The simple answer to this question, is too many books. Our 18 year old son would tell you there are far too many books in our house. Indeed, he of messy room and dumping his stuff our in the spare room for the last two years, even took me to task about it last night and had the audacity to ask me how many of them I’d actually read. While I must admit the same question frequently crosses my mind, the point is that the books on the shelf are either waiting to be read or they’re too good to part with, in which case getting rid of them would be akin to murdering a close friend. As avid readers, I’m sure you will understand, even if you have converted over to one of those dreadful, electronic Kindle-type devices.
So, what have I been reading?
Well, I’ve actually been reading quite a lot of books (at least for me) lately.
This month took me back into Ethel Turner territory. There was an Open Day at Woodlands, where she was living when she wrote her iconic classic: Seven Little Australians. I am currently reading her WWI trilogy, and in the last month I’ve finished The Cub and Captain Cub and the last one Brigid and The Cub arrived in the mail today and I can’t wait to get stuck into it. It addresses some really interesting issues, and one that intrigues me is the whole business of mothers giving their consent for underage sons to fight. Ethel Turner didn’t give her consent for her own son, Adrian, to go but pushes the barrow in the book. I am also analysing these books in detail for my blog dedication to Ethel Turner: Tea With Ethel Turner:https://wordpress.com/view/teawithethelturner.com
Meanwhile, I am still reading Kerri Maher’s The Paris Bookseller, which says it is “inspired” by the life of Sylvia Beach who founded Shakespeare and Company, the famous English-language bookshop in Paris, and was the only one with the courage and vision to publish James Joyce’s controversial novel: Ulysses. This book was a natural choice for me, because I did a solo reading at Shakespeare and Company when I was staying in Paris in 1992, which was rather extraordinary in itself, but particularly considering I was only 23 at the time. I had to pass an intimidating interview with the inimitable proprietor, George Whitman and even had to draw up my own promotional poster to go in the window. These days, it feels like I made the whole thing up, but I have photographic proof. It really did happen.
Anyway, if you have ever considered reading Ulysses but have been too intimidated or just couldn’t understand a word of it, I have come across a wonderful annotated version online at the James Joyce Project: https://www.joyceproject.com/ i dare you! Give it a try!!
Or, if you’ve read it, please let me know how you found it, but no spoilers please!
Lastly, I’ve ordered Tony Birch’s book of short stories: Dark As Last Night, which has won the Christina Stead prize for fiction (NSW Premier’s, judged by Beth Yahp, Bernard Cohen and Nicole Abadee). You can read another of his stories here: https://www.theguardian.com/…/tony-birch-my-dads-ashes… It views a tough subject with a touch of humour, and is a great read.
What have you been reading lately? Why not join us at What’s On Your Bookshelf and share it with us? You can link up your post below.
This weekend I have the absolute privilege to share something incredibly precious and rare with you…sunshine. Unfortunately, I suspect it’s but a rare intermission in between our months and months of rain, but that makes it all the more special and I guess I should’ve been out there today to make the most of it.
However, I went for a magnificent bushwalk yesterday to my favourite little spot overlooking Pearl Beach and across to Palm Beach and all of Pittwater. While, it’s not Sydney Harbour, the views are almost as breathtakingly beautiful and from my vantage point, I feel like I had to all to myself. I didn’t need to compete with all of Sydney for a vantage point…only the birds!
How was your week?
Mine was good, but fairly busy juggling family commitments, while getting stuck back into reading two novels by Australian literary giant, Ethel Turner, which are set in World War I and so also crossed over with my research there. I managed to finish: The Cub, which was published in 1915 and sees seventeen year old John leave for Gallipoli after his older brother who enlisted in England, was killed in action fighting in France. However, this forms only a fraction of the story, and the thread is picked up in the second novel in the series: Captain Cub. However, the books focus more on the home front than the war itself and the sagas of two families.
The reason I was binge reading Ethel Turner last week, was that I’d booked into an Open Day at her former home Woodlands in Killara, and I was trying to wake up my dormant brain cells so I could sound at least somewhat knowledgeable when I introduced myself to the speakers there, which included two of her Great Grandsons. However, it didn’t really work because all that happened was that I had all this Ethel Turner stuff in my head in a jumbled fog, and nothing was coming out in neatly defined packages, and especially not the whole grail where you can sum her prolific and profound writing output up in a single word and be the ultimate unrivalised genius on the subject. Or, at least that’s what distilling facts into a single word is supposed to do. Personally, I don’t feel it would do her justice, but when you’re trying to enter the realms of the academic elite, you need to play by their rules not your own.
