Author Archives: Rowena

The Triwizard Shorenament – Outing the Bully Boys of Privilege.

Yesterday, marked the end of Year 12 in our high schools, and was what’s colloquially known as “Muck-up Day”.

“Your path is your character defining itself more and more every day, like a photograph coming into focus.”

-Jodie Foster

As the name suggests, muck-up day spawns a lot of pranks, including the almost obligatory egg throwing at cars and shops. Indeed, at its worst, it summons up visions of Robespierre’s reign of terror, albeit in school uniform. However, for the students themselves, it means saying goodbye to school, friends, teachers and in many ways, plays one of the last notes of childhood. Yet, it’s also the first step towards liberation and a lot of fun…as long as nothing goes wrong.

By the way, knowing most of you are visiting from overseas, I should point out that Year 12 is the final year of school, and after students have completed their Higher School Certificate exams (HSC), they’re released from captivity into the world like a swarm of bees. That’s when they often head over the Queensland border to celebrate Schoolies Week at Surfers’ Paradise, or on this side of the border at Byron Bay.

In my day, Muck-up Day was more sedate. We might’ve signed each other’s school collars, filled in note and year books, and there had always been rumours of boot polish on the toilet seat. However, at least from memory, that was bad as it got. After all, if we got sprung, there’d be no all-important school reference.

However, from what I’ve gathered in recent years, Muck-up Day has spawned the treasure hunt…a rather quirky or challenging check list. All of this should just be a bit of fun. Indeed, a few years ago, I was eating fish and chips and taking photos at Terrigal Beach on Muck-up Day, and was approached by a few year 12’s. Their list included being photographed with a stranger. I think he might’ve put his arm around me. It was all good fun. They were all dressed in lairy neon outfits and were just running around, mostly sober having a good time and not hurting anyone.

However, this year a treasure hunt with a difference has unfortunately come to light. Sadly, this document reveals privileged bastardry is alive (and possibly even thriving) at at least one of Sydney’s prestigious boys’ school. Looking very much like an annual report, the instructions for the treasure hunt were cleverly entitled: The Triwizard Shorenament. This particular list included 10,000 points for flying down to Melbourne which is currently in Covid Lockdown, “shit on a train”, “break into Taronga Zoo”, drink “6 [vodka] Cruisers in 6 minutes” and “skull 700ml bottle of vodka”. In addition to the inherent elitism expressed, many of the acts are vulgar, anti-social, criminal and also show a concerning acceptance of alcohol abuse. Indeed, you’ve got to ask is this what their privileged parents consider “a good education”?

It’s certainly reinforced our decision to send out kids to the local state school. Well, it might not have been a choice, but there are good and bad eggs everywhere and you just have to hope either sort doesn’t go flying through your car window on muck-up day and hit you in the face.

Meanwhile, I’ve wondered how much media and community attention The Triwizard Shorenament is going to attract. While it’s certainly received some media coverage, there’s also that desire to repress. Stop the bad publicity.

However, I feel the actions outlined in this document, need to be assessed and used as a mirror, a score-card. Not just for the boys and the school involved, but also for the wider community. How did something like that see the light of day in 2020? Don’t we all know better? Moreover, there are six Anglican Ministers on Shore’s school council. Don’t they stand for something better than that? Or, is money all that matters? Are values such as character, integrity, compassion and equality to be spat on and reviled while the kings of the castle squash their minions under foot?

I hope not. However, for me these questions aren’t just ideological. Aren’t mere theory. This is where I’m from.

Of course, I didn’t attend Shore School. It’s a single-sex school for boys. However, I did attend the female equivalent. I was, and to some extent, am still part of this elite. While my life didn’t quite follow the plan and I’ve manged to find more snakes than ladders in my personal journey, I can still fit into those shoes and belong. It’s still where I came from, and part of who I am.

Perhaps, that’s what concerns me most about this despicable treasure hunt. I’d thought we’d moved forward in the last 30 years. That equality had gained a foothold. Moreover, that during the current coronacrisis, we as a society were becoming more caring, compassionate and understanding. Indeed, it is for this reason that the action of spitting on a homeless person disgusts me so much. Haven’t we all learnt just how close anyone is from landing on the streets? Indeed, it’s said many of us are only one maybe two pays away.

Of course, it could said, and it has and has been argued, only a small group of boys was involved. However, it doesn’t even take a close look at the report to see it’s a polished, detailed, and well-planned document. It’s not something put together on the fly and rashly emailed out in a moment of poor judgement. It looks like it was printed, and while I don’t have a lot of facts at hand, I think it was distributed to students and in a way that shows sufficient social acceptance for the plan. That the organizers weren’t stepping out of the mould and felt comfortable putting it together. There doesn’t seem to be an expectation of ridicule, shame, rejection by their peers. It was all carried out all but in the light of day.

However, it’s not easy to speak out against the cool or socially acceptable kids at school. There are also going to be students who were completely out of the loop and knew nothing about it at all, who’ll also have to live with the fallout, and amidst all of this, there will be some very distressed students and families. Although I deplore what was planned and the ideology behind it, I also believe in redemption. That the powers that be in the Class of 2020 can turn this around for good. Apologise and do some community service.

