Category Archives: Australia

Thursday Doors…St John’s Cathedral, Parramatta, Australia.

This week, a new door opened up, when I stumbled across a new-to-me blog share…Thursday Doors, hosted by Norm 2.0. As he explains:

Thursday Doors is a weekly feature allowing door lovers to come together to admire and share their favorite door photos from around the world. Feel free to join in on the fun by creating your own Thursday Doors post each week and then sharing it, between Thursday morning and Saturday noon (North American eastern time), by using the blue link-up button below. 

What a great idea!

Yet, there began my dilemma.

Of all the doors in all the world, which one would I choose to be my first?

Of course, it couldn’t just be any old door.

It had to be special. Personal. Tell a story.

At the same time, being the eternal procrastinating perfectionist, I also twigged that I could spend days, even years, sifting through millions of photos on my hard drive pedantically searching for the perfect door and this new opportunity would never open up for me.

Trust me. There’s no perfect door.

No perfect door photo either.

Well, I’d probably find one if I searched a bit harder, and I really should’ve straightened this photo by the smallest fraction of a degree, because it isn’t quite straight. You see, despite being a half-decent photographer I struggle to get the horizon level. There’s often a slight lean to one side. So, this photo as it stands has my personal signature.

So, let me introduce you to Sydney’s St John’s Anglican Cathedral, Parramatta, home to Australia’s longest continuing church site, and one of its earliest churches. The cathedral itself was built in three main stages, St John’s Anglican Cathedral combines Victorian Romanesque style with an (earlier) pair of Old Colonial Gothic towers.  The oldest part of the current building, the two western towers, were built between 1817 and 1819 on apparently new foundations to replace the collapsed vestry. The towers are modelled on the towers of the ruined 12th century Saxon Church of St Mary’s at Reculver, Kent, England. See source.

My husband and I had a weekend away in Parramatta a few months ago and really enjoyed having a chance to explore its historic architecture. You can read more about that in: A Weekend Away In Parramatta.

Well, I look forward to knocking on a few new doors taking part in Thursday Doors and I also hope a few of you will head over there and give it a go. Here’s the link again.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share… 5th August, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’m a year older and wiser, after celebrating my Birthday on Monday. I’m not going to get into the specifics. However, I can still claim to be in my 40’s, although I’m now hanging on by my fingertips!!!

My birthday was fairly low key. The kids went away skiing at Perisher with the Scouts, and my husband and I stayed home. From memory, we crashed out most of the time and slept. It’s still Winter here and I’m still inclined to hibernate. That said, we’re now starting to head into t-shirt weather by day, although it’s still pretty cold at night. Just to put you in the picture,  it was 9-19°C today.

Masterchef Australia 2018 Title Goes To Indian Origin Prison Guard Sashi Cheliah

Last Tuesday night, was the Finale of Masterchef Australia 2019. Have you ever watched Masterchef? You guys come from all over but the show seems to have something of a global audience. I’ve been a diehard, loyal fan since it first appeared 10 years ago when Julie Goodwin became Australia’s 1st Masterchef. Given how much I’ve always loved cooking, especially baking, it’s no wonder I love the show. However, I don’t just watch it as a cooking show. Rather, I’m lured right in, watching the highs and lows, the conquests and defeats of the human spirit. While I’m sure all these contestants are perfectionists by nature and extremely driven, making mistakes on the show is par for the course. The key, however, is not to have two bad cooks in a row, because that’s what sends you home. I made no secret at home, that 19 year old Jess Liemantara was my favourite, although as she faced pressure test after pressure test, it didn’t seem likely that she was going to last the distance. However, she eventually survived long enough to place fourth…a great achievement. The finale saw Ben and Sashi fight it out. While Sashi had been a strong contender throughout and an obvious winner, his form dropped back a bit in those last final cooks and I thought Ben had the title in the bag. However, it wasn’t meant to be, and Sashi romped home with the largest score in Masterchef history.

I’m not much of a TV watcher, but I’ve been left feeling a distinct void since Masterchef ended, even though it’s clearly time I caught up on my violin practice which has been an unfortunate casualty. I’m also waiting on the transcripts of the bigamy case I’ve mentioned a few times. My 3 x Great Grandfather, John Johnston was convicted of bigamy in New Zealand in 1864 and I’m waiting on them to arrive before I do more research on that front.