Anyway, in the end I decided not to go. It was going to be at least a one hour drive, and they were expecting huge crowds, terrible parking and I couldn’t help conclude that I could well pick up covid. After two years of caution, it seemed stupid to throw caution to the wind. Moreover, I saw the doctor on Friday and in what sounded like a prophetic warning, she told me that more people have died from covid in the last six months in Australia than the previous two years. So, while the politicians might be telling us we’ve switched the clock back and returned to an almost normal, the stats and medical folk are telling a different story.
Meantime, while I had my nose stuck in The Cub from 1915, our daughter, “Miss”, posted a clip on Tik Tok and unlike any of my posts here on WordPress, her clip went viral and as far as I know has now had 2.5 million views.
Well, you might ask what attracted such a response, and fool like me, you might actually believe that her video was especially meaningful and required many hours of careful planning, creativity and construction. However, you’d be mistaken. It was a very spontaneous and erroneous piece which she’d put together during her Nursing TAFE course. The school has a small quasi hospital set up and she filmed the patient dummy in bed, and then turned to film her friend swinging in the swing chair. It lasts all of a minute, and while funny and quirky, doesn’t justify that many views, especially when my philosophical musings which really might improve someone else’s life, barely attract enough traffic to fill a lane let alone a super highway. I have been wondering lately what it means to live in a society where people can read, but choose not to. This could sadly be the result.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.
After providing a brief sketch of the state of play during Christmas 1921 in my previous post, we’re now going to spend Christmas 1921 with famous English-Australian author, Ethel Turner, whose first novel: Seven Little Australians placed her up on the international literary stage. However, she also wrote 39 other novels, and of more relevance to us, she edited a string of children’s pages in various publications, and it’s here where we’ll be touching down.
Born on the 24th January, 1870, Ethel Turner was 51 years old in 1921, and a year younger than I am now. She was married to Judge Herbert Curlewis and they were living at their home in Avenel, Mosman, Sydney although they spent Christmas 1921 at Palm Beach. Daughter, Jean, was twenty-three, and son Adrian was twenty and studying Law at Sydney University. By Christmas 1921, Ethel Turner had had 22 of her handwritten novels published, and King Anne was her offering for the year. She was famous.
However, for Ethel Turner it wasn’t the empty fame of celebrity. Rather, there was a strong sense of purpose and a desire to make a difference, and do good. While I can be dangerous to interpret Three Little Maids as being purely biographical, there is also much truth and Dolly (who is said to be Ethel) made this statement about becoming an author: “One night…I felt I must do something. I felt I couldn’t just go on doing little things always,-staying at home and helping, and going to dances, and playing tennis. I used to think I should like to go as a missionary, – not to China, of course, only somewhere here where people were very poor and miserable. But that night I didn’t seem to want anything but to write books that people would love to read, and that might do them some good.”
This aspect of Ethel Turner is often lost….the visionary, the world-changer, the woman who had experienced financial hardship as a child and relocated across the world for a better life, worked hard and overcome. She’s simply viewed through the lens of Seven Little Australians as though she were a one book wonder. However, it appears that the massive difference she made to the lives of children through the series of children’s pages she edited has been forgotten, along with how she nurtured the artistic and literary abilities of younger generations through these pages. She was such an inspiration!
The trouble is that it’s very hard to condense an inspiration into a few lines or words to satisfy those who don’t want to immerse themselves more fully into the longer story. However, in this instance, can I caution you to sit down. Make yourself a cup of tea, and in the words of the great Molly Meldrum: “Do yourselves a favour!”
We’re going to pick up with Ethel Turner on the 20th November 1921. Sunbeams had only been launched on the 9th October, 1921, and just over a month old, and still in the nest. Yet, that didn’t stop Ethel Turner from launching an ambitious plan to make a difference that Christmas:
“FROM A CHAIR IN THE SUN
ABOUT SUN FAIRIES
Dear Young People, — One of the many tastes we have in common, you and I, Is our love for conjuring tricks. Here is one I particularly want you to try. Take a child with the corners of its mouth right down and its eyes running over with tears (there are any amount of them in the hospitals and crowded back streets, alas). Go up close to it, and with a quick sleight-of-hand slip into its fingers a tiny doll as pretty as a fairy. In less than half a minute the eyes will dry and the mouth corners go up. This trick has never been known to fail. So now then, let us do it together. Your part is to buy a tiny celluloid doll or kewpie, dross it in something very fairylike — gay and pretty, or comical as an elf — put it in a, tiny box, and post or hand it in to “Sunbeams.” My part will be to find the children in the hospitals and back streets about Christmas time. I shall also examine the dolls carefully — we will call them Sun Fairies— and give three prizes of half-a-crown each to the three most attractive ones, and six “Sun” honor cards. You need send no coupon with this competition, as the doll will cost you anything from twopence to sixpence. Send December 1st.
