How are you? I hope you’ve had a good couple of weeks, and I apologise for my intermittent appearances. I’ve been out of synch for awhile, which isn’t going to change any time soon. In case you’re not aware, I live in Greater Sydney and we’ve been in a covid lockdown since the 26th June and as of Saturday 6.00pm, the rest of the state joined us as well. This is life living alongside the Delta variant.
Of course, no one’s happy with this extended lockdown and those of you who have experienced far worse, might well be thinking we had this reality check coming. However, the numbers are still comparatively low, and this is largely precautionary. However, perhaps the worst thing about this statewide lockdown, is that it at least seems to be the result of the selfish actions of just a couple of people. With contacts being traced nd DNA tracking of the virus, it’s difficult to hide, and these individuals must be mighty pleased they’re no living in the Middle Ages when mob rule would’ve exacted its own justice.
It is strange being in lockdown, and yet it’s been a fairly universal experience at least at some point. For us, there are quite a few positives, as well as some not insignificant losses. My husband’s been able to work from home for almost the last 18 months. He’s a Senior IT Network Engineer at Macquarie University in Sydney and it’s usually a very hands on role. However, again thanks to technology, he can do most of his work remotely, and he’s been able to use the three hours travel time to renovate the house. We should probably be doing more together making most of this time, but we’re both busy. I’ve made huge progress on my research project writing short bios of WWI soldiers incorporating family and personal history. Our son has been the hardest hit and hovers in limb, while our old daughter is avoiding school via zoom and has converted our home into a dance studio.
Another interesting aspect to lock down where we live, is that we live in a beautiful location walking distance to the beach and a short drive away from so much stunning scenery. While we’ve been told in no uncertain terms to stay home, we are allowed to exercise outdoors with our household, or with one other friend. So, if you’re fit and healthy, can work from home, and are a true introvert, you could well be having the time of your life. If you don’t like shaking strangers’ hands and have a thing for hand sanitizer, it could well be a boon for you too. While I am incredibly grateful to be locked down in a scenic paradise, I am a true blue extrovert and I really miss seeing my friends collectively in person and seeing all of them and not just their head on a screen. That is a heartfelt ache too, not just a “would be nice”. I have a few good groups of friends and I miss doing like with them collectively and being part of a loving, intimate, touchy-feely herd. What’s more I think that needs to be said. Acknowledged and possibly shouted from the rooftops, because this current situation is anything but normal and I don’t want us to stop striving for what we in Sydney had pretty much regained. This is not the reality we want to have.
Anyway, I have enjoyed a few walks, including a walk along the waterfront at nearby Woy Woy. Perhaps, some of you have heard of Woy Woy before. British comedian Spike Milligan put Woy Woy on the map with the Goon Show, and his mother used to live there. These days with everyone in lockdown, it looks like the pelicans have taken over. The local Vinnies with it’s large glass windows, has become something of a mausoleum with a family frozen in time decked out in their Winter woolens. There was also a tea cup poised on apile of books on a coffee table beautifully decked out with a tablecloth. I admire how much love and attention to detail has goes into preparing the window displays, even in second hand shops. It seems to speak of such optimism and hope. That you’re not on your last legs just because you need to buy second hand.
Meanwhile, I’ve finished reading Ethel Turner’s 1894 novel: Seven Little Australians. It’s the story of widower, Captain Woolcot and six six children who has remarried a much younger woman and at this point in the story is 20 years old and has a baby. The story is told in the first person and it feels like Ethel Turner is talking to you herself, giving the book a very intimate and personal feel. She tells you right from the outset that this book is about naughty children, and isn’t a moral tale. This is entertainment and it makes you laugh, but there’s also more than just a reflective undertone and there’s definitely some character improvement along the way. Ethel Turner was only 23 when she wrote the book and it jettisoned her to international success attracting praise from the likes of Mark Twain. Anyway, I’d encourage you to read it. It’s usually classed as a children’s book, but it’s more what we now call young adult fiction, and I loved reading it myself. So I’d say age is no boundary, and I’ve also read praise from troops reading it on the Western Front in WWI. So, it’s appeal seems rather universal. If you’d like to read it, it’s available via Project Gutenberg here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/4731/4731-h/4731-h.htm
A few weeks ago, it was my birthday. In previous years, I’ve fully acknowledged and celebrated my birthday on the blog with equal enthusiasm and interest as the real world. However, this year, I didn’t quite get here, and it probably also reflects that my birthday in the real world didn’t go off with a bang this year either.
It was good, and indeed better than expected. However, my birthday (30th July) actually marked the day that Greater Sydney was supposed to come out of Covid lockdown, and I, and the collective we, knew after the third week of hard lockdown and with one week to go until our blessed release, that it wasn’t going to happen. There was going to be no extravagant birthday cake covered in candles with either my parents in Sydney or with my much loved friends. Everyone was going to be locked inside their little cells at home, and only let out for bad behaviour (my perspective on exercise).
However, while one is allowed to be a bit self-indulgent when their birthday plans go up in smoke (especially a Covid smoke), I know things could be worse, and that I have so much to be grateful for, especially when I see covid through a global lens. I checked the stats just then (which I don’t do on a global scale all that often) and globally there have been 206 million cases and 4.35 million deaths. In America alone (which ops the charts) there have been 621k deaths. Australia isn’t at the bottom of the charts and we have a much smaller population, but we have had 948 deaths. So, we have largely been spared the full force of this scourge here, although our lockdowns have been pretty tight and for vulnerable people like myself, we’ve spent much of the last 18 months in varying degrees of isolation and social distancing, while, of course, there are others who haven’t complied with restrictions or have lived away from the major cities and haven’t had to worry too much.
The other thing is that given my poor health and the somewhat dire state of my lungs, I am thankful and overjoyed for every birthday I have. So, I’m not saying that I spent my birthday at home crying either.
My birthday was on a Friday, and Friday nights are generally quite busy even in lockdown here. Our son has zoom with his youth group which sounds pretty rowdy and a lot of fun, and our daughter has a dance class right at dinner time. We also have our small group meeting for Church and we were getting together for a zoom party. So, we decided just to get Chinese home delivered that night, and deferred our family celebration to the following night, when we had home delivery from a local smokehouse we hadn’t tried before. This is I guess what we’d call “American” food, and I was particularly wanting to try Southern Fried Chicken that wasn’t from KFC. I made a Banoffee Pie for my birthday cake.
