Monthly Archives: October 2016

Wandering into Darlinghurst Gaol, Sydney…

Continuing further along my meanderings through inner Sydney, I stumbled across Darlinghurst Gaol, which is now posing as the National Art School. Is it a coincidence that these art students are creating within the walls of a former prison? I’m not sure but society has often locked up it’s most innovative thinkers. Indeed, Australian poet Henry Lawson himself was locked up within these walls back in the day.

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Anyway, you’ll be pleased to know that I wandered into Darlinghurst Gaol and wandered straight out again.

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This photo was taken in the tunnel leader into the chapel.

Perhaps, you might think they’ve made a huge mistake. That they should’ve locked me up and thrown away the key. Some days, I truly wouldn’t mind. After all, if that’s what it takes to get a bit of peace and quiet, I’ll lock myself up any day. I’m sure you know what I mean. We’ve all been there!

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Old and New Stand Side by Side.

As I said, I was  wandering through Eastern Sydney starting out at Kings Cross Station and walking along Darlinghurst Road to the Sydney Jewish Museum. Then, I turned the corner and saw a high and continuous sandstone wall. Although I don’t get down to this part of Sydney very often, I knew it must’ve been Darlinghurst Gaol. While it closed as a gaol back in and is now the National Art  School, it had some high profile inmates back in the day. Poet Henry Lawson spent a bit of time there, calling it Starvinghurst Gaol. A few notable bushrangers were  inmates of Darlinghurst Gaol:

  • Thomas and John Clarke – bushrangers from the upper Shoalhaven in south-east New South Wales, hanged on 25 June 1867.
  • John Dunn – Australian bushranger, member of Ben Hall‘s gang, hanged in the gaol on 19 March 1866.
  • John Vane[3] – bushranger from Carcoar in Central Western New South Wales. Johnny Vane was member of Ben Hall‘s gang.
  • Frank Gardiner – Australian bushranger and mastermind of the Forbes gold escort robbery at Eugowra on 15 June 1862 (sentenced to 32 years, but pardoned early).
  • Andrew George Scott – known as Captain Moonlite, Irish-Australian bushranger.
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Watercolour of the Gaol by inmate Henry Louis Bertrand, 1891

Construction on Darlinghurst Gaol wall began in 1822 and finished in 1824 using convict labour. However, due to a lack of funds, the site sat empty for 12 years. Construction of the rest of the complex did not begin until 1836, with completion of some of the cell blocks in 1840. The gaol was ready for occupation a year later, with the first prisoners occupying the gaol on 7 June 1841.

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The gaol was finally completed in 1885. The main material used for construction of the gaol is Sydney sandstone, cut into large blocks by convicts. Convict markings on the blocks are visible along the upper half of the wall on Darlinghurst Road. A tall circular chapel stands in the middle of the site, around which are sited the six rectangular cell blocks in a radial fashion.

The Mortuary.

The site was transferred in 1921 to the New South Wales Department of Education, who adapted the building for use as the East Sydney Technical College. The National Art School was established in 1995 and is now the sole occupant of the site. The Darlinghurst Road side of the Gaol, (commonly known as “the wall”) was for many years a popular place for male prostitutes to offer their services.

I have to ask if it’s a coincidence that the National Art School is housed in a former gaol? After all, doesn’t society like to lock up those who think outside the square and who better than artists and creatives!

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The guard at the gate told me that there was a tunnel from the courthouse to the gaol and so I wandered round there and took some photos. The architecture is just begging to be photographed and is, as I’ve heard said: “very instragramable”. That is if you’re on Instagram.

Stumbling across the gaol was a reminder of the chance finds you come across when you explore a place on foot. I had a great uncle who was particularly well-travelled for his day. He used to say that if you wanted to know a city, you needed to walk around it on foot. He was so right and he was in great company with these minds:

“What strange phenomena we find in a great city, all we need do is stroll about with our eyes open. Life swarms with innocent monsters.”
― Charles Baudelaire

“There is nothing like walking to get the feel of a country. A fine landscape is like a piece of music; it must be taken at the right tempo. Even a bicycle goes too fast.”

