Category Archives: music

Australia’s “Women At The Top” – 1961.

Years ago, I stumbled across an intriguing press clipping from the early 60’s about a celebratory dinner: Women at the Top. The timing of this dinner, along with the fact my grandmother, concert pianist Eunice Gardiner, was invited aroused my insatiable curiosity. Who were these women, and what did they do to get to the top?

However, this was long before Australia’s newspapers and magazines had been uploaded, and unfortunately my curiosity ended up in the too hard basket.

That changed last week.

After reading Mark Lamprell’s: The Secret Wife, I found myself thinking about my grandmother’s career again, and I remembered this reference to Women at the Top, only now I had the vast resources of the World Wide Web at my fingers tips to find out more about it. The only trouble was that the information needed to be captured in the first place, and unfortunately, this stellar event received very little media coverage.

From what I’ve been able to piece together, Sydney’s Royal Blind Society hosted Women At The Top on the 8th February, 1961 at the Australia Hotel. It was based on a luncheon held annually in London, Women of the Year. Although it was held as a fundraiser, the dinner’s primary goal was to raise awareness of women’s achievements.

Mary Tenison Woods (who also turned out to be my father’s godmother an enlightened choice for a boy I feel).

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find out much about the identities of these women at the top although it was said: “These women will represent the academic, artistic, literary, professional and business life, as well as the cultural and sporting circles.” It was chaired by lawyer Mrs. Mary Tenison Woods, C.B.E. In 1950, she had been appointed Chief of the Office of the Status of Women in the division of Human Rights, United Nations Secretariat, New York. Mrs Phyllis Burke was the Publicity Officer for the Royal Blind Society. She had a degree in Economics, held membership of the N.S.W. Housing Commission, and also had nine children. The guest speaker was Madame Hélène BurollaudIt, Sales and Technical Director in Paris of the cosmetic firm of Harriet Hubbard Ayer. She was in Australia at the time, and was recommended by the Lintas advertising agency. The only other women mentioned were my grandmother, Eunice Gardiner, aviator Nancy Bird-Walton and the attendance of Lady Amy Woodward,  wife of Lieutenant-General, Sir Eric Woodward, Governor of NSW, 1957-1965. Obviously, that barely touches on the 180 women who attended.

Aviator Nancy Bird-Walton in 1933 – Photo State Library of NSW.

While it at least seems significant to me that this dinner took place in the early 1960’s, the write up it received by Sally Desmond in The Bulletin was equally striking. You would hope that as a woman, she would have been pleased to see this celebration of female talent, and cracks starting to appear in what we now as the glass ceiling. You would hope for zealous enthusiasm and support for the sisterhood, even in the days before “the sisterhood” had possibly even become a term. Instead, she is rather critical, and uses her pen sword to cut the tall poppies down instead. Much to my disgust, she specifically questioned my grandmother’s right to be there: “Miss Eunice Gardiner is a pianist, but having seven children has successfully wiped out any claim she might ever have made to being a top-flight one.” Then, she launched into aviator Nancy Bird-Walton: “Mrs Charles Walton is a pilot, but she doesn’t fly a jet on a regular route.” Please! These seven children hadn’t wiped my grandmother off the face of the earth. She was still giving professional concerts, was a music critic with The Telegraph and was also a Professor of the Piano at the Conservatorium of Music. Moreover, on the 8th November, 1960 (only a year earlier) she’d appeared on ABC TV on a panel interviewing African-American singer, actor and civil rights activist, Paul Robeson on the eve of the election of JF Kennedy. This was a really cutting-edge interview especially for Australia at the time. Meanwhile, Aviatrix Nancy Bird Walton had made a significant contribution to early aviation in Australia. She’d taken her first flying lesson from Charles Kingsford Smith, pioneered outback ambulance services and founded the Australian Women’s Pilots Association.

So, given the questioning and frequently challenging tone of this account of the Women At the Top Dinner, I’ve referenced the full article, and I’d be interested to know your thoughts. I’d also be delighted if anyone knew more about it:

Where is the Top?

When I spoke on the telephone to Mrs Phyllis Burke at Sydney’s Royal Blind Society about covering her “Women at the Top” dinner she was charming but evasive. “You can come beforehand,”she offered. “I can give you a list of the women at the top table. I’m afraid I can’t tell you what the speakers will say.”

Suddenly she broke down. “I’ve had such a lot of trouble with newspaper-women ringing and asking to be invited,” she said unhappily.

“But I’m nobody,” I told her, with a trace of modesty.

“Oh, then,” she said, “do come along! There’ll be a press table where you can have a cup of coffee and sandwiches or a glass of sherry.”

So I went and had a cup of coffee and sandwiches and a glass of sherry while 180 of Sydney’s Women at the Top ate oysters, grilled chicken and pineapple glace flambee and drank Australian wines. It was an awe-inspiring spectacle.

Perhaps what inspired most awe was how those women had got themselves there in the first place.

It was a wet, humid night, but 180 of Sydney’s Women at the Top got into evening dress, then left their husbands comfortably in front of the TV or in front of a long, cold beer. Perhaps some of them left him uncomfortably getting his own dinner or putting the children to bed. Then the Women at the Top had to back the car out of the garage or walk to the station. You can’t park within blocks of the Australia Hotel, so they had to walk, picking up skirts from the wet streets. Most of them had to walk alone, because being at the top is a lonely business!

Although when they arrived many of them seemed to know, or at least recognise, each other. You didn’t see too many peering at the tags with name and Profession which each guest wore.

There were only 180 at the dinner, although it was originally announced that 300 would be invited. Mrs Burke, who does publicity for the Royal Blind Society, and whose varying achievements: a degree in Economics, membership of the N.S.W. Housing Commission and a family of nine, got her to the top table among the Women at the Top, said that 255 had been invited and there were 75 refusals. Whether 75 refused because they were unsure of their own importance or not convinced of the importance of the dinner is an interesting question.

There was a guest of honor, Madame Helene Burollaud, who is sales and technical director in Paris of the cosmetic firm of Harriet Hubbard Ayer. She became guest of honor at the suggestion of Lintas advertising agency, but Lintas was modest about its part in the Women at the Top dinner. “We heard Mrs Burke was organising the dinner for the blind and we thought it would be a good way to get some publicity for Madame Burollaud,” their representative said.

The fee for attending the dinner was three guineas, but, Mrs Burke said, although it was hoped to make money for the blind, the primary purpose of the dinner was to focus attention on women’s achievements.

The Women at the Top all sat down together with only one man in the room, Mr James Hanratty, the head waiter in the Rainbow room. His staff are all women, which might have proved something to the Women at the Top. Mr Hanratty’s nice Irish face grew red and his nice Irish brogue grew more pronounced at the idea of 180 women sitting down to have dinner together.