Meanwhile, during the day Geoff and I went for a bushwalk at the Mt Ettalong Lookout, which has the most magnificent coastal views over Pearl Beach to the right, and Umina Beach (home) on the left. When you see these photos, you’ll have absolutely so sympathy for my tough lockdown situation, and think I’m deluding myself. I’m in God’s country. However, breathtaking ocean views is not immersing myself in a room filled with my friends and being able to hug each other and talk totally oblivious of exchanging the air we breathe and what it might contain.
I know presents don’t make a birthday. However, I’m not going to deny how much they meant to me and how nice is was to open the front door and find a little treasure there. It was wonderful, and it meant so much more during this gloominess of Covid – a gloominess which, if we’re really honest with ourselves and others is at least a somewhat constant undercurrent of varying dimensions.) especially when you’re an extroverted people person like myself.
Anyway, I wanted to share a bit of the brightness which came my way on my birthday and offer each and everyone of you a virtual piece of cake.
Have you have any special celebrations during lockdown and what did you do?
So often when we reflect on Gallipoli, we hear of the men who sacrificed their lives. However, there’s another side to the story. That is the children of the dead and wounded men, also also paid an enormous, and mostly silent, price. Fortunately, the children’s columns in the newspapers provided a space where children would occasionally provide a glimpse, into this world.
On Sunday 30th July, 1922 a letter by Miss Brenda Taylor, aged 9, of Greenock, Piper-street, Leichhardt was published in Sunbeams, the children’s page in the Sun Herald. Sunbeams was edited by Ethel Turner, author of the Australian children’s classic: Seven Little Australians. A regular feature on the page was called “When I Grow Up”, and children wrote in gorgeous letters talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Brenda wanted to be a nurse:
“When I grow up I would like to be a nurse, so that I could look after poor sick people. If there happened to be another war I would go and look after the wounded soldiers. My daddy died of wounds at Gallipoli, where there were not enough nurses to look after the soldiers. I would love to wear the nice clean uniform of a nurse, and be in the children’s hospital amongst the little sick babies, as I love babies, and I don’t like to hear them crying. When I see the returned nurses with their badges I feel sure I am going to be one. I hope little girls will want to be the same so that there will be enough nurses for the poor soldiers if any more wars begin.
— Souvenir Prize and Blue “Sun” Card to Brenda Taylor (9), Greenock, Piper-street, Leichhardt — a little girl gallant enough, after her loss, to want to continue in the footsteps of her heroic father.”
Just to place young Brenda’s letter in context, there was also a letter from an ambitious crime-fighting detective:
TO MAKE CRIMINALS SHIVER
When I grow up I am going to be a detective, and gain fame, I will unravel mysteries that have baffled the greatest detectives of the world. If It is necessary for me to disguise while working on any case, my disguise shall be so complete that even my closest friends will not recognise me. First I will start In Australia, and when I’ve cleaned that of Its criminals, I will then proceed to London, and in disguise I will visit the slums of that city and learn what I can about different criminals, then gain their confidence, and arrest them in the act of pulling-off some of their greatest robberies. I will always play a lone hand, as you cannot rely on the police, who are generally blunderers. If any criminal defies me, I shall engage him In a battle of wits, and in the end I think I shall succeed in handing him over to the law to receive his punishment. Never shall I quit a case without unraveling it satisfactorily. Many people shall thank me for the services I have rendered them, and for me this will be sufficient reward. My name will spread throughout the world, and every criminal and wrong-doer will shiver at the mention of it.
There was also “Wanderer” from Bondi who’d decided to become a novelist rather than a pirate:
“NOVELIST RATHER THAN PIRATE
In the earlier stages of my life I entertained wild hopes of becoming a pirate; imagining myself, with a three-cornered hat tilted precariously on one side of my head, ordering men to get strung up the yard-arm, or to walk the plank. Lately, I have realised the utter insignificance of that career, as I will not be able to find a suitable crew, and if I did I would soon be hunted down. My present scheme for the future is to become a composer of prose and verse. I will live in a creeper-covered cottage in a quiet country town, there to pursue my work (perhaps I might marry by then, but that will not make any difference— only that the “star” boarder will have to seek a new residence). So as to have some varieties about the place, I will keep a few cows and a small stock of poultry. In the woodland dales I will compose my stories, and. now and then poetry. I hope to become gradually famous as a novelist. Then— and then only, will the zenith of my ambitions be attained— Blue “sun” Card to “Wanderer” (13), Bondi.”
Exploring Brenda Taylor’s Letter Further
Of course, young Brenda’s letter is heartbreaking. It was one thing for young, single men to sacrifice their lives for the Empire. It was quite another for family men with responsibilities and dependents to sacrifice theirs. Young children were left without fathers, wives without husbands, and were left to bring up the children alone. To put it in very simple terms, Daddy was never coming home.
Naturally, I wanted to find something out about her father’s war service, such as which unit he was in, and what happened to him. This is easy enough if you have a name. However, her father wasn’t named in the letter, and I couldn’t just search the service records for: “Brenda’s Dad”- no matter how powerful Google might be.
At the same, identifying a soldier with minimal information isn’t an impossible quest, especially now that so much information is available online. Indeed, these days, the difficulty is knowing when and where to stop. After all, we now have the whole wide world right at our finger tips and sometimes, as in trying to nut out Brenda’s letter, we need to draw on all of that. Even then, there comes a point when you realize, that you have to walk away without the answer. Indeed, that’s where I’m at with Brenda’s story. I still can’t be sure of who Brenda Taylor was, and don’t know her father’s name either. Yet, I haven’t given up. Storytelling is a collective process and hopefully these efforts will just be the beginning.
Yet, on the other hand, part of me wishes I could turn back the clock, and just appreciate Brenda Taylor’s letter at face value. Left well enough alone, and not asked who her father was, and tried to find his service records. After all, it’s such a heart-touching story. Here’s a little girl who lost her beloved Dad at Gallipoli when she was roughly two years old. That’s a serious loss, and I don’t feel comfortable questioning whether her story was true, and doubting the sincerity of a child. Of course, I want to be a believer. Hug this little girl who has lost her dad wholeheartedly without any of these lingering doubts.