-Paul Scott Mowrer

However, as much as I love walking around the inner city exploring every nook and cranny, time was not my friend. Mum was minding my kids and I really had to get home. So, after already deviating via the Anne Frank Exhibition and Darlinghurst Gaol, I was now Cinderella at 5 minutes to midnight.  I  needed to hot foot it to Central Station via Surry Hills to catch the train home.

Well, maybe just one last detour. After walking out of gaol, I wandered into a chocolate shop. Just goes to show that it doesn’t take much to lead me astray!

Now, it’s time to get on with the weekend!

xx Rowena

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Beyond Anne Frank…Her Father’s Gift to the World.

Yesterday, I visited the Sydney Jewish Museum to see two overlapping exhibitions: Anne Frank- A History for Today and Otto Frank’s Lost Letters. This was naturally a deeply moving experience and it was wonderful to recapture the intimacy I shared with Anne Frank as a 13 year old and revisit it now as Mum to my  13.5 year old son and almost 10.5 daughter, who are about to step into her shoes.

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As a writer, it always interests me how we hear a story from a certain perspective and then we rediscover the story completely when we see it through someone else’s eyes. After all, when you read The Diary of Anne Frank, you are drawn completely into her world, her perspective, her heartbeats. We know nothing about how the rest of the people in the annexe saw her.

Otto Frank is the only survivor and the best one  to provide that outside insight into Anne . He said:

“For me, it was a revelation. There, was revealed a completely different Anne to the child that I had lost. I had no idea of the depths of her thoughts and feelings.”

Otto Frank

As much as we revere Anne Frank through her diary, her father is has a different, but equally important. After all, he had it published and gave it to the world when he could have locked it away in a drawer. This was all her had left of his precious daughter…along with his wife and older daughter, Margot. However, he shared it with the world and gave millions, upon millions a precious soul mate who knew them intimately in ways we couldn’t even express to ourselves. She is the voice of the misunderstood teenager, the Jewish people, the oppressed, the writer and much more.

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Anyway, following the publication and subsequent translation of Anne Frank’s Diary, young people wrote letters to Otto Frank  and he replied. Although copies of the letters he received have been retained by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam, he didn’t keep copies of his own letters. So, in 2015, a world-wide search began and the Australian Jewish Museum located two Australian women who had written to Otto and had kept his treasured replies…Diana Munro and Anne Finlayson. Indeed, Otto Frank became quite close to Anne and called her the “Other Anne” and they met several times, becoming good friends.

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So after getting off the train and slowly walking along Darlinghurst Road taking photos, I arrived at the Jewish Museum. I have never been there before. I’m immediately struck by how this isn’t like your average museum. It’s more like a home, a definite Community Centre and no doubt a sacred place for Jewish people. It is cared for, loved and polished. As I said, I felt like I was being invited into someone’s home and made very, very welcome.

The exhibitions are upstairs and I’m conscious of time pressures because Mum is minding my kids and I wasn’t supposed to be detouring after my medical appointment. So, I’m trying to make sure I see and absorb Otto Frank’s letters and return to see rest. Yet, the exhibition of letters from the Holocaust attracts my attention and I had a quick look.

Back to Otto Frank…

There is correspondence between Otto Frank and a young New Zealander, Diana Munro and Australian, Anne Finlayson. The letters on both sides are incredibly deep and philosophical and you get to know just a bit of who Otto Frank was as a person, Anne Frank’s father and also someone determined to make the world a better place for the future, fight against the sins of the past.

While I could’ve typed these quotes up and prettied them up a bit, these are photos I took at the exhibition. I particularly wanted to share these with Merril Smith from Merril’s Historical Musings to thank her for telling me about the exhibition and I felt very much like we were there together and had a coffee and chat afterwards.

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What I noticed first about Otto Frank’s letters was that they were typed. His typewritten letters instantly reminded me of my grandfather’s typed Christmas newsletters and their different circumstances. The type also places his letters in the past, in a different era and they feel special.

In addition to reading the letters, there was an excellent exhibition about Anne Frank’s life, the Holocaust and the secret annexe. This was a great refresher for me as it’s been 25 years since I visited her house in Amsterdam.

