Author Archives: Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 24th January, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? If you were coming to my place, we’d be sitting out the front wearing masks and sending hand signals. Covid has gone from being “over there” (a common phrase used here in Australia due to our geographical isolation) to being in certain hotspots, and then “out there” but not local. However, now it is here but not here. Loads of friends have had it or have it, but as far as we know, it’s not inside our house, or indeed inside our very own lungs. At least, we think it’s not. I can’t even even smell a RAT let alone buy one.

When I think of covid creeping around like this and the sense of it finally getting hold of you, I’m reminded of a kid’s folk story which was read aloud to me with great inflection and animation. “Who’s Got My Hairy Toe?” There are a few variations of it, but the one I know finishes off very dramatically with the dreaded monster saying: “YOU”VE GOT IT!!!!” I still haven’t forgotten that sense of absolutely leaping out of my skin forty years later, but there’s what this whole lurking omnipresent covid situation feels like right now. Fortunately, some vulnerable people I know (including those with my medical condition) have got through omicron without going to hospital so that is encouraging.

Meanwhile, life goes on.

Most of the news this week relates to our son, who is just a couple of months off his 18th birthday. Last week, he went away to the Church’s youth Summer Camp. This is probably the highlight of his year. He does sound and DJ work usually at camp, which he loves. I don’t know a lot of what happens at camp, and the old adage “what happens at camp stays at camp” applies, although I did chase up covid transmissions afterwards and he was full of stories about the pranks other people were caught up in. While he was away, we got into his room and I was just going to wash the bedding, but before I knew it, I was going a major clean and we were actually able to walk through the joint to install an air-conditioner. This was good, because we were expecting to lock him away in there for a few days after he got back as a precaution. However, when he arrived home he was so animated and full of stories, it was hard to stay away.

Going to Summer Camp isn’t such a thing here in Australia like it is in America and possibly Canada. However, our kids have gone on Scout and youth camps. The first time our son went off to the Scout Jamboree, we received an urgent text warning us that funnel web spiders had been found in two backpacks when they arrived home. Our son promptly removed his pack from his room and dumped it at my feet. I don’t know what madness made him think Mum was the great protector and defender against deadly spiders, especially when HE’S the one who is into spiders. However, kids are always unpredictable and keep putting parents on our toes. There were no spiders in the pack, and hopefully no covid in him now.

It did feel good to get his room sorted, and it’s encouraging me to keep going.

During all this household sorting business, I came across a postcard advertising sailing with the Young Endeavour. The Young Endeavour Youth Scheme, in partnership with the Royal Australian Navy, provides young Australians with a unique, challenging and inspirational experience at sea on board the national sail training ship Young Endeavour. The actual ship is a replica of Captain James Cook’s Endeavour which “discovered” the East Coast of Australia in 1770. These days we are hopefully more sensitive to Australia’s Aboriginality, and that Australia was never “lost”, or a blank canvas, or “terra nullus”. However, that’s another story.

What matters here, is that I actually managed not only to fill out the paperwork, the next day I was notified that he had a berth. On the 21st March, 2022 he sails out of Geelong, Victoria and arrives in Sydney on the 30th nine days later. This means we’ll be driving him down there, and will be there to see him arrive back. This is such good news, because he’s had quite a few significant disappointments and setbacks due to Covid. Most notably, he missed out of his European History Tour in 2020 and that was a very big deal. This, he feels, makes up for that, so now we’re saying our prayers and crossing our fingers that all goes smoothly and he’ll be off. Nothing is a certainty anymore and while I try to be optimistic sometimes I feel doomed. That we might indeed be under an unlucky star. However, usually my spirits lift and our plans aren’t dashed on the rocks after all.

Meanwhile, in between trying to get our daughter organised for heading back to school on February 2nd, I’ve been beavering away on my family history research. I’ve taken January off my WWI research and wasn’t intending to do much research at all but the weather hasn’t been the best, covid’s around and I’m back at it.

My book pile is also growing beside me. These are the books I’ve bought in the last couple of weeks, and a new book pile which is growing beside my writing chair in the loungeroom. This is not the book pile on the coffee table or the book pile I lent to a friend first because I thought she’d get through them all before me. There’s still Kay Arthur’s: “Choosing Joy”, but recent arrival are Tim Hawkes: “Ten Leadership Lessons You Must Teach Your Teenager”. I’m going to start reading that today, and I think the title is just asking for me to read one lesson per day. Jules Sebastian’s book: “Tea and Honesty” arrived today. I couldn’t wait to order that even though I’m well and truly overloaded with books already. She’s married to international musician Guy Sebastian. Guy’s songs are deep and philosophical. Moreover, Jules’s brother committed suicide while they were on their honeymoon, so I think she’ll have some good things to say. There’s also Sally Rooney’s novel: “Normal People”. It’s been around for awhile. Have you read it? Then, there’s Mark Kurzem’s: “The Mascot” which is a WWII Jewish escape story. I loaned it to a friend first and he loved it. Lastly, I’m reading my aunt’s national history of the Stolen Generation to fill background on some of my family history. My great grandfather’s cousins were married to Aboriginal women and living in the Yass Black Camp so I’m trying to find out more about that.

Uncle Roy left and my grandfather on the right. This might’ve been my grandfather’s 90th Birthday.