However, any researcher worth their salt knows not to accept anything at face value. We have to ask the questions, accept the answers, and then somehow determine what we weave together into our version of the story.
So, despite a day of going backwards and forwards along time tunnels back into the past, I still don’t know the name of Brenda Taylor’s father, and can’t be entirely sure he died of wounds at Gallipoli or back at home.
A False Alarm
Initially, my efforts to identify Brenda Taylor were going quite well. NSW Births deaths and Marriages had a Brenda Beatrice Taylor born in 1915 in Mudgee to parents John G. Taylor and Beatrice Brownlow. They were married on the 17th February, 1910 at St. Paul’s Manse, Mudgee. This “G” might’ve been a “George”, and at a stretch, Brenda’s father might’ve been John George Taylor Service Number 7050. He was born at Newcastle-On-Tyne England, and was living at 2 Bay Street, Balmain, which isn’t too far from Leichhardt. However, he wasn’t a great fit. He’d enlisted on the 1st November, 1916 and clearly didn’t serve at Gallipoli. His next of kin was his sister, Mrs M. Foster, not a wife. There was also no mention of daughter, Brenda, either. However, marriages go awry, and he wouldn’t have been the only family man to have fled the home front for the front line without leaving a paper trail.
However, then I found the wedding notice for John G. Taylor and Beatrice Brownlow. Brenda’s father was actually a John Gavin Taylor, not a John George. So, that knocked John George Taylor 7050 out of the picture. Further research was required.
There was no other Brenda Taylor on the horizon, although the age of this Brenda Taylor didn’t quite match up. To be 9 years old on the 30th July, 1922, she needed to be born around 1911-1912. However, I couldn’t find an alternative born in NSW or Victoria. So, I persisted and found some good background stories.
Brenda’s mother, Beatrice Brownlow, had been born in 1889 to Samuel Brownlow and Agnes E. Bridge in Coonamble, New South Wales. Samuel was known as a “first-class horse trainer”, which sounded rather exciting:
A Veteran Trainer.
Sam Brownlow Re-appears on the Scene.
To the majority of Mudgee racegoers the name of the above well-known trainer will be quite familiar. The older sportsmen in particular will re member those grand old days when the then champions of the turf, such as King of the West, Eros, Myrtle, Reprieve, Prism, Contessa, &c. , met in battle array on the old course, and memories of Brownlow come back to them fresh and green. And now once more, after a fairly long absonce from the actual scene of turf warfare, Sam has come forth, like a giant refreshed, to renew his former occupation. The old spirit asserted itself — it was too strong for him to resist, and it is a strange coincidence that he will have under his care a horse which he trained a few years ago — I refer to Mr. J. C. Gunnell’s Nimrod. Sam has trained many good horses, notably King of the West, Myrtle, Eros, and Contessa, all of whom won races for the late J. D. Little at Randwick and Hawkesbury. When King of the West won the County Purse (now called the Rowley Mile) at Hawkesbury he was ridden by Tom Donoghue, who is now training in Mudgee. Brownlow once had private training stables on Bombira Hill years ago, where a good string of horses were located. He also went to Queensland with that great horse, Beadsman, with whom he won a great number of races there. Space will not permit of a lengthy description of our old friend’s many succeses as a trainer. We will simply say that he is a first class trainer, and has commenced with Mr. Gunnell’s horses, Nimrod and Grand Stuart, who are being prepared for the Mudgee meeting.
By now, the story was building nicely – layer up on layer up on layer. Yet, there were still some nagging doubts. These Taylors were based in Mudgee, and as yet I hadn’t found a link to Leichhardt, Sydney. Moreover, something else was glaringly missing. Aside from Brenda’s letter, there were no memorials in the newspapers honouring her father’s sacrifice on the battlefield, and this was unusual. Of course, there were families that kept it quiet, but they were few and far between. That also made me nervous.
Then, came the clincher. I came across the obituary for Brenda’s mother, Beatrice. She died on the 25th December, 1943 in Mudgee and it clearly mentioned that she was the “wife of Mr. J. G. Taylor, of Windeyer”, and also referred to her “bereaved husband”. Brenda’s father, John Gavin Taylor, was still alive.
Either Brenda Taylor’s letter wasn’t true. Or, there was another Brenda Taylor.
Brenda Taylor 2.0
I had one last search in the online newspapers at Trove. This time, I came across a wedding photo for a Brenda Taylor who married John Richard Keeffe at St John’s Church, Parramatta in 1938:
“Mrs. J.. Keeffe, formerly Miss Brenda Taylor, of Harris Park, who was married at St. John’s Church, Parramatta, on February 5. Misses Violet Keeffe, Ivy Taylor and Emily Keeffe are the bridesmaids, and Valmna Sweeney the flower girl. Photo. by McEnnally Studio”
I cross-referenced this with NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages, and found her listed as “Evelyn Brenda Taylor”. Would this finally be the clue which unraveled the mystery? Could I finally construct a solid trail from nine year old Brenda Taylor of Piper Street, Leichhardt to her father who really did die of wounds sustained in those early days at Gallipoli?
The closest I’ve come to finding an Evelyn Brenda Taylor is a Brenda Evelyn Taylor, who was listed in the 1911UK Census. She was 2 years old and was born and living in Rawreth, a village and civil parish in the District of Rochford, Essex, England, located between Wickford and Rayleigh. She was living there with her father, Edward Taylor, aged 23 born in Leatherhead, Surrey and was a Farm Labourer; and her mother, Alice May Taylor, was 21 from Chipstead, Surrey.
Could this be the right family? Did they migrate to Australia, and this is the very same Brenda Taylor who wrote into the Sun Herald on the 30th July, 1922?
I still don’t know, but I’m hoping that someone out there can help me set the record straight. I’d really love to know Brenda’s story – the whole story.
If anybody could shed any light on this, I’d really appreciate your help. I don’t have access to Ancestry which would most likely help.
Lastly, I should mention that this is fall of a broader project where I’m researching WWI through the letters of WWI soldiers, and exploring their family history nad lives before they went to the front.