On this front, I’d like to refer back to a very gutsy speech given by Mitch Donaldson, the outgoing school Captain of Sydney’s Knox Grammar School at Speech Day 2007. In front of 1350 fellow students, 150 teachers and 600 parents in the school assembly hall, he spoke out against pressure from over achieving and overbearing parents, which had created a culture of cheating and bullying in year 12. He then pointed the finger at instances of parents who bullied school authorities into giving prestigious positions to their undeserving sons. He said: “There have been people in our year group who have stolen, who have belittled, and who have cheated their way through the past six years.” And most of them, he said, got away with it. But to those who played the game, he said, no matter who your father goes to the gym with, listen carefully. No matter what your efforts, you cannot and will not be able to ever buy respect.” Although that speech went on for 20 minutes,  apparently you could hear a pin drop. After all, the last thing you expect at a school assembly like that is for someone to tell it like it is. And at the end of the speech… after a moment of stunned silence… the whole hall rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation. Mitchell Donaldson was angry with the injustice that he saw going on in his school 1.. That was an extremely gutsy move.

Sure, the instance at Knox Grammar was different to what went down at Shore, but you can see the parallels, and that they’re two cabs from the same rank.

I’ve inserted a couple of links here in case you’re interested in further reading:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-23/sydney-shore-school-threatens-expulsion-for-muck-up-challenges/12691756

https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/elite-private-school-students-filmed-naming-worst-sydney-suburbs/news-story/67a23c2548fb0250af42a820d46302a4?from=htc_rss

I’d be interested to hear what you have to say about this, and how it might reflect on what you experience in your community. Meanwhile, I’ll site the values of the French Revolution… Equality, Liberty, Freedom.

These values are still worth fighting for today.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Source

  1. https://www.mpc.org.au/media/resources/2007/20071125.html

Weekend Coffee Share – 21st September, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I don’t know whether most of you are aware, that I usually post my coffee share late on Monday night Sydney time, and I view sharing what happened on my weekend as a feature of my posts, as much as what happened during the previous week. This is one of the benefits of being ahead on the International time zone front. However, on nights like tonight, I’ve moved well onto the next week and almost forget to post. Indeed, I’ve almost forgotten what happened last week.

Yet, I haven’t forgotten my quest to find the elusive Waratahs in our local National Park…or my success (which you can read about in my previous post). I haven’t forgotten that walk either because I slipped and did a bit of what my husband refers to as “rock surfing”. It wasn’t a major fall. However, as I was sliding down, I realized my leg was in an awkward position and was being twisted in opposite directions. Clearly, that wasn’t good and in a moment of terror, I thought I was about to break my leg. I managed to jiggle my leg a little which might’ve saved the day. However, although I was able to hobble back to the car, it didn’t stop Geoff from having to step in once again as my knight in shining armour… and it still hurts.

I was quite enchanted by the shadows the gum trees cast across the bush track. Could be rather haunting as well.

Last Tuesday, I set off driving towards nearby Patonga through the Brisbane Waters’ National Park in search of the elusive Waratah, which is not only our state’s floral emblem, it’s also the ruby in her crown. I was fortunate to spot a cluster of Waratahs just beside the road and was absolutely smitten. They’re just beautiful.

I also went for a brief bushwalk across the road a long a fire trail which leads onto the Great North Walk. I wasn’t so interested in that at this point. Rather, I was pursuing the Spring wildflowers. Although 2020 has been a bad year in so many ways, it’s actually been a great year for the wildflowers here. That’s probably because we had somegood solid rains over the last couple of months. However, I’m also tempted to question whether the very adversity which has given us humans such challenging circumstances has actually caused these masters of adversity to thrive? Our fauna is rough and rugged and you just need to check out the sharp, leathery leaves of many of our plants, to realize they’ve got it tough. Moreover, quite a number of the gum trees I saw had been burned most likely during burn offs, but we’ve also had a few fire bugs lighting fires over there. So, who knows? Well, it wouldn’t take much for me to find out, as there are very few secrets around here, but I’ve been quite busy so the mystery will have to remain for awhile yet.

This plant’s known colloquially as “Egg & Bacon”.

