Monthly Archives: February 2019

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

Sins of the Father…Friday Fictioneers.

Nobody believed me. Not even my own mother. It was 1941. Yet, the Kennedys  were already an institution, inscrutable, and you could sense the Camelot legend peculating in the wings.

Of course, I could never say they’d made a mistake or got it wrong, especially when it came to one of their own. Yet, I’d nursed Rosemary Kennedy before and after the procedure, and knew her as she was. Such a beauty. I’d heard the rumours, but there was no justification. It was a crime.

Every week, I took her flowers, but her father never came. He didn’t make mistakes.

100 Words

….

Please don’t ask me how a photo of an asylum reminded of the tragic story of Rose Mary Kennedy, who was given a lobotomy in 1941 at her father’s request and spent the rest of her life in one. To read more about her story, you can click HERE.

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 © J Hardy Carroll.

Just to account for my absence last week, I stumbled across yet another extraordinary family story and I’ve had to fully immerse myself in the details before I could even begin to understand or explain what happened.

In my last post, I wrote about my grandmother, concert pianist  Eunice Gardiner. Well, I’ve always known that her father was a Merchant Mariner with the Adelaide Steamship Company. However, I’ve known almost nothing about where he went and which ships he served on. So, I was quite excited to find a random newspaper reference online which placed him on a collier called the Dilkera which crashed into a small steamer, the Wyrallah in The Rip off Port Melbourne in 1924. He was Second Mate and a witness at the inquiry. Six men tragically lost their lives when the Wyrallah sank and many of them were married with young kids, so these deaths hit particularly hard. Daddy wasn’t coming home. It’s been quite interesting reading the inquiry reports in the newspapers and realizing just how fine a line there was between those who lived and those who died and even the fact that the accident happened at all. Indeed, if you only tweaked a few details, they would have remained two ships passing in the night.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a crash course on shipping protocols, geography, technology. While Melbourne’s one of Australia’s largest cities, I’ve only been there a couple of times and if I had to describe the city, I would’ve mentioned the trams, the Yarra River, fine dining, art exhibitions and the rag trade. I’d never thought of the sea port, even though we sailed out of Port Phillip two years ago when we caught the Spirit of Tasmania across Bass Strait and through this very same Rip which has claimed quite a few lives over the years.

Now, I’m trying to assemble all of the pieces and write the story.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Night Musings With Grannie… Eunice Gardiner.

For all of us, there is this strange other world our parents, grandparents and even siblings inhabited before we came along. Yet, while we know world history was going on before we were born and stuck our proverbial tail in the donkey, it can be harder to grasp that the people closest to us had a life before we came along. Sometimes, the threads from these experiences are woven into wonderful stories told time and time again, which become part of our family fabric. On the other hand, these experiences can be thrown right to the very back of the cupboard and either not mentioned or strictly guarded and kept locked away behind closed doors.

Pix Eunice TV Screen Test

 

This all becomes rather more complicated when your relative had a public life. That you might’ve known them in private within that personal and family sense, but there was also this other public self. Perhaps, you stepped into this world now and then, or even belonged in it yourself. Or, perhaps it was a chapter which closed long before you came along and you don’t even know where to begin. Where is the magical red thread to guide you into that other world? The crumbs scattered along the footpath?

Pix Eunice playing piano at Academy

Eunice Age 22. 

My grandmother Eunice Gardiner was an International concert pianist, music critic and professor of the piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Yet, she also had seven children, twelve grandchildren and nine Great Grandchildren, including two of my own. This very same person who played the piano for the Queen and was dubbed “Melba of the Piano”, also knitted little jackets for each of her babies and at least sewed some of their clothes. She made the Sunday roast and was renowned for making custard. She was mother by day, concert pianist by night. She spent a year touring USA and Canada leaving her husband and three children at home. This is an intriguing web. A complex woman who was well before her time.

FT25 Ruby and Eunice

Mother and Daughter: Ruby & Eunice Gardiner (1940?)

