Monthly Archives: December 2016

Weekend Coffee Share December 17, 2016.

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share!

Today, I’m being a lousy hostess. So, if you’re thirsty or hungry,  you’ll need to head out to the kitchen and DIY. By the way, while you’re up, would you mind getting me a cup of decaf tea please? Pretty please!!!

I’ve locked myself in the lounge room with the air-conditioning on having a lazy Saturday. I need one.

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Sunbaking inside enjoying the air-conditioning.

How many sleeps is it now before Christmas? I have no idea. After all, it’s barely registering that it’s Saturday. I’ll blame the heat, but I’m totally incapable of performing such mental gymnastics: 25 – 17= 8. Eight sleeps…that’s better than I thought.Just a quick question: If I don’t go to sleep, does that mean Christmas will never come? I’m not sure.

I guess I should buy myself an Advent Calendar. That way, I wouldn’t have to worry about mental arithmetic. Mind you, it couldn’t be a chocolate one. In this heat, it would go into an instant meltdown. Let’s just say I’ve had enough meltdowns lately.

So,I could also visit Santa’s Countdown Clock.

Anyway, not being much of a number-cruncher, I countdown towards Christmas the same way I give directions… pick out landmarks and hope no one gets lost.

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School Carols.

For us, the landmarks to Christmas include: the end of year dance concert, the school carols night, the end of school and then there’s Church Christmas Eve. Somewhere along the way, there’s also checking out Christmas lights, making the Christmas Cake and wrapping presents. Sneaking in a few siestas isn’t a bad idea either!

Anyway, yesterday was the last day of school. Both my kids changed schools at the end of last year, yet I found myself back at their old school. A few of our friends had kids in the graduating class and I went to see them off.

hands-3

 

It’s a school tradition for the rest of the school and teachers to create a human tunnel for the graduating Year 6 kids to walk through. It’s a rather intense and emotional time for the entire school…smiles, tears and that sense of being in the departure lounge at the airport. I should also add that it gets quite challenging for the ginormous Year 6’s need to crawl through the tiny arches constructed by the kindergarten kids.

While most of these kids will end up together at the local high school, the transition from primary to high school is momentous…a huge leap along the pathway from childhood to growing up. Although they’re taller, their first day at high school feels a lot like their very first day at school all over again, except Mum isn’t allowed to cry this time. No tears allowed.

For better or worse, the end of the year is also a check list…especially Christmas.There’s barely been a tick in mine.  Actually, I haven’t even written the list yet, which could explain a bit. Significantly, I haven’t made my Christmas cake yet. This is a Christmas tradition deemed so important in the past, that when I had three days’ notice that I was having chemo 3 years ago, I HAD to make my Christmas cake. It seems that when I’m not under the pressure of dying, that making my Christmas cake hasn’t fallen onto the back burner. That’s along with writing and posting Christmas cards, wrapping presents and removing the excavation piles from where we squeezed in the Christmas Tree.

As you can see, we are buried deep in the depths of Christmas chaos and won’t be emerging any time soon.

Yet, at least we’ve managed to put up the Christmas Tree and decorate it. We have a real tree every year and this is the first year it’s been at ground level since we had the kids. Miss took over the decorating this year, introducing me to a new form of Christmas madness…CDOCD or Christmas Decoration Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. My usual hodgepodge of decorations made and bought throughout my lifetime was banned. Let’s just say I watched the proceedings.

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In addition to all the Christmas hoopla and end of school stuff, we also found out that our daughter has been accepted into Dance Team at the dance school. This isn’t just an honour and recognition of her dance abilities. It’s also a huge commitment and responsibility. That begins with arriving on time and not only being able to find your dance shoes, but also putting them on your feet. This seemingly simple process is harder than you think.

Jon & Geoff sailing

Geoff and Mister sailing.

Our son has also graduated from his Level 3 sailing course and starts racing in January. I know he’s going into his second year of high school, but it  still seems so grown up. Well, considering he’s about to overtake Grandma, he’s not so little any more.

Maybe, I’m the one who needs to grow up but that’s not to say there’s still a long way to go.

