Monthly Archives: December 2018

Weekend Coffee Share…31st December, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s already New Year’s Eve here in Sydney and I’m briefly putting my feet up after leaving the pizza dough to rise and making Chocolate Mouse and Pavlova for dessert. We don’t go out on NYE. It’s not easy to venture into Sydney city for us to view the fireworks in person due to my mobility restrictions, and it’s not the safest time to head into the city either. Moreover, we also have the added complication that at least one of our dogs, Lady, is terrified of fireworks and breaks into a sweat when local fireworks get set off illegally. No doubt, that also happens where you live as well, and you’re also aware of how many pets go missing as a result.

Couple Ocean Beach best

I’m struggling to remember what happened during the last week and I had to confirm with Geoff that today is actually Monday. That’s a common phenomenon in between Christmas and New Year However, I should’ve remembered that there was a minor event called Christmas. How could I forget? Well, I’ll blame the heatwave for that.

We had a family dinner at home on Christmas Eve and headed out to Church for carols intermingled with the traditional Christmas tree manger reenactment.

We spent Christmas Day at my aunt and uncle’s place where we met up with my parents and the extended family. These Christmases fuse tradition and change. Much to my concern, there’s an increasing Melbourne contingent and missing persons from the celebrations. If you’re not aware of the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, it’s not quite as intense as it used to be but to have family exodus to Melbourne of all places, is a concern. Need to stem the tide. The highlight for me of this Christmas celebration was taking part in a jam session with my cousins with two on guitar, another on cello while I played my violin. It was a very interesting experience because my cousin was playing chords in a blue grass style and I was trying to listen deep into the music and pick out what became something like a song line to play on my violin and my violin actually sounded like a harmonica which surprised me. I usually play classics on my violin of the likes of Bach so playing blue grass ad lib was quite a change and I was very proud of myself for stepping so far out of my comfort zone and doing so well. Our son also joined in with the jam on guitar and also took over my violin plucking the Peter Gunn.Monopoly Go to Jail

We received this local fundraiser Monopoly for Christmas from my parents. Playing Monopoly is a good this time of year. I ended up in jail a few times.

After Christmas, we’ve been catching up with friends and we’ve also braved the post-Christmas sales. Not unsurprisingly, I found my way into yet another book shop.  where I bought Cicero’s: How To Be A Friend which was written in 44BC in Latin. I’m almost halfway through and highly recommend it. I also bought Oliver Sacks’: The River of Consciousness. In case you’re not aware, Dr Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who has written quite a few books including: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. Have you stuck your nose in any great books lately?

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The weather around here has been fairly intense lately. After having three or four storms the week before Christmas including blackouts and hail, we’ve been caught in a heatwave, which has largely forced us underground. Indeed, we’ve been hibernating at home although I did venture to the beach two days ago for a photographic walk. That was a lot of fun, and despite initially thinking I wasn’t going to find much, the light was particularly good the clouds seemed to dance in the setting sun especially for the camera. I was also quite fascinated by the watermarks in the sand. All those wiggly lines of sand along the beach which resemble secret messages.

Well, it’s now 10.00pm  and after watching the 9.00PM fireworks, we’re listening to the NYE entertainment and Ross Wilson has just finished singing Can’t Get No Satisfaction and has moved onto his own hit Eagle Rock. This music is a good distraction from the choking smoke leaking in from the kitchen. Somehow, the hot plate which I swear I didn’t use tonight, ended up on high and the left over pizza has apparently been incinerated and it’s not safe for me to enter the kitchen. Indeed, even the rest of the family is covering their mouths going in there. Hoping the air is going to clear soon so we could put together our NYE dessert  of pavlova, chocolate mouse, fruit and cream. I was even thinking of chopping up some Tim Tams and sprinkling them over the top for a bit of added chocolate crunch.

Have you set any New Year’s resolutions? I’m still working on mine and as you can see by the dessert we’re having tonight, that my sins are continuing to mount.

I’ll be back in the New Year to share a snapshot of the Sydney Fireworks.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Surviving the Australian Sun…

Perhaps, you’ve heard that Australia is currently experiencing a dire heatwave. Indeed, it’s been coloured-in bright red on the weather maps, and threatening temperatures of over 40 degrees and everything but hell fire and brimstone.  Well, that’s if you believe the weather reports. However, where we live the reality has been much closer to 30 degrees, and dare I say, an English Summer.

