Monthly Archives: April 2015

The Archaeologist Writes – St. Joan works overtime

HI All,
This amazing story regarding early flight and WWI service is absolutely gripping and highly commended. xx Rowena

TanGental

The Archaeologist is putting in a guest appearance today.

 Artefact - Joan of Arc

In a display cabinet, a few feet from where I am sitting is a small porcelain statue of Joan of Arc. Whilst it is over one hundred years old, it is of no particular value, especially as the head has, at some time, been knocked off and crudely stuck back on. But it has been treasured in our family for many years – and this is her story.

Percy Francis Officer - perhaps before graduation

Percy Francis was fascinated by flying. Today it would not be unusual, but this was 1911. Powered flight was only a few years old and the primitive machines that clawed their way into the sky were incredibly dangerous. But Percy loved it. By 1911 he was by his own account ‘involved in aeronautical research’, and in 1912 he was an official of the London Aero Club helping to run the first London Air…

View original post 780 more words

Victim or Victor: The Lessons of Gallipoli 100 Years On.

One hundred years on, were the ANZACS of Gallipoli victims or victors? Moreover, what does the spirit of ANZAC mean today as we ride through our own battles… victims or victors?

While this sounds like something you’d come across in a high school history exam, I’ve been pondering these complex questions today as we commemorated the 100th Anniversary of the ANZACs landing at Gallipoli.

By the way, ANZAC stands for Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. On the 25th April, 1915 the ANZACSs landed at Gallipoli, launching a doomed and brutal campaign. On the 25th April of ANZAC Day each year, Australians commemorate the sacrifices made by Australians in all theatres of war. Traditionally, we wear a sprig of Rosemary for remembrance and either attend a march or watch on TV and we also bake  the ANZAC Biscuits. These were sent in care packages to the soldiers on the front .

Scouts marching to the ANZAC Day Dawn Service.

Scouts marching to the ANZAC Day Dawn Service.

Being the 100th anniversary, as you could imagine there have been a plethora of commemorations and people turned out in absolute droves to ANZAC Day marches all around Australia and even travelled to Gallipoli. This morning, our kids were marching to the Dawn Service at the local cenotaph with their Scout group. Geoff was taxi and I was photographer. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m quite a night owl and night owls have something of an anaphylactic reaction to seeing the sun rise so it wasn’t easy for me to get moving. At the same time, despite my health issues and lack of sleep, I didn’t think I could bail out. Shame! Shame! Shame! Our boys sacrificed their lives and quality of life for us to know freedom and yet I couldn’t get out of bed? Yes, I was up and out the door with the family long before the birds and I was really looking forward to being a part of it all. The kids were also looking forward to meeting the old diggers. They love seeing their medals and hearing their stories. I just need to keep reminding them that they’re medals and not “badges”.

Dawn breaking after the commemorative service.

Dawn breaking after the commemorative service.

So, when the alarm went off at 4 am this morning and I staggered out of bed after only 4 hours sleep, I really had to slap myself. Remind myself what it was like for the ANZACS who landed under the cloak of darkness at ANZAC Cove on the 25th April, 1916. They not only had to get up and out the door long before sunrise but dress and psyche themselves up for battle. Prepare themselves for the possibility and in the case of the Gallipoli, the near certainty, of death. As if going into battle wasn’t hard enough, after an initial tow into shore, the ANZAC actually had to row into the beach. This was pretty tough going. The sort of thing, as my Dad would say, puts serious hair on your chest. But wait, there’s more. There they are rowing through the icy waters in absolute darkness not out in the backyard where everything is familiar but in a foreign country with a foreign tongue and showers of bullets pouring down on the beach. Although the first arrivals might have had that element of surprise, subsequent arrivals did not and the casualties were high.

Australian Troops in front of the pyramids in Egypt.

Australian Troops in front of the pyramids in Egypt.This photo was part of the display in the school library.

As I reflect on it all now, even those with a heightened sense of adventure, would have known that sense of terror and yet they went forward. Wave after wave after wave and with each succeeding wave, the horror of witnessing those who have just died in front of their very own eyes, smacking them straight in the face. Yet, they went on. Men of such courage and valour…lambs going to the slaughter…yet, they fought on. 8,709 Australians lost their lives at Gallipoli.

Volumes have been written about the failed Gallipoli campaign and how Australian nationhood and a sense of Australian mate ship and national character were forged in the battlefields of Gallipoli.