Mind you, growth should be a life long journey and I certainly haven’t stopped growing yet (and I’m not just referring to my Christmas waistline either).

By the way, although I’m not ready for Christmas, I have been doing plenty of writing. I have been working away on my Paris memoir. In addition to typing up excerpts from my diaries at the time, I’ve been reworking poetry I wrote at the time, writing new poems and short stories and being very productive. There was:

Poem:Slide Night- Dumped In Paris.

Poem:Welcome to the Yellow House.

Paris Syndrome – Disillusioned By the City of Lights.

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Photo: c Rochelle Wisoff-Fields

I also took part in Friday Fictioneers again, writing All for Love. It’s the story of an Australian war bride living in a US town.

How are plans going for your celebrations? I’d love to hear what you’re up to!

This has been part of the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster.

xx  Rowena

 

 

 

Reverse Sunbaking.

While I’m not sure whether Reverse Sunbaking is going to take off, I’ve been converted.

Before you Northerners think I’ve gone bonkers, I live in the sunny, Southern Hemisphere and you’ll find me living near the beach, just North of Sydney.

Umina Beach post storm Thurs

Our beach after a storm..

Reverse Sunbaking involves basking in the air-conditioned indoors, rather than turning lobster out on the beach in the midday sun. While you could set yourself up on a towel on the floor, I’ve gone for my writing chair…a comfy recliner. There’s no sun, sand, ocean views or the sound of the waves but I can chillax. For some reason, frying myself to a crisp has lost its appeal…along with melanoma.

Not that I haven’t been outside. Indeed, this morning the family walked down to the shops, thinking we had Buckley’s chance of finding a car space. Of course, we spotted two empty spots in prime real estate once we got there. Isn’t that always the way?!! Yet, it’s also good to actually use our legs for their intended purpose. Sometimes, I think my legs feel their only mission in life is to sit in the car!

Unfortunately, Reverse Sunbaking and Couch Potatoing are  closely related with only minor variations in their DNA. So, if I start sprouting, I’ll have to start moving. After all, I definitely don’t want to be swallowed up by the couch, losing all sight of the outside world. Couches can do that, you know! (Sounds like the horror makings of a Roald Dahl novel).

By the way,”Buckley’s chance” is another one of those weird Australian idioms. It means “to have little or no chance of doing or achieving something”1. You can also say something like: “You’ve got Buckley’s”.

Good luck if you’re trying to work out who Buckley was and why they became the personification of negative thinking. Like so much slang, it’s hard to retrace its origins but these conundrums do keep  academics employed.

So, what are your views on Reverse Sunbaking? Do you think I’m launching the next trend? As one of my favourite shows: The Living Room asks: is it hot or not?

xx Rowena

The Angels and the Furies

I am quite mindful of the tension between the light and dark in myself and through dance have gained a sharper appreciation of that tension. Hence, I wanted to this this with you and revisit it myself.
xx Rowena

Teacher as Transformer

May Sarton used the questions about the light and dark sides we each possess, but often go unnoticed. They inhabit our souls, which she calls premier danseur–first dancer. The angels and furies of our personalities are always with us, dancing with each other to gain our attention.

When I read this poem some time ago, I jotted down that to notice the furies sometimes they have to dance furiously to gain our attention. We prefer not to acknowledge their presence, but they are there and real along with our angels.

It is the mindful inner work that helps us understand the paradox of living in a world with both our angels and furies. It is not a choice between them. They exist with each other and both need our time and attention.

Have you not wounded yourself
And battered those you love
By sudden motions of evil,
Black rage in…

View original post 134 more words

All for Love…Friday Fictioneers.

Watching the horses outside in the snow, Joan tried to be thankful. “Every day write down three things you’re thankful for.”

It wasn’t working.

All she could think about was shifting gears and driving her life in reverse.

What was she thinking marrying a Yankee sailor she hardly knew?

It was Sydney, 1942 and he’d swept her right off her feet.

They were still in love but Silverton, Colorado could never be home. There wasn’t a beach in sight and she hated the snow.

Now, mother had passed and she couldn’t get back.

