 being a year of many things.  Getting around on a pair of crutches with a broken leg was not part of my vision.

It all happened on day five of our Japan holiday. Myself with Mr 18 and Mr 13 were on a two-week vacation in Japan. (My other Mr 13 stayed home with Dad – “I don’t like skiing Mum.”) Like most trips, I’d done a fair amount of prior planning. This was my first visit to Japan and it was timed to co-incide to meet up with friends for a few days in Nozawa Onsen. Always more fun if you can ski with others – not just on the slopes but also the apres ski activities!  If you read my previous blog post on my impending Japan trip you’d know I was super excited to be finally visiting the land of the rising sun. It was going to be a quick overview: Tokyo, Nozawa Onsen and Kyoto were on the list.  As were a bunch of activities, including a sumo tournament, on the last night of the sumo season (had to jump through hoops to organise!)

But things don’t always go to plan do they? Continue reading