In so many ways, it’s hard to understand why Gallipoli is almost deified in Australian history, culture and political speeches (and rants!). I swear any other country would be celebrating its victories, not it’s defeats. Indeed, in comparision to the Gallipoli Campaign, Australia’s incredible contribution towards victory on the Western Front, is rather underplayed and seems to be something of a PS on every ANZAC Day.

However, in a country characterized by drought, flood, deadly poisonous reptiles and the likes of the Great White Shark, much of our identity has been forged by hardship, loss and indeed loss of life. Being Australian is almost synonymous with living with and overcoming adversity.

A few years ago, we found out that my husband’s Great Uncle, Major James Griffin, had fought at Gallipoli with the 3rd Australian Lighthorse. Born in Moltema in Rural NW Tasmania, Uncle Jim arrived at Gallipoli on the 12th May, 1915…two and a half weeks after the first landing. Uncle Jim survived the war but died well before my husband was even born. This means that we don’t have any personal stories, insights or letters relating to his time in Gallipoli. However, Geoff has inherited a handful of photos of men in military uniform including Uncle Jim and his brother, Uncle Dan, who Geoff did meet. Geoff didn’t grow up really being consciously aware of their war time service and we only found out the details of his war service a few years ago after his service records went online. I should point out that this could well have been more than the code of silence. Geoff’s grandmother, their sister, passed away when Geoff’s father was only around eight and there was also physical distance involved as well.

8,709 Australians died at Gallipoli.

While we have been touched to find a close family connection with Gallipoli and I’m intermittently trying to retrace James and Daniel Griffin’s footsteps, today my research deviated yet again…another twist in the road and I was thinking about and exploring something else…a story about two brothers. Indeed, a story of a younger brother following in his older, much taller brother’s footsteps. On the 19th September, 1915 Daniel Griffin enlisted with the Third Lighthorse at Claremont, Tasmania. That’s around 5 months after his brother disembarked at Gallipoli and by the time he steamed out of Melbourne on the 28 October 1915 onboard the SS Hawkes Bay, the first casualties from Gallipoli had started trickling back to Australia.

While letters home could well have concealed the true nature of war, the graphic image of the war wounded arriving back testified to the horrors of war and yet still men went…women too.

This is what it really means to be brave…to be courageous. To know what you are up against yet still take up the fight. That’s what turns you into a victor, even if you lose the battle because at least you’ve fought the fight. Had a go and done your best.

When newspapers reported the first casualties of the Gallipoli campaign returned to Australia, they mentioned welcomed home ceremonies. These men were heroes, even though the Gallipoli campaign itself was an utter, utter failure. There was no talk about “woe is them” or “pity” just gratitude for the sacrifice they’d made and an excitement that they were back home. Also, the community was incredibly thankful for the sacrifice they’d made. These proud men were anything but victims and they certainly weren’t whingeing and selling their tales of woe to the highest bidder, like you see today. They had their dignity and commanded respect. That said, these were changed men. Ultimately, the Allies won the won the war. Quite aside from any physical injuries, many returned home shell-shocked or what we now refer to as PTSD. These victors were also victims.

I know this is fast forwarding very crudely but after the pre-dawn start, I’m beyond tired and am needing to get this posted. So even though it’s a bit of a leap to the end of the war, I wanted to leave you with an interesting story I found about Geoff’s grandmother, Molly Griffin, sister to Major James and Daniel Griffin. She was the school teacher in Mt Hicks.

MT HICKS BONFIRES.

The signing of the armistice was celebrated at Mt. Hicks on Tuesday night. A large bonfire was lit on the highest point of the mount. Cr. Jones said a few words appropriate to tho occasion, and concluded ‘ by announcing that there was an effigy of the Kaiser hidden somewhere, in the paddock, but the young ladies of Mt. Hicks requested that they should have the first privilege of dealing with it. The ladies then made a search, and soon drew the Kaiser from his place of hiding, marched him to the bonfire, and committed him to the flames amid much rejoicing! An adjournment was then made to an adjoining paddock, where two stacks of old straw stood; these had been given by Mr Horace Cross for the purpose of making other bonfires, and they were soon alight, the flames illuminating the surrounding country. The children were supplied with fireworks by Miss Griffin, and a time of rejoicing was spent by all present.