“Of course, I’ve, had men’s dinners,” Mr Hanratty said, “and I’ve had things like millinery shows here, but half of them are men. I’ve never had all women at dinner before.”

And that was what was mainly wrong with the whole affair. It’s all very well for women to adopt what men like to think are their exclusive callings but why do they have to emulate men’s barbarous habit of one-sex dinners? Men have no social gifts except those poor ones which women after generations have beaten into them. This is called civilisation. Men can sit quite happily like boiled owls at all-male dinners listening to boring speeches, although intelligent men will complain of how gruesome it all is, but why on earth would women try the same caper?

A luncheon would have been much better. Sydney women sparkle at all-women luncheons. They’re a strong tradition and they can be bags of fun, mostly much more fun than all-men equivalents.

Mrs Burke said that the Women at the Top dinner was based on a similar affair held annually in London. But in London it’s a luncheon and it’s called the Women of the Year.

Being at the top sounds so final. What will the selection committee do next year if it does become an annual affair?

Go carefully through the list and see who’s slipped a bit? Or will the same 180 women face each other across the same tables and the same menu of oysters, chicken and pineapple glace flambee for years to come?

Women of the Year sounds much better. If you aren’t one of the women of 1961 you might remember warmly that you were a woman of 1951 or decide that with a bit of luck you might be a woman of 1971 or 1981. Women at the Top sounds so competitive and harsh, and few of the Women at the Top looked competitive or harsh. Many of them were very pretty and most of them were very elegantly dressed.

And most of them looked intelligent enough to question whether they were really at the top and intelligent enough not to worry unduly if they decided they weren’t at the top. After all, where is the top? Mrs Charles Walton is a pilot, but she doesn’t fly a jet on a regular route. Miss Eunice Gardiner is a pianist, but having seven children has successfully wiped out any claim she might ever have made to being a top-flight one.

Some of the Women at the Top didn’t seem to be taking it all too seriously.

But as long as any women take this sort of thing seriously, no one will take them seriously.

SALLY DESMOND

Clearly, Sally Desmond didn’t take the event seriously, and to some degree considered it a failure. That’s a shame, because an opportunity was lost to provide a serious account of what truly was a ground breaking event for the status of Australian women. It would’ve been wonderful to have hear a few quotes from Madame Hélène BurollaudIt’s speech, and more about who actually attended, rather than the paragraphs she wasted talking about their struggle to get to the dinner itself.

Such is life.

A media photo taken of my grandmother with her children in 1960.

It would be wonderful to say that I’d managed to walk in my grandmother’s shoes in some regard. However, I did try to interview her about her career, but by this stage she was in her late 80’s and like most of us, she wondered where the years had gone and who the old lady was staring back at her in the mirror. She was very proud of her achievements and being known as “Melba of the piano” and the “Baby pianist of Bondi”. I always intended to juggle work and family myself, but my health intervened. Indeed, I wasn’t juggling anything, but medical appointments for awhile there. However, I did manage to get appointed to the Status of Women Committee of our local council, whose responsibilities included organising the International Women’s Day March down the main street. I also joined a group: Business and Professional Women (BPW) and was able to fly the flag publicly for a bit there. I haven’t given up, but I’m also aware that a percentage of young men also need to be empowered now. Indeed, all our young people are needing compassion and understanding after covid had made it so difficult for them to study, work, have relationships and essentially be young people.

Anyway, I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena Curtin

As much as I’m not happy with the Queen being Australia’s Head of State, she has long been a working mother and I’ve never heard anyone look at how that might’ve impacted options for women during her reign.

Working Women in 1960’s – An Insight.

Last week, I reviewed Mark Lamprell’s new novel: The Secret Wife, and gave it the definite thumbs up. I don’t know how you define a good book. However, I would think that a book which expands your understanding of people or the world in some way, would be high up the list. Moreover, that one which inspires you to undertake your own research, would rate even higher. Not that we generally read a novel for pure education once we’ve left an institutional setting. Otherwise, it would simply be a textbook.

Anyway, after reading The Secret Wife, I’ve been thinking about the women of my own family who were living and perhaps working through the 1960’s. There was one grandmother, Eunice Gardiner, who at this point was working in the aftermath of a highly successful career as an international concert pianist, subsequent music critic in the print and television media as well as being a Professor of Piano at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. She was also a member of the Society of St Joan which was a Catholic women’s organisation which believed in equality for men and women. It was headed by lawyer Mary Tenison Woods. In 1950, Mary Tenison Woods had been appointed Chief of the Office of the Status of Women in the Division of Human Rights, United Nations Secretariat, New York. She also happened to be my father’s Godmother, which has always struck me as an enlightened choice for a baby boy.

Meanwhile, my mother’s mother, Ruth Haebich, was a Lutheran Pastor’s wife, which saw her running many aspects of their church albeit in my grandfather’s shadow. She also occasionally worked as a hairdresser for her aunt, Rose Bruhn, in Brisbane. However, that was more the exception than the rule. Meanwhile, Aunty Rose was quite a budding business woman who ran an exclusive hair and beauty salon in Brisbane and counted Mrs MacArthur (wife of US General MacArthur) and the wife of the Queensland Governor as clients. She also trained birds to perform. She had a series of “Romeos” who could recite significant slabs of Shakespeare, and used to salute the men in uniform during WWII. She also had a kookaburra, Jacko, whose laugh appeared on Brisbane radio. Aunty Rose was also performed what was called elocution where she recited poetry with astonishing gusto. We actually have a recording. It’s hard not to laugh at it now, but she was certainly a mover and shaker. My own mother had also left school during the 1960’s and completed a degree of Teaching and Music through the conservatorium (my father’s mother was my mother’s teacher, which is how they met). I was born in 1969, which is more towards the tail end of the time period covered in the book.

My Great Great Aunt, Rose Bruhn, with Jacko the Kookaburra.

My mind was still buzzing when I’d finished the book. So, I decided to get my bearings and do a little research on what was going on with women and work in the 60’s. After all, it is important not to make assumptions, and just run with appearances. I’ve read one review of My Secret Wife which says the book covers the era before the pill. However, that isn’t the case. Australia’s first oral contraceptive pill ‘Anovlar’ was released on the 1st February, 1961. The book covers the period from the  12th April 1961 through to 1972. So, it is entirely set in the in the post-pill era.

Where’s Mr Sheen when you need him?

