Golly Gosh Cafe

tea shop and sanctuary


I have introduced myself. You have introduced yourself. This is a very good conversation. ~ Katsumoto, The Last Samurai

They were two silver-haired ladies, still stylish and still a little mischievous.

Kate and Lizzie could no longer be described as young but that didn’t matter, at least not to them.  It neither hindered nor worried them for they were also formidable and wise, vivacious and free.  Forces of nature some might say.

A lifetime ago they embarked on life’s rollercoaster knowing only too well that the presence of vulnerability and fragility would accompany them forever.  They would come to know feelings of exhilaration and excitement and the adrenalin rush that makes the heart beat faster and faster; fight or flight.  The fear and the tummy flips, the nausea, the holding on so tightly that knuckle bones are displayed and close to bursting through the skin.  The need to trust and rely on something other than self and the tears and relief knowing that, for another day, survival was to be permitted.

Life’s experiences: unique, precious and detailed.  Stories: not to be challenged or touched.  And never dismissed.

Today was a milestone.  Lizzie had some news and wanted to share it.

Kate’s squeals erupted.  Tears of happiness streamed down her face and she squeezed her friend so tight Lizzie thought she might pop.

Lizzie’s going to be published! 

It would seem that life had been breathed into Lizzie’s girlhood dream of being an author and it was closer to taking flight than she could ever have imagined.  She couldn’t contain her excitement and why should she.  But all she could think of saying was:

Definitely something to tick off that bucket list!

Kate and Lizzie had been friends after a comical first encounter had brought them together almost fifty years ago now.  A long time to be a friend.  They reminisced but this wasn’t a day for reality checks and things forgotten or lost.  Today was memorable and magical.  Today a dream was born and everyone celebrated.

Lizzie sat for a while after Kate left.

She understood her friend’s need to be doing things.  Kate always had a schedule, a list of sorts and meetings to attend for one of the many groups she volunteered with.  There was always something to do for The Rural or The Festival Group or the Church office where she helped out.  But today was her aqua aerobics day and Lizzie couldn’t help but smile.  She pictured Kate, leading the way, at the forefront of other women of a certain age.  All shapes and sizes, in swimsuits with some wearing hats to keep their hair in place for another day, bobbing up and down in the pool, stretching, running, pushing against the water, in time to music of a different era.  All desperately trying to follow the instructions of a much younger version of themselves with the additional extras of makeup, lycra and a body that was fit for public viewing.  More comical Kate moments.

Lizzie had a gentler approach to life.  She preferred to linger in the moment allowing her senses free rein to attune to the surroundings and to the thoughts in her head.  Sifting and sorting, organising and refreshing.  Unrushed.  Missing nothing.  Always time.

More tea Lizzie?

Yes please Alice.  The meringues were delicious! 

I wasn’t too sure at first.  I think I’m more of a sponge kinda person.  I was going to ask you about meringues … your secret weapon!

They both laughed.

No secret Alice, just practice.  She winked.

What’s the book about Lizzie?

Thin places.

Alice felt a sudden tugging at her heart and looked up.

I think I’ll need a spare cup. 

She looked around.  There was little noise.  And like slow motion Alice located a cup and saucer from the shelf, pulled back a chair and sat, taking her place beside Lizzie.  She poured them both a fresh cup of Earl Grey tea and with elbows on the table she rested her chin on her hands.

She knew this would be a good conversation.


A person who has no-one would be well advised to cobble together some passable ghost.  Breathe it into being and coax it along with words of love.  Offer it each phantom crumb and shield it from harm with your body.  ~ Cormac McCarthy, The Road

She had to go back. To decide.

The rattle and hum of the city took her by surprise and she couldn’t help but compare its pace to the gentle steady rhythm of the small town she’d lived in the last two years. She was struck by how bright everything was; shiny and superficial, busy and impersonal, focused and without interaction. Souless. She looked around and wondered why she’d found this all so exciting, so vibrant and so full of opportunity. But she was younger then, less cynical. Now it irritated and set her teeth on edge, making her want to scream out for the quiet. Just for a minute she wished it would all stop.