Since I visiting the exhibition, I’ve found that if you speak to ten different people about how The Diary of Anne Frank has touched their hearts, you could easily get ten different answers… all valid.

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A replica of Anne Frank’s Diary on display.

That’s because in this complex diary commenced on her 13th Birthday, we each find something that relates to us in such a personal, intimate way. It’s like she’s peering deep into the inner-most secret passages of our soul, speaking out the cryptic writing on the wall and somehow made sense of it all. She has a clarity of vision which is astounding in anyone and I’m not going to put down young people by saying they can’t see more clearly than adults because so often they can.

Australian author, Jackie French said in conversation with Yotam Weiner, Education Manager, Sydney Jewish Museum:

“It is so easy to think of people who suffer, or have suffered, as other than ourselves. The very magnitude of the Holocaust means that single voices can be lost. Anne’s words make it personal. It is so very easy to lose track of major events in history. There are many to remember. It is much harder to forget the voice of Anne. Anne has been my companion, perhaps, for the forty six years since I read her book.”

So, if you’re interested in seeing these  exhibitions, you will need to hurry into the Sydney Jewish Museum. The exhibition closes mid-November.

 

xx Rowena

You might also enjoy reading about our vigil commemorating the 70th Anniversary of Anne Frank’s death last year: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/04/15/anne-frank-70-years-on-our-vigil/

Advance to King’s Cross Station, Sydney.

“You will never hear a lawn mower in Kings Cross and that, for many of us, is entirely a sufficient reason to live here. Give me sirens any day.”

Anne Summers: “In the Gutter … Looking at the Stars. A Literary Adventure Through Kings Cross (Edited by Mandy Sayer and Louis Nowra)”

 

Following an  appointment in Sydney today, you could say I was lured off by the pixies. By the way, this is a rather common scenario whenever I have appointments in Sydney. I love going off the grid, wandering into other worlds and exploring through my camera lens which gives me vision, not simply sight. As a mother of two gorgeous children and host to a few medical annoyances, I also love going, doing, being myself without anyone else in tow. Or worse still, towing me off somewhere else.

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I was able to go on today’s detour, as usual, because my mother was picking up the kids and I am incredibly thankful. Mind you, today’s detour was a bit of an indulgence because Mum hasn’t been well lately  and she made a point of saying: “Come straight home”. She knew I wouldn’t come straight home, but I did say I’d be home by 6.00 PM so she could get home early.

Today’s destination was an exhibition of letters by Otto Frank, the father of Anne Frank, at  the Sydney Jewish Museum in Darlinghurst.

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Kings Cross is on the left hand side where you’ll also find Darlinghurst, where the museum is located.

I caught the train to Kings Cross  Station and while walking along Darlinghurst Road into neighbouring Darlinghurst, I had my SLR camera with its huge and heavy zoom lens dangling around my neck. That is, when I wasn’t peering through it.

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If you have read anything before about my relationship with my camera, you’ll already know that I see so much better through my camera lens. Or, even just when I have my camera with me. I’ll spot some teeny weeny detail and zoom into it, in a sense blowing it up into a world, filling the shot. It is all I see…this tiny piece of detail. It resonates so strongly with me in photography mode, yet I would’ve missed it looking through my own eyes. Walked straight past it.

So before I take you to the exhibition, I thought I’d take you on a brief photography tour from Kings Cross Station into Darlinghurst, which coincidentally, is where I was born.

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You can see Sydney Tower in the Middle and the brown building on the left is where I used to work.

This is a view of Kings Cross by day, which I can assure you, is totally different from Kings Cross by night. Kings Cross is Sydney’s red light district. I have experienced the distinction between Kings Cross by day and Kings Cross by night personally. My first job after graduation was working for Dun & Bradstreet at 100 William Street. This was a very corporate job and if I worked back, I’d leave the office in my navy to suit to see a line up of “working girls” of a different sort lined up along William Street. Naturally I felt uneasy waiting for my boyfriend to pick me up after work…even though my knee-length blue suits put me in a different league.

I wonder where this door came from? It really intrigues me.