Why did love always demand it all?

Rowena Curtin

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers. This week’s photo prompt was taken by  Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. You can click through to the linky here.

Paris Syndrome…Beyond Hypochondria.

If you have been following Beyond the Flow lately, you’ll know I’ve been retracing my steps through Paris back in the European Summer of 1992. I have photos, diaries and letters from the trip, which have been incredibly useful. However, I can now cross-reference these with Google and retrace my steps online on Google maps. Consequently, this return journey has been very intriguing, rather intense and the creative juices have been dripping all over the place.

Aside from the poetry reading I did at the famous Shakespeare & Company Bookshop, my time in Paris was overshadowed by matters of the heart. Unfortunately, we’re not talking about romance but what is known as “the Paris Dumper”(a favourite band of mind whose songs include: “A One Sided Love Affair”.)

Patisserie Paris

The sweet side of Paris.

I can testify that being dumped in Paris is so much worse than being dumped just about anywhere else. After all, Paris isn’t just the City of Lights. Above all, it’s the City of Love. Can’t you just see Cupid flying over the Eiffel Tower sporting his bow and arrow? Indeed, I was quite surprised to find out that the air in Paris wasn’t pink. That Paris wasn’t a city of rose-eyed visions. Of course, if I’d ever read the fine print before falling in love, I should’ve known that heartbreak is a known side-effect and to keep a better eye out for the early signs.  So, when you’ve been dumped in Paris, you find yourself falling  from Cloud 9 straight on top of your sword. Ouch! It hurts!

writing in Paris

Being dumped in Paris wasn’t the end of my disillusionment with Paris either. Of course, I fell in love with the Louvre, the Eiffel Tower, the sensational Luxembourg Gardens but Paris was very noisy, over-crowded, dirty and even back in 1992 there was a very seedy, dark undercurrent. That’s before I even get to the unparalleled rudeness of the French. I don’t think they expected me to understand all the swearing!

After yet another stroll through Google last night, this sense of total and utter disillusionment with Paris even has a name…Paris Syndrome. I don’t know whether you’ll find it in the DSM IV manual but it’s not just something Google made up. The BBC has also covered it: Paris Syndrome.

Paris syndrome (French: Syndrome de Paris, Japanese: パリ症候群, Pari shōkōgun) is a transient psychological disorder exhibited by some individuals when visiting or vacationing to Paris, as a result of extreme shock resulting from their finding out that Paris is not what they had expected it to be. It is characterized by a number of psychiatric symptoms such as acute delusional states, hallucinations, feelings of persecution (perceptions of being a victim of prejudice, aggression, or hostility from others), derealization, depersonalization, anxiety, and also psychosomatic manifestations such as dizziness, tachycardia, sweating, and others, such as vomiting- Wikipaedia.

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Relaxing in the Luxenbourg Gardens, Paris. These stunning gardens and green space was an urban oasis.

While Paris Syndrome is particularly linked to Japanese tourists, I distinctly remember being let down by my first impressions of Paris. As a very impressionable young Australian with a head full of dreams and expectations, I’m sure I experienced Paris Syndrome when I was there. That after studying French for six years at school, the reality was a disappointment. Couldn’t live up to the fantasy.

No doubt the effects are worse for those living some distance from Paris, where we can’t just pop over for a look-see.

Have you ever been to Paris or somewhere else where your high expectations were dashed by reality?Please share your experiences with me.

xx Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share December 11, 2016.

Welcome to another Weekend Coffee Share!

Not quite sure how many sleeps there are before Christmas, but there’s no sign of Christmas at our place yet. There’s only a tub containing my daughter’s dance costumes after Saturday night’s concert and some stray camping gear. The kids are under tent tonight at the scout Christmas camp. Fortunately, we live in Australia or they’d be hooking up some generators and a sneaking in a few heaters.

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Our daughter after the dance concert.

