Monthly Archives: March 2016

Inspired By A Living Poet.

Tomorrow, the Annual April A2Z Blogging Challenge blasts off and if you’ve read my theme reveal, you’ll already know that I will be writing: Letters to Dead Poets. Well, have been writing them. While my kids think I’ve finally cracked and this theme is plain “weird”, this journey has had so many twists and turns and to be perfectly honest, I think my head is still lost up a drainpipe somewhere along these explorations.

Anyway, I have one last day to switch gears from the Royal Sydney Easter Show and start heading towards the realm of Dead Poets. However, before we get there, we’re off to the land of the living.

Rewinding back to 1986…

The Flight of a Young Poet

Flapping my wings,

I take flight,

soaring through blue skies

white feathers glowing in the sun.

In the blink of an eye,

I flew through some window

dividing now and then.

 

Somehow,

magically mystically,

I am a young woman again.

You soothe my heartstrings

like a maestro

restoring my battered soul.

I now sing like a skylark,

released from its rusty cage.

 

How did you know me so well,

when we have never met?

Do you know?

…………….

My parents had gone away and I was staying with family friends I’d always admired…a flamboyant, debonair entrepreneur and his incredibly beautiful and equally smart and sophisticated wife. There was talk that he’d given her a full-length fur coat. Of course, for someone getting around in clompy black school shoes and a tartan tunic, this sounded very extravagant, luxurious and there was no thought about how many innocent animals had been slaughtered to enable this gesture of love.

I’d never even been overseas and they were part of the jet set…London, Paris, New York and back to Sydney. Me… I just went to school and it was a thrill to hang out at the station. I guess you could very aptly describe my world as a goldfish bowl. Actually, a gold fish bowl is way too calm because although my world was small, it was a tempest having my heart unceremoniously smashed into smithereens in between studying for those all important end of school exams. That’s right. The ones which make or break the rest of your life.

Anyway, while I was staying there, I was introduced to an incredible book of poetry: The Thoughts of Nanushka by Nan Whitcomb.

This was 1986 when home photocopiers weren’t what they are now and her poetry wasn’t easy to find.  So, I jotted down what poems I could in my school diary and I think it was only once I went to university, that a friend finally gave me my very own volume of her poems. It was like being given a radiant beam of pure gold light. I understand that description might initially appear a bit cryptic but what she gave me was insight into myself, clarity of thought and a way to express and let out something of an inner cyclone. That was far more important to me than gold itself!

I know that I am not the only young person to feel consumed by darkness, crippling self-esteem and a sense that you must be an alien from another planet. There are so many of us out there but we simply haven’t met. Moreover, back then, there wasn’t the same capacity to discover like-minded people around the world via the Internet. You could well be stuck on your “Pat Malone”.

I remember how The Thoughts of Nanushka comforted me:

If you dare

To be different

And you do not

Join the crowd –

If they laugh at your honesty

And taunt you

If you’re proud-

When they talk of you

In whispers

And criticise the things

You say and do-

Do not fear them,

But forgive them-

They are more afraid

Than you-

Nan Whitcomb Thoughts of Nanushka Vol VII Love, Tears and Dreams

I was to find out down the track, that the severity of these storms inside my head, was physical rather than emotional. When I was 25, I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain. My sense of being different and not fitting in or belonging, was more than just a feeling but a fact. I had surgery where a neurosurgeon inserted a shunt into my brain to manage the pressure and give me some kind of equilibrium. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t be different or that I’m still not different. However, having a full-blown neurological meltdown ultimately kills you and seeing the horizon bounce up and down when you walk is no picnic.

It’s a totally different, different scenario.

However, when it came to understanding the broken heart, Nanushka understood so well. Instead of simply telling me that there were “more fish in the sea”, she said:

FALLING in love
is a recurring illness –
the heady nights
and dizzy days,
the raging fever
and the pain –
recovery –
slow convalescence
with the uncertainty
of where and when or if
this wondrous sickness
will strike again . . .

 

However, Nanushka wasn’t just about heartbreak. She also rode the wave of passion. That intensity of falling in love and put those feelings into words too. I remember when I was so much younger falling in love with a young surfer and looking out over Sydney’s Whale Beach and seeing the surfers tackle a wave known as The Wedge and this poem travelled straight through me:

We sat on top of the world

watching the mist

roll in from the sea-

and far below,

the surfers floated there

like drowning bees-

I looked across at you

and lost my senses

in your dear blue eyes

and knew those surfers

well could drown –

and so might I –

 Nan Whitcomb Thoughts of Nanushka Vol VII Love, Tears and Dreams.