Sally didn’t like indecision and the untidiness going on in her head. She preferred certainty and order but over the last two days her thoughts seemed chaotic and devoid of any real formation or structure; hard to separate. Conflicting options buzzing and blazing loudly; a blend of tinnitus and fast cars, dazzling zig zag lines and bright headlights making her feel out of control.

She fought back the memories of a past life: the pressure; the image and perfection; the hours of endless meetings and networking; the competition and unrealistic deadlines; the fighting to be heard and never feeling good enough; the big money that made her feel nauseous; the hate and deceit and false relationships; the insomnia and pretence and hiding the exhaustion; no time for food or a social life; stress and profound loneliness.

Her frown deepened and she knew her mood was different here.

Emptiness and noise. Ghosts and shadows. Almost broken. But not quite. She remembered.

One moment had made her realise life was about choices and in that moment her present became her past. A leap of faith some people call it. An awakening.  In the beginning she had no-one. Until, out of the blue, Kate arrived. Thank God for Kate and for the safety and sanctuary she eventually found in Golly Gosh and its people.  But Golly Gosh seemed a long way off now, almost surreal.

Time was running out and a decision had to be made by the end of the week. To carry on or move on.

What’s it to be Sal?

She felt burdened by the weight of her decision because she knew life wouldn’t be the same.  This was no longer transitional and self-serving, something for her to do, a project to focus on to get her back on her feet.  It wasn’t just about her.  Her decision involved lots of people; all with gifts and talents, idiosyncrasies and foibles, bad days and good, grumpiness and gratefulness.

Tears slowly tickled down her cheeks and she felt her heart would burst with emotion; letting go and possibilities and risk.  She smiled remembering the small place by the sea and the conversations; privileged to be trusted with innermost secrets, heartache and joy.  She realised that in serving she had found her special place.  Love and reciprocity.

She reached for a tissue, blew her nose and wiped her eyes.

I need to be home.

Vulnerable and out of her depth she knew she had work to do.



How beautifully leaves grow old.  How full of light and color are their last days.  ~John Burroughs

The softness of newly fallen red and gold and brown leaves, slippery under wellington boots that playfully rustled and kicked and swept on the way to school.   The feel of a new navy blue trenchcoat still to be softened and moulded, a buckle fastened tightly, the scratchy borrowed scarf and the hood tied under her chin to protect against the cold wind and rain, chapping at her face.  A brown leather satchel on her shoulders bobbing up and down and gloves dangling but still attached.  Her hand holding on tightly to the young man at her side.

I’m going to be late and I’ll get into trouble!

You’ll be fine.  I’ll explain.

It would be a typical exchange.  One who worried and one who tried not to.  Nothing would change as they grew older.

An unexpected memory from a long time ago interrupted Kate’s thoughts; a special day and the only time she could ever remember her big brother taking her to school.  She knew then he’d always be there for her and he was, for as long as he could be.

Since she was little, autumn had been Kate’s favourite time of the year.  There was no other season that reminded her of her mum so vividly than autumn with its vibrant colours.  Beautiful autumn, the transition from summer to winter, transforming the grey concrete roads and pavements into a carpet of blended colour, simply irresistible.  How her mum had watched everyday as the leaves fell, knowing that winter was on its way, and that this autumn would be her last.

Kate had never known her brother’s favourite season.  But she was certain if he’d had one, it would surely have been summer.  She couldn’t help but smile at the thought and knew, instinctively, that he’d agree.

She was doing lots of remembering lately and gave herself a talking to.  This self-indulgence had to stop!  Perhaps it was the celebration of her beautiful niece’s birthday or the shiny happy face of her great-nephew Noah or the fact that their lives had been turned upside down ten years ago or was it the earlier conversation she’d had with her best and oldest friend in the world that was the trigger.

Hidden emotions of a last autumn.