Anyway, I came across these very informative articles in The Australian Women’s Weekly dating from the 15th November, 1967, which I thought you might find interesting. The first article is reporting on a seminar: Problems and Opportunities of Women at Work, which was convened by the Sydney Metropolitan Business and Professional Women’s Clubs. The Second Story: Sometimes She’s Her Own Worst Enemy was by Joan Cowan-Aston, Head of A Sydney School Training Women For Sales And Demonstration. She recruited women into various positions and had some startling insights. Anyway, I’d be interested to know your thoughts and generate a bit of discussion in the comments.


WOMAN + JOB + CHILDREN = PROBLEM

“Don’t’ let us get into a bog of moralising about this, saying where a woman’s place is. A woman’s place is where she wants to be.” Fighting words, and from a man — Professor E. L. Wheelwright, of Sydney University.

THE professor was  addressing a seminar on Problems and Opportunities of Women at Work, convened by the Sydney Metropolitan Business and Professional Women’s Clubs.

In a brand-new theatre at the brand-new Macquarie University, just outside Sydney, scores of women (and some men) listened quietly to this frontal attack on the traditional concept of woman’s place.

“Those who continue,” said the tall professor (an economist and himself the father of daughters), “to use the old slogan of ‘woman’s place is in the home’ have not kept up with the impact of technology on the home.

“To insist on keeping her there is like saying man’s place is on the land, when technology has so improved his productivity as to release five out of six to work else-where.”

In a democracy, the professor insisted, it should be a matter of choice.

“If a woman wishes to stay home and enjoy her family, then good luck to her, that is her business.

“If she wishes, for whatever reason, to work outside the home, then equally that is her business, her choice.”

Earlier, another man had attacked another concept, one which lies at the very heart of a married woman’s fears about taking a job — the effect on young children.

He is educationist Professor Hugh Philp, of Macquarie, father of six.

He said flatly, “Experimental evidence shows it is nonsense to say that pre-schools and kindergartens are bad for the children, and bad for Mum.

“For instance, in Great Britain in World War II women were conscripted for work.

“Surveys showed that their children in pre-school centres and kindergartens were taller, heavier, and healthier, and did better at school later.”

Still another man, economist Professor H. R. Edwards, of Macquarie, went even further: “British surveys show that there is more harmony in the home where the wife works.”

The professor (father of four) quoted from an investigation into consumer finances, made by Mac-quarie and the Universities of Sydney and Queensland, which cast much light on the working wife.

Married women in Sydney, it showed, made up 14 percent of the total workforce. (Commonwealth statistics indicate that this is about average for the six capital cities.)

Surprising

It surprised me that the figure is higher for married women than single—”single” also including the widowed, the divorced, and the separated.

Also surprisingly, nearly one-third of all working wives came from families whose male head belonged to the executive and professional classes.

Professor Edwards commented: “This suggests pretty clearly that the wife’s going out to work is not only, nor even most often, a question of making ends meet on a low income.

“More often than not, it appears, it is the means of enriching the lives both of the wife and her family, in terms of the personal satisfaction she herself derives from the job in addition to her role as wife and mother; and by making possible a greater expenditure not only on expensive durable consumption items but on children’s education expenses, travel, and so on.”

However, in nearly half the sampled families where the wife does not work, family income was less than $60 a week.

The speaker quoted chapter and verse to prove the contention of the Governor- General, Lord Casey, that Australia badly needs her women, including her married women, in the workforce.

But The Best Brains Are Working To Free Woman From Household Drudgery.

By Kay Keavney

PICTURES show Professor H. R. Edwards and some of the audience at the seminar.

Already, certain sectors of the economy would collapse without them. Even in 1961, when the last published census was taken, one-third of the eligible women were at work — just over one million — and the numbers have been rising ever since.

Professor Wheelwright speculated on what would have happened if two-thirds had gone to work:

“Just think of it, one million extra producers, with incomes to spend, with savings to invest.

“They are here, right under our noses — the equivalent of ten years’ migrant intake. And with no transport costs, no assisted passages, no need for expensive missions looking for workers.

“All they need is training, re-training, the necessary facilities to help them cope with children and domestic work, and the expansion of suitable job opportunities.

“Last year the Department of Immigration spent $43 million for a net migrant intake of around 100,000, by no means all of whom were of working age.

“That sort of money would surely go a long way toward providing the facilities which would help release 100,000 women a year into the workforce.”

And there’s the rub—the lack of facilities to enable women to combine the domestic and the outside job.

It affects not only the married but the divorced or deserted wife with children, the unmarried mother, and the many single women caring for aged relatives—a high proportion, in fact, of half the population of this country.

Seminar speakers referred to other “rubs.”

They spoke of prejudice against women in all but the traditional “women’s jobs,” of low pay, unequal pay, lack of part-time work, lack of training and re-training schemes.

But lack of facilities to care for children ranked high. Before the seminar, the Business and Professional Women’s Clubs had under-taken a massive survey of their own, comparing facilities offered in Australia with those overseas.

The results were depressing, and so were the reports of several seminar speakers.

Miss Joan Fry, of the Sydney Day Nursery, and Miss Margaret Chase, of the Kindergarten Union, told of shortages of trained teachers and workers, lack of space, lack of money, and waiting lists as long as your arm.

Speakers and delegates both grew very fiery on this question. Obviously, it seemed to most, if Australia needed her women in the workforce, society must put some intelligent planning into enabling them to combine their responsibilities.

For a start, there should be a full-scale investigation into the problems themselves, so that informed action can be taken by government, industry, and the community.

Facilities

Other countries are tackling the situation. For instance, in Chile, any organisation which employs more than 20 women must supply suitable child-care facilities.

Denmark, by a careful combination of government and industry, leads the world in its general provision for the needs of children of all ages.

In the United States, more and more employers are tailoring their schedules to the hours when their workers can work.

For example, in light assembly work they’re offering 9-to-3 and 6-to-10 shifts. A big insurance company has led the way by creating 6-to-10 mothers’ night shifts for clerical workers.

In many places employers are teaming two women for the one job, one working in the morning, another taking over in the afternoon.

“Many problems that seem insuperable,” said Professor A. Mitchell, Vice-Chancellor of Macquarie, “can be solved in fairly simple practical ways.”

He proudly cited M.U.M.S. of Macquarie — young mother undergraduates who have taken over a cottage on the campus, where their children have a splendid (supervised) time while mothers attend lectures.

Everyone from the Vice-Chancellor and Faculty to the local Apex Club has bucked in and given help to enable these women to develop valuable skills without adverse reaction on the children.

Alderman Mrs. Gladys Leach outlined community schemes in her own area (Lane Cove, N.S.W.) which are equally simple and practical — and far-reaching in their effects.

“Meals on Wheels,” for instance. Often the simple provision of a hot meal in the middle of the day for a sick or aged relative can release a woman to earn her living.