Perhaps, as you read her poems, you might wonder why you haven’t heard of Nanushka. It’s not that she’s been hiding under a rock. Indeed, this poem was read out at the funeral of INXS frontman, Michael Hutchence:

TO mourn too long
for those we love
is self indulgent –
but to honour their memory
with a promise
to live a little better
for having known them,
gives purpose to their life –
and some reason
for their death . . . . .

Nan Whitcomb Thoughts of Nanushka Vol This Moment is Forever

It can be hard for Australians to get their work out there and not everybody longs to belong to the cult of celebrity. Sell their soul just to fly straight into the candle flame and burn. Integrity and being able to live with your self matter to some of us.

Nan’s philosophy on life is to put her heart and soul into the present, never regret the past, but keep the experience and memories to enrich the future.

Beyond the ugliness

In this world,

Is the incredible beauty

Of love and friendship-

That is where I live-

Nan Whitcomb: The Thoughts of Nanushka Introduction.

 

I was initially going to include Nan Whitcomb in my letters to dead poets. However, an email revealed that she is very much alive. So, I decided to write this on the eve of the challenge instead. Although her poetry would have inspired some of these poets who seemingly slashed their wrists with the pen, I thought I’d keep dead poets with dead poets.

So, on that note, I’m off for one last sleep before heading off to Hades tomorrow.

Have you ever read: The Thoughts of Nanushka? If so, I would love to hear your thoughts and you could reference your favourite as well.

By the way, here is a link to her website: http://users.senet.com.au/~nanushka/index.htm

On that note, I leave with one last gem:

A SOLITARY seagull
rides home
on a shaft of golden sun –
our beautiful day
is melting into dusk –
pink clouds
fade back to sombre grey
and your dear face
is touched with gold –
why should we mourn
the passing of our day
because we know
the night
belongs to us –

Nan Whitcomb Thoughts of Nanushka Vol VII Love, Tears and Dreams

xx Rowena

Royal Sydney Easter Show…Now & Then.

 

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On Easter Monday, the family headed off to the Royal Sydney Easter Show.

What is considered an annual event for many Sydney families, certainly when I was growing up, has been an insurmountable mountain for us in the past. While there were many parents zooming around with littlies in strollers, with a very active son and a disabled mother, it wasn’t a possibility for us. Then, as he started growing up and more responsible, I was still recovering from chemo Easter 2014 and Easter 2015, I had a broken foot. Given the monumental size of the show and the entry fees, you need to be fit…or in a chair. So, for us to even consider going to The Show, it meant crossing that proverbial mountain but also is a positive reflection on how well I’ve been going. Yippee!

When I was knee high to a grasshopper, going to the Easter Show was an annual event. We caught the train into Central Station where we met my Dad in Eddy Avenue after work. Then, we caught the bus through Surry Hills with its the rundown terrace houses and alleyways all sandwiched together until we finally arrived at the Royal Agricultural Showground (RAS), next to the Sydney Cricket Ground. There were Kewpie dolls glittering on sticks, the Laughing Clowns with their haunting smiles, the animals, rides on the Dodgems and the Ferris Wheel and the palatial Show Bag Hall..the kids’ equivalent of Mecca. I still remember Mum watching the rest of us fight it out on the dodgem cars weighed down by the show bags we had to get long before time to go home. Lollies, chocolate bars and magic tricks, the show bags were sensational!!

Laughing clowns

When you’re a kid, you don’t really think of yourself as part of history. Or, ever consider that what you know as “The Show” is something transient, fleeting and an ever-changing chameleon. After all, for your short life, it has always been.

Yet, it hasn’t.

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The RM Williams Truck.

The  Royal Sydney Easter Show is the largest event held in Australia, and the sixth largest in the world. The first Easter Show was held in 1823 by the newly formed Agricultural Society of New South Wales, with the aim of encouraging the colony’s rural industries. The site was at Parramatta, 24 kilometres west of the town of Sydney, and the display included horses, cattle, sheep, pigs and poultry. In 1869, the venue was moved from Parramatta to Prince Alfred Park until 1881 when the NSW Government provided land at Moore Park where the show was held for 116 years. In 1998, the Show moved to a new showground within the Sydney Olympic Park  at Homebush Bay.

