Category Archives: art

Searching Through the Old Family Photographs…

Why does it take the death of a loved one for us to open up, organize and enjoy the very best of our old family photographs? How could they end up in compete disarray, scattered all over the place, shoved in an old shoe box or ignored? Why don’t we look at them more often? Appreciate them?

I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. If I did, I wouldn’t need to come back here so often. I’d already know.

Then, somebody dies, and all hell breaks loose.

Where is that !@#$ shot from 1947?

Not in any of the easy-to-find places.

On New Year’s Day, my very much loved Great Aunt passed away, and I was back at it again.

Unprepared.

Pages from my great grandparents’ photo album where my grandmother is the little girl.

To make matters worse, I’ve lost the scanner cable, and I have a huge pile of snaps aka precious memories, to copy because, of course, it’s all about the slide show these days, and the old static album’s been thrown back into the ark. Moreover, due to covid clusters in Sydney, the Queensland border has closed yet again to NSW. So, we’re not allowed to go to the funeral, and will be watching it online. This makes the photos even more precious. They’re the only concrete thing we have.

So, I’m currently sitting here with a pile of photos ready to be scanned, and I just know I’ll never be able to put them back where they came from. Of course, this would drive your garden-variety perfectionist round the bend. However, being somewhat more laissez-faire, I’m not that fussed. I’ll just find a few empty pages at the back of a random album, and when I’m preparing for my son’s 21st, I’ll find my grandmother and her three siblings standing in front of Mt Tibrogargon in amongst his baby photos.

My grandmother (second from the right) with her three siblings in front of the rather imposing Mt Tibrogargon (one of Queensland’s Glasshouse Mountains) around 1940.

Of course, you’d never do anything like that, would you?!! No! Not ever! All your photos are neatly arranged in chronological order, and possibly even scrapbooked.

However, what I lack in organization, I made up for in presentation and generosity. No one outside these four walls saw the chaos. They just clicked on an email and saw a wonderful, eclectic series of family photos of my aunt, uncle, grandparents, cousins and beautiful memories, and felt the love.

It’s the love and shared memories, which keep drawing me back to these precious photos, and why they’ll always be special. The people may no longer be with us, but the photos continue to keep them close.

Have you shared any special family photos or stories on your blog? I’d love to see them and hear your stories.

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Piano Deconstructed.

As the saying goes “you can’t even give a piano away anymore”, especially when it’s over a hundred years old, out of tune, verging on decrepit, but with just enough life left to hope someone else might take it on. For the last five to ten years, we’ve been trying to give our piano away. Although we’ve had a few nibbles over the years, there have been no takers, and it just kept sitting here covered in picture frames, and an accumulation of household detritus and dust.

“Some people are aware of another sort of thinking which… leads to those simple ideas that are obvious only after they have been thought of… the term ‘lateral thinking’ has been coined to describe this other sort of thinking; ‘vertical thinking’ is used to denote the conventional logical process.”

Edward de Bono

However, as we found out, it’s all about the packaging. Or, perhaps I should say, how you package it. While no one wanted the entire piano, we finally managed to get our friend Neil interested in the parts. Indeed, he ended up towing most of the piano away in pieces over a few trips, and we were particularly excited to be able to keep the strings in tact, even if Geoff did have to saw through more than 10 centimetres of solid wood to pull it off. Neil’s already mounted the felts in his loungeroom where they’ve become an curious discussion point, and there are plans for a seat out of the wood. Meanwhile, I’m wondering how the birds and possums are going to respond to the ghostly sounds the keyless strings will be playing out in the bush until he works out what to do with it.

Yours truly photographed with the hammers extracted out of our piano. Neil’s cleverly mounted this on a wall. It’s intriguing.

Meanwhile, I have to tell you how much we enjoyed deconstructing this humble 100 year old piano. I know that sounds absolutely terrible, especially when I’m from a family of accomplished pianists. Indeed, it felt very much like a chainsaw massacre, especially after we found out much of it had been glued together, and the only way to get it apart, was to saw it to pieces.

However, ironically pulling it apart emphasized the beauty of its parts, which had become lost in the whole, especially once some of the keys weren’t working, and the cost of restoration was never going to pay off.

Indeed, it was quite incredible to appreciate just how much work, skill and attention to detail had gone into constructing the piano, and I guess we felt a bit sad that it had ended up being a useless lump of furniture and a burden. Indeed, it went further than that. The piano had actually become a significant roadblock, stopping us from renovating our loungeroom and getting it to a state where we’d be comfortable inviting friends over and dare I say it (drum roll) ENTERTAINING!!