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2
 Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 – 1954), Friday 4 August 1899, page 18
 Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 – 1954), Thursday 30 December 1943, page 5
 Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW : 1888 – 1950), Thursday 10 March 1938, page 9
Lock down is a rude shock. There we were on top of the world thumbing our noses at Melbourne (and most of the planet), miraculously invincible. Now, here we are in lock down with the Delta variant spreading through Sydney, and I’m sure it’s not just Melbournites who are glad to see us get our comeuppance. It’s the world. It’s alright. I can handle the rotten tomatoes. I know I let my pride get ahead of me. Or, should I say Sydney. However I’ve never under-estimated Covid, and I’ve been pretty committed to social-distancing and isolating even beyond requirements. Indeed, My husband and I are among those rare Australians who have had both of our Astra Zeneca shots and have served the two week waiting period as well. Yet, that’s still no iron-clad guarantee and our kids aren’t vaccinated. So, I’m not about to go fraternizing with Covid any time soon. Indeed, I’m curled up in my PJs with the dog sleeping on my lap, and working on my research/writing project. Aside from the unfortunate situation that I have to physically stay away from people, I’m okay with it.
Well, that depends on how long this lasts. I sort of bought the NSW Premier’s announcement that lock down would last for two weeks. Then, I remembered my last dance class and that “just one more, another one, one more” and before I knew it, I’d done 50.”
Please don’t let us pend 50 weeks in lock down. I might have written enough books to fill a library by then.
Anyway, the good thing about being in lock down here, is I live just a short walk from the beach, and we’re allowed to exercise. By the time I got moving, it was after sunset and even the golden after glow had sunk well below the horizon. I didn’t have my SLR with me and the aren’t the best photos I’ve ever taken, but they’re atmospheric.
Anyway, when I reached the beach, I noticed clumps of foam were washing back and forth with the waves, and looked like clouds floating on the sand. It was so atmospheric. Have a told you I love clouds? That I’ve landed in a lot of trouble photographing clouds, particularly dark and menacing storm clouds. Well, these pseudo clouds were safe. It was just a shame I didn’t have the SLR with me, although I doubt it wouldn’t been able to perform miracles on the beach after dark.
Well, at least I managed to get some exercise, and stretch my outlook beyond the confines of the house. Hibernation is so alluring, but so is being out in nature and perhaps I can get back down there in daylight tomorrow.
How are you all and how was your week? I hope it’s been good overall, and that you’ve been able to savour some of the zest of life.
My week has been quite a rollercoaster ride, which is quite an apt description after we visited Sydney’s Luna Park after midnight when it was well and truly shut and the rollercoaster was fast asleep.
Last night, we went on a Sydney Harbour Cruise to celebrate a friend’s 50th Birthday. I was really looking forward to it because I’ve never actually been on a Sydney Harbour cruise before. I know that sounds like quite a travesty for a Sydney person, but I’ve certainly been on ferry rides around the harbour and they’ve been absolutely magnificent. Anyway, our ferry ride began at Darling Harbour at 6.00pm after sunset, and went for four hours and then we drove across the Sydney Harbour Bridge to Kirribilli to absorb the magnificent imposing grandeur of the Bridge just overhead, the inky black water and the view across to the Sydney Opera House in the background.
It was a fancy dress party, and some of our friends had really gone to town and that really added to the festivity. As you can see from the photo above, some of my friends went all out, and really looked spectacular. I’d had such a crazy week, all I managed was a pair of rainbow socks. I also wanted to keep warm and went for long pants and my trench coat. I looked rather like Inspector Gadget if I had to put a name to my get up.
Above: I’m dancing to “YMCA” a party classic.
While I naturally enjoyed the people, party and full but floating immersion into Sydney Harbour after dark, what I probably valued most was the opportunity to get to know my friend and his family better. I really appreciated the significance of that after being a part of my friend, Lisa’s funeral two weeks ago and getting to know her much better after she’d passed away. It wasn’t too late, but it certainly meant lost opportunities. We really need to get to know and appreciate each other in all our technicolour glory now.
Anyway, so the Harbour Cruise party clearly represents the what went well this week. On the other hand, our daughter ended up in hospital to expedite some medical tests. When she was about ten, she was diagnosed with a digestive condition called gastroparesis, which involves delayed gastric emptying. She has been a lot better. However, over the last couple of weeks, it flared up again and I took her to the doctor on Wednesday morning, and by the afternoon, she was fed up and asked to go to hospital. Oh joy! Gastroparesis is a complicated condition and I wasn’t expecting a lot of answers or understanding at Emergency. Indeed, all I expected was a wasted night and being sent home after midnight exhausted with making any progress. However, they were actually very supportive and decided to admit her to expedite the tests and give her some medication before she could get an appointment with the gastroenterologist. So, it actually turned out to be a brilliant plan and she had an ultrasound, barium swallow, blood tests and left with a script for Domperidone, which speeds up peristalsis. She’s looking so much better today. So, fingers crossed we’re on the right track. It’s so hard seeing your kids unwell, or being around other sick kids. I take my hat off to anyone who works in paediatrics and helps our sick little people.
I am still feeling the loss of my friend, Lisa.
What more can I say?
The last song for the night on the Harbour Cruise was: “Hey Jude”, and the lines: “take a sad song, and make it better” hit me in a new way. I got pretty emotional during that song, but it is so true. It’s telling me to take my grief, and make something positive out of it. Help Lisa to leave a positive legacy. I also really believe it’s important to acknowledge our sadness, disappointment, hurt and losses and not just paint a glossy veneer over the top. That it’s not healthy to hold it all in and rather, that it can be self-destructive.
Not unsurprisingly, my research went on the back burner this week. However, I did manage to read C.J. Dennis’s: “Old Digger Smith” and am currently reading “The Adventures of Ginger Mick”. These books are part of a series of books featuring the Sentimental Bloke, which is the title of the first book in the series and it’s been made into a movie. It’s an Australian literary classic, and written in the Australian vernacular of the WWI era, it not far off trying to unravel Chaucer. However, I find when I speak it out in my head, it mostly makes sense. By the way, the “Sentimental Bloke” was a best seller and a popular read for WWI soldiers and a special pocket-sized edition was made which fitted into their coat pocket. (I wonder how many sentimental blokes are around these days and how many are reading books? We had the New Age Sensitive Guy when I was younger and I wonder if he’s still around? Or, if all of us have had to harden up? Keep calm and carry on?!!)
