Monthly Archives: September 2017

Love Shack…Friday Fictioneers.

In a reverse-journey from riches to rags, Moet to Marxism, Kylie was dossing down in a dilapidated squat, albeit with Daddy’s credit card. Hugh, the acting student, knew nothing about that. He was a foreign student.

“Rapunzel! Rapunzel! Let down your hair.”

Kylie peered over the rusty, corrugated iron rooftop, beaming a knockout smile.

“Alas, handsome Prince, my hair has been cut.”

“What about a ladder? My chariot awaits.”

Gobsmacked, Hugh watched Kylie leap acrobatically over the rafters, and land at his feet…an enigma, a question mark.

Although the pressure was mounting, she said nothing. The gold medal could wait.

……..

This is another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. BTW the Hugh in the story might just happen to be Hugh Jackman who was our local heartthrob when I was at school. I still remember a friend going Hugh Spotting on the trains and I’m sure she wasn’t the only one. However, that doesn’t play into this story. I only borrowed the name.

xx Rowena

 

 

A Walking Tour of Wollombi, Australia.

Welcome to Wollombi, NSW.

After what turned out to be a very convoluted route, which my husband has called “driving to Wollombi via Darwin”, the little red car and I pulled into Wollombi and I did the rest on foot.

In case you haven’t read the  preamble, I’d driven to Wollombi to see historic St Michael’s Church of the Archangel, and also to steep myself in Wollombi’s historic ambiance. It was no exaggeration to say that arriving in Wollombi, felt like stepping out of a time capsule into the 19th Century and I loved that. Love, loved, loved it. It’s so good that some places have in a sense been by-passed, fallen asleep and been spared from the crappinization process. That’s what we loved about so much of Tasmania and it was great to find that so close to home.

Obviously, Wollombi  isn’t a huge metropolis. So, you won’t be surprised that I spotted the Church straight away, but it did feel a bit funny to actually see it in person for the first time, and it was much smaller than expected. Wondered how you could fit both sides of a good Catholic family inside back in the days before TV. I guess they were probably used to squishing in.

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On 1st April, 1891, my Great Great Grandfather, William Henry Gardiner, married his second wife, Jane Ann Lynch from Glendon Grove, Wollombi at St Michael’s. This press excerpt provides a great impression of their special day and I can just hear those bells ringing out:

“On Tuesday last our little town, usually so dull and quiet, was the scene of much excitement, and that eventful day will long be remembered as a red-letter day in the annals of our history. At the early hour of eight o’clock the tolling of the bell at St. Michael’s Church announced that some ceremonies of a very rare occurrence were about to take place there, and immediately crowds of spectators could be seen wending their way to it. Half an hour later two brides (sisters), the Misses Lynch, of Glendon Grove, were standing before the hymeneal altar in the above-mentioned place. The elder, Miss Jane Lynch, who for some years has been residing near West Maitland, was united in the bonds of matrimony to Mr. William Gardiner, a resident of West Maitland, and afterwards her sister, Miss Agnes Lynch, was joined to Mr. Joseph Tripp, of Aberdeen. Each was assisted by two bridesmaids, the former by her sister and niece, Miss Teresa Lynch and Miss Bourke, and the latter by Míss Tripp and Miss Katie Bourke. The Rev. Father Flanagan, who came here the previous evening from Cessnock, performed both ceremonies, and afterwards celebrated Mass, during which the choir, of which Miss Agnes Lynch was a prominent and efficient member, sang some beautiful selections, and as the long procession was leaving the church, Miss M. Kenny played the Wedding March with great effect. On the previous evening the ladies of the Altar Society, as a last tribute of respect to one of their members, decorated with artistic skill the church and altar the walls being hung with magnificent wreaths and festoons. At ten o’clock a start was made for the brides’ residence, and as tho long train o£ buggies passed through the streets the firing of guns and ringing of bells could be heard in every direction.” Tuesday 7th April 1891The Maitland Advertiser & Hunter River Advertiser pg 7.

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The Forge, Wollombi.