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Arriving at Ocean Beach.

While there are those sun-seeking Australians who head straight for the beach when the temperatures soar, these days I prefer more of a hibernation approach and only hit the beach around sunset. Moreover, although I considered getting into my swimmers and going for a swim, I opted for a “photographic walk” instead. In case you’ve never been on one of these, a photographic walk is taken peering through the lens and is a rather stop-start experience. Nothing that’s going to raise your heart-rate. Rather the aim of this exercise is to stimulate your creative juices. It works wonders for me and I always see in a much more focused and intense way exploring the world through my camera lens, than my own eyes. Moreover, I don’t like getting wet. I know that might sound rather hypocritical after teasing my dog for not getting his paws wet. However, at least I’ll dip my toe in and once I’m wet, I love it.

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Ocean Beach looking out towards Lion Island and Palm Beach headland.

Besides, I also wanted to explore the beach and all it’s nuances through the lens. Our local beach has copped a beating over the last five years. Or, is it more of a case that that our coastline is a rugged wilderness at the mercy of storms, tides and shifting sands and any semblance of smooth calm is nothing more than a postcard illusion? After all, the ocean isn’t a swimming pool, is it!  It can’t be contained.

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Fishing

That’s part of the ocean’s rugged beauty. That every day, even every minute, it’s different…an ephemeral force of nature. The people on the beach are also ever-changing. Ocean Beach with its Surf Lifesaving Club, is usually a swimming beach with fishing usually based around the point at Ettalong. However, the fishers were out in force when I was there yesterday.

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Love at Ocean Beach

Indeed, they weren’t the only ones. I’m sure it won’t come as any great surprise that we get overrun during Summer by this supposedly great force known as “tourism”, but could be better termed “an invasion”. This also justifies a hibernation approach, and the benefits of sunbaking inside at home with a good book and the air-conditioning on. Indeed, you could call it enlightened self-preservation.

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The closest I can get to a selfie with my SLR…self portrait at Ocean Beach.

Yet, I still had this unmet urge to carpe diem seize the day and actually make it to the beach on such a beautiful day. How boring to simply stay at home and let it float by without having lived it. Been a part of it.

As soon as I hit the beach, my mojo returned and as my toes sunk into the sand, my eyes were darting left and right scouring the sand and waves for something different, striking or eye-catching. Some days, that something hits me right in the face such as finding a group of Tibetan monks going surfing. We’ve also found the wreckage of a small boat and rows of trees yanked out of the dunes by the roots by a callous storm. There’s always something, even the fleeting watermarks in the sand.

Lines in the sand

Have you ever traced the watermarks in the sand and wondered where they came from? Where they’re going? Or, what they’re trying to say? Instead, I’ve watched my castles fall down and cursed the ocean for washing my efforts away.

However, my first impression was that there was nothing special and the beach was looking pretty ordinary, especially as the waves were flat. However, I found my eye drawn into the watermarks along the sand, which seem to tell a story of goodness knows what or where. Something beyond my human understanding.

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Perhaps, the seagulls were also discussing the mysterious secrets contained in a grain of sand.

Once you attune your eyes to appreciate grains of sand, your awareness of your surroundings becomes much more sensitive and acute. Even the common sea gull appeared extraordinary. Had character. Or, perhaps it was the extraordinary golden light which wove its magic? Certainly, this magic had certainly captivated the clouds. They were absolutely magnificent. It was a perfect sky.

Sunburnt Sunset Ocean Beach

Even the clouds were on fire.

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How have you been spending the Christmas break? I’d love to hear from you. 2018 is about to pass through the hour glass and I guess I’d better start thinking about some resolutions for the New Year before 2019 also washes out into the ocean.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Dead…Not Buried…Friday Fictioneers.

All Deborah had ever wanted, was to hear her mother say: “I love you”. Yet, the words had never come, and now it was too late. She could only forgive. After her father shot through, Debbie was always branded “a mistake” and became her mother’s scapegoat. Indeed, when she was five, Debbie was surprised her mother didn’t drown her along with the unwanted litter of kittens. However, she was now a successful crown prosecutor, married with a family of her own. Yet, she never let go of Sally… the precious friend who shared her Vegemite sandwiches, and opened her heart.

….

100 words exactly.

Goodness knows what prompted this tale of desperate hardship after spending a wonderful Christmas with my family. By the way, by “family”, I mean a group of about 20-30 of aunts, uncles, cousins etc and that was after a chaotic few hours at home  with mad present openings and the kids and pups chasing balloons around the kitchen. However, it is also a time of year when you do become aware of those who are doing it tough and didn’t have their lives served up on a silver platter.

We hope you and yours had a Merry and Blessed Christmas. “Happy Holidays” is more of an American saying, and not something we say in Australia and yet I acknowledge there is a place for it. It just feels a bit weird for me to use it myself. However, we all come together when it comes to wishing each other a Happy New Year. I am still working on my resolutions but they’re coming and I’ll be waiting until school goers back in February to implement them.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © Randy Mazie

Best wishes,

Rowena

Merry Christmas – Weekend Coffee Share.

This is just a brief message to wish you and yours a Merry and Blessed Christmas and a Happy, healthy and Wonder-filled New Year.

As you may be aware, I live in Sydney, Australia where it’s looking like we’ll be having a scorchingly hot Christmas and Boxing Day. We’re heading out to Church tonight for Christmas Eve and will be heading to my aunt’s my parents and extended family for Christmas Day. We’ll be catching up with Geoff’s sister from Boxing Day.

I’ve written a few Christmas posts in the last week which may interest you:

Silent Night

A Stinking Hot Christmas (written 2015 for Solveig Warner’s Advent Calendar)

A Sydney Christmas

Christmas Door – David Jones

St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney

 

We would like to wish you and yours a Merry and Blessed Christmas. Happy Holidays isn’t a phrase we use here in Australia, but I understand it’s used a lot in USA and has its place.

Yet, at the same time, we understand that this time of year is very difficult for many for a variety of reasons and we would also like to acknowledge that. We hear you and I put my hand on your heart and stand alongside you. It’s not easy and while I’ve experienced the most amazing miracles myself, they haven’t come about like clockwork. I haven’t clicked my fingers and hey presto, pulled a rabbit out of my hat. I’ve also found there’s a lot I can do to both improve my lot and also completely shoot myself in the foot and make things worse.

“I have measured out my life with coffee spoons.”

-TS Eliot

Well, that’s a rather large dose of philosophy and reflection for what’s supposed to be a coffee share. However, so much is shared over a cup of tea or coffee in the real world. Why shouldn’t that be a part of our virtual coffees?

“Way too much coffee. But if it weren’t for the coffee, I’d have no identifiable personality whatsoever.”

-David Letterman

Best wishes,

Rowena

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

PS The photo of me as the elf was taken in the Cancer Centre at Royal North Shore Hospital. I popped down there to pick up some resources for a friend. However, 6 years ago I had a round of chemo (cyclophosphamide) to treat my auto-immune disease, which had started attacking my lungs. Treatment began the week before Christmas with my second dose on Boxing Day, when there was plenty of parking for a change. The treatment worked and I’ve been in remission for 6 years. So, I have much to be thankful for and it’s a reminder not to take the seemingly hum drum and every day for granted.

A Sydney Christmas.

Although it’s not quite Christmas yet, I thought I’d share some of the Christmas scenes I encountered on some recent trips into the Sydney CBD. To be honest, by day these decorations as a whole, are very lack lustre compared to what I’ve been seeing from friends currently touring Europe and New York. Indeed, I feel a bit sheepish about presenting them at all, and rather apologetic. However, our beaches are beautiful this time of year, and who needs Christmas lights when you can have the sun.

My personal favourite has to be the window displays in David Jones’s Elizabeth Street Store. Although to be honest, I’ve only viewed them twice and haven’t entered the realms of Christmas traditions, even though I vowed they would when I took the kids there for their Santa photos when they were very small and our daughter was still terrified of Santa.

Here’s a few of my pics this year:

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Star Wars Display at David Jones

 

Walking across Hyde Park, you’ll come across St Mary’s Cathedral with it’s large nativity displays both inside and out:

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St Mary’s Indoor Nativity Scene 2018

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St Mary’s Outdoor Nativity Scene 2018.

Above: the dazzling Christmas tree in the Queen Victoria Building at Town Hall made of Swarovski crystals.

