Monthly Archives: November 2014

Crime in the Quiet Carriage.

Breathe! Keep breathing! Remain calm!

But I can’t. I’m wound up. Seriously agitated and my brain is rapidly heating up, about to reach boiling point. No amount of relaxation, mindfulness or psycho-babbling positive self-talk is working. A rapidly ticking bomb, I’m about to go off. No small explosion either. This is definitely way beyond a small or even a medium-sized bang and rapidly accelerating passed a big one too. We’re talking a nuclear explosion… right here right now at this very precise tick of the clock.

Stop talking! This is a quiet carriage!!!

Stop talking! This is a quiet carriage!!!

There must be worse crimes against humanity than talking in the quiet carriage but right now, nothing comes to mind.

Before you start thinking I’m the psychopath, just let me just tell you that I’m on my way down to Royal North Shore Hospital to have a long awaited MRI of my brain. My neurologist hasn’t ordered this test for fun or as some kind of high-tech photo shoot. No, you seriously don’t have an MRI of your brain for fun and there’s definitely not going to be any smiling for the camera either. As if being covered in a white sheet and shut inside a white plastic tunnel being bombarded with weird electronic noises isn’t bad enough, they’re jabbing me somewhere with a needle.

Having a brain MRI. Covered in a white, sheet you disappear inside a white tunnel. Get bombarded by all sorts of jalting, beeping electronic noises. jabbed and then you're free to go home...you hope!

Having a brain MRI. Covered in a white, sheet you disappear inside a white tunnel. Get bombarded by all sorts of jalting, beeping electronic noises. jabbed and then you’re free to go home…you hope!

They’ve jabbed me with THAT needle before. They jabbed me right in the head, injecting radioactive isotopes straight into my shunt. I tell you, I’m a veteran of jabs and I’ve survived brain surgery and chemo but that jab in the head has no equal. It involved absolute and utterly excruciating pain. I can assure you, there’s some now graduated medical student out there who still bears the scars of near crucifixion in their hands. I dug holes in his soft, polished flesh with my unkept but piercing fingernails.

So here I am getting on the train thinking about the pain, the possible outcomes and how I’m even going to make it to the hospital as I’ve spent the best part of the last month in bed and traveling for almost 2 hours is a huge undertaking in itself. I don’t know what’s going on with me. Either I’m dying, or I’ve finally succumbed to the dark side of the force. I addressed this in a previous post: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/terminal-cyberchondria-yes-please/

Maybe after this monster test is over, the sun will come out again and this will all seem like a distance dream. A black cloud mysteriously scudding across an azure sky which suddenly disappears like magic…a miracle! I’ll go back to my life of champagne and…My goodness! Who am I kidding? We all know real life is no commercial break!

Being such a long train trip, I’m expecting to makes serious inroads on Booker Prize Winner  Richard Flannegan’s Death of A River Guide. Given the intensity and chaos of the MRI plus trying to juggle the kids and all their activities, this train trip is bordering on a sacred journey. I so desperately need peace and quiet and a lot of thought went into choosing the right book for the trip as well. I’ve been flicking through a couple of books over the last couple of days trying to work out where to head next. I’ve read two other Richard Flannegan’s lately and decided he was a pretty safe bet and I was seriously looking forward to both losing and finding myself in a good book. A want which had transcended into something of a desperate need. A cry of the soul.

However, instead of finding myself inside the much anticipated and heavily sign posted quiet carriage, this place is  more like a crowded pub during Happy Hour or even a flipping circus with clowns…wild clowns. There is raucous chatter everywhere..even laughter. How dare they?!! Harlots!

Welcome to the Quiet Carriage!!

Welcome to the Quiet Carriage!!

Alright, so I exaggerate a little. While there was some loud chatter down the other end of the carriage, there was one particular loud mouthed foreignor talking four times as loud as your average Joe talking with his friends…a group of seniors in case you’re about to blame the insensitive youth of today. Unfortunately, I was sitting right behind them. I soon started thinking about asking them to be quiet and pointing out the quite carriage signs which were clearly signposted throughout the carriage. I also thought about talking to the guard.

However, a few of my friends have mentioned the maniacs in the quiet carriages. The so-called “Noise-Nazis” who have a nervous breakdown over the sound of even the slightest pinhead of a pin being dropped. I like to be classified as the “nice woman” and not one of THEM…even by these totally rude, self-centred strangers I’m never, ever going to see again. Instead of being the bad guy, I chose the stoic high road…to suffer in silence. Of course, I could’ve alerted the guard if I’d been more nimble on my feet. They have a special announcement recorded for the socially inept. It goes something along the lines of: “This is a quiet carriage…If you want to talk, move to another carriage.”