The North Western Advocate and the Emu Bay Times (Tas. : 1899 – 1919)Friday 15 November 1918 p 3 Article

Trying to address this topic for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge was being too ambitious but as the saying goes: “it’s better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all”. Through just trying to sort out sufficient details to write this short piece, involved quite a lot of research and a much greater appreciation of what our armed forces went through. When I think of those young men rowing through the dark and freezing waters of a foreign country when most of us say we can’t get going in the morning without our coffee or some other pick-me-up and it is incredibly humbling. I can get quite anxious about my driving or changes such as our son starting high school next year and these can be quite paralyzing and yet our troops couldn’t be paralyzed. They had to keep going. Keep their wits about them and move through the greatest fear most of us face…dying…and come out fighting.

Poppies of remembrance. Lest we forget.

Poppies of remembrance. Lest we forget.

I have been left with a much, much deeper sense of what these incredibly brave and courageous young men went through and I thank them and their families from the very bottom of my heart.

Lest we forget!

xx Rowena

PS This post is very much a work in progress. If you have found any historical inaccuracies, please let me know. I’d really appreciate it. Unfortunately, I’ve pretty much had to write this on the run.

University Antics!

As the years pass by and a spirit of creative rebellion fades away and the realities of work, mortgage, kids and life take over, it’s easy to feel that person was someone else. Perhaps you, like me, felt you belonged in Dead Poet’s Society going  out in the woods reciting Whitman, or indeed your own poetry, by candle or torch light or perhaps you really did fit into one of those Hollywood coming of age films…a cheerleader, the jock..or indeed the jerk.

Dead Poet's Society.

Dead Poet’s Society.

Yes, indeed there was also “The Revenge of the Nerds”. That was released while I was still at school.

University of Sydney 1870s

University of Sydney 1870s

When you first enter the University of Sydney through the iron gate into the Main Quadrangle, you can’t but be impressed by the years of conservative tradition and the incredible minds who have walked these hallowed corridors. As Australia’s first university, there is and always has been a lot of prestige, pride and a real sense of academic achievement, which is encapsulated in my graduation photo with the tradition black gown with ermine trim.

The historic sandstone building in the Main Quadrangle featuring the iconic Jacaranda tree which was planted in 1927 by EG Waterhouse. The tree is an unfortunate harbinger of bad news. As it's branches start to bud, exam time is looming.

The historic sandstone building in the Main Quadrangle featuring the iconic Jacaranda tree which was planted in 1927 by EG Waterhouse. The tree is an unfortunate harbinger of bad news. As it’s branches start to bud, exam time is looming.

However, when it comes to getting that all-important university education, what you learn outside the books is just as important that those set texts which will ultimately earn you that all-important piece of paper and the job of your dreams…a career.

As far as my education at Sydney University was concerned, it was all focused on “Manning”. Manning was a three-story student haven. The bottom floor was for the early birds and where you could get a morning coffee and veg out while skipping lectures. The second floor had the cafeteria and the all important “Manning Bar” scene of much philosophical musing, pursuit of the flesh and the annual band comp. The third floor of Manning was where the private school people hung out and in retrospect was rather elitist. While I might have qualified for the prestigious selection criteria, I felt much more at home among the bar flies, although all I used to drink was a single West Coast Cooler, which, by the way was rated as one of the daggiest drinks along with Passion Pop.Brentonb

The crew I mingled with at the bar, were often living out of home in one of the rundown terrace hovels around campus and unlike the folk upstairs who were flaunting their designer labels, there was something greater at stake at Manning Bar…street cred. UNfortunately, I had no street cred whatsoever and not even a pair of Doc Martin’s to pretend. My “colleagues” would indulge in bottles of McWilliams Royal Reserve Port, which had doubled in age by the time you’d walked home. It was raw stuff which, again damaging to my street cred, I used to drink with coke or lemonade.

Orientation Week Stalls.

Of course, the big event each year on Campus was Orientation Week where, in addition to taking care of all the business of enrollment, the clubs and societies held stalls out on the front lawn. These clubs and socs promised everything but a debauched feast straight out of the Middle Ages. I belong and even ran the university’s writer’s group Inkpot and was involved in poetry performances and jam sessions of sorts. Another hit was S.U.C.R.O.S.E (Sydney Uni Chocolate Revellers Opposed to Sensible Eating). I remember one event held in winter and we were all wearing coats with very deep and multiple pockets and in addition to shoveling all I could eat into my gob, I also loaded up my coat for a midnight snack.Of course, there was also the Sydney Python Appreciation Movement (SPAM). I wasn’t so into Monty Python myself but I loved all the spectacle and theatre…and the way out costumes. There was the Grim Reaper and also Erik the Viking. I think we ended up singing the SPAM song on MTV although I couldn’t be sure. University days are filled with myths and legends.

