Monthly Archives: February 2019

The Lost Wall of Mexico – Friday Fictioneers.

Nobody asked any questions at first. Although the unexplained structure was longer than the Great Wall of China, even the dog walkers ignored it. Newspapers speculated that his concrete monstrosity, was going to be a new mall. However, overnight, all became clear when the army moved in, and the border between Colorado and New Mexico closed.

At first, Trump said it was fake news. However, he finally had to admit there was a mistake. The map had been upside down. There was now a $US5.7 billion wall between Colorado and New Mexico. The new wall became known as “Mexico’s Revenge”.

……

100 words.

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 © Jean L. Hays

This take was inspired by my own dreadful sense of direction and spatial awareness. You can’t be good at everything. Men can get quite self-righteous about their map-reading skills, knocking women who might happen to turn the map “upside down” to get where we’re wanting to go. So, this was a comic play on this.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Motor Neurone Disease (MND) Awareness.

Today, I’d like to introduce you to my much loved school friend, Kirsten, who was diagnosed with Motor Neuron Disease (MND).
Having known Kirsten for much of my life, it’s hard to find the words to do her justice. So, I will hand over to her and her most recent post about the efforts of her daughter and niece, to educate and fund raise at school to support MND.
On a personal note, I live with a chronic autoimmune disease, which attacks my muscles and lungs. Prior to treatment, I was severely ill and spent around nine weeks in hospital on diagnosis. However, there was treatment, even if there was no cure. The importance of treatment is something we should never take for granted.
Now, I’ll let Kirsten speak for herself…

Best wishes,

Rowena

Kirsten Harley

My gorgeous niece Susy is in the high school leadership team that decided to organise an MND fundraiser. In lieu of me speaking – because, y’know, the whole no-larynx-bed-103 situation – Kimi and Iwrote this for Susy and her to read in assembly. To say I’m proud of these two doesn’t come close!

*****

We were going to ask Kirsten Harley, my auntie and Kimi’s mum, to come and talk to everyone about motor neurone disease. But in November she had her voice box removed as part of life-saving surgery to connect her to a ventilator, and she is still in hospital.

So she and my cousin Kimi have written this and weI will play some video from 2 years ago.

*****

Everyone, put your hands in your lap. While this is being read, imagine that even if you try your hardest, you can’t move your arms.

Now, imagine…

View original post 422 more words

Weekend Coffee Share… 25th February, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, you’re in luck. If you’re quick, you can snatch a birthday cup cake or perhaps even a few mouthfuls of pavlova. Have you ever tried pavlova? Many consider it Australia’s national dessert, although New Zealand has put in a formidable claim that it was made there first. I won’t get into that here. All I’ll say, is that it’s a pretty fail safe dessert for me to make and I’m well known for my pav.

DSC_2489.JPG

The remains of the pavlova.

Yesterday, our daughter turned thirteen and on Saturday night, she had five friends over for a sleepover where they watched and grooved to Grease. I tried to give a bit of a Pink Ladies touch with pink cupcakes, but was too busy trying to get the house sorted out to get too creative. Our daughter was also at dancing all Saturday and I could be sure that any decorated efforts would be appreciated or deemed “embarrassing”. Geoff and I retreated to the other room, but we could hear their excitement and involvement in the movie. They know all the words of the songs and probably the script, and really got into it. Of course, it really helped that the school is putting on Grease as their musical this year, and a number of them including our daughter, are in the cast.

