Monthly Archives: August 2021

Weekend Coffee Share – 30th August, 2021

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’m contemplating how I’d visually depict an empty space.

How about this?

I don’t know how this fits in with the “Glass half-empty, Glass Half Full Theory”. If your week was empty, what are you supposed to say about it? Or, perhaps you shouldn’t post. After all, our role as bloggers is to entertain, inform, connect – not to put our readers to sleep. So, that leaves me with the question, if nothing’s going on for us, should we just stay quiet and stay home. Or, should we send an SOS out to the world, seeking fulfillment?

I have no photos of myself on the lead. So, here’s a flash back to Lady and the late Bilbo walking with me at the beach.

Obviously, you can see I’ve been in lockdown for way too long. It’s now been over 2 months, and I’ve been making things worse for myself by not going out for my daily walk. I know I should and that exercise is good for the soul and all that. However, I feel like a dog at the end Gladys’s leash whose telling me to get out the door: “Walkies, Rowena”. Trust me ! I’m nowhere near as enthusiastic as the dogs. For me, it’s much more a case of :”Groan, do I have to?” However, of course, I love it when I get out there and see the beach, stunning cliff views extending over islands, rivers and beyond to the land of dreams requiring a passport and an end to Covid 19. (By the way, for those of you who don’t know who Gladys is, she’s the NSW State Premier and the one responsible for keeping us all locked up.)

Now, to be honest instead of getting swept away on the winds of writer’s fancy, I wasn’t doing nothing last week. In fact, in terms of my writing, I’ve actually been quite productive. I’ve finished my entry for the SBS Emerging Writers’ Competition (an Australian TV Station) and I’m working on an article about Australian author Ethel Turner. She edited a children’s column in the Sun newspaper which was spawned almost 100 years ago, and also saw the birth of the comic strip “Ginger Meggs”. So, in spite of doing stuff for my kids and being interrupted, I have managed to get something done, even if that doesn’t include going on any walks.

The other thing I’ve been doing is eating chocolate.

I probably shouldn’t be admitting to that, but this post has become more of a confessional and since I’ve already admitted to avoiding walks, that I should confess to turning to chocolate for comfort. In some ways, this has become what some would describe as a “winning formula”, although I’m sure plenty would also say I’m heading down a downward spiral.

Well, don’t worry. I’ll go on a walk this afternoon. I won’t say tomorrow, because you and I both know what that means.

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Meanwhile, I did try to find my very first Weekend Coffee Share post this week. I managed to scrawl back to the 15th October, 2015 which is almost six years ago now. It goes back further too but it took an awful amount of scrawling to get back that far and eing in lock down atm, I quite fancied being back in Byron Bay again. Here’s the link: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/08/23/weekend-coffee-share-byron-bay-back-to-earth-2/


So, how has your week been? Buzzing with excitement? Or, do you relate to the empty box? Or, perhaps, you box would be painted block or even a fiery red or have furious waves thrashing around inside? Or, even the fresh tranquility of a butterfly fluttering around in the sun? The possibilities are endless. However, we shouldn’t have to paint our faces, especially around here. You can be yourself with me.

Anyway, I’m rapidly running out of time to upload. Moreover, I have a full house here and as soon as I sat down to get this out before deadline, everyone popped out of the woodwork. Could you please come back at 2.00pm? Their doors were closed last night when yours truly wanted to chat…

Anyway, this has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share: Byron Bay – Back to Earth.

Today, I was trying to find my very first Weekend Coffee Share post and got as far back as this post covering our trip to Byron Bay date 15th October, 2015. That means I have at least six years worth of these online weekly diary posts. What an amazing time capsule of our family life, and in the course of these posts our kids have grown from12 and 10 to 17 and 15. Such a difference!
I hope you enjoy!
Best wishes,
Rowena

Beyond the Flow

If we were having coffee right now, I would never get to sleep.

So, I’m drinking a decaf tea served in a Tim Tam mug by the way. If you haven’t tried Australia’s favourite biscuit which is best eaten as the “Tim Tam Explosion” (one of the more polite terms I’ve heard), you haven’t lived. By the way, this is where you bite off both ends of the Tim Tam and dunk the end in a hot drink and suck through it like a straw. The chocolate melts and if you’re not careful, you’re Tim Tam falls in the drink and drowns. Such a waste!

This is an exceptionally rare packet of Tim Tams. The tray isn't empty!! This is an exceptionally rare packet of Tim Tams. The tray isn’t empty!!