I did consider moving to another seat or even try the standard carriage but it was all too hard. There wasn’t another seat and I’m not that steady on my feet. I couldn’t risk trying to change carriages while the train was in motion, even with my walking stick in hand. So instead, I sat as still and as silent as a marble statue…fuming. Fuming some more. I could feel the flames burning in my head. Smoke bellowing out my ears. I was mad. Irate. Furious. This was pure, unadulterated train rage.

Grannies show an umbrella can also come in handy!

Grannies show an umbrella can also come in handy!

In retrospect, I should’ve just taken a leaf out of my grandmother’s book. She would have bopped the lot of them on the head with her walking stick and told them in no uncertain terms that they were in the quiet carriage. “Are you blind? Can’t you read the signs?!!” My grandmother was pretty handy with her stick. What’s more, if she’d bopped them, she would have gotten away it.  After all, she was just a sweet, little old lady. There would have been no court appearances and not even the shout of “guard”! They would have taken their punishment and zipped it. Shown a bit of respect.

Me, on the other hand? One strike of my walking stick and I knew I’d be dragged off the train by armed guards and loaded into a paddywagon bound for greener pastures.

However, in the end someone else stepped in and played bad cop. Yet, this lot of seniors proved themselves a real bunch of reprobates.  They might have zipped it for about 2 seconds, which for this lot even felt like a very pregnant pause, and then continued bellowing through their inbuilt megaphones. You wouldn’t believe it. One of their phones even started to ring and of course another loud voice starts booming throughout the entire carriage. It wasn’t just a case of hello and goodbye either…more of a conversation and as far as I was concerned, quite the life story.

As I said, I know there have been worse crimes against humanity than talking in the quiet carriage but at this point in time nothing came to mind.

After reading and re-reading the same line of my book a hundred times over, I gave up on my book and surrendered to the noise.

Finally, we all alighted at Hornsby Station.

However, as the saying goes, it could always be worse. Aside from country trains passing through, there are no quiet carriages on Sydney trains. You just had to put up and shut up and if you don’t have the luxury of a seat, you also enjoy the thrill of having your nose jammed in a stranger’s armpit as well.

Anyway, after changing trains at Hornsby, I’m now heading down the North Shore Line on my home turf.

By now, I think we’d already established that lady luck wasn’t on my side. Of course, I had timed my train trip to perfection. Yes, it was home time for the hundreds and thousands of noisy, smelly, sweaty school kids who all piled onto my train as it stop started down the line. By this stage, all hope of reading my book was gone. Instead, I became the observer. I must say teenagers intrigue me. Potentially much more fun than the seniors yapping on about their super on the last trip.

I occasionally used to catch trains like this when I was at school…an all girls school. I must have been a bit older than this crowd because we were always conscious of the boys on the train and this lot seemed rather oblivious or perhaps it’s just that they didn’t have Hugh Jackman on their train. We did.

There were no looks, glances or giggles. Each group was its own island surrounded by their own impenetrable shark-infested sea. Ironically, the groups were arranged boys, girls, boys, girls throughout the carriage in their different uniforms. It all looked very strange to me and I felt like I’d landed in some weird, foreign universe. Why weren’t these teenagers all talking with each other? Did all these same kids catch the same train every afternoon sitting in the same “reserved” seats never giving each other more than a sideways glance?

The only thing standing in between them all was different uniforms and yet aren’t we all one human race? You wouldn’t think so. That said, we all know men are from Mars and women are from Venus…even my 8 year old daughter. She and her friends have been “at war” with the boys at school a fair bit lately.

If I could’ve had my way, I would’ve introduced all these kids to each other and tried to build some common ground. Not to play cupid or to nurture teenage romance helping some self-conscious souls find true love, but rather to begin a diologue and cross a divide that starts with different uniforms and extends to gender, skin tone, class, disability and results in war.

If only the problems of the world could all be solved on a simple train ride to Sydney, the world would be a much better place!!

PS As soon as we arrived at the hospital, we heard the dreadful, tragic news that Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes had passed away after a bouncer hit him in the neck, stopping blood flow to his brain. Being a brain surgery survivor myself and being in this really intense state prior to my brain MRI, the news hit me seriously hard. Hughes and his family and friends were no longer strangers but part of our neuro community and I loved them all with my entire heart..especially Sean Abbott who just happened to bowl the devastating ball. I send you love from the  very bottom of my heart!!

Why We Have Birthdays!