In addition to getting out for my walks and doing some photography, I’ve also been doing a fair bit of baking. Actually, I’ve been doing a lot of baking last week as I had a few things on. There was a batch of chocolate chip and hazelnut cookies. Then, I made a pavlova to take to a friend’s birthday. Saturday turned into a big bake. I made a Bran Cake with dates and apricots for my Dad as a belated Father’s Day gift. I’d also been asked to make a birthday cake for our Pastor’s birthday for Sunday. She likes lemon and so I made a lemon sour cream cake and baked it in a rose-shaped bundt tin my mother gave me awhile back. I drizzled it with lemon icing and sprinkled it with finely chopped strawberries. There wasn’t much of that cake to go round. So, I also made a chocolate cake in a silicone mould shaped like a castle. Unfortunately, I had trouble getting it out and it started to crumble. In fact, it resembled more of a jumping castle. However, those of you who have made a few cakes in your time, will know the power of a bit of strategically placed icing and decoration. I’d always planned to cover it with chopped up Violet Crumble, but it turned out better than I thought and the honeycomb turned into bricks. I thought it needed some kind of character in the cake and I found a dude in a bag of stuff heading to the charity shop. You beauty! The cakes had balloons added and they were walked down the aisle for Happy Birthday. I thought it was quite funny seeing them there getting the royal treatment, especially after my troubles with the castle cake. However, they were very popular, and they had a good laugh. Thought all my mishaps were intentional. Should’ve kept my mouth shut. However, baking is something that usually keeps me humble. It doesn’t take much for a triumph to become a tragedy. I also bake not only because I enjoy it and eating the goods, but also to cheer people up and make them happy. Indeed, I’m becoming more and more convinced of the power of food to help you feel better, which doesn’t bode well for those trying to diet and wanting to break those bonds. I can be quite a bad influence.

Meanwhile, our son has had an important series of exams at school. He will start Year 12 in a few weeks’ time, which is our final year of school. Geoff and I were clearly more stressed about it than he was and I don’t know whether I want him to do poorly to learn the value of hard work. Or, have naturally ability and come through. It’s a bit hard to pull that off at this stage of the game, but he could be lucky.

Lastly, our efforts to clear out some of the stuff from our house and yard are ongoing. My old electric recliner went and we put a very old airconditioning unit out the front which was so heavy it took two people to lift it, and it was gone in 15 minutes. We suspect someone’s carted it off to the metal recyclers. We’re also in the process of dismantling an old piano. A friend didn’t want the piano as a whole but is interested in the bits and pieces. I’m keeping the keys and the pedals to mount on the wall and he’s taking much of the rest. However, it needs to be destringed before it goes, which is going to be a beast of a job and also potentially dangerous.

Lastly, I’m not sure whether I’ve mentioned much about buying a Yamaha MX88 keyboard synthesizer in lieu of the piano. Or, whether you’re aware that I play the violin. Well, I thought that if I’m going to play the piano that I should learn to play “Piano Man”. However, my husband made me feel like my rendition was in a coma. It was too slow. However, it sounded much better when I played it on my violin. Does that make it “The Violin Woman”? I’m not sure, but I’m persevering and enjoying myself and I am improving. I’ll just repeat that. I am improving.

Anyway, how have you been? I should’ve offered you a tea or coffee at the outset and a slice of something. However, I glossed over all the formalities this week and didn’t make a big song and dance over it all.

Anyway, I hope you’ve had a great week.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Alli here: https://eclecticali.wordpress.com/2020/09/18/weekendcoffeeshare-oh-right-i-also-did-things-last-weekend/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Walking Through the Waltzing Waratahs- Australia.

The magnificent Waratah, floral emblem of NSW and Australian cultural icon, is rather elusive in the wild and difficult to grow at home, even if it does claim to “thrive on neglect”. Indeed, up until this week, neither Geoff nor myself had seen a Waratah growing in the wild, and we’ve covered quite a lot of territory in our time.  Moreover, although we tried to grow a couple of Waratahs when we first moved in, they didn’t last long.  Instead of thriving on neglect, ours must’ve been of a more pampered variety demanding something better than our crappy sandy soil and drought conditions.

PATONGA ROAD.

TO THE EDTTOR OF THE HERALD.

Sir,-“Ranger” (“Herald,” 3rd instant), referring to a proposed road from Ocean Beach to Patonga Beach, Broken Bay, ventilates a matter of the greatest import to nature lovers. The original plan contemplated a road via the cliff edge between Pearl Beach and Patonga Beach, affording views of surpassing beauty over a couple of miles and already partly constructed. The shire engineer now proposes to substitute a road from Ocean Beach a route scenically much inferior to that first proposed because, forsooth, a gravel pit will be passed en route. On this ridge is an area of, perhaps 15 acres, the flora of which is predominantly waratahs, native pears and native roses. This area was fairly secluded till about two years ago when the shire authorities cleared through it a line a chain wide to run electric light poles to Patonga, arid now vandals in motor vehicles and afoot invade the patch with impunity, till hardly a waratah is left by Eight Hour Day each year. The irony of the matter lies in the fact that branching off the road, as originally planned, is a by-road already used for the haulage of electric light poles, by which the gravel could be carted to the original road. The N.R.M.A. is, I believe, interested in the proposed scenic road, and I would suggest that they, and the naturalists societies, should view the two routes, after which they would, I feel sure, exert their influence in favour of the original plan.

I am etc.,

ANOTHER’ RANGER. . Patonga Beach, July 7. 1936. Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 – 1954), Thursday 9 July 1936, page 4

Map of Warrah Trig Rd, Patonga NSW 2256

So, on Wednesday, the intrepid explorer headed out driving through the Brisbane Waters National Park from Umina Beach through to Patonga. I had no real idea of where to find them, only that they were just off the road and I headed for Warrah Trig, which looks out over the magnificent Hawkesbury River, North of Sydney. However, before I reached the turn off, I spotted a bunch of Waratahs growing right beside the road. Indeed, you couldn’t miss them. They were truly spectacular and miraculously, most had managed to survive the secateurs of the thoughtlessly selfish and greedy.