Next to the Church, I spotted an intriguing looking building called: “The Forge” and I couldn’t quite make out whether it was a home or a shop. There was a mannequin tied up to a telegraph pole out the front and I’m not sure whether she was waiting for a bus, a ghost or an alien landing, but she’d definitely been heading somewhere before she’d been detained. Macca, the Proprietor, invited me in, even though it was closed and let me take photos, which I really appreciated as this place really felt like home to me. Perhaps, I should be concerned about that, and book myself in with a shrink. However, I love maccabre and I love how random objects can be thrown together in a space, creating a licorice allsorts of possibilities in my head. It also reminded me of exploring under both my grandparents’ houses where things weren’t thrown out, but simply “retired’. What gave this place the edge over your garden-variety vintage store, was Macca’s artworks peering out inbetween old dolls and vintage mannekins a few Sunbeam Mixmasters, books and salvaged farm equipment. He’d also arranged things in intriguing combinations, which ranged from maccabre to down right hilarious.

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Naturally, this place which seemed like a kind of “Mecca to Displaced Euphemora”, deserves its own post and so I’ll be back with more photos.

Meanwhile, I’m heading off to the cemetery. William Henry Gardiner wasn’t buried here, but Jane Lynch’s family is well-represented. I love exploring and photographing old cemeteries like this, especially capturing haunting  shadows lurking on tombstones and the like. They get you thinking.

Anyway, I was delighted to spot this magpie sitting on top of a Celtic Cross, especially when it didn’t dive bomb me as I approached. It’s Spring here, and I’d already been warned about a dive-bombing magpie earlier on the trip and was on guard. I know I often overinflate the dangers of Australian wildlife, but these swopping magpies are beyond a joke.

I walked back to the car via the grocery store and old courthouse.

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By now, it was approaching 5.00PM and impending darkness. It was a windy drive home through Wombat country and I needed to be alert. I was also concerned about having a possible encouter with a kangaroo. They come out and feed on dusk, and let’s just say they’re best avoided.

However, I popped into the local pub for an apple juice and toilet stop before leaving. I very rarely go into pubs and they’re not my scene. However, I really loved the country feel of this one, which felt very authentic and real. Names had been carved into the tables outside. Farm utes were parked out the front. I felt surprisingly relaxed and would’ve loved to stay for a yarn.

I am already planning my next trip and am even looking into camping there with friends. However, next time, no detours. It’s just a 70 minute drive “up the road”.

xx Rowena

 

An Australian Road Trip…All roads Don’t Lead to Wollombi.

Yesterday, I had to drive my daughter to GATS Camp at Point Wollstonecroft about an hour’s drive North of Sydney on Lake Macquarie. This was Mummy’s cue for adventure. So, I ensured our son had his key and my only specification was, that I didn’t get home before sunset.

At the same time, I also had a few ideas. I was going to start off by exploring some of the coastal beaches around Lake Macquarie, but I really had it in mind to get to Wollombi where my Great Great Grandfather, William Henry Gardiner, married his second wife, Jane Lynch. Thanks to Google, I’d already been to Wollombi online and found out it was one of those preserved country villages which had gone into a 100 year slumber thanks to a bypass. Being a lover of historic anything, I’ve been trying to get there for awhile and thanks to the mushy geographical soup in my head, had the strange idea that just because I was heading North, Wollombi would somehow be “on the way home”.

It wasn’t.

That’s how my road trip of a life time began. Well, it was actually more of a once in a lifetime road trip. That’s because when it came to travelling from Lake Macquarie to Wollombi, I bypassed the A to B route and detoured via just about every letter of the alphabet. Not that I was lost. Indeed, I knew exactly where I was and where I was going and blame whoever it was who designed the NSW road network, for my convoluted route. So, before I leave on my next great road trip, you can be sure I’ll be reciting this traditional Gaelic blessing:

May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.

Anyway, before we leave on this road trip of a lifetime, I’d better provide some  coordinates. After all, my stats tell me that most of my readers aren’t Australian and to be quite honest with you, most Australians won’t be able to pinpoint Wollombi on the map either.That is, unless they cheat and use GPS. I’m a firm believer in using actual paper maps and when you’re travelling,those huge foldout monstrosities, which almost take up the windscreen (goodness knows how many fatal accidents they’ve caused!). Nothing else will do. No matter how lost I get, I refuse to sell out, or I’ll never find my way out of bed. My sense of direction is not allowed to get any worse!!

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Wollombi is a small village in the Hunter Region of New South Wales, Australia. It is within the Cessnock City Council LGA, situated 29 kilometres (18 mi) southwest of Cessnock and 128 km (80 mi) north of Sydney. To the south is the village of Laguna, to the east, the village of Millfield and to the north, the village of Broke. To be quite honest, Wollombi is very isolated, but that’s part of its charm and how it’s become a time capsule of sorts.