Image result for monty python spam song

Monty Python’s Spam Sketch: www.youtube.com/watch?v=anwy2MPT5RE

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to find out that I ran for editorship of the university newspaper, Honi Soit. Our team was called The Antonyms and we did a whole lot of promotional posters using ant words such as “brilliant”. Like all political campaigns, the competition was fierce. Our main promotional strategy, aside from posters around campus, was writing slogans in chalk around campus.Our opponents, the Newshounds, got hold of some super-bright fluorescent chalk, which I’m sure, could have been seen from space. We also made a huge blank ant (pictured), which we drove around. A friend of mine who got behind our campaign, had an idea to turn the tunnel between Manning and the Holme Buildings into an ant tunnel so there we were about 4.00 AM in the bitter freezing cold turning the tunnel poo brown and painting black ants throughout. It wasn’t even surprise when we ran into the Newshounds who’d set up at the other end of the tunnel. The battle was on. Unfortunately, our more nature-inspired ant tunnel was no match for their bright paint. Needless to say, the Newshounds won the election and I think our team had fallen apart before the election was even done. But it was great fun!

Here I am posing in front of the Ant-Mobile running for editorship of Honi Soit in 1991.

Here I am posing in front of the Ant-Mobile running for editorship of Honi Soit in 1991.

University also provided me with my first opportunity to get published. I had a letter to the editor published, which protested the introduction of fees. However, I really made a bit of a name for myself as a bit of a roving Germaine Greer writing about sexuality and in particular double-standards on campus. The first article was called: “Damned if you do, Damned if you don’t: Attitudes towards Female Sexuality” and the sequel was about the Sensitive New Age Man (SNAG). I also had a poem about a guy who had an affair with his computer published. I’ll have to post that once this A-Z Blogging Challenge is over. I’m in survival mode at the moment. Tomorrow being ANZAC here commemorating 100 years since the landing at Gallipoli, I’m needing to get onto that as well as wake up at 4.00am as the kids are marching in the Dawn Service with Scouts. Geoff’s Great Uncle served in Gallipoli and I’m desperately trying to put details together while writing this and baking ANZAC Biscuits, which are bound to burn with all this multi-tasking!

Just like what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, the rest of what happened at university stays at university.

This has been U for University Antics for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.

Anyone game to cough up any of their university or college antics? Don’t be shy!

xx Rowena

Traveling Tea Cups

If anything was ever too delicate and precious to travel, it’s porcelain tea cups. More fragile than egg shells and potentially quite valuable, they spend an entire lifetime locked away behind the glass, only brought out for very special occasions. That is, if anyone even dares to use them at all.  It’s a case of  “Hands of! Don’t touch AND no ball throwing or even running  near the precious china cabinet!! These antique old ladies are incredibly precious. Just  look at them and they might break.

Tea cup up in the clouds, Byron Bay Lighthouse, 2012.

Tea cup up in the clouds, Byron Bay Lighthouse, 2012.

Being so fragile, I was actually quite surprised to find out that china tea cups could travel. Indeed, that they’re available on eBay. This opened up quite a smorgasbord of choice and opportunity and I was soon buying tea cups from as far away as Canada and the United Kingdom. They arrived on my doorstep wrapped up in layers of bubble wrap, nesting inside cute cardboard boxes plastered with postage stamps.

Teacup at the Paragon Cafe in Katoomba. which makes it's own chocolates and has incredible art deco decor.

Teacup at the Paragon Cafe in Katoomba. which makes it’s own chocolates and has incredible art deco decor.

My journey with collecting tea cups began many, many years ago when my grandmothers were given tea cups, which they kept in precious china cabinets.

My maternal grandmother had worked in Aunty Rose”s exclusive Brisbane hair and beauty salon prior to marriage. Their clients included the wife of Sir Douglas MacArthur Supreme Commander, Southwest Pacific Area who was based in Brisbane in 1942, the year she married my grandfather. My grandmother had a series of very precious tea cups, which had been gifts from clients for her “glory box” which, by the way, was wrapped securely in hessian and dispatched by train across the Darling Downs to Dalby, where my grandfather worked as a Lutheran Pastor. I never recall seeing my grandmother use any of these precious cups but Mum and her sister always used to have a cup of tea out of a particular Shelley tea cup whenever they went North for a visit. My grandmother had all sorts of gifted  treasures which were carefully put away and never used.