I might’ve subtly  suggested they watched Grease. You see, I had a slumber party for my 13th birthday out in this outdoor room in my parents’ garden, which we called the playhouse. I can’t quite remember how many people we squeezed in there, but there was no room for rolling over. However, what I also remember about that party was that we also watched Grease. However, back in 1982, it was on video. Moreover, although one of the girls had lived in America and had watched the movie 12 times already, the rest of us hadn’t seen it, which meant we didn’t know all the words to the songs and couldn’t sing along. I also think we stayed sitting in our seats and weren’t bouncing around dancing like the lot who were here Saturday night. Indeed, we felt rather subdued and I wished I could’ve been a part of my daughter’s party. Indeed, I’m already planning my own Grease night! I might also need to have one with my original group of school friends too. That would be a real hoot. Well, it might be…

Another element of deja vu about my daughter’s thirteenth birthday, was that I gave her a journal along with a copy of A Diary of A Young Girl, which is the uncensored version  of: The Diary of Anne Frank. This was no impulsive purchase. However, I am glad I didn’t forget about it. You see, my mother gave me a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank when I turned thirteen back in 1982 and she also gave me a journal to write my own diary. I called my diary Anne and for many years that continued and I was in effect writing and talking to Anne Frank. At the time, it was just the two of us and it never occurred to me that millions of young women all around the world over many generations did the same. When I landed in Amsterdam in 1992, I naturally went to the Anne Frank Museum. It was, of course, an intensely personal and incredibly tragic experience. However, as I’ve grown older and experienced the trauma of my health and disability issues, I’ve also come to experience her tenacity and uplifting spirit as a survivor, even if she didn’t make it at the end. Anne Frank has a lot to teach my daughter about what it is to be a young woman surviving in dreadful, hostile circumstances but I hope she will also experience that sense of friendship. That in the midst of all her ups and downs that Anne is there with her. That she is always on her side…a staunch ally. Personally, I don’t think you can have enough of these people in your life. By the way, I should mention that while I felt very close to Anne Frank as a teen, I haven’t forgotten that she didn’t get on with her mother. I feel quite close to my daughter, so I hope that remains a fundamental difference.

Given the birthday and the party, last week was rather busy. However, I wasn’t as focused on getting ready for the party as I should’ve been and left much of the cleaning til Friday and Saturday. The trouble was that I’ve been making great progress with a writing and research project I’ve been working on and I didn’t want to lose momentum. Moreover, I am naturally concerned about pausing during a project in case it gets shelved. Yet, for most of us, it’s impossible to stop everything around us for six months and get our writing project or book finished without interruptions. Moreover, as much as I love my writing, I’m also a people person and need human interaction. I’m also married with two kids and three dogs and we’re active in our local community in multiple activities. So, we lead quite a richly textured life, which I personally believe enhances my writing, however, you still need to be able to sit down long enough to get it written and that does seem to be a difficulty for me. How about you? Are you juggling too many eggs and dropping more than the occasional one?

Coming back to my research project, I’m currently researching and writing up about a collision of two ships in Port Phillip Bay, Melbourne in 1924, which resulted in the loss of six lives. My Great Grandfather, Reuben William Gardiner, was Second Mate onboard a massive collier the Dilkera when they hit a small steamer the Wyrallah which ended up steering across their path. This was at a spot called The Rip, which is renowned for its treacherous currents even today. The papers were full of interviews with the survivors and closely followed the resulting Marine Court Inquiry. As it turned out future Australian Prime Minister, Sir Robert Gordon Menzies, acted as Junior Counsel for the owners of the Wyrallah so that adds another element of interest to the case. Here’a link to a post I wrote about it:  When Two Ships Collide

dance feet

Our feet at a contemporary/lyrical class two or three years ago. Guess which foot belongs to our teacher?

The other big development last week, was that I did my first adult ballet class in two years. These classes are run by my daughter’s ballet teacher and I love them. I have a pair of proper, ballet-pink, shiny satin ballet shoes with ribbons and all, along with the theatrical pink ballet tights. However, I managed to pick up a black tutu at the opportunity shop and I have a black t-shirt with a butterfly printed on it and that is my uniform. I wear this mad get up to have a bit of fun but I also do it to encourage the others to have a good time, and not be too self-conscious. After all, we’re there to spread our wings, not to chop them off. We have a full range of abilities in the class including a professional dancer who has come through the studio. Dance is such a liberating experience. Yet, for most of my life, it was terrifying, inhibited and I felt so self-conscious and awkward. Of course, it didn’t help that I had undiagnosed hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) until my mid twenties and had serious gait and coordination issues, which were usually just referred to as “unco”. However, it’s amazing what a bit of plumbing can do to the brain, and I’m not only still alive but I’m almost coordinated.