Returning home from Byron Bay is never good but the fridge/freezer had seemingly died but miraculously returned to life once it had defrosted and the new fridge had been ordered. But the…

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Weekend Coffee Share – 22nd August, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Before I ask you how your week was, and if anything, indeed, anything at all has transpired in your neck of the woods, let me offer you a drink.

If you’re in lockdown here in NSW, you might be wanting a stiff drink, although it could be worse. Covid could be spreading like wildfire unabated. We had 830 cases overnight and three deaths. Parts of Sydney have now gone into an extreme lockdown and a nightly curfew from 9.00pm to 5.00am I believe. Meanwhile, we live on the NSW Central Coast which was classified as part of Greater Sydney, but we lobbied the State government to be reclassified “regional”. That was passed, and so we’ll be left out of future Sydney lockdowns unless our own incidence warrants it. That’s a relief, I think.

Meanwhile, over the last couple of months, frictions have been mounting in the community. There’s the vaxers versus anti-vaxers, different attitudes to wearing masks and as the incidence of covid in Sydney has shot up and Police surveillance has increased, heated discussions about protecting civil liberties have also eschewed. Again these tensions climaxed on the weekend with large, sometimes violent, protests in Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast and it just makes me wonder what on earth these people are thinking and what gives them the right to keep the rest of us locked down longer?

My personal view is that too many people take breathing for granted. As someone who has crook lungs and lives with dodgy breathing all the time and has experienced crisis point, being able to breathe is something to take seriously. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not important. Indeed, most of us think that not being able to walk is one of the worst things that can happen to you. However, not being able to breathe is fatal. I’m not prepared to play Russian Rouette with my own life let alone the lives of those I care about. My 15 year old daughter sums things up well: “Why can’t they just stay home for a month so we can get out of this?” Short term pain, for long term gain. Sounds logical to me. However, we’re still hearing about parties being held. Party is now a euphemism for “super-spreader event”. Well, at least, it is for the parties that make the news.

Meanwhile, I’ve been sinking into a deep state of hibernation. I’ve always been a bit of a pyjama princess. However, now after wearing PJs for a few months, and then putting on real clothes, they feel so scratchy on my skin. Unpleasant. I bought a really soft pair of cloud pyjamas from PJ Guru Peter Alexander, and they’ve been so soft. However, they’ve probably had the equivalent of 10years wear during lockdown and are wearing out. Never fear. I’ve ordered a replacement.

Anyway, as I said, I’ve been in a state of hibernation. I wasn’t feeling 100%, and didn’t get out for a walk for a few days. Then, I felt a bit wonky on my feet, and decided to wait until Geoff was free. On Saturday, we drove over to Pearl Beach and went for a walk around the rocks and peering into the rockpools for signs of life. It was rather liberating to get out. You know how it is once you finally fight off the inertia and get out there and you feel like you’re soaring on eagle’s wings, and wonder what took you so long to get out there. I blame the politicians. They keep telling me to stay home. I know they didn’t tell me to eat chocolate, and they do allow us out for exercise. However, the predominant message is to stay home, and I have.

So, after going out for our walk yesterday, Geoff and I went out kayaking today. I know that sounds incredibly sporty, especially for someone with disability issues. Well, I can assure you that I’m no Jessica Fox (Australian gold medal Olympian kayaker). I’m slow and I don’t have a lot of stamina, but we did manage to move and had in some ways a rather indulgent time out there on the water together. It was pure bliss. You can read more about it here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/08/23/kayaking-in-lockdown-a-new-beginning/

Having a pair of kayak’s on top of the car makes us look so adventurous and such a different interpretation of myself compared to writing in my chair at home.

Meanwhile, we’ve been watching The Voice on TV. This year, the judges are Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy, Rita Ora and Keith Urban. I always love watching the show hearing the music and the backstories of both the performers and judges. It’s all about people to me, and being an extrovert I need people more than ever. I see the judges smiling and chatting away on the TV and all sense of perspective just evaporates and they’re right here in the loungeroom with us and not a thousand miles away. I don’t know where it was being filmed but they’re hugging, breathing on each other without a concern in the world. So, it can’t be Sydney right here right now, which we all know anyway as these things are always filmed in advance.

By the way, here’s a real treat from The Voice, where Guy Sebastian performs Climb Every Mountain with contestant Julee-Ann who is legally blind and had to ask if anyone had turned a chair after an absolutely stellar performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKfOlZtNlxI

Also, Seann Miley Moore sings The Prayer by Andrea Bocelli & Celine Dion- The Voice https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ki_r85XrxnE

Anyway, throughout much of the last week, dog Zac has been sprawled across my lap like a rug. He’s so beautiful and almost fused to my soul.