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The two photos above were taken at Haig’s Chocolate Shop in the Queen Victoria Building. As much as I was tempted to but a chocolate bell of Christmas tree, I was concerned about them melting in the heat going home. That’s an unfortunate reality of a Summer Christmas.

Last and perhaps least and I hope it truly lights up into something dazzling as it currently looks very small and pathetic, is the Christmas Tree at Sydney’s Town Hall.

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After all that walking around, Elf and I needed to sit down.

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Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse of a Sydney Christmas by day. It doesn’t look like we’re going to get in there to view the lights.

Wishing you and yours a very Merry and Blessed Christmas and a wonder-filled New Year.

Best wishes,

Rowena and family

Christmas Door…Thursday Doors.

Well, I couldn’t resist returning to Thursday Doors this week with a photo of Elf trying to open the door at David Jones’s flagship Elizabeth Street store. Elf said he much preferred the good old days, when they had doormen on hand, but understood that this is just one of many sacrifices to modernization and economy.

Celebrating its 180th birthday this year, David Jones was established on the 24th May, 1838, when a Welsh migrant named David Jones opened a department store on the corner of Barrack and George streets. His aim was to offer luxury goods in a commodious space. The store was located opposite the General Post Office and the small store prospered. David Jones and Co. received patronage from not only the Sydney gentry, but also the country settlers. Everyone flocked to the store to buy buckskins, ginghams, waistcoat fabrics, silks and cotton tick. The flagship Elizabeth Street store opened in 1927 opposite Hyde Park.

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Queen Elizabeth II at David Jones in 1954

For those of you who haven’t been to Australia and are unfamiliar with David Jones or “DJ’s” as it’s affectionately known, it could well be described as Australia’s interpretation of Harrod’s and has always been considered exclusive, and a place where shopping was an experience where only the best would do. Indeed, in 1954 when Queen Elizabeth II became the first British Monarch to step foot on Australian soil, the Great Restaurant on the 7th Floor of David Jones Elizabeth Street was chosen as the venue for a State Banquet in her honour. Indeed, the largest Union Jack in the world, measuring 50ft x 100ft was hung from the Elizabeth Street wall of the main store…no doubt part of its history which would make many more republican-minded Australians cringe to their bones. You can view the Union Jack in situ HERE

One of the seemingly timeless features of the Elizabeth Street store is their in-house pianist and the Steinway grand. Indeed, you can see pianist Michael Hope through the doors down below.

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Michael was not only a fantastic and entertaining pianist, he was also very obliging. When I asked him if I could photograph him, he pulled me alongside him and I was to pretend to play while a complete stranger filmed me on my phone. He even gave me directions. Then, being the complete nutter that I am, I pulled Elf out of my bag and Michael played along with him. Indeed, it looked like Michael had spent years working on a very popular Australian children’s show called Play School. It is actually quite difficult to get a gig on Play Group and it attracts the cream of Australian talent. So, that endorsement is a real feather in his cap.

I know how much you people love doors and it might be stretching your outlook a little. However, David Jones’s Elizabeth Street store has the most amazing Christmas windows and I just couldn’t resist sharing a few from the Nutcracker Suite.

 

Lastly, a few of you might like to read Australian Vogue’s article on 180 years of David Jones: Vogue Australia- 180 Years David Jones

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The Soda Fountain in David Jones’ Sydney c.1928 photograph by Cecil Bostock courtesy of David Jones, Australia

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Waiting Out The Storm…

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Nelson Mandela

Yesterday, my daughter and I were caught in a horrific, violent hail storm down the street at the local shops and we were absolutely terrified.  With six sleeps til Christmas and desperately trying to find something, anything for our 14 year old son, we’d trawled through almost every local shop, and were heading back for the car when the storm hit with unanticipated fury. By the time we realized how dangerous it was, it was too late. My daughter was telling me to walk faster, the same way I must’ve done when she was smaller. However, due to muscle weakness in my legs, I couldn’t. I could only go at my own pace. She might’ve only been a step or two ahead, but then she decided to cross the road at the pedestrian crossing, and that was when the hail started to fall. I have an performance enhancement device in my skull (otherwise known as a shunt) and I couldn’t chance it been hit by a hailstone, quite aside from the fact that hail can even kill your average Joe. Well, it’s probably more likely to kill your average Joe teenager, because I saw a few of them running across the road during the storm. Anyway, this all meant that my daughter was across the road by herself, while the sky was throwing a massive tantrum and pelting hail like an angry toddler. Although she’s now 12 and in high school, I knew she was terrified and wanted me with her but it was too dangerous. Fortunately the owner of the $2.00 shop took her under her wing and brought her inside.