Lastly, my Great Uncle passed away during the week. I think he was 97 and still lucid. I haven’t seen him for quite awhile. He was the youngest in the family and my grandfather was the eldest and there were four sisters in between. They were born and raised in Hahndorf in South Australia which is like living in a museum in many ways, especially if you are living in one of the original houses on the main street. The Haebich used to have the blacksmith’s shop on Main Road and my grandfather told stories of watching the hot iron wheel plunging into water a steam shooting up. It must’ve been such a spectacle especially back in the days before TV and the Internet. I’m not even sure he went to the movies as a young child. He never mentioned it. Thanks to covid and distance, we won’t be getting down there for the funeral.

The Kids and I outside Haebich’s Cottage 2013

Well, that’s all folks.

How are things with you going? I hope you’ve had a good week.

Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 17th January, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Believe it or not, it is actually Sunday night. Or, more accurately early Monday morning, because it’s after midnight and I’m not about to confess just how far after midnight it might be. Let’s just say the cow jumped over the moon quite awhile ago now. So, I’ve actually made good headway and hopefully won’t be rushing it through on deadline again. After all, it’s a whole new year, and I’ve been reformed, transformed but strangely still look, feel and act much the same as I did last year.

Awhile back, I remember hearing someone say covid was from the Devil. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of that. However, as time goes by, I’m increasingly pointing the finger at the man downstairs and wondering whether he does have something to do with this mess after all. After all, he’s not going to leave his calling card out as he spins his evil web. If he’s really smart and let’s just say he’s had a lot of experience at being the Devil, he’s cunning and knows how to cover his tracks. He’s not like the two year old who stole the chocolate bar and is denying it while having chocolate smeared all of his his face and tiny hands. He slips right under the radar and probably even convinces you it’s all your fault when it was him all along. Anyway, we have people like myself boarded up at home avoiding covid. We have people holding covid parties to try to catch the darn thing now and get it over and done with. I even read a story tonight about someone who hosted one of these parties and everyone else caught it but him. In the last 24 hours, NSW had 48,768 reported cases. However, that’s a spit in the ocean. It’s mission impossible to get tested and the big question on everyone’s lips is where can you get RATs? Perhaps, I should start selling off the residents of our roof if they’re still up there. They could make me a pretty penny right now.

How many of you have had covid or had someone in your household with it?

You know things are weird when you’re teenager goes shopping with her friend and brings home a slab of toilet paper.

I live in Greater Sydney, and until now we’d largely been spared. I didn’t know anyone locally who’d acquired covid and we could do our typical Australian thing of thinking we’d be right. Being relatively isolated, we can hide away from quite a few of the world’s ills. However, our politicians in their infinite wisdom, decided to “let it rip”. Now, to quite a friend, “it’s everywhere”. The NSW Health Minister says “we’re all going to get it.” Sounds like I might as well just throw myself under the bus and get it over with. However, my dad heard that the health department expects only 50% of the population to get it, which is much better odds, and he’s determined to be in the 50% that doesn’t get it. I’m out to join him. Meanwhile, our son is at youth camp and very likely to bring it home. We’re trying to be prepared for that. A number of my friends have caught it, and are still isolating at home. Where it gets tricky is how to manage it when you have a household especially where someone is vulnerable, how to you contain the contagion? As the days go by, things have escalated so quickly and we’ve gone from very low cases numbers to an explosion and it’s no longer in Italy, USA, UK it’s our our favourite cafe. It’s at church. The hardware store…but only a case here and there, but now it’s in our homes. The Grim Reaper MKII is actually in our homes. Indeed, it’s even invaded some of us. It’s not very nice.

Meanwhile, I’ve been beavering away on my family history, and trying to enter it into Wikitree. I’m really pleased to be getting it online to share it, but also if something happens to me, my research will be out there. I’ve been doing it for years and my kids aren’t hugely interested. At least, not yet. Hopefully, someone or someones will appreciate it all or in part.

One of the interesting things I found out a few years ago is that two of my Great Grandfather’s uncles married Aboriginal women and that he had cousins who were Aboriginal and a number had been put in orphanages, and were part of the stolen generation and really had a rough time. I’ve known about the Stolen Generation and known members of the Stolen Generation and heard their stories. Indeed, my aunt wrote the national history of the Stolen Generation and I was living with her at the time and read through some of the drafts. She was so strong reading through all their stories and interviewing these people and taking all their heartbreak on herself. Of course, I cared about that and was outraged. However, it’s quite a different thing to know that someone from your family went through that, and to hear how that not only impacted on them personally, but also for generations to come. It’s made the racism in the country which is directed at our indigenous people even more abhorrent. You might not be aware of this, but Aboriginal used to be classified as fauna on the national census. They weren’t even considered human. So, I’ve entered all these names into Wikitree and hope it helps someone out there to find their roots.

He hasn’t quite hit the road yet, but he’s turned on the ignition. Geoff is talking to him through the window. Must remember to keep it simple. He asked which pedal was the brake. We do so much on auto-pilot.

