The Smorgasbord of Life

This is why I refer to life as a ‘smorgasbord’.  ‘Coz I like to try a bit of everything and I usually go back for more…

I’ve seen the Taj Mahal at sunrise, Niagara Falls under snow (and half frozen), and watched the sun set over the Grand Canyon. I’ve seen the Parthenon and the treasures of King Tut, the pyramids, the Golden Buddha, the Burj Khalifa and Ayers Rock (Uluru).  I’ve walked to Mt Everest Base Camp and and on the Great Wall of China.

I’ve mushed a team of dogs in minus 60 degrees and I’ve ridden a camel through the desert.  I’ve skied and dived and parachuted, abseiled, done loops in gliders and loops at Disneyland.

I’ve rafted and sailed and sea-kayaked, taken car ferries, a gondola, dugout canoes and international liners and lived on a prawn trawler.  I’ve lived in caravans, dongas and tents and slept in swags, tipis and gers and under the stars.

I’ve heard the first wet season downpour hit the old tin roof, then driven through a metre of flood water to get the groceries and brought them home on a fire truck because the river was ‘up’.  And I’ve squeezed the last precious drop of water from an almost empty water tank shared with a man, three dogs, three horses, six chooks and a garden.

I’ve cycled thousands of kilometres and ridden my motorbike around New Zealand and driven around Australia alone.

I’ve danced under the moonlight in the dirt of Cape York with a small Aboriginal child on each hip, all three of us spinning and laughing. And danced in the rain.

I’ve seen bears and sharks and whales, echidnas, platypi, kangaroos, squirrels, monkeys, snakes, crocodiles, camels, yaks, deer, moose, penguins, wombats, vultures, whales, tropical fish and marmots in their natural habitats.

I’ve lived in five states and moved interstate ten times.  I couldn’t begin to count the number of times I’ve moved house.

The best half of my life would be missing without the camping.

I’ve cried tears of joy and tears of despair, tears of desperation, tears of laughter and tears of heat exhaustion.

I have loved and lost, loved and hurt, loved and been hurt, loved and grieved.

I’ve eaten goat’s knees, yak’s liver and calves testicles freshly cut out and cooked by a seven year old boy.  I’ve ridden on the back of a motorbike with a seven year old boy.  I’ve ridden a roller coaster with a different seven year old boy.  I’ve been driven in a car by a seven year old boy.

I’ve made furniture and built decks, designed and built a kitchen and laundry, a bicycle and gardens, made curtains, canvas panniers, bias-cut silk lingerie, scones and chutney and lots of beautiful clothes and knitted more than 30 jumpers.  I’ve painted houses and ski lodges. I pulled my motorbike into a lot of little bits and put it back together.

I’ve had a spa outside in the snow and made snow angels in my bikini and had a bath over a fire under the stars.  And I’ve skied in the nude….

I’ve flown on the mail plane and with the Flying Doctor. I’ve been winched from a helicopter and flown in dozens of different types of aircraft.  I’ve taken the controls of a private jet and gliders.

I’ve been a cook, a teacher, a public servant, an environmental scientist, a deputy engineer, salesperson, a fisherman and a truckie, a governess, a project manager, a barmaid, a tour guide, a hostel manager, a sled-dog poop-scooper, a tripping counsellor, unemployed, a photographer, a dish- pig, a cleaner, a waitress, a pharmacy assistant, a ski lift operator, a writer.

I’ve seen comets and shooting stars, eclipses and Jupiter so close it looked like the moon.

I’ve walked to 18,000 feet and scuba dived to 36 feet.  I’ve jumped from a plane at 14,000 feet.  I’ve rafted rapids and crossed raging torrents on log bridges, I’ve sat in underground caves in pitch darkness and floated through a cave in an inner-tube.  I’ve walked in rainforests, glaciers and deserts. And I’ve walked on hot coals.  I’ve had two ends of a rainbow land on me at once.

I’ve experienced earthquakes, floods, droughts, blizzards and sandstorms and walked in a volcano.