So, I guess you won’t be surprised when I tell you that this situation with the piano has become a great analogy for explaining how to deal with a large persistent problem. Somehow, we need to find a way of carving it up into smaller components which will be much easier to deal with so we can clear the decks.

I also think our handling of the piano problem also shows how persistence can backfire. Sometimes, we need to stop persisting and give up. Stop putting up with a burden, problem, difficult person or situation and decide that “enough is enough”. It is going, going, gone!

Do you have any special memories of the piano? Or, perhaps you have a few horror stories instead. It’s a shame that the piano no longer holds it’s place at the heart of the family home with people gathered round to sing and play together; and also how it’s demise can also be attributed to the clutter Nazi’s who on’t let another gather dust. It is OUT!

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

Salvaging the Masterpiece – Friday Fictioners.

Nancy was an artist and a dreamer. After visiting Monet’s garden, she was determined to transform her slimy, mosquito-infested pond into a masterpiece. Harry Hemsworth, reputedly a cousin of the legendary Thor, was doing the work, and naturally Nancy had to supervise.

Finally, the first lily had opened, and her art class was coming in the morning. The cake was just out of the oven, when her grandson burst through the backdoor clutching her precious lily: “Nanna, I brought you a flower.”

Nancy was dying inside, but tried to smile. Hopefully, Harry could sticky tape it back on.

98 words.

….

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © David Stewart.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 19th May, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, I guess I’d better ask all of you how you’re going first up and what’s happening around Covid 19 in your neck of the woods? You might need something stronger than a tea or coffee to get through that conversation. So, I’d better off you some chocolate. What do you prefer? We’ve acquired quite a stash in lock down. I’ve been doing the shopping online and snapping up chocolate on sale. It’s much tastier than toilet paper.

Quite frankly, I don’t know whether I’m Arthur or Martha at the moment. While I’m “creative” and not necessarily a great one for routine, I usually have the bare bones in place. Those activities which form a scaffolding and framework for the week and some sense of direction when you wake up in the morning. Indeed, you might actually wake up in the morning even the most chaotic and disorganized people and the freeist of free spirits have their anchor points. Indeed, I’m sure I had more structure when I was backpacking through Europe wandering like a cloud without a watch and no itinerary whatsoever, than living like this in Covid 19 lock down. What am I supposed to be doing? Where am I going?

Well, most of the time, the response to the latter is nowhere. Although I have been out for a few walks. This is what you term “exercise”, which sort of takes the buzz out of it to be honest, even if it does involve walking along our gorgeous beaches.

Oh, and before one of you remembers that I went down to Sydney to see my parents last weekend, I’ll stop being melodramatic, and express some gratitude for how well Australia’s getting through the coronacrisis and what a difference this has made to people like myself who are at high risk, and also to people with chronic or life-threatening conditions who depend on hospital beds. We’ve seen horrific scenes around the world but somehow we’ve been spared. It’s hard to understand, and I hope we have a handle on it now that restrictions are being lifted. It would be an absolute miracle.

Personally, I have to admit that the stress of having the coronavirus hanging round, particularly after having a few major asthma attacks during the Australian bush fire crisis and being locked away for a few months n the air-conditioned loungeroom, it’s a lot to deal with. The fact I’ve survived and got through without a scratch,  seems to minimize the battle and it’s like it never happened. My house didn’t burn down. I didn’t lose the lot. Nobody died. No trips to hospital. However, what our family has been through wasn’t nothing, and we’re not the only ones fighting these invisible battles beneath the radar either. It’s very hard, because it takes so much energy and thought to speak out that your emotions become quite intense and if the person you open up to doesn’t at least acknowledge your experience, you just give up. You don’t try again. Rather, you become silent, even though you might still be talking and the words are still coming out and your face, all except for your eyes, are smiling. In so many ways this is dangerous territory, because you’re rapidly disconnecting not only with those around you, but also to much of your self. That’s something those of us who know somebody who is going through a bit, especially an invisible battle, need to keep in mind.

Anyway,  restrictions are easing throughout Australia. Last Wednesday, our son returned to school for one day. That was quite interesting. When I asked him how it went, he mentioned the absolute silence. With so few students there, it was so quiet. He said that he could even hear the local trains going past, where usually he could only ever hear the horn. Our daughter hasn’t gone back to school yet. However, it looks like they’ll both be back to normal school hours next week. To be honest, that really freaks me out, and yet it’s perhaps a return to normal that we need, although I’m still concerned about them bringing home the virus and you just can’t presume that the kids will be okay themselves if they catch it. Meanwhile, having them home has felt like an extended holiday and it’s been great not having to drive them around. My son and I have been doing some cooking together and our daughter’s painted the back of her bedroom door cow pat, which looks really cool.