What with kids, dogs, activities and more et ceteras than we ever thought possible, at times my husband and I look at each other wondering: who on earth are you?
Far from being alone in all of this, we’re all guilty. Well, perhaps not all of us.
Anyway, this is why celebrating birthdays is so important. For at least one day of the year, each of us is special and we get our moment of glory in the spotlight as we glow in golden candlelight and actually blow out our own candles. That is, if the kids don’t beat us to it!

Happy Birthday Geoff...21 Again! (and again!!)

Happy Birthday Geoff…21 Again! (and again!!)

Last week, it was Geoff’s birthday and it is a sad reflection of my priorities that it’s almost taken me a week to wish him Happy Birthday on my blog. My justification is that I was too busy cooking up a birthday feast on the day and considering it was 40 degrees Celsius that was no mean feat. The chocolate for the cake had already melted before it hit the microwave and me along with it.

Geoff used to drive an Austen Healy Sprite which now in storage. I created this ceramic paint of the Spite seemingly flying along the Yellow Brick Road for his birthday before we got married. You could say the rubber hit the road what with the mortgage, kids and my health issues.

Geoff used to drive an Austen Healy Sprite which now in storage. I created this ceramic painting of the Spite seemingly flying along the Yellow Brick Road for his birthday before we got married. You could say that the rubber has since hit the road what with the mortgage, kids and my health issues.

Since then, I’ve been responding to my Versatile Blogger Award…shameful priorities, I know!
You would think that by the time you’re our age that birthdays wouldn’t matter anymore but for some reason birthdays always seem to be special. While I was having chemo, the very elderly man next to me remarked that it was his birthday and said: “I sure know how to pick ’em”. He was quite upset about being there for his birthday and I guess we all have that idea that birthdays are somehow sacred..no matter how old and supposedly “mature” we are. That we are somehow entitled to a Happy Birthday. That our birthday has to be special and we must be spoiled rotten. Moreover, if our birthday doesn’t go to plan, we somehow feel entitled to a refund or a repeat: “Play it again, Sam”.

Yummy Happy Birthday Lasagna!

Yummy Happy Birthday Lasagna!

In my usual style, I did what I always do for family birthdays. I cooked up a feast. The day before the birthday, had been relatively cool and that’s when I decided to make my variation of Jamie Oliver’s Lasagna. I’ve changed so much about the recipe that it really is my own dish now yet I still like to call it our: Jamie Oliver Lasagna. This is quite a luxurious lasagna dish with a layer of diced pumpkin roasted in “bruised” coriander seeds which I guess is what really gives it Jamie Oliver’s stamp. The point of cooking this fancy lasagne, of course, is to say I love you without words and through actions in a way that reheating a non-name frozen lasagna simply can’t achieve.

This birthday cake wasa a gushing, oozing waterfall of chocolate icing. Not one for the stylist!

This birthday cake was a gushing, oozing waterfall of chocolate icing. Not one for the stylist!

Likewise when it came to the home-made chocolate cake we had for dessert, our daughter sprinkled popping candy over the top and the chocolate icing cascaded over the side a little too enthusiastically creating a gushing waterfall or what my son unceremoniously  called: “a mess”! Although I would have preferred restaurant perfection, our creation was oozing with love and was absolutely scrumdiddillyumptuous!

DSC_6492

Miss made this card for Daddy. It shows the two of them working on our Morris Minor.

There was also a home-made birthday card.

Handwriting to warm up even the coldest of hearts. Happy Birthday Daddy love from Mister!

Handwriting to warm up even the coldest of hearts. Happy Birthday Daddy love from Mister!

Plus handwriting money can’t buy…

And move over Garfield, there were also two greedy dogs trying to ambush Geoff’s lasagna. For some reason, Lady considers the dining table an extension of her domain!

Happy Birthday Daddy xx Bilbo and Lady with Mum.

Happy Birthday Daddy xx Bilbo and Lady with Mum.

However, by going out to a restaurant or cooking something really basic, we do actually get more of a chance to talk and catch up instead of me exhausting myself over a very hot stove on a real scorcher of a day and then needing to clean it all up.

But when you show your love through cooking and infuse it into your food, there’s no other way to say Happy birthday…especially when you’re on a budget.

Sometimes all this family stuff can seem a bit sickly sweet and too “Brady Bunch” or “Happy Days”. However, for most families, these birthdays are just a temporary ceasefire on the home front. Time to lick your wounds. Take a deep breath and recuperate. Get fresh ammo. If you’re particularly blessed, you might even get to enjoy some leftover cake in relative peace and quiet the next day although don’t go getting your hopes up. This is real life… not some fantasy novel.

Somehow, birthdays often seem to bring out the worst in people too and it’s more than likely that your perfect birthday is going to descend into the war to end all wars. That instead of eating your cake, you end up feeding it to the dog…or perhaps the dog already beat you to it. You always need to be on the look out for little patch jobs on cakes.