Anyway, I wasn’t too sure how I’d go at the ballet class after a two year gap and my breathing has deteriorated in that time. However, I managed to pick it up again reasonably well and certainly didn’t embarrass myself. I was one of the crowd.

Well, that’ll have to cover it, because it’s well past time for me to get to bed. I hope you’ve had a great week and I look forward to hearing what you’ve been up to.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

PJs and the Pink Door…Thursday Doors

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors!

Last night, my daughter and I went on a beauty shop crawl snaffling up supplies for her sleepover and pamper party and by some miracle of miracles I managed to check out our favourite PJ shop, Peter Alexander’s without buying anything. I can’t say the same for my daughter. I think she bought some bed socks.

Pyjamas are such a personal thing. Some people wear them, others present their birthday suit or just the basics. While the track suit has its place in terms of keeping warm, I do have a bit of a thing for a fancy pair of PJs and have PJ days where I wonder round the house in my PJs with no apologies. There’s something so relaxing, indulgent and revitalizing for me spending a day in a beautiful pair of PJs.

I’m not going to post any photos of me in my PJs simply, because I don’t know where they are. However, my favourites have included a silky pair with zebra stripes and I’ve had several pairs of cloudy PJs with white clouds on a sky blue background. Perfect fpr a creative and writer who lives in the clouds.

 

However, we’re not visiting Peter Alexander for their PJs, but rather to check out their front door. I don’t recall seeing too many pink doors on Thursday Doors, but this one is absolutely luscious. If you take a closer look, you’ll notice that the door handle is a dachshund, which is their corporate mascot. This is Peter Alexander’s own dog, Penny. She’s gorgeous!!

Peter Alexander Bag

There are also other architectural touches throughout their stores, which are a beautiful fantasyland with candelabras, plush chairs and everything to make you feel like an absolute pampered princess. Indeed, I wanted to move in!! Not that I’m the princess type and I’m certainly not pretentious. However, I love the rich designs of his PJs and there’s a lot of humour as well. I bought my son a pair of Monopoly PJ shorts. They were so much fun but are probably too small for him now.

Rowena

The other aspect to my love of pyjamas, is that I do have chronic health and disability issues and so I do spend more time at home than I would and I do have a bit of a siesta to get me through the day. I haven’t been to hospital in a long time. However, I think a stint in hospital almost demands new PJs to lift your mood and help you feel a million dollars instead of sick, sorry for yourself. Sure, they can’t take away the pain, but they can go a long way towards lifting a horrible black rain cloud.

So, I hope you’ve enjoyed our visit to Peter Alexanders. I think I might dig out my PJs now and have a nap. Have some beautiful dreams.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit to our place. 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.

 

Mother & the Stolen Roses…Friday Fictioneers.

“Put those flowers back you dirty, little thief!” screeched the elderly widow, praying at her husband’s grave. “Nothing’s sacred. Little guttersnipe stealing from the dead! Where are her parents?”

I ran as fast as my little legs would go, clutching the porcelain roses close to my chest determined they wouldn’t break. We couldn’t even afford a stone for Mother’s grave, and father had made the wooden cross himself. Yet, Mother deserved the very best, and I fully intended to give her a proper stone etched with all our love when I grew up.

Meanwhile, the stolen roses were it.

….

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 © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

When Two Ships Collide…Stumbling Across the Wyrallah Disaster 1924.

On Tuesday 8th April, 1924, two ships collided in a treacherous stretch of water near the entrance of Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay, known as The Rip.  Five crew members and one passenger drowned when a massive coal steamer, the Dilkera, ploughed into a small coastal steamer, the Wyrallah, which had strayed across its path. The Wyrallah sank like a stone in less than ten minutes, and the heartbreaking cries of the drowning men could be heard from the Dilkera until there was nothing but silence.