While some people have been Spring cleaning as their lock down activity, I’ve been writing but we’ve also been working on the house and yard and getting some renovations done. As you may recall, we bought a camper caravan for me to escape to if I need to quarantine from the family. It’s still parked out of the house, while Geoff sorted out the backyard, repair the garage roof and trimmed the bougainvillea before we could even start on restoring the camper. Then he won a few pallets of floorboards last weekend at an auction and  now I’m slowly moving the china out of the cabinet and relocating it wround the house. I don’t know if you’ve quite been on the hunt for real estate like this trying to squeeze your treasures into every nook and cranny. My friend works in a giftware shop and she does this all the time, and has a few casualties along the way. So, far so good. The piano is also going to be dismantled and put out for council cleanup. It’s really crappy, but I’m hoping I might be able to salvage some of the bits to stick them up somewhere around the house. I also want to make a sculpture of my grandmother the concert pianist where the pedals could become her feet. I’m not sure about how I’d build the rest of her, but I have some brass cuckoo clocks up in the roof, which I also thought about incorporating into a sculpture. By the way, what with storing up all these components, you might actually get the idea that I can actually sculpt, when I’ve never made a sculpture before in my life. That said, i did buy some wire and glue to make these papermache figures. Anyway, needless to say our house is bursting at the seams from all my inspirational ideas.

Meanwhile, I’ve been getting back into blogging again. I did my first Friday Fictioneers post for quite while and I also wrote  couple of poems which were inspired by Henri-Frederic’s: Journal Intime. I haven’t posted these as that limits what I can do with them. However, I did write a three part series reflecting back on our precious dog, Bilbo, who we lost three years ago. This wan’t soemthing I’d planned and to be perfectly honest, I woudl’ve opted for something more uplifting and funny at this point in time. However, there is humour in these posts as I reflect on Bilbo’s antics and I share about how we worked through our grief in perhaps some unconventional ways, which might help someone else get through their situation and perhaps feel less alone. I also want to leave these memories and reflections for our kids. They don’t pay much attention to Mum’s scribblings at the moment and I often feel I’m writing to myself when I really am often writing for them. That’s just the way it is and at least i have you friends out there who appreciate and encourage me in the present.

Anyway, here’s a link to the first of these stories which talks about Bilbo’s diet: The Dog We’ll Never Forget

My apologies for scooting off. Time has just flown away and I need to get to bed before sunrise this morning.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share.

Best wishes and please stay safe and well.

Best wishes,

Rowena

R – Rotorua, New Zealand…A-Z Challenge 2020.

Welcome to Rotorua, on New Zealand’s North Island and our latest stopover as we rapidly make our way through the A-Z of Places I’ve Been for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Rotorua is located on New Zealand’s North Island 228 km by road South East of Auckland and is roughly at the centre of the map down below.

map_of_north-island

At what felt like the crack of dawn on the 12th September, 2001 Geoff and I flew from Sydney to Auckland on our honeymoon. We’d got married on the 9th and had spent a few days at Sydney’s Whale Beach, and naturally couldn’t wait to get away.

However, when you have a closer look at the date, indeed if I write it in the American date format, I’m sure it will all come back to you…9/12/2001. That’s right. We flew to New Zealand on the morning of September 12 after watching two planes fly into New York’s World Trade Center. Indeed, it was probably still 9/11 in New York when we flew out thanks to the time difference.

At this point, I’m not sure if we knew about the third plane, but while we were in my parents’ kitchen, we watched the second plane fly into the World Trade Center and the collapse of the twin towers. Yet, although we were on the other side of the world in Sydney, Australia, we felt like we were right there. We could feel it in our pulse. There was no distance. It was absolutely horrific. I don’t remember much about the third plane at the time. However, I do remember US airspace closing down and our little Air New Zealand plane taking off, seemingly above and beyond all the troubles of the world. There have been times when I’ve cursed Australia’s tyranny of distance. However, (then like now as the coronavirus sweeps around the world), it was an incredibly relief, and a case of thank goodness for that!!!

Rowena Geoff Papa Bert 2001

My grandfather Myself and Geoff at Kingsford Smith International Airport, Sydney 2001.