However, back in the day, Wollombi was at least somewhat central. In 1836 the Great Northern Road was finished. Built by convict labour, it joined Windsor to Wollombi, and at Wollembi forked off to either Singleton or Maitland. It spanned the 200 kms from Sydney to Newcastle and took on average 9 days for a traveler to get to Newcastle. Consequently, it was mainly used as a stock route.

Anyway, we haven’t got to Wollombi yet. We’re still at Lake Macquarie.

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Looking North towards Swansea from Caves Beach.

It was an absolutely beautiful day, with deep blue skies and water was a dazzling diamond carpet of blue. I headed North and followed a sign to Caves Beach and pulled over. I could almost inhale the ocean and feel life’s burdens blow out to sea. The fisherman and a couple of walkers, looked like stick figures below and the windswept coastline stretched for eternity and I could truly spread my wings and soar and keep soaring. There was no ground beneath my feet.

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Illawarra Flame Tree at Pelican near Swansea, NSW.

I did wonder whether I should just stick to the coast, and head inland to Wollombi another time. However, the day was my own and I made no set plans.Indeed, lured down a side street by the enigmatic Illawarra Flame Trees in full bloom, I chucked a left into Pelican, which seemed to be little bigger than its sign beside the road.

I kept heading North, looking for a road to reconnect me with the Motorway. Wollombi was still on the cards and I was also looking for signs to Cessnock and the Hunter Valley. I know exactly where they are driving North. However, missed the lot heading South and found myself exiting at Morriset, turning right and going on the windiest road through Mandalong and Dooralong expecting to connect up with the inland road, which runs like a peripheral artery somewhere through here connecting up with Wollombi somehow. I knew it was there because I have been on it before. AND, I actually did consult the map before I left, not that I did a very good job of it.

 

Yet, just because you know there’s a great road system out there somewhere, doesn’t mean you’re find it.

By this stage, things were becoming DESPERATE!! Even finding a person to give me directions was hard enough, let alone find somewhere to buy food and dare I mention the unmentionable…a toilet or even a camouflaging clump of trees. There was nothing until I finally stumbled across a bonsai nursery. That seemed quite appropriate for someone going on an epic adventure. Having downloaded my troubles, I perked up as I cast myself as Gulliver on his journeys through Lilliput.

Thankfully, the guys at the nursery directed me out of my geographical quagmire over Bumble Bee Hill and then right, then right, then right. OMG!!! Although I didn’t believe in GPS, I was relieved to have my mobile phone. By this stage, I was already starting to picture the search party looking for my last known whereabouts. Indeed, I probably should’ve left my card.

Above: I stumbled across a gourmet oasis and stopped for lunch at Jerry’s Gourmet Kitchen & Cafe, Kulnurra.

At this point, I should tell you that I’m not the most confident driver and that I don’t usually go on such long road trips.Indeed, I live on a Peninsula and have what I call “Peninsularitis”. Some days, even the ten minute drive into Woy Woy is too much, and that complicated gourmet dinner, becomes chicken schnitzel out of the freezer.

Moreover, while part of me loves this whole serendipity thing of just driving with the wind without any particular destination in mind, I also get a bit edgy on unfamiliar roads, especially after doing a loop the loop through the wilderness. After all, this is Australia and the outback’s only a stone throw away. (Ssh, Australians! Don’t ruin a good story!)

It doesn’t take much once you leave an Australia city and the main roads to feel like you’re off the beaten track. I was so close to so-called civilization. Yet, I was driving through farms, and was definitely “out in the country”. Indeed, even the road signs had changed. There were now multiple wombat warning signs. Yes, I had made it into Wombat Country.

By this stage, I’ve almost made it to Wollombi and I can start to relax. Unwind. Yes! I am actually going to get there and this journey of 1000 goat-trailing miles, is finally going to end and I couldn’t understand why they didn’t have a big sign set up in my honour: “Welcome to Wollombi, Rowena”. I sure deserved it.

Stay tuned. In my next post, I’ll take you on a walking tour of town.

Have you been on any road trips recently? Please share.

xx Rowena

 

 

Captain Clean – Friday Fictioneers.

“Mum and Dad built this place after the war,” Muriel said. “Lived in the garage, while they built the house.”

Captain Clean was very tempted to add that nothing had been thrown out since, but bit her tongue. Condescending self-righteousness never worked with hoarders. So, she stuck to the script.