As a writer, I know how to dramatize a story, inflating and colouring in the facts in lurid technicolour to ramp things up. However, this storm didn’t need embellishment. It’s terrifying violence and the deafening din of thousands of hailstones beating against the tin roofs of the local shops, spoke for themselves. Indeed, it reverberated through you like the sound of a thousand timpanis all beating at once.  The hail was really pelting down too, seemingly angry and lashing out at the earth. These hail stones ranged in size from about 3cms to tennis balls size around 8cm and some were even shaped like a cauliflower. At 5cm diameter, hail travels at 115kph and at 8cm it’s travelling at 175kph. So when you think about what all of that was doing to my heart rate along with being concerned about my daughter, our son at home and how the car was faring out in the open, a few Italian musical terms come to mind…accelerando, affrettando, prestissimo and forte! Forte! Forte!

Yet, right along the street, there were people photographing the storm with their phones, the same way we also photograph bush fires dazzled by the exquisite beauty of the flames, experiencing the intensity of nature’s fury and also that sense of hovering right on the very brink of destruction. That as much as we might want to turn our back and run, it lures us in…especially anyone passionate about photography or film. We’re in without even considering the cost.

“The fishermen know that the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they have never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore.”

– Vincent Van Gogh

dog in the storm

Taken just before the 2015 hail storm hit. Not a good time to walk the dog! It wasn’t one of ours.

This little black duck might’ve got caught out photographing a hail storm at our local beach a few years ago, and a massive rain storm in between. I don’t do this anymore. Well, not on purpose. This time I was simply caught out.

Anyway, naturally the hail stopped and it was safe for me to cross the road, collect my daughter and drive home. This is in the middle of a hot Australian Summer and yet here we were in a magical Winter wonderland. It was an early white Christmas.

However, this has turned into more of a Christmas subtraction for a lot of people, than a Christmas gift. We arrived home to find the roof of the office had been peppered with holes and the rain was getting in. It was nowhere near as bad as the last destructive hail storm three years ago where a tree also fell down. However, the rain was getting in and computers and paperwork were at risk. The car didn’t fare too well either. While we have friends with broken windows or a windscreen, our car is covered in pock marks, especially the bonnet. We’ve only had this car for a few weeks after I drove into a concrete divider in the hospital car park and that car was written off. It seems like I’m not having a good run with cars, although I wasn’t driving this one and the important thing is, that we’re all safe.

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I must admit that I’ve felt very shaken up by this storm. When you think about the effects of a relaxing massage, this was more like a jack hammer and quite the reverse. I also felt very unsafe walking through the heavy rain and my legs felt quite inadequate and like they couldn’t grip and I was wearing ice skates. I slept through much of today and really didn’t feel like getting out of bed. It felt safe. Fortunately, I didn’t need to go out and I just stayed home to chill out and clean up. It was my daughter’s first day of school holidays and our son’s had a few extra days. Not a great start, and we’ve been trying to see The Grinch. Maybe, tomorrow.

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“Remember, the storm is a good opportunity for the pine and the cypress to show their strength and their stability.”

Ho Chi Minh

“It is not light that we need, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.”

Frederick Douglass

After every storm the sun will smile; for every problem there is a solution, and the soul’s indefeasible duty is to be of good cheer.

William R. Alger

Yet, reading through motivational quotes about storms, I realize that they’re a necessary part of life. That they don’t last forever, and it wasn’t long before the sun came out. However, there’s no denying the damage. You can point to the sun, the rainbow, but you can also point out the smashed windows, terrified people and animals and you can’t just wave a magic wand and it all disappears without a trace. Yet, every time you survive either a physical or psychological storm, you’re better equipped to deal with and overcome the next one. You have experience and you also have this much valued thing called resilience. You don’t get that by sitting in your armchair and watching the storms pass by on TV or your phone.

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“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”

Rabindranath Tagore

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Sunset after the storm viewed through our Norfolk Pine tree.

How do you feel about storms, both of the weather and psychological variety?

Well, it’s well past my bedtime so it’s time to stop philosophizing and start snoozing.

Best wishes,

Rowena