Category Archives: art

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

F- Florence…A-Z Challenge 2020.

Welcome back to my series on Places I’ve Been for the 2020 Blogging A to Z April Challenge. Today, we’ll be heading over to the magnificent city Florence – birthplace of the Renaissance.

Writing about any city is intimidating, especially when you’re writing to the scope of this challenge which is all about short snappy posts and moving onto the next one. It’s meant to be more that those flashes of passing scenery you see through the windows of a passing train, than a much more considered absorption of each monumental treasure along with that quixotic sounds and aromas unique to that place.

Of course, when it comes to summing up Florence’s grandeur and inimitable history, it’s an impossible task.

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How serene…An early morning perspective of Florence.

 

“Stand on a bridge over the Arno river several times in a day and the light, mood and view changes every time. Firenze is magnetic, romantic and busy. Its urban fabric has hardly changed since the Renaissance, its narrow streets evoke a thousand tales, and its food and wine are so wonderful the tag ‘Fiorentina’ has become an international label of quality assurance.”

– Lonely Planet

So, I’m doing what I can. Almost 30 years down the track, I’m trying to remember my Florence. The Florence I experienced in August 1992 as a 22 year old backpacker who was simply visiting for a weekend. It’s not much to go on but armed with a handful of photographs I will press on.

Rowena Santa Croce

Perched on the stairs outside Santa Croce. 

The very first thing I remember about Florence was the heat. I felt like I was inside an oven, when for an Australian quite accustomed to the heat, says a lot. I also remember seeing luscious gelato stores. Gelato in an entirely different league from the pre-packaged stuff you could buy from the local pizza place. The colours were so bright and the gelato so luscious, that even after all this time I’m still salivating and staring through the crowds with puppy dog eyes. Drats! The life of a backpacker living on the smell of an oil rag is pure torture, especially being immersed in such temptation.

My view of Florence is from the street. It’s hot. Crowded. I want gelato, but initially go without (although, of course, you know I later succumbed.) The other thing is that as a young, single woman, I was also an unwitting target for Italian men who clearly saw the pursuit of female tourists as a national sport. However, it made such a difference to have my own personal tour guide. If I can offer one piece of travel advice, it’s “go local”.

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My gut feel is that I didn’t rush to the Duomo, even though that’s where my heart flutters whenever I see an aerial perspective of Florence and the Duomo hovers overhead like a proud mama bear. Located in Piazza del Duomo, Florence Cathedral was formally the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. Construction began in 1296 in the Gothic style to a design of Arnolfo di Cambio and was structurally completed by 1436, with the dome engineered by Filippo Brunelleschi. The magnificent dome, which dominates the exterior, was added in the 15th century on a design of Filippo Brunelleschi. If you’d like to read more about the architectural aspects of the Duomo: Click Here. This is also a good Link.

Birth of Venus

What always comes to mind when I reminisce about my trip to Florence, is seeing Bottacelli’s Birth of Venus for the very first time in person and it was electric, and even exceeded the gelato. I actually bought my very own print of the Birth of Venus, which says quite a lot on my backpacker budget.
Michelangelos-David

Michelangelo – The Statue of David

Michelangelo’s Statue of David housed at Florence’s Accademia Gallery is well-recognised as one of the greatest artistic masterpieces of all time and well described in the words of Giorgio Vasari:

“When all was finished, it cannot be denied that this work has carried off the palm from all other statues, modern or ancient, Greek or Latin; no other artwork is equal to it in any respect, with such just proportion, beauty and excellence did Michelagnolo finish it”.

Giorgio Vasari

I feel very privileged to have seen this statue in person and from right up close. How amazing. Of course, it’s not the same as meeting Michelangelo himself or seeing the artistic genius at work, but it is enough to walk amongst his shadows here in Florence and traverse the streets he trod hoping that one day I would find my own angel sealed inside my very own metaphorical slab of marble. After all, I was still so young with all the world at my feet and my dreams, weren’t perceived as dreams but imminent destinations and my ticket was there ready in my pocket. Many times, I’ve wanted to jump into my time machine and be that person again. My faith might have been blind but it was real.

Michelangelo’s Tomb

Memory tells me very poignantly, that I also visited Michelangelo’s tomb. Even 30 years later, I still remember standing by his tomb as clear as day and having my photo taken by my local tour guide. That’s monumental. Over the years, I’d forgotten the name of the place or that Michelangelo wasn’t the only incredible mind buried here. Michelangelo is buried in Santa Croce, as are RossiniMachiavelli, and the Pisan-born Galileo Galilei, who was tried by the Inquisition and was not allowed a Christian burial until 1737, 95 years after his death. There is also a memorial to Dante, but his sarcophagus is empty (he is actually buried in Ravenna as he was exiled from Florence). However, I’ve just scanned in my photos and when you read the inscription, you’ll see it’s actually Dante’s tomb! So, my memory isn’t so good after all.

By the way, if you’ve like to read the gripping story of Michelangelo’s Tomb, click here.

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Veccio

“Among the four old bridges that span the river, the Ponte Vecchio, that bridge which is covered with the shops of jewelers and goldsmiths, is a most enchanting feature in the scene. The space of one house, in the center, being left open, the view beyond, is shown as in a frame; and that precious glimpse of sky, and water, and rich buildings, shining so quietly among the huddled roofs and gables on the bridge, is exquisite”.

– Charles Dickens

As our tour continues, it’s still stinking hot and full of bodies. I also remember walking across Ponte Vecchio, a medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River. It was in these shops and markets that all reservations about spending money blew up in smoke and I blame my maths. Back in 1992, we still had the lire and I’ve forgotten what the formula was but I certainly mucked it up and goodness knows how much the leather wallet purse I bought actually cost. In the long run, it didn’t really matter. It was pickpocketing in Thailand on my way home.

These memories comes in no particular order, or perhaps they do. I’m not sure. I’m just finding my way back along the corridoors of memory the best way I can and perhaps I should Google a map of Florence and put things in their rightful place and in a neat little sequence. However, that isn’t me and doesn’t evoke that same sense of travelling by feel and intuition (along with the assistance of my local guide).

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It is my local tour guide who took me out to a local monastery which, much to my amazement, produced Ouzo. I haven’t remembered the name that monastery, even though I sort of remember driving there and more clearly remember having a small glass of clear liquor, which had been made on location by the monks still living in the monastery. It was visiting this monastery which felt incredibly authentic and a window into another world and indeed the reason why we travel…to see and experience something beyond our own backyard and way of life.

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However, I was a 23 year old when I visited the monastry and I experienced this incredible place through those eyes and it was here that possibly my favourite photo of myself on my European travels was taken. I’d spotted this sign on the end of a high stone wall and pulled myself along the top to get into position grateful for my many years of climbing trees as a kid preparing me for the job.

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This photo shows me for how I saw myself…a traveller. I was an Australian over in Europe exploring Italy and I was miles and miles away from home and living the life of a bird.

Doing a Google search from my lounge room back in Australia in 2020, it looks like this monastry was the Certosa of Galluzzo. It would be wonderful to go back and retrace my steps and experience this incredible historica place through more mature eyes.

Florence in April 2020…

Then, I was brutally brought back to the present where Florence and all of Italy is embroiled in the deepest depths of the coronavirus and Florence is closed.

All the world is thinking of you and praying for release, a flattening of the curve an end to this blight. I send you my love and the outstretched arms of a friend. We hope you’ll be okay and we look forward to catching up in person on the other side.

Have you ever been to Florence? Have some memories or posts to share? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 6th April, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week you’re in luck. I can offer you a lusciously fresh, Orange Buttercream Cupcake with raspberries on top. My husband dropped off a box of three to my parents and brother in Sydney on his way to work this morning. In keeping with social distancing regulations, he simply left the box on their doorstep, knocked on the door and was off. Mum had a lovely surprise. My Dad doesn’t like icing so his was plain, which looked like he was missing out alongside the rest. Dad was pleased I remembered, although Mum said she could’ve cut the top off. I warned her all that icing could have made her sick. It’s very rich.

cupcake box Pymble

Mum sent us this photo of the cupcakes we dropped off. As you can see, two of them had evaporated soon after delivery.

I’m pleased we got in touch. I haven’t seen them for a couple of months. We had to cancel a get-together for our kids’ birthdays because we had colds, not knowing what was to come. I should’ve pushed a bit harder and got something organized. However, you know how it is. You always think you have forever. Who could’ve predicted this was just around the corner?

I obviously don’t know how the coronavirus is impacting on you, your family and friends and community. However, I would love to hear from you and come together around this online cafe and share our experiences. I live at Umina Beach, just North of Sydney, Australia. The whole country is close to being at home. Most state borders have closed and in Western Australia, they’ve even set up regional zones for containing movement. This is really good, and it’s making life a lot easier for people who are at high risk of not only catching the virus, but also having a dire outcome. This, unfortunately, includes me but for once, I’m not alone. Most of the country is in the same boat and people are rising to the challenge.

At this point in Australia, the impacts have largely been economic and around 1 million people have lost their jobs. The government has responded by increasing welfare payments, but it’s hit some people very hard and losing your job is always painful. Fortunately, Geoff works in IT for a university and so far, so good. He’s an essential worker. He lost his job back in the GFC, so we went through this back then and know that pain and hope you and yours have managed to avoid it.

While still on the subject of Coronavirus, I also wanted to share something I posted earlier tonight….Every Home Is Now A Stage. As you may be aware, musicians and performers around the world have been posting free performances online with a view of lifting our collective spirits and so I decided to put a selection of these together to share with you. There are contributions from Jimmy Barnes, Andrew Lloyd Webber, the National Gallery and I had to include a clip of feeding a baby koala at Taronga Zoo, which made my heart sing.