This is another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Kayaking in Lockdown…A New Beginning.

These photos of Geoff and I kayaking in lockdown are living proof of just how deceptive a photo can be. There we were floating on a magical, diamond carpet as the radiant Spring sunshine cast its magic over the water. It’s absolutely beautiful, and would make for a perfect postcard. There’s the bright blue sky dotted with a couple of woolly white clouds. There’s also the radiant Spring sunshine which isn’t hot enough to burn , but warm enough to defrost the Winter inertia. Indeed, Spring is something you feel right throughout your mind, soul and spirit; and you just feel invigorated. You don’t need flowers in the frame to know it’s the season of rebirth.

What the photo doesn’t say, is how hard it was for us to get there, or how long it’s been since Geoff and I went kayaking together. To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember. That’s despite having the kayaks sitting in our backyard, and it’s something we both love doing. I last went kayaking with friends back in January, but Geoff was at work and he went out with one of the same friends on a night kayak run without me. Meanwhile, our friend kayaks several times a week, especially during lockdown. Indeed, pre-lockdown, he used to kayak across Broken Bay to Palm Beach using a head torch to guide his path. Of course, I’ve told him he’s mad. His mother has told him to phone a friend and report in. Yet, at the same time, he’s like an age-old adventurer, and good on him. Yet, at the same time, I cry out from my chair in the loungeroom…”Me too!”

Don’t you love my dreadful kayaking hat!

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy for us to just grab the kayaks and run. For some reason, we need to paint the house first. Research and write a series of books. That’s on top of the usual stuff like going to work, looking after the kids and throwing the ball endlessly for the dogs. For us, getting the kayaks on top of the car and down to the wharf is like packing up for our annual holiday and what with paddles, life jackets, water shoes etc we almost need to pack as much gear too.

Geoff’s Kayak.

On top of this, there is also my health and physical disability issues. When you struggle to walk and it doesn’t take much to have a stumbling fall, it doesn’t seem logical that paddling might actually be easier than walking. I don’t feel very competent at paddling because I’m a novice and my husband used to do white water kayaking in the Tasmanian rapids and also played canoe polo competitively. Our friend has also competed in the Hawkesbury Classic. The two of them could well and truly paddle off into the sunset at quite an enthusiastic pace together, while my kayak might drift round in a circle, and I might just enjoy floating for a bit. In other words, I’m not even trying to keep up unless it’s for conversation, which case they need to go at my pace which they do quite happily without complaint.

While I absolutely loved our paddle today and found the exercise and sunshine exhilarating and loved just drifting along like a cloud on the water, there were quite a few reflective moments.

The last time I was kayaking there, I was at a picnic with a group of friends. We had such a wonderful time out on the water, and as I said, unfortunately Geoff had to work. My friend Lisa was there with her son and I went out on the kayak with him. He’s ten years old and loved diving off the side and was full of such energy. Lisa was much more serene. She was like a beautiful swan gliding across the water as she paddled and her smile lit up the sky. It’s the truth. No exaggeration. Anyway, she passed away a few months ago after a long battle with breast cancer. I’ve mentioned that before. As much as you can try to convince yourself you’re okay and that you’re back on your feet again, I really missed her. Missed her deep inside my bones type missing her. I also miss being able to hang out with our friends in person as well. That hurts at a really deep level as well.

Mister kayaking along with all 40+ kilos of Bilbo our Border Collie…the calm before the splash.

Then, there were also memories of going out kayaking as a family when my parents had a beach house at Palm Beach. It was a short season, but they had a jetty and a boat shed and it was so easy to get the kayaks in the water as long as it was high tide. The kids were much younger then, and Bilbo our beloved Border Collie (who some of you may remember), was there along with Lady and we’d paddle with the kids, paddle with the dogs. Paddle alone. I even went paddling when I was going through chemo to deal with a flare of my auto-immune disease. I loved kayaking that much, and yet now I rarely go.

Out on our kayak adventure.

Why is it so?

Well, Geoff was grateful I talked him into going today, and decided that the kayaks are going to stay on top of the car. That’s a statement, isn’t it?! It’s like having your sword drawn, and being ready for action.

Move over Huckleberry Hound. Lady enjoying her kayak adventures.