That’s right. No one’s going to tell you that your cake has dog germs…especially not on your birthday!

xx Rowena

PS: In case you are wondering why Marge Simpson in a bikini was on Geoff’s birthday cake, it was left over from my 40th birthday cake. My best friend and I almost share birthdays and we had a Marge each on our cake.

Yippee! Accepting the Versatile Bloggers Award.

I would like to thank Kim Gosselin from Chronic Conditions and Life Lessons Along the Way for nominating me for the Versatile Bloggers Award. I was so excited. This is my first blogging award. I’m sure you’ll enjoy reading her blog at: at http://kimgosselinblog.com/.

For more information about the Versatile Bloggers Award please click here: http://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/about/

Rowena sea steps

Me!

The rules of acceptance for this award are to share 7 interesting facts about yourself in addition to nominating 15 other bloggers for this award.

  1. Like many babies born in July 1969, I was due to be born on the 20th July, the day that man first landed on the moon. It turned out that man might have been able to land on the moon but my father wasn’t allowed to attend my birth. The 60s were definitely complicated.
  2. I come from Sydney, Australia and currently live on the NSW Central Coast.
  3. I am married to Geoff and we have two children: Mister aged 10 and Miss who is 8. We have two dogs. Bilbo is an 8 year old Border Collie and Lady is a 2 years old Border Collie x King Charles Cavalier Spaniel.
  4. I have been serious about writing ever since my mum taught me to spell enthusiastic when I was 11 and gave me a thesaurus. Daggy but true, I have always loved reading the thesaurus and sometimes even the dictionary but I’ve never played with a calculator.
  5. I really love antiques and vintage anything and have quite a collection of antique teacups. Both my grandmothers cherished their collection of exquisite and mismatched teacups. I particularly love Shelley and Royal Albert. The collection started in the cabinet and has since escaped throughout the house. This passion bordering on obsession lures me into all sorts of what we in Australia know as “op shops” or charity shops despite the fact that our house is all ready busting at the seams.
  6. Before my mid 20s, I’d thought I was a picture of health. Had never been to hospital.That all changed when I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain when I was 25 and had surgery to insert a shunt which blocked. Had a year off work and rehab. Bad luck returned after the birth of our second child when I developed a severe auto-immune disease where my muscles attack themselves resulting in muscle weakness and loss. This disease started to attack my lungs and I had chemo to treat it last Christmas which has been effective but have trouble with chemo brain. My health is a fairly constant battle but in the words of Split Enz, I manage to stay “one step ahead”…sometimes only just.
  7. Four of my favourite quotes:

John Lennon: “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.”

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.

Calvin Coolidge
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Reinhold Niebuhr

 

Congratulations! Here are the 15 blogs which I am nominating for the Versatile Blogger Award. I highly recommend each of them and if you’ve been nominated, why don’t you also check out the other blogs on my list.There are a few life lessons, dog stories,travel and more.

Leadership Freak:   http://leadershipfreak.wordpress.com/

Smorgasboard- Variety is the Spice of Life: http://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/

Within the K Streets: http://withinthekstreets.wordpress.com/

Outside the Lines: http://segmation.wordpress.com/

Humans are Weird: http://humansareweird.com/

Just so you Know: http://trinabartlett.wordpress.com/

Art Lark: http://artlark.org/

Rachel Mankowitz: http://rachelmankowitz.wordpress.com/

Little Steps   http://motherslittlesteps.com/

Goan Imports: http://goanwiki.com/

Christian Mihai: http://cristianmihai.net/

Lethargic Smiles: http://lethargicsmiles.wordpress.com/

One Mountain At A Time: http://savannahhardcastle.wordpress.com

Butterfly Mama: http://butterflymumma.com/

Give Me Five Minutes A Day and I’ll give you a happier, more successful life!  http://bradstanton.com/

You’ve Been Nominated…Now what?

For more information about the Versatile Bloggers Award please click here: http://versatilebloggeraward.wordpress.com/about/

I had trouble uploading the image so follow the directions on the award site and paste this into the image URL box:
http://versatilebloggeraward.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/versatile-blogger.jpg?w=145&h=150

Sydney Harbour with Me & My Boy

Rewinding just a little to the Sunday before last, which was better known as Sunday 9th November, 2014…

While my husband was battling with computers, cables and unpronounceables at work from the very wee hours and our daughter was singing her lungs out rehearsing for her grand appearance at the Sydney Town Hall (see previous post), the boy and I took off to Circular Quay and decided to explore Sydney Harbour by ferry.

