Category Archives: art

Berlin – A-Z Challenge.

“I still keep a suitcase in Berlin.”

– Marlene Dietrich, Singer, 1957

Welcome to Berlin on Day two of the Blogging A to Z April Challenge, where we’re revisiting Places I’ve Been. Of course, this was back in the day when we could leave our homes and ordinary travel wasn’t a matter of life, death or being quarantined for 14 days on your return.

Today, we’re returning to 1992 and continuing further along my backpacking trip through Europe. After landing in Amsterdam, Lisa and I caught the train to Koln (Cologne) in Germany. We went our separate ways there and I continued onto Heidelberg, stayed with friends at Grenzach-Whylen on the Swiss border where we went on a day trip through Basel and into France. This area is called “Die Drei Ecke”, or “Three Corners” because Germany, Switzerland and France border each other. Being able to visit three countries in one day was mind-blowing for an Australian used to being confined to one country almost all of my life.

From Grenzach, I caught the train all the way through to Berlin. Back then, the track on what had been the East German side of the border, hadn’t been upgraded and the train slowed right down. It felt like it was crawling, and from memory it was also delivering the mail. Of course, I was starting to wonder if I was ever going to get there!

However, as we pull into Berlin Station, let’s play a bit of Bowie. It’s only fitting after all. In the late 70s, he lived in Schöneberg for two years and recorded the biggest hits of his singing career there and his song ‘Heroes’ has become a kind of anthem for Berlin.

Berlin, the greatest cultural extravaganza that one could imagine.’

 David Bowie, Singer, 1970s

“I couldn’t have written things like ‘Low’ and ‘Heroes,’ those particular

albums, if it hadn’t have been for Berlin and the kind of atmosphere I

felt there.”

David Bowie

I was meeting up with my parents in Berlin. However, while they’d booked themselves into a swanky hotel, I was heading for the backpackers. Well, that was until I ran into a student at the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, who invited me to stay in students’ quarters  in what had been East Berlin. Wow! That not only save me precious dosh, but it would also be an experience. I loved meeting the local people and getting a real feel for life on the ground away from the tourist traps. That night, I was invited to an intimate student party. They’d all grown up in East Germany and talked with me about their hopes for Germany post-reunification, especially for improving the environment. It was riveting. As much as it was incredible to soak up the museums and visit old Churches and the like, meeting real life locals was through the roof exciting.

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Of course, I was also very excited to meet up with Mum and Dad. I’d been away for a couple of months by now and we didn’t have email, Facebook or Skype back then. We had to tough it out with the odd very expensive phone and the only form of mail…snail mail. Mum and Dad were on the clock and were only in Europe for a few weeks. So, instead of walking everywhere like the impoverished backpacker that I was, we zoomed around Berlin in black Mercedes Benz taxis…very posh!

“My first visit to West Berlin was in February 1983. The drive through East Berlin, the fact that West Berlin was surrounded by a wall that was more than 100 miles long – the absurdity and intensity of it really knocked me out.”

Henry Rollins

The highlights with Mum and Dad included being able to walk through the Brandenburg Gate and going to the Checkpoint Charlie Museum. I’d studied German at school and our teacher used to read us stories of daring escapes across, under and through the Berlin Wall which had us all enthralled. We met an American family who were living in Berlin and they actually gave us a chunk of the Berlin Wall. It looks very simple and is just a chunk of concrete with white paint on one side, but to me, it’s priceless treasure.

All free men, wherever they may live, are citizens of Berlin. And therefore, as a free man, I take pride in the words, ‘Ich bin ein Berliner!”

 John F. Kennedy, U.S. President, 1963

Leave Berlin

This sign used to be at Checkpoint Charlie.

Our son was meant to be in Berlin around now on a school history excursion. It’s very hard even for me to to think about where he’d be now and what he’s missing out on. However, it’s obviously a relief that he’s home with us in Australia. There’s going to be a lot of people with some very special things they’ve missed out on thanks to the Coronavirus, and some will lose their lives or their loved ones. It all reminds me very much of 9/11 and how the world was just going along and minding its own business, and then BANG. Nothing was ever the same. Let’s hope not!.