Well, I’m still sentimental, and my friend shed a few tears in his speech last night. So, we’re not gone yet.
Anyway, it’s the long weekend here in Australia. One benefit of still being part of the Commonwealth, is getting a day off to celebrate the Queen’s Birthday. With a long weekend, families are catching up and I finally managed to meet up with my friend’s daughter and grandchildren and met up with them at the beach. Silly me, forgetting it’s Winter, I went barefoot and my feet were absolutely freezing. They hurt.
Anyway, that pretty much covers my week, and stay tuned for some photos from the Harbour cruise. The Weekend Coffee Share is Hotsted by Natalie the Explorer and here;s the link:
I don’t know whether I should be apologizing for taking an extended blogging break, or whether you’ve all been grateful for a reprieve. Only so many hours in a day and all that. I get it. Truly, I do. Indeed, that’s why I’ve been missing in action for awhile and have been blogging much more intermittently this year. Real life has overtaken me, and I’m also striving towards what must be a writer’s Holy Grail…finishing a book and getting it published (or indeed, self-publishing).
My contribution to the the great libraries of the world, book shops, op shops, and no doubt recycling bins; is a compilation of short biographies of Australian soldiers who served in WWI and fusing family background, battle details, letters home and diaries where available with a focus on the psychological aspects of war and the inner man. How did they survive physically and mentally? Of course, so many didn’t make it and instead “went West” as the saying went. So, death and dying is also a significant aspect. I’ve been working on this for about 18 months now, especially since the horrendous Australian bushfires and their choking smoke forced me underground, only for Covid to send me back into my bunker not much later. Indeed, I’ve been calling this my “Covid Project.
Meanwhile, there’s been a lot going on.
On Monday, I attended my dear friend, Lisa’s funeral. We’ve only been friends for just over six months, and yet we connected very deeply and neither of us thought our friendship was going to be that short. Lisa’s been fighting a very aggressive form of breast cancer for eight years. She’d had three brain surgeries, and after the cancer started eating through her spine, there was more surgery and she had a rod put in her spine. She was married with three boys, and the youngest was only two when she was diagnosed and he’s now eleven. Sometimes, people turn to survivors like Lisa, and be inspired by their strength. After all, they’re a personification of the miraculous. They can also became what my mother calls “a case” where they suddenly become the pet project and helping them out seems to become more about people gaining Kudos that actually helping the person themselves. You can also feel sorry for them. However, when we first met Lisa, she looked relatively well and she had the most beautiful smile. We went on picnics, kayaked, saw in the New Year, the visual overrode the intellectual knowledge that she was already on borrowed time, although I was somewhat prepared to lose her. I made a conscious decision to love her, be close without holding back, even though I knew it was going to hurt like hell. However, we both needed each other and I’m glad I was there to help lift up the last six months and help her feel loved. Indeed, when a friend went to see her, she said she felt “overwhelmed by love”. A friend and I spoke at her funeral, and although we didn’t know her for long, we knew her well. At least, the Lisa she was then which is after marriage, kids, cancer…quite a lot of life.
Have you found that it’s hard to know quite what to do and where to turn after the funeral is over? That’s what I felt last week. There was a part of me which thought going back in time to before we met would be the answer. However, you can’t do that and I don’t want to wipe out our friendship or forget her. I’ve put her photo in a frame. That’s a start. I wrote a song, a poem. I think about her much of the time, and I baked her boys a cake. I can’t change the world, and as Benjamin Franklin and other before him in various variations wrote: “in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes”.
Anyway, dealing with my grief took me to my usual haunt…the op shops. Never knock a bit of retail therapy. As long as it doesn’t take you too far into debt, it can work miracles and if you’re going round the second-hand charity stores like me, you can save a small fortune (not that you’d be able to afford all of this stuff new.) I am particularly thrilled with my new to me fleecy-lined, purple jacket. I also managed to get my mum a beautiful designer top for her birthday.
By the way, I almost forgot to mention that we had to buy our son his first suit to wear to the funeral. I had hope to buy him something smart from the op shop. However, he insisted on something new, and who doesn’t feel fabulous in something special that’s new? He looked incredibly handsome, and I was so proud of him, especially because he’s spent his whole life with his own serious ill mother, and the parallels to our situation were obvious. Why not me? I wouldn’t say I have survivor’s guilt. It’s more a case of survivor’s question marks.
Yesterday, Geoff and I went for a walk. Naturally, I needed to lighten my mood and walking is a true-blue healer. Moreover, we went for a bushwalk where there are some absolutely breath-taking coastal views. So, we were immersed in nature. The sun was shining, although being Winter here, it was a little chilly, but we certainly weren’t rugged up. Indeed, I think it was about 16-18 degrees Celsius. Not bad for Winter, hey?!! One of the highlights was finding a flannel flower, and it looks like there’ll be a carpet of them in about a month’s time. So, I’ll have to keep an eye out. While you’d think I’d be back at this spot at least once a week given it’s alluring beauty, I usually only get here a few times a year. As usual, life gets in the way.
I should mention that I have two dogs up on my lap- Lady and Zac. Nothing like a drop in temperature to attract the dogs to a warm lap, and having my keyboard perched on their backs doesn’t seem to bother them – or the constant clicking. They’re also keepin me toasty warm.
How have you been? I hope you’ve been well. I look forward to hearing from you and catching up.
I’m hoping I’ve made the deadline this week. It’s actually Monday night here in Sydney, which might not sound like much of a weekend coffee share, but when you’re busy over the weekend, Monday can be a good time to decamp.
So, how are you? How has your week been?