KLM

Meanwhile, I’ve been taking part in the annual Blogging From A to Z  April Challenge. My theme this year is “Places I’ve Been”, which has a travel and photographic feel to it with a bit of introspection and philosophy thrown in. The alphabetical aspect to this challenge always makes it interesting, because there are always some letters where you have a plethora of options and it’s really hard to boil it down to one. Then, there are other letters where you really have to struggle to come up with anything and the results can feel quite random. I chose this theme, due to the current travel restrictions and I wanted to spread some joy. It’s also been very therapeutic to revisit these places myself and to realize that despite illness and parenthood, I am still a traveller.

Here’s are my posts for week 1:

Amsterdam

Berlin

Canberra

Devonport, Tasmania.

Have you been to any of these places? Or, perhaps you’ve lived there? I’d love to read any reflections in the comments below.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali.

We hope you and yours stay safe and well.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Every Home Is Now A Stage.

Today, I’ve had a rather indulgent day spent listening to all sorts of musical offerings all geared towards helps us get through the coronacrisis. I really appreciated these offerings and wanted to share them with you.  I apologize that the layout on this list is a bit haphazard. However, I had trouble uploading some of the links and they came in a variety formats. I’ll warn you that if you’re meant to be working from home or getting something done, these will pose a major distraction, but well worth it. I’ve had a wonderful day.

What A Wonderful World.

I saw this on TV last night and it took my breath away. This clip was put together by musical maistro Jon Foreman and the Aussie Pops Orchestra to raise many for Australia’s struggling live performers whose livelihoods have been smashed by the coronavirus. Musos struggle to make ends meet at the best of times and these must count close to the worst for those trying to make a living from live performances. Please give what you can. Our daughter has performed under Jon Foreman at School Spectacular and I just love how he’s been able to get his musical connections together like this. It’s very special.

Jimmy & Jane Barnes

Rock legend Jimmy Barnes needs no introduction here in Australia. However, for those of you living under a rock or something overseas, he’s the front man for Cold Chisel, but has also gone solo and performed with his son David Campbell. Moreover, he’s written two incredible books...Working Class Boy and Working Class Man.

While there are thousands and upon thousands of Australians who quite literally worship the ground he walks on as probably Australia’s greatest living Rock legend, I have only had a passing interest in Cold Chisel and my connection began with reading Working Class Boy and meeting him at a book signed down at our local bookshop. He was very different in person to what I’d expected and much more humble. There was definitely more than a note of self-doubt, which surprised me. Of course, at this point, he was making the transition from music to writing and I got the genuine impression he was actually surprised I’d finished his book and that seemed to touch him a lot, especially given this very brief encounter. I also want to tell you that I embarrassed myself with my usual disinhibited candor. Reading his book I was so struck by the abuse and severe hardship he experienced as a child, that I wanted to give him a hug and a matchbox car. That was what mum had always bought for my brother’s friends for their birthdays back in the day.

Anyway, it turned out that Jimmy Barnes and his wife Jane were in 14 days quarantine after returning home from an incredible personal holiday (including travelling on the Orient Express). So, they started undergoing creative challenges and posting them on his Facebook page. They are so personal and draw you right into the very heart of their home and family and are absolutely beautiful and certainly broke down that veil of loneliness and isolation we’re feeling at the moment.

Here are a few links:

Here’s a photograph of Jimmy getting his haircut by his wife Jane

Scroll down the comments and you’ll see a photo of a little dog who is called “Jimmy Barnes”. Follow this thread through and all sorts of dog owners have posted photos of dogs named after famous people. I should add ours. Zac is officially “Isaac Newton”.

Jimmy Barnes Singing Danny Boy

 

Andrew Lloyd Webber

Andrew Lloyd Webber needs no introduction, but I do want to let you know that he ill be screening one of his musicals online every Friday for the next few weeks. It will be available to watch on the YouTube channel The Show Must Go On for 48 hours, starting on Friday at 7pm GMT. Next weekend’s musical will be Lloyd Webber’s 2012 production of Jesus Christ Superstar, starring Tim Minchin, Mel C. and Chris Moyles. In the eantime, enjoy this offering from Jesus Christ Superstar and perhps you could even send him through a clip of you singing long.

Kansas City Ballet: Me, Dorothy…and This Road to Oz

Corona Yoga

 

Stayin Alive

Taronga Zoo

Taronga Zoo here in Sydney is currently closed to visitors. However, they’ve set up  Taronga TV and while it doesn’t strictly involve music and performance, I thought youd enjoy this very cute video of the baby koala being hand fed.

Australian National Gallery

Lastly, we’re heading off to Australia’s National Gallery in Canberra where they’re currently holding two online exhibitions….

Matisse & Picasso

Hugh Ramsay

Of course, there’s so much more but these will keep you entertained, distracted and unproductive for at least a few days.

Hope you enjoy.

Best wishes,

Rowena