Ethel Turner received an enthusiastic and touching response to her call for contributions. On the 11th December, 1921, she wrote:
“THE SUN FAIRIES
ROOMFUL OF WONDERFUL DOLLS DAME MARGARET DAVIDSON’S WINNERS
The response to the “Sun” fairies competition was splendid and many little “Sunbeams” will be cheered by the really wonderful little dolls sent in… It was a lovely spirit which prompted the competitors to send in the dolls — they were not concerned with winning prizes, but with doing something with their own hands which would give pleasure to children, to whom dainty dolls are a rare and precious luxury. Many of the children marked their entries: “Not sent in for a prize,” and pinned to almost every doll was a pretty little greeting to the recipient. They sat about all over the floor and the chairs and tables rather impatient in their boxes, just as trapped butterflies might be; they were eager to be gone upon their task of carrying sunshine. They were dressed in silk and spangles, in little frilly skirts of lace, in bridal gowns; in elf costumes; there were little mother fairies with tiny children around them, father fairies, fussy and important, fairies with opera cloaks on, and carrying bags; baby fairies, red riding hood fairies; one or two arrived with their beds and bedding, a few with suit-cases for the week-end and complete wardrobes. Wendy came, together with John and Michael, and Peter Pan. And wands! There were enough wands to have enchanted all Sydney and turned it to happy ways had they been held up. And no one, not any one, had forgotten the pretty little card with “From one Sunbeam to another” and other affectionate greetings. Dorothy Makin’s box of dolls, which won first prize, lacked only the bride groom to make the wedding party complete. But then it is so difficult to make a fairy-like creature of a man who should be dressed strictly in black. It was a rainbow wedding, and the bride chose ivory satin for her gown. She also had an overskirt of lace, and trimmed her whole frock with pearls. She wore the usual wreath and veil, and carried a bouquet of white blossoms and a fan. Her maids were frocked in rose, mauve, coral and eau-de-nil silk net, and wore quaint filets round their heads. Just by way of being different, they all carried fans instead of bouquets. Five little fairies, in five little boxes with five little Christmas cards, were sent by Betty Blake, who was second prize-winner. Betty dressed her fairies in white lace, showing beribboned petticoats. Glinting beads of gold and silver shone like spangles on the little dolls which will gladden the hearts of sick children on Christmas Day. Betty Grimm’s Sunbeamer was dressed in her party frock of rose-colored silk net, and she carried a lovely curling white feather fan. (But even fairies cannot live in party frocks all the time, so Betty sent along a box full of neatly made clothes for everyday wear, and did not forgot even a tiny tin of powder to powder her nose.”
Of course, this touching story of generosity and human kindness is not complete without hearing about the sun fairies final destinations:
“THE SUN FAIRIES: How The Kiddies Loved Them”
I know that all of you who made a “Sun” Fairy will be delighted to hear how much joy they gave to the children who received them. Here are two letters which tell you all about them:–A.I.F. Wives and Children’s Holiday Association.
Furlough House, Narrabeen. Dear Sunbeams, — The dear little sun fairies arrived quite safely, and as fresh as when’ they left the designers’ hands. I am sure if the little donors could have seen the pleasure they afforded when received on Christmas Day they would be delighted to know they were indeed sun fairies in so much as they made radiance shine from each receiver’s face. With all good wishes to the Sunbeams from all the soldiers’ children at “Furlough House,” Yours sincerely, Ruby Fowle, Matron The second letter comes from Mrs Lyster Ormsby, who in the crowded streets of the city has for years sought to bring joy and sunlight into the lives of the little children there. Soup Kitchen for Little Children, 40 Burton-street, Darlinghurst. Dear Little Sunbeams,— I want to thank you for the dainty little ladies, fairies and babies the came to the Soup Kitchen during Christmas week. They came all neatly tucked away in a box, and was told they were to be given to some of the poor little’ girlies that I know as presents from “one Sunbeam to another. Well it happened that some of my little pals were hanging round when I unpacked your box and if you could have heard the “O-o-ohs” and “A-a-ahs” of admiration that came from them as I drew each dolly out of the box, you would have felt that you had sent a real sunbeam along. I gave your dollies away in many different quarters, and I feel sure you will be glad to know that each and every one received a warm and loving welcome from the new mistress. Among my little Soup Kitchen Girlies was one who has just left school and so felt too big for a doll. She always has a real live baby in mind-but still I could tell by the look in her face that she was just envying all the smaller girls; so I picked out a tiny kewpie doll that had been so prettily dressed in baby frills and I said: “I know you’re fourteen, Alice, and too big for dolls — (she thinks she is, you know) – but this is a Kewpie for luck and it goes on the rail of your bedstead. Would you like it?” She just loved it, and rushed off home to put it on her bed right away, “Good-bye, little Sunbeams, and a happy new year to you all from Inys Ormsby.”
And now we’ll back peddle just a little, and read Ethel Turner’s Christmas Day letter to her Sunbeamers:
A VERY MERRY XMAS FROM A CHAIR IN THE SUN
Dear Young People,—
Do you know Anna? What Anna? Merry Christmas anna happy New Year. Yes, I know this is the seventh time you have been asked this same joke, but that is the best about Christmas Day, isn’t it, there is such a rosy, kindly light everywhere, that you are ready to smile seven times at anything and everything. I hope that you are, every one of you, as happy as larks to-day: the boy with the sixpenny humming top, as well as the one with the expensive aeroplane. Happiness, real lark-like happiness, isn’t a thing to be bought with money; it is a thing right inside you. There is really an amazing amount of it lying about free in a sunshiny land like this; believe me it is not shut up in those expensive toyshops, pleasant though those places are. Happiness is just a little light, bubbling thing that you make for yourself, just as the lark makes its song. Good-bye till next week. Do you know Anna?
I hope you have been each to absorb each of these letters word by word, and truly absorb an Ethel Turner who might appear idealistic, utopian and off with the very fairies she was passing on. However, aim low has never had much of a ring to it, has it?!! I personally found her sentiments so heart-warming and encouraging, and way too good to be lost for eternity in a bunch of newsprint.
So, I hope you and yours are managing to find some of that lark-like happiness this Christmas and carry it into the New Year as well.
 Ethel Turner, `Three Little Maids, pp 302-303.
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 20 November 1921, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 11 December 1921, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 15 January 1922, page 2
As many of you will be aware, I’ve been researching WWI rather intensively for the last two years in what has emerged as a series of research projects. Those of you who also research in a more intuitive fashion and allow yourselves the luxury of pursuing all those twists and turns others might dismiss as “distractions”, “rabbit warrens”, will be familiar with the joy of discovering new worlds and perspectives you never knew existed, rather than simply proving your own point. It was this seemingly random fossicking, which led me to Australian author, Ethel Turner from an entirely different angle finding a message of hope, human kindness and generosity we sorely need today.
To do this story justice, I’m going to straddle the story of Christmas 1921 across both my blogs here at Beyond the Flow, and over at Tea With Ethel Turner. Here I’ll provide more of the social and political background and context to Christmas 1921 and why it was special while over at Tea With Ethel Turner, I’ll share how she made a difference to Christmas 1921 with her band of Sunbeamers.
While the 1920s is often portrayed as a time of unrestrained celebration after the horrors of WWI, the reality was much more complex and certainly Christmas 1921 was a time of very mixed fortunes. Sure, the war was over. The Spanish Flu was also officially over as well. On the 6th December, 1921 the Anglo-Irish Treaty was signed seeing independence for Southern Ireland and ending the Anglo-Irish War. The Washington Conference was also promising peace in the Pacific. Yet, following his speech on the 20th December, 1921 Mr Stanley Bruce (the 8th Prime Minister from 1923 to 1929) who was representing Australia at the League of Nations, was described as “a supreme pessimist: sees nothing but trouble” after these dire warnings :
“SYDNEY, Tuesday.—Mr. S. M. Bruce, speaking at a National Club luncheon, remarked: “When one comes, back to Australia one is a little horrified to see what is going on. The whole of Europe to-day is struggling in a morass and it is doubtful whether it will ever get out. It is recognised if nothing is done to restore the economic stability of the world a wave of Bolshevism may spread all over the earth. We in Australia have a land where everything is good. Our country is the soundest of any in the world, but it is going to be faced, with the same troubles as the rest. We do not seem to have recognised this. We are only squabbling amongst ourselves.1.”
Gee, does this sound strangely familiar?
Anyway, here’s “Christmas 1921” which was published in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on Christmas Eve, 1921:
For many thousands of people throughout the world this must be a “black” Christmas. Almost every country is suffering from the effects of those five years of war, during which production was stopped and the savings of decades were scattered. Thousands of families to-day will be clouded with anxiety because there is no longer a market for the goods the production of which has furnished them with a means of living and their breadwinners with employment. To other families Christmas brings back memories which, though they are colored with pride, arc memories of sadness. It seems impossible that in the lifetime of this generation Christmas shall ever be a season of unmixed rejoicing, except for the children, whose festival it is. Yet throughout the world it will be recognised that the Christmas of 1921 is more in accord with those universal ideals which it connotes than any that we have known for many years past. To-morrow men can take part in a festival of peace and hope without any reflection on the vanity of human effort or the insincerity of all professions of faith. The year has been one in which a genuine and fruitful attempt has been made to banish the dangers of war. For the first time for a hundred years the statesmen of the world have given a practical demonstration of their faith that peace should be the goal of their policy and is the greatest .of human blessings. The delegates to Washington have set aside personal ambition and national avarice in their work for the good of mankind. The delegates from Great Britain and Ireland have agreed that each nation may have failed to appreciate the point of view of the other, and that each must make sacrifices of its own beliefs for the sake of peace. And when these public achievements are noticed men will be driven back to remember the many private acts of beneficence that have been carried out during the past three years. “There is a budding to-morrow in midnight.” It may pass unnoticed while men are oppressed by the surrounding darkness, but it should be acknowledged when we have at last arrived at the dawning of an era of peace and goodwill. In almost every epoch there are lamentations at the incurable selfishness of mankind or at the degeneration of the human species, and invariably they are answered by convincing examples. Before the war we were told that the age of self sacrifice had passed, that men had degenerated physically and morally, that the virtue of patriotism would be practised only by barbarians. The last months of 1914 answered, that reproach. Never was there a clearer response to the appeal of idealism, never did men come forward more spontaneously to avenge and to rescue the oppressed. Every day of the blackest period of human history was illuminated by some act of devotion, when men sacrificed themselves for one another or for their cause, when the motive of self interest, conspicuous though it was, was less frequently exemplified than any other. Since attention has been concentrated on the struggle for the spoils of victory the nobility of hundreds of thousands of obscure lives has been forgotten, but to-day it can be remembered and can be acknowledged as of the same quality as the self-sacrifice which has been placed at the service of the famine-stricken peoples of Europe. To-day we may rejoice in the efforts made by statesmen to establish peace among nations. But while these same states men were manoeuvring other work more urgently and immediately needed was being carried on with even less regard for international boundaries. In Austria and Ger many citizens of the victorious countries have given their money and their services for the sake Of their former enemies. The war, though it has founded much hatred and bitterness, has produced the clearest practical recognition of the brotherhood of man. The period In which lamentations at the folly and avarice of men have be on most frequent, and apparently most abundantly justified, has again seen them answered by the most indisputable examples. “Man, what is this? And why are thou despairing? God shall forgive thee all but thy despair?” The same question might have been asked, and the same comment made at any time during the period which is now coming to an end. At no time has there been so much self-sacrifice; at no time have individual citizens been so ready to spend their lives in the service of their fellowmen, and, if necessary, to ignore the boundaries ‘between one nation and another. Was there ever a more heroic instance of such devotion than that given by Sir Arthur Pearson, who “turned his necessity to glorious gain,” and set himself to brighten-the lives of others stricken with the same infirmity as himself? In this last period the work of the individual has been -in contrast with that of the statesmen; but we cannot afford to forget it now that the statesmen are giving themselves to the furtherance of peace and concord. Rather the inference should be that the impulse towards peace and brotherhood is never dead, but moves forward continually until statesmen are compelled to reduce into the form of a. public document’ the desire of hundreds of thousands of their constituents. We cannot say to-day that these efforts towards pacification have been completely successful. Both at Washington – and In Ireland there are elements so blinded by tradition that they cannot obey the force of reason. But all the ‘omens for peace are good. Not since the reign of – Caesar Augustus have there been so many signs of unity among the nations that make up the civilised world, and not since the Great War ended has there been so good a prospect that the men who fought there will reap the fruit of their sacrifices In the elimination of one of the chief causes of future wars.”2.
I can’t help looking back at these precious people of Christmas 1921 with their varying degrees of pessimism and hope, but still probably largely believing something could be done. That the Wall Street Crash, The Depression along and WWII weren’t just around the corner, although the writing was already on the wall.
Those babies born at Christmas 1921 would be 19 years old in 1939. It is unthinkable that so many of them went on to fight on the very same battlefields as their fathers, and that Australia’s sons would also find themselves fighting the Japanese and defending home soil. Our women weren’t immune either.
Yikes, sometimes time travel isn’t much fun after all, is it?!!
Meanwhile, while I’m tapping away here about Christmas 1921, we’re watching the movie: Don’t Look Up. A comet is threatening to collide with the Earth and the response of Americans is let’s just say “a concern”. I know that while we’re focusing on covid, climate change is our big threat and most of us don’t see it coming either. I hope this movie isn’t too prophetic!
I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this. Hauled up at home on a wet and overcast day with covid spreading like wildfire all around us, I feel like I’m talking to myself. However, I know you’re out there and I’d love to hear from you!
Northern Star (Lismore, NSW : 1876 – 1954), Wednesday 21 December 1921, page 13
Tonight I’m celebrating a journey of epic proportions. For the first time in four months, we actually drove over the Hawkesbury River Bridge and into Sydney to visit my parents and brother. The last time we came out of lockdown and we saw them again, I was so excited and I was soaring. It reminded me of going up to see my grandparents in Queensland and I’d almost be leaping out of my skin waiting to see them. I was much calmer this time. I hadn’t made a cake or anything (which is rather exceptional), and I’ve been trying to pace myself a bit. All these rushes of excitement can be quite exhausting and I’m just trying to remain on more of an even keel.
Usually, I’d take my violin down with me and mum would accompany me on the piano. However, I haven’t practiced much in the last six to 12 months so there wasn’t even a quandary about taking that. Instead, I sang long to a couple of Beatles songs…Michelle, Hey Jude, Yellow Submarine as well as Are You Lonesome Tonight? My voice was very rusty, and I’ve been thinking my lung situation had destroyed it. However, it might just be that my register has changed with age. So, I might be doing a bit more singing in the shower. I’ve also made a note to self to get back into practicing my violin and piano. I’m better focusing on one thing but that’s not a balanced life, and now that we’re out of lockdown to some extent, the juggling act has returned.
Tomorrow, our daughter goes back to school. It’s going to be a rude shock, as she was ill and missed a lot of school before lockdown and she’s been doing some schoolwork online from home for the last four months which has included going to the beach. A number of bikinis have arrived in the mail along with sunglasses, and I guess the teachers know what they’re up against and hopefully she can catch up.
As yet, I still haven’t made it to the hairdressers yet. That’s coming up for my daughter and I on Thursday. I’m looking forward to it. meanwhile, she had eyelash extensions fitted during the week. This was something totally out of the realms of my experience as I barely even wear lipstick these days (especially being at home in my PJs during lockdown) . However, now she’s working at McDonalds, she can afford such essential services, and I was merely roped in for taxi duties. Of course, she didn’t tell me it was going to take two hours until were about to leave and she suggested I might need a book!
So, while she was there, I hid out round the corner at the Mt Penang Parklands finishing off my book (Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence: On awe, wonder and things that sustain you when the world goes dark.) I also walked around photographing the wildflowers. In typical Rowie fashion, I managed to get lost and struggled to find my way back to the entrance. However, I was somewhat relieved to read that the architect of these 56 hectare gardens liked to think of it having a hide and seek element to it. However, I don’t think seeking my self was quite what he had in mind!
Meanwhile, my research projects are progressing. As you may recall, I’ve been helping my friend research his father’s experiences as a Polish bomber pilot in WWII. It’s a slow process exacerbated by the language difficulties, but we’re making headway. It’s also turned out that others have been posting about his dad and a few of his close mates and that’s really added so much to his story. There are two Christmas greetings his follow pilot Alojzy Dreja sent to English families they’d met in December 1940 and both of these speak about the suffering of fellow Poles imprisoned by the Germans and the Russians. They give a good feeling of what it was to be in exile, but grateful in a sense to at least be free. meanwhile, on the Ethel Turner front, I am currently reading Little Mother Meg, which is the third book of the Woolcot series which includes her most famous work: Seven Little Australians. I haven’t written a post over at Tea With Ethel Turner for a week now. So, that’s a priority. It’s hard to be in so many places at once, especially now that lockdown in easing and we’re getting busier.
BTW I thought you might enjoy this little quote from: Little Mother Meg. The Woolcot’s are holding a dance at their home, which is known colloquially as “Misrule” and Meg’s teenaged brother Bunty who is a bit awkward is a bit unsure about interacting with the girls:
“but what in the world can I talk about to a girl I’ve only just met? You just say,`May I have this dance?’ and she says, `Yes’- if she doesn’t say no, thinking I look the right cut to crush her feet to jellies – and then what on earth is there left to say?”
Meg walks Bunty through the sorts of small talk he can undertake with the girl and then she offers him some very sage advice:
“But do your best to forget all about yourself, and try to give the girl as nice a time as you can.”
I really appreciated that, because when you’re nervous and so self-conscious, you’re not thinking so much about the other person. Indeed, being more thoughtful about them, would definitely give you an advantage.
By the way, I also remember being incredibly nervous and self-conscious about dating when I was at school. Ouch! It could be painful, awkward and so embarrassing.
Lastly, Geoff and I went on an unexpectedly short visit to near by Hardy’s Bay to watch the sunset after Mr 17 burnt his foot on hot coals from his fire pit. There was a quick trip to hospital just to be sure, but he was given the okay and I’m sure that must’ve been the fatest turnaround time on record there. He was in and out in about 30 minutes.
Anyway, that’s about it for the last week.
I hope you’re all keeping well, and had a good week.
Pregnant, Alicja had flown from London to Kracow to consult her dead father. An intense man, he’d been a Polish fighter pilot in the famous Kosciusko 303 squadron. After years in exile, the iron curtain had lifted, and he’d died in his beloved Kracow. Thoroughly English, Alicja was a stranger here. Yet, despite longing to be plain “Alice”, she still held onto the Polish spelling.
Strolling through Main Square, she didn’t see the oncoming tram. However, an invisible force shoved her to safety.
Somehow, she would stay.
Yet, could she?
Four years ago, I met Roland in our local bookshop. His father was a Polish bomber plot in WWII, and he came from near Kracow which somehow managed to survive the war without being bombed to smithereens. I have been helping Roland research his father’s story and being in distant Australia, I decided to visit Kracow via Google Earth the other night. It was exquisite. Have you been there? It’s definitely on my bucket list. an interesting aspect to this research is that my Great Great grandmother was born in what went on to become Poland and she was till alive when my mum was a child. I looked up the village she came from some time ago, and didn’t relate to it at all. Meanwhile, I am hoping to find a bakery which makes Makowiec (Poppy Seed Roll). Or, I might have to try baking it myself. Soon, I’ll have to start calling myself Rowski!
Meanwhile, I have recently started a second blog, where I’m exploring English-Australian novelist Ethel Turner, who wrote the classic “Seven Little Australians”. However, so far I’ve been showcasing some of her other writing. Here’s the link:
I don’t know whether I should be shouting: “Hip Hip Hooray” today, or in mourning. Today, Great Sydney finally came out of its extensive 106 day lockdown now that we’ve reached a vaccination rate of 70%. After a peak of 1603 on September 10, we were down to 496 cases today. That’s not a perfect world, and not yet a safe space for vulnerable people like myself to enter yet. I was about to say it offers hope, but it could also demonstrate reckless abandon after being careful for so long. It’s interesting too to see where people head as soon as they break out? Is is to see friends and family they’re been shut away from for so long? I can’t blame people for possibly wanting to get to the hairdresser first. I was planning to have at least a friend over to christen the new table today, but of course, it rained and being an outdoor table, that’s not much fun unless you’re a woolly Border Collie with thick, protective coat. For those of you who still remember Bilbo, he was a great one for standing out in the rain and getting soaking wet.
Well, I know there’s been a lot of table talk going on around here, but this week I’m proud to announce that the table has been sanded back, restored and in situ. I have well and really rung the brass bell over that, as it would’ve been easier to move heaven and earth. I’m sure those of you with real homes can testify to that as well. That a seemingly easy decision to put a table out the front can require so much work, negotiation, acceptance and maybe even grief! Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to leave alone and just be able todo what I want, when I want and not have to consult ANYBODY – or have someone else scuttle my plans, especially due to a lack of planning on their part. (Speaking of which I’ve had two pairs of ballet pointe shoes and a sewing basket left beside my chair. One of the downsides about coming out of lockdown, is that the pointe shoes needed to be replaced. However, one pair is heading back to the ballerina to do herself. BTW She’s very excited because she managed to get a Billie Eilish ticket today).
Tis week, I slowed down over at my new blog: “Tea With Ethel Turner” this week with only adding one post. However, it was a post that meant a lot to me. I was reading her somewhat autobiographical novel, Three Little Maids, when almost at the end I found what I’ve dubbed: “A Writer’s Prayer”. Through this prayer, Dolly (who is said to represent Ethel Turner) tells her sister how she prayed to get a book published and that her calling might be to write books that “do some good”. As a writer with the same heart-felt desire in mind, it meant the world to me and perhaps you would love it too: https://teawithethelturner.com/2021/10/07/a-writers-prayer-ethel-turner/
By the way, I had quite a few technical issues with the new blog, and ended up changing format to sort them out. So, I apologise if you had any difficulties last week.
The other thing I’ve been working on lately, is the story of my friend’s father who was a Polish Bomber Pilot serving in the UK during WWII. It’s been my friend’s quest to write a book about his father’s experiences of escaping Poland and into Romania where he was interred, and smuggled out into France where he served before arriving in England. Roland’s father never taught his children Polish, and unfortunately the Polish pilot’s records in England are all in Polish. So it’s been a beast to sort anything out. Google translate has helped with clarifying online resources, but otherwise its a slow and laborious process. I had a bit of a breakthrough this week, when I found a pdf in Polish online. It was written by one of his Dad’s friends an was a story of the “Three Muskateers”. It even ad a few pages just about Roland’s dad. It was wonderful, except it was all in Polish. So, I tried a little experiment. I typed up the Polish and pasted it into Google translate. It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. Well, it was like magic. There really was a story behind all those words which made absolutely no sense to me. Indeed, I thought the start of the story was very touching. There is this old Polish man with all the photos taken in his entire lifetime contained in a biscuit tin his cousin brought back from England. It was incredibly poignant but also pretty heart wrenching to all the photos of a lifetime can fit into one biscuit tin. It’s nothing for me to take 200 photos in a day. However, it would do me good to put the most precious ones in a tin so I can see the the trees. By having so many photos, we might as well have none in a way.
Anyway, who would’ve thought I’d be typing up Polish like that? In some ways my life feels incredibly random, and yet my insatiable curiosity won’t just let me settle with a fragment of such a good story even when I’m immersed in so many other gripping stories pursuing Ethel Turner and my WWI stories. I’m not going to be very good at interacting with people about the mundane realities of daily life if I ever make it fully out of isolation!
So, how are are things for you? Have you had a good week? I sure hope so!
Last week , I launched a new blog – Tea With Ethel Turner – and I’d love you to come over and and hopefully follow me over there as well.
Ethel Turner is such an inspiration. Best known for her 1894 classic: Seven Little Australians, she wrote 40 novels for young adults, diaries, and edited children’s pages in a range of publications. Obviously, she was a very prolific writer, and I doubt she ever suffered from writer’s block for long.
It’s also worth noting that Ethel Turner wrote with a view of having her work published and read widely. Unlike so many writers, her work didn’t spend years in her bottom drawer. Indeed, even when she was at school, she and her older sister produced a rival school newspaper after her work had been rejected.
Then, as time went by and she was editing the Sunbeams pages in the Sun newspaper, it was Ethel doing the rejecting and lamenting a lack of space to publish the works of more of her young contributors. She also encouraged young children to write and gave them writing advice as well as broadening their general knowledge and exposure to literary classics. It also seems she was trying to build a new and better world after the horrors of the Great War, and these children were that future.
So, bearing all that in mind, I had enough material and inspiration to sink a battleship, and I felt she deserved her own bubble, and Beyond the Flow should remain my own space. That as much as I revere and admire Ethel Turner, I didn’t want to become her alone. I still have such a diverse range of other writing interests.
Here are links to my posts so far:
Meanwhile, now that I’ve launched into this, I can’t help wondering what I’ve got myself into. Sure, I’ve unearthed a a veritable treasure trove, but I’d only read two of her books, and barely stuck my nose into her biography by AT Yarwood: From A Chair in theSun and a complication of her diary entries by her grand-daughter, Philippa Poole. What was I thinking? Yet, I’ve also been working incredibly hard. I’ve read years worth of her “Chief Sunbeamer” columns as well as numerous press interviews and reviews. The advantage of blogging is that you can in effect publish as you go, and you can also correct any mistakes, embellish here and there before it’s set in stone in print. I am also a firm believer in collaborative research, especially when it comes to such an superlative shaper of Australian literature, culture and young minds. She is too big for one mind.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts and hope you might join me on this exciting journey of discovery.