They worked hard. We played hard.

The view back towards Circular Quay as the ferry pulled out. You can see the train station in the foreground.

The view back towards Circular Quay as the ferry pulled out. You can see the train station in the foreground.

We had a special Family Fun Day Ticket which allows unlimited trains,ferries and buses anywhere in the Greater Sydney Region for the ridiculously low price of $2.50 each. I really like to push these tickets to the limit and jam as much action as I can into one day. Feels like payback for the ridiculous prices you pay on public transport the rest of the week.

Ideally, we both wanted to head to Manly which is still Sydney’s ultimate ferry destination. However, we had to be back at Town Hall by 4.30PM and I didn’t want to take any chances. Of course, I hadn’t done my homework and had no idea how long a return ferry trip to Manly would take or how often the ferries went or the details of the ferry timetable.

This meant that we needed to stay within Sydney Harbour.

From: Circular Quay, Sydney NSW To: Darling Harbour, Sydney NSW 2000

 

For our first ferry trip, we decided to catch the ferry to Balmain. We boarded the Scarborough,  a catamaran style ferry which was built in 1986. I guess 1986 isn’t quite what it used to be because the ferry had that nostalgic, aged feel about it, especially when it creaked and groaned on departure. I also had to wonder whether the wharfie was a bit under the weather. Took him a few goes at times to get the rope around the bollard. It was after all a Sunday.

The Scarborough was quite a suitable name for a boat when you’re going on an adventure. The ferry was named after one of the ships in the First Fleet. On 13 of May 1787, the First Fleet set sail from Portsmouth, England. Led by Captain Arthur Phillip, this historic convoy  carried the first European settlers to the new penal colony of New South Wales.  Read more here: http://www.sl.nsw.gov.au/discover_collections/history_nation/terra_australis/firstfleet.html

Mister sitting very still behaving himself.

Mister sitting very still behaving himself.

Mister was exceptionally well-behaved on our trip. He must have got wind of what happens when you run a muck on the Scarborough. When convicts Philip Farrell and Thomas Griffiths aboard the original Scarborough were suspected of an attempted take-over of the vessel, they were transferred to Sirius where they received 24 lashes, before being transferred to Prince of Wales.  http://firstfleetfellowship.org.au/ships/hms-scarborough/

Of course, Mister sat very still.

Although I cut the nose off the cruise ship in this shot,  you can see the Bridge in the background and get an idea of where we went.

Although I cut the nose off the cruise ship in this shot, you can see the Bridge in the background and get an idea of where we went.

Leaving port, we were awe struck by the huge cruise ship, which was docked at Circular Quay. These huge cruise ships seem to be part of the furniture these days but they still look humungously huge like they’ve been taking growth hormones of some sort. They’re just absolutely massive. I’ve never been on a cruise and I’m sure they have their appeal and I really would like to go someday but not on one of these massive cages. They remind me of those awful ships which transport live sheep to their deaths. I really don’t fancy being stuck on board any kind of boat with so many people. As impressive and glamorous as they might appear on first impressions, I’d much rather find a deserted island somewhere in the South Pacific and veg out for a bit.

A different perspective...going under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

A different perspective…going under the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

After leaving port, the ferry rounded Millers Point heading west underneath the magnificent Sydney Harbour Bridge. This was when I truly started taking more photos than even the most snap-happy tourist. I might be Sydney born and bred but the Sydney Harbour Bridge has never lost its “wow”!!. I just love what we lovingly refer to as “the old coathanger”. Opened in 1932, the Bridge needs no introduction and it remains breathtaking beautiful. An architectural icon which screams out: “Sydney”! The Bridge also has a special place in my heart because I used to see the Bridge while I was having my blood transfusions at Royal North Shore Hospital, right at the very top at level 12. I used to focus on the flags flying at the very top while they were getting the cannula in. That could really hurt. For more info on The Bridge:http://www.sydneyharbourbridge.info/

A Crane-eye's view of Sydney. Bangaroo.

A Crane-eye’s view of Sydney. Bangaroo.

 

This provided us with very much what I’d describe as the backend view of Sydney Harbour and there was an entire jungle of cranes  frantically building at Barangaroo.

 

Mister in front of the Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour. You can see a Tall Ship in the background.

Mister in front of the Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour. You can see a Tall Ship in the background.

As we approached Balmain, I couldn’t really see anything which was readily accessible and so we decided to stay on board and headed around to Darling Harbour and viewed the magnificent Tall Ships moored at the Maritime Museum.