Unusually Kate had given herself permission to be alone today and now understood what it was about solitude that the woman in the corner seemed to like so much; quietness and a time to think and look around you. She observed the comings and goings, overheard snippets of conversations but always seemed to miss the punchline just before the laughter erupted.  She witnessed seriousness and hope etched in the faces of those around her and she realised, again, that everyone has a story to tell.

A boy in red and white with blond hair caught her eye in the distance, further down the beach.  He was flying a kite.  Her heart lifted and kicked.  But Noah and Auntie Jan weren’t alone.  The wind was too strong for them to control the kite and she watched curiously as the stranger stepped in to help.  Running and laughing together; chasing.

Well, that’s tonight’s conversation taken care of.

Her brother popped into her head again.  Mischief maker.  She smiled.

big blue skye

But that big blue sky
Shows me all that I have got

And you’re by my side

To be everything I’m not

The angels sigh

I breathe deep the breath of God

~ Bebo Norman

In the morning all the signs of last night’s gale were there.  The power of the wind unquestionable in the devastation and debris it had left behind.  But that same wind had failed to remove the humid, damp and depressive stillness that stubbornly clung on longer than it should, successfully crowding out any brightness.

A metaphor, perhaps.

The lady with the silver hair grabbed a rainjacket as she left home just in case there’s another downpour! It wasn’t her usual Golly Gosh day but today wasn’t the usual kind of a day.  Certainly it was grey and dark enough and she wondered if the heaviness of the air would ever clear.  The gloom was trying its hardest to claim her hopefulness and fortitude but she laughed in its face; formidable and strong.  Not today.  Especially not today.  Why did it still persist after all these years?

She arrived at Golly Gosh in time to meet her oldest friend in the world.

Big deep breath.  God’s presence.

Looking up she spotted some blue sky.  She needed it.


Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile. ~ Mother Theresa

It was a stunning day and she was glad she’d made the effort to get out of the cottage and take the short walk along the beach that brought her predictably to her beloved Golly Gosh with its heart shaped pebbles.

She sat in her usual spot watching Sally and Alice bustle about making everyone feel welcome.  She’d come to recognise that people became friends here.

My it was bright; almost too warm and she wished she’d ordered a cool drink instead of her usual Earl Grey.  There was always time.  This was progress.

She squinted her eyes as the glare bounced off the big wide open shuttered windows and streamed into the room.  She followed it as it came to rest on the silver heads of two older ladies out for their regular Sunday afternoon tea. After church perhaps?  She’d seen them often and they’d always been kind enough to acknowledged her but intentionally didn’t pursue conversation, somehow sensing her awkwardness.  As one shielded her eyes the other relaxed as the warmth spread over her back; maybe today she’d take her cardi off.  They listened intently to one another the way only old friends can before throwing their heads back and roaring with laughter; glasses off and wiping sparkly eyes.   It warmed her heart to watch and one couldn’t  help but wonder what their younger versions were like.  They reminded her of her mother.

Suddenly the presence of happier times flooded her memory: sunshine and laughter and driving in the car with the hood down listening to favourite tunes and sunglasses and summer dresses and a light tan; mum and learning to ride a bike and the endless school summer holidays and winters with White Fang and Secret Seven adventures.  Life with purpose; relaxing and free.

Right from the start she’d thought of this place as her shelter.  How she’d needed the peace and quiet.  She liked Sally and Alice and had come to enjoy their gentle company over the months.  She’d never felt like a stranger and it was Sally’s special gift.  People always left feeling better; talking, listening, being.  And Alice, lovely Alice, baked the best cakes in the world!

Her thoughts were interrupted as colourful bags burst through the door and like breaking glass the laughter of shopping girls shattered the calm of the place. But it wasn’t disturbing, rather it was refreshingly curious. She admitted a renewed sense of nosiness and that was a good thing; an indicator that her mood was lifting. Who couldn’t be drawn into their world of fun and hope. Well that’s what it appeared.  At once she was envious of their knack of happiness.  And wondered if she could catch it.