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How we stay together: ‘I was comfortable just to be there and let her cry it out’ | Life and style



Names: Natasha and Dave Hayes
Years together: 22
Occupations: government worker and IT team leader

Even the best laid plans go astray. In 1998, Natasha Hayes was planning to move to London. So when her housemate suggested she meet her friend Dave, Tash wasn’t interested. “I’m like, ‘I’m going overseas – I don’t want to meet anyone.’”

But when Dave turned up at her house one afternoon, Tash did a double take. “I saw this tall, blonde-haired giant of a man with an amazing smile and I thought: ‘Hmm’,” she remembers.

Her housemate suggested they all go on a double date – except she didn’t turn up. Tash and Dave found themselves on a regular date and, although there weren’t fireworks at first, there was enough to intrigue them. “It was just getting to know the other person – but, after a couple of dates, the chemistry kicked in and we became really close,” Dave says.

The Brisbane couple are opposites in many ways, and at first their match perplexed those close to them. “[My sister] couldn’t get her head around it,” Tash says. “She said, ‘But you listen to commercial radio; Dave listens to Triple J. You do ballroom dancing; Dave does moshing’ … So it was like, ‘Is this actually really going to work?’”

But they compliment each other, Tash says. “For me, I’m very emotional, very highly strung and Dave can ground me. He’ll level me and make me see reason. While for me it’s like, ‘Dave, talk to me. Tell me how you’re feeling’, so I get the emotion out of Dave.”

Tash and Dave on their medieval-themed wedding day
Tash and Dave on their medieval-themed wedding day.

From the start, Dave put everything on the table. “I wanted to make sure that if there was anything that Tash wasn’t going to like about me, I wanted her to know as early as possible, I was trying to protect myself emotionally. And through that honesty of sharing, we got a much greater connection.”

But Tash had booked her trip, so six months after they met, she moved to London, planning to spend the next few years in Europe. A few months later, Dave flew over to visit her for three weeks. “I think that’s when I knew. I’m like, ‘He’s serious’.”

After he left, Tash stayed on and moved to Greece for a nine-month stint, but eventually she decided it was time to come home. One afternoon, she surprised Dave at his workplace. “[I had] butterflies in my stomach. We’d spoken and we’d written letters, but still I was so nervous and just, ‘Oh my God, is he going to be there?’ I’ll never forget it. And his boss just turned around and said, ‘Ah, this is Tash. Have the day off. Have the next day off too. Just go.’”

It wasn’t long after that Dave decided to take the next step. “Things were even better than they were before she left, I thought, ‘OK, well, we haven’t had a fight, and I want to make sure that we can make up after we have a fight.’ Time went on, we still didn’t have a fight, and I’m like, ‘It’s not happening, and so maybe I shouldn’t wait anymore.’” One night, after a friend’s party, he asked her to marry him. “And she’s like, ‘Yeah, whatever.’ I’m like, ‘No, I’m serious. Marry me.’”

Being apart had shown them the strength of their connection, that they could be together but also be independent too. It’s something that still sustains them: “The fact I could go to a heavy metal concert knowing that Tash had absolutely no interest in that but she wouldn’t want to stop me from going to that, and she could go off to the ballet and I wasn’t interested in the ballet, but she could go off,” Dave says. “So the fact that we had common values, we really enjoyed each other’s company, but we also enjoyed spending time apart and doing what we wanted to do was what made it for me.”

They were married in August 2000 in a medieval-themed wedding. They pulled out all the stops including a groom wearing chain mail, wedding goblets and a celebrant dressed as Friar Tuck. Also, as part of the fun, they had a sketch artist who sketched everything, rather than a videographer, and they have a book filled with sketches as a wedding album.

Natasha & Dave Hayes
‘[The fact that] we really enjoyed each other’s company, but we also enjoyed spending time apart and doing what we wanted to do was what made it for me,’ Dave says. Photograph: Natasha & Dave Hayes

Getting married was a significant commitment for both but not much changed on a day-to-day level. “We didn’t get married for a purpose. A lot of people get married because they want to start a family and have kids. We got married just because we were together, we were in love and we just wanted people to know that we were in love,” Dave says. “We weren’t getting married as a precursor to something else, more an expression of who we were.”