By the way, while all of that was going on over in America, back in Australia, the 9/11 attacks coincided with the demise of Australia’s much loved Ansett Airline, which left my 88 year old grandfather stranded in Sydney. He’d come down from Queensland for our wedding, and getting him home wasn’t a small consideration either. Fortunately, Qantas came to the party, and while having my grandfather stranded was nothing compared to what was happening in America and at a global level, clearly it wasn’t an easy time to get him home.

Meanwhile with American airspace shut down and the demise of Ansett, I now marvel at how we got to New Zealand at all. However, I clearly remember thinking that we were flying into one of the safest places on Earth, and that a bit more distance from the rest of the world could only be a good thing. I certainly wasn’t worried about going to New Zealand at all.

However, although we were geographically isolated from events in America, there was no escape. The world was on tenterhooks. When we went out for dinner on our first night in Auckland, all the restaurants had TVs set up showing continuous coverage. Everyone was glued to it. Indeed, when we went back to our hotel, we were watching Ground Zero on TV much of the night, and at least for the next few nights. As I said, it felt like we were hovering on the brink, and I suspect many would agree, that life has never really quite gone back to how it was before 9/11.

From memory, we stayed in Auckland for three nights and then drove South-East to Rotorua. I’ve always wanted to experience the geothermal activity down there. Indeed,  as I saw all that mud gurgling and splatting away, I was reminded of a song we sang back at primary school: The Hippopotamus Song (Mud! Mud gloroius mud)

Rotorua Mud

Rotorua is part of the Taupo Volcanic Zone, a geothermal field extending from White Island off the Bay of Plenty Coast to Mt Ruapehu far to the south. Rotorua’s array of geothermal features includes volcanic crater lakes, spouting geysers, bubbling mud pools, hissing fumaroles and colourful sinter terraces. You probably need a geological dictionary to make sense of all of that, but it was spectacular. I also found a strange parallel between at desolate scenes of Rotorua and the dust and destruction at ground Zero.

DSC_9475

However, in addition to Rotorua’s incredible geothermal activity, Rotorua also allowed us to experience Maori history and culture at the  Whakarewarewa Village ,  which is the legacy and home of the Tūhourangi Ngāti Wāhiao people. I particularly appreciated this opportunity to immerse myself in Maori history and culture, because for me getting out of your own backyard and walking in someone else’s shoes is what travel’s all about. I don’t go away to experience a duplicate of home, even if that can be personally challenging and confronting. With Australia and New Zealand being neighbours, the Maori people and to some extent their culture, were familiar to me back in Australia. However, it was quite another thing to be on their home turf and to have the full-immersion experience and I’d really like to head back there with the kids. After all, experiencing cultural diversity should make us more open-minded and appreciative of all kinds of difference.

When I was going through my photos, I also spotted a rather architecturally striking building, which turned out to be Bath House which was opened in 1908.

The Fleet at Auckland. The Rotorua Excursion. (Per United Press Association).

ROTORUA, August 13.

The visiting American naval officer spent a pleasant day at Rotorua. The principal thermal wonders in the immediate vicinity were visited. An elaborate Maori welcome, with well executed songs and dances was given in the Sanatorium grounds. The Maoris gave many valuable presents to the guests. The new bath house was then formally opened by the Premier. In the afternoon the visitors proceeded in strength to Whakarewarewa when the native Meeting house was opened by the leading chiefs with ancient formalities. Maggie, Bella, and other guides conducted the visitors around the pools, fumaroles, boiling springs and other thermal wonders. The Wairoa geyser was soaped and responded magnificently. Maori entertainments were given in the evening. WANGANUI HERALD, VOLUME XXXXIII, ISSUE 12541, 14 AUGUST 1908.

Rotorua Bath House

Bath House Roturua,  opened 1908. 

As a whole, Rotorua is one of the most remarkable places I’ve ever been. You can now see so much online, that you get the feeling that you might not need to be there in person. However, Rotorua contradicts all of that and nothing compares to being there in person. We highly recommend you visit and allow at least a couple of days.

Have you ever been to Rotorua or New Zealand? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Sources

https://www.rotoruanz.com/visit/explore/geothermal

https://whakarewarewa.com/

 

P- A Different Perspective of Paris…A-Z Challenge.

“But Paris was a very old city and we were young and nothing was simple there, not even poverty, nor sudden money, nor the moonlight, nor right and wrong nor the breathing of someone who lay beside you in the moonlight.”

Ernest Hemingway

Welcome back to Places I’ve Been, my theme for the 2020 Blogging From A to Z Challenge. Today, we’re off to Paris, a city with a big name and enormous reputation.  Indeed, if you were ever looking for inspiration, you’d head to Paris if you could.