Other than working in Kings Cross for a year, it’s not a place I’ve spent a lot of time. That said, after clubbing we used to go to  Dean’s Cafe in Kellett Street which had exotic  lounges, a surreal fish tank the best nachos back when nachos were a thing. It was and remains a cosmopolitan, bohemian hangout a world away from Sydney’s conservative North Shore where I grew up.

While Kings Cross has attracted sleaze, drugs, crime and everything on the wrong side of the law, it’s also been a creative haven, particularly during the 1920s. POet Ketheth Sleesor lived there and wrote his famous poem about The Cross, William Street:

William Street

The red globe of light, the liquor green, 
the pulsing arrows and the running fire 
spilt on the stones, go deeper than a stream; 
You find this ugly, I find it lovely 


Ghosts’ trousers, like the dangle of hung men, 
in pawn-shop windows, bumping knee by knee, 
but none inside to suffer or condemn; 
You find this ugly, I find it lovely. 


Smells rich and rasping, smoke and fat and fish 
and puffs of paraffin that crimp the nose, 
of grease that blesses onions with a hiss; 
You find it ugly, I find it lovely. 


The dips and molls, with flip and shiny gaze 
(death at their elbows, hunger at their heels) 
Ranging the pavements of their pasturage; 
You Find this ugly, I find it lovely.

Kenneth Slessor.

St John’s Anglican Church, Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst.

In his essay  My Kings Cross Slessor reflected:

“For whatever happens to its landscape, Kings Cross will always be a tract apart from the rest of Sydney, still contemptuous of the rules, still defiantly unlike any other part of any other city in Australia. And, though its skyline keeps on changing in an unpredictable and bewildering way, its essence of individuality doesn’t change, its flavours, noises, sights and smells remain the same immutably. For this reason I find as much pleasure in contemplating it today as I did when I looked out of a Woolcott Street window in 1922- indeed with its unending flux of lights and colours and its gaudiness and reticence, its sunsets and midnights, it seems (to me) a good deal more beautiful than the highly advertised stones and sand of Central Australia. To me, the Chevron Hilton Hotel, with its glittering windows and huge verticals, is as awe-striking as Ayers Rock.”

He obviously loved Kings Cross!

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I was quite surprised to find this  historic Georgian house at 207 Darlinghurst Road. Once known as “Omrah” and used as a private hospital, it now stands alone.

My thoughts are that you can find joy, beautiful, love, inspiration anywhere as love as your eyes are open. That is, the eyes of your heart. You just need to look, keep an open mind and not judge.

Have you ever been to Kings Cross by day? Perhaps, your Kings Cross is in London or somewhere else? I’d love to hear your G rated stories!

xx Rowena

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I found this one way sign pointing back to St John’s Church rather amusing.

Sunflowers…Sowing the Seeds.

You wouldn’t believe how difficult it’s been for me to plant a few seeds.

That’s because these are no ordinary seeds.

These sunflower seeds were grown in Australian Quarantine from the seeds brought back from the MH17 crash site in the Ukraine.

You’ll no doubt recall MH17 was the Malaysian airlines flight, which was shot down over the Ukraine  on the 17 July, 2014.

Therefore, these seeds represent each precious individual whose life was tragically cut short through terrorism and war. More than that. They strangely represent hope. Hope that their legacy will gone on. A reminder that love conquers the grave and they won’t be forgotten. Faith that the goodness in people will triumph over the bad.

Personally, these seeds have come to have additional meaning about sowing goodness into our young people, especially the battlers, and helping them to grow up straight and tall on the inside.

Many of the Australians who died on board were teachers. Teaching isn’t just a job, it’s a vocation. It means having vision and seeing the sunflower blooming in each and every child…even before the seed has been planted. Ideally, that faith continues through the storms.That can be and usually is a very challenging, but also rewarding, thing.

The Maslin Family, who lost their three children in the crash, started a fundraiser in their memory for children with dyslexia. Their youngest son,Otis, had dyslexia and treatment is long term and expensive and so is diagnosis.

Putting all of these people together, the sunflowers for me came to mean giving kids who are struggling to read and learn that helping hand to do their best. Reading might always be difficult for them, but even if you can simply give someone the capacity to read, fill out forms and read the day to day stuff, it would change their world completely. It would set them free in ways those of us without dyslexia have never considered.