The couple had decided early in their relationship that they weren’t going to have children. Tash says: “A lot of people ask like, ‘Oh, when are you having [children]?’ Well I always flip that. Why have children just for the sake of? So many people I have talked to or know of say, ‘Oh, well I’m a girl, I’m 40, I should have kids now.’ Well, why should you? The world is crazy at the minute. Do you really want to bring a child into that?”

While there has been some family pressure around that decision, their bond has meant they back each other up. “There’s nothing outside of us that comes between us, so we trust each other, and we’re honest with each other, so we don’t need to be constantly worried about, oh, is this other thing that’s outside going to influence and come between us?” Dave says. “Because if there was something that was going to cause friction, then we would feel free to talk about that before it ever got to that point.”

About a year ago, the couple went through a difficult time when Tash’s sister took her own life. She had stayed with the couple in the months leading up to that, with Tash doing all she could to help her. Dave was by her side throughout. “It was a challenge for me emotionally, but again, Dave knew I had to do it. It was a no brainer. It was like, ‘She’s coming to live with me. We’re going to get this hopefully better.’ And the outcome was not what we expected. But having Dave there was a leveller [for me].”

Tash & Dave Hayes
‘As we’ve grown together, we’ve been confident in ourselves as individuals and as a couple’, Dave says. Photograph: Tash & Dave Hayes

He supported her through her grief. “He’s been there. He could’ve just said, ‘Oh, just get over it. She’s gone. She made her peace.’ But Dave hasn’t. Maybe he doesn’t understand the connection, but [he] accepts, well, that’s what we had. So he’s been my rock through all that as well, which has been amazing.” Dave has kept her spirits up. “I’ll always have this hole in my soul and heart but Dave always reminds me of the positive, and that’s sometimes what I need, because it’s still fresh and so awful.”

Over the years, Dave says he has learnt that just being there and letting Tash process her emotions helps: “I was comfortable just to be there and let her cry it out, rather than try to extinguish the emotion.”

Through everything, they have grown closer: “As you get older, you get more confident in yourself and who you are and less worried about how the world perceives you. So as we’ve grown together, we’ve been confident in ourselves as individuals and as a couple,” Dave says.

They have also learnt to be realistic about each other and where they are in their lives. Dave uses the example of buying a home in an affordable area in Brisbane, which allowed them to pay down their mortgage and also enjoy their lives. “That is the key for us staying together, just being ourselves and being realistic about things, because then that takes a whole heap of other pressures off that just don’t need to be there.”

For them, it comes down to supporting the other, while leaving enough space to grow. Dave says: “Commitment is about providing that support because we’ve got open, honest conversation, then we have the common foundation of values, then it’s very easy to support each other in whatever decisions we’re making or going through.”

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So many gay relationships start in fiery love – in my middle 60s is something else possible? | Leading questions | Life and style




As a gay man in his middle 60s I have begun to wonder if being alone will be my lot. I have two dogs and a cat, I am not well-off but I survive OK at present and still work.

Without children or close family nearby, I crave a relationship with mutual love, care and respect. So many gay (and no doubt other) relationships start in fiery love and/or sexual encounters, something I seem to be past. Is it possible to find someone attractive and caring and compatible at this age I wonder?

Eleanor says: I had a professor who said that our relationship to the people we love is like our relationship to art; we keep coming back to it as long as it will give or teach us something new. I remember all the bells in my brain chiming at once when he said that. It’s why I like Keeping Up With the Kardashians but I love Monet; I’m done with an episode once I watch it, but when I return to a painting I’ve already seen thousands of times, there’s always something more I haven’t seen.

This is, I think, the difference between a “fiery love and sexual encounter” and a genuinely sustaining adult connection. Fiery affairs burn bright, are easily extinguished, and are basically interchangeable, one for another. They are the Kardashians of love.

But you might well be the Monet. We are taught to be so afraid of age – a billion-dollar industry would collapse if tomorrow we all woke up and thought “I don’t care about looking young”. But your age is what gives you more to share, more to teach, more to give to a partner every time they come back.

You have a life fully lived, a complete sense of self, the wisdom that comes from having navigated your own sexuality for decades. If love lives in the inexhaustible newness of other people, then you have more to make you loveable now than you did when you were 30.