Mine has been wet, with intermittent sunshine. I’m not sure whether you’ve heard about the flooding through NSW on Australia’s East Coast? We’re right where we are. However, reports show that in the last week, the entire NSW coast has been drowned by at least 200 millimetres, and in some places, more than 400mm of rain. To put that in context, Sydney averages 132mm of rain for the whole month of March. Flooding stretches 600 kilometres from Sydney to the Northern Rivers. The other difficulty, is that some of the areas experiencing the worst flooding, were also hard hit by the bush fires and the drought before that. That a pretty brutal trifecta that the Little Aussie Battler might laugh off in public, but it’s “hard yakka” and the farmers need every bit of help they can get. That is along with the animals. I heard a heart-breaking story of a Taree farmer losing 200 head of cows and has had a few of them turn up all over the place, including the beach. The cows are apparently having a rough time. Having their hoofs submerged in the flood waters has water-logged their hoofs and it’s hurting them to walk. I saw where they’re been laying down carpet in the paddocks to help them. Extraordinary, isn’ t it?!! Here’s a clip: https://www.manningrivertimes.com.au/story/7179146/carpet-needed-for-cows-at-oxley-island-video/
However, it hasn’t been all rain.
There’s been a dazzling fusion of sun, rain and incredible clouds, which is the perfect prescription for photography. I was actually quite lucky to get these photos, because if I hadn’t been babysitting my friend’s son and had promised to take him to the park, I probably would’ve been shut away inside at home doing my research without any conscious awareness of what was going on outside and I would’ve missed all this incredibly majestic beauty. It was one of the best sunsets we’ve had in a long time. Of course, the trouble with exceptionally magnificent skies like this, is dangerous storms, exceptionally heavy rain and even hail. I’ve been caught in all of the above before so I know all about it. The only trouble was this time I had my friend’s son in tow. So, he was told he had about 15 minutes at the park, and we might have to leave very quickly and make a run for it. One half of the sky was a very deep purple, and a series of huge, double-decker cumulous clouds had invaded the other half. Then, I spotted the rainbow arching over a mountain of cloud rising over the beach. Magic. I didn’t have my SLR with me, but the photos from my phone were still incredible.
We have just gone into the last week of the school term. So, it’s been Open Week at my daughter’s dance school. She recently turning 15 and she’s pretty serious about it. So, she’s getting to the pointy end of things. So, it’s been amazing to watch her and her classmates dance. She also had an audition where we were able to watch her perform, and that was a treat as well. We’re also very grateful that she’s been able to return to dancing in public and almost “back to normal”. I still don’t take it for granted, even though we’re having an amazing run.
Speaking of Covid, Geoff and myself along with our 17 year old son are getting vaccinated with the Astra Zeneca vaccine tomorrow. I was feeling very excited. Then, our daughter said her friend’s mum has been feeling really sick afterwards. So, now I’m feeling like I should double-check. Oh, no I shouldn’t. “She’ll be right, mate”. What choice do I have? Being immuno-suppressed and having lung fibrosis, I can’t risk catching Covid. Then, it could well be all over red rover.
I am making good progress on my WWI research and writing project. I now have the foundations of an introduction and a reasonably detailed plan. I also have a lot of gaps. However, at this stage I’m just wanting to get enough together to apply for a research grant. This first stage of the production line, is looking at the Australian Home Front from the announcement of war to the final return of the troops in 1919.
Anyway, that’s enough from me. As I said before, I hope you’re having a good week and don’t find yourself in lock down wherever you are.
Tonight, I’d like to invite you over for a good old fashioned lamb roast along with roast potato, carrot, peas and gravy. It was all rather scrumptious, but I know the fat content isn’t going to do my heartburn any favours. I know I’ll pay for it, but it’s a rare treat. We had Creamed Rice for dessert with plump, fresh raspberries. So, if it wasn’t for the steady, heavy rain and floods throughout NSW, I’d invite you over for dinner. As it stands, I think you’d be better off on bread and dripping where you are.
Has has your week been? Or, the last couple of weeks to be honest? I hope you’re well, and somehow miraculously liberated from Covid, even in your dreams.
We’ve had a busy time here. We celebrated our son’s 17th birthday recently, which was followed by party at our place with about 15-20 friends. The rain came down in the middle of that while I was outside chatting under the shade sail and I got drenched and needed to get changed. All good. I spent much of the night in the kitchen sorting out the food and keeping the party going. I could’ve flown the feminist flag and said I was too good to do the dishes and he could do it himself, but he needed me to do what was needed, and be thinking of him, and not where my own life is heading – or not. (Yet, at the same time, I do feel my kids have reached a “certain age” where they can step up to the plate and pull heir weight, and I’m not spending the rest of my life wiping their backsides. It’s just that his birthday wasn’t the time for that conversation. That said, I’m still waiting…)
Anyway, the party went really well. of course, there was no alcohol, and it was so encouraging to see them all laughing, and making their own entertainment. Our son played some of his old Scouting Gang Show DVDs on the TV. It sounds a bit daggy and rather unconventional, but the songs were excellent and it creative a fun, festive atmosphere while our son strutted around being the Greatest Showman as he acted as MC. Meanwhile, the dogs turned out to be the unexpected stars of the show and I’ sure they thought it was their party. Someone threw Zac a balloon and he bumped it with his nose and that went on for at least 15 minutes with them all standing round him in a circle. Being a bordr collie x kelpie, he has no off-switch and he was just delighted to be the star (especially as his sister Rosie usually shows him up on the ball fetching front).
Meanwhile, I might’ve mentioned that I recently won some recording studio equipment for our son and some studio time with a recording studio professional. Well, the equipment arrived last week. So, that was pretty exciting for him. He’ll be doing the mentorship session after Easter, which is seemingly just around the corner.
My research into Australia’s involvement in WWI continues. I’ve been beavering away trying to get a draft together so I can try to get some grant funding, and get what is turning out to be a series of books together. The trouble is that I keep finding an endless supply of gold nuggets, and the stories and the storytellers just keep on coming. However, I’ve only been hard at it for about 18 months now. So, I can’t expect to cover such a big area and get myself up to speed in the blink of an eyelid.
Since I’ve been doing this research, I’ve also been quite overwhelmed by what I didn’t know, especially as I thought I had a reasonable understanding. However, ignorance is like that. It’s what you don’t know you don’t know that’s going to bite you. So, I’m frollicking in all these stories like a pig in mud, but I am drawing up plans and trying to get some scaffolding in place. Get the show on the road.