I’m inclined to tell you that nothing much has happened around here, because truly it hasn’t. I’m locked away avoiding covid, and it’s very humid outside and I’m struggling to breathe outside and need the air-conditioning on. However, this I remember and it’s so bad that I guess I filed it in the denial basket. A 13 year old local boy was stabbed and murdered by another 13 year old about a 15 minute drive away. To be honest, we assumed initially that it had happened in our local park after dark. However, it happened further afield but that won’t make a different to the family and friends. My daughter’s friend’s brother was good friends with the boy via the football club and the two families are friends too. I bought a succulent in a pot for the brother and wrapped it all up in cellophane just to acknowledge he’d lost his friend and that mattered. I also gave a bunch of sunflowers to his mum. It’s just awful. This fight was unfortunately was pre-meditated so it’s not looking good for the guilty party. Two lives ruined in an instant, and families shattered. It also reminds me how vulnerable teens are to making truly life-changing mistakes. I bought a book on leadership for teens by a friend of mine Dr Tim Hawkes who is a retired headmaster. I’m hoping it can knock some sense into my kids, although I doubt they’re read it. I’ll try and glean the wisdom from it and slowly but steadily drip feed it through.

I also just remembered that I’d written last week’s coffee share post before we had our drama, and something did actually happen here. Last Monday afternoon, Geoff was out the back working on the trailer, when he cut his leg open and rudely disturbed by cup of tea. Indeed, I was told to call 000, and fetch the medical kit. At least, we had one this time. A few weeks ago we couldn’t even find a Band-Aid when our son burned his foot on his campfire. Geoff went into shock and didn’t quite pass out, but he wasn’t able to speak and sweat was pouring off him. Good thing I was under the misguided belief a ambulance would pull up any tick of the clock, because although I was stressed, I wasn’t in total panic. As it turned out, that Monday was not a good day for the ambulance service and they advised me to take him myself in the end. That day, a woman gave birth to a premmie baby at home and there was no ambulance for them either and they drove themselves to hospital and she was giving the baby heart massage in the back seat. After hearing that, our drama was nothing.

Our son leaving or Summer Camp. I told Geoff that he at least could’ve photographed his face, but at least he got no protest. The poo brown esky belonged to Geoff’s mum and is probably now a collectable despite being baby poo brown.

Meanwhile our son has gone off to youth camp. He’s gone for three days and we fully expect him to have covid when he gets back. However, he has such a good time there and I couldn’t bare for him to miss out.

Shopping with her friend. Masks are our second-skin around here.

Our daughter is currently on school holidays putting in a lot of shifts at McDonald’s and the holiday dance classes have started up again. We are also starting to thinking about buying her a special tutu and we were just browsing through a few to get some ideas. It’s like shopping for a wedding dress without having to worry about what happens afterwards.

Well, how was your week? I probably should’ve asked you that at the outset and not the end. However, I have pictured up having coffee together. Indeed, it’s been a rather long coffee because once again deadline is looming and I’m about to miss out.

Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Our Brave New World.

We all know we live in a crazy world right now. However, when your teenage daughter goes shopping and is chuffed to procure a lifetime’s supply of toilet paper, you know the world’s gone stark raving mad.

Well just to reassure you that all isn’t lost, she also bought clothes.

The day she goes out and just buys toilet paper, is when we all need to start figuring out how to colonise the moon.

What’s going on in your neck of the woods? I don’t think anyone knows which way’s up or down here. Supplies are short in the shops, and shelves are bare across all categories. I’ve barely been near the shops. So, this is second-hand intelligence from Geoff who was doing our shopping before he bunged his leg up. Meanwhile, as many around us are falling like flies to omicron, we’re still okay. Our son heads off to youth camp on Saturday and we’re expecting trouble when he gets home and are trying to procure RATs before he gets back.

Hope you’re all keeping well.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS Jokes aside, I am grateful she thought of us when she spotted the toilet paper. Supplies were getting low at home, and she was being so considerate and helpful. Its traits like this I value most as a parent.

PPS Just spotted a link to my original post on toilet paper hoarding: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2020/03/16/the-cranky-minion-in-corona-quarantine/

Ambulance Driver & Crew

Perhaps, I should’ve kept my big mouth shut. After all, as the saying goes: “be careful what you wish for”. However, I was quite clear about what I wished for. That was “fun”. I’ve barely been out of lockdown since late June, and it’s wearing thin. However, when I said I needed more fun, I certainly didn’t mention anything about “drama”, or God forbid…”panic”. Moreover, I’m doubly sure I mentioned nothing about medical emergencies, or wanting to live out the show: “24 Hours in Emergency”. I’d also like to add, that Nurse Nancy is a Little Golden Book character, and should also stay well within its covers, and well away from the real world. While we’re at it, I’ll also clarify that I’m a taxi driver, not an “ambo”.

However, that all changed today.

I was sitting inside having a cup of tea when the phone rang. It took me a bit to grasp what was going on. There was just a “hello”, and I was trying to work out who it was and what was going on. Of course, you’d expect me to recognise my own husband’s voice on the phone. However, the voice sort of sounded underwater. However, in what seemed like an eternity, I managed to ascertain that Geoff had had an accident in the backyard, and had a nasty gash to his leg. He also asked me to call an ambulance, and bring out the medical kit. I also grabbed a cloth nappy. Although I never used them as nappies for the kids, I still have my stash and they come in handy.

Heading out to the backyard, I found Geoff sitting on the step of the garage. On the phone to the ambulance, I handed him the nappy to wrap around his leg, while wrestling with the medical kit one-handed trying to get it open. Geoff also ended up having to open that up himself. Meanwhile, the operator was asking me a lot of questions about how Geoff cut himself, and the wound itself. However, by now Geoff is unresponsive, and I can’t get a word out of him. I’m feeling like Johnny come-lately. I know nothing about what happened. He’s also sweating profusely. Yet, while it should be panic stations, I was relatively calm. After all, I was talking to emergency and any minute those sirens will be blaring and everything would be okay. Like miraculous, heaven-sent angels, they’d soon be here to save the day.