For some reason, this has become very important to me. It’s become my heart. Not because I’m a writer and I live, breath and devour words, but also because I know what it’s like to be on struggle street, not knowing if you’re ever going to get out.

Although quite different to dyslexia, I was born with hydrocephalus which went undiagnosed until I was 25. At that point, my neurological symptoms spiralled dangerously out of control. I couldn’t put my finger on my nose, was falling over a lot, forgetting the basics and getting the sequencing of basic tasks out of whack in a way that was almost funny if it wasn’t so disturbing. This increased pressure on my brain obviously wasn’t good.

Yet, I was lucky. I had surgery and had a shunt put in. Over time, most of my symptoms have eased and if it wasn’t for the auto-immune disease, I’d be back on my feet.

There is no surgery or quick fix to cure dyslexia and other learning difficulties. I guess that’s what I like about what the sunflowers represent. That you plant a small seed yet from that tiny thing,  big, bright happy sunflowers grow…yippee!!

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On Sunday, a year after receiving the sunflowers, we planted 12 seeds in a seed planter and we had a little ceremony out on the back lawn, using an upside down laundry basket as a table. We had our stunning red climbing rose in full bloom as a backdrop. Nothing symbolises love more than a red rose other than a human heart.

If you would like to read about the sunflower seeds, click here

I was too anxious to plant the seeds last year. Actually, this wasn’t anxiety but more of a reality check. That’s because I am a serial plant killer and our front yard is currently littered with dead bodies following my most recent splurge. I always vow to change but my track record speaks for itself.

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Mind you, sowing the seeds is only the beginning. Seeds don’t magically turn into sunflowers overnight. They require tender, loving care and that correct balance of wet and dry soil, sun and shade and exposure to the elements yet protection as well. My husband found the sunflower seeds inside the other day and said: “they’re meant to be sunflowers, not cave flowers”.

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Initially watering the seeds in the kitchen sink. Overdid it a bit.

So, now I’m watering them with the spray bottle morning and night and have covered them with a sheet of plastic creating a mini greenhouse and am leaving them out in the sun by day.

It’s only been four days so far. So, still too soon to see any shoots poking their heads through the soil but I’m doing my absolute best to help them along.

I hope you will join me on this journey.

BTW if you would like to find out more about the Mo, Evie & Otis Foundation or donate, please click here: Maslins Set Up Dyslexia Fund.

xx Rowena

Quote: Living With Yourself.

“but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”

–Atticus Finch in Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird

As hard as it it to live with someone else, perhaps the most difficult person to live is ourselves.

After all, we live with our selves twenty four hours a day seven days a week from birth right through to eternity. That’s way longer than being stuck in the same lift with someone…anyone!!

When I was younger, I used to get frustrated when my Mum would think she knew me better than I knew myself. Who did she think she was? She wasn’t me. She wasn’t walking in my shoes. Indeed, she had her own shoes and she could jolly well step straight back in them and leave my shoes alone!!

However, I have lately come to appreciate that we only know ourselves from the inside out.. through our own eyes, our own experience and let’s faceit, when you’ve only been on the planet for 5 short years, your understanding of the bigger picture and wider world is extremely limited.

Those around us, particularly who know us well but also have a broader experience and knowledge of life, can not only see us but also where and how we might fit into the overall scheme of things. They can see abilities in us we might overlook or downplay as well because so many of us are our own worst critics. In putting ourselves down or aiming for a perfection we can never attain, we can completely dismiss our strengths and fail to become all we were meant to be.

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Returning to the quote, however, that deals more with our conscience. That it doesn’t matter what other people think or hold dear, we must be true to our own values and conscience. Stand up and be counted…even if we are the one…that lone voice calling out through the wilderness.

After all, only we need to live with ourselves…and our actions and inactions. No one else.

As Edmund Burke wrote:

“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Moreover, for those of you who are a bit like me and feel you can’t do much, he also wrote:

“Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

Edmund Burke

It is so much easier for us to point the finger out, instead of pointing it in and asking: “What is my role? What do I need to do? Not someone else…just me.