“Keep or throw? Keep or throw?”                                                                                                                                                                     “There you are,” Muriel smiled.

Captain Clean screamed, bolted and drove away.

Muriel had finally found her spare set of teeth, playing hide & seek in her husband’s old shoes.

“I could’ve handled a dead body,” she told the psychologist. “But not false teeth.”

…….

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Sarah Potter

xx Rowena

 

Welcome Back Desk.

After writing on my laptop in the loungeroom for goodness knows how long, yesterday I finally migrated back to my desk. It’s been such a good move, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. Almost as soon as I pressed the power button, I could feel my thoughts sharpening and my entire being was ready for action in a way I haven’t experienced for such a long time. Could it be that this small step for Rowena, could be the impetus to finally get the book project done? Right now, I think it could, and I’m kicking myself for not doing it sooner. At the same time, we have reverse cycle air-conditioning in the loungeroom and the office is a freezer in Winter and a furnace in Summer.  So, I usually retreat there from the elements, as well as trying to be more social with the family. The desk is much quieter, but it’s also solitary and I am not an island.

The other reason that I wasn’t writing at my desk was also pretty straightforward. Like so many desks and flat surfaces, my desk had become a dumping ground for just about anything and a breeding ground for paperwork. Indeed, it was something like a farm barn overrun by cats with people constantly driving by and dumping more. I needed to erect a large sign:  KEEP OUT. TRESSPASSERS WILL BE EXTERMINATED. However, knowing the folk around here, it wouldn’t make a difference. Mummy’s Desk is not a sacred site. The dumping would continue regardless.

This whole very simple experience at home, has cast a different light on that whole philosophy of: “life is not a journey. It’s a destination.”

As someone who frequently doesn’t make it to their destination, I love this point of view.  It’s also a great philosophy for a creative, because so often what you find along the way, could well transcend your original plans. I particularly love heading to Sydney’s Surry Hills, and wandering through the streets, staring through the lens and finding such treasure! However, these spontaneous discoveries are very different from being unable to use my much faster desktop computer and desk space, because it’s bogged down in stuff. That’s not a destination. More of a catastrophic mess…a disaster zone. Hazmat required.

However, there are times you need to reach your destination, and some of those times, you even need to get there as quickly as possible

So, my whole experience with my desk challenges that philosophy, showing how it can be used as a cop out, as a justification for one of a writer’s greatest sins…procrastination and its twin…distraction.

Indeed, even research, which is ostensibly a means of reaching the destination, can become an end in itself, preventing the completion of the original project. Moreover, much of my research just remains a pile of rubble in my head, aside from telling the odd story at the family Christmas party. It never comes out in any usable form.

This brings me back to my desk.

I don’t know about you, but working from my desk feels a lot more like WORK. I immediately felt more organized and “on the job”. Although I can and do write anywhere, I am starting to wonder whether I’m paying too big a price for not writing at my desk, and that it is the best place for me to rev up the writing several notches, and finally get these big writing projects knocked off. There’s quite a swag of them.

At the moment, I’m researching and writing the story of my 4th Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan, who migrated from famine-torn Ireland, out to Australia under the Earl Grey Scheme. She was among a group of young women known collectively as “Irish famine orphans”, who were sent out here in part of relieve the financial burden back in Ireland, but also to redress the gender imbalance in the Australian colonies. I first found out about Bridget from her daughter’s birth certificate, which had been sitting in the safe at the family business for over a hundred years. I found the rest out, when a random Google search found Bridget on the  Irish Famine Orphans Database and the facts matched up.

For the past few years, I’ve pictured Bridget as a woman without a face, framed by a white bonnet. Yet, I’ve also wondered whether she looked like her daughter, Charlotte as I do have a handful of photos of her as a young woman. That’s something. More than something perhaps. Although I knew Bridget had married George Merrit and they’d had six kids, that’s about all I knew about Bridget Donovan. Despite my most dogged efforts to fill in even just a bit of her face, she didn’t want to be found.

However, recently I was contacted by a researcher who told me 2-3  of Bridget’s sons married Aboriginal women. This look me back into the online newspapers, and found an actual mention of George and Bridget running a store at Avisford on the Meroo Goldfields, near Mudgee. This was gold.  I’m now going to be chipping away at that, starting with a time line and a photo board. Hopefully, some sort of scaffold or framework will help give this project legs and the kind of solid foundations required for it to take off.