Survivors Wyrallah Age April 10 1924

For the survivors, there was the dampened joy of a “miracle”. Meanwhile, for the families of the lost, there was only devastating heartbreak, and in many cases, also serious financial hardship. Widows were left without husbands, and children without fathers. With the victims being Melbourne men, the tragedy would have hit the city hard. With those few degrees of separation, many would have known the families and been touched by the Wyrallah Disaster in quite a personal way. Indeed, I can almost hear people talking in the streets about someone they knew. Yet, that pain was obviously most acute for the little ones who’d lost their dads. I keep thinking of those little children all tucked into their beds on that ill-fated night, sleeping soundly and not knowing Daddy wasn’t coming home. It breaks my heart. I’m also conscious that my grandmother and her brother were also sleeping in their beds at home in Sydney’s Bondi, equally oblivious to the tragedy. However, lucky for them, their father came back. Well, at least, he did that time.

My Great Grandfather, Reuben William Gardiner, was Second Mate onboard the Dilkera, and that’s what initially drew me into this story. While you’d expect that some reference to the collision would have passed down through the family, the first I knew about it, was spotting a reference in the online newspaper repository, Trove. I am something of a shadow hunter, relentlessly pursuing the lost tales of my ancestors through the online newspapers. Naturally, finding a reference to something this monumental, was something I had to pursue at full throttle and naturally, I wanted to know more about his role in the tragedy. I donned my Sherlock Holmes hat and cloak and set to work.

Reuben Gardiner

Second Mate Reuben William Gardiner

Unfortunately, when it came to knowing Reuben William Gardiner on any personal level, I’d barely seen the tip of the ice berg. He died more than thirty years before I was born, and had become little more than a photograph on my grandmother’s shelf, and a few snippets of story.  He was still quite a young looking man in the photo, and he was wearing his officer’s cap. Although he’d qualified as a Master Mariner, he was working as Second Mate with the Adelaide Steamship Company. Apparently, from a technical perspective, that meant he was responsible for navigation onboard. However, that doesn’t take into account his love of the sea, the comraderie with his mates, or that knowledge that the fate of the ship rested in the Lord’s hands. Or, perhaps it was all just down to luck. I’m actually surprised more philosophers weren’t created out sailing on ships, rather than hanging out in the relative safety of Paris cafes.

Ruby & Reuben Gardiner

Reub & Rube…Reuben William Gardiner & Ruby May McNamara 1910.

Reuben Gardiner was born on 3rd Dec, 1876 in Newtown, Sydney to William Henry Gardiner boot maker and Sarah Ann Baker. A few years later, his younger brother, Frederick, followed. However, in 1884, tragedy struck when his mother and twin brothers died in childbirth leaving nine year old Reuben and brother without a mum. On 1st April, 1891 William Henry Gardiner married Jane Ann Lynch at St. Michael’s Roman Catholic Church Wollombi. Reuben struggled to adjust to his new step-mother, who he referred to as “Mrs G”. According to my grandmother, when he was around 17, he left home in West Maitland and joined the merchant navy. In 1910, he married piano teacher Ruby May McNamara at Waverley. Ruby was the eldest of eight daughters born at Queanbeyan to John McNamara and Elizabeth Johnston. I knew Ruby as “Gran, but they called each other: “Reub and Rube”.

Reuben Gardiner on ship

Reuben Gardiner far left photographed onboard ship possibly the Arkaba.

What I did know about Reuben Gardiner, was that he died of a heart attack at sea onboard the Arkaba in 1936. Reuben died only four months after my grandmother, concert pianist Eunice Gardiner, had left for London with her mother onboard the Esperance Bay and neither could attend his funeral held at Sydney’s towering St Mary’s Cathedral.