Now, they’re asking me if he hit an artery. With no blood in sight, it doesn’t look like it. I should be relieved, but he’s still unresponsive, and he’s clearly not okay. While he’s not bleeding to death, I don’t want him to plummet down their triage list just yet, although I know he has. I’m well aware our hospital system and ambulance network is seriously overstretched responding to covid. However, fortunately Geoff perked up, and was probably more in shock. Despite being asked not to move him, it’s hot and muggy outside and we get him inside and into the air-conditioning – me too. My breathing isn’t good, and with my bad lungs, stress and humidity, I might be needing the ambulance myself.

A paramedic calls me back to touch base. We weren’t forgotten. With an extended delay ahead and Geoff doing much better, he explains it would be better for us to drive Geoff into hospital ourselves to get him seen faster. There is a risk of infection, and after six hours he’ll be needing intravenous antibiotics. Obviously, that’s best avoided, and someone else has been already been waiting for 12 hours in the queue. I ask the paramedic if he minded if I talked it through with him. I’m not quite sure I can do it yet. As you may be aware, I have disability and health issues. So, it wasn’t a straightforward consideration. To make matters worse, I wrote the car off in the hospital carpark a few years ago when I was taking our son to Emergency. However, I’ve come a long way since then and started believing more in myself. That I could do it.

Of course, I knew we could ring a friend, and ask them to drive us. However, I was feeling okay. Besides, we had help…our number one son. He turns 18 in a couple of months and now has a man’s strength. Indeed, he is actually quite strong. “Of course, he’s strong,” I hear you say. However, I’m his Mum. While I haven’t thought about him being “my baby” for a very long time, he might still be “my boy”. All these years, we have been his strength, even through the very worst of my debilitating muscle weakness. Now, in the blink of an eye, he’s grown up. Strong as a rock, he would be there to help get his dad into the wheelchair and into the hospital. That sounds so ordinary, yet it was incredibly profound. At least, it was to me. I hope it meant something to him too, and he was encouraged.

We arrived at the hospital. To my macabre sense of humour (which is always more heightened in medical emergencies), I felt like we were on the set of The Godfather. Instead of driving the red Alfa, I’m pulling up in a black, mafia mobile with really dark tinted windows, and we’re turfing him out on the pavement outside the hospital with a bullet hole in him somewhere, instead of this cut to his leg.

This is what happens to your loved ones these days thanks to covid. We’re not allowed to go in with him, and in all honesty, I can’t go in anyway. Covid is literally everywhere, and I’m very vulnerable. I do not want to go anywhere near the hospital. So instead of sitting lovingly by his side, our son fetches a wheelchair and someone to push it, and he disappears behind closed doors.

By now, it’s 6.30pm, and time for dinner. Geoff doesn’t eat seafood, so we head off to the local Chinese restaurant to order Honey Prawns. However, being Monday night, they were shut, and I had to settle with our son’s choice of KFC.

Meanwhile, after packing Geoff an overnight bag with PJs, a couple of clean shirts, undies, toothbrush, and phone charger, we’d barely got through dinner, when the phone rang. He was all patched up and ready for pick up. I’m not good with keeping track of time, but he might’ve been there for an hour. Apparently, the wound wasn’t as deep as he thought. However, it still warranted 18 stitches. So, to translate that into the Australian vernacular, it was an impressive “scratch”.

A scratch? We went through all of that for a scratch?

To be perfectly honest, we didn’t go through all of that for a scratch. It was for love, and as cheesy as it sounds, because we’re a family. Family isn’t confined to your genetics. It can also be a choice….a special connection, a bond. However, having someone to ring when you’re in trouble and who will be there for you in that special way, is life changing and it stops people falling through the ground when the chips are down. Of course, we also have our faith and know God is always with us. However, his ways aren’t always our ways and our time here is finite. That’s not something which stares me in the face every day, but it is something I factor into my expectations.

So, while I was looking for fun today, I found drama, but also a renewed appreciation of our family, and so much gratitude for the growth in our son.

I’d like to share a poem I wrote about him when he was five not long after he’d started school. I was helping out a lot in his classroom and helping to teach the kids how to write and hat all important thing of leaving a finger space in between the words, which for them wasn’t something they could just eyeball and get it right. It was quite a slow, conscious, and very physical process of actually putting their finger on the page and writing around it and they had to concentrate so much. It was hard work. I flashed forward from that moment to when he walked out of that gate and he’d become a man. He still has a way to go and he’s really been up against it with covid, but he’s getting there. Today, as they say, was proof of the pudding.

This post has covered quite a bit of ground, but I’d love you to respond with stories of your own.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I’d just like to add that the road hasn’t been easy for our family, and we have really toughed it out. I don’t know whether I’d describe us as particularly happy, but we’re not miserable either and that says a lot. There’s gratitude, but also envy, disappointment and being human. Whatever else we are and however we might feel in the moment, we are a family…us and our dogs.

Christmas 2020

Weekend Coffee Share 10th January, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, I am going to launch off the New Year with a huge philosophical question: why do I always leave writing my coffee share posts down to the last second where I’m racing the clock and nearly missing out by a hair’s breadth?

This sums up 2022 so far and may look familiar to friends of Max the Dog.

I don’t know. Indeed, now more than ever, I have no excuse. The air is covid soup out there, and so I’m either at home or walking around in nature, although I must confess I went to the opportunity shop last week albeit wearing a mask and avoiding all human contact because right now we know EVERYONE has the plague, even if they haven’t fully appreciated it themselves. I guess that also includes me, and my cough, but I always have that so it would be hard to know. Although I’m triple vaccinated and take my daily dose of 1000mg vitamin C, I fully expect to KNOW if and when I get covid on account of my crappy lungs.

Anyway, I’ve become so distracted that I’m distracted from my distractions, and even spent two days entering my family history stuff into Wikitree like a woman possessed. To be honest, I can’t really explain it, but there I was populating cyberspace with all these people who were strangely represented by little Lego people in my head and their little Lego city started out as Surry Hills and Paddington in urban Sydney, and spread out over the Blue Mountains to a place called Rylstone near Orange. It’s a place I’ve never heard of before but it was interesting reading the little newspaper clippings I came across about their life out on the farm there, especially after they’d come out from Ireland.

In a sense it’s not surprising that my need for people interaction, family and friends has become rather warped when I’m an extrovert living underground. We just had Christmas at home with the four of us and were even counting the three dogs this year. Yes, that means there were actually seven of us for lunch and almost enough to constitute a “party”. My parents decided not to attend the big family Christmas to be on the safe side, and by the end of me trying to convinced them to go, Dad won out and we stayed away too. I couldn’t be sure our kids didn’t have it, and I didn’t want Dad’s siblings who are mostly over 70 catching it and going down badly.

However, we made our own day, and we razzled things up a bit with a genuine German Gingerbread House from our local German bakery, and we went driving around looking at the Christmas lights. These were people’s houses so mostly they weren’t as spectacular as what Natalie had to share from Toronto, but there were a few houses that really made a valiant effort. Indeed, they were completely over the top in a way that had to be be seen close up to be fully appreciated.

Not only did we cancel attending the big family Christmas, we also cancelled our annual family holiday to Byron Bay to see Geoff’s sister at Nureybar two doors down from Liam Hemsworth btw. We couldn’t be sure that we wouldn’t be taking covid with us and that area is heavily anti-vax and into natural therapies and it really didn’t feel like it was going to be a true holiday. That we’d be having to be so vigilant, we were better off at home. However, we will take a rain check.

So what with going without the big family Christmas and the holiday to Byron Bay, it sounds like we’ll soon be wearing hessian sackcloth and truly going without. Some would say there’s growth and something strangely cleansing about all of this. You know, leading the simple life and all that. I’m not so sure. I get onto that devil of envy Facebook and see friends smiling away and having real holidays. Am I smiling back at them? What you you reckon? I haven’t stayed away from Facebook completely but it’s definitely not my friend right now.

Meanwhile, outside beckons. Not in a pleasant way though. It’s telling me to go for a walk. Exercise. That’s wonderful when I get there. However, it’s rather cosy at home in the air-conditioning and it’s muggy out. You can almost see the steam rising off the lawn. There’s good reason to go into a sort of comatosed limbo right now and wake up in March when it’s not so hot, muggy, and this covid peak they’re promising is gone. I can go into a crowded room of friends again with a mask and smile, hug and drink champagne without keeling over dead.

So, I’m probably not the best entertainment right now. However, I can recommend a good book. I loved reading Amanda Lohrey’s: The Labyrinth, and I’ve started reading Kay Warren’s: Choose Joy. I really should’ve been delving into that, because I’m been choosing to grumble instead. Well, grumble might be understating things a little but you get my drift.

Anyway, Geoff and I have been going on quite a few walks and even a trip to the Mt Penang Parklands, although the photos are still on my phone and in the pipeline, as the saying goes.

Well, I have to admit I’m proud of myself. I’ve been typing like crazy against the clock and thought that my hour was up but I still have 45 minutes to go. Well, of course, I still need to add a few photos and pretty it up a bit. I’ll even add a few links. Gee, you’re going to get all the bells and whistles now when I thought I might need to cut it short and come back later to finish it up.

This means I can now share my top ten songs for transitioning from 2021 to 2022:

I also shared a few insights into what Christmas 1921 was like after such a strange and challenging couple of years. Of course, we think we’re badly off and the world’s never known anything like this before, even though we’ve all heard of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919 and there was something about two world wars as well. However, why let truth get in the way of a good story? Anyway, I shared a letter English-Australian author Ethel Turner, wrote to Australian children in 1921 and a fundraising drive she organised, while also writing a post setting the political and cultural context. Our 2021 wasn’t so bad after all.

Anyway, I have vowed to be more organised next week. Actually do my Weekend Coffee Share on the weekend instead of Monday afternoon Sydney time.

Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Caught In The Never-Ending O’Sullivan Maze

Over the last couple of days, I’ve found myself caught in the ultimate avoidance device -the Never-ending O’Sullivan Maze.

Well, you might ask where and what on earth this is. If you’re looking for a physical address, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Hang on. There are actually physical addresses after all, but what this maze is referring to is nutting out my O’Sullivan family history and entering all these people into an online community at Wikitree. This is a free online database, which allows me to document and share my research and connect up with cousins without feeding the Ancestry machine. I am a great fan of the “free economy”.

Before I get stuck into the whys of the O’Sullivan Maze, I thought I’d launch off with the whats (or is it the whos?) Actually, it is a who. Who were the O’Sullivans? Next question: why do they matter?