I’ve ridden in rickshaws, hot air balloons and a side-car, ridden a Ducati around a speedway and driven a 400 tonne dumptruck sideways.

I’ve held a dying cow and kangaroo and a dead man.  I’ve touched a human skull.

I’ve travelled to 32 countries, 27 alone.

I’ve taken trains the length and breadth of Australia, trains across America, Canada, Switzerland and India and stepped on board the Trans Siberian.  I’ve taken a ship across the ocean.

I’ve bought and sold seven houses and renovated four.

I’ve been so cold I’ve gone three weeks without removing my clothes even to wash, and so hot I’ve had five cold showers a day for months on end.

I’ve slept in a different place nearly every night for months on end and gone almost a year without entering a house.

My friends range from politicians to prostitutes, accountants to school teachers, scientists, engineers, jet pilots, and a QC, Aboriginal elders to fishermen, artisans, medical students, musicians to mine superintendents and virtually everything in between.

I’ve had no fixed address and nowhere to sleep, no money in the bank and no food in the cupboard, no cupboard for food and I’ve been to a millionaire’s cocktail party and had my photo taken with the Prime Minister and the Queen (both at once).

So these are some of the things I will write about in my blog – happy, sad, funny – just the pleasure and variety of being alive.

Categories: Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Around the world on an old XL250?

Wed 15 Feb 20120
Video Credit: JANE ST CATHERINE Show map

Have you seen our ABC Open ad on telly? Well here’s the story – and photo – behind one of the memorable moments from our 60 second TV spot.

If you haven’t seen our ad, click here to see it. Everyone in it is a real person, who has been a part of ABC Open, either as the subject of a story, the creative force behind it, or both.

If you check out our first ever project, One on One: Change, you’ll see the stories behind some of the familiar faces from the ad. Like these:

A bottler of an idea Glenn Haines bought a dairy farm, and over the last 42 years has seen a lot of change in the industry. His latest innovation means that he can take control of his working life, and keep his mind active by taking on a new challenge.

Light at the end of the tunnel Eileen King hasn’t let losing her sight stop her from doing what she loves. She teaches piano, and brings her guide dog Kelly along to ballroom dancing classes.

Drawing from experience After a lifetime working on the land, Tony Bishop is changing his focus from farming to producing children’s books based on the wildlife on and around his property.

Embracing the silence Yoga instructor Eloise Sinnott knew that moving from Sydney to Dungog was going to be a big change, but one thing she wasn’t prepared for was the quiet.

Dividing the time between town and country Since being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, Cathy Dowling has made a career switch from the ‘colour, lights, hustle and bustle’ of costume design to running a commercial art gallery in a small town.

Jane St Catherine has been involved with ABC Open since we first began. First in the Hunter region, where she worked with Open Producer Anthony Scully to make Light at the end of the tunnel, and now in South East NSW, where she took many memorable photos for our Portrait of a Stranger project.

In the ad, she’s the one sitting in a wooden armchair, blissfully remembering a formative moment:

‘it was just that feeling of freedom, just getting on the bike at long last, after all the planning’

Of all the teasing slivers of story, this is always the one that leaves me hankering to hear more.

What bike? What planning? What happened?

But now we finally get the chance to hear the rest of the story.

After a super busy winter working as a ski lift operator at Thredbo, Jane was disappointed to find out that The Moment Behind The Photo project had closed before she’d had a chance to get involved. So I let the deadline slide a little…

Jane came along to a Summer School session in Cooma, and we got together afterwards to get her set up to create a Moment Behind The Photo story. We recorded an interview into her voice recorder, and I gave her a quick-fire intro to Audacity and Windows Live Movie Maker on her laptop. Then Jane completed the edit and uploaded the story on her own.

It’s a bittersweet story about dreaming big, and having the guts to make that dream a reality. And the determination to keep the dream alive, despite the disappointment of things not going to plan.