Pix 1940 May 11 pg 24

Eunice had won a prestigious scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London and was already quite a sensation. A fundraising committee had been established by Lady Gordon and a big testimonial concert was held at Sydney’s Town Hall to finance her studies. However, there was never any question of Eunice going to London alone. Her father was clear: “You might as well throw her to the sharks in Sydney Harbour.”However, this meant that Ruby wasn’t here to bury her husband and make those last goodbyes. That in supporting her daughter’s prodigious talent as she had always done, Ruby had made an incredible personal sacrifice. Reuben’s death also meant that Eunice’s older brother, Dr Les Gardiner, a young doctor at St Vincent’s Hospital, stepped in and supported his mother and sister while putting his own surgical studies on hold and supporting his own wife and family.

So, in a different sense, I have also grown up with this story of a father going off to sea, and not coming home, but for different reasons.

Photos Watson + Wise

Captain Watson of the Dilkera on the right and survivor, Alfred Edward Wise, mate of the Wyrallah (left)

In addition to my personal connection to the collision, I also saw another story emerging from the Wyrallah Disaster. Something about the mysterious twists and turns of fate, which most of us fail to understand, and pause to question from time to time and usually at our peril. These two ships could well have passed each other in the night. Yet, through a series of such twists and turns, they collided. Why was it so? Why did the survivors make it, while the victims perished? Was it God, fate, destiny or just bad luck? Who or what was at the helm of that particular ship? The one which makes all the ultimate decisions over life and death? Was it God? Each of us has a length of string. Some of us have a longer piece of string than others. Moreover, some of us will know when our time is close, while many have no idea at all. They’re suddenly struck down by the equivalent of a cosmic thunderbolt, and that’s it. Game Over.

Captain Bracken

Of course, we can’t live our lives constantly in the shadow of the Grim Reaper. We need to Carpe Diem seize the day. Stretch ourselves out to our full capacity, not knowing whether we’re going to make it. Indeed, there seems to be something innately human about challenging ourselves well beyond our known capabilities, even if it does lead us to our death. In that case, our loved ones stoically celebrate: “At least, they went doing what they loved.”

Map Wyrallah wreck site

However, I wonder how many of us actually consider that it could well be a little, miniscule detail something so small we can barely see it, which in that flash of lightening, that momentary second in time, puts us in the wrong place at the wrong time? Moreover, in some instances the difference between life and death can be a few centimetres either to the left or the right. One person dies, while the other survives. It can all seem so random. In many instances, there were turning points where decisions were made setting all sorts of events in motion. Yet, there is no turning back. After all, we can’t just rewind and “play it again, Sam”. What’s done is done. We can only learn from it, and do our best to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

Above: Three of the “missing men who lost their lives onboard the Wyrallah. Engineer John Wighton (on the right) went back in to rescue the firemen and didn’t make it out.

Personally, I find it hard to understand how God’s will, fate, destiny, good and bad luck and miracles all come together. I don’t understand why some people who have been very close to me or people I care about, have died tragically and far too young. However, I do believe that each of us has our lot…our own burden to carry. Yet, at the same time, I also know that in many instances we can make things better or worse for ourselves. Indeed, I’m constantly amazed by how often we shoot ourselves in the foot without any help from anybody else. I do that myself.

Weekly Times 19 April 1924 model boats

It took a long of reading and research before I could even start to understand what happened on that ill-fated night of the Wyrallah Disaster. Moreover, naturally my initial focus was to place my Great Grandfather at the scene and find out what I could about the role he played, if any. However, most of the newspaper coverage focused on the survivors and “missing” from the Wyrallah, and they weren’t interested in the actions of Mr RW Gardiner. However, that didn’t stop me from infusing him into the scene. As I read stories of survivors being wrenched from the wreckage by the grip of a stranger pulling them to safety, I wanted that to be him. I wanted him to be the good guy, the Good Samaritan, the hero.

Dilkera 2 after collision Argus April 10

However, tough decisions also had to be made and not everyone could be the hero. The Dilkera had also been damaged in the collision and at the time, both ships were within the treacherous waters of The Rip. The Dilkera desperately needed to reach safety to assess her own damage. So, after quickly saving who they could, a decision was made not to stop to save the drowning men… the chilling voices calling out from the sinking vessel. Captain Watson decided that it was “better to save one ship than to lose two”.  Of course, when you’re talking about maneuvering a massive vessel like the Dilkera, swinging into action wouldn’t have been a simple matter, and it was considered too dangerous to send out the lifeboats. There would only be a further loss of life. Yet, there’s still that Good Samaritan in me who can’t understand how anyone could leave those men behind without even throwing them a lifebelt. That said, by all accounts, it seems that the men died very quickly and more than likely, that nothing could be done. However, I wasn’t the only one asking such questions and the newspapers of the day also wanted to know. There was also an inquiry.

Graduating Menzies

A young Sir Robert Gordon Menzies.

Speaking of the inquiry, I thought I might just mention that Sir Robert Gordon Menzies (1894-1978), former Australian Prime Minister twice over (26 April 1939 – 29 August 1941 and19 December 1949 – 26 January 1966) , represented the owners of the Wyrallah at the inquiry. Admitted to the Bar in 1918, he’d already established a name for himself. In 1920, as advocate for the Amalgamated Society of Engineers, he won a case in the High Court of Australia, which proved a landmark in the positive reinterpretation of Commonwealth powers over those of the States[1].

So, already quite a complex story has started taking shape. However, unfortunately even a good story doesn’t come all neatly gift wrapped. I have a lot of hard work ahead but I want to take this story as far as I can. Fingers crossed. I can see this one having a beginning, a middle and an end.

I would be particularly interested to hear from anyone connected with collision of the Wyrallah and the Dilkera. It’s definitely a story which deserves to be retold and it would be lovely to honour those precious men who tragically lost their lives, leaving their families behind.

Best wishes,

Rowena

[1] http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/menzies-sir-robert-gordon-bob-11111

 

At the Front Door…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors!

For awhile now, I’ve been thinking about doing a post about our front door. While that sounds so warm and homely, it’s actually more of a tale of neglect, indecision and the downside of owning a “renovator’s dream”.

Jonathon & Amelia

Anyway, getting back to our front door, it’s what they call “Heritage Green”. Well, that’s what it is now, but we’re planning to paint the house a shade of grey and are thinking of installing a new front door and painting it blue.

In the meantime, however, that means our green door remains in a desperate need of a paint job, but nothing’s happening. Of course, I’ve been tempted to pull an old tin of paint out of the garage and simply touch it up. However, as anybody who had done any house painting at all would know, you can’t just paint. You need to prepare. Cover-up and fill all the holes and bumps and give the !@#$ door an almost surgical face lift. Clearly, there’s no point doing that when it’s only temporary. Well, to be honest, you and I both know that “temporary” could be another 20 years or even longer.

Jonathon Amelia Bilbo

This was our son’s first day of school in 2009 when they were aged four and two and about to have birthdays. I call this photo: “The Three Wise Monkeys”. That’s Bilbo our wonderful family dog (2006-2017). He looks like a Saint Bernard next to the kids in this photo, but he’s actually a Border Collie.

Jonathon & Amelia

The first day of school for 2010 aged five and three but about to have birthdays.

When we rewind a little further, we end up with the newly weds out the front along with my husband’s Austen Healey Sprite.

Geoff & Rowena Nelson Street 2001

I think this photo was taken on the Sprite’s last drive before it was garaged in our back shed. If you haven’t worked it out by now, progress is slow around here and the Sprite is still awaiting restoration.

So, while we often wonder about what goes on behind closed doors, there’s also what goes on in front of front doors. That parade of firsts and starts to a new year or era, which becomes a precious records of our ups and down through life. A door often makes a good backdrop, even if it’s desperately in need of a facelift itself.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit to our place. 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