Obviously, I’ve left most of Berlin out, but this is just a fleeting visit and hopefully one day I’ll get back.

Have you been to Berlin? Perhaps, you live there? I’d love to hear from you and please link me through to any posts and do the same if you”re taking part in the Blogging A to Z April Challenge.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS: I thought some of you might find this article of interest, which talks about artists’ plans to rebuild and re-demolish the wall as an art installation. https://www.afar.com/magazine/this-fall-artists-plan-to-rebuild-and-redemolish-the-berlin-wall

Amsterdam – A-Z Challenge

“My experience in Amsterdam is that cyclists ride where the hell they like and aim in a state of rage at all pedestrians while ringing their bell loudly, the concept of avoiding people being foreign to them.”

-Terry Pratchett

Welcome to my first post for the 2020  Blogging from A to Z April Challenge where my theme for this year is…The A-Z of Places I’ve Been. It’s a photographic travel series to help cheer us up in the current climate. Overall, it focuses on a backpacking trip I took through Europe in 1992 as a 22 year of university graduate and also throws in  Australian stopovers and more.

 

So, let’s touch down in Amsterdam!

Amsterdam buildings

Welcome to Amsterdam.

Back in April 1992, my best friend Lisa and I touched down at Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport, finally setting our feet on European soil after one heck of a long flight from Sydney via Bangkok. We were grinning from ear to ear like proverbial Cheshire cats.

Our arrival was not without its comedy. As we climbed up the stairs to our hotel room, my backpack was so heavy, that it pulled me backwards down the stairs. You have to laugh, and that’s before I tell you that we spent our entire time in Amsterdam perpetually lost. If we were supposed to turn left, we went right. We had no idea where we were going, and even caught the wrong tram back to the hostel and found ourselves in some scary territory.

Amsterdam barge on canal

We had just graduated from Sydney University and were 22 years olds with Europe at our feet and a 12 month open ticket. We were finally free agents, and could do whatever we liked. That is, as long as it didn’t involve money. Not knowing how long our money had to last, we made the most of the complimentary breakfast at our hotel, and loaded our bags up with bread rolls and little packets of butter and jam. These were lunch for two days and could’ve been used as missiles in the end!

Orange Stollen

Orange Stollen to commemorate Amsterdam’s Orange Festival

It just so happened that our stay in Amsterdam coincided with Amsterdam’s Orange Festival, which was officially known as Koninginnedag, or Queen’s Day which celebrated Queen Beatrix’s Birthday back in the day. All of Amsterdam and beyond, was squeezed into the streets and the place was absolutely packed with everyone and everything decked out in orange. I even spotted some Orange Stolen in a bakery window.

However, while we were caught up in all the revelry and absorbing it all through the lens, my wallet was stolen out of my bum bag. This sent us off to the police station and a reverses charges call back home to Mum and Dad along with major egg on face, which was only compounded less than a week later when I’d lost my passport in Cologne, Germany.

While we really enjoyed meeting other backpackers from all around the world and chatting in cafes, keeping our eyes peeled for wayward bicycles and being flocked by thousands of pigeons in the square like something out of Alfred Hitchcock’s: The Birds, there were two places which really stood out.

1024px-Amsterdam_(NL),_Anne-Frank-Huis_--_2015_--_7185

Photo: Dietmar Rabich / Wikimedia Commons / “Amsterdam (NL), Anne-Frank-Huis — 2015 — 7185” / CC BY-SA 4.0

“It’s difficult in times like these: ideals, dreams and cherished hopes

rise within us, only to be crushed by grim reality. It’s a wonder I haven’t

abandoned all my ideals, they seem so absurd and impractical. Yet I

cling to them because I still believe, in spite of everything, that people

are truly good at heart.”

-Anne Frank

Firstly, I couldn’t wait to see Anne Frank’s House. Like millions around the world, I’d read her diary as a teenager and in what always feel like an extremely personal and unique tribute, as a 13 year old, I started addressing my own diary to “Dear Anne” and I told her everything. Strangely, I can barely remember going there now. However, I did write a tribute to our connection a few years ago: A Lifesaving Journey With Anne Frank. I also visited an exhibition at the Sydney Jewish Museum, which focused on her father,  Otto Frank.

My other great love in Amsterdam, was the Van Gogh Museum. Now, I actually have some great news. Although the museum is currently closed, the online shop is still open. So, if you are suffering from shopping withdrawal, here’s your chance: The Van Gogh Museum Shop. I almost broke out in a rash checking out all these wonderful goodies. However, I’ve restrained myself so far. I’m trying to view lock down as opportunity to pay off my credit card and return to ground zero.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our virtual fly-by tour of Amsterdam.

If you’ve been to Amsterdam or even live there, I’d love to hear from you in the comments and I’d also love to hear from others taking part in the A-Z Challenge.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Magnolia Daze…Something’s Alive in the Garden.

I’m stone cold sober.Yet, I’m visually intoxicated by this massive, white magnolia flower, with its graceful petals imitating a dancer’s silhouette. Isn’t it absolutely beautiful?!! For me, it’s particularly appealing because our garden has been little more than scorched earth during the last few years of Australian drought. So, just seeing a blade of green grass is enough to send me troppo!

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Thankfully, however, the garden is feeling relatively happy at the moment. We’ve been having very heavy downpours, localized flooding and if we had frogs, they’d also be doing the happy dance.

However, unfortunately, you can have too much of a good thing. Last weekend, the rain and wind was so heavy that our back roof was leaking like a sieve and we had to clear out more stuff than the average sod keeps in an entire house. Numerous local trees were blown over and even our fledgling lemon tree (which is protected on three sides) was left bending right over looking and feeling like a weeping willow.

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All of this rain, also renewed my hopes for a spot of colour in the garden and being able to cook with herbs freshly picked from the garden like one of those swanky TV chefs.  Yes, the pots are still sitting out the front unplanted a few weeks later, but at least they’re out of reach of the doggies. So, there’s a chance they’ll survive.

However, after seeing interviews tonight with bush fire survivors who’ve lost everything, a beautiful garden or even a pot plant, feels like a luxury indulgence. Yet, at the same time, even when the battle is at its worst, we still need to pluck out anything which lifts our spirits. Raises hope. There is never just all doom and despair, there is a ray of light somewhere. Moreover, as a photographer myself, I can appreciate that the darker the shadow, the brighter the light.

So, how is your garden going? I think it’s still officially Summer here, although the actually weather is very unpredictable. What are the seasons doing in your neck of the woods?

Anyway, I’d love to hear from you, even if my response may be a little slow due to my current research load.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I love how you can zoom into your subject with the camera and blot out all the messy, ugly or simply distracting background junk. Your perspective, indeed your world, is only as wide as your zoom, which might be a be dangerous in other contexts but is great for a crisp photo.

More Than A Walk….Newtown to Broadway, Sydney.

Time has a habit of flying around here mysteriously escaping before I manage to grip hold of it. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that an entire week has passed since I went to Newtown.

Last Monday, I met up with my friend Stephen at Sydney’s Central Station to catch the train to Newtown and leisurely wander and cafe crawl our way along King Street, past Sydney University and onto the Seymour Centre where we were supposed to be attending a talk by eminent science communicator, Dr Karl Kruszelnicki about stem cell research and the brain. Stem cell research could be something I’ll be relying on down the track with my lung and muscle troubles and my brain isn’t in top notch working order in some ways either. I was born with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain and have what’s known as a shunt managing the pressures and keeping things in working order. So, this lecture provided a great opportunity to find out more. However, in the meantime, it was a great opportunity to catch up with Stephen.

Love

We spotted this sign at a pub just near Newtown Station.

These days it feels like I’ve known Stephen beyond my own eternity. We were part of a group of friends who used to attend St Barnabus Anglican Church Broadway around 1994 before my hydrocephalus was dramatically diagnosed in my mid-20s and St Barnabas (or “Barneys” as it is known) was equally dramically burned down. Both of us thank goodness have both risen from the ashes and rebuilt. However, I wonder whether there was some kind of bad omen with my friends from Barneys, as I have not been the only one been dealt an atypically difficult hand. I’m not sure whether I believe in this from a Biblical, Christian perspective. It’s just pure observation and associating all our troubles to the physical burning down of a much loved and historic Church provides some kind of external visual for our hidden, personal suffering.

vegan fried chicken

I took this photo for my son who hangs out at KFC after school. I think he’d be disappointed, although I have many vegan friends who’d be thrilled to go there. 

Anyway, getting back to Newtown.

King Street Newtown historic

Newtown is 4 kilometres South-West of the Sydney CBD and was established as a residential and farming area in the early 19th century. The area took its name from a grocery store opened there by John and Margaret Webster in 1832, who placed a sign atop their store that read “New Town Stores”.

I Have A Dream

Street art – King Street, Newtown. 

The main street is King Street which winds its way along the spine of a long ridge which rises up near Sydney University in the North and transforms into the Princess Highway in the South. This elevated position gives King Street a imposing appearance and also explains why it’s tributaries (or side-streets) run down hill. As you walk along King Street, it’s easy to understand why its main shopping strip is the longest and most complete commercial precinct of the late Victorian and Federation period in Australia. The architecture really is quite different and a tad ghostly even compared to other areas populated by ancient terraces houses. After all, in this country with just over 200 years of European history, terrace houses assume a misplaced sense of history.

Although I lived in the inner city many moons ago long before marriage and mortgage took me over the Hawkesbury River Bridge and onto the Central Coast, I’ve never lived in Newtown. I lived in Chippendale and Glebe and my last haunt was a converted warehouse just off Broadway. I always knew that lifestyle couldn’t last. However, I never anticipated my catastrophic health problems and how you could literally be blown up and yet somehow still standing with seemingly no visual sign anything’s happened at all. Marriage and kids also brought blessings, change and challenges which were also unexpected and difficult to grapple with. My time in that converted warehouse in many ways were my last hurrah. Well, at least of the person I was before surgery.

So in many ways, while Stephen and I were walking along King Street we were walking along memory lane. The weather wasn’t great. So, I didn’t take my SLR and was photographing with my phone which is deeply unsatisfying. It just doesn’t have the same clarity and I’m sure it’s only a small step up from the Kodak aim and shoot I had as a kid. You know the ones where you shoved a cartridge in the back and dropped the thing off at your local chemist for processing. Humph. These days that all sounds so archaic, and I don’t feel that old even if there are additional lines I choose to ignore in the mirror.

Biscuit Sandwich

Anyway, given that I was catching up with Stephen, walking down memory lane and didn’t have my SLR, my photos of King Street are hardly representative and I’ll need to go back and explore the place more fully. I guess what I’ve captured is more along the lines of street art, than architecture and there’s also a rather sumptuous photo of something which might be described as a biscuit sandwich although it was called a “birthday cake”. It was exceptionally yum and I’m needing to find a recipe to replicate these at home. Not good for the waistline, but pure indulgence for the soul.

Sourfest

Newtown has changed a lot since I was living in the area from 1988 through to around 1996. To be perfectly honest, I don’t know if it’s been for the best. The place has been gentrified and the grungy, crumbling edifices along King Street have been spakfillered and restored. Of course, these buildings look clean and beautiful but when you know what went before, there’s that same sense you get when you see an old face without lines…too much character and personality has been removed. I look at these buildings and wonder where they went, although they’re still standing and I know from a popular aesthetic point of view, they look so much better, even if they have been given cosmetic surgery. Yet, that doesn’t deny something’s missing. History is important. It shouldn’t be whitewashed away.

Gould's

Inside Gould’s back in the day.

Back in the day,  Gould’s Book Arcade wasn’t quite the epicentre of Newtown, but it definitely made a significant contribution to its intellectual, bohemian yet working-class character. Walking and talking,  I wasn’t scrutinizing every shopfront we walked past. Yet, there was this awareness that Gould’s could well be missing. Lost. Gone. Obliterated. Along with it, this dejected sense that a wrecking ball had gone through Newtown’s heart and wiped it out. Fortunately, a quick Google search revealed that Gould’s is not dead. Rather, due to rising rents it was forced out of it’s traditional location to 536 King Street on the Southern side of Newtown Station, which meant we missed it. Meanwhile, an interview with Mairi Petersen, the first wife of bookshop founder, the late Bob Gould is enlightening:

“Books have little place in the lives of people moving into Newtown these days…Once Newtown was students and the working class. No more. Now they are paying millions to buy in and when you look at real estate agent photographs of houses for sale there is not a book to be seen.”

I’d be interested to explore the homes beyond these real estate photos to see if that is true. Mind you, a lack of books, doesn’t mean the locals are not reading. Space is these ancient terraces is at a premium and even a Kindle-reject like myself who’ll one day be found buried under piles of books in our place can understand the possible need to make the switch.

By the way, if you saw our house, you’d say that it has a certain Gould’s feel to it, especially after the roof leaked like a sieve last night and we’ve had to shift close to a hundred books and these were just the stacks and not the contents of the shelves.

Anyway, we kept walking passed Sydney University my former stomping ground. Indeed, I was the third generation of my family to study there and belong to the place. Clearly, there’s a lot of history there, but not for today. We couldn’t be late.

We arrived at the Seymour Centre and the place is empty and the theatre still locked up. We were half an hour early to avoid the stampede. However, my antennae have gone up. Something’s wrong. Very wrong and when they tell me nothing is on that night, panic sets in. As person living with hydrocephalus, it’s not uncommon for me to screw up dates and appointments. Turned out we were a month early.

Above: We walked past the contemporary Barneys (where Stephen and I first met) on our way to Central Station Barney’s as we knew it looked more like the 1872 version. This part of Sydney is known as Broadway and the sign in the footpath is a tribute to the  sign battle between Rector Rob Forsythe and the publican across the road at the Broadway Hotel, Arthur Elliott. 

Above: Street art, Broadway.

While I hate making mistakes and chastised myself for not reading through the email I’d printed out before I left, I knew Stephen and I were meant to catch up. That we both needed to revisit our old stomping grounds. Not just in terms of place, but also the history we share from all those years ago. Given the profound changes in personality which may or may not have come about with the deterioration of the hydrocephalus and subsequent brain surgery, it’s a me who is difficult to resolve, not really knowing if I’ve ever been myself and what that ultimately means. It’s something I need to explore further somewhere beyond that stretch of King Street.

Holy Duck & candle

We travels detoured to the Holy Duck Chinese restaurant just off Broadway. As a fan of Australian cartoonist  Michael Leunig, I loved he positioning of the duck alongside the candle. 

Do you have any memories of King Street Newtown or a similar street which seemingly has a life and character of its own where you live? Or, perhaps you’ve had something life-changing happen to you and grapple with what that means. I’d love to hear from you, although I may not reply promptly as I’m researching and writing a book at present, which is rather time-consuming.

Best wishes,

Rowena

For another take on changing Newtown, you might like to read this from the Sydney Morning Herald: King Street Is Dying

Sources

Last Chapter For Gould’s Book Arcade

Newtown- Wikipaedia

Photo of the current St Barnabas Broadway: By Sardaka (talk) 07:34, 19 March 2014 (UTC) – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=31688133

Photo of “I Have A Dream” street art: Hpeterswald [CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D

At Home in Byron Bay on Australia’s East Coast.

Ever since I first stepped foot in Byron Bay, it’s felt like home. Not that I’ve ever been able to live here in a physical, geographical postcode sense. Rather, I’m perpetually “just visiting”, and my sense of belonging is more metaphorical. More about finding my tribe here, rather than owning real estate. After all, I am beyond the flow and it’s perfectly normal to think outside the square here. To extend your horizons so far beyond the norm, that all your inhibitions melt and flow away. There’s no ridicule. No one’s laughing at you. It’s creativity personified and you can be whoever you are with that same liberating freedom, as diving off a bottomless cliff and finally learning to fly.

Kombi Byron Bay

In it’s heyday, Byron Bay was Kombi paradise with rows of Kombis parked beside the each with boards on top.

At least, that’s how it used to be.

Every time I come up here now, I see less and less of old Byron as the surviving remnants of her golden hippy era, are increasingly consumed by “progress”. Indeed, these days Byron is starting to look more and more like Sydney’s Double Bay and dare I use the word “posh”. I don’t mind posh and posh has its place. However, for those of us who actually remember old Byron (and even I came along fairly late in the piece), posh can go someplace else. Instead, I say bring back the Kombis all lined up along the beachfront with their surfboards perched on top…trophies celebrating freedom, sun, surf, sand and eternal Summers. The gateway to the inland hippy heaven of Nimbin, Byron was full of hippies, rainbows and a Mecca to the thriving counter-culture.

Byron Bay unicorn

That’s the Byron I first visited in around 1994. At the time, I’d sold out on my creative side and had gone fully corporate myself working as a marketing executive in the Sydney CBD and living nearby in a trendy, converted warehouse apartment in Sydney’s Broadway, a stone’s throw from Glebe. I’d graduated from Sydney University. Hung out in cafes writing and performing poetry while searching for the meaning of life. That’s before I headed off backpacking through Europe on what was meant to be the last hurrah before finally growing up and settling down to a real job, a career, a husband, mortgage, kids and a dog in the burbs. Implicit in all of this, was that I would personify the values of my parents, my school and the almighty North Shore. Of course, that had absolutely nothing to do with running away to Byron Bay and doing the happy dance barefoot on the beach.

That’s probably why I experienced such a jolt when I first came to Byron Bay. That despite having all the trappings of the corporate life, it wasn’t me. Or, at least, it wasn’t fully me. I was staying at Jay’s Hostel in Byron Bay and a group of us hung out together in the way that travellers do, almost bonding immediately in a way that’s impossible back home. I bought myself a hippy dress, hung out at the beach and in cafes philosophizing about life the universe and everything. No doubt, I also scribbled away in my journal, and wrote poetry. I felt so alive.

I don’t know what happened. However, it was like I’d been struck by lightning while I was in Byron Bay. When I arrived back in Sydney, my life there both at work and at home felt strangely unfamiliar. It was like I’d stepped into someone else’s life. It no longer made sense.

In hindsight, it’s no surprise. I was working long hours stuck in an office without any windows doing number crunching and database analysis of all things. How does a poet end up doing that? That is probably my greatest folly. The job description had changed, but I persevered trying to get some stability on my CV. They might as well have handed me a shovel, because I was rapidly digging my own grave. Coincidentally, it was while I was in this job, that the unchartered harbour in my head (known medically as hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain) was starting to make its presence felt. I was becoming seriously ill, although I wrote it off as stress at the time and moved to Western Australia.

I didn’t make it back to Byron Bay again until I came up here with my now husband, Geoff, in 1999. Geoff’s mother was living at nearby Nureybar with his sisters’ family and I was on my best behavior. It was very different going back to Byron Bay with him. He works in IT, and it’s not that he isn’t creative, but he didn’t connect with it in quite the same way I did.

Over the years since then, we’ve generally come up to stay with his sister at least once a year as a family and we’ve explored Byron Bay and the lighthouse with the kids. This has also been a very different experience…ice creams up at the lighthouse, stopping down at the Railway Park in town for the kids to enjoy our climbing tree…a fig tree which was damaged in a storm and fell over onto its side. By some miracle, it survived and grows along the ground, enabling even young kids to climb up into its branches and explore. The tree also has a special place in the local community. We’ve seen ribbons and scarves tied around its branches. A milk crate suspended upside down by a rope. A few times, a local woman known as “Mamma Dee” has done community art projects in the park. She had a heartfelt concern for young people and wanted to fill the park with love and connection and for young people to believe in themselves. Too many young people she knew had taken their own young lives, and she doing what she could to make a difference. Well, at least, she touched me. We’ve also met Christian groups giving away free food in the park and across the road, the Adventist Church runs a soup kitchen. All these things are acknowledgements of the darker remnants of old Byron…the many lost, broken and searching people who flee to Byron Bay in search of answers to life’s imponderable questions or to simply simply escape.

During these years when the kids were young, my sister-in-law would often mind them to give me a break and I’d disappear over the hill and into Byron. Once again, I’d found my wings and had that same sense of creative liberation, I’d experienced on my very first visit. Byron Bay was very much “my place”.

Fast-forwarding to 2020, we’re back at Nureybar again for a family holiday. It’s been three years since we’ve all be up here for an extended family holiday together. Geoff and the kids came up without me two years ago when I was sick and Geoff and I were child-free last year, when the kids were away at the Australian Scouting Jamboree in South Australia. So this means, the kids are three years older since we were here last, and the family dynamics have changed quite a lot. Indeed, the kids are no longer kids, and have evolved into teens. Indeed, our son is about to embark on his second last year of school.

So, instead of finding myself shooting off to Byron Bay solo, it’s been me and my girl…Miss 13. This has launched me into yet experiencing yet another perspective of Byron and I am a 13 year old girl buying bikinis and reporting everything back to my friends back home. Well, maybe not. I did turn 50 last year and I clearly can’t squeeze my feet back into a 13 year old’s shoes or even her bare feet. I would’ve loved to take her back to my Byron Bay, which was much more philosophical and reflective than commercial. She remembers some of it, such as the ladybird shop which used to pump clouds of bubbles down the main street. However, even the graffiti on toilet walls was good up here and it’s all but gone.

Yesterday’s trip to Byron Bay culminated in the Twilight Markets which are held in Railway Park around our climbing tree. We were wandering around and I bought a cards with prints by local artists. My daughter wanted to buy this candle thing where you poured scoops of wax beads into a glass container to make your own candle. I bought our son a kangaroo skin bracelet. We spotted Nutella donuts and they were an immediate must have just in case they sold out. Yum!!! They were divine. However, while we were soaking up the ambience and running back and forwards to the ATM across the road, the clouds were playing nasty tricks in the sky and it seems that all these national prayers for rain to extinguish the bush fires and ease the drought, were suddenly answered while the prayers of the market stall holders hoping to make a living, went unanswered. The heavens opened. Just a little at first and the stall holders valiantly persevered. The band moved back undercover and played on. The food vans stayed put. However, the rain had other plans and I just managed to buy some CDs from the band before they packed up and called it a day. The food vans were made of tougher stuff and we bought a plate of gado gado and by this stage, there was no hope of eating it under our tree. Rather, we hot-footed it back to the car as fast as we could with a plate of foot threatening to escape. While sitting in an almost generic white Subaru Forrester might seem rather ordinary, it was strangely atmospheric. We put on the new CD and as the rain fell all around up, we were making memories. It was so much fun and I felt 21 again.

Despite the rain, we headed back down there again today. Needed to stretch our wings.

More fun lay ahead, which started out trying on sunglasses and outfits at a vintage shop. How do you like our red sunnies? We didn’t buy them. I could hardly get multi-focals for the pair I tried on, but they were a lot of fun. We explored shop after shop and worked our way up to the beach. Still wet and overcast, we didn’t even consider swimming, but we did enjoy listening to the band at the Byron Bay Hotel who was playing Eagle Rock. We crossed the road and walked down onto the beach where we spotted something like 200 surfers hit the surf and formed a circle. Initially, I’d thought it was a surf school, but then I wondered if it was a funeral or memorial. There’s always something at Byron Bay you can’t quite explain and I just remembered that included a guy we spotted on the street corner known as “Cool” who was about 70 and swirling a hoola hoop while singing along and shaking maracas with a difference…one was a pineapple and the other was a banana.

Our holidays aren’t over yet. So, I’m interested to see what else Byron Bay and this incredible region have in store.

I’ll come back and add more photos once we’re back home. Our Internet connection is not the best here and is frustrating to say the least.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Tad Short Sighted…Friday Fictioneers.

Jane might’ve been as blind as a bat and risking a nasty accident, yet there was no way she was wearing her glasses on her date with Michael. After all, boys don’t make passes at girls who wear glasses.

Unfortunately, Michael also left his glasses at home. Didn’t want to be a nerd.

Lucky to bump into each other at Town Hall steps, they headed out for tapas at a Spanish restaurant .

“Do you like modern art?” she asked looking straight at the no smoking sign.

“Absolutely, he replied.

The waiter said nothing. Now, he’d really seen it all.

…..

99 words

This is a much abbreviated version of a much longer short story I wrote when I was still at university seemingly more than a lifetime ago. Back when my short-sightedness was quite as bad as it is now, I used to go out on the town blind. Contact lenses didn’t really agree with me and weren’t quite as common then as they are now.

Sydney’s Town Hall Steps is a common meeting spot on a Saturday night, particularly if you’re meeting people from different parts of Sydney. So it’s pretty crowded and not the easiest place for two short-sighted people to find each other. The two short sighted couple mistaking a no smoking sign as modern art also plays on that thing of people pretending they know what it’s about and  putting on a front.

Town Hall Steps

Sydney Town Hall

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. Every week we write 100 words to a photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © CEAyr

Best wishes,

Rowena

Día de los Muertos…Friday Fictioneers.

 

Tony was in Mexico for a conference. Yet,he somehow wound up in the backseat of a VW heading out to San Andrés Mixquic, southeast of Mexico City to celebrate the Day of the Dead. The streets were packed, but he soon spotted the most exquisitely beautiful woman he’d ever seen. She was almost floating up to the altar and left behind a handful of marigolds along with a black and white photograph. They exchanged smiles and she whispered:”todas somos calaveras”. Cupid’s arrow struck fast. Yet, as he reached out to touch her hand, she was nothing but air. A ghost.

…..

100 words

Phew. This week’s prompt was rather challenging and I’m not sure if the decor in this cafe was connected to Mexico’s Day of the Dead celebrations which are held annually on the 2nd November. However, that was the approach I took. Being from Sydney, Australia, Mexico is a long way from home and quite a bit of research was required to pull this off. I only heard about the Day of the dead for the first time a few years ago.

Naturally, I’d be very interested to hear from anyone who has actually been there.

Catrina August 21

José Guadalupe Posada, Calavera de la Catrina (Skull of the Female Dandy), from the portfolio 36 Grabados: José Guadalupe Posada, published by Arsacio Vanegas, Mexico City, c. 1910, printed 1943, photo-relief etching with engraving, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Museum purchase funded by the friends of Freda Radoff.

In the National Geographic article listed below, I found a reference to Mexican political cartoonist and lithographer José Guadalupe Posada who created an etching to accompany a literary calavera. Posada dressed his personification of death in fancy French garb and called it Calavera Garbancera, intending it as social commentary on Mexican society’s emulation of European sophistication. “Todos somos calaveras,” a quote commonly attributed to Posada, means “we are all skeletons.” Underneath all our manmade trappings, we are all the same. I really liked that sentiment and hence incorporated it into my story.

Meanwhile, you might enjoy this further reading:

National Geographic – Day of the Dead

The Cultural Trip – Celebrating the Day of the Dead in San Andrés Mixquic

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. Every week we write 100 words to a photo prompt. This week’s PHOTO PROMPT © Dale Rogerson

Best wishes,

Rowena