You should try to be the kind of person you would like to meet. I know that’s platitudinous and annoying to hear, but go out, do things, meet people. We can get hooked on being alone, so that the outside world feels like a burden and new people feel like an imposition. Don’t curl into the slippers and the sofa every night, however narcotic it is to sink into the comfort of well-worn solitude. We need to be uncomfortable now and then to keep changing, and we need to keep changing to stay engaging to others.

When you meet people, be careful not to lead with your sense of being alone. People can smell it, and it turns them away. You have a complete life and a whole sense of self; invite people to share that joy instead of hoping too visibly they’ll patch the part that doesn’t feel complete. We have to be nourishing and complex for others if we want to have nourishing and complex relationships.

And don’t relate to your age as a strike against you. Be nervous and self-conscious of it and people will think there is something to be self-conscious of. Be vibrant and unapologetic and they will agree that there is nothing to apologise for.

It’s natural to feel pale by comparison in a world of shiny young things. But shiny exhausts its appeal very quickly. Don’t worry about being shiny. Be the Monet.


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  • Do you have a conflict, crossroads or dilemma you need help with? Eleanor Gordon-Smith will help you think through life’s puzzles, big and small.

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Three commonsense dinner-party dishes from Colin Fassnidge | Australian food and drink




Cabbage and fennel slaw

Serves 6-8

Crunch and texture. Texture and crunch … A good slaw is a fantastic and simple way to give yourself a vegetable boost. You can pair a slaw with pretty much anything. In this recipe I’ve included fennel and silverbeet for a twist on the classic cabbage slaw.

Cabbage and fennel slaw
Cabbage and fennel slaw. Photograph: Alan Benson/Plum

6 silverbeet leaves, finely chopped
200g red cabbage, finely sliced
2 red onions
, finely sliced
1 fennel bulb
, trimmed and finely sliced from top to bottom
1 bunch of flat-leaf parsley
, leaves and stalks roughly chopped
300g whole-egg mayonnaise
, plus extra if needed
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Combine the silverbeet, cabbage, onion, fennel and parsley in a large mixing bowl. Stir through the mayonnaise, adding a little more if you prefer a wetter consistency.

Transfer the slaw to a serving bowl. Add the lemon juice, season well with salt and pepper and drizzle over a little olive oil.

Memories of vinegar chips

Serves 6-8

Our kids love these roast potatoes and they’re often top of the list of dishes they ask me to make. The vinegar is a play on chips and malt vinegar – a trend Australia has been missing out on for years. I strongly encourage you to try it!

Salt and vinegar roast potatoes
Salt and vinegar roast potatoes. Photograph: Alan Benson/Plum

8 to 10 desiree potatoes, peeled and quartered
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil
, for roasting
1 garlic bulb
, unpeeled, cloves smashed using the side of a knife
1 bunch of thyme
1 bunch of rosemary
100g salted butter
, roughly chopped

For the vinegar
300ml white wine vinegar
1 bunch of rosemary
, leaves picked and chopped
1 tbsp caster sugar

To make the rosemary vinegar, combine the ingredients in a small bowl and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200C (fan-forced).

Place the potato in a large saucepan, cover with cold water and season with salt. Slowly bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes, until the potato is just starting to break up. Drain the potato in a colander and allow to steam dry for about 10 minutes.

While the potato is cooling, pour enough vegetable oil into a roasting tin to cover the base and place it in the oven to heat up. Once the potato is dry, tip it into the roasting tin (be careful as the hot oil will splatter) and spread out in a single layer.

Roast for 10 minutes, until the base of each potato is golden brown and crisp. Turn the potato over and add the smashed garlic cloves, herbs and butter. Roast for a further 15 minutes, turning the potato frequently to crisp each side, then remove the tin from the oven and strain away any fat. Season with salt and pepper.

Spoon the rosemary vinegar into the bottom of a serving dish, then gently place the roast potatoes on top and serve.

Roast rib-eye and yorkshire puds

Serves 4

This is a classic that never fails to impress. The trick to getting perfectly risen and crisp yorkies is to get the oil sizzling hot first and avoid opening the oven door during cooking. The yorkshire puddings can be frozen once cooked and cooled. They will keep for up to three months. Simply reheat them from frozen in a low oven.