Our Christmas tree will be arriving tomorrow. We have a real tree each year and I simply can’t bring myself to buy a fake one. I blame my Dad for that after hearing him wax lyrically about the wonders of fresh pine scent all my life. Christmas isn’t Christmas without the smell of Christmas tree in the house…along with the debris and mess! That said, I hate seeing Christmas trees standing upside down in people’s wheely bins waiting for the garbage truck. Such an ignoble end for a magnificent tree!

bird-house

On what has suddenly become yesterday, we went to our daughter’s dance concert. Of course, it wasn’t her dance concert as such but she was in three items…jazz, modern and ballet. A friend drove her to the dress rehearsal beforehand and she did her own hair, so it was quite different to the past where I was fretting over her hair slapping on lashings of gel and almost asphyxiating in clouds of hair spray. It’s liberating. Yet, the more independent they become, the less involved you are…for better or worse. Today, I was more of a spectator something was missing as well.

It’s been a busy week for my daughter and I. She attends a selective Opportunity Class and will be sitting for the selective high school exam in March next year. On Friday, students of the two local selective primary school classes were invited to an enrichment day at the selective high school. As a parent, this was obviously a great opportunity, but my daughter was refusing to go. Her teacher wasn’t going and she didn’t want to be with strangers, even though she knew most of the kids that were going. Although I’m an extroverted extrovert and love talking to strangers, I do get where she’s coming from but trying to convey that was hellish. Trying to explain that it’s more about anxiety than the trigger. I have been an incredibly anxious driver but the more I drive, the less anxious I’ve become and most of the time, I now jump in the car without a second thought. Life is a constant learning experience.
Anyway, she went along and loved it. They made biscuits and she told me they have a fantastic kitchen and she wants to go to school there.

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Meanwhile, I had my son home from school for the morning on Wednesday while the teachers had a student-free pow wow. He loves playing Risk, a board game using loads of strategy. Anyway, he was particularly thrilled that he completely wiped me out. I didn’t mind. I was playing to spend time together and we had a lot of laughs along the way. (Note to self: Laugh more. Life doesn’t always have to be serious!)

Meanwhile, I’ve been getting stuck into my memoir about my time in Paris in the Summer of 1992. I’ve been typing up diary notes and have deviated into writing a bit of fiction as well. My time in Paris was, as Charles Dickens so aptly put it: “the best of times and the worst of times.” I could easily turn this time into a terrifying horror story yet there were also the best of times and it’s weaving these two paradoxical threads together which is going to give the story quite a lot of punch. At least, that’s the aim! Light doesn’t always triumph over darkness. It depends where you start and finish the story. So, I’ll be looking into all of that.

Anyway, I’ve posted a few poems about this time during the last week:

Welcome to the Yellow House.

Slide Night…Dumped In Paris.

I also participated in Friday Fictioneers again. My contribution this week Dancing For Life. This looks at the choices we have to make between love and success.

How was your week? I hope it’s been great. All the best for your preparations for Christmas, Hanukah, the Holidays. One more coffee share to go!

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Poem: Welcome To the Yellow House

And he coaxed:

“Chirpy bird,

chirpy bird,

rest beside me,

chirpy bird.

The music of your spangled song,

thaws the freeze of love gone wrong.

 

Chirpy Bird.

chirpy bird.

Look what I’ve got,

chirpy bird.

Golden seeds

plucked from my heart.

Feast on these,

fresh shoots will start.”

 

But reason warned:

“Chirpy bird,

Chirpy bird.

Watch fast footsteps, Chirpy bird.

Your beak does peak

to chasms deep

as he bathes in your sweet

tweet

tweet

tweet.

But though he sometimes calls you “dear”,

note he’ll never let you near.”

 

Oh, Chirped bird!

Chirped bird!

Beak jammed in crack,

wings tied to torture wrack.

With a blind man’s bash,

your fragile bones he had to smash.

His yellow house was painted grand.

Do you think you’ll ever understand?

I only ever hear you cry:

“Lord, tell me why?

Just tell me why.”

 

Baited bird.

Beaten bird.

Chirped out bird

flopped in my hand.

Your crumpled feathers,

could I carress,

but you’d die

inside a comfort nest.

 

So, I offer you back

to the outstretched sky.

Spread your wings!

It’s time to fly.