There was also another parallel story…that of Eunice’s mother, my Great grandmother, Ruby Gardiner (McNamara). Ruby left her husband and adult son at home in Sydney to travel to London with Eunice so she could accept her scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Eunice was only 16 at the time and there was no question of her going alone. Her father, Reuben Gardiner Master Mariner with the Adelaide Steamship Company, said: “You might as well throw her to the sharks in Sydney Harbour.” Less than three months after leaving Sydney, Eunice’s father had a massive heart attack and died at sea near Adelaide. So, when Ruby left for London, she never to saw her husband again. In the one letter I have which he wrote to his beloved “Rube”, you could see they were close. They being apart was a necessary sacrifice, not a relief. Ruby was Eunice’s everything and accompanied her everywhere. They were seemingly inseparable. Ruby made pots of tea and helped entertain the press and, as I found out only last week, massaged Eunice’s hands to help keep them supple. It is then also no surprise, that many years later when her mother was in the hospice after a debilitating series of mini strokes, that Eunice would stop by after work at the Conservatorium and feed her mother dinner. Indeed, for many years Gran lived with Eunice and the family in Lindfield.

I’ve written about Eunice before and after years of research, I’m still finding more edge pieces and the picture in the middle is still patchy. Just when I think I’ve found all the missing pieces, something else shows up and the picture hazes over. Indeed, I have to wonder whether she doesn’t want to be found and that really wouldn’t surprise me. I know she’d be horrified to know that all those interviews she gave all those years ago, along with all the photographs and her writings as a music critic, are now available with the touch of a few buttons and a very long time travelling through Google. However, although that might tell me to leave her alone and let her rest in peace, she was and remains a public person. A woman who lived an extraordinary life, which shouldn’t just be pushed to the back of the closet and forgotten. Moreover, on a personal note, her DNA has been shared and passed on. There is also a wider family which also shares these same elements and ingredients. They might not be playing the piano but they’re dancing, writing, painting, drawing or obsessively focused on something. Moreover, Eunice had her musical “family” of brilliantly talented young musicians who speak a language the rest of us will never understand. They’re carrying her legacy forward and when you’re that unique needle in a haystack, I’d imagine it would be helpful to know you’re not alone. That someone else has trod that path and left some writings and recordings along  the road. So, in this weird macabre kind of way, my grandmother isn’t dead. She lives on.

Anyway, what precipitated my latest wanderings…

Pix 1940 May 11 pg 24.jpg

The other night while was actually researching one of my grandmother’s colleagues, cellist Osric Fyfe, I stumbled across a new resource…a magazine called Wireless Weekly. I thought I knew about all the major media articles about my grandmother and to be very honest, thought I hadn’t left a stone unturned. Then, last week, I discovered a two page media feature in the Wireless Weekly dated 11th May, 1940. This was about a month after she’d returned to Sydney after five years in London. She had returned from London a star and there were interviews about her appearances on BBCTV and a movie Black Eyes with Mary Maguire. She was a person of interest. A person of the moment.

Pix 1940 pg 2 full page

What particularly delighted me about the photos in this media spread was that the photographer almost saw her through my lens. Every photographer, amateur or professional, has a tendency towards a different perspective ranging from the big picture wide-angle to the zoomed in or even macro perspective. This feature really focused on her hands. Indeed, you could say that it was a study of Eunice’s hands.

Pix 1940 May 11 Ruby Massages Eunices Hands.jpg

Mother and daughter’s hands…Ruby Gardiner massaging Eunice’s fingers. 

My favourite photo zooms right in close, showing Ruby Gardiner massaging her daughter’s hands. I never knew she did this, and I was really touched at a deep personal level to tap into this level of intimacy between them. It was truly special and meant so much to me not just as their grand-daughter and Great Grand-daughter, but also as a mother now myself. It’s also got me thinking about my own daughter who is seriously interested in dancing and recently went into her first pair of pointe shoes. Her feet get very sore and perhaps it is now my turn to massage her feet. Be that silent force beneath her dreams.

Pix 1940 pg 25 piano close up

I also appreciated a close up picture of her hands at the piano. This is exactly the sort of photo I would take myself zoomed right in focusing on the fingers. Indeed, you can observe every little detail of her fingers and they’re almost perfectly preserved in time yet cold and untouchable at the same time. Even though these are the fingers of a famous and very accomplished pianist and her tools of trade, they’re not quite the same as the hands I knew. The very same hands which squeezed my newborn son’s feet, while she sang Twinkle Twinkle to him.

Jonathon Christmas 2004

Our son’s first Christmas with Great Grannie Eunice. 

 

How I wish I could’ve frozen time somewhere further along that path so that she was still here and more than just a photograph. Yes, I know. I’ve incredibly lucky to have all these newspaper resources about my grandmother’s life. Yet, at the same time, having all of that brings her back to life in ways I’d never dreamed and yet she’s still among the dead. She can not smile, laugh or make a cup of tea and when I read all of this, I simply want her back. Back for more than just a cup of tea, but to stay.

DSC_0075

My grandmother with my daughter. She was born on Eunice’s birthday 88 years later. I love my grandmother’s smile in this photo. She looks so happy!

I have spent so many, many nights with her on Google and even ten years after she passed, I can still hear her voices as clear as a bell and she always offers me a cup of tea. It could’ve been yesterday or even a few moments ago.

The heart knows no distance!

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS When you look at these photos of my grandmother with these young children, it seems like there was never any choice between career and family and somehow it all seamlessly came together. Photos and retrospectives tend to smooth out life’s rough edges and the bits which don’t quite fit into the narrative. There is no doubt in my mind that playing the piano was her first love and great, lifelong passion. Yet, then she met my grandfather. It was wartime and she found a second flame. Having a great talent and having had people sacrifice and invest in that talent, places an expectation. An expectation which led other female musicians of her day (including Australian Opera Singer Dame Joan Hammond) not to marry. Not to have a family. Eunice chose a different and more complex path, which was often fraught. There were times when these tensions boiled over. Eunice’s mother, Ruby, was a tower of strength, and there was also household help. So, Eunice wasn’t a modern female Atlas, carrying all of this on her shoulders alone. She was just like the rest of us. Only human.

 

Weekend Coffee Share…3rd February, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, you’re in luck. You can have a slice of piping hot Peach Upside Down Cake with a scoop of creamy Vanilla ice cream with your choice of tea, coffee or whatever. I don’t know what possessed me to go baking tonight when the kitchen was already a bomb zone and the dishwasher is broken and the teenage substitutes are unreliable at best. Indeed, I suspect they have a few faulty circuits. However, being Sunday night, I felt the call of the Sunday roast, which thanks to still going through the Christmas ham, I decided to make a special dessert instead.

Peach Cake

Peach Upside Down Cake…Yum!

Last week was momentous. One by one, the rest of the family fell like dominoes returning to the real world. Tuesday, Geoff was back to work. Wednesday, our son was back to school and is now in Year 10. Our daughter had the longest reprieve. She went back to school for only one day on Friday and then she was off for the weekend again. It’s a tough life.

Jonathon & Amelia

Back to school 2019.kwr

By the way, it was funny seeing photo after photo of kids of all ages, shapes and sizes heading back to school. Themes and variations. Parents should warn their kids that if they don’t smile at the camera or worse still, they frown, cry, snarl or make a stupid face, it’s going to spread like gastro all around the world wide web and haunt them forever. Facebook never forgets. It bringing these things back from the deepest depths of its memory and no parent can resist clicking share and making the bad photo do the rounds again.

Zac & Amelia reading

Even the poor dog has homework. However, he soon nodded off and went to sleep.

Anyway, we got through the first week of term one. I can tick that one off. How many to go? Can I stick my head in the sand now? Or, do I really have to face another school year.

Last night, I revisited my parents’ old holiday house at Sydney’s Palm Beach going through masses of photos and posted two of them:

Girl on the Sand

Above: Footprints Running Through Sand

Driving Through the Clouds

Making Tracks.

Meanwhile, I participated in Friday Fictioneers again. This week’s photo prompt featured a tee pee, and took me into the realms of Native Americans, which was right out of my league as an Australian who has never been to America and has a healthy respect for Indigenous cultures. I wanted to show respect and came very close to skipping this week. My piece was called: Natural Justice and also raised some interesting issues about how to view historic literature through our modern day concepts of equality and social justice.

dsc_2404

Gosford Sailing Club.

For Thursday Doors, I featured Gosford Sailing Club. Both my husband and son are sailing members and I am hoping to be able to start sailing soon myself.

Well, how was your week? I hope you’ve had a great one.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Footprints Running Through Sand…

This photo was taken about five years ago at Sydney’s Whale Beach just around sunset when the sky (and of particular interest to me, the clouds) were reflected on the thin film of water on the beach. I was struck at the time, by my young daughter’s relentless energy  and that love small children have of running. Just running. It’s magic to watch…especially when you’re not trying to keep up and in this instance where she’s seemingly running through wonderland… running through the clouds.

Best wishes,

Rowena