Roast rib-eye
Roast rib-eye. Photograph: Alan Benson/Plum

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 x 4kg rack rib-eye of beef
2 onions
, halved
2 garlic bulbs
, unpeeled, halved horizontally
4 carrots
4 desiree potatoes
, quartered
1 bunch of rosemary
1 bunch of thyme
100ml vegetable oil
Grated horseradish root, to serve

For the yorkshire puddings
vegetable oil, for cooking
4 eggs
200ml full-cream milk
40g plain flour
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220C (fan-forced).

Heavily season the outside of the beef (this will ensure a beautiful crust once it is roasted).

To sear the beef you can either use a large heavy-based flameproof casserole dish or a barbecue flat plate. Heat either the dish over high hea, then add the beef and sear on all sides for 10-15 minutes, until well browned.

Place the onion, garlic, carrot and potato in a large roasting tin and lightly season, then position the herbs on top. Drizzle over the vegetable oil. Sit the seared beef on the herbs and roast in the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the oven temperature to 160C (fan-forced) and cook for 1 1/2 hours or until the core temperature of the beef is 57C on a kitchen thermometer. Remove the beef from the oven and allow to rest, covered, for at least 20 minutes.

Increase the oven temperature to 220C (fan-forced).

Meanwhile, to make the yorkshire puddings, pour enough vegetable oil to half-fill six holes of a large muffin tin, then place in the oven to heat up.

Whisk the eggs, milk and 1 1/2 tablespoons of water in a large bowl, then rain in the flour and whisk vigorously to beat out the lumps. Season and set aside for 15 minutes, then pour the batter into a jug.

Carefully remove the muffin tin from the oven and evenly pour the batter into the oiled muffin holes. Return to the oven and cook, undisturbed, for 20 minutes, until risen and golden.

Squeeze the garlic halves into the roasting tin and stir to mix through the vegetables.

Slice the beef, grate some horseradish over the top, if desired, and serve with the vegetables and yorkshire puddings.

  • This is an edited extract from The Commonsense Cook by Colin Fassnidge, Published by Plum, RRP $39.99, photography by Alan Benson

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Water: Brides-To-be pay attention! Here is how you can glow like a goddess on your D-day




As the lockdown took place, everything went for a toss. Suddenly, everything came to a standstill. Just like every other activity, wedding too, got affected. All the to-be brides who had plans of making their D-day the most memorable one, went down the drain. But slowly and steadily things are getting back to normal. Though it is still mandatory to maintain precautions, but things are getting better. Due to the lockdown most weddings are pushed to next year, though this delay can bum you out a little, but guess what, this gives you more time to indulge in pre-bridal skin care routine. Dr. Simal Soin, AAYNA Clinic, has some basic pre-bridal beauty which will help you getting the beautiful bridal glow during your wedding.

According to Simal, deep cleaning your sin at least once a week is important. This will keep acne and all sorts of skin issues away. “Make sure to deep clean with a hydrating and gentle face wash. Apart from that, once a week, you can indulge in the masks or scrubs according to your skin types,” says Simal.

Apart from using beauty products, sleeping for 8 hours will also help you enhancing your face. “Clock 8-10 hours of sound sleep every night to leave your skin looking fresh. Good sleep helps in stabilising your nervous system and reduce stress,” says Simal

Another important ingredient that Simal highly recommend is water. Water keeps your system clean and toxin-free. “Drink plenty of water and other healthy fluids like watermelon juice and coconut water to your diet for flawless skin. Herbal teas are great ways to reduce anxiety and makes you feel relaxed,” says Simal

Eating right is particularly important too. What you consume in your day to day life reflects on your face, so a good diet is mandatory. “A balanced, nutritious diet devoid of junk food can go a long way in giving you glowing skin,” says Simal.

She also suggests brides-to-be, to get a hydra-facial done before the D-day. “In less than 40 minutes, the active serums used in this unisex treatment cleanses and removes dead skin, unclogs pores, extracts hidden impurities and hydrates at the deepest level to reveal the healthiest layer of your skin. Sign up for youthful and wedding-ready skin in a jiffy with this treatment,” shares Simal.

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