Thanks for sharing it, Jane!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Transforming myself into a published author

Transforming myself into a published author

Jane St Catherine By Guest Blogger Jane St Catherine

Wed 29 Feb 20122
Transforming myself into a published author

How did an old journal entry about homeless people and fast-flowing rivers, written during one of the most desperate times of my life, lead me to this exciting point?

I don’t consider myself an author…yet…and I’m about to fly to Baltimore USA, to attend a retreat with 40 authors from around the world, some of them best sellers.

But wait, I’m jumping ahead of myself.

I’ve been keeping journals for many years with the vague intention of ‘one day’ creating something other people can read.  Mainly it’s for myself, because I enjoy writing.  Over the years many friends have asked when I’m going to write a book, but it seemed like a mammoth task to pull a whole book together out of scraps of my life story.

Then Christine Kloser, award winning author and ‘transformation catalyst’, appeared on my laptop.

When Christine announced an opportunity to apply to write a chapter for a new anthology, things started bubbling around inside me.  I told myself that if I was going to be a real author, this was my chance to get on with it.

Familiar doubts arose and the deadline loomed.  The application consisted of a 250 word chapter outline (that’s really not much) and a 100 word author bio.

After work one night, just before the deadline, I flipped through my journals and picked out a story that I thought could work. It was a time when I’d made a financial mistake and thought I was going to end up living on the streets.  It was particularly stressful because I had to keep paying out money that I didn’t have.  I wrote in my journal about wanting to explore how beliefs, triggers or patterns take people from sitting side by side at primary school, to the opposing directions of street-dweller or millionaire.  I wrote about squatting on the grungy, city footpath and discussing the logistics of street-living with a homeless man after giving him my last dollar.

I hadn’t left myself time to think through how those couple of old journal paragraphs would form a whole chapter.  Instead, I relied on my 100 word bio to convince both myself and Christine that there was a positive outcome to the story.  With trembling heart and hands, I pushed the ‘submit’ button.

A few days later, I received an email labelled ‘Congratulations’.  I think I laughed and cried all at once.  Joy, fear and excitement were at war within.

“I appreciate your honesty”, Christine wrote. “The journal entry you shared was very powerful and I know your story will impact many people.  I want to know more.” So did I, quite frankly.

I was being asked to write a chapter for the new book Pebbles in the Pond: Transforming the World One Person at a Time, a book of heartfelt, transformational stories.

I hope that by sharing a small part of my life, I can encourage others to believe in hopes and dreams and gain deep inner strength through adversity.  Each author has shared a personal transformation and I’m honoured and excited to be a part of this wonderful movement.  The message of my chapter is that life is not always a bed of roses – it’s sometimes a fast-flowing, muddy river. And if you can learn to enjoy the roller-coaster of life and keep believing in yourself, you can achieve your dreams.

Pebbles in the Pond: Transforming the World One Person at a Time will be launched world-wide on 20 May 2012.  You can download free chapter previews at

Purchase the book at

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Photographing Wendy and other amazing strangers

Photographing Wendy, and other amazing strangers

Jane St Catherine By Guest Blogger Jane St Catherine

Sun 15 May 20114
Photographing Wendy, and other amazing strangers
Credit: janestcatherine Show map

ABC Open regular Jane St Catherine writes about her experience meeting Wendy Harmer, and the many other amazing strangers she’s photographed and interviewed for Portrait of a Stranger.

I was one of those little girls (a very long time ago) who naturally approached strangers and started conversations and collected addresses and had penfriends and wrote letters. So I was really excited and, I must admit, more than a little daunted, when I found out about ABC Open’s Portrait of a Stranger project. I attended a workshop in Cooma, with ‘strangers’ who mostly turned out to be people I knew from my school days, and we ventured out into the street with our cameras.

I walked up and down the street and round the block a few times, looking for someone who looked as though they might have time to talk, and at the same time looked friendly and approachable. I started towards a few, then changed my mind, or should I say, chickened out!

In the end, I got a bit carried away and approached about six people in an hour. I pretty much forgot to take interesting photos and get enough details to make an interesting story, but at least I’d broken the ice and given myself some areas to improve.

One day I heard about a young woman who is cycling around the world and had just passed through Thredbo. I found out that someone in town had taken her phone number. I’m a would-be round-the-world cyclist myself, and this project gave me a fantastic excuse to call Mirjam and arrange to meet up with her.

Mirjam was camping up on the Main Range and I walked up early the next morning to take photos of her jumping joyfully up at Rawsons Pass, having made it to the top of Australia. The same day, I heard about Jodie, who had achieved an incredible recovery from a snowboarding accident. I arranged to go abseiling with her, but by the time Mirjam had boiled the billy several times (with the stove in her bike panniers), Jodie had had enough of abseiling in the freezing cold. Instead of the abseiling shot I was hoping for, I photographed her on the chairlift as I helped her carry her gear down.

It was fun meeting Mirjam and Jodie, but I know that everyone has a fascinating story to tell. The challenge is asking the right questions to get an idea about someone in a short amount of time.

Last Wednesday was the annual Dalgety Women’s Day. I found out Wendy Harmer was a guest speaker and I thought maybe…just maybe, I would have the courage and the opportunity to ask her for a Portrait of a Stranger photo.

It was a day of laughs and camaraderie and celebration for the women of the high country with the hilarious Jackie Furey as main speaker. Wendy Harmer didn’t appear until after lunch, and I wasn’t sure if I’d get the opportunity to talk to her. But sure enough, she was signing copies of her new book Friends Like These, so I kind of lurked there for a while, plucking up the courage to approach her. I got my camera out, reviewed a couple of questions and fiddled with my notebook – what do I ask someone whose every detail is already public knowledge?

Wendy kindly agreed to the photo. It was blowing a gale outside, straight from the snow, but she liked the idea of the wind in her hair. I took three photos and when I sent the link through to Wendy, offering to forward her the other photos, she replied that she thought she looked like a dropped pie and “PS Don’t send me any more photos”, with a little smiley symbol. She also very graciously added that she wished me luck with my plan to start my own blog.

I’ve loved being involved with the ABC Open’s Portrait of a Stranger project. It’s a bit challenging, even for me, who naturally chats to just about anyone. But, hey, I love a challenge, I love meeting people, I love improving my photography and I really love seeing my photos (and new friends) on the website alongside so many other wonderful photos. It’s heart-warming and just plain good fun.

You can see Jane’s other Portrait of a Stranger photos by clicking here, and follow this link to see her contribution to ABC Open’s first project, One on One: Change.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Me Bloody Big Truck”

28 January, 2010 1:11PM AEDT

Life inside the cabin of Jane’s bloody big truck

By Jane St Catherine and Anthony Scully

Words and pictures from inside the cabin of a Singleton mineworker’s bloody big truck. Warning: contains coarse language.

(I was trying to make this a copy of the post on the ABC Hunter Valley and Pilbara websites, but I’m sorry I’m unable to copy the photos and poem to my site, so try this link instead….)
The poem and slides go for about seven minutes.
This is the photo and words Anthony included along with my poem on the ABC site but for the poem and slides you need to follow the link above and press ‘Play’.

It was an adventurous spirit that led Singleton mine worker Jane St Catherine into a job in the mines in the Pilbara a few years ago.

And almost immediately after starting to drive enormous dump trucks around the alien landscape of Pannawonica, Western Australia, the words started flowing.

“Everything was pretty new and exciting and one day the poem just came to me while I was driving the truck,” Jane says.

The poem “Me Bloody Big Truck” was one of the first read out at the recently formed Singleton Writers Group, a collection of half a dozen locals who attended visiting writers talks at the local library and decided to get together and practice their craft.

“It was pretty annoying really,” Jane  says, of the moment the inspiration to write the poem took hold.

“I was trying to focus on the new job, and backing up every few minutes. . . every time I took off from the loader the poem kept coming back into my head, so I just had to scribble it down as fast as I could.”