Then we stopped over at Luna Park where it’s huge enough smile flashes rows of pearly white which look like they need urgent dental treatment. Luna Park is not only famous for its smile but also its Ferris wheel and other assorted rides. Even though I’m well and truly too big for it, I still love the carousel and rising on a horse. To read about our trip to Luna Park in 2012 click here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/walking-to-luna-park/

 

The Luna Park Face viewed from the ferry.

The Luna Park Face viewed from the ferry.

It is hard to believe just how many fabulous sights you can take in on a 30 minute ferry ride…especially for the grand total of $2.50 each and the day wasn’t over yet.

 

As we returned to Circular Quay, the ferry gained speed and for a creaky 30 something year old creaky wooden structure, the Scarborough made good speed and white water was churning out the back of the ferry. Perhaps, we could’ve tried a bit of water skiing…!

 

Leaving Balmain Wharf with more than a splash.

Leaving Balmain Wharf with more than a splash.

 

It turned out that the  Scarborough was taking a different route across to Neutral Bay, so we decided to stay on board.

This trip took us East away from the Bridge and out past the Sydney Opera House. Talk about amazing! Like the Bridge, the Sydney Opera House needs no introduction and it’s iconic white sails are well and truly Sydney.

Sydney Opera House viewed through the front of the ferry returning from Neutral Bay.

Sydney Opera House viewed through the front of the ferry returning from Neutral Bay.

This ferry trip also took us past Kirribilli House, the Prime Minster’s Sydney residence  and Admiralty House, the Australian Governor-General’s Sydney Residence. I visited these grand, historic buildings at an open day a few years ago and had hysterics watching children roll down the steep green hills towards the Harbour. I couldn’t help wondering if the Prime Minster ever tried rolling down the hill to clear their head when they had a particularly difficult situation to sort out. I’d really love to roll down the hill there myself and intend to head back for a return visit with the kids in tow. That way when someone sees a middle-aged woman rolling down the hill like a 5 year old, they’ll be praising my parenting skills instead of declaring me a lunatic and locking me up.

Admiralty House,Kirribilli.

Admiralty House,Kirribilli.

After our second ferry ride, we headed back to shore and indulged in what seems to be a mandatory ice cream cone at Circular Quay. Although these lusciously creamy ice creams are simply irresistible, they inevitably drip like crazy all over me and it was just as well Mister was wearing dark pants which camouflaged the drips.

Floating lanterns at the Thai Festival, Circular Quay.

Floating lanterns at the Thai Festival, Circular Quay.

Next, we briefly explored a Thai cultural festival outside the Museum of Contemporary Art.

By now, however, it was time to draw our adventure to an end and catch the train to Town Hall to meet up with Geoff and Miss.

We arrived at Town Hall 30 mins early so I decided to take Mister to his favourite toy shop which is in the Queen Victoria Building. They have a model train set up in the window, which has been a fabulous babysitter in the past while Mum and I have enjoyed a coffee at the cafe next door.They also have an excellent collection of model train things for sale.

No sooner had we walked in the door and Geoff had been sprung. Like father, like son, they both adore model trains…or any train for that matter. Geoff had also arrived early and was filling in time or should I say, he was probably planning to buy out the shop before we ran into him. It was hardly a coincidence!

And look who we also ran into…

Mister and the old big red fella

Mister and the old big red fella

Mr Claus…also running a little early, don’t you think?!!

Sydney Town Hall…Family Concerts to Remember

Sunday night before last, our 8 year old daughter “Miss” sang in a multi-school choir at the Sydney Town Hall. Celebration Sing Out was a concert supporting the Music Therapy Unit at the Children’s Hospital at Westmead, Sydney.

Celebration Sing Out, Sydney Town Hall.

Celebration Sing Out, Sydney Town Hall.

As much as we might have believed in the cause, let’s be honest. All the parents, grandparents and the rest of the royal entourage were there with only one thing in mind…to see their little darling up on stage at the Sydney Town Hall. Our brilliant, shining little stars had us all transfixed in their orbit. It might not have been the Opera House but singing at the Sydney Town Hall is still a big deal and a very imposing, impressive venue with the huge pipe organ towering overhead. When the organ was completed in 1890, it was the biggest pipe organ in the world. That’s not bad for a former convict town.

How have to admit this gig was pretty impressive and the children sang like angels as well!

How have to admit this gig was pretty impressive and the children sang like angels as well!

While our little darlings might have been just one of hundreds all not-quite perfectly cloned in plain white shirts and black pants, we didn’t care. We zoomed in and picked out little star out of the multitude and stared at them transfixed with love and pride.

Christmas came early...the kids checking out the Christmas lights in Sydney's Queen Victoria Building on the way to dinner.

Christmas came early…the kids checking out the Christmas lights in Sydney’s Queen Victoria Building on the way to dinner.