Fresh shoots can spring

from golden seeds.

They’re ripe for thee,

my chirpy bird.

Eat & Fly free.

Rowena Curtin  14th August, 1992.

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Chirpy Bird.

It feels quite surreal these days, to reflect on the horrors of heartbreak in the years before I met my husband and “settled down”.

This poem revisits my trip to Europe in 1992, and the horrors of heartbreak. It’s title comes from Van Gogh’s house in Arles, which appeared in the painting The Yellow House. I chose Van Gogh’s house for the title as I was rapidly descending into the  same sort of anguished madness one associates with Van Gogh.

I hadn’t seen the painting when I named the poem, and the actual painting is much more conventional and “tame” than I’d expected, especially when you think of Van Gogh’s emotional and mental expressionism his works like:  Starry Night, which oozes with raw, unbridled emotion.

My “friend” used to call me “Chirpy Bird”, and seemed to find me a breath o fresh air. He’d never met an Australian before and I remember him and some of our friends wondering whether it was just me or Australians in general.

Due to circumstances my friend and I could only be friends and that was accepted and understood. However, emotions aren’t known for sticking to the rules and while I can’t speak for him, mine blew straight through those bounds, at least in my heart. For those of you who remember that great dating classic: When Harry Met Sally, friendship between single men and women is often fraught. I love this scene. Our “friendship” ended in a huge emotional vortex and then the bucket of ice hit. Ouch!

As I ripped my heart out and through it over  Pont Neuf long after midnight, I felt like I was the only person ever to have suffered such anguish. A sense of angst which permeated every cell like a seeping poison. Instead of being the wind beneath my wings, my friend brutally cut them off and threw them away. Yet, in a strange paradoxical sense, he also set me free. Being enslaved to a love which could never be, would’ve been a much great  thing, but you don’t se that at the time. You only hurt.

By the way, I actually visited Van Gogh’s home in Cuesmes in Greater Mons, Belgium with my “friend”, which also makes the link to Van Gogh more pertinent.

 

xx Rowena

 

 

Dancing for Life…Friday Fictioneers.

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PHOTO PROMPT © Lucy Fridkin

“It’s now or never. All or nothing. You’re a dancer, Elle. No room for two loves.”

Dancing even extracted her marrow.

“Eloise, you must go! Sydney’s too small for your talent. Next stop…New York. A dancer is like a butterfly. Blink and it’s over.” Jack was too supportive. He should’ve stopped her.

“Focus, Elle. An audition with Twyla Tharp…you’ve almost made it.”

Yet, as the plane broke through the clouds, the dam burst. She couldn’t breathe. She had to go back.”

Eyes and nose running everywhere, she was hallucinating:

“Excuse me, Ma’am. You left something behind.”

“Jack!”

…………………………………………………………………………………………

 

This story was inspired by my grandmother, Eunice Gardiner. She was an Australian concert pianist.

In 1948, my grandmother left Australia to make her American debut, leaving behind her husband and three young boys. My Dad was only 3 years old at the time. The older boys went to boarding school and her mother looked after my dad. My grandmother was away for a year and during this time, she made her debut at Carnegie Hall.

Throughout my grandmother’s life, there was always a very strong tension between her career and her family. She went on to have seven children and after performing, she went on to teach at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music and also worked as a music critic. She was one of those rare individuals who manage to squeeze multiple lives into one lifetime.

 

 

Friday Fictioneers is brought to you by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields . You can check out the link-up here.

xx Rowena

Absent Friends…Quote Vincent Van Gogh

“I often think of you all, one cannot do what one wants in life. The more you feel attached to a spot, the more ruthlessly you are compelled to leave it, but the memories remain, and one remembers – as in a looking glass, darkly – one’s absent friends.”
― Vincent Van Gogh

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Sitting at our mystery cafe in Paris Summer 1992.

I read this quote and immediately I thought of hanging out with my friends at the cafe in Paris. Although I consciously know it was now 24 years ago, I still picture us all sitting there, walking, engrossed in philosophical ruminations or falling in love. It was Summer. It was Paris. We were young.

xx Rowena