Some would argue that they’re rather random and remote ancestors of mine. Although I don’t mention it very often on the blog, my surname is Curtin, although I’m actually known more by my married name, although I’ve only half-changed the legal documentation after 20 years of marriage. To reach the O’Sullivans, we need to go via the Curtins.

James Curtin, son of John Curtin and Bridget O’Sullivan with his wife, Charlotte Merritt

The story begins with John Curtin, who was my first Curtin ancestor to arrive in Australia. He was baptized on the 1st July, 1831 in the Parish of St Finbarr’s, City of Cork County Cork, the fourth child of Thomas Curtin a stevedore on Cork Harbour and Mary Scannell. On the 5th December, 1853 he sailed out of Liverpool as an Able Seaman on board The Scotia, and arrived in Sydney on the 2nd April, 1854.

On 5th September, 1855 John Curtin married Bridget O’Sullivan at the more humble, original St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney . John was aged 22 and Bridget was around 19 years old.

Bridget O’Sullivan was born around January, 1834 in Mallow, County Cork, Ireland to Daniel O’Sullivan and Mary Egan. They were living at Jones Lane, Mallow when she was baptised on the 20th January, 1834 by Father DM Collins who went on to become part of a delegation of Irish priests to lobby the English government for support during An Gorta Mor or the Great Hunger. Her sponsors were Edward Foley and Johanna Leary. Bridget had two younger sisters, Catherine and Mary Ann. The O’Sullivans sailed out of Plymouth on the 6th July, 1851 arriving in Sydney  on the 8th October, 1851. Shipping records state Daniel O’Sullivan’s occupation as Farmer’s Labourer and Mary Ann was a dairywoman. Bridget was 15 years old. She could read and write and worked as a General Servant.

The O’Sullivans didn’t just come out to Australia because they had nothing better to do. Rather, there were probably two forces at work. Firstly, there was the An Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger or “Irish Famine”) 1845-1852, and the discovery of gold at Bathurst, NSW on the 12th February, 1851. When you put those two forces together, it was a no brainer. Moreover, Daniel’s brother David O’Sullivan, and Mary’s brother, Denis Egan, were already out here, and had paved the way.

Irish Signs at the Porterhouse Pub, Surry Hills.

That was how the O’Sullivan maze through Sydney’s Surry Hills and Paddington began. Around 1890, Daniel O’Sullivan’s brother, Denis and his wife Hanorah Cahill arrived in Sydney with their four children and youngest son, John Paul, was born in Sydney after they’d arrived. Their daughter Catherine Agatha married Thomas Edward Augustine Plasto on the 24th May, 1879 Sacred Heart Church, Randwick. They had six children before she died on the 25th November, 1891 and her husband went on to have an additional eleven children with his second wife. Fortunately, however, they’re not part of this maze, and the Plasto children were just the tip of the iceberg.

Anyway, before Denis and his family arrived on the scene, we had Bridget who had married John Curtin, and they had nine children. Before you start thinking they bred like rabbits populating Surry Hills, Paddington and beyond; three of their children died as infants.

Meanwhile, Bridget had her two sisters living nearby and I guess this is where I’m heading with this story…a story of three Irish sisters arriving in Surry Hills and the various ups and downs they and their descendants experienced. However, before I can really delve too much into the story, there’s the scaffolding of the actual family history and how these Irish families in Surry Hills and Paddington intermingled both genetically in families and as community. That’s what mathematicians refer to as the “working out”. You always need to be able to show your working out (if even if it’s as tedious and boring as those genealogical passages in the Bible.) You can’t just go from A to Z without being able to show how you got there.

Bridget Curtin’s sister, Catherine Murphy and husband Thomas had a grocery store at 410 Crown Street, Surry Hills. She did in 1895 and this photo was taken a block away on the corner of Fitzroy and Bourke Streets in the 1930’s. However, I thought it made a good parallel and I’m sure this woman, like Catherine Murphy, would’ve had her finger on the pulse and known what’s what in the community.

I have no sisters. I don’t have any idea of what it is to have a sister, and I’m barely in touch with my brother. I don’t want to idealise these relationships or create a closeness that wasn’t there. After all, perhaps these sisters had some intractable falling out and while they almost lived on opposite street corners, perhaps the emotional distance was an impenetrable void.

Charlotte Curtin and sons outside their grocery store on Cleveland Street.

That’s the trouble with writing non-fiction especially using real people with real names. Ideally, you somehow manage to walk in their shoes rather than turning them into a reproduction of yourself. Placing your stamp on their forehead. That is something I take rather seriously, and to be honest my efforts to reach the truth more often than not prevents me from writing anything at all.

My grandfather “Robbie”” and brother “Eddie”. Their mother’s handwriting was on the back of the photo.

Anyway, that’s not what I’m doing now. I’m transferring my who begat whom into this Wiki genealogy thing online. I don’t know why I started doing this. Well, I sort of do. I was talking to a friend and discovered a mutual connection via the Spora family and I was trying to nut it out. Bridget O’Sullivan’s niece, Johanna Maria Murphy, had married Gaetana “Frank” Spora and they’d had eight children. Three of their sons headed out to Rylstone near Orange taking the family out West. It’s interesting to see where all these various branches of our family tree headed of to.