Where there’s a will, there’s usually a way.

There are solutions, too, to the immense problem of re-training a woman after a long child-bearing break.

Learning by correspondence is one, and it was dealt with by the Head of the School of External Studies at the N.S.W. Department of Technical Education — herself a woman, Miss Renee Erdos.

Professor Philp saw long-term answers in the use of educational TV and electronic recordings. In their own homes, women will be able to bridge the gap made by years out of their trade or profession.

Other women, who married young, perhaps directly from school, will be able to develop new skills.

These solutions and every other possible kind should be explored by the nation to stem the vast wastage of its womanpower, said the speakers.

They spoke of other problems to be tackled: inequality of opportunity, inequality of pay. They said women must themselves push for justice, making full use of their combined political power.

As Professor Wheelwright, the economist, reminded the seminar: “It was a 19th century economist who said that one could judge the progress of a civilisation by looking at the place of women in it.

“And,” he added with a broad grin, “it was a 20th century economist who said that economic development is an invitation to women to join the human race.”

Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), Wednesday 15 November 1967, page 4


SOMETIMES SHE’S HER OWN WORST ENEMY

By JOAN COWAN-ASTON, head of a Sydney school training women for sales and demonstration.

“Executive Woman Wanted” -there are marvellous jobs offering for women. BUT – many are unfilled because the right woman can’t be found.

WHY aren’t there more women at the top?

“Because we are discriminated against, under-paid, exploited,” most women cry.

But from where I sit, as a trainer and employment agent for female staff, I find most women have themselves to blame for missing out on top jobs and good salaries.

And the main fault is in their attitude to their work. They just don’t take it seriously enough.

A man gets a position and tries, in most cases, to make it a career. This, in the main, is what women have yet to learn to do.

Women have not been consistently taught to regard their work seriously, although this attitude is slowly changing as the demand for their skills becomes greater.

Let me start with my own generation, the 30-45 age group.

Most of this group left school at about 16 and went to work in offices or shops.

The main aim of most of them (carefully instilled in them by their mothers) was to get married. Throughout their childhood all talk of their future was along the lines: “When you grow up and get married . . ?”

Consequently, they regarded work as a “fill-in” until they married, and the major part of their wages went toward buying things for their glory-box and saving for a big wedding. Little thought was given to what they should do after they were married.

They had their children, set out to raise them well, to run their homes-and their minds stagnated.

Their children grew older, their homes were well established, and they became bored with the monotony of housework and tea parties.

They decided to go back to work. However, what positions can such untrained women hope to get?

They are competing with girls fresh from business college and, more importantly, with women who have stopped working but have spent the ten or so years learning their work thoroughly, including new business techniques and terminology.

These last are the women now commanding good positions and salaries.

They have proved their capabilities, and now something real, and valuable, to offer employers.

The women who have done nothing but house duties for several years (and these are the women I deal with at my agency) are shocked to find that employers regard them as juniors.

Most of those I meet seem to think that because they have reached a certain standard in their private life and are of an age when they can cope with people easily, they are suited for the executive positions.

Feminine Foibles

But they lack experience and know-how, and are out of touch.

Another point is that women, although they complain bitterly that they are underpaid and exploited because of their sex, in a great many cases try to use the fact they are women to get special treatment.

They expect their boss to be sympathetic when they have an “off day.” But employers don’t want to be worried by these feminine foibles. They just want the work done.

To give you an example: Mrs. X recently completed a training course with me, as she badly needed a well-paid job to maintain a child and a home.

I placed her in a selling position, $30 a week and commission. Her weekly pay should have been about $50.

I thoroughly briefed her, told her the job would be hard work, and suggested she think it over before I placed her.

She did this and then accepted the position, and I arranged for her to start the following Monday.

She worked on the Monday and Tuesday, had what she termed one of her “bad days” on Wednesday, so stayed home. Then she phoned me on Thursday and calmly announced she didn’t like the job, and was there anything else in which I could place her.

Unfortunately, this type of incident is not rare, too many women expect “fairy princess” treatment. But mere are no princes in business. Women must forget their sex and concentrate on the job.

Another thing I find wrong with the attitude of women to their work is that it is too materialistic.

Women work for the wrong reasons. Their aim is not to do an interesting and worth-while job but to get a pay packet each week which will enable them to buy new clothes or household goods,

They merely use their employer and their job. Their minds are not on the work but on what they are going to buy next.

This wholly materialistic attitude is not new. It was there in the old days when women’s main aim was the pursuit and achievement of marriage.

It was implied in the words, “a good match.”

Just who was a good match? A man of fine character who loved his wife and children and worked honestly and well at his job?

No. A good match was the man who could provide a big house, expensive clothes, and so on.

How often did I hear in my childhood. “She made a good match and they have a lovely big home”

Although these attitudes are changing, there is still tremendous room for improvement.

In the younger generation is the girl who has been overseas and expects this to open all doors to her.

Many such girls take just any job when they leave school. They save for about three years, then go overseas.

This would be all right if their travels were designed to increase their knowledge and skills. But the majority wander aimlessly without learning a foreign language or doing any special study.

Then they come to me and say that because they have been overseas they feel they are ideally suited for public relations work or fashion compering. Yet these jobs, like every job, require training and experience.

Recently, I had occasion to place a number of women in a fast-moving promotion. One of the many I sent to the company was a 21-year-old girl who had passed my course with flying colors.

She dresses expensively (though not always in a business-like way), has travelled overseas, but has no experience to speak of. Yet she showed great potential.

She wasn’t successful after the second interview for this particular job, mainly because of her youth.

When I was talking to her about it, and discussing other positions 1 could place her in, she informed me that she thought she would like the sort of position held by the executive woman who had interviewed her.

She was surprised and, I think, angry when I suggested that she would have to wait a few years and gain experience before she could think of anything like that.

The basic attitudes I have instanced must be changed if women are to get employers to take them seriously and treat them as equal to male staff.

Young girls should be encouraged to adopt a career attitude, and to choose a job they can continue throughout life.

Ideally they should not marry until after they have established themselves in a career. And when they marry, they should not drop this career completely.

I do think it is important that a mother be home with her children when they are young, but these days it is not necessary for women to waste this at-home time and put themselves out of the running for a career later.

In fact, it is a wonderful chance for them to pursue some sort of study to increase their knowledge and skills.

A little later they can take up part-time work to fit in with young children’s needs.

This raises two important community needs for which women must work.

First, employers should be encouraged to let married women continue in their careers, by allowing flexible working hours which enable mothers to be home when their children return from school.