Meanwhile, I’m back on the laptop in the loungeroom. Microsoft Word needed updating and my trust Systems Administrator’s at work. I also just caught a puppy running out of my bedroom with my pink Ug boot. Seems no matter when or where I write, I’m fraught with interruptions, but I’d rather that than being an island.

Where do you do your best writing?

xx Rowena

 

 

Heart On A Plate – Friday Fictioneers

Frank had his routine. Saturday morning, it was always golf, followed by bacon and eggs. Betty would’ve liked to switch things round a bit. Go to a cafe. But no! Nobody changed, challenged or questioned Frank’s sacred routine. It wasn’t written down, but imprinted in his DNA.

At precisely 11.12 AM Frank walked in the door, pulled out the Financial Review and poured his Twining’s English Breakfast Tea.

“There’s a hole in my bread.”

Clearly, Frank had failed the Rorschach Test.

“It’s my heart,” Joan replied. “It’s empty”.

Frank’s eyes almost popped out of his head. Joan had been to Agent Provocateur.

……..

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers, hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Kelvin M. Knight.

The Rorschach test is a psychological test in which subjects’ perceptions of inkblots are recorded and then analyzed using psychological interpretation, complex algorithms, or both. Some psychologists use this test to examine a person’s personality characteristics and emotional functioning.

Agent Provocateur is a very expensive brand of lingerie.

xx Rowena

 

 

Lady, You’re Our Mum!

If you’ve been popping by lately, you’ll already know we’re fostering two Border Collie x Kelpie pups…Zac and Rosie. We’re planning to keep Zac and hoping a friend will adopt Rosie. These two pups love each other so much. Just look at the bite marks in each others’ ears! I’m amazed they haven’t been pierced!

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Most of you will already know Lady, our 5 year old Border Collie x Cavalier. AND, that we lost our beloved Border Collie, Bilbo a few months ago. We’d had Bilbo since a pup, and going through so much as a family with him, we’re still grieving. He was definitely one of us.

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A family photo with Bilbo as a pup Mother’s Day, 2007.

Grief affects people differently. Some people lose a pet, and never get another one. Meanwhile, others rush out and seemingly replace that pet straight away without so much as a grieving period. We have been trying to become a one dog family, but it hasn’t been working. It soon became clear that it was just a matter of time, before we adopted another pup. So, when my friend who does dog fostering heard that some border collie x kelpie pups needed a foster family, we jumped onboard. It was a good way for us to get to know our next dog before we committed.

Now that I’m a foster mum, I was kind of hoping that Lady might feel the same way. That she would adopt these pups as her own. After all, we love a series of books called Unlikely Loves, and have read stories of all sorts of random animals becoming friends, family, saving a life. However, the books never mentioned the flip side of the coin…rejection.

I don’t know whether the pups saw Lady as a surrogate Mum or a recalcitrant black sheep, which they couldn’t round up. Either way, she didn’t appreciate their attention and has been growling whenever they’re approached. I think this is dog lingo for: “Get lost! I am NOT your Mum!”

Indeed, after three days of growling, I was starting to think Lady was one of those cranky old ladies you run into on the train when your kid’s are having a bad day. I’m sure you’ve run into these types yourself. They glare right through you with their hoity-toity glares, and you don’t even need to hear the words: “Bad Mum”. You been told. Thank goodness, they don’t have magical powers, because otherwise these stares alone would burn you to ash…Zap!

To be fair to Lady, she never asked to have puppies. Perhaps, she thought she’d had all of that fixed, and never wanted pups. Moreover, with Bilbo gone, perhaps she hasn’t been lonely. Indeed, it could well be that she’s been basking in world domination.

Well, that was until a pup grabbed hold of her tail.

Two pups moved into her bed.

Two pups sat on laps.

Clearly, Lady’s empire has crumbled. Her tiara’s dangling round her paws, usurped by their Royal Highnesses.

I guess when you reach rock bottom, the only way is up. Or, making friends with the enemy and letting them sleep with you in your bed.

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Lady and the pups…a beginning. 

So, things are looking up. It took a few weeks for Bilbo and Lady to accept each other, so I expect relations will all come good in time.

Have you ever introduced a pup to your older dog? How did it go? I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

PS After the first night of howling and broken sleep, the pups are sleeping through the night. Just a brief cry when I close the laundry door. Just call me the “Puppy Whisperer”.