A key component of this parental pride was getting a good seat so we could not only spot our darling among the multitude but also to get a good vantage point to take photos. Unlike many public events where you are not allowed to use cameras let alone photograph or film children, this event was a paparazzi free-for-all.

While the kids and I went to check out the David Jones Christmas Windows and have dinner in Hyde Park, Geoff sat in the queue to get our seats. He had left for work at 4.30am and was happy to mind the seats. You get my drift.

Before the concert began, I was down the front and after scanning the crowd several times, eventually I spotted Miss in the jungle. Many of the kids were waving out to the crowd and getting rather excited. However, Miss didn’t respond to me at all. I was pretty hard to miss. What started out as something like a dignified, royal wave became more frenetic as she absolutely failed to respond. She didn’t smile or even blink in my direction. Not one to be ignored, I’m waving both arms by now and doing everything but screaming “cooee” above the hubbub. I decided I wasn’t going anywhere until she responded. She might have been up towards the back but I was standing right in front of her waving my arms, taking photos with the standout Nikon SLR camera (something with a real lens not one of these Mickey Mouse phone cameras). I mean… I really stood out. It was almost like I was standing there with two heads and still she refused to acknowledge my existence. Eventually, finally, at a point no doubt verging on terminal embarrassment, she waved back. Relief! She later told me that she’s not supposed to wave. You see, at 8 years of age, she’s already the consummate stage professional!

Naturally, I wasn’t the only paparazzi in sight. As I scanned around the audience, there was an array of camera phones sticking up above the audience like the sort of TV antennas you see in regional towns desperately trying to pick up the city stations.

The singing was absolutely beautiful and a real tribute to everyone involved. The children sang beautifully in unison and sat still for considerable periods on stage during other performances. The concert began at 7.00PM concluding at 9.30 which is well past many of their bedtimes and yet they were the consummate performers…real little professionals.

While this performance was mostly about our daughter, there was also a ghost in the room…my grandmother.

Hard to believe my grandmother was ever a 15 year old schoolgirl. She, on the other hand, didn't recognise the old lady staring back at her in the mirror. I now understand what she meant!

Hard to believe my grandmother was ever a 15 year old schoolgirl. She, on the other hand, didn’t recognise the old lady staring back at her in the mirror. I now understand what she meant!

A review of my grandmother's Concert at the Sydney Town Hall SMH April 10 1935

My grandmother’s Performance at the Sydney Town Hall 6th April, 1935 SMH April 10 1935

My grandmother, Eunice Gardiner, was an internationally successful concert pianist, music critic and piano teacher at the Sydney Conservatorium. Eunice was taking up a 2 year scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London. A fundraising committee had been formed to raise funds towards her living expenses in London. As part of these fundraising efforts, Eunice gave a concert at the Sydney Town Hall on the 6th June, 1935.

This is a story I grew up with and I remember my grandmother showing me her precious newspaper clippings in her seemingly ancient scrapbook. This wasn’t something we looked at often…only once or twice in my life time and indeed while working on her memoirs, she even let me take it home for awhile to scan. Talk about precious cargo. This was back in the days before the old newspapers had been uploaded onto the Internet and you couldn’t just summon up someone’s entire life history with an instant and exceptionally gratifying Google search. Of course, you could look at the old newspapers on reels at the State Library but you needed to do your research first. It was a tedious, laborious process. So these press clippings and particularly her scrap book, were incredibly precious!!

Anyway, as we arrived at Town Hall, I was no longer viewing my grandmother’s concert as an ancient black & white newspaper clipping but as a living, breathing experience. I was walking up Town Hall Steps with her parents and brother, Les. I could feel their pride bursting through my heart and saw it reflected back to me as our daughter sang up on stage, enjoying the whole experience. This was not necessarily going to be a given. Singing in front of 1000 can be daunting if not terrifying but it seems that being part of a crowd can be a good thing.

Once upon a time, when I was a little girl, I’d had my own piano performance. However, it was hardly at the Sydney Town Hall but in a hall hired by my piano teacher in Wahroonga, a Sydney suburb quite a long way from the Sydney Town Hall both in terms of kilometres and kudos. While it was a big thing for me to be performing at the concert and I had practiced pretty hard and knew my piece from memory, the fact that my grandmother was attending the concert was a big deal. I distinctly remember getting in the car and Mum asking me if I had my music. I told her that I didn’t need it…that I knew my piece from memory. I was a confident little kid and not easily intimidated. I didn’t need my music and I was going to do it my way despite my mother’s concerns.