Bert Curtin (left), and son Bob (my grandfather)

As it turns out, our family also sounds like a roll call of Irish Australia: Curtin, O’Sullivan, McNamara, Murphy, Donovan, Maguire, Quealy, O’Neil. They lived on Crown, Fitzroy, Albion, Arthur, Campbell and Ann Streets Surry Hills and also in Paddington and Woollahra. My grandparents made the radical move of crossing over the Sydney Habour Bridge after they got married in 1940. They starting out in Mosman, and settled in Lindfield, a suburb which came to represent their house within the family. My father and most of his siblings married outside the Irish-Catholic fraternity, which could well be a good thing. I married Geoff from Tasmania, and even then my kids managed to gain an additional O’Sullivan to add to two from me. I am yet to find out if mine are related. However, the Great Great Grandfather from West Maitland was actually born in Albion Street Surry Hills and his mother was Mary Sullivan, daughter of John Sullivan and Mary Bourke also of Cork. Small world…!

Anyway, I blame the mad lunatic in me who is in self-imposed lockdown trying to avoid the covid menace for all of this. The official stats clocked up to a massive 45,098 cases today and the graph just keeps soaring straight up. It’s covid soup out there and our family is madly trying to prepare for the likelihood that someone is going to bring Covid home, and how we’re going to manage that seeming inevitability. I spent a few hours on Friday afternoon trying to access RATs (Rapid Antigen Tests). There’s been no mention ANYWHERE about making them available for people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. Trust me. I’ve looked. It’s like we don’t exist. Physically I can’t queue for half an hour let alone 4-5 hours, and if I don’t have it, I don’t want to catch it while I’m waiting either. We can’t take our kids to be tested either. Indeed, that is even more of a no-no. Perhaps, they’ll have to walk. Who knows? I could be reading books, going for walks, baking, playing my violin and yet for some mad reason, I started working on this. The only explanation I can come up with is escape. Pure escape. No one would ever think to find me here – corona virus included.

Do you have Irish heritage? Or perhaps you’re Irish yourself? Maybe you have no Irish blood whatsoever, but you’d still like to have a chat. You’re all welcome. The cricket is on the TV but I’m ignoring that, and I can offer you a cup of tea, some leftover gingerbread house, but it’s a bit more difficult to offer you a seat on the couch.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Our Sound of Music on New Year’s Day!

I couldn’t resist. When I saw that The Sound of Music was going to be on tonight, I knew that no matter how hard I might try to resist, I was going to watch it. Not just because it was on, and I had nowhere else to be, but because I wanted to watch it. That I had to go through the whole Sound of Music experience all over again. Immerse myself fully.

Miss outside the Brent Street Studios where the auditions were held.

Besides, Sound of Music brings back some very special memories of of my own. When my daughter was about nine, she came home from a dance class with a torn out strip of paper in her hand. On it were written the details to audition for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of the Sound of Music in Sydney. A scrap of paper wasn’t an auspicious beginning, and I must admit I was rather unenthused. My grandmother had been a child prodigy concert pianist, and I’d had expectations thrust on me at an early age. However, the desire was coming from her, not from me. Moreover, she’s very hard to say no to. Before I knew it, I was filling out the application form and sending off a photo. It was only then that I bought a copy of the movie, and saw how much our daughter looked like the original Marta, and wasn’t surprised when she scored an audition. The first thing she had to do was pass the height test. Then came the singing audition, and then onto dance.

These days, Miss doesn’t do a lot of singing. However, back then she’d performed in quite a few large choral performances at school, including School Spectacular. However, she’d also been diagnosed with vocal nodules and was struggling to speak let alone sing, and had been seeing a speech therapist. However, why let a small thing like that get in the way of your dream? Moreover, if you know us even just a little bit, you know we don’t give up that easily.

Persevering with the keyboard while on the nebuliser. I only need it a few times a day so not a big deal.

Just to complicate matters further, I ended up with a major chest infection, asthma and needing to go on the nebuliser in the week leading up to her audition. I wasn’t about to let that stand in my way either. Anything short of a near death experience, and I was getting her to that audition myself. Call us daft in hindsight, but once the juggernaut is in motion, it takes a hell of a lot to make it stop.

Miss playing the keyboard.

So, there we were a fine pair in the week before the audition. Miss with vocal nodules and me on the nebuliser. Yet, we prepared and practiced the songs. It had been years since I’d touched a keyboard, but I pulled out this gizmo I’d bought out at a market for the kids…a rollout electronic keyboard which could go on the kitchen table and it didn’t matter if we wrote the notes on it. It was hardly my mother’s precious Steinway grand. I also wrote the songs out with the corresponding letters because she coulddn’t read music. However, while learning the songs on the keyboard was sparing her voice, she couldn’t see the point of it all, and when the horse resisted, I pulled back. In hindsight, it was all probably a bit too much, but I meant well.

Converting the musical score into “Miss-Speak”. I really worked hard to help.

By the way, there was a rather comical twist to her audition. The night beforehand, we were able to stay with a friend in the city to make things easier. As it turns out, my friend was a Major in the Army Reserve and just happened to be in uniform when he dropped us off at Brent Studios. So, as you can see, she had a proper military escort to her audition.

Miss with the Major

We were kind of grateful when she didn’t make it through to the callbacks. I don’t know how parents magically “make it happen”, but we’d have been bending over backwards and inside out to pull it off. Yet, we would’ve done it.

Miss is now 15 going on 16. So tonight as I rewatched the Sound of Music, she was now almost the same as Liesl, the eldest of the Von Trapp children, but fifteen going on sixteen instead. Of course, this isn’t all smooth sailing, and she was the only one of us who was out and about last night.