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How did the humble Dagwood Dog (Pluto Pup) become an Easter Show must?

So, when we took the kids to the show on Monday, it was in a completely different venue and Geoff and I have only been there once before back in 2002. I know you expect change in that time but it doesn’t mean you like it or that everything has changed. They might not have the cart but they still have the horse, the dodgem cars and the Laughing Clowns. For better or worse, the Kewpie dolls seem to be long gone. Being such a part of Ray Lawler’s play: The Summer of the Seventeenth Doll, they had a significance which went way beyond just being something commercial at The Show. ,

However, much of the format hasn’t changed. There were the Floral Displays, Agricultural Displays from various Districts , Rollercoaster, Cake Decorating, and the Dog Show.

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Is this a dog or a cake?

There’s also another feature of the show, which hasn’t changed. That is the crowds. The showground was absolutely packed! We didn’t lose the kids or each other, which was an absolute miracle because that usually happens on a fairly ordinary outing. Bearing this in mind, both kids had both our mobile numbers written on their hand in permanent marker. They were also handing out wristbands out there. The lost child at the show is just as common as the smiling child clutching their show bags.

 

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Celebrity Chef  Fast Ed showing us how to make pizza.He had an enlightening discussion with a young boy about the important distinction between “caramelised” and “burnt”.

Being the largest event in Australia, Fast Ed wasn’t the only celebrity we met up with . Indeed, just as I suspected, Elvis is still alive!

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I also met up with Fomer Australian Prime Minister incognito but still recognizable,wearing his trade mark “budgie-smugglers” or Speedo’s.

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Photographed with Former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

After everything we said and did at the show, the last photograph had to go to the Ferris Wheel.

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What are your favourite memories of going to a show?

xx Rowena

 

 

 

 

Agriculture Showcase: Royal Sydney Easter Show.

Ever since I was a child, I’ve had to check out the  “District Exhibits” competition at The Show. These displays are set up by four districts of NSW and South East Queensland. A theme is selected and created pictorially on a large scale, to strict rules and using only the produce of the particular district which typically includes wool, wheat, apples, pumpkins, sugar cane, citrus fruit, vegetables and brightly coloured bottles of preserves. Also displayed are other primary products such as fleeces, carcases of beef, wine, honey, cheese and sausages. These pictures are usually really clever or feature freakishly large veggies like pumpkins the size of a carriage. Of course for city slickers like myself, all of this is amazing and where city meets country.

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The Western District’s Exhibit.

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I just loved this train, which actually moved around. By the way, you’ll notice that the exhibition is sprouting due to the humidity.

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The kids taking a closer look and feel of the produce which has gone into the exhibit.

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Do you remember these jars of preserves? My grandparents used to preserve Cape Gooseberries in them. They lived in Queensland.

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The Northern Districts’ Exhibit. This area includes Byron Bay.

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The South-East Queensland District’s Exhibit.

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The Australian economy used to ride of the sheep’s back. Looks, like we’re now carrying the sheep.

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Southern District’s Exhibit.

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This 249kg pumpkin wasn’t part of these exhibits. Rather, it decided to do some blog-bombing and who am I to argue with a 249kg pumpkin? No, I moved right out of the way…”You can have anythi9ng you like, Sir. I’ll even give you your own blog: “Huge Pumpkins Inc.”.

I’ve really enjoyed revisiting the highlights of the Royal Sydney Easter Show. It’s such a huge, sprawling event that you have to keep moving and through the photos, I’ve been able to experience it all in much more detail.

Do you have a local agricultural show? Please share any posts. We can all go on an international agricultural show crawl.

xx Rowena

 

Peter! Peter! Pumpkin Painter!

It’s amazing what you come across at the Royal Sydney Easter Show and this year, that included some very well camouflaged pumpkins, which had been transformed into brilliant works of art.

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A Few Great Charlie Brown Quotes:

“In the book of life, the answers aren’t in the back.”

“I think I’m afraid to be happy, because whenever I get too happy, something bad always happen.”

“There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters… I could be their leader.”

“Sometimes I lie awake at night and ask ‘Where have I gone wrong’, then a voice says to me ‘This is going to take more than one night’.”