Paris Rainy Street

Paris also has its rainy days. Gustave Caillebotte: Paris Street;Rainy Day. Charles H. and Mary F. S. Worcester Collection

However, all that glitters isn’t gold. So, it’s hardly surprising that the realities of Paris could well be very different to the Paris of your dreams, especially if you linger beyond the tourist traps. After spending six weeks in Paris in the Summer of ’92, I felt it was no coincidence that Paris has spawned revolutions, along with philosophical, literary, artistic and fashion movements.Indeed, for me, it was both a city of incredibly dazzling bright lights, but also a city of equally dark shadows and despair. Potentially, it’s this juxtaposition which fuels her creative flow. Creates a gripping tension spawning ideas.

writing in Paris

Writing on the Window Sill at the Hotel Henri IV July, 1992.

Indeed, when I reflect on my time in Paris, I often wonder why so few connect the city of love with the city of heartbreak. After all, isn’t it inevitable? Well, at least, that’s how it seems to me, and I’m sure anyone else who’s ever been dumped in Paris would agree. Indeed, I used to follow a band called Paris Dumper, and if you’re still in any doubt, just watch Casablanca. Things didn’t work out for Humphrey Bogart in Paris either.

Rowena Paris motorbike

My quest for the meaning of life continued

Over the last few years, Paris has also been the scene of horrific and very tragic terrorist attacks, along with mass movements defending the freedom of speech and fighting to overcome such  racism and bigotry.

Meanwhile, the people of Paris live alongside all this storm and drang, and somehow they go about their business like rows of ants carefully circumnavigating all this drama. After all, the people of Paris are just like people anywhere else on the planet. They also need to eat, work, love and sleep.

View of Nore Dame

Johan-Barthold Jongkind (1819-1891). “Notre-Dame vue du quai de la Tournelle”. Huile sur toile, 1852. Musée des Beaux-Arts de la Ville de Paris, Petit Palais.

It has taken me quite a few days to get my head around Paris. If you’ve been following this series, you’ll already note that my travel series isn’t just a series of checklists of what to see in each place. After all, such travel information is only a click or two away, and there’s no need to replicate all of that.

Picasso Notre Dame de Paris

Pablo Picasso, Notre Dame de Paris 1954. 

Rather, I wanted to share with you was what it was like for a 22 year old Australian to spend six weeks in Paris, where I had some kind of finger on the pulse. After all, I wasn’t just there for a couple days frenetically speeding through my checklist like a crazed ant. Rather, we lingered over a continental breakfast at our hotel, the Henri IV on the Rue Saint Jacques, just across from Notre Dame.

Rowena Luxembourg Gardens

My Feet Hanging Out at the Luxembourg Gardens, which were absolutely delightful. We spent quite a lot of time there. 

Indeed, we met a couple of Americans over breakfast at the hotel one morning, and one of them had lived in Paris before and became our impromptu tour guide. I particularly remember him taking us to the Musee Rodin where we could not only see, but experience those incredibly sculptures, especially The Thinker and The Kiss. Wow! They truly electrified my soul, and moved me so much more than the famed Mona Lisa at the Louvre. They were absolutely incredible, and also became something of a photographic feast.

However, as a bunch of twenty somethings, we also had our daily pilgrimage over Pont Neuf into the Latin Quarter where we hung out at the Boulangerie St Michel. You could people watch for hours there, if that’s what you were inclined to do. Moreover, like the great French philosophers who exchanged ideas in the cafes in Paris, we also philosophised. After all, we were young travellers wandering through Europe with the wind. There was so much to think about and I’m pretty sure the absence of any kind of anchor or routine, wasn’t entirely good for the psyche either.

Jim Morrison Grave

Jimmy Morrison’s Grave. 

We were the only flotsam and jetsam wandering through Paris either. Aside from the cafes, we also gravitated towards Jimmy Morrison’s grave in Pere Lachaise Cemetery, in a never-ending vigil. “Tumbleweeds”  also hung out at the famous Shakespeare Bookshop where proprietor George Whitman offered somewhere to crash out in exchange for working for a few hours in the shop. I think I also read something about having to read a book a day as well, although I couldn’t be entirely sure, because I didn’t stay there.

Shakespeare Bookshop

The Shakespeare Bookshop

However, you won’t be surprised that I found my way into the Shakespeare Bookshop. By this stage, I’d spent three months on the continent and the Shakespeare was the only English-speaking bookshop in Paris. I was craving for the written word in my own tongue. Indeed, I clearly remember reading those words in my guidebook. However, what I suspect was missing from the guidebook, was the possibility of doing poetry readings at the Shakespeare and I might have heard about that from my American friend, Chris, who, as I said, had lived in Paris. Either way, a rather naive, young Australia who had self-published her anthology of poetry: Locked Inside An Inner Labyrinth fronted up to George Whitman and asked to do a reading.