The poem contains a confusing array of terminology used over the radio communications in the mines, and outlines in a humorous way Jane’s coming to terms with the new workplace.

And, as Jane explains, it doesn’t come easily at first.

“There’s an awful lot to learn right at the beginning,” she says.

“I’d never had anything to do with a mine site, or trucks, or any of the equipment.”

“And they were driving around and telling me ‘this is a digger and this is a loader’ and I was thinking ‘what’s that got to do with me?’ (laughs) ‘I’m going to be driving a truck!’ because I just had no idea.”

Jane, who has a background in environmental science and has worked for government departments in Canberra in a previous life, describes how she came to be working in WA and living in a ‘donga’ or renovated shipping container used by mine workers.

“It was a fairly major career change,” she says.

“I was hitching a ride in Cape York, and the bloke that picked me up worked in the mine in Pannawonica’ and I said ‘Panna what? Can you spell it for me?’

The lift turned into an opportunity for Jane, who sent off her CV, but discovered that you can’t just land a job with a phone call. You have to be there to be considered.

“I didn’t know anything about where to go and where to start,” she says.

“So I just jumped in my car, and drove for 11 days across the country from Cape York, and wound up in Pannawonica, and ended up with the job.

“That’s actually part of the reason I wanted to drive, I think, was just for a bit of adventure and something interesting to write about.

Compared to the wild frontier of the Pilbara, Jane says the relative civilisation of Singleton and its generations of mining families is very different.

“I actually really, really love it, but I’m not very big on heat,” she says.

“I belong in the mountains with the snow I’m afraid.”

So it seems that the wanderlust of Jane St Catherine, writer, mine worker and adventurous spirit, is far from satisfied.

“When I’m about 100 I hope I’m still climbing mountains,” she says with a laugh.

And as if to prove her intentions, a camper sits in the backyard of her Singleton home, primed and waiting.

“Absolutely, I can’t bear to part with that,” says Jane.

“It looks a bit ridiculous driving around town and to work and back. . . it’s the sort of thing only a mother could love, but I’m hoping to take off in it and have some more adventures.”

Poem written and read by Jane St Catherine. Story and soundscape by Anthony Scully.

Watch and listen here:
Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Beginnings (Warning – Work in Progress!!)


I’m Jane St Catherine and this is my very first blog post.

Here’s a bit about me and what to expect from this site:

If I were to list some of the things I’ve done, places I’ve seen and jobs I’ve done you’d think I was pulling your leg or I was really about ten people, not one, but I’ll do that anyway.

I plan to just share parts of my story in the hope that some of it will resonate with you.  I’d also love to interact with you, my beautiful readers and perhaps I’ll be even be able to provide you with some inspiration and laughs along the way.

I’ve been keeping personal journals for many years and have an enormous stack of them sitting under the bed gathering dust and calling out to silverfish.  They do contain some interesting stuff and friends have been asking me for many years when I’m going to write a book.  Eventually I will write a book and this is a sort of test or trial, just to see how it feels to go public and whether anyone is interested in my musings.  As I go along, I also hope to distill my message and gain some clarity on what my message to you actually is… know, the part of me that can give you something really meaningful from my heart.

I have ridden the roller-coaster of life for over 50 years and have come to a place of gentle acceptance.  I have worked very hard towards a dream, recently fulfilled.

The smorgasbord of life called me from a secure suburban existence many years ago and I set off on an old 250cc trail bike to ride around the world. Determination, persistence and courage are words that resonate with me and I’ve put them all to very good use in overcoming many challenges.

This is also where you can buy a copy of our inspiring and transformational book full of heart-felt stories of hardship and triumph by authors from all over the world, including me….

There are all sorts of free goodies including author interviews if you buy now, prior to world-wide release on 20 May.  I’ll be doing some launch activities in Singleton, Thredbo and Jindabyne NSW later this month, so stay posted.

Most of the other authors will also be doing launches around the world. For more information go to:

You’ll find all sorts of great stuff there about this transformational book.

Buy Now Button

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Create a free website or blog at