Royal Albert. photographed at The Carrington Hotel, Katoomba.

Royal Albert. photographed at The Carrington Hotel, Katoomba.

Teacup Paragon

My Dad’s mother also had a cupboard full of china tea cups, although hers were nowhere near as precious and visitors helped themselves to their choice of cup or indeed, their cup for the mandatory cup of tea on arrival. I don’t know if she had any matching pairs because at least by the time I came around, they all seemed quite different.. an eclectic, kaleidoscope of floral patterns, gold rims and delicate handles.

I was in love!!

So in love, indeed, and wanting to hold onto my precious memories of my grandparents and a distant past, I needed a collection of my own. My own china cupboard filled with my own precious china girls. Now, the tea cups have busted out of the cabinet and have formed a row overhead and have also wandered out into the dining room onto the sideboard. I’m starting to down size my tea cups a little to get things into perspective. We only have so much space and as you would have gathered by now, it’s squashed. A thing of beauty can not be a joy forever in a cluttered jungle. It needs a bit of space.

However, for some of my tea cups their travels didn’t stop at the gate. In the same way that people take garden gnomes away on their travels, I started photographing my tea cups and while this started at home, we ventured further afield to Katoomba in the Blue Mountains and up North to Byron Bay. Indeed, my tea cups were launched on a life of adventure.

Not my best tea cups, mind you. While I might be willing to give my tea cups a little bit of freedom, I certainly wasn’t about to risk my good Shelley tea cups…my “old ladies”. Like their human contemporaries plagued by osteoporosis, arthritis and the like, they really are fragile and certainly not easily replaced. I’ve had a few casualties some out on the road and others at home and while I do put them in perspective, I’d rather they didn’t happen.

My favourite tea cup: Shelley's sunset in the Tall Trees, designed by Charmian Clift.

My favourite tea cup: Shelley’s sunset in the Tall Trees, designed by Charmian Clift.

Although my favourite tea cups are Shelley’s more art deco designs, I also have quite a few from Royal Albert. Although the design also informs my choice. My Dad’s father once gave me a daffodil for my birthday so I have a few daffodil designs. Even though my Mum’s mum introduced me to Shelley china, I also found a cup “May”, my grandmother’s middle name and also  decorated with Lilly of the Valley, which she had in her wedding bouquet. I must admit I was stoked when I found that set in a local Salvation Army Opportunity Shop. My son’s cup is has scene’s from the Blue Mountains. My favourite tea cup is Shelley’s Sunset in the Tall Trees, an art deco style designed by Clarice Clift.

Katoomba Views

Katoomba Views

“Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.”
― T.S. Eliot

Unlike the rest of the household clutter which is forced to justify its existence, china tea cups have never had to be useful and somehow get away with being exquisitely beautiful and purely decorative. That is, at least in our family. Given that I’ve been able to buy these tea cups, someone else had different ideas. Personally, I can’t understand that…particularly my Shelley ones. They’re exquisite.

The tea cup visits Byron Bay Lighthouse 2012.

The tea cup visits Byron Bay Lighthouse 2012.

Any way, hope you enjoy our tea cup tour. Do you have a tea cup collection at all? Memories? Do share.

This have been T for Traveling Tea Cups for the Blogging from A-Z April Challenge.

 

xx Rowena

After the Sydney Storm

After three days of terrifying,cyclonic winds and drenching rain, the sun came out today almost making a mockery of our ordeal. Indeed, as I feel that warm sunshine filtering through the blinds, it’s more of a case of what storm? There isn’t even a puff of wind.If I was feeling more energetic, I’d awaken my rusty vocal chords and belt out: “Oh What A Beautiful Morning”. My Dad used to sing that on long drives in yet another embarrassing Dad moment.

However, while the storm has cleared, the scars remain. Our front window is still taped up and while Geoff has salvaged the clothes line from the fallen tree, there’s still a huge pile of branches in the yard. Tracks down to our local beach have been sealed off and calls have gone out to help with the clean-up.

Ocean Beach, Umina after the storm.

Ocean Beach, Umina after the storm. That’s Lion Island in the middle of the frame and Palm Beach is the headland on the left.