Poetry Reading

Me & My Notebook…taken during my solo reading upstairs at the Shakespeare Bookshop

To put you in the picture, from what I’ve subsequently researched, having an unknown, young poet from distant Sydney, Australia approach the great George Whitman about reading her own poetry at THE Shakespeare, was very much along the same vein as young Oliver Twist holding out his bowl and asking: “Please sir, can I have some more!”

Obviously, I was a complete and utter upstart. However, ignorance is bliss and I knew none of that at the time. Indeed, I’m pretty sure I didn’t know terribly much about the Shakespeare’s incredible history and how it was a haven for literary giants like Ernest Hemingway, Anais Nin and Henry while they were in Paris. Somehow, Rowena Curtin of Sydney who’d performed at Sydney University’s International Women’s Day Festival, the Reasonably Good Cafe in Chippendale, Gleebooks and the Newtown Street Festival didn’t quite have the same ring to it.

Degas Ballet at the paris opera

Degas: Ballet At the Paris Opera. The Art Institute of Chicago.  

However, for some reason, he gave me a go. Not only that, he gave me a solo reading, which also meant having to draw up my own advertising poster to go in the shop window. Talk about cringe-worthy. In hindsight, I’m telling my 22 year old self to put that notebook back in your backpack and drink some more coffee…you little upstart!!!

However, if I’d done that and stuck to the tried and tested, I wouldn’t have this incredible and very unique feather in my cap. Despite everything I’ve been through since, nothing and nobody can take this away from me.

From what I now understand, my experience was truly remarkable. Apparently, young poets didn’t get a look in at the Shakespeare, and were strictly audience only. George Whitman wasn’t a soft touch either. I still remember meeting him and he was quite gruff, which is quite understandable now I know just whose footsteps I was treading on and what an extraordinary opportunity I had. Indeed, it’s an experience well beyond the scope of this post, as I’ll need to dig up those travel diaries once again. However, I’ll have to write about it soon. Indeed, I can’t believe I’ve left it so long.

paris_pont_neuf_001

The City of Lights By Night. The light dancing across the inky waters was rather alluring in those early hours of the morn. 

However, Paris had quite a heaviness for me, and I clearly remember writing poetry at two o’clock in the morning beside the River Seine just near Pont Neuf . Clear as day, I remember looking across the river and there was a group of young men with their ghetto blaster and while I should have been afraid, I was locked inside something like a bubble of grief where either I didn’t care anymore. Or, believed I couldn’t be hurt anymore. Just let me say, there’s a reason why there are so many bridges in Paris and it isn’t just to get to the other side.

Arc de Triomphe by Night

Robert Ricart, Arc de Triomphe by Night.

“Paris is Paris, there is but one Paris and however hard living may be

here…the French air clears up the brain and does one good.”

-Vincent van Gogh letter to Horace Mann Livens from Paris September

or October, 1886.

So, you can probably understand why it’s taken me quite some time to write about Paris, and why I couldn’t simply write some stereotypical tribute to all it’s sights and wonders. I have crossed known its dark side, wallowed in it and thanks to my very best friends and the grace of God, survived. Indeed, they got me on a train back to Heidelberg where my friends there picked up this crumpled bird and very slowly helped me regain my strength. The spirit of Paris ran me over and almost destroyed me completely. Indeed, for me, it is a city to be approached with a great deal of caution, particularly once you start carving a path beyond the roads most travelled.

Patisserie Paris

Paris could also be exquisite and incredibly delicious. 

I wonder if anyone else has had similar experiences in Paris? Or, perhaps in another time and place? I’ve also experienced a similar vibe in Byron Bay, which also attracts travellers, seekers and along with it’s incredibly natural beauty also has its darkness.

Best wishes,

Rowena

P.S> I would like to add that I didn’t experience all darkness and gloom in Paris, and that experiencing the heaviness of life isn’t all bad. That it’s often during times of struggle that we actually grow the most. Have our eyes opened to the enormous realms of possibilities which are always just out there waiting for us to stick our necks out, take a risk and have a go.

 

Frozen In Suspended Animation.

“All is as if the world did cease to exist. The city’s monuments go

unseen, its past unheard, and its culture slowly fading in the dismal

sea.”