Secondly, a good domestic workforce should be developed to free skilled women from the home. (A very high percentage of this country’s skilled labor is being wasted over a kitchen sink, which is a tragedy for a growing country.)

Domestic work these days is well paid and is the answer for women who don’t want to enter the hurly-burly of a position in business. Such women can work within their own areas, dodging commuting problems and spending more time with their families.

Finally, in return for the equal respect of their employers, women must be professional in their work. It doesn’t matter if they are doing a part-time job for extra money or a full-time one as a career, they still must think of themselves as professional.

Women are needed in industry. They are just as clever, just as capable as men, and, provided they think the right way and are prepared to work regardless of personal problems, they will find that they are in as much demand.

…..

Anyway, I’d be interested to hear our thoughts.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Source

Australian Women’s Weekly (1933 – 1982), Wednesday 15 November 1967, pages 4 -5.

Midnight With “The Secret Wife”.

If you go digging through my archives, you’ll notice that despite being a self-confessed book addict, I rarely write book reviews. That’s because I’m unfortunately more of a book collector than a voracious book reader. Of course, I have good intentions, and get carried away on the wings of fancy, but all too often the rubber doesn’t hit the road.

Anyway, today I’m breaking with tradition because I’ve just finished reading Mark Lamprell’s: The Secret Wife, and I’m too excited to keep it to myself. I absolutely loved it, and thought you might love it too. I rarely read non-fiction, and despite my best intentions, have often failed to finish even novels I love. So, the fact I was sticking matchsticks in my eyes to stay awake and finish this book, is a very strong endorsement. Indeed, to quote Australian music legend Molly Meldrum: “Do yourself a favour”, and read this book.

So, what was so good about it?

For me personally, I’m Australian and I enjoy stories from my own backyard, as well as reading foreign literature. Indeed, I suspect each of us likes to see our own world reflected back to us through the arts, as much as we also appreciate a more cosmopolitan diet. Yet, at the same time, it wasn’t consciously Australian and would easily translate elsewhere.

Secondly, I really appreciated the highly developed characterisation with his profound understanding of human nature. The storyline hinges on the friendship of two very different women, Edith and Frankie, their husbands and children and is mostly set in the 1960’s. Naturally, as characters in a novel, they go through many ups and downs, dramas, catastrophes and successes. Lacking in self-confidence myself too often, I related very strongly to Edith even though I’m a born extrovert and would’ve loved to be Frankie in my dreams.

I also really appreciated how Lamprell handled the interaction of this wily cast with the finely-tuned precision of a symphony conductor, yet with casual realism. There were times the characters became people I know, but I also felt Mark knew me like the back of his hand. I’m sure I got goose bumps more than once.

Another point I greatly appreciated about the book was Mark’s dynamic and complex vocabulary. Not all writers appreciate words, but I love words with a passion and am quick to take my hat off to those who make the effort (or even flourish). My kids have told me off for writing in books, but I always read books with a pen in hand, and my pen was very busy throughout (which is a great sign, btw.) I even jotted a few words in the back.

It is also worth noting that The Secret Wife is a historical novel. I was touched and impressed by Lamprell’s eye for detail and accuracy. It’s so easy to Google these things now, that there’s no excuse for getting them wrong. There is just enough detail to add flavour and authenticity, but not too much to bog you down.

All of that makes me sound intensely critical and punctilious (to steal a word from Mark). However, what we’re all looking for is a gripping story. A tale which draws us in and keeps throwing us bait until we’re caught hook, line and sinker. Where we can’t put the book down, yet we don’t want the book to end either. That is certainly true of The Secret Wife. The plot is also refreshingly unpredictable. He leads us up one path, and then we are taken somewhere else entirely, although not left alone lost in the dark either.

I know I’m saying a lot without saying much at all about this book. That’s because I know how much I hate spoilers. I just want a “yay” or a “nay”, and something to back it up. Yet, I’m busting to talk to someone about it.

However, I’m also into biography. So, once I like a book, or fancy an author, I want to delve into their head, their heart, their past, present…the works. (Indeed, I’ve been doing just that with author Ethel Turner over at my other blog Tea With Ethel Turner.) So this leaves me asking: “Who is Mark Lamprell?” and I suppose you might be wondering the same thing, and why I read: The Secret Wife, especially when I could’ve been reading your blog posts and works of fiction instead…

Mark Lamprell – Photo Ian Erick

Well, the official answer is: “Mark Lamprell is an (Australian) writer of novels and children’s books published in sixteen countries and twelve languages, including the novels The Full Ridiculous and A Lover’s Guide to Rome. He also works internationally as a writer and director in film, with movie credits including Babe Pig in the City, My Mother Frank, Goddess, A Few Less Men and Never Too Late.

There’s a more complex answer here, where Booktopia asked him Ten Terrifying Questions: https://www.booktopia.com.au/blog/2022/04/21/ten-terrifying-questions-with-mark-lamprell/?fbclid=IwAR10IScuXeqzO3eEluwWUtZb9ICn93sRAXkHBCS8JUqbAwLBQxZpsZ6Kwwk

However, for me, Mark Lamprell was also my uncle’s school friend. My dad was one of seven, and being the eldest grandchild, I was only ten and eleven years younger than my youngest uncles. So, it wasn’t unusual for me to be down at the house when their friends were around. Moreover, their house was a sprawling Californian bungalow. None of the doors were ever locked, and people simply came and went. Oftentimes, we’d be gathered around the kitchen table philosophising. One would be having breakfast, another lunch and someone else having a snack. It was definitely laissez-faire, although there were still non-negotiables like my grandfather wanting my uncle to get his hair cut.

My grandmother in a professional capacity. This was for the BBC around 1938.

Yet, as I’ve mentioned before, my grandmother was Eunice Gardiner, an international concert pianist, music critic and later professor piano at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. In the loungeroom, there was her Bechstein grand piano, and after my grandfather passed away, it was joined by a large concert-sized Steinway grand, which she’d brought out from England. Having two large grand pianos in your lounge room, certainly makes a statement.

My Great Grandmother, Ruby Gardiner (McNamara) was in some ways Edith to my grandmother’s Frankie. Both of them stood their ground at times, and were still their own people. I look at this photo now with Ruby looking across and even deferring to her daughter as though she’s not expecting to be in the shot. Hadn’t picked up on that before.

So, the house had this sort of dichotomy, and that fits in very well with Frankie’s world in The Secret Wife. Moreover, like Frankie, there was so much we didn’t know about my grandmother’s career, and who she was. Indeed, I venture to suggest that everyone probably has their secrets. Things even our nearest and dearest know nothing about.