Asher Hart 1931 record Breaker

Instead, I’ve dug up my research on my grandfather’s second cousin, Asher Hart, who was a swimming champion during the 1930s. However, in 1932, he contracted polio and spent four months in Sydney Hospital in plaster. I didn’t expect Asher to rise from the horrors of polio and certainly not return to competitive swimming and being a lifesaver at Sydney’s Bondi Beach. However, slowly but surely he got back on his feet and into training and his father, Reg, massaged his legs every night for 18 months. He didn’t throw him back into competition either. Rather, he valued rest as much as training and instituted what seems to be a pretty level-headed training regime. I’m still nutting out all his various achievements. However, in 1938 a mini tsunami hit Bondi Beach and hundreds of people needed to be rescued. Moreover, most of them couldn’t swim. Five people drowned that day, but Asher Hart saved four lives. I am so proud of him. Not just because he’s family, but because I’ve also survived the horrors of debilitating illness and for him to be able to do all of that, blows me away. I’m in awe. Indeed, when I first put the pieces of his story together five years ago, my muscle disease had flared up and I had my own questions of whether I was going to get my own muscle strength back, along with very real concerns that my lungs were steadily turning into concrete. I needed a hero. Not any kind of hero, but someone who was where I was at and climbed out. I’ve recently found out that he didn’t recover full strength in his legs, but his arms and shoulders compensated. He was certainly an extraordinary man, and from what I’ve also read, his character was equally inspiring. I am yearning to find out more.

Black Sunday SMH Feb 7 1938

Black Sunday Bondi, 1938. 

Speaking of which, I read a fantastic book this week: My Australian Story: Black Sunday by Evan McHugh. It recounts the story of “Nipper” a 12 year old Bondi lad who is desperate to become a lifesaver. However, it is 1938 and back then you needed to turn 16 and get your Bronze Medallion before you could join up. However, keen as mustard, Nipper starts training, swimming in the surf. The story goes off on many twists and turns and doesn’t just focus on Black Sunday itself, but provides more of an overview of what it was like to grow up and live in Bondi Beach at the time. It also places it within its historic context of the Great Depression, and the rise and rise of Adolf Hitler as the world steadily marches towards another world war. One of Nipper’s friends was a Jewish regugee from Germany.  I found it a gripping, easy read and couldn’t put it down. Read it in a day. Highly recommend it.

Book

 

I’ve also started reading Raphaelle Giordano’s: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One, which I spotted while on holidays at Blackheath but requested as a birthday gift from my mum when I returned home. I’m really enjoying it so far. I love a philosophical, reflective read and so far, this one shows promise. However, it didn’t get a very encouraging review from Sydney Morning Herald Reviewer, Cameron Woodhead, who could well be true to name:  “This awkwardly titled, though bestselling, French novel claims to have made 2 million readers happier. It didn’t make me happier. But then, I didn’t grow spiritually from reading Eat, Pray, Love. Raphaelle Giordano has created the kind of shallow feel-good novel that resembles a self-help book, with the same tiresome platitudes, the same hyper-focus on personal fulfilment.”

However, life hasn’t been all about reading during the last week and indulging in Masterchef. Today, we helped one of my support workers move house. Her situation was untenable and she needed to move in a hurry. I rang a friend from Church with a van and trailer and recruited my husband and son and off we went. It’s not easy to move in a hurry and while I kept myself pretty light when I was in share accommodation, she had the full kaboodle and was moving to a first floor flat with a narrow staircase. So, the guys hoisted the bed up over the balcony and my dear son proved himself a man and quite a rock helping without complaining and doing what needed to be done. Our team of men, and our friend’s son, showed how male strength can be used for good and make a difference. I was not only very proud of them. It touched my heart. I was really thrilled we pulled off the move because it’s not easy for me to help other people in practical ways with my health issues and just this once, we pulled it off. I was able to be the sort of person I admire and want to be…a helper and not a drowning soul myself. I have grown so much stronger.

In terms of what I’ve posted this week, I did my usual contribution for Friday Fictioneers. This week’s contribution was : Secret Shed Business. I also posted a newspaper clipping I came across of my grandmother, concert pianist, Eunice Gardiner. I’ve never seen this photo before, but it showed my grandmother carrying her first son in a backpack and talking about how she attaches the baby on the front to go to the shops. Meanwhile,all in the same breath, she talked about giving a Beethoven recital at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. The baby was three months old at this point. My grandmother was something of a superhuman, although she didn’t go it alone. She had considerable support, despite my grandfather being away with the Army. In was 1943. The Japanese had already knocked on Sydney Harbour. These were very difficult times and yet she played on.