That’s particularly important during lockdown. Somehow we need to find things we can do within the scope of the restrictions, while acknowledging but not dwelling on all the things we can’t. We are very lucky to live in this beautiful part of the world and be surrounded by beautiful beaches, and still waterways. It was also a choice.

Miss pretending to be out in the kayak. It’s a beginning.

Do you enjoy kayaking and have any stories to share? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

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Whale Watching – Pacific Whale Foundation

I was so exciting to go whale watching vicariously from my couch in the Sydney lockdown. I have never been to Hervey Bay but it’s now on my bucket list. Absolutely breathtaking. Thanks so much Joanne for sharing and making my day so much brighter!
Best wishes,
Rowena

And Anyways...

Hervey Bay, on Queensland’s Fraser Coast, is known as one of the best places in the world to watch humpback whales. Yes, you read that right – in the world. Don’t believe me? The waters off Hervey Bay have been scientifically recognised as a rare stopover site for migrating humpback whales and was the world’s first Whale Heritage Site. It’s where the whales stop, stay, and play during their winter migration. Rest and relaxation whale style. It’s also where mums bring their young – a safe place to nurse and teach them before heading back to their feeding grounds in the Antarctic. For young whales, it’s also a place to flex their muscles.

Twenty years of scientific research has proven that Hervey Bay is the only genuine stopover in what is one of the longest mammal migration journeys on the planet – a 10,000-kilometer round trip from the southern ocean…

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Weekend Coffee Share – 16th August, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? I hope you’ve had a good couple of weeks, and I apologise for my intermittent appearances. I’ve been out of synch for awhile, which isn’t going to change any time soon. In case you’re not aware, I live in Greater Sydney and we’ve been in a covid lockdown since the 26th June and as of Saturday 6.00pm, the rest of the state joined us as well. This is life living alongside the Delta variant.

Would you like a cup of tea? However, this cup of tea has also been in lockdown, and is well and truly cold by now.

Of course, no one’s happy with this extended lockdown and those of you who have experienced far worse, might well be thinking we had this reality check coming. However, the numbers are still comparatively low, and this is largely precautionary. However, perhaps the worst thing about this statewide lockdown, is that it at least seems to be the result of the selfish actions of just a couple of people. With contacts being traced nd DNA tracking of the virus, it’s difficult to hide, and these individuals must be mighty pleased they’re no living in the Middle Ages when mob rule would’ve exacted its own justice.

It is strange being in lockdown, and yet it’s been a fairly universal experience at least at some point. For us, there are quite a few positives, as well as some not insignificant losses. My husband’s been able to work from home for almost the last 18 months. He’s a Senior IT Network Engineer at Macquarie University in Sydney and it’s usually a very hands on role. However, again thanks to technology, he can do most of his work remotely, and he’s been able to use the three hours travel time to renovate the house. We should probably be doing more together making most of this time, but we’re both busy. I’ve made huge progress on my research project writing short bios of WWI soldiers incorporating family and personal history. Our son has been the hardest hit and hovers in limb, while our old daughter is avoiding school via zoom and has converted our home into a dance studio.

This view overlooking Pearl Beach and across to Lion Island is only a 5 minute drive away.

Another interesting aspect to lock down where we live, is that we live in a beautiful location walking distance to the beach and a short drive away from so much stunning scenery. While we’ve been told in no uncertain terms to stay home, we are allowed to exercise outdoors with our household, or with one other friend. So, if you’re fit and healthy, can work from home, and are a true introvert, you could well be having the time of your life. If you don’t like shaking strangers’ hands and have a thing for hand sanitizer, it could well be a boon for you too. While I am incredibly grateful to be locked down in a scenic paradise, I am a true blue extrovert and I really miss seeing my friends collectively in person and seeing all of them and not just their head on a screen. That is a heartfelt ache too, not just a “would be nice”. I have a few good groups of friends and I miss doing like with them collectively and being part of a loving, intimate, touchy-feely herd. What’s more I think that needs to be said. Acknowledged and possibly shouted from the rooftops, because this current situation is anything but normal and I don’t want us to stop striving for what we in Sydney had pretty much regained. This is not the reality we want to have.

Anyway, I have enjoyed a few walks, including a walk along the waterfront at nearby Woy Woy. Perhaps, some of you have heard of Woy Woy before. British comedian Spike Milligan put Woy Woy on the map with the Goon Show, and his mother used to live there. These days with everyone in lockdown, it looks like the pelicans have taken over. The local Vinnies with it’s large glass windows, has become something of a mausoleum with a family frozen in time decked out in their Winter woolens. There was also a tea cup poised on apile of books on a coffee table beautifully decked out with a tablecloth. I admire how much love and attention to detail has goes into preparing the window displays, even in second hand shops. It seems to speak of such optimism and hope. That you’re not on your last legs just because you need to buy second hand.