While The Secret Wife and I were obviously a very good fit, I ended up reading it because the publisher sent me a copy to review. I was attending a novel writing workshop with Graeme Simsion (author of The Rosie Project who I’ve reviewed before). I mentioned that I’d attended a similar workshop with Mark Lamprell at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, and the publicist said she’d send me a copy of his new book. I was delighted, and mentioned he was a family friend. The book duly arrived, and I thought I’d better read it tout de suite to honour the deal. No forgetting to read this book. By this time, I picked up an extra 38 “friends” at the Pearl Beach Book Sale. So, it wasn’t that The Secret Wife was without competition. I clearly needed to get reading.

Family Press Photo 1960 around the time of the TV interview.

However, reading The Secret Wife now was mind-blowing timing. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by historian, Ann Curthoys, who let me know that back in 1960 my grandmother had appeared on an ABC TV panel interviewing Paul Robeson, an African-American singer, actor and civil rights activist and soon of a former slave when he toured Australia in November 1960. The interview covered racism, equality and freedom and was recorded on the 5th November, 1960. Three days later, JF Kennedy defeated Nixon in the US presidential election, and it was broadcast on the 13th November, 1960. It was just under three years before Dr Martin Luther King’s famous  “I Have a Dream” speech, which followed a march by over 200,000 people on Washington on the 28th August, 1963. I was able to order a copy of the interview, and have been working on a transcript. I am gobsmacked.

A media shot – my grandmother with the eldest boys at the piano around 1942.

So, reading: The Secret Wife which is set in this similar social context, was an incredible fusion. However, my grandmother was leading a different life to anyone really what with her prodigious talent and being married with seven children and still pursuing her career. But I think she just had this trajectory in her mind and it just kept going. She probably knew nothing else.

As for my grandfather, there was a miniature grand piano on their wedding cake. So, I doubt he had any illusions. My grandmother, her piano and her career were a package deal. There was never any suggestion she was going to stop.

Wow! There’s been so much to think about, and more to come. For now, I’m going to let the book settle. I really want to talk it over, and share it with someone (something I obviously can’t do in a review.) Maybe, I’ll start talking to myself.

Best wishes,

Rowena Curtin

PS One thing I didn’t mention was that my grandfather was the consummate book collector and my grandparents’ house was overflowing out the back and under the house with boxes, and boxes of books. Indeed, when my grandparents first got married, my grandfather’s mother sent over his books to their new home, and they apparently arrived even before the furniture.

Don’t you just love family stories?!!

Featured image: Geoff Newton. Thank you Zac the dog for posing for the camera. Since he spends much of his life sleeping underneath my keyboard and while I was reading the book, it seemed appropriate for him to appear in the photo.

Weekend Coffee Share: 11th April, 2022.

Welcome To Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you all? I hope you are all well, and I thought you might like to join my friend Heather and I at a local live music venue called Link & Pin at Woy Woy. I used to go to this venue in it’s previous incarnation as a cafe and florist with my mother and kids. It’s just across the road from the train station and was particularly good when we were doing an exchange with the kids when they were younger. I think it was closed for a bit while it was being renovated and along came covid. We still have covid, but we’re supposed to be quite comfortable hanging out with covid everywhere we go, and believing it will be little more than a sniffle if we do get it. I like this venue because it’s outdoors. Well, that’s from a covid perspective. However, I also like listening to music in a relaxed smoke-free easy going venue and it also has plenty of personality or character. It’s the sort of place I’d expect to find perhaps in Sydney’s inner city around Glebe perhaps. Or, at least, the Glebe I used to know many years ago now where I used to watch a band called Paris Dumper at the Naggs’ Head on a Friday night. However, that was several lifetimes ago.

The band we saw today was called the Blind Pilots. I have no idea how they came by the name, and I guess I should be grateful that I was hearing them perform at Link & Pin and not hearing the announcement: “Your Captains today are the blind pilots”. Whether they can’t see or they’re incredibly drunk, you don’t want them flying you anywhere! Anyway, I enjoyed their music and anybody who’s known me for awhile would be surprised to see me there. I’m more of a classical violinist and tend to play Bach, and I’ve also spent much of the last week watching my daughter dance at the studio during open week. I’m actually surprised I had any watching capacity left, but being part of the audience isn’t a passive activity. It’s interactive and you need to give back to the performers as well. Not just clap at the end on autopilot either, but get into it. Smile, observe, indeed, absorb the whole experience. You might even tap your foot, and as long as Geoff isn’t with me, it doesn’t matter if I have terrible rhythm.

My grandmother, Eunice Gardiner, at the Australian Embassy in Washington in 1948.

I can actually understand why I enjoyed going to a band today. Last week, I received a message that my grandmother had been part of a TV interview panel when singer Paul Robeson visited Australian in 1960, and I contacted the ABC archives and they sent me the file. I did know that she’d performed with Paul Robeson in London in the late 1930s but I knew nothing about him. Well, that’s all changed. He was a world famous Afro-American singer and actor who had also qualified as a lawyer. Yet, his father had been a slave who escaped in his teens and fought for the North in the Civil War and went on to become a pastor. Paul Robeson developed close ties with the Soviet Union and even sent his son to school there for awhile because it didn’t have the racism present in the United States. Unfortunately, this put him under the microscope during the 1950’s in the McCarthy era. His passport was withdrawn for ten years. The interview was recorded on the 5th November, 1960, and broadcast 13th November, 1960. To give you some idea of the context of the interview, three days after the recording on the 8th November, 1960 the US elections were held and JFK won the US presidency against then US Vice-President Richard Nixon. Harper Lee’s novel: To Kill A Mockingbird was published on the 11th July, 1960, although it didn’t seem to attract attention in Australia until after the movie was released. It was just under three years before Dr Martin Luther King’s famous  “I Have a Dream” speech which followed a march by over 200,000 people on Washington on the 28th August, 1963. Anyway, it was quite interesting, astounding even, to see my grandmother, who was an international concert pianist and music critic on this panel. I decided the interview was so important that I decided to transcribe it verbatim and now I’m regretting it. It’s all so complex, and every word is so important and has to be exact. No “near enough is good enough” unfortunately. I’ve written it out. Typed it up and now I’m at the gruesome checking stage and there’s still writing all over the page. Yet, there are so many pearls in there just not about equality, but also musical composition, and every now and then I fancy myself as a song writer and he’s right into the pentatonic scale, which is sort of a musician’s ABC. Oh well. I am starting to believe ignorance is bliss. Or, that I can just stick to the words while someone else takes care of the tune. Or, I can just keep researching with writing up my results getting 95% of the way and finding it all a bit too hard and exiting stage left. BTW I am actually working on that!

Meanwhile, I’ve done two posts about our son’s trip onboard the Young Endeavour.