With the sun shining, winds gone and clear skies, my concerns about the kids going to school this morning were gone as were my concerns about driving them there. That, however, didn’t stop Mister from putting up incredible resistance. It’s the first day back after the Easter holidays and we’ve established nothing even approaching a routine. This morning, it was simply a case of getting them there. That’s all.

The storm has still left me rattled and has brought out some troubling old war wounds. Like those phantom pains experienced by an amputee, these memories still haunt me. Yes, you get on with it but that doesn’t mean the ghosts aren’t real. Moreover, I’m sure denial only makes them worse. Then, they start to play up and vie for your attention with all sorts of desperate antics. As much as I really don’t want to say hello and validate their existence, this seems to be the path of least resistance.

And so we move forward. Not strong, all-conquering heroes but fully human…shaken, not stirred.

For all of you who might have lost houses or loved ones during the storm, we send you our love.

Have you been through any spectacular storms? How did you feel afterwards? Please share your stories!

xx Rowena

PS I am participating in the Blogging A-Z April Challenge and this is a postscript to S is for Sydney Storms.

A Drowned Rat in the Sydney Storm

Welcome to our nightmare.

We have spent the last three days being battered by cyclonic winds and extremely heavy rain. While we didn’t lose power, we’ve had a tree fall on the clothes line. The roofing in the back room started a quest for freedom and Geoff was up on the roof battening down the hatches. A glass panel also broke in the louver windows out the front and he had to stick up a sheet of plastic to keep the rain out. We also went through a staggering cast of towels, which soaked up water flowing in underneath the front door. For awhile there, my computer was even being protected by a beach towel draped over the top like a tent.

Geoff was up the ladder at the height of the storm fixing the roof.

Geoff was up the ladder at the height of the storm fixing the roof.

If you want to get a taste for it and walk in our shoes then:

1) Get a fire hose.Turn it onto full bore.

2) Add an industrial-strength turbo fan.

3) Throw in a bucket of beach sand.

4) Turn these all on at once and stand in front.

5) Have a blast!

Fallen tree branch down the street.

Fallen tree branch down the street.

That describes the physical impact.

However, there’s also the psychological impact…the fear. that deep-seated, incredible fear. The wind is whirling and howling outside with such terrifying force and the house is rattling, shaking and flapping and rain’s getting in places it’s never been before. After all, we live in a house not a leaky sieve! The force of the wind was so strong that I had to push the front door shut to close it. I am still shaking inside, not wanting to venture out and just wanting to wrap myself up in a huge doona and hibernate in the house like a bear. Actually, digging a deep cave underneath the house (something like a tornado shelter)  sounds even better!

Ocean Beach, Umina. The surf here is usually fairly calm so this churning mass is quite exceptional!

Ocean Beach, Umina. The surf here is usually fairly calm so this churning mass is quite exceptional!

That said, we ventured out yesterday afternoon to take some photos around town in between blows. There were fallen trees all over the place and streets and footpaths had been turned into instant duck ponds. At a local park, the shade sail had been savagely torn and was flapping around like a lunatic.Rows of bins had been blown around and were lying beside the road like rows of fallen soldiers. Indeed, our garbage truck had turned up right at the height of the storm and Geoff was out there holding it up so the track’s huge metal arm could lift it up and empty the waste. My goodness. Even that was an ordeal!

I'd do anything for a photo- including venturing out into the rain but Geoff was the wind beneath my wings.

I’d do anything for a photo- including venturing out into the rain but Geoff was the wind beneath my wings.

Just in case you think my penchant for hyperbole has gone into overdrive and my aversion to rain has clouded my judgement, the winds were gusting at up to 135 kph and in places 200 mm of rain fell in less than 24 hours. It was so bad that the kids’ school has been closed for two days. This has never happened before. Business in the area has virtually come to a stand still as well due to blackouts and fallen trees. It’s become something of a war zone.

Rubbish bins thrown around beside the road.

Rubbish bins thrown around beside the road. The sand has been swept in from the beach across the road.

I’m still shaking. Tomorrow, the kids are due back at school and I just don’t know. It doesn’t feel safe. After going through all of this, it’s only natural to want to keep my chicks safe in the nest. Right now, even stepping out the front door still feels terrifying. Dangerous.

Local bins.

Local bins.

Joked to a friend on the eve of the storm that I’d never survive in a cold climate.That I’d be stuck in the house for 9 months of the year. I mean…I even struggle with heavy rain. It’s my kryptonite. However, this was no ordinary rain storm. Even the authorities ordered people to stay indoors and only undertake essential travel. That’s more than rain phobia. It’s a severe storm.