Lady & pups sleeping

Lady with the pups when they first arrived a year ago. 

Lastly, I just thought I’d finish up with a  bit of a tribute to the dog. It seemed everywhere I turned last week, people were caught up in serious trouble and needed an ear. Indeed, I was starting to wonder if there was anybody who was feeling on top of the world. That life was good. By this point, my own gear had moved into neutral, the observer…it’s an easy place for a writer to sit and turn into something of a home.

puppy

A simplistic interpretation…or is it?

Then, I looked up at my dogs…Lady, the Border collie x Cavalier and Rose and Zac our year old Border collie x Kelpies who are brother and sister from the same litter…our “twins”. Just the sound of the car pulling into the driveway, is ecstasy. Rosie is always there with her ball, stick, or fragments thereof, full of drive and enthusiasm. Zac is inclined to whimper when a door closes on him but he doesn’t forget how to wag his tail. It is no coinsidence that we have three dogs in our family and if we lived on acreage, there’d be a fourth…one each. They are simply the best!

Hope you’ve had a great week!

Love & best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

An Almighty Juggling Act…Concert Pianist & Mother, Eunice Gardiner.

If you’ve been following Beyond the Flow for any length of time at all, you’ll know that I’m totally obsessed and absorbed in research. Indeed, I wrap myself up in all these stories like a thick fleecy blanket feeling so snug and cosy.

Yet, there’s also that frustration. The compulsion to keep on searching even though you know what you’re looking for isn’t out there, and you’re needing to go offline.

That’s where I was tonight.  I’m actually in the throws of researching my grandfather’s second cousin, Asher Hart, who was a champion swimmer who was struck down by polio in his teens, but went on to become a surf champion and saved four lives on Black Sunday 1938 when a mini tsunami hit a crowded Bondi Beach in Sydney. Given my own struggles with disability and muscle wastage, he’s been such an inspiration to me in recent years, even though I only stumbled across him five years ago while I was recovering from chemo.

Anyway, it was getting late by now and I was winding down while my last cup of tea was cooling down, and entered my grandfather’s name into the search engine for these old newspapers. You can tag the articles so I can easily spot the ones I’ve read and the ones I’ve missed. New newspapers are being uploaded so it can be very productive to revisit what really might seem like the end of the road. Indeed, my motto is: Never Give Up, which could be a bit of a problem when research isn’t supposed to be the centre of my universe. Or, as is often the case, it can easily become my universe. I can become incredibly focused.

So, here I am tinkering away with these old newspapers around midnight, when I strike gold. Indeed, tinkering right before bed can be quite a bad thing because that seems to be when I stumble across something I can’t put down. That I must explore immediately and there endeth a good night’s sleep.

Eunice with Bon in Backpack

Tonight, I stumbled across an article and photo of my grandmother, concert pianist Eunice Gardiner carrying my uncle in a back pack. I have never even seen this photo before, and I’m absolutely stoked. There she is not only photographed with him in the backpack, but she’s also talking about going shopping with the toddler on her back, the baby on the front while my grandfather was away with the army. Yet, not one to be conquered like us other mere mortals, she was also giving a Beethoven Concert at the   Sydney Conservatorium. Moreover, she discusses all of this as though everybody was doing it and there’s no talk at all about taking one small step for woman and an enormous leap for womenkind”. She was simply her own person. Mind you, that was also a bit of a luxury enabled by her mother, Mrs Ruby Gardiner, who steeped in and looked after the kids a long with household help. There was actually a migrant hostel at nearby with a source of willing labour. That’s not to belittle her extraordinary achievements, but I share this to console those of us battling to stay afloat in the real world. My two are just under two years apart, and I haven’t forgotten the difficulties of trying to get out the door with two little ones in tow. I also had backpacks, front packs but for getting to the shops, I had this extraordinary double pram contraption I’d picked up from the op shop with a toddler seat on the front. It was the size of a bus and really didn’t encourage going out. By the way, we also had a huge English Sheepdog who was tied to the pram on these walks. In hindsight, I don’t know how we survived. Rufus could well have bolted to the beach after a seagull despite the cumbersome attachments. He was that type of dog…a pure maniac.

Eunice 1948 USA

My Grandmother at the Australian Embassy in Washington, 1948. She had three children all back in Australia when this photo was taken, including my Dad. So hard to comprehend on so many, many levels.