― Nathan Reese Maher

Today, while I was out on my walk, there was something strangely eerie, even haunting, about seeing all these mannequins lined up in the front window of a local opportunity shop. From a distance, they even appeared strangely human, and like the rest of us,  frozen in suspended animation under some kind of a spell. Indeed, they’re even social distancing behind the glass. At the moment, they also have nowhere to go. The shop is shut due to Covid 19 until further notice.

When you take a closer look at each mannequin, you immediately sense the enormous care, attention to detail, and dare I say love; which have gone into dressing each one, especially when we’re talking about throwing together a pile of second-hand clothes. Every mannequin has also been given a pair of matching shoes, as if even they couldn’t possibly be seen barefoot, which is quite something for a beach community. Indeed, they could each be Cinderella dressed up to go to the ball. However, they each have their own personalities and different places to go. Some of the mannequins have even been positioned together…a couple, mother and daughter and a Central Coast Mariners’ supporter.  All these stories just waiting to to be lived out, once the door finally re-opens and each of these outfits finally walks out.

manniquins

Of course, not everyone is living in suspended animation at the moment. Far too many are caught in the gruelling grip of the Coronavirus, have lost loved ones or are working on the front line saving lives. For those who have lost jobs and are desperately wondering how to make ends meet, they’re also feeling way too stressed to zone out as well.

These are traumatic, strange and eerie times. However, there are also moments like seeing this window filled with quirky mannequins,  where you can crack a smile and take the edge off it all. This is what people in a host of very intense situations have always done to cope and it helps.

We’re thinking of you all in whatever situation you’re in.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

M- Melbourne…A-Z Challenge.

Welcome to what I believe to be Day 13 and halfway through the Blogging A to Z April Challenge. As you may be aware, my theme for 2020 is Places I’ve Been and today, we’re off to Melbourne.

DSC_5772

A Melbourne Tram.

While we’re all armed to the hilt to evade the coronavirus, while we’re in Melbourne you’ll also need to keep your eyes peeled for the trams. They look innocuous enough from  a distance, but don’t be fooled. They can become terrifying missiles of personal destruction. That’s why there’s plenty of signage to keep you on your toes. So, my first word to you, is to heed the advice.

DSC_6056

When it came to writing about Melbourne, again I wondered whether I really had the goods. Being Sydney born and bred, Melbourne’s always been that abomination South of the border. In other words, it was the enemy.

DSC_5843

The Entrance to Flinders Street Station (constructed 1909) 

However, then I finally made it down to Melbourne in my early 20’s, I actually quite liked it (not that I actually let on when I came home). The trams made it very easy to get around and were quite a novelty. Moreover, I loved all the fashion outlets, especially checking out Melbourne’s great fashion Mecca, Chapel Street.

Chloe

Jules Joseph Lefebvre: Chloe, 1875.

There was also the National Gallery of Victoria (NGV). However, that’s not where you’ll find Melbourne’s most famous portrait. Rather, you’ll find Chloé located in the upstairs bar of the Young and Jackson Hotel, where it’s been since 1909, and not without controversy.

DSC_5914

Of course, as a Sydneysider, it’s very tempting to point out all the things that Melbourne hasn’t got. First cab off the rank, of course, is our beautiful harbour, and Melbourne seems a bit short-changed with its alternative… the muddy Yarra River. Adding to that, there’s no SYDNEY Opera House and no SYDNEY Harbour Bridge. It doesn’t live up to us on the beach front either. After all, it doesn’t have Bondi either!!

 

However, there’s one thing Melbourne has which Sydney’s sorely missing.  That is Masterchef. Yes, Masterchef is based in Melbourne. So, if Melbourne wasn’t the Australian food capital before Masterchef, it certainly is now. That in itself could be reason enough to defect. I wouldn’t be the first, and I won’t be the last.

MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

Watching Aussie Rules Football. Sorry Melbourne. This photo was taken at the SCG and I’m sporting my Sydney Swans Scarf.

Melbourne is also the capital of Australian Rules Football, and the finale is held down there every year no matter whose playing. I’ve never been to a match in Melbourne, but the family would like to make it down for the final one day, although it is very expensive. By the way, I’m a Sydney Swans supporter, our son goes for Greater Western Sydney, while Geoff goes for Essendon and any team that’s playing Collingwood.

Of course, Melbourne isn’t completely devoid of beaches. While I haven’t really checked most of them out, I have been to Brighton Beach, with its brightly painted bathing boxes, which are well over a hundred years old and date back to the Victorian era where one didn’t strut down the main street showing your ankles let alone in your bikini.