Shade sail torn to shreds at the local park.

Shade sail torn to shreds at the local park.

After going through all of this and feeling rather ragged, avoidance is a luxury I don’t have. School’s open tomorrow and I need to get the show back on the road. Throw myself back out the door and put the rattles to rest.

Geoff out in the storm at Ocean Beach.

Geoff out in the storm at Ocean Beach.

It’s all very well to know the importance of confronting your fears and how this actually causes them to shrivel up and die but you still need to take up the challenge. Those aren’t somebody else’s shoes that I need to step into but my own. I’ve conquered mountains but now I simply have to do is step out the door but won’t be easy. That said given the usual morning chaos, I’ll probably be too rushed to even think about fear. Switched to autopilot, I’ll simply do it.

After all, a little bit of rain is hardly the end of the world!

Flags flapping in the storm.

Flags flapping in the storm.

This has been S for Sydney Storm for the Blogging from A-Z Challenge.

xx Rowena

Romeo! Romeo! The Quest for Love & Reflections on The Rose.

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.”

Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet (II, ii, 1-2)

In case you’ve just joined me, I am participating in the Blogging A-Z April Challenge.  where we write about a different letter of the alphabet every day, except Sunday.Today, we’re up to the letter R and starting approach the downward run. Although I don’t really have a set theme as such, I’m loosely writing about my favourite things.So for R, I will be taking you on a journey through the rose poems, which I found on this roller coaster journey of love, rejection, joy and angst.

Like most of us,  my very first rose poem was chanted in childhood and written in autograph books:

Roses are red,

violets are blue

sugar is sweet

and so are you!

The very nature of the rose perfectly reflects love’s passion and its heartache…its Jekyll and Hyde. A budding red rose symbolises new love with it’s incredible passionate intensity and it’s elegant, fragrant petals. Yet, just as love isn’t pure pleasure, neither is the rose. Every rose has it’s painfully sharp thorns…representing love’s heartache.

“The optimist sees the rose and not its thorns; the pessimist stares at the thorns, oblivious to the rose.”

― Kahlil Gibran

Roses, violin serenades...such is love!

Roses, violin serenades…such is love! Photo: Rowena.

Before I met my husband, I was on a determined mission to find Mr Right. This intense and challenging roller coaster ride was reflected in the greatest symbol of love…the rose. Whether I was basking in love’s giddy heights or more than likely,  sinking into its unending depths, there was a rose poem for every occasion. In the true spirit of a poetry-writing, angst-ridden youth in the days before you could just  summon Google, I transcribed these poems into an exercise book and absorbed them over and over again through osmosis. There is nothing like an angst-ridden poem to provide catharsis for the soul.

The Rose,

The Rose, “Little Prince”, St Exupery.

When love was going well, there was Robbie Burns:

My Love is Like A Red, Red Rose

Robert Burns

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June;
O my Luve’s like the melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I:
And I will luve thee still, my dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry:

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
I will luve thee still, my dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run.

And fare thee well, my only Luve
And fare thee well, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it were ten thousand mile.

Salvidor Dali,

Salvidor Dali, “Meditative Rose”, 1958.

In more recent times, I have discovered Rumi:

With the Beloved’s water of life, no illness remains
In the Beloved’s rose garden of union, no thorn remains.
They say there is a window from one heart to another
How can there be a window where no wall remains?

Rumi From Thief of Sleep translated by Shahram Shiva

The Little Prince watering his rose.

The Little Prince watering his rose.“The thorns– what use are they?”

Like anyone who has experienced love’s sting, St Exupery’s Little Prince also wondered why roses have thorns:

“The little prince never let go of a question, once he had asked it. As for me, I was upset over that bolt. And I answered with the first thing that came into my head:

“The thorns are of no use at all. Flowers have thorns just for spite!”

Antoine de St Exupery: The Little Prince.

When love went wrong, I turned to William Blake’s scathing attack in The Sick Rose and John Keats Ode to Melancholy:

The Sick Rose

O Rose thou art sick.
The invisible worm,
That flies in the night
In the howling storm:
Has found out thy bed
Of crimson joy:
And his dark secret love
Does thy life destroy.

By William Blake

POrtrait of poet John Keat by Severn, 1819.