Despite my grandmother having seven children, I never thought of her being loaded up to the hilt with kids like myself. While my youngest uncles are only ten and eleven years older than me, I still just think of her as MY GRANDMOTHER and given that I often went round and saw her on my own, that makes a lot of sense. Each of us has multiple roles and relationships to different people and we’re not as pigeon-holed as we often try to make out. Indeed, she was much more complex than her title: “Melba of the Piano” implied. She was a modern, Renaissance Woman.

I was so happy to find this article, that I decided to post it here where it’s easily accessible to the family and I can share it with you as well. It’s not like showing it on TV. My blog has more of an “intimate” audience.

I hope you enjoy reading it and might even feel a tad inspired, even if it is only to take yourself off for a walk.

Best wishes,

Rowena

I remember reading a story about your grandmother. I think it was about her trip to New York, if I’m not mistaken. She was quite the character, traveling alone to follow her passion.

Thanks for the comment, Rowena. Have a nice day. 🙂

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  1. Thank you, Varad. My grandmother has been this incredible mystery all my life and having all these old newspapers go online, has both illuminated and confused me. One of the things that really blew me away, was finding out there was a miniature grand piano on top of my grandparents’ wedding cake. My husband and I have both thought it was an acknowledgement that my grandfather was marrying her the piano and all that went with it. I’ve never seen a photo of the cake and would dearly love to and I only found out about it from the newspapers. It is very strange finding out such personal details about your own grandmother through old newspapers online. The other thing that I’ve come to realize is that her genes have been passed onto us. In the past, that was simply seen as whether or not we’d inherited her musical talent, and perhaps in the more specific context of the piano. Could we play? It’s taken me some time and a few more generations to join the mix, to see that we have inherited a smattering of things from her, including an absolutely dogged determination and focus, which was just as important to her success as her musical talent. A jack of all trades isn’t going to cut the mustard.
    You’ve inspired got a story there, Varad and I’m going to paste it to the end of my post. Your comment really got me thinking this morning as I’m back at my desk with a cup of tea, porridge and my go pills.
    Hope you have a lovely weekend!
    Best wishes,
    Rowena

 

Fish & Chips at Terrigal Beach, Australia.

Yesterday, I stopped off at Terrigal Beach on my way home from an appointment. Terrigal is only about a 30 minute drive away and an hour North of Sydney. Yet, it’s been over a year since I was there last.While we live right near a beach ourselves, Terrigal has its own attractions and I can’t believe we don’t get there more often. Indeed, yesterday was something of a wake up call. An urgent reminder to carpe diem – seize the day.

No doubt, you also know how it is. That it doesn’t matter how close you are to paradise, it somehow passes you by. Not necessarily through any active thought on your part, but more likely through busyness and procrastination, although there’s also plenty of scope for  full-scale avoidance.

Indeed, at the moment, even sticking my head out the back door only an arm’s length away, has slumped into Mission Impossible. Not that I’m depressed, anxious or phobic in anyway. For some reason, I just don’t quite seem able to make it. That is, despite holding Carpe Diem – Seize the day as my personal mantra.

Unfortunately, the reality is often anything but. Indeed, it’s more along the lines of… “Let go of the day. Let it flow away like spilled milk without even raising an eyebrow. There’s an endless supply of sand flowing through the hour glass. Better luck tomorrow. Or, maybe even next week. Or, even the week after that. Don’t rush.”

Sea Squabble

So, I am proud of myself for not only indulging in Fish & Chips from the self-professed “best fish & chips in NSW” (well, there must’ve been some award), but also taking myself for a walk. Getting EXERCISE!!! Indeed, along with all my other doings, I actually managed to clock up a respectable 3,629 steps or 2.4km. Way better than Monday’s 132 steps (must’ve left the phone at home) Or, today’s unimpressive 70 (Yes, I know it’s almost 1.30pm, but I’m still trying to get the motor started).

 

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Looking across to the Fisherman’s Co-op where we used to buy leather jackets when I was a kid.

Anyway, let’s just ignore the bigger picture for a tad, and just focus on yesterday. For anyone who even vaguely knows me, you won’t be surprised that I had my camera with me.  That, also explains why I walked the extra mile. You see, when I’m looking through the lens, I have no idea how far I’ve walked, where I am or even if I’m currently in grave danger. All I see is the shot. Indeed, even if it isn’t a biggy, I’m still seeing and thinking in 6 x 4 and the rest of the world does not exist.

Terrigal beach pano

Terrigal Beach, looking North.