DSC_3846

Early Morning Port Melbourne Viewed From The Spirit of Tasmania. 

This brings me to Port Melbourne, which we experienced at sunrise after sailing overnight  on board the Spirit of Tasmania. However, although I didn’t know it at the time, my Great Grandfather, Reuben Gardiner, who was a Second Mate on board the Adelaide Steamship Company’s coal steamer, the Dilkera,  had had a very different experience of Port Melbourne.

On Tuesday 8th April, 1924, the Dilkera, ploughed into a small coastal steamer, the Wyrallah, which had steered right in front of the Dilkara’s path in a treacherous stretch of water near the entrance of Melbourne’s Port Phillip Bay, known as The Rip.  Five crew members and one passenger on board the Wyrallah drowned. Indeed, the Wyrallah sank like a stone in less than ten minutes, while the heartbreaking cries of the drowning men could still heard from the Dilkera, until there was nothing but silence. If you would like to read more about the collision, you can reach a previous post HERE.

DSC_5922

Yours truly at Federation Square.

We probably shouldn’t leave Melbourne on such a tragic note and so I’ll take you on a quick virtual tour of the National Gallery of Victoria (the NGV). Firstly there’s the Marking-Time exhibition of Indigenous art. “This exhibition explores drawings and markings of figures, signs or text made on public surfaces across Indigenous Australia, from rock face to now. ” There’s also Top Arts 2020 Top Arts 2020 which celebrates the exceptional and thought-provoking work of VCE Art and VCE Studio Arts students. Drawn from a range of media, topics, schools and students, Top Arts 2020 is part of the Victorian Curriculum and Assessment Authority’s annual showcasing of excellence. This LINK will take you on a virtual tour of the exhibition. To be perfectly honest with you, I found it a little creepy exploring this vast white gallery space designed for large milling crowds of people, but is conspicuously empty. Of course, this has nothing to do with our current scenario of social distancing which has naturally closed the gallery altogether leaving the artworks together to haunt each other in this ghostly space. BTW I also had a bit of fun running through this virtual gallery with my mouse, where there was no one to throw me out and spoil the fun.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our tour of Melbourne. You never know quite where you’re going to end up on one of my tours. However, by now you’ve learned to expect the expected.

Have you ever been to Melbourne? Or, perhaps you live there and can really show me up with a few more detailed posts. I acknowledge this barely scratches the surface. Indeed, I freely admit that I barely know the place. However, since it’s looking like we won’t be able to go overseas for quite a long time,  an extended trip to Melbourne where we could also catch up with family is probably on the cards.

Sending love to you and yours through these difficult times.

Love,

Rowena

 

 

Tram Reflections in Melbourne – 2017.

Today, I came across this photo, while beavering away on my travel series in between phone calls and various conversations (dare I say interruptions) from family members and ball-chasing dogs. Life has become even more chaotic at our place with four humans and three dogs all in lock-down at home, especially now the kids are on school holidays without going anywhere. However, I just thank my lucky stars the “kids” are now teenagers, and it’s usually me flagging them down for a chat(and if I’d really lucky) a hug!!

Anyway, this photo was taken back in January, 2017 on board a Melbourne tram. At the time, we were only staying in Melbourne overnight before heading off in the morning to Tasmania. So, we were trying to squeeze in as much of the city as we could, and it was all after dark.

Catching trams is also a real novelty for us. Sydney ripped up its trams years ago, and  Melbourne’s extensive tram network has given the city a distinct feel. Indeed, it’s become “Melbourne”.  So catching a tram for us, particularly the kids, was a real novelty, and just to add to the excitement, it was also their first visit to the heart of Melbourne.

While I’ve always loved photographing reflections and capturing their twisting, mutating forms, what struck me about this particular photo was our daughter’s face staring up through those reflections in the bottom right of the shot. I see a child’s face staring up through eyes of awe and wonder at the incredible  kaleidoscope of newness around her and trying to take it all in.

That image particularly touches me at this point in time, when we’re all looking up from the strange, unprecedented places we’re finding ourselves in as the coronavirus, unemployment, and toilet paper shortages spread across the globe. Now, it’s us looking up  wondering what it all means, where we’re all heading and even if we, at a personal level, will even be here when the clouds lift.

Don’t we all wish we could turn back time!

Sometimes, I also wish my kids would be little again for awhile. However, it doesn’t last long. I have always been one to prefer them exactly as they are.

Anyway, that’s at least my interpretation of the photo. I’d be interested to know your thoughts, and please be brutally honest if it does nothing for you. That’s what feedback’s for – not just a pat on the back.

I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena