Category Archives: Blogging From A-Z April Challenge

Berlin – A-Z Challenge.

“I still keep a suitcase in Berlin.”

– Marlene Dietrich, Singer, 1957

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

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

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

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

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

 David Bowie, Singer, 1970s

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

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

felt there.”

David Bowie

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

280px-Aerial_view_of_Berlin_(32881394137)

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

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

Henry Rollins

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

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

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

Leave Berlin

This sign used to be at Checkpoint Charlie.

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

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

Amsterdam – A-Z Challenge

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

-Terry Pratchett

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

 

So, let’s touch down in Amsterdam!

Amsterdam buildings

Welcome to Amsterdam.

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

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

Amsterdam barge on canal

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

Orange Stollen

Orange Stollen to commemorate Amsterdam’s Orange Festival

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

are truly good at heart.”

-Anne Frank

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

A-Z April Blogging Challenge- Theme Reveal – Places I’ve Been.

Once again, yours truly is completely unprepared for the annual A-Z April Blogging Challenge, despite fervid vows to “Be Prepared” next year and have all my posts written up in advance. Well, I guess my disorganized, last minute response could well be in keeping  with the theme of today…April Fool’s Day. Last night, I decided to change direction from ANZAC Soldiers serving in France during WWI to a photography travel series covering places I’ve been. I chose this theme because much of our world is currently in some form of social isolation at home and any form of travel has been outlawed and a plane has become a rare sight.

So, let me introduce myself.

Rowena 2018

My name’s Rowena Curtin and I’m no longer a 40 something writer, researcher, wife, mother, photographer and poor impersonation of a violinist. I am now 50. However, let’s be quite clear. I haven’t become 50 something YET!!!

Family

The Family at Christmas 2019

The other cast members here are my husband Geoff and two teenagers simply known as Mr and Miss. Geoff is currently working from home having conference calls and the like from our kitchen dining area which has now become his office. Our kids are doing schoolwork from home until the end of the week when they go on holidays. Our daughter has also been turning our kitchen into a dance studio right through dinner time and then there are the three dogs who are overjoyed to have all their ball and stick throwers at home. So, as you can see. Our place is rather cozy at the moment and will be for the unpredictable future.

Lady at Ocean Beach

Lady at Ocean Beach, Umina, NSW.

By the way, we live at Umina Beach just North of Sydney Australia. The beach is only a short walk away, which has been a blessed escape hatch from being imprisoned at home. Well, being stuck at home hasn’t quite become a prison yet. So, perhaps I was exaggerating things just a little for creative effect. However, whichever way you look at it. The world as we know it right now is hardly situation normal.

Of course, we’ll be travelling around the world alphabetically. However, there will be a particular emphasis on revisiting my 1992 backpacking trip around Europe where I landed in Amsterdam and then caught a train to Koln (Cologne) in Germany and onto Heidelberg, where I ultimately ended up living for roughly 6 months with a local family which was the experience of a lifetime. I also spent a week in Berlin living in what had been an East Berlin student house which still had all the authentic “interior design”. Then, I spent two weeks in Mons which included seeing Van Gough’s house nearby. There was about 6 weeks in Paris, a weekend in Florence and a week in London. It has become the trip of a lifetime, despite my desire to get back. Added salt to the wound, was when our son’s 3 week school history tour of Europe was cancelled due to the Coronavirus. He was due to be there now, but my goodness! We’re so glad he’s home.

So, I invite you to join me for these vicarious travels and I hope these photos and stories lift you out of the coronacrisis and possibly even taken you to your happy place. Indeed, that is the hope for myself.

Moreover, if you are doing the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, please leave a link to your theme reveal in the comments below.

Stay tuned!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Z: ZZZZ…Motivational Quotes A-Z Challenge

“There is a time for many words, and there is also a

time for sleep.”

― Homer, The Odyssey

Welcome to the last day of my series of Motivational Quotes for Writers for the Blogging A-Z April Challenge. Phew! I actually made it through to Z and on time, which has been quite a miracle this year. Although you could say many of us mad writers “belong in the zoo”, I have chose ZZZ or sleep as my word for Z.

You see, I’m not only needing to catch up on Zeds after powering away at the challenge while researching and writing my book, I also wanted to touch on the importance of getting enough sleep while your beavering away on your book. After all, chronic sleep deprivation is a form of madness itself.

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have

promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”

Robert Frost

DSC_0175My husband will tell you that I’m the last person who should be giving anyone advice about sleep. Lately, I’m been burning the candle at both ends as it seems I always seem to make an incredible find around midnight and I have to keep going until I’ve completely unraveled and made sense of it all. Unfortunately, as we all know, time stands still for no man (or woman) and as much as I might try to steal a few hours out of the sleep bank, deep down I know I’m only cheating myself.

Perhaps, I should follow the advice of William Blake:

“Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the

evening. Sleep in the night.”

After all, it’s good to have a daily routine and have everything in the correct time slot. That is, instead of mixing them up and doing everything upside down staying up all night and sleeping all day when you should be getting a bit of sunshine and light into your day. It all makes so much sense, and yet for a night owl and for many mums with kids at home, those night hours are the only time you get a moment’s peace. Trading in that freedom for the boredom of routine is a tough ask, especially when the creative juices are flowing and you’re tasting success.

Yet, I also know that I think much more clearly after a good night’s sleep. That I often stay up writing long after I’ve started to nod off and it’s not my best work. Indeed, I could well be pressing delete in the morning.

Anyway, here are a few more sleep quotes I thought you might like:

“A person who has not done one half his day’s work by ten o’clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.”
― Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?”
― Ernest Hemingway

“You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.”
― Dr. Seuss

“I wonder why I don’t go to bed and go to sleep. But then it would be tomorrow, so I decide that no matter how tired, no matter how incoherent I am, I can skip one hour more of sleep and live.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Anyway, I need to practice what I preach and head off to bed. So it now

Ronnie Corbett:
And now, it’s goodnight from me…

Ronnie Barker:
…and it’s goodnight from him.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share…29th April, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share.

Sorry I’ve been away for awhile. I’m not sure whether you’ve missed me, although I do tend to notice when the people I usually catch up with go off the grid and eventually wander over to touch base. I’m actually trying to catch up with a friend who has gone off the grid. It’s hard to know quite what to do, because you can overlook it for awhile or just believe they’re busy, but then there comes a time where you just want to hear their voice. What are you supposed to do?  I always think there’s something you can do. However, when someone doesn’t want to come out, sometimes you have no choice but to leave them in their shell.

The reason I’ve gone off the grid lately, is a little different. Since I was about 11, I’ve known that I wanted to be a writer and it hasn’t just been a pipe dream. I have written. Indeed, my mother acknowledged the aspirations of that young girl by giving me a thesaurus that year and when I turned 13, my mother gave me The Diary of Anne Frank along with an empty notebook which was to be my diary. I thought I was very original at the time, but like thousands even millions of young girls around the world, I wrote to “Dear Anne” and shared my secrets with her well into my teens. I still keep a journal, but I’ve been me talking to myself for awhile now.

Anyway, despite having quite a lot of writing which is almost ready for publication, I’m actually going gangbusters writing something new, which I think will be a good first book to launch the rest. This book will be a collection of biographical short story ranging from non-fiction to what is known as biographical fiction. These stories are coming from our family but are historical. I am absolutely consumed by family history, but not in terms of names and dates, but rather the people and their stories which I keep stumbling  across via the historic newspapers, which have gone online. This is interesting as a writer because far from being like writing a novel where the author is setting the pace, I’m responding to my characters and anything can and has happened. While I know quite a lot about my own family, my husband grew up in Tasmania with a branch of the family in Sydney, which we knew very little about. They are absolutely fascinating and we’ve come across a world champion cyclist, a Silver Medalist from the 1938 Empire (Commonwealth) Games and a missionary with the Salvation Army in China who was interred by the Japanese. So, they are keeping me busy and have reignited this hope that I have finally found my way and can finally get to the end and into print. To be really honest, getting this book published is the yearning of my soul, but I also have to get it right. I don’t just want to put anything out there.

Meanwhile, I’ve been doing the Blogging A-Z April Challenge, which I’ve done for the last four years. What with the book project, I came very close to not participating this year. I didn’t want to divide my attention and more to the point, wasn’t able to. However, I came up with the idea of writing motivational quotes for writers working on a book. In other words, people in the same boat. I’d intended to simply include a quote and a photo for each letter and keep it quick and simple. However, in my usual way, I made a project out of it and added my two bobs’ worth. I also ended up getting seriously behind, which is something which hasn’t happened in past years. Indeed, as it turned out, I needed the motivational encouragement to get through the challenge while the book writing is going full speed ahead.

Here’s a few links to posts I’ve done in the last week:

T – Time Management

U – Understood

V – Victory

W – Words

X – X-Ray

Y – You

Meanwhile, things at the home front have been busy. It’s Autumn here and the sailing season has just drawn to a close. Two weeks ago, our son and his crew member competed in the Combined High Schools Competition which ran for four days in Newcastle, just North of Sydney. I’ve been trying to work out whether the competition was State-based or National and apparently, there’s no simple answer. However, they were sailing in a Flying 11, which is a small, moderately paced boat, and a step up from a bathtub. While it would have been fabulous if they’d won, it was their first regatta and more of a learning experience. Where these guys triumphed, was maintaining a positive determined attitude while they were battling it out at the other end of the field for last place. Being last, also meant they caught the eye of the judges who coached them throughout the four days and they were better for it. Our son loves sailing and had his Go Pro attached to his helmet. He had a really great time and we’re incredibly proud of the him and his mate.

Jonathon at Dragon Skin

Our son has also been promoted up the Scout ranks and is now a Venturer. Venturers are aged 15-18 and have the anticipated independence which comes with this older age group. During the holidays, they went away on a camp called Dragon Skin and a group of them caught the train down to Goulburn without an adult and also made it home. I’m not really sure what Dragon Skin entails or how it got its name. I just know that he came home happy, tired, smelly and wanting to repeat the whole experience next year.

DSC_3691.JPG

Meanwhile, the school holidays have also been Dance Eisteddfod time for our daughter. This is where I say that if your kid is going to take up something in a big way, you need to love it yourself or somehow find a way to even if that goes against the grain. Rewind twenty years, and I would’ve been most surprised that a daughter of mine could be any good at dance or that I would be doing adult classes now and then, as well as really enjoying watching hours and hours of dance. However, there I was spending all of Saturday afternoon and into the night watching the Eisteddfod. Our daughter was only in two events, but she’s part of dance team with her dance school. They’re a great encouraging group of friends and so we also stayed and watched and encouraged the rest. Besides, this was the best entertainment I’d had in a long time and it was only $8.00.

Our daughter came second in her ballet solo with a score of 87.5 and received the same mark for her Contemporary Impromptu which didn’t rate a mention. The field in that category was incredibly strong. She also came third in her Modern Solo which was held before Easter. It’s been a busy time and being a dancer is like the proverbial iceberg. The dancing is the tip of the iceberg you see sticking its head out above the water. All the organization and details and hours of training are the bulk of it. Well, that’s how it seems at the moment because there’s always something required at the last minute and organizing all the times requires a personal assistant. Although my husband helps out, he’s mainly involved with the sailing so I’m usually all she’s got and I have a few short circuits. However, I hopefully make up for these with encouragement.

Well, school goes back tomorrow and the activities start back tonight. I have tried to clean up a bit and am working towards another huge drop off at the op shop. I can’t seem to move through all the books and clothes and we’re getting close to needing the Winter woolens out. I put my clothes up in the roof along with the blankets so it’s almost like a ritual change of seasons here with stuff going up, stuff coming down and a good opportunity to cull. Or, as is often the case, put it away until next season. I’d much rather be writing.

Well, I hope you’ve had a great week and I hope to catch u with more of your posts this week.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Y- You…Motivational Quotes A-Z Challenge

Welcome to Y…the second last day of this very long journey through the alphabet during April. So far, I’ve talked about quite a few traits you need as a writer to see a big project through to the end. Or, as the case may be, the need to realize when it’s time to stop and try again from a different angle, or to simply walk away. Despite all that rhetoric about never giving up, sometimes it’s the right thing to do. After all persevering down the wrong path doesn’t do you any good! Then again, that perfectionist inside you can also be a false friend.

Anyway, when it all boils down to it, it’s up to YOU whether you’re going to get finished or even started on writing that book along with working on your writing to make what you write worth reading. There are quite frankly way too many books out there that should never have been published by both publishers and their authors. I started reading one book recently, which I really should’ve enjoyed. However, it soon became clear that this book wasn’t polished. Had been “finished” too soon. While reaching the end does feel like a race when you’re in it, it also needs to be a stroll…a bit of stop start. Well, that is unless you’re a genius. Then again, you can always get on a roll.

So, without further preaching from me, here’s today’s run of quotes which roll along quite well on their own…

“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your

shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.

You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And

YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”

― Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You’ll Go!

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone

else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living

with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the

noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner

voice. And most important, have the courage to

follow your heart and intuition.

-Steve Jobs

“If you end up with a boring miserable life because you

listened to your mom, your dad, your teacher, your

priest, or some guy on television telling you how to do

your shit, then you deserve it.”

― Frank Zappa

“Always be a first rate version of yourself and not a

second rate version of someone else.” 

― Judy Garland

All of these quotes are good advice for all of us, not just for writers working to finish a book project. Indeed, I’m going to share them with my kids.

Hope you have a great week ahead and you’d better give me some applause. This is the first A-Z post which has been on time for quite a few weeks. I’m pretty chuffed.

Best wishes,

Rowena

X- X-ray…Quotes A-Z Challenge

Welcome back to my series of Motivational Quotes for Writers for the 2019 A-Z Challenge. We’ve almost reached the end of the alphabet and the end of April and now we’re up to X. My word for X was going to be the X-Factor which is that mysterious spark you see in talented people which seemingly defies definition. That’s a much needed ingredient for a writer, but I’m not sure whether you can manufacture that. Is it a case of you’ve either got it or you don’t? So sad, too bad?

Anyway, when I tried to find X-Factor quotes, I could only find references to the TV show. That wasn’t what I was looking for.

So, off I went looking for words starting with X as so many of us do in this challenge. There’s usually at least one letter that brings us to our knees and X is one of the most likely culprits.

However, as strange as it might sound, I actually found a fabulous X-ray quote which was even relevant to writing:

“He wished he had some kind of X-ray vision for the

human heart.”

― Kim Edwards, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter

Have you read The Memory Keeper’s Daughter? After reading that brilliant quote, I’m very tempted to give it a go.

While we’re talking about X-rays, this quotes about the discovery of the x-ray is also interesting:

“Great discoveries are made accidentally less often than the populace likes to think.”

(Commenting on how an accident led to the discovery of X-rays)”
― William Cecil Dampier, A Shorter History of Science

If you’re doing the A-Z Challenge, what did you come up with for X? I am not doing a great job with reading other blogs this year, but hope to catch up.

Best wishes,

Rowena