Terrigal was first settled by Europeans in 1826. John Gray, who was the first European settler to the area, called his property Tarrygal, after the indigenous Aboriginal place name, signifying ‘place of little birds’.

4667954221_48c70d0a67_n

Terrigal Beach in the 1970s looking South towards the Skillion.

As a child, our family used to rent a place in Terrigal or nearby Wamberal during the Christmas Summer holidays, when it was a much humbler version of the tourist resort you see today. Indeed, in so many ways, I wish they’d left it alone but there are always those determined to convert a place with such natural beauty into a monument to man.

As I said, I’m pleased that I managed to take this time out to bask in our local environment and although I’m feeling rather inert today, I am feeling the need to get the motor fired up again. The sun is shining. The dogs would be begging for a walk if they weren’t so busy sunning themselves while I’m tapping away indoors like a moron. What’s wrong with me? Why aren’t I out there? Especially, when I am so adept at avoiding the To-Do List which, at least in theory, is what’s keeping me here? Indeed, I am so close to being outside, that I could almost fall out of my chair into the sunshine.

Zac in the sun

Zack’s no idiot. He’s not inside on a sunny day. He’s out on his Pooh Bear blanket sunny side up.

Well, to be fair, I have actually been making calls and waiting for replies while I’ve been tapping away here. As most of you will agree, getting even the most simplest thing done, takes multiple steps each with its inevitable snags. Indeed, I’m perfectly justified  for feeling psychologically and physically stonkered (to use one of my Dad’s pet words).

Anyway, before the day completely goes up in smoke, it’s time I disappeared outside and found the sun.

Have you done something similar lately and made the most of where you live?

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share…23rd July, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’ve been a bit of a bower bird and we’re enjoying the warm fire at the Central Coast Bar and Grill where we indulged in a scrumptious Sticky Date Pudding. Indeed, we loved it so much, that I had to make one for dessert last night and added some pecan nut praline for good measure. Dinner was supermarket lasagna just in case you think I’m about to enter Masterchef myself.

Amelia Coast Quest

Last week, was jam packed with rehearsals and performances. Our daughter competed in Coast Quest with her dancing and went extremely well. Well, perhaps “extremely” is being a somewhat over the top. However, if you’d seen her beaming smile when she came second in her ballet solo and third in her contemporary (with a higher mark of 89), you’d understand. We don’t receive many awards, so these were pure gold.You can read about the the full experience here.

 

 

The kids were also performing in the  Scout & Guide Gang Show with four performances at Laycock Street Theatre. The show was fantastic, and this was more our son’s turn to shine. He even made an appearance as NASA astronaut Michael Collins from the Apollo 11 (moon landing) mission. He delivered his lines well and smiled throughout the entire show. He looked like he was having a ball. Our daughter’s involvement was cut back due to clashing commitments with dancing but just managed to stay in the show. It looks like it will be her last. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time last week in the audience. It is a role I cherish, and I turn it into a much more active role by encouraging the performers. I also love watching the performances, and really feel quite privileged. I’m definitely not there under sufferance.

Last week, I also took part in Friday Fictioneers. I actually had two attempts this week, after some feedback, and my second effort An Unpredictable End was much better received.

The kids have been on school holidays for the last two weeks, and school goes back tomorrow. So, I’m thinking along the lines of getting organised for the term ahead while writing on the blog. That works, doesn’t it? Humph…

Anyway, it’s actually a beautiful sunny day outside. Well, not quite as warm as I’d first thought. It’s about 18°C so still not what we’d consider “balmy”. It’s still rug-up weather as far as I’m concerned.

Hope you’ve had a great week and I look forward to hearing from you!

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

Gang Show 2018

The Family Taxi is getting quite accustomed to chauffeuring our budding performers to rehearsals and performances. However, just because there was “another one”, that doesn’t lessen our excitement and enthusiasm, even if the petrol tank was getting thirsty.

After seeing our daughter place in a local dance competition through the week, last night we saw both kids perform in the Scouts & Guides: Central Coast Gang Show. Quite aside from being the proud parents and laughing at our son’s crazy assortment of pants and costumes including an orange sheet for a Flintstones’ scene, we had such so much fun. The theatre was intimate, and we were only three rows back from the stage. While we weren’t quite singing out load, I was definitely singing-a-long  in my head to the likes of Inspector Gadget, Flash Gordon theme, Pokemon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Scooby Doo. Indeed, with all those great songs, I’m surprised I wasn’t dancing in the aisle. You see, I can be the ultimate in embarrassing mums. The highlight for my son came, when he played the third NASA Astronaut, Michael Collins, in a skit.