Prior to trying to transcribe this TV interview, I was working on collating my 100 word flash fiction efforts. That’s going fairly well. Here is this week’s contribution to Friday Fictioneers:

Anyway, our daughter is on school holidays for the next two weeks. There’s a dance competition this week, and then we have Easter next weekend.

Well, that’s left you all with an eclectic array of things to explore. Meanwhile, for those of you who celebrated Easter, I wish you a blessed Easter.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Dorothy’s Gift

Dorothy had travelled the world using her magic ruby slippers, and she was no longer the fresh-faced, young girl who had followed the Yellow Brick Road into Oz. Indeed, she was now older than Aunt Em had ever been, and it was time to hang up her shoes. However, she had no idea where to leave them, or how to pass the baton on.  Immobilised, the shoes took over, and they touched down in front of New Zealand’s Great Shoe Fence. Problem solved. Dorothy hung them up, and waited until a young woman took them home…Jacinda. She had extraordinary plans.

……

100 Words PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot

The Winston Ruby Slippers made out of real diamonds and rubies.

There were quite a few directions I could’ve taken with this prompt. I had no idea what the “Raise Plow” sign meant. Being from Sydney, we haven’t had to deal with snow plows. Apparently, the sign is used to alert drivers of snow clearing vehicles to raise the snowplow that can get damaged due to construction plates hidden under snow or speed bump on the road. So, my focus was drawn more towards the hanging pile of shoes. What did that mean? I wasn’t too cluey on that front either. However, I did recall a shoe fence we’d stumbled across on our honeymoon in New Zealand 20 years ago. That was the starting point for this story. It’s a place where old shoes go to die. However, some people seem to find a pair there as well, and breathe fresh life into them. So I thought I’d find a special pair of shoes which could be left behind, and found this incredible pair of Ruby Slippers designed by jeweller Harry Winston to acknowledge the 50th Anniversary of the movie in 1989. They are made of real diamonds and rubies and are worth a cool $3 million. Wow!

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed my story and additions.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields: https://rochellewisoff.com/2022/03/16/18-march-2022/

Many thanks and best wishes,

Rowena

Further Reading:

Weekend Coffee Share: 21st March, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? I hope you are well, and doing okay.

We are going really well here, although our men folk have escaped down South crossing the border of Victoria and are in Geelong. This afternoon at 3.00pm our son will be boarding a tall ship, the Young Endeavour, and at 4.00pm they set sail for Sydney arriving on the 30th March nine days later. It is a trip of a lifetime. Captain James Cook was sailing The Endeavour when he “discovered” Australia’s East Coast back in 1770, and for better or worse depending on your perspective, he claimed Australia’s East Coast for the British Empire. Anyway, in recognition of the Bicentenary of English settlement at Botany Bay on the 26th January, 1788, the British Government gifted Australia with the Young Endeavour to Australia as a youth training vessel and crews, like the one our son is about to be part of, have been sailing it ever since.

The last crew of the Young Endeavour where they’re sitting like large birds out on the masts.

Rather than giving you a second-hand and poorly informed account of what it’s all about, I thought I’d share this breathtaking video from their Facebook page. It makes me wish I was 18 again and on the trip of a lifetime. On the other hand, I was 18 back in 1988, and watching the Tall Ships sail into Sydney Harbour on Australia Day 1988 when it seemed all of Australia was congregated under the Sydney Harbour Bridge at Kirribilli and around around the harbour just to get a glimpse: Here’s the video link: https://www.facebook.com/YoungEndeavour/videos/389567701984131 If you’re interested in following their journey, here’s a link to the Captain’s log: https://youngendeavour.gov.au/the-voyage/captains-log

Meanwhile, I am reluctantly at home. Our daughter had a dance audition yesterday, and I needed to be here. She’s also in her second final year at school and it seems to be assessment season. She also had a nasty virus last week. She had five RAT tests, which all came back negative but that kept her away from school for awhile too.

However, I really enjoyed watching her and the other students from their studio dance yesterday and her long awaited tutu finally arrived yesterday so it was special to see her put that on, although nothing like seeing her p on stage and under lights. I can’t wait. She will be exquisite.

Last week, we went out for a family meal to celebrate both “the kids'” birthdays. As you may recall, Mister turned 18 and Miss was Sweet 16, which are both special birthdays. We went to a so-called “hamburger restaurant” in Terrigal called Milky Lane. OMG! I struggle to find the words to describe the food, the out-of-this-world which transformed the place into an almost out of mind experience. It was so not McDonalds (which is where Miss works btw). I felt old, but it was wonderful and I’d love to go back.

I am actually getting out and about a bit more, but still wearing my mask and social distancing. On Saturday, my friend and I met for coffee at Link and Pin in Woy Woy, and we returned yesterday afternoon to listen to live music. We had no idea who was playing, but caught two acts. The second was called the Howlin’ Rats. The singer, who calls himself Harry Hobbit as is a computer programmer, during the week, had some very interesting effects with his voice which I didn’t really understand so I’ve bought their `CD and I’ve got his number. He asked me to write a bio for the band. I thought it would be interesting, and I’m rather curious. I like stepping into other people’s shoes and it’s just good to have a convo with a stranger in person for a change. Covid has ruined my social life.

Anyway, I need to dash but will be back later to polish this off.

Best wishes,

Rowena

None So Blind – A Short Story By Mary Synon

Set in London, this short story first appeared in Harper’s Magazine, and was published in the The Yearbook Of The American Short Story For 1917, which has been shared via Project Gutenburg. I’d be interested to know your thoughts…

 We were listening to Leila Burton’s music—her husband, and Dick Allport, and I—with the throb of London beating under us like the surge of an ocean in anger, when there rose above the smooth harmonies of the piano and the pulsing roar of the night a sound more poignant than them both, the quavering melody of a street girl’s song.

Through the purpling twilight of that St. John’s Eve I had been drifting in dreams while Leila had gone from golden splendors of chords which reflected the glow on westward-fronting windows into somber symphonies which had seemed to make vocal the turbulent soul of the city—for Dick Allport and I were topping the structure of that house of life that was to shelter the love we had long been cherishing. With Leila playing in that art which had dowered her with fame, I was visioning the glory of such love as she and Standish Burton gave each other while I watched Dick, sensing rather than seeing the dearness of him as he gave to the mounting climaxes the tense interest he always tendered to Leila’s music.