View into Vinnies street d me.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished reading Ethel Turner’s 1894 novel: Seven Little Australians. It’s the story of widower, Captain Woolcot and six six children who has remarried a much younger woman and at this point in the story is 20 years old and has a baby. The story is told in the first person and it feels like Ethel Turner is talking to you herself, giving the book a very intimate and personal feel. She tells you right from the outset that this book is about naughty children, and isn’t a moral tale. This is entertainment and it makes you laugh, but there’s also more than just a reflective undertone and there’s definitely some character improvement along the way. Ethel Turner was only 23 when she wrote the book and it jettisoned her to international success attracting praise from the likes of Mark Twain. Anyway, I’d encourage you to read it. It’s usually classed as a children’s book, but it’s more what we now call young adult fiction, and I loved reading it myself. So I’d say age is no boundary, and I’ve also read praise from troops reading it on the Western Front in WWI. So, it’s appeal seems rather universal. If you’d like to read it, it’s available via Project Gutenberg here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/4731/4731-h/4731-h.htm

By the way, if you’re interested in history and family history, you might appreciate a post I wrote this week about trying to unravel the story of nine year old Brenda Taylor, whose father apparently died of wounds in Gallipoli and for this reason, she wants to become a nurse: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/08/08/wwi-gallipoli-when-daddy-didnt-come-home-brenda-taylors-story/

I also wrote a post about celebrating my birthday during lockdown: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/08/14/the-ghosts-of-birthdays-past/

How has your week been? I hope it’s gone well.

This is another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS: The dogs wanted to have the last word:

Zac on my lap. I call him my “Productivity Manager” . Having a big dog on your lap who suddenly turns deaf when you’re trying to get out of your chair doesn’t do wonders for my productivity and the keyboard doesn’t always work at its peak either bouncing up and down on his back.
This is Lady and Rosie. This photo is very misleading on Rosie’s part as she’s usually harassing us to throw the ball and is a pure working dog.

Thought I’d better do her justice:

Needless to say, Rosie can be annoying. She is currently drop dropping her ball on my keyboard.

The Ghosts of Birthdays Past…

A few weeks ago, it was my birthday. In previous years, I’ve fully acknowledged and celebrated my birthday on the blog with equal enthusiasm and interest as the real world. However, this year, I didn’t quite get here, and it probably also reflects that my birthday in the real world didn’t go off with a bang this year either.

Happy Birthday six years ago! I look and feel a lot healthier now.

It was good, and indeed better than expected. However, my birthday (30th July) actually marked the day that Greater Sydney was supposed to come out of Covid lockdown, and I, and the collective we, knew after the third week of hard lockdown and with one week to go until our blessed release, that it wasn’t going to happen. There was going to be no extravagant birthday cake covered in candles with either my parents in Sydney or with my much loved friends. Everyone was going to be locked inside their little cells at home, and only let out for bad behaviour (my perspective on exercise).

However, while one is allowed to be a bit self-indulgent when their birthday plans go up in smoke (especially a Covid smoke), I know things could be worse, and that I have so much to be grateful for, especially when I see covid through a global lens. I checked the stats just then (which I don’t do on a global scale all that often) and globally there have been 206 million cases and 4.35 million deaths. In America alone (which ops the charts) there have been 621k deaths. Australia isn’t at the bottom of the charts and we have a much smaller population, but we have had 948 deaths. So, we have largely been spared the full force of this scourge here, although our lockdowns have been pretty tight and for vulnerable people like myself, we’ve spent much of the last 18 months in varying degrees of isolation and social distancing, while, of course, there are others who haven’t complied with restrictions or have lived away from the major cities and haven’t had to worry too much.

Happy Birthday Mister!

The other thing is that given my poor health and the somewhat dire state of my lungs, I am thankful and overjoyed for every birthday I have. So, I’m not saying that I spent my birthday at home crying either.

Me this year at the Mt Ettalong Lookout.

My birthday was on a Friday, and Friday nights are generally quite busy even in lockdown here. Our son has zoom with his youth group which sounds pretty rowdy and a lot of fun, and our daughter has a dance class right at dinner time. We also have our small group meeting for Church and we were getting together for a zoom party. So, we decided just to get Chinese home delivered that night, and deferred our family celebration to the following night, when we had home delivery from a local smokehouse we hadn’t tried before. This is I guess what we’d call “American” food, and I was particularly wanting to try Southern Fried Chicken that wasn’t from KFC. I made a Banoffee Pie for my birthday cake.