I guess this all brings me to our pet subject… covid. Being in Australia, you’re probably wondering what I’ve go to be worried about. There’s barely been a case of community transmission in a very long time. However, the reason our transmission has been so low is that we’re vigilant, and we’re not as vigilant as we were, and most of us don’t need to be. However, I do, and it’s much harder when restrictions are tight and we’re all (well, most of us) are doing the right thing. Now, I’m having to excuse myself. I’ve stopped going to physical Church because they’re back to singing against government restrictions and have lodged a complaint about discriminating against Churches with singing restrictions. So, as you can see life gets complicated.
The covid vaccine rollout started here in NSW on the 22nd February for frontline staff and employees of nursing homes and disabled facilities. Today, it was extended to group 1b which is elderly people over 70 along with younger people with chronic health or disabilities. This includes me. The only trouble is finding out where and how I’m going to access it, and this really started to stress me out. We Australians went into battle over toilet paper this time last year, and I dread what it’s like trying to get the vaccine. I was going to try to fight my way through today. However, I was getting so stressed, that I’ve decided to put it off. My GP isn’t currently part of the rollout, which I feel leaves me high and dry. However, local production of the Astra Zeneca vaccine is launching this week and that will push things along a lot I hope. I, no doubt like most of us, just want my life back, and even though I know the vaccine isn’t perfect, it’s better than nothing, and since we’ve had few cases here, we have herd vulnerability.
Last night, I watched Oprah’s infamous interview with Harry and Meghan. Harry and Meghan who? Of course, I don’t need to spell that out, do I?!! We all know exactly who I’m talking about.
Before you even ask where I sit on the matter, in typical Australian style, I’m going to state it straight up front. I support Harry & Meghan, and I also like the Queen.
I also want to say that back in 1981 when Prince Charles became engaged to this shy kindergarten teacher, Lady Diana Spencer, who was literally hunted by the press like the last deer on Earth, I was an impressionable 11 year old. The wedding took place the day before my 12th birthday, and I asked my mum and dad for the commemorative stamps. Meanwhile, I was frantically cutting up any magazine or newspaper clippings I could get my hands on, and was cutting and pasting them in a dedicted exercise book. While this may seem crazed and obsessed to the younger generation who didn’t live through the Diana era, it was all rather normal at the time. It’s what we did, along with wearing Lady Di blouses with the bow around the neck. I even remember that Gran had carted one of my poor friends off to the hairdresser to get a “Lady Di haircut”. My friend wasn’t really the Lady Di Haircut type, and has devoted much of her life to down to earth community service through Scouts. So, that gives some idea about just how crazed and obsessed we were about Diana. Certainly not everybody, but it was a phenomenon.
However, our generation didn’t just live through the royal wedding. We were also there when adorable Prince William was born, and particularly tuned in when Charles and Di brought him out to Australia in 1983 when he was just 9 months old. Back then, they were the ultimate “happy family”, weren’t they?!! Then, of course, Harry arrived. However, slowly but surely we were finding out that someone else had never left. Someone we didn’t even know. Shocking stuff. We see Diana in tears, or sitting alone outside the Taj Mahal. We see Diana and Dodi al Fayed on a luxury yacht. Or, maybe I wasn’t really paying all of that so much attention by then. That was 1997, and I was ten years out of school and had problems of my own. I had been living in Western Australia when I’d found out that I had hydrocephalus (fluid on the brain) which had somehow been there since my traumatic birth like a secret inner labyrinth. In July, I had surgery and flew back to my parents’ place in Sydney to recuperate. On 31st August, 1997, Princess Diana and Dodi Al Fayed died in a horrific car crash in Paris while being pursued by the paparazzi. I remember the precise moment I heard the news. I was standing in one of my favourite ever book shops, Gleebooks (in Sydney’s Glebe) with a friend and he turned to me and said “Diana’s dead”. There was this moment. An understanding that the world had stopped, albeit only briefly, because in so many, many ways, Diana Princess of Wales somehow made the world go round.
I have tried to explain this Diana fever to my kids a couple of times. Of course, they couldn’t understand. I’m not even sure if I understand how one woman could have had such incredible appeal. We didn’t know her, but we loved her. Would we have laid down our lives for her? Probably not. However, would we buy a magazine with her photo on the cover? Most definitely, and I, too, am guilty as charged.
Of course, the greatest tragedy of Diana’s death was that her young boys lost their mum. That somewhere amidst this whirlwind of fashion, glamour, he said-she said, her ground-breaking acceptance of people living with HIV and how she put her own life at risk to prevent the use of landmines, we lost sight of the fact she was made of flesh and blood, and she was Mummy to these two young boys. Indeed, she was the only mum they had. We might have walked with them in our hearts as we watched those two young boys walk bravely behind their mother’s coffin with their father and uncle, but we didn’t know them at all. We weren’t there to pick up the pieces and help them get through it.
However, maybe each of us can do something to help Harry now. Help Harry who is now a grown up and has found his true love and soul mate in Meghan Markle, along with Archie and their baby girl whose on the way. The collective, or indeed the “unroyal we” over in the UK have a debt to that man. It was all very well for Charles and Diana to have had the mandatory two sons – the “heir and the spare”. However, they, we, whoever, can’t just throw him away now that William and Kate’s kids have knocked him off his perch. I’m not fully privy to the full scope of his charity work. However, Harry had clearly carved out a niche for himself with war veterans and the Invictus Games. He is really down to earth and lovely. So approachable. I’ll pinch one of Slim Dusty’s songs at this point: “I’d love to have a beer with Harry, cos Harry’s my mate.”
So, this means I’m pretty unimpressed (understatement) that they’ve cut off Harry’s personal security. Given the position he was born into as the son of the future king, compounded with all the hype surrounding Diana and all he went through surrounding her untimely dead, and how the tabloids are still hunting him and Meaghan like sport, this is something the UK needs to take care of. You can’t love him as a cute little boy and feel overwhelmed with grief when he lost his mother, and then throw him to the wolves. That’s what happened to Diana. After her divorce, her security was withdrawn and we already know what happened there.
It’s easy to sit here in my armchair all the way over here in Australia and have all the answers to their problems, and I’ll acknowledge that even writing this is distracting me from getting my own stuff sorted out. However, I felt I had to stand up and be counted.
Meanwhile, I haven’t commented on the race issue. Discrimination is a horrible and often insidious thing, and as a person living with a disability, I experience that myself. Half the time people don’t even know they’re doing it, and there’s no point turning a relaxing, friendly situation into a confrontation. However, I am also realizing racism is one of those things it’s very hard for me to get as a white woman. I can try to imagine what it would be like to be a “woman of colour”, but I don’t know. Yet, I can listen. I can think about the words I hear, and look around the world I live in and decide whether they ring true. I can also try to find bridges across these seeming divides, and find a humanity with more in common than all that tears us apart.
I also know how hard it is to reach out for help. What it’s like not to be heard, and go back deep inside our bunker to try to regroup. Work out your next move. However, I’ve never had to do that under the glaring, incredibly critical judgement of the media spotlight, and I’ve never been vilified like Meghan Markle simply for being there. Or, as she put it, just “breathing”.
As an Australian, I am part of the Commonwealth (despite being a Republican). I decided to write this post as a one woman protest. It’s time to treat these two precious, lovely people as human beings. That the press has no right to push anyone over the brink and to crucify people just because they’re royalty. Moreover, they equally have no right to vilify anyone, overtly or more subtly, due to their nationality, race or tone of their skin. Just leave them alone.
In all of this I am reminded of one of my all time favourite quotes:
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” ― Edmund Burke
I understand this is a controversial subject, but I’d appreciate your comments. You are more than welcome to disagree, but please keep your comments kind.
Happy Birthday to my 17 year old son , and Happy International Women’s Day. I’ve just woken up to wih my son Happy Birthday, and I’m not planning on staying up for long, and my stomach feels like I’ve swallowed Draino and my back feels like it’s been run over by a truck. I could say, that’s the power of positive thinking. That that’s me looking on the bright side. Well, I am looking at the bright side because I’ll feel bettter after a bit more sleep. I might also feel better if I wasn;t trying to type with a chewed up tennis ball under my right wrist too. There’s also an expectant do parked in front of my chair, too. That’s Rosie and the other two, Zac and Lady, are parked right in front of the door. I don’t know whether they’re hoping I might actually levitate out of my chair to take them for a walk. If so, they’re dreaming.
17 years ago today, I became a mum and my husband and I became parents. I don’t think we truly understood what that meant at the time, even though we knew their were huge responsibilities and sleepless nights with our little bundle. I think beyond all of that, our fundamental feeling was profound and overwhelming joy. I’d had an elective caesarean. So, there isn’t a lot to say about that, except Geoff still hasn’t recovered from the stress of trying to juggle the video camera, SLR etc and actually seeing the baby. It was exciting times. Our hospital was also still using cloth nappies. I have no idea why because i was 2004 and they’d changed to disposables by the time our daughter arrived just under two years later just so she could always be first with the birthday, although she was the youngest and clearly number 2.
Meanwhile, I used to taken International Women’s Day a lot more seriously and have even gone into the local march and was on the organising committee. Today, I think International Women’s Day can also be able having a rest, taking it easy, and making birthday cakes.
Last week, I ended up heading down to Sydney for my first medical specialist’s appointment since covid and in just over a year. This was a big milestone in terms of feeling safe and being able to take what now amounts to an almost negligible risk, and also in extending my personal freedom.
We went out for lunch in Kirribilli afterwards, and also walked down to the harbour to fully soak in the magnificent views of the Sydney Opera House and the sheer imposing grandeur of the Sydney Harbour Bridge which truly towers over the top of you their almost stretching a protective arm around like like a father towering over a small child.
Walking back up the hill, I spotted a pair of boots sitting on a street corner.
Not only that, the boots were around the wrong way and looked plain odd, which of course told a story they wouldn’t have told if they’d been around the right way.Of course, I have no idea what they were doing there.
Whose boots they were.
That turned out to be part of their appeal, and their inspiration.
After all, they made a perfect analogy for how we respond to people who don’t quite fit the norm.
So, how are things at your end?
Before I head off, I thought I’d just update out on the vaccine roll out there. Well, to start that story off, we’ve had over 42 days without any community transmission here in NSW, which is wonderful news, and further praise for our response to the virus. Without the imminent virus threat, we’ve been able to wait to get the vaccine through the proper government approval processes, which also means vaccination is only just kicking off here. Vaccination began on the 22nd February, and they’re still just starting to vaccination health and aged care workers who are in category 1a. We fit into 1b of people with health conditions, and last night I heard that we’ll be eligible from March 22nd. That’s only a few weeks away as along as all goes to plan. I still don’t know how I’ll go with getting the vaccine via my local GP. They have nothing written up about it on their web site, but I should have faith, shouldn’t I?!! I shouldn’t panic. Freak out or desperately long to have some peace of mind?!!
Well, what do I have to worry about anyway? It appears covid isn’t here and yet, when it gets out of its box, it truly takes off and as we all know, you can’t tell you or someone else has it and it turns out this early barely detectable stage is when it’s most infectious. It doesn’t do a lot to ease my concerns. However, I’m not really complaining about taking measures to stay safe, because I’m still here and a year ago I had a chest infection, breathing difficulties and was concerned hospital would be full of covid cases and it would be too risky to go. Thankfully, that never happened here, and friends of mine who are even more vulnerable than I, are still around. I say that not to show off, but to show what is possible. We should never give up on what is possible, because sometimes, it can actually come to pass, and the worst case scenario passes us by.
Humph. I’m not sure whether I should spend so much of our coffee time talking about covid. There’s so much more going on, but at the same time, i is having a daily impact on our lives. I’ve decided no to go to a physical Church service until I’m vaccinated, because people are singing and not wearing masks. Indeed, our Church has taken a stand against it because they feel the Church is being discriminated against when restrictions aren’t so stringent in other places, especially sporting arenas. However, singing has been shown to be a super-spreader. So, their decision counts me out. Moreover, when you’re having to make decisions all the time about wearing masks, hand sanitising etc, it’s hard to ignore covid’s omnipresence in our lives, and for that longing to boot covid out once and for all to reach fever pitch.
I hope you and yours are doing well and keeping safe. What have you been up to this week?