What are your views? Please share. I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

I would like to thank Merril Smith for sharing the quotes from To Kill A Mockingbird, which inspired this post. You can read her post here: https://merrildsmith.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/walk-and-talk/

Sydney Harbour Ferry…Not A Cloud in the Sky.

Yesterday, we went on an epic adventure to Sydney’s Mosman Bay…a journey taking 2.5 hours, two trains and a ferry across Sydney Harbour.

Of course, I wanted to share our ferry trip with you…especially as many of you have not been Down Under and experienced the magic first hand and like me, make the most of “vicarious experience”.

I love catching the ferry around Sydney Harbour and was also looking forward to catching up with my extended family.

Meanwhile, I should also point out that Geoff was working which left me playing Sargeant-Major getting the troops to the station, changing trains and onto the ferry on time. Move over Gomer Pyle, it was time for me to become Sargent Carter of “Move it! Move it! Move it!” and “You knucklehead” fame.

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Live “Statue” at Circular Quay. How does he do it???

However, when it comes to losing this plot, the kids weren’t the only antagonists in the cast. I also had to factor in the biggest question mark of the lot…the Rowie Factor.

When it comes to the Rowie Factor, there is no explanation. No rhyme or reason. The Rowie factor is like that spooky relative you keep locked up in the closet well away from the public gaze, but always seems to find their way out. Right at the very worst possible moment, they appear giving a huge, enthusiastic wave. OMG!!!! Your spirit sinks like a stone.

WHY????? WHAT THE?????

However, yesterday the Rowie Factor was in a benevolent mood and actually did good…Alleluia!

The Rowie Factor is pretty good at that too. There’s no middle ground. Only extremely good or crushingly bad.

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Sydney Ferry Supply

So, there we are finally onboard our ferry…Supply.  Acquired in 1984, Supply is one of 9 single-ended First Fleet Class catamarans, which mainly operate in the inner harbour.

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After moving out of Circular Quay, our ferry heads due East past Sydney Opera House, leaving the Sydney Harbour Bridge behind. Being the weekend with good winds and a cloudless sunny sky, we spot quite a few good sized yachts and a flotilla of smaller craft as we pass other ferries. The kids lean right up against the bow with their hair blowing in the wind and I thank God this isn’t The Titanic and they can recreate that famous scene without the ferry hitting a very, very lost iceberg and sinking to the very depths of Sydney Harbour.

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A Yacht on Sydney Harbour.

The ferry pulls into Cremorne Point and I must admit I’m feeling a little anxious because I’ve only been on this ferry route once before and my doubts start to inflate, getting larger and larger as I second guess everything turning the details into question marks and I am in full reassurance mode. Besides, if I do get lost in typical Rowie fashion, I have my phone and can ring for assistance. After all, it’s not like we’re the first Europeans visiting this place and there’s no one to call. Mind you, I question whether you can really get lost if you haven’t found where you’re going yet…

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Anyway, as we pull into Cremorne Point I hear someone calling my name and waving out to me. It’s my cousin from interstate. At first, I thought she must’ve been coming to lunch but it was all pure coincidence. She was returning to her old stomping ground and also happened to have the afternoon free so came and joined us for lunch. Call it serendipity, meant to be, whatever. This had to be more than coincidence and I think you’d need a supercomputer to calculate the odds of us meeting up.

Meeting my cousin was such an unexpected surprise. I was stoked! (That said, I had to marvel at how the unexpected synchronised so well when the planned can go so horribly wrong!!)

Anyway, we had a fabulous afternoon meeting up with family and Geoff met us there after work and later drove us home.

These are a few night shots of Mosman Bay, which Geoff took just before leaving.

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Mosman Bay by Night. Photo Geoff Newton. Note Sydney Tower on the left.

Have you ever been to Sydney? Do you have any special memories and I’d love you to add links to your posts.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

An Ant’s Road Through the Roses.

the ants’ road
from peaks of clouds
to here.

Issa

When I saw this luscious red rose, I immediately metamorphosed into an ant crawling through it’s mountainous red petals until it finally reached all those golden pollen at the centre of the universe and slept.

Come to think of it, do ants actually sleep? Have you ever seen an ant taking a nap?

Just a thought…

xx Rowena