What a view – There’s Pearl Beach in the foreground looking across to Lion Island

Meanwhile, during the day Geoff and I went for a bushwalk at the Mt Ettalong Lookout, which has the most magnificent coastal views over Pearl Beach to the right, and Umina Beach (home) on the left. When you see these photos, you’ll have absolutely so sympathy for my tough lockdown situation, and think I’m deluding myself. I’m in God’s country. However, breathtaking ocean views is not immersing myself in a room filled with my friends and being able to hug each other and talk totally oblivious of exchanging the air we breathe and what it might contain.

Looking across to Umina Beach and the outlet on the top right marks the entrance to Brisbane Waters in NSW (Not Queensland just to be confusing).

I know presents don’t make a birthday. However, I’m not going to deny how much they meant to me and how nice is was to open the front door and find a little treasure there. It was wonderful, and it meant so much more during this gloominess of Covid – a gloominess which, if we’re really honest with ourselves and others is at least a somewhat constant undercurrent of varying dimensions.) especially when you’re an extroverted people person like myself.

I was quite surprised when my mum ordered me a violin cake for my birthday in 2012. It was something of a premonition! Good on you Mum!

Anyway, I wanted to share a bit of the brightness which came my way on my birthday and offer each and everyone of you a virtual piece of cake.

Have you have any special celebrations during lockdown and what did you do?

Love & Blessings,

Rowena

WWI – Gallipoli: When Daddy Didn’t Come Home. Brenda Taylor’s Story…

So often when we reflect on Gallipoli, we hear of the men who sacrificed their lives. However, there’s another side to the story. That is the children of the dead and wounded men, also also paid an enormous, and mostly silent, price. Fortunately, the children’s columns in the newspapers provided a space where children would occasionally provide a glimpse, into this world.

Landing At Gallipoli- Charles Dixon

On Sunday 30th July, 1922 a letter by Miss Brenda Taylor, aged 9, of Greenock, Piper-street, Leichhardt was published in Sunbeams, the children’s page in the Sun Herald. Sunbeams was edited by Ethel Turner, author of the Australian children’s classic:  Seven Little Australians. A regular feature on the page was called “When I Grow Up”, and children wrote in gorgeous letters talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Brenda wanted to be a nurse:

Sister Pratt

A NURSE

“When I grow up I would like to be a nurse, so that I could look after poor sick people. If there happened to be another war I would go and look after the wounded soldiers. My daddy died of wounds at Gallipoli, where there were not enough nurses to look after the soldiers. I would love to wear the nice clean uniform of a nurse, and be in the children’s hospital amongst the little sick babies, as I love babies, and I don’t like to hear them crying. When I see the returned nurses with their badges I feel sure I am going to be one. I hope little girls will want to be the same so that there will be enough nurses for the poor soldiers if any more wars begin.

— Souvenir Prize and Blue “Sun” Card to Brenda Taylor (9), Greenock, Piper-street, Leichhardt — a little girl gallant enough, after her loss, to want to continue in the footsteps of her heroic father[1].”

Just to place young Brenda’s letter in context, there was also a letter from an ambitious crime-fighting detective:

TO MAKE CRIMINALS SHIVER

When I grow up I am going to be a detective, and gain fame, I will unravel mysteries that have baffled the greatest detectives of the world. If It is necessary for me to disguise while working on any case, my disguise shall be so complete that even my closest friends will not recognise me. First I will start In Australia, and when I’ve cleaned that of Its criminals, I will then proceed to London, and in disguise I will visit the slums of that city and learn what I can about different criminals, then gain their confidence, and arrest them in the act of pulling-off some of their greatest robberies. I will always play a lone hand, as you cannot rely on the police, who are generally blunderers. If any criminal defies me, I shall engage him In a battle of wits, and in the end I think I shall succeed in handing him over to the law to receive his punishment. Never shall I quit a case without unraveling it satisfactorily. Many people shall thank me for the services I have rendered them, and for me this will be sufficient reward. My name will spread throughout the world, and every criminal and wrong-doer will shiver at the mention of it[2].

There was also “Wanderer” from Bondi who’d decided to become a novelist rather than a pirate:

“NOVELIST RATHER THAN PIRATE

In the earlier stages of my life I entertained wild hopes of becoming a pirate; imagining myself, with a three-cornered hat tilted precariously on one side of my head, ordering men to get strung up the yard-arm, or to walk the plank. Lately, I have realised the utter insignificance of that career, as I will not be able to find a suitable crew, and if I did I would soon be hunted down. My present scheme for the future is to become a composer of prose and verse. I will live in a creeper-covered cottage in a quiet country town, there to pursue my work (perhaps I might marry by then, but that will not make any difference— only that the “star” boarder will have to seek a new residence). So as to have some varieties about the place, I will keep a few cows and a small stock of poultry. In the woodland dales I will compose my stories, and. now and then poetry. I hope to become gradually famous as a novelist. Then— and then only, will the zenith of my ambitions be attained— Blue “sun” Card to “Wanderer” (13), Bondi[3].”

Exploring Brenda Taylor’s Letter Further

Of course, young Brenda’s letter is heartbreaking. It was one thing for young, single men to sacrifice their lives for the Empire. It was quite another for family men with responsibilities and dependents to sacrifice theirs. Young children were left without fathers, wives without husbands, and were left to bring up the children alone. To put it in very simple terms, Daddy was never coming home.

Naturally, I wanted to find something out about her father’s war service, such as which unit he was in, and what happened to him. This is easy enough if you have a name. However, her father wasn’t named in the letter, and I couldn’t just search the service records for: “Brenda’s Dad”- no matter how powerful Google might be.

At the same, identifying a soldier with minimal information isn’t an impossible quest, especially now that so much information is available online. Indeed, these days, the difficulty is knowing when and where to stop. After all, we now have the whole wide world right at our finger tips and sometimes, as in trying to nut out Brenda’s letter, we need to draw on all of that. Even then, there comes a point when you realize, that you have to walk away without the answer. Indeed, that’s where I’m at with Brenda’s story. I still can’t be sure of who Brenda Taylor was, and don’t know her father’s name either. Yet, I haven’t given up. Storytelling is a collective process and hopefully these efforts will just be the beginning.

Yet, on the other hand, part of me wishes I could turn back the clock, and just appreciate Brenda Taylor’s letter at face value. Left well enough alone, and not asked who her father was, and tried to find his service records. After all, it’s such a heart-touching story. Here’s a little girl who lost her beloved Dad at Gallipoli when she was roughly two years old. That’s a serious loss, and I don’t feel comfortable questioning whether her story was  true, and doubting the sincerity of a child.  Of course, I want to be a believer.  Hug this little girl who has lost her dad wholeheartedly without any of these lingering doubts.

However, any researcher worth their salt knows not to accept anything at face value. We have to ask the questions, accept the answers, and then somehow determine what we weave together into our version of the story.

So, despite a day of going backwards and forwards along time tunnels back into the past, I still don’t know the name of Brenda Taylor’s father, and can’t be entirely sure he died of wounds at Gallipoli or back at home. 

A False Alarm

Initially, my efforts to identify Brenda Taylor were going quite well. NSW Births deaths and Marriages had a Brenda Beatrice Taylor born in 1915 in Mudgee to parents John G. Taylor and Beatrice Brownlow. They were married on the 17th February, 1910 at St. Paul’s Manse, Mudgee. This “G” might’ve been a “George”, and at a stretch, Brenda’s father might’ve been John George Taylor Service Number 7050. He was born at Newcastle-On-Tyne England, and was living at 2 Bay Street, Balmain, which isn’t too far from Leichhardt. However, he wasn’t a great fit. He’d enlisted on the 1st November, 1916 and clearly didn’t serve at Gallipoli. His next of kin was his sister, Mrs M. Foster, not a wife. There was also no mention of daughter, Brenda, either. However, marriages go awry, and he wouldn’t have been the only family man to have fled the home front for the front line without leaving a paper trail.

However, then I found the wedding notice for John G. Taylor and Beatrice Brownlow. Brenda’s father was actually a John Gavin Taylor, not a John George. So, that knocked John George Taylor 7050 out of the picture. Further research was required.

There was no other Brenda Taylor on the horizon, although the age of this Brenda Taylor didn’t quite match up. To be 9 years old on the 30th July, 1922, she needed to be born around 1911-1912. However, I couldn’t find an alternative born in NSW or Victoria. So, I persisted and found some good background stories.

Brenda’s mother, Beatrice Brownlow, had been born in 1889 to Samuel Brownlow and Agnes E. Bridge in Coonamble, New South Wales. Samuel was known as a “first-class horse trainer”, which sounded rather exciting:

A Veteran Trainer.