“Awkward is my specialty.”

 

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“‘And if anyone knows anything about anything,’ said Bear to himself, ‘it’s Owl who knows something about something,’ he said, ‘or my name’s not Winnie-the-Pooh,’ he said. ‘Which it is,’ he added. ‘So there you are.’

AA Milne: Winnie The Pooh.

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Nemo.

“Nemo: I can swim fine, Dad, okay?!Marlin: No, it’s not okay. You shouldn’t be anywhere near here! Okay, I was right. You know what? Let’s start school in a year or two. [starts to take Nemo away]

Nemo: [jerks out of his grasp] No, Dad! Just because you’re scared of the ocean–

Marlin: Clearly you’re not ready and you’re not coming back until you are. You think you can do these things, but you just can’t, Nemo!

Nemo: I hate you.”

-Finding Nemo

Hope you’ve enjoyed our latest stop at The Show!

xx Rowena

Let Them Eat Cake!

As our tour of the Royal Sydney Easter Show continues, we’re onto Cake Decorating. A friend of mine won one of these categories a few years ago and dropped off my son’s Ninja birthday cake on the way to dropping off her prize-winning entry. I don’t know how she managed to drive it down. I would’ve been driving about 20 KPH the whole way and having an escort front and behind with flashing lights and a huge sign warning: PRECIOUS CARGO ON BOARD! I never felt like this when I was pregnant but some of these cakes really do look precarious, fragile and not something which should be moved.

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To be perfectly honest, the level of creativity and skill was excellent across the board. The entire display so inspirational. So, I feel it is rather unfair to single any cakes out but unfortunately that’s the nature of things. I physically couldn’t photograph them all…especially given the crowds!

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“May the Force be with you.”

 – Yoda

 

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Yoda

Aren’t they simply amazing! Work

I hope you’re having a great week!

xx Rowena

Flowers: When You Can’t Grow Your Own……

Hope you’re enjoying your virtual experience of the Royal Sydney Easter Show. So far, we’ve boarded the rollercoaster, battled it out on the dodgems, toured the dog pavillion where we checked out the Best in Show and went on to see a sheep dog round up some sheep. How we’ve managed to jam so much into one day, I don’t know but it isn’t over yet.
Now, we’re off to the flowers. They were absolutely stunning and I can assure you that nothing like this is growing in our desiccated garden.
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What an incredible orchid just begging to be photographed!

“Every flower is a soul blossoming in nature.”

Gerard De Nerval

 

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

William Shakespeare Romeo and Juliet (2.2.45-7)

 

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 “If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom?”

Khalil Gibran
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“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.”

John Keats: Ode To Melancholy

 

“Love is the flower you’ve got to let grow.”
John Lennon
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“The fairest thing in nature, a flower, still has its roots in earth and manure.”
D. H. Lawrence

“By plucking her petals, you do not gather the beauty of the flower.”
Rabindranath Tagore
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“When I walk with you I feel as if I had a flower in my buttonhole.”
William Makepeace Thackeray
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“The artist is the confidant of nature, flowers carry on dialogues with him through the graceful bending of their stems and the harmoniously tinted nuances of their blossoms. Every flower has a cordial word which nature directs towards him.”
Auguste Rodin
So, I hope you enjoyed our journey through the Flower Exhibit at the show. It really was beautiful!
xx  Rowena

That Other Couple

How to talk to each other as a couple is something to keep an eye on. Could be that the gentleman had Alzheimer’s. The comments are great as well! xx Rowena

vanbytheriver

The Notebook From “The Notebook”.

We’ve all seen them. That older couple.

Not the one holding hands, smiling politely at each other, silently enjoying a restaurant meal, reflecting on a lifetime of memories.

That other couple.

Growling, snarling, critical, impatient, angry, exhausted.

I witnessed one of those couples recently in a grocery store.

His name was Albert. She ordered him to “stay put” with the cart while she went around the corner. He did not. Something caught his eye and he moved the cart a bit to get closer. She came back, berating him.

“I thought I told you to stay put, Albert. This is why we can’t shop together. Let’s just get out of here.” And I watched, a bit stunned, as they steered abruptly toward the check-out lane.

As he walked a few paces behind, a stoop-shouldered Albert glanced at me. I wanted to tell him to run, as fast as he could, to get away. I…

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