Portrait of poet John Keat by Severn, 1819

Ode on Melancholy (an excerpt)

John Keats

But when the melancholy fit shall fall
       Sudden from heaven like a weeping cloud,
That fosters the droop-headed flowers all,
       And hides the green hill in an April shroud;
Then glut thy sorrow on a morning rose,
       Or on the rainbow of the salt sand-wave,
               Or on the wealth of globed peonies;
Or if thy mistress some rich anger shows,
       Emprison her soft hand, and let her rave,
               And feed deep, deep upon her peerless eyes.
While the red rose first comes to mind, then there is the yellow rose, symbolising jealousy.
I photographed this gorgeous yellow rose, the symbol for jealousy, at the home of artist Hans Heysen, The Cedars, Hahndorf, South Australia. Both Hans and his daughter Nora created incredible rose portraits.

I photographed this gorgeous yellow rose, the symbol for jealousy, at the home of artist Hans Heysen, The Cedars, Hahndorf, South Australia. Both Hans and his daughter Nora created incredible rose portraits.Photo: Rowena

My Pretty Rose Tree

William Blake

A flower was offered to me,
Such a flower as May never bore;
But I said ‘I’ve a pretty rose tree,’
And I passed the sweet flower o’er.

Then I went to my pretty rose tree,
To tend her by day and by night;
But my rose turned away with jealousy,
And her thorns were my only delight.

Dorothy Parker

Dorothy Parker

When I wanted to appreciate the humour is love, there was Dorothy Parker’s: One Perfect Rose:

One Perfect Rose

A single flow’r he sent me, since we met.
All tenderly his messenger he chose;
Deep-hearted, pure, with scented dew still wet –
One perfect rose.

I knew the language of the floweret;
‘My fragile leaves,’ it said, ‘his heart enclose.’
Love long has taken for his amulet
One perfect rose.

Why is it no one ever sent me yet
One perfect limousine, do you suppose?
Ah no, it’s always just my luck to get
One perfect rose.

Dorothy Parker

Then, alas, there is the death of the rose, as expressed by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

A Dead Rose

Elizabeth Barrett Browning

O Rose! who dares to name thee?
No longer roseate now, nor soft, nor sweet;
But pale, and hard, and dry, as stubble-wheat,—
Kept seven years in a drawer—thy titles shame thee.

The breeze that used to blow thee
Between the hedgerow thorns, and take away
An odour up the lane to last all day,—
If breathing now,—unsweetened would forego thee.

The sun that used to smite thee,
And mix his glory in thy gorgeous urn,
Till beam appeared to bloom, and flower to burn,—
If shining now,—with not a hue would light thee.

The dew that used to wet thee,
And, white first, grow incarnadined, because
It lay upon thee where the crimson was,—
If dropping now,—would darken where it met thee.

The fly that lit upon thee,
To stretch the tendrils of its tiny feet,
Along thy leaf’s pure edges, after heat,—
If lighting now,—would coldly overrun thee.

The bee that once did suck thee,
And build thy perfumed ambers up his hive,
And swoon in thee for joy, till scarce alive,—
If passing now,—would blindly overlook thee.

The heart doth recognise thee,
Alone, alone! The heart doth smell thee sweet,
Doth view thee fair, doth judge thee most complete,—
Though seeing now those changes that disguise thee.

Yes, and the heart doth owe thee
More love, dead rose! than to such roses bold
As Julia wears at dances, smiling cold!—
Lie still upon this heart—which breaks below thee!

“Did you hear about the rose that grew from a crack in the concrete? Proving nature’s laws wrong, it learned to walk without having feet. Funny, it seems to by keeping it’s dreams; it learned to breathe fresh air. Long live the rose that grew from concrete when no one else even cared. You see you wouldn’t ask why the rose that grew from the concrete had damaged petals. On the contrary, we would all celebrate its tenacity. We would all love it’s will to reach the sun. Well, we are the rose – this is the concrete – and these are my damaged petals.”

-Tupac Shakur

Unforgettable: Bette Midler: The Rose.

Unforgettable: Bette Midler: The Rose.

However, as much as I love my poetry, who can go passed one of the most loved songs of our time: The Rose:. Once I’d finally found my Romeo, a friend of ours gave a beautiful rendition at our wedding. Here’s the Bette Midler & Ms Judd: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M5q0KmjU0Qk

Do you know any good rose poems to contribute?

How are you going with the Blogging A-Z April challenge? I’ve been trying to read as many other blogs as I can but it’s all getting challenging. I planning to do some catch up after the challenge is over and the writing load has hopefully cut back.

xx Rowena