If you would like to find out more about the original Von Trapp family, this is a good quick read: https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/winter/von-trapps-html

In the meantime, with covid at large and management in NSW in complete disarray, it might be an opportune time to catch up with a few other movie classics. The Blues Brothers was on NYE along with Can’t Stop The Music with the Village People. I’ve watched that after midnight for probably the last five years but it was on before midnight this year and I missed it. I’m also trying to start reading Amanda Lowrey’s book: The Labyrinth (along with getting through a massive book pile). Gee, along with wanting to enjoy the outdoors and sort out the house, top of my wish list for 2022 is nine lives.

Best wishes,

Rowena

My daughter and I a few months ago after getting our post lockdown haircuts.

A New Year!

I have no idea what to say about the arrival of 2022, except that it’s here and none of us have a crystal ball.

We had no plans, but weren’t disappointed, except in the music which accompanied this year’s TV viewing of the Sydney Harbour Fireworks.

Although we spent the night at home, we went over to Pearl Beach in the afternoon, and walked around the rocks. It had been an exceptionally hot day (especially after all the heavy rain we’ve had lately). So, by the time we arrived in the early evening, t was perfect. Happy Days.

However, covid had even made it onto the local rock face.

The Covid Pandemic in Pearl Beach

That might not sound like much, but people don’t write things on our rocks around here as a rule.

So, you could say that it represents a degree of frustration.

Or, perhaps it’s simply a statement of fact!

Of course, it’s probably not “a local” being this time of year, but some interloper from Sydney, although the people of Pearl Beach probably blame the uncouth hoards from “over the hill” (which includes yours truly).

However, if covid truly comes to town, Pearl Beach is prepared. I spotted this:

After dinner, as per usual, we watched the fireworks extravaganza on TV grateful for the extraordinary celebrations going ahead amidst uncertainty and stormy weather. Indeed, listening to the news tonight, I could be excused for thinking life was continuing on business as usual. At least, that’s what we’ve been told.

What did you get up to for New Year’s Eve? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes & only the best for the New Year,

Rowena

The Great Cake Heist

Last night, we fell victim to a dastardly criminal mastermind, and much to my personal embarrassment and shame, I have to confess it wasn’t the first time either. Rather, it was a repeat offender…a “recidivist” as the convict records would’ve reported in utter disgust. Wonder how many lashings dear Rosie would’ve received back in the day for thieving half the freshly baked coconut cake off the kitchen bench last night? Instead, we just banished her outside. She was lucky she wasn’t dispatched up the hill to the RSPCA, which in this case should be renamed the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Humans.

Mango and Raspberry Coconut Cake with cream cheese icing.

However, this raises another curly question…forgiveness.

Should we forgive and forget? Turn the other cheek? Let Rosie steal tonight’s replacement cake? Or, should we inflict the greatest of punishments? Make Rosie an outside dog?

Meanwhile, Rosie is parked right at my feet, which is rather unusual. Should I interpret this as contrition? That she’s actually sorry? Indeed, she’s now licking my ear and there’s no ball in sight. If it were any other dog, and I’d have no doubt. However, Rosie is her own dog. She bows to no master, and refuses to come when called. I find it hard to believe Rosie has developed a conscience overnight, but stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile, we have a teenager at large tonight and dubious conduct might not just be the province of the canines in the house. With all this focus on covid and the thieving canine , have I been overlooking the biggest elephant in the room of all?

Parents of teens on New Year’s Eve, stand on guard!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Ten Songs To Farewell 2022 & Bring Hope for 2022.

Wandering round the blogging traps lately, the last two years have taken their toll and there’s no real confidence that things are going to be any better in the New Year. We’re on a journey of uncertainty, and looking into more of a snow globe scenario than into a crystal ball. However, that doesn’t mean it’s all hopeless. Or, that the last two years have been all bad, and covid hasn’t been a blessing – as well as a curse. That there hasn’t been joy. Indeed, as pollution cut back, our natural world even improved .

However, so many are cut off from those we love, and that is truly hard. So many of our young people, have had the rug pulled out from beneath them. My kids are caught up in that, and their friends.

It’s important to acknowledge these struggles. Not just keep going without allowing ourselves to grieve, withdraw, rethink. It’s perhaps a harder route, but we’ll be stronger and wiser for it – and a much better friend.

Anyway, these songs start off with a bit of a good riddance to 2021, and bring some hope and encouragement for the New Year.

So, here goes, and please let me know if you have any suggestions:

1) Let It Go – Frozen

2) I’m Still Standing Elton John

3) Standing With You – Guy Sebastian

4) The Prayer By Andrea Bocelli performed by Guy Sebastian and Bella Taylor-Smith

5) You Raise Me Up

6) The Beatles – With A Little Help From My Friends

7) Bruno Mars – You Can Count On Me

8) Israel Kamakawiwo’ole – Somewhere Over the Rainbow

9) Louis Armstrong – When You Wish Upon A Star.

10) Louis Armstrong – What A Wonderful World

So, as we continue to grapple with the puzzle that’s life on Earth, I’ll not only wish you and yours the conventional “New Year”. I’ll also pray that God’s richest blessings will be with you, and if your hearts are hurting, weary or confused (which is certainly where I put myself right now), that you will experience His peace which surpasses our understanding, and has the power to renew even when all seems lost.

Love and blessings,

Rowena and family

PS: One more:

Guy Sebastian – Climb Every Mountain