Sam Brownlow Re-appears on the Scene.

To the majority of Mudgee racegoers the name of the above well-known trainer will be quite familiar. The older sportsmen in particular will re member those grand old days when the then champions of the turf, such as King of the West, Eros, Myrtle, Reprieve, Prism, Contessa, &c. , met in battle array on the old course, and memories of Brownlow come back to them fresh and green. And now once more, after a fairly long absonce from the actual scene of turf warfare, Sam has come forth, like a giant refreshed, to renew his former occupation. The old spirit asserted itself — it was too strong for him to resist, and it is a strange coincidence that he will have under his care a horse which he trained a few years ago — I refer to Mr. J. C. Gunnell’s Nimrod. Sam has trained many good horses, notably King of the West, Myrtle, Eros, and Contessa, all of whom won races for the late J. D. Little at Randwick and Hawkesbury. When King of the West won the County Purse (now called the Rowley Mile) at Hawkesbury he was ridden by Tom Donoghue, who is now training in Mudgee. Brownlow once had private training stables on Bombira Hill years ago, where a good string of horses were located. He also went to Queensland with that great horse, Beadsman, with whom he won a great number of races there. Space will not permit of a lengthy description of our old friend’s many succeses as a trainer. We will simply say that he is a first class trainer, and has commenced with Mr. Gunnell’s horses, Nimrod and Grand Stuart, who are being prepared for the Mudgee meeting[4].

By now, the story was building nicely – layer up on layer up on layer. Yet, there were still some nagging doubts. These Taylors were based in Mudgee, and as yet I hadn’t found a link to Leichhardt, Sydney. Moreover, something else was glaringly missing. Aside from Brenda’s letter, there were no memorials in the newspapers honouring her father’s sacrifice on the battlefield, and this was unusual. Of course, there were families that kept it quiet, but they were few and far between. That also made me nervous.

Then, came the clincher. I came across the obituary for Brenda’s mother, Beatrice. She died on the 25th December, 1943 in Mudgee and it clearly mentioned that she was the “wife of Mr. J. G. Taylor, of Windeyer”, and also referred to her “bereaved husband”. Brenda’s father, John Gavin Taylor, was still alive[5].

Either Brenda Taylor’s letter wasn’t true. Or, there was another Brenda Taylor.

Brenda Taylor 2.0

I had one last search in the online newspapers at Trove. This time, I came across a wedding photo for a Brenda Taylor who married John Richard Keeffe at St John’s Church, Parramatta in 1938:

“Mrs. J.. Keeffe, formerly Miss Brenda Taylor, of Harris Park, who was married at St. John’s Church, Parramatta, on February 5. Misses Violet Keeffe, Ivy Taylor and Emily Keeffe are the bridesmaids, and Valmna Sweeney the flower girl. Photo. by McEnnally Studio[6]

I cross-referenced this with NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages, and found her listed as “Evelyn Brenda Taylor”. Would this finally be the clue which unraveled the mystery? Could I finally construct a solid trail from nine year old Brenda Taylor of Piper Street, Leichhardt to her father who really did die of wounds sustained in those early days at Gallipoli?

Not yet.

The closest I’ve come to finding an Evelyn Brenda Taylor is a Brenda Evelyn Taylor, who was listed in the 1911UK Census. She was 2 years old and was born and living in Rawreth, a village and civil parish in the District of Rochford, Essex, England, located between Wickford and Rayleigh. She was living there with her father, Edward Taylor, aged 23 born in Leatherhead, Surrey and was a Farm Labourer; and her mother, Alice May Taylor, was 21 from Chipstead, Surrey.

Could this be the right family? Did they migrate to Australia, and this is the very same Brenda Taylor who wrote into the Sun Herald on the 30th July, 1922?

I still don’t know, but I’m hoping that someone out there can help me set the record straight. I’d really love to know Brenda’s story – the whole story.

If anybody could shed any light on this, I’d really appreciate your help. I don’t have access to Ancestry which would most likely help.

Lastly, I should mention that this is fall of a broader project where I’m researching WWI through the letters of WWI soldiers, and exploring their family history nad lives before they went to the front.

Best wishes,

Rowena

References


[1] Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2

[2] Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2

[3] Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2

[4] Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 – 1954), Friday 4 August 1899, page 18

[5] Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 – 1954), Thursday 30 December 1943, page 5

[6] Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW : 1888 – 1950), Thursday 10 March 1938, page 9