I had known, before I came to love Dick Allport, other loves and other lovers. Because I had followed will-o’-the-wisps of fancy through marshes of sentiment I could appreciate the more the truth of that flame which he and[Pg 469] I had lighted for our guidance on the road. A moody boy he had been when I first met him, full of a boy’s high chivalry and of a boy’s dark despairs. A moody man he had become in the years that had denied him the material success toward which he had striven; but something in the patience of his efforts, something in the fineness of his struggle had endeared him to me as no triumph could have done. Because he needed me, because I had come to believe that I meant to him belief in the ultimate good of living, as well as belief in womanhood, I cherished in my soul that love of him which yearned over him even as it longed for him.

Watching him in the dusk while he lounged in that concentrated quiet of attention, I went on piling the bricks of that wide house of happiness we should enter together; and, although I could see him but dimly, so well did I know every line of his face that I could fancy the little smile that quivered around his lips and that shone from the depths of his eyes as Leila played the measures we both loved. I must have been smiling in answer when the song of the girl outside rose high.

Not until that alien sound struck athwart the power and beauty of the spell did I come to know how high I had builded my castles; but the knocking at the gate toppled down the dreams as Leila swept a discord over the keyboard and crossed to the open window.

In the dusk, as she flung back the heavy curtains, I could see the bulk of Brompton Oratory set behind the houses like the looming back-drop of a painted scene. Nearer, in front of a tall house across the way, stood the singer, a thin girl whose shadowy presence seemed animated by a curious bravery. In a nasal, plaintive voice she was singing the words of a ballad of love and of loving that London, as only London can, had made curiously its own that season. The insistence of her plea—for she sang as if she cried out her life’s longing, sang as if she called on the passing crowd not for alms, but for understanding—made her for the moment, before she[Pg 470] faded back into oblivion, an artist, voicing the heartache and the heartbreak of womankind; and the artist in Leila Burton responded to the thrill.

Until the ending of the song she stood silent in front of the window, unconscious of the fact that she, and not the scene beyond her, held the center of the stage. Not for her beauty, although at times Leila Burton gave the impression of being exquisitely lovely, was she remarkable, but rather for that receptive attitude that made her an inspired listener. In me, who had known her for but a little while, she awakened my deepest and drowsiest ambition, the desire to express in pictures the light and the shade of the London I knew. With her I could feel the power, and the glory, and the fear, and the terror of the city as I never did at other times. It was not alone that she was all things to all men; it was that she led men and women who knew her to the summits of their aspirations.

Even Standish Burton, big, sullen man that he was, immersed in his engineering problems, responded to his wife’s spiritual charm with a readiness that always aroused in Dick and myself an admiration for him that our other knowledge of him did not justify. He was, aside from his relationship to Leila, a man whose hardness suggested a bitter knowledge of dark ways of life. Now, crouched down in the depths of his chair, he kept watching Leila with a gaze of smouldering adoration, revealing that love for her which had been strong enough to break down those barriers which she had erected in the years while he had worked for her in Jacob’s bondage. In her he seemed to be discovering, all over again, the vestal to tend the fires of his faith.

Dick Allport, too, bending forward over the table on which his hands fell clenched, was studying Leila with an inscrutable stare that seemed to be of query. I was wondering what it meant, wondering the more because my failure to understand its meaning hung another veil between my vision and my shrine of belief in the fullness[Pg 471] of love, when the song outside came to an end and Leila turned back to us.

Her look, winging its way to Standish, lighted her face even beyond the glow from the lamps which she switched on. For an instant his heavy countenance flared into brightness. Dick Allport sighed almost imperceptibly as he turned to me. I had a feeling that such a fire as the Burtons kindled for each other should have sprung up in the moment between Dick and me, for we had fought and labored and struggled for our love as Standish and Leila had never needed to battle. Because of our constancy I expected something better than the serene affectionateness that shone in Dick’s smile. I wanted such stormy passion of devotion as Burton gave to Leila, such love as I, remembering a night of years ago, knew that Dick could give. It was the old desire of earth, spoken in the street girl’s song, that surged in me until I could have cried out in my longing for the soul of the sacrament whose substance I had been given; but the knowledge that we were, the four of us, conventional people in a conventional setting locked my heart as it locked my lips until I could mirror the ease with which Leila bore herself.

“I have been thinking,” she said, lightly, “that I should like to be a street singer for a night. If only a piano were not so cumbersome, I should go out and play into the ears of the city the thing that girl put into her song.”

“Why not?” I asked her, “It would be an adventure, and life has too few adventures.”

“It might have too many,” Dick said.

“Not for Leila,” Standish declared. “Life’s for her a quest of joy.”

“That’s it,” Dick interposed. “Her adventures have all been joyous.”

“But they haven’t,” Leila insisted. “I’m no spoiled darling of the gods. I’ve been poor, poor as that girl out there. I’ve had heartaches, and disappointments, and misfortunes.”[Pg 472]

“Not vital ones,” Dick declared. “You’ve never had a knock-out blow.”

“She doesn’t know what one is,” Standish laughed, but there sounded a ruefulness in his laughter that told of the kind of blow he must once have suffered to bring that note in his voice. Standish Burton took life lightly, except where Leila was concerned. His manner now indicated, almost mysteriously, that something threatened his harbor of peace, but the regard Leila gave to him proved that the threat of impending danger had not come to her.

“Oh, but I do know,” she persisted.

“Vicariously,” I suggested. “All artists do.”

“No, actually,” she said.

“You’re wrong,” said Standish. “You’re the sort of woman whom the world saves from its own cruelties.”

There was something so essentially true in his appraisal of his wife that the certainty covered the banality of his statement and kept Dick and myself in agreement with him. Leila Burton, exquisitely remote from all things commonplace, was unquestionably a woman to be protected. Without envy—since my own way had its compensations in full measure—I admitted it.

“I think that you must have forgotten, if you ever knew,” she said, “how I struggled here in London for the little recognition I have won.”

“Oh, that!” Dick Allport deprecated. “That isn’t what Stan means. Every one in the world worth talking about goes through that sort of struggle. He means the flinging down from a high mountain after you’ve seen the glories, not of this world, but of another, the casting out from paradise after you’ve learned what paradise may mean. He spoke with an odd timbre of emotion in his voice, a quality that puzzled me for the moment.

“That’s it,” said Standish, gratefully. “Those are the knock-out blows.”

“Well, then, I don’t know them”—Leila admitted her defeat—”and I hope that I shall not.”

Softly she began to play the music of an accompaniment.[Pg 473] There was a familiar hauntingness in its strains that puzzled me until I associated them with the song that Burton used to whistle so often in the times when Leila was in Paris and he had turned for companionship to Dick and to me.

“I’ve heard Stan murder that often enough to be able to try it myself,” I told her.

“I didn’t know he knew it,” she said. “I heard it for the first time the other day. A girl—I didn’t hear her name—sang it for an encore at the concