Category Archives: art

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

Weekend Coffee Share – 12th August, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Much coffee has flowed under the bridge over the last couple of weeks celebrating my 50th Birthday. So far, I’ve just been catching up with small groups of family and friends but I’m planning a larger party when the weather warms up a bit. Daylight is extending. Wattle is flowering. There isn’t long to wait.

I’m not sure how long it’s been since I touched base last. I wrote a post which didn’t make it up last week. So, if I’m repeating myself, I apologize.

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Embracing My 50th Birthday at Pearl Beach, NSW. 

My 50th Birthday was a big deal for me. I would’ve like to do something more spectacular to mark the occasion. However, it’s Winter and the kids have school. So, it wasn’t a good time to get away. Then, inspiration hit. I decided to watch the sun rise on my special day. In the days leading up to the Big 50, the sunsets and the weather had been quite good. However, as luck would have it, rain threatened. The clouds rolled in and there wasn’t even an orange blush where the sunrise should have been. We were philosophical about it. We still enjoyed the serenity of the waves rolling into the shore accompanied by magpies, kookaburras and rainbow lorrikeets in the surrounding bush. Before we left, I strutted my stuff for the camera, which was just as well because that could well have saved us from changing places with a Mercedes which was side-swiped by a ute and forced off the road. The drivers door was badly damaged and shards of glass carpeted the front seats. I’m not superstitious but an accident like that which would have written of our beloved red Alfa, would have felt like a terrible harbinger of doom on my 50th birthday.

I don’t know about you, but birthday celebrations for us are also about food. We went out for dinner at a local French restraurant, Sous le Soleil, with my parents for my main birthday celebrations. It was such a special treat. Felt like we were in this little oasis of France in Sydney. All the staff seemed to be French and the food was exquisite. I was particularly touched when my dessert arrived with Happy Birthday inscribed in chhocolate around the plate. It was beautiful…as were the pears soaked in red wine and floating in a chocolate soup. That’s my type of food.

There have also been a couple of fabulous lunches, cafe morning teas and dinners with friends. I’ve taken a few of my photo albums along to a few of these. It was so much fun pouring over the pages with my Mum and Dad and photos taken during my 20s with a bunch of old friends. We had a lot of laughs and a few red faces.

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Geoff and I overlooking Pearl Beach.

A friend also took us out for lunch at Pearl Beach and afterwards we went for a drive to nearby Patonga and along the headland overlooking Pearl Beach, which is known locally as the water tower walk. There are breathtaking views. Indeed, they’re monumental, reminding me of the closing lines of John Keats poem: On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer:

Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes 
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men 
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise— 
Silent, upon a peak in Darien. 

 

-However, the flip side of all this catching up, eating and splendor, was quite few weeks of deep and not always satisfied reflection. I’m not sure these would amount to regrets. However, there is certainly disappointment. There is also a sense of renewed determination to get a book finished and published. Not just any book but a book worth writing and reading. However, this ongoing mission is offset somewhat by an increased need to catch up with friends and socialize more, which is somewhat incompatible with withdrawing to my cave writing my life away. Decisions and choices need to be made. Or, I can simply go with the flow and wherever that takes me, which isn’t what the manuals of success advocate. So, the last couple of weeks have been rather intense in both directions.

Meanwhile, I’ve been doing a bit of reading. I’ve almost finished reading Kristina Olsson’s Shell.

Shell tells the gripping story of shell-9781925685329_lgPearl Keogh, a journalist who is protesting against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war. Then there’s Axel Lindquist, a glass artist from Sweden, who is working on the site of the emerging Sydney Opera House creating a glass sculpture inspired by Utzon’s design. Of course, there’s romance. However, that’s almost secondary to this world of living, breathing history. Olsson’s prose is incredibly poetic and philosophical, which I absolutely love. Indeed, it feels like Shell was written just for me. Indeed, it’s opened a door into another world just as surely as that very famous wardrobe door, which took Lucy into Narnia.

It usually takes me a few weeks to get through a book. So, the fact I’ve almost finished Shell in a couple of days speaks volumes.  Indeed, I’ve have been enjoying snuggling up in bed with my book and my electric blanket on. While the Winter sun filters through the curtains behind me, I could almost feel like I’m sunbaking down at the beach, except a cold snap surrounds me. Most homes around here don’t have central heating. We brave the Winter months and invest in air-con for the Summer.

I’ve also been trying to get back into regular blogging. That dropped off a bit while I was working on my book project. This seemed the right thing to do. Be focused. However, the book project turned into a marathon instead of a sprint and it turned out this blog writing and interaction were weaving all sorts of magic which couldn’t be immediately classified but it’s absence was felt. After taking part in my regular blog shares this week, I’m feeling my better. My voice is back.

My posts this week have been…

Aussie Street Library, Pearl Beach

Chicken – Friday Fictioneers

Well, that seems to cover the last couple of weeks. I hope you’ve enjoyed joining us for my birthday celebrations. This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Aussie Street Library, Pearl Beach …Thursday Doors.

“Be an opener of doors” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Welcome back to Thursday Doors. This week, we’ve jumped into the red Alfa, traversed the steep hill and hairpin bends down to Pearl Beach, just so we could check out Jill’s Library. This is Pearl Beach’s incredible incantation of the humble street library or book exchange. Without a shadow of a doubt, this brightly painted library full of pre-loved books, is just waiting for desperadoes like myself to pop along.

More than functional, Jill’s Library is also a work of art featuring some of the area’s local characters…a kookaburra, magpies and rainbow lorrikeets and sprays of wattle. I don’t know much about how it came about. Simply that it was painted by Pim and named after Jill. That’s all.

I know I’m supposed to be writing about doors here. However, you barely notice the door on this picturesque box. Rather, it’s little more than a framed piece of glass, designed to keep the books clean and dry. However, for ardent bibliophiles like myself who are peering through the door in search of treasure, the door is a window of possibility. What’s beyond the glass?

Temptation…That’s what it is. Although our place is bursting at the seams with books with buttons flying and fabric tearing under their monumental force, I still want more. Indeed, like Monty Python’s Mr Creosote who couldn’t stop stuffing his face, I can’t stop bringing more and more books home. I can’t say no.

Indeed, this was no exception. I shamelessly raided the library, taking home Kristina Olsson’s spell-binding Australian novel, Shell. However, in my defense, I’ve almost finished it. I couldn’t put it down.  Shell tells the gripping story of shell-9781925685329_lgPearl Keogh, a journalist who is protesting against Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war. Then there’s Axel Lindquist, a glass artist from Sweden, who is working on the site of the emerging Sydney Opera House creating a glass sculpture inspired by Utzon’s design. Of course, there’s romance. However, that’s almost secondary to this world of living, breathing history. Olsson’s prose is incredibly poetic and philosophical, which I absolutely love. Indeed, it feels like Shell was written just for me. Indeed, it’s opened a door into another world just as surely as that very famous wardrobe door, which took Lucy into Narnia.

It usually takes me a few weeks to get through a book. So, the fact I’ve almost finished Shell in a couple of days speaks volumes.  Indeed, I’ve have been enjoying snuggling up in bed with my book and my electric blanket on. While the Winter sun filters through the curtains behind me, I could almost feel like I’m sunbaking down at the beach, except a cold snap surrounds me. Most homes around here don’t have central heating. We brave the Winter months and invest in air-con for the Summer.

Anyway, getting back to the Street Library…Despite its apparent simplicity, Jill’s Library captures the essence of Pearl Beach, a relaxed creative and cultural community of locals and weekenders who live alongside the lorrikeets, magpies and colourful Rainbow Lorrikeets.  It’s the sort of place people go to exit stress and embrace sun, sand, surf and a good read. Indeed, a good book is even better shared and discussed over coffee and cake.

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Thought I’d better share a photo of the real deal also taken at Pearl Beach the other day. While that kookaburra is looking pretty innocent and minding his own business, I’ve had a local kookaburra snatch a hot sanger (sausage) off the BBQ here. So, they’re actually pretty audacious.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed that broader story of Jill’s Library, Pearl Beach.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0 Please pop over and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Triple Threat-Friday Fictioneers.

When you wish upon a star, your dreams come true. At least, that was the plan.  Nic had packed all her dreams into a suitcase. Sold everything she owned. Forsaken her one true love and stacked all her chips on Hollywood. After sweating blood in the dance studio and juggling hours of singing and acting classes with recurrent vocal nodules, she would be the next Nicole Kidman. Her star would shine on Hollywood Boulevard alongside the Hollywood greats. Working in the Box Office was supposed to be her foot in the door, a stepping stone, not her final resting place.

….

100 Words.

I was excited to see this week’s prompt. A friend of mine is working towards having her musical appear on Broadway and our daughter appears in Grease the Musical at her school tomorrow night and is pursuing a career in dance. We love the box office and were recently introduced to Stage Door when her dance teacher performed as Veruca Salt in Charlie & the Chocolate Factory in Sydney. We love this world, even if the career prospects are more than daunting and you know that dreams are more likely to be shot down in flames before they shine. Yet, the stage has its magic and allure. If that’s where you’re meant to be, you have not choice. You have to try. Pink…”Try”.

Ghosts on the Run…Friday Fictioneers 7th June, 2019.

When the Ledoux Family rented out their home in Antibes, they had no idea a couple of famous ghosts would move in along with their heads.

Louis and Marie-Antoinette had evacuated Notre Dame toute de Suite after accidentally sparking the fire which almost turned their beloved Lady into a pile of ash.

Of course, it wasn’t Versailles. However, they loved the beach and their new found freedom. Louis could barely keep his hands off his beloved Queen in her alluring bikini, although didn’t like wearing budgie smugglers* at all!

“Mon Cherie, nobody would ever think to look for us here.”

…..

Don’t ask me where the inspiration for my take on today’s prompt came from, except to say that I was quite taken by the stairs at the front and floating to the top. Stairs like that are not kind to me. By the way, Budgie smugglers is an Australian slang term for men’s tight-fitting Speedo-style swimwear and the term received a lot of press thanks to our former Prime Minister Tony Abbott who was often photographed wearing them. He is a volunteer lifesaver.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s prompt was provided by C.E. Ayr. Thanks, C.E.

We’d love you to join us. Every week, Rochelle posts a photo prompt and we respond in 100 words or less and I’ve been quite amazed at what we’ve been able to accomplish in so few words. Makes me ponder the need for the novel.

Best wishes,

Rowena