 

While you might think of knots and camping when it comes to Scouts and Guides, the Gang Show has been around since 1931 when Ralph Reader, a Rover Scout trying to make his mark in theatre in the USA and London, was asked to write a Scout-based variety show to raise money for a swimming pool for the Downe Scout Camp (now a Scout Association National Activity Centre). Rehearsals began under Reader’s direction on 25 May 1932. Initially the show did not have a title, but during a rehearsal break, he asked a cast member if everyone was ready, and the response was “Aye, aye Skip, the gang’s all here”. The first production, The Gang’s All Here, ran between 30 October and 1 November 1932 at the Scala Theatre in central London.[1]The show was not a sell-out, but enough was raised to fund the swimming pool and the show was well received. Baden-Powell, the founder of scouting, persuaded Reader to produce another show in 1933. This was The Gang Comes Back and ran for a week.Reader continued to write and produce the London Gang Show. In 1934 the show became The Gang Show and Crest of a Wave was performed for the first time, becoming over the years the anthem. In 1937 the London show became the first amateur production to have a Royal Command Performance (an honour repeated in 1957 and 1964). A feature film called The Gang Show, starring Ralph Reader and The Gang, premièred at the Lyceum Theatre, London in April the same year, and in New York in December 1938. Now, it appears right around the world- Gang Show Wikipaedia The Central Coast Gang Show has been running for 32 years.

What I love about the Gang Show, is that it gets a whole load of young people up on stage, who might never have considered getting involved in the performing arts. These kids are singing, dancing and committed to six months of pretty solid rehearsals. That’s not a mild-mannered undertaking. These are young people who are learning to express themselves in meaningful, productive ways and are building up essential qualities like perseverance, having a go and being part of a team. I also believe the stage shouldn’t be confined to the likes of Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. We also need that amateur layer as well. Not as a charity case with positions occupied for those who couldn’t make it. Rather, because it offers us something else. A form of entertainment which isn’t Hollywood and that hopefully reflects, at least in some way, out local culture.

So, after all the excitement of watching my kids and all the rest dancing and singing under lights and going through a plethora of costume changes, the curtain fell and the Gang Show was over for another year. I have to admit there was a bit of disappointment. That sense of loss once the show is over. It was a great night.

Have you ever attended a Gang Show performance? Or, even been in one yourself? Where and when was it? What did it mean to you? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share… 17th July, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’m retracting all my boasts about the balmy warmth of a Sydney Winter, and will let you know you’d better bring a big thick woolly blanket when you come to visit me this week. Indeed, last night, I not only dug the scout blanket out of storage, I put a beanie and woolen gloves on before going to bed AND jacked my electric blanket up to high. It only warms the bottom side and cool air was chilling my head through the window and one blanket and a doona were no longer enough over the top. I think I saw that it was actually 18°C today. So, you probably take me for an absolute wimp. However, the houses here aren’t central heated or prepared for the cold and are better suited to letting out the heat. That’s great for about 10-11 months in the year but then there’s that last month of Winter that really reminds you you’re alive and Winter isn’t such a myth after all.

So, what have you been up to?

Last week, I headed up to Blackheath in the Blue Mountains West of Sydney to stay with a cousin. We’re not exactly first cousins. Rather, we’re what I call “family history cousins” and my 4 x Great Grandfather and her Great Grandfather were brothers who came from the island of Islay in the Scottish Hebrides. I contacted her recently to fill her in on all my discoveries of bigamy, divorce and other intrigues, and she told me a cousin had dropped off two albums of photos dating back to the 1880s and invited me to stay. I was off. Didn’t need to be asked twice. I don’t like leaving people without a name, especially when such old photos are so rare and precious.

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A page from the historic family photo album showing Angus Rutherford Johnston & James Campbell.

Blackheath is in the Upper Blue Mountains and Sydney-siders have called it Bleakheath due to its “freezing” temperatures for generations. Blackheath locals call themselves “Blackheathens”. They sound like a dangerous bunch but are actually rather harmless. Indeed, there’s a strong creative community thriving in the area, along with an outpost of one of my favourite bookshops: Glee Books. Yes, I thought I’d died and gone to heaven when I spotted that and of course I bought a stack more books despite having piles and piles of books back here at home that I’ve never read.

Above:A family visit to the Paragon Cafe in 2011 Continue reading