Well, of course, I got up on stage my legs dangling from the piano seat and of course I lost my place. I remember this terrible sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Mum had seen it coming and I’d botched it. Plus, my grandmother was watching. I’d been to see her perform at the Sydney Opera House wearing my very best dress which she’d brought back from me from Norfolk Island and where I couldn’t cough, sneeze, go to the toilet and if you sat very, very still, you were actually permitted to breathe. My grandmother wasn’t one of those grannies who give you Freddo Frogs (https://www.cadbury.com.au/Products/Pre-teens-Confectionery/Freddo.aspx) either . She was in some sort of inter-stellar zone us mortals could only watch from the outside. I can almost feel myself stop breathing yet I persevere and tinkered with the keys until I found my place and kept going…my pride wounded but undefeated. I am so proud of that little girl who didn’t just burst into tears and exit stage left..It might not have been a perfect performance but I persevered and I conquered.

You can read my grandmother’s obituary here: http://www.smh.com.au/comment/obituaries/a-musical-career-honed-in-the-laundry-20090823-ev2w.html

Actually, perhaps the last word on that concert should go to my grandmother. When she reflected on this concert in later life, she mentioned nothing about the epic stumble during my performance. Rather, she tell me that she’d got in trouble with my Dad for disciplining my brother during the concert. That’s right. She’d got in trouble. You know I’m smiling!

Meanwhile, as the end of the year approaches, our daughter’s ballet and jazz concerts lie ahead and I’m practicing for my violin concert. Well, like our daughter I’m part of a group and there will be no solo performance. This is certainly one time I don’t want to stand out and for once in my life, just be one of the crowd.

And I’ll be taking my music!

xx Rowena

PS This is a Freddo Frog:

Introducing Australia's very own Freddo Frog.

Introducing Australia’s very own Freddo Frog.

Dog’s Best Friend!

No symphony orchestra ever played music like a two-year-old girl laughing with a puppy- Bern Williams

Have you ever considered why humans became dog’s best friend? Why they chose people over  some other beast? I know it sounds unlikely now. However, way back at the dawn of time,  if dogs and cats had  become best friends instead of enemies, history would not have been history.

So, in the words of scientist Julius Sumner-Miller: Why is it so? Why did dogs choose us?

Another conundrum worth exploring, why is there such a close bond between kids and dogs? Kids pull their tails, dress the dog up in all sorts of clothes, sunglasses and hats and wheel them around the house in the doll’s pram. Yet, despite all of this abuse, the dog still comes back for more. Indeed, dogs are particularly protective of the children in their family.

Why is it so?

Is it, as we humans often like to believe, that dogs love us with a pure, unconditional, altruistic love giving us unfettered affection and undying loyalty? That dogs live and breathe to be with us, love and even adore us?

Or, could it possibly be a case of enlightened self-interest?

I don’t know about you and your dog but our two dogs absolutely live, breathe, think and even see through their stomachs and it’s amazing how their undying love and devotion swells in those gorgeous, puppy dog eyes whenever there’s even a crumb of food around.

My mother-in-law coined the phrase “cupboard love”. She was no fool and not as easily conned as some.

Conversely, when there’s no food around, our dogs are nowhere in sight sleeping like comatose floor rugs, completely oblivious to my existence and that of the entire universe. That is, of course, unless the garbage truck or the posty are going past. Then they mysteriously reincarnate their lifeless fur coats and almost combust in a mad, barking frenzy.

“Properly trained, a man can be a dog’s best friend.”
— Corey Ford (American Humorist)

Lady captures the feral schoolbag.

Lady captures the feral schoolbag.

As much as I am notorious for caving in to pressure and giving tidbits to the dogs, the kids are prime targets, especially their school bags, which house their sadly neglected sandwiches (see my previous post). Being smaller, the kids are also easy targets for food theft as they’re around dog height and also tend to leave food on the floor. Our dogs are accomplished food thieves. Lady has been caught standing on top of the kitchen table scoffing home-made Jamie Oliver Lasagna. Obviously, you can’t knock her taste.

Last night, I caught Lady our gorgeous 2 year old Border Collie/Kind Charles Cavalier in action. She’d not only taken possession of our daughter’s school bag but had also managed to fish out a tasty wrapper.

DSC_6466

Lady ambushes my daughter’s school bag and finds a tasty wrapper.

                                 But…

                                It’s not just about food.

What sort of cat could ever provide us with a kennel like this?

What sort of cat could ever provide us with a kennel like this?

Every dog also needs their own castle and that’s something no cat could ever provide!

The Ultimate Kennel Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Ultimate Kennel Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

So what’s your verdict? Is it a case of true love? Or do we expose the dog as history’s ultimate cad? Let me know.

xx Rowena