 

As it turns out,  while 2020 has wrought devastating bush fires across the Australian landscape and Covid has forced us into lock down, isolation and cancelled travel plans beyond state borders, especially overseas, it hasn’t all been doom and gloom. Our local wildflowers are actually experiencing a very good year and the Waratahs are the best they’ve been, at least since we moved up here almost 20 years ago. Indeed, you could even say that 2020 is the Year of the Waratah. 

Reaching For the Sky

Meanwhile, as a good Australian, I thought I knew all about the Waratah,. Indeed, as I and later we, walked along the bush track to get a closer look, I admired it’s solitary brilliance. That while there were brillant splashes of golden yellow and pink throughout the bush, the brilliant crimson Waratah with it’s stately solitary presence was majestic. Royal. Grand. Roll out the red carpet and take a bow. 

However, even the Waratah is much more complex than I’d imagined. What appears as a solitary flower, is actually an inflorescence composed of many small flowers densely packed into a compact head or spike. Moreover, what appeared to be elongated crimson petals at the base of the flower, are actually “bracts”.

Now that I know more about the actual structure of the plant, part of me, would like to dissect a flower to inspect all its elements from more of a botanical perspective, even if it means destroying the beauty of the whole in my quest for understanding (of course, I’d have to buy my specimen and would never ever consider picking one from the bush). Moreover, while we’re being scientific, Waratah (Telopea) is an Australian-endemic genus of five species of large shrubs or small trees, native to the southeastern parts of Australia (New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania). The most well-known species in this genus is Telopea speciosissima, which has bright red flowers and is the NSW state emblem. The Waratah is a member of the plant family Proteaceae, a family of flowering plants distributed in the Southern Hemisphere. The name waratah comes from the Eora Aboriginal people, the original inhabitants of the Sydney area, and means beautiful. Meanwhile, its botanical name, Telopea, is derived from the Greek ‘telopos’ meaning ‘seen from a distance,’ a reference to the fact that the flowers stand out like a beacon in the bush.

Above: Stained-glass window Sydney Town Hall.

Naturally, such a beautiful and outstanding flower has attracted artists and creatives alike. It’s long been incorporated as a decorative feature in Australian architecture and throughout art, literature and even on clothing. While its inherent beauty speaks for itself, the Waratah also shouts “Australia”. Distinguishes us as a nation, a landscape and a people. Moreover, going back in time, the Waratah naturally appeared in the Dreamtime Stories of the indigenous Aboriginal people.    This one talks about how the Waratah, which was originally white, turned red: https://dreamtime.net.au/waratah/

Margaret Preston: “Wildflowers etc” Woodcut.

Lastly, we come to actually trying to grow the Waratah yourself. As I said, we actually tried this back when we were idealistic newly weds and were actually connected to our garden and had hopes for its future along with our own. Although the conventional wisdom is that Waratahs thrive on neglect, our usual modus operandi didn’t work in this instance and they didn’t survive long. So, when it comes to advising you on growing Waratahs yourself, I had to turn to the experts from Gardening Australia. Indeed, they’ve very kindly put a video together and the sheer number of flowers on these cultivated plants is very impressive and such a sight to behold. Indeed, I didn’t think it was possible to have so many blooms on one tree. They’re stunning and this brief clip is well worth checking out: https://www.abc.net.au/gardening/factsheets/waratahs/9429106

Meanwhile, no foray out into the bush is complete without some form of incident. After going for an exhilarating fossick on Wednesday, I managed to lure Geoff out there yesterday during his lunch break. “Oh! You don’t even have to go off the road to see them,” I say. Well, this was very true. However, of course, we wanted to check out the surrounding wildflowers, which are also particularly good this year. The brightly coloured wildflowers were backdropped by blackened, charcoaled tree trunks survivors of a bush fire or back burning. It was hard to believe how many of these seemingly dead gum trees were actually still alive and had a healthy crown of gum leaves crowning out the top. many of which has somehow survived against the odds and are sporting an abundant crown of hardy leaves at the top.

Anyway, we kept walking along photographing the flowers and admiring glimpses of the ocean and distant Palm Beach through the trees. I spotted a large bulbous rock up ahead and suggested we scale it and check out the view. That was nothing special, but I thought the rock would make for a good photo and in my usual photographic zeal where I swing from the chandeliers before checking the prevailing conditions, instead of sitting down on what I thought looked like a set of rock stairs, it turned out to be a slope and as Geoff put it, I went “rock surfing”. I’m quite accustomed to falls. Indeed, I’d tripped earlier in the week and have a nasty bruise on my left arm. However, as my leg seems to twist in different directions, I sensed a whole different kind of horror and was half waiting for the snap…a broken leg. OMG! Such a simple manoeuvre as walking down a bit of rock in the bush, and there I am yet again calling out to Geoff. Once again, he’s watching his crazy wife fall, break and snap right in front of him and he’s powerless to intervene until its over.

Fortunately, I didn’t break my leg (or my neck for that matter). I managed to hobble back to the car after a brief wait and it is weight bearing. However, it does hurt and its not happy. It’s had some ice, voltaren and neurofen and is bandaged up. Hopefully a bit of rest will do the trick and it will be right as rain again. I especially don’t want to have a significant injury over something so simple when I could’ve been skiing, mountain climbing…being an adventurer.

After focusing on the Waratahs in this post, I’ll be back to share the myriad of other wildflowers from our walks and hopefully I’ll be back out there soon!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Starting Over – Friday Fictioneers 17th September, 2020.

Dan couldn’t believe his luck when he spotted an almost new, wooden high chair sitting beside of the road. It had been sent straight from heaven, landing right at his feet. Although a new job would’ve been better, it was still an answer to prayer. He said nothing to Jess, and wrapped it up in a huge, pink bow. Dan didn’t have a TV, and didn’t worry about the news. Never found out what had happened, and how that high chair came to be sitting beside the road. The chair didn’t share its tragic secret either. It was starting over.

….

100 words. This week’s photo prompt has kindly been provided © Roger Bultot

This has been a contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. https://rochellewisoff.com/ Please forgive my clumsy links here. I’ve been forced over to the new block editor and am lost in the undergrowth. I am improving but still have a lot to learn.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 14th September, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I can actually share a good dose of balmy sunshine with you. It’s a lush Spring day here (just North of Sydney) and I’m feeling rather re-energized, and the bear is out of hibernation, and almost active. We dropped another carload of stuff off at the charity shop and we booked a council clean up for tomorrow. However, although large bulky items are disappearing left right and centre, our place is still packed to overflowing.

Well, we still live here, and we haven’t moved for 20 years. So, you could say we’re very settled. Alternatively, you could say we’ve been buried alive, but that wouldn’t be very nice and not a good way to start off a friendly chat over coffee, tea and left over Sticky Date Pudding. My Sticky Date weaves a strange spell over people. So, you don’t want to come in with a barrage of criticism and miss out, do you?

How has your week been? I hope it’s gone well. It’s been getting easier to escape the omnipresent influence of the coronavirus here now that cases in Melbourne are coming down, and Sydney didn’t take off and has managed to avoid lock down. I don’t know whether that’s because we’ve all been careful, but I know we’ve been lying low for a long time and didn’t go down to Sydney for Father’s Day with everyone out and about. A bit of short term sacrifice made for long term gain.

Last Wednesday, Geoff and I celebrated our 19th Wedding Anniversary. We got married two days before 9/11 and flew to New Zealand first thing on the morning on the 12th having watched the destruction and tragedy unfold on TV the night before Sydney time. Mum mentioned the other night that we must’ve been brave catching a plane at the time and heading overseas. However, flying to New Zealand felt like an even safer option. It’s even more isolated than Australia. However, as we toured Rotorua with its gurgling thermal pools and returned to our hotel to watch the coverage at night, the two landscapes made a ghostly parallel with the steam rising out of the geysers and the ash rising out of Ground Zero. No one will ever forget where they were and what was happening for them at the time and how we all were gripped in the wake of those attacks. Life has never turned back.

It’s unfortunate that talking about our Wedding Day invariably involves 9/11. It was such a magical day and the consumate fairy tale. It was held at Curzon Hall which is just like a fairytale castle. I’d always wanted to have my wedding reception there. It’s so magnificent, especially here in Sydney which is largely a modern city. By the way, let me just say, I’d love to live there. However, after we returned from our honeymoon, we were back to our “Renovators Dream”, which was meant to be a stepping stone but we’re still here 20 years later and the renovation still isn’t done yet.

At lunch celebrating our 19th Wedding Anniversary.

As I mentioned, Geoff and I went out for lunch for our anniversary at a local nursery. In addition to lunch, we’d decided to buy a Cymbidium Orchid, which I’d had in my wedding bouquet and in pots at the Church. However, although the nursery was out of stock and so we we ended up buying a couple of Gardenias and some ornamental cabbages as well. I haven’t done a great job with gardening in recent years. However, I saw some photos of when our son was learning to walk and I’d planted heaps of bulbs in the garden and really took care of it, and it looked quite pretty. Of course, I’ve been very ill since then and I’m not getting younger either. However, it gave me a flash of hope. Or, at the very least, a maybe…

It would be lovely for our house to become a home again!

Meanwhile, my research continues. I’m now reading Louise Mack’s A Woman’s Experiences in the Great War—was published in 1915. Louise Mack was an Australian journalist and author who was based in London when the war broke out. Of course, all journalists were vying to cover the war and it was unlikely they’d send a woman. However, she spoke four languages, had her papers all ready to go and was very persuasive. That, along with having a lot of pluck, courage and determination. The book outlines her eye-witness account of the German invasion of Antwerp and what it was like living in occupied Brussels. After she returned to Australia in 1915, she gave a series of lantern tours around much of Australia talking about her experiences in Belgium, which particularly brought the sufferings of Belgium to life. Although they were outlined in detail in the newspapers here, it must’ve been much more meaningful to meet someone who had been there and lived through it. Australia responded generously to help the Belgians and extensive fundraising was undertaken right around the country, which I only found out about while doing this research project.

Are you reading anything at the moment? I always seem to be reading a lot of different things without getting them finished, which concerns me. Somebody more disciplined and regimented would finish one before they start on the next, and if they were iffy about finishing it, they’d pass it on. I have been reading some books I really love for awhile. Some, I really don’t want to finish, and this includes Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence: on Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark. It’s a brilliant book, but it’s also one you can draw out and don’t need to read it in one sitting for it to make sense. I’m also reading Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. A few years ago, I started reading: The Book Thief . Although I absolutely loved it, I’ve started it twice and haven’t got through it, and I don’t know why. Perhaps, that’s one I really have to focus on. Meanwhile, this morning I started reading Selwyn Hughes’s How To Help A Friend. This book is brilliant too. While this might be stating his message too bluntly, e argues that everyone who considers themselves a Christian not only has a responsibility to care, but should have the heart for it as well. Just to share one quote I particularly appreciated from this book: “Harvard psychologist Gordon Allport called love `incomparably the greatest psychotherapeutic agent in the universe.'” I can see this book is really going to fire me up, although it might make me a bit disillusioned as well. After all, it is usually difficult to translate visions into reality, but I have to believe that if our hearts are in the right place, that we’ll at least offer some difference and a bit of hope.

Anyway, I’d better keep moving. I’m trying to get things sorted out for the council clean up. Our Rome took almost 20 years to construct, so it’s not going to disappear overnight. However, we’re at least we’ve making some good progress, and are trying to keep the momentum going.

How has your week been? What have you been up to or have you read something you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you and hope you and yours are keeping well and safe.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by https://eclecticali.wordpress.com/.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Happy Anniversary – 19 Years On…

It was our 19th Wedding Anniversary on Wednesday a figure which automatically takes me through to next year which will be our 20th and worthy of all the pomp, circumstance and luxurious travel it deserves. At this juncture, I don’t know whether I’m looking forward to the same time next year, or whether we should be carpe diem seizing the day while the going is good. After all, everything is relative and 2020 hasn’t been our worst year by a country mile.

Rather, while there have certainly been some struggles, we’ve also had some surprising good luck and overall I think we’re coming out ahead. Not that this stops us from being very conscious of the horrors, disappointments and draining inconveniences which are still being endured globally. However, I don’t want to appeal to the sympathy vote ourselves when compassion, understanding, financial support and love really need to be channeled towards those who need it most and that isn’t us.

However, I did want to celebrate and acknowledge that Geoff and I have made it this far. Share that we actually did manage to get out for an indulgent, romantic lunch at our favourite special venue…the Impact Plans Cafe at nearby Empire Bay. Although we’ve had quite a few luxurious sunny days, this wasn’t one of them. Indeed, it was cold and wet and we even wondered whether the cafe would still be open for a late lunch after Geoff had attended a zoom meeting for work. However, it was like they were just waiting for us and only a couple of tables were taken, which was wonderful in terms of staying covid safe. I’m naturally cautious about going to cafes even though there’s virtually no known covid around here.

As I considered this post, I wondered whether to to put the wedding photo first as the featured image, or whether to start off with our older, more decrepit selves and then flash back to Cinderella and Prince Charming on their big day when, to use the Australian vernacular “we scrubbed up awlright”.

Knowing what lies ahead, I feel tired just looking at those two naive “babes in the woods”. This is actually how my father refers to himself and my mother when my birth started going horribly wrong like an express train accelerating straight over cliff, except I was stuck and not moving anywhere. I can relate to that ourselves looking back. No matter how prepared or cocky you might be, you simply have no idea what’s going to hit you right between the eyes. That’s what we should have been prepared for, instead of thinking about a five year plan. 

Nineteen years down the track, it only natural to ask whether we’d go back and do it all again?

“Can it be that it was all so simple then
Or has time rewritten every line
If we had the chance to do it all again
Tell me, would we?
Could we?” 

-The Way We Were. 

Or, would we run, possibly even in two opposite directions?

I don’t know. There’s a big part of me now that thinks Geoff and I should’ve boarded a yacht and just kept sailing continuously out towards the sunset. Don’t go chasing rainbows. Stand tall like a sunflower and stare deep into those rays and not turn round.

However, I suspect this life of simplicity, without the love and responsibilities of becoming parents, wouldn’t be as rich. That a life well-lived is a textured tapestry filled with ups and downs and no one’s trajectory usually keeps just going up and up.

That’s not to say I’ve given up. As a writer, I still believe in stories and one day I’ll get there after all these years of scribbling and tapping away. I’ll have that published book clutched firm in the palm of my hand.

I don’t know what that has to do with our wedding anniversary, except I do. Our marriage is a partnership and due to my disability and severe health conditions, I haven’t been able to work in the way I expected and to maintain my career in marketing. Indeed, after going through chemo and almost giving up the ghost a few times, it no longer seemed quite so relevant either. I didn’t care how many widgets were sold. I wanted people to be content. I wanted our world to be a better place. All the extra layers of fluff really didn’t matter most of the time. That good loving, caring relationships were more important and I also felt I had a lot to relay through my writing and research. Not just my own observations and opinions, but also those gathered up along the road. Wisdom, after all, is a collective “being”. It’s not just the product of one mind.

Meanwhile, I want to go and dig up our wedding photos etc and show the kids. We also have our wedding video which we’ve never edited and have certainly never shown the kids or any of our current friends. I wonder what they’ll think of the two glamorous love birds? I wonder if they even see a glimpse of us?

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share…7th September,2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend CoffeeShare!

This week,I’m just going to keep it brief because time’s gone up in smoke and it’s really late and I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and wake up with the birds (I mean kids) and get myself back into more regular sleeping hours. You might recall that I’ve mentioned all this before, and the struggle continues. Being in lock down along with Winter colds and lethargy haven’t helped either. However, now that Spring’s arrived, I feel a new lease of life and the need to get the show back on the road.

Yesterday, was Father’s Day. Rather than repeat myself, you can read more about it here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2020/09/07/making-do-fathers-day-2020/

By the way, I apologise for some of my formatting difficulties For those of you who aren’t familiar with WordPress, they’ve changed their editing processes completely and I’m unable to find quite a few features I depend on and I don’t really feel like wasting a lot of time trying to nut out this system I don’t like. I’ve noticed a few of you aren’t happy about these changes either. So, perhaps we should start a revolutions.

Anyway, I might try to get back tomorrow to flesh this out a bit more.

In the meantime, I hope you and yours are keeping well and safe. This is another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I almost forgot to mention that we sent our once beloved family car off to the wreckers this week. She’s been with us for 19 years, and drove us home from our wedding and also brought the kids home from the hospital when they were born along with numerous holidays, commutes to work etc. You can read more about that here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2020/09/06/farewell-to-the-family-car/

Yesterday, was Father’s Day here and rather than repeating myself, you can read more about it here:

Making-Do Father’s Day 2020.

Yesterday, was Father’s Day here in Australia. While for some, particularly in Western Australia where life in almost back to normal, it might have been business as usual yesterday, for us it meant not going down to Sydney to see my Dad “just in case”. This wasn’t particularly upsetting, because we saw my parents a few weeks ago and intend to go down in a few weeks when everyone’s not out and about quite so much. We just wanted to be cautious. After all, you can’t uncatch covid, and you can’t uncatch giving it to someone else. Moreover, when a few of you are highly vulnerable, caution is the better side of valour, as the saying goes.

Meanwhile, during the week people were asking what we were doing for Father’s Day as though it were New Year’s Eve. You can’t just “do nuffin” or “stuff all”, not even when you’re a dad of a bub and all you want to do is sleep for eternity. Gee, in retrospect that now seems particularly harsh. I’d be much nicer to Geoff in hindsight, and even let him put up his feet for the day rather being so exhausted myself, that it was still action stations. We also had the added complication, that I was critically ill much of the time our kids were small, and it wasn’t easy. Indeed, we were parenting in a constant storm. However, we weren’t the only ones, and there are even more battlers out there now what with Covid and everything that goes with it. I give all you mums and dads of young bubs a huge shout out today. Hang in there if you’re finding the going is tough.

It doesn’t seem like all that long ago, that Geoff and I were back there juggling newborns. Soon, one of these days, Geoff and I might become empty nesters. This is both something you look forward to and dread as a parent, much like your kid getting their driver’s licence. You’d love them to drive themselves around, so you can hang up your taxi plates. However, you want them to drive inside a very protective plastic bubble. Indeed, let’s make that a concrete-reinforced bunker!

Anyway, our kids are now 16 and 14. Without any hesitation of a doubt, they were much more enthusiastic about Father’s Day spirit when they were in pre-school, and it pretty much got left to me to save the day. I probably should’ve rallied some time last week to get them motivated, but I was lost in a covid fog. Actually, I was touching base with the kids’ teachers. No physical contact allowed for most of this year and the wheels have fallen off and I’m just trying to get the full picture (even if it does fall into the “You don’t want to know department”, as in my daughter’s algebra result).

Anyway, at least Geoff had a chance to watch some car racing today, and the two of us went for a quick bush walk right on sunset. There were some real explosions of colour in the trees and I did take some photos, but more as a reminder to head back today to do them. After all, it’s Spring here and we’re stepping out of hibernation albeit wearing mask and gloves in crowded areas.

My sympathies to people in Melbourne and anyone else who celebrated Father’s Day in lock down. There’s no point trying to put too bright a spin on lock down. It is what it is, but hopefully the numbers will come down and you and yours will be okay. Anyway, we’re thinking of you.

Well, now I’ve finished my toasty, I’ll beheading back to the lookout to explore those stunning flowering trees. It’s amazing how motivating it is to have a beautiful Spring day where the air’s just filled with balmy light. I’m almost on top of the world.

So, was it Father’s Day yesterday in your neck of the woods? Did you do anything to celebrate? Or, perhaps it was more a time of reflection, disappointment or regret. If so, I’m thinking of you. Our day ended hit the downward spiral after dinner. So, we know all about less than perfect special days. Indeed, it’s often these special days which seem to turn out the worst.

Love & Best wishes,

Rowena

Farewell to the Family Car…

It was a long, long time coming and extremely overdue. Yesterday, our blue, 2001 Nissan Pulsar was ceremonially collected by the wreckers and carted off to heaven.

A few days ago, I’d been overjoyed that Geoff had finally gotten around to getting it towed away. It was finally going to be scratched off our never-ending to-do list.

However, when the moment finally came and this massive tow truck pulls up outside our place to cart her off, it was a different story. Indeed, I was more reflective than expected and both Geoff and I formed a guard of honour of sorts to see her off.

We’ve been through a lot with that car. We bought it new in February 2001 just after we’d got engaged on Valentine’s Day, it just so happened that we bought the house in about the same week. Things were on the way up back then. All our Christmases had come at once, and we were impervious to future bad luck. We were engaged and invincible! We’d come through our bad luck and it was all going to be smooth sailing from here. None of what I now know to be the regular ups and downs of life, that precarious journey along the snakes and ladders, and far away from the laws of gravity which dictate that what goes up, comes down.

it’s been about 18 months since the car was last driven. In that time, it’s been superseded by the two luscious red Alfa Romeos. I don’t know what it’s taken so long for that car to go, However, there was something about me needing to clear stuff out before it could be hauled away, and Geoff needing to arrange to get it picked up. I’ll also blame Covid, even though it was awaiting pick up at least a year before Covid came along. I should also mention that my husband grew up on a farm in North-Eastern Tasmania where deceased vehicles simply rusted into the dirt. However, we don’t live on a farm. Moreover, my husband is collector of cars and you could say one more just blended into the landscape, even if the landscape was just a suburban back yard. There’s also this other factor that we’ve almost had the blue Pulsar for 20 years and it has simply become part of our landscape…here but not here.

Seeing the old girl off, brought so many memories to mind, especially bringing the kids home as babies from the hospital, which is such a massive event for all families. Huge. Yes, the kids had come home in the blue car. Fallen asleep in the blue car. Fought in the blue car. Thrown up all over the back seat in the blue car. My husband and I had argued in the blue car, and at least he’d driven off in the blue car in a few heated moments. However, what I hadn’t remembered til tonight, was that we drove home from our wedding in the blue car. I’d totally forgotten that. I only remember pulling up at the Church in the Mark IV Jaguar convertible. I was such a princess and it might’ve only been for one day, but the memory remains (and I still have the tiara to prove it.)

So, by the time the old girl was being hauled up on the tow truck, I almost felt like dragging her back. Giving them back their $150.00 and saying I’ve changed my mind. No! The blue car will stay with us forever. Can become some kind of water (or even rust feature) in the back yard. After all, all those memories are so precious. They need to preserved and it felt surprisingly sad to wave her off. Yet, at the same time, our place is getting buried alive in cars and it had to go. Time to cherish the memories and the photos without its physical presence.

Still, you know that just like saying goodbye to Bilbo the family dog who had been with us for 12 years from the time our daughter could crawl, the car also served us through a long, and monumental time in our lives. From when our son was a baby to being just one year out of school. By this time, it was our back up car and we’d bought a younger red Pulsar, which I unfortunately wrote off in the hospital car park a few years ago. While I’m not a real car person, the family car certainly takes you places and some how becomes more than just a car. Indeed, how many people recognize their friends by their car? How many people become their car. or it becomes them? There’s some strange psychology in that. Indeed, there could well be an entire branch of psychology dedicated to cars and their owners. It would be busy.

I wonder if any of you have had a car for a long time and it saw you through a lot? Or, do you have a special car with some stories to tell? How do you relate to your car? Is it just an A to B job? Or, a character car which is something special? I should mention that we also have a Morris Minor, but that’s another story for another day.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Catching the Lift with Leunig

Six years ago I met Australian cartoonist and humanitarian, Michael Leunig, in a lift on the way to hear him speak. I was overwhelmed by excitement and the sense that this special opportunity was destiny. That I was meant to catch the lift with Leunig. I have come such a long way since then, but I don’t want to forget the journey or what it was like to be there, because there are still so many people going along the road I trod only they’re isolated now during covid and unable to heave their loved ones around. Perhaps, this will make it through to one of you and I send my love on the wings of angels and may you know that God holds you in the palm of his hand, even if you can see he’s there. Love, Rowena

Beyond the Flow

Sometimes I’m flapping my wings so much that I can’t even see what, or in this instance, who was standing right in front of me waiting to get into the very same lift. It was Michael Leunig…the cartoonist, poet, artistic visionary, philosopher, humourist. Of course, being my usually oblivious self, I had no idea. Fortunately, my friend tapped me on the shoulder and the next thing, I was boldly introducing myself and we shook hands. I actually shook hands with Leunig. Oh my goodness! I was never going to wash my hand again!!

Not only did I get the chance to shake Leunig’s hand, we talked. Even though I talk underwater, I somehow had to condense so much into just a sentence or two and managed to mumble something about him being a light bulb in the darkness when I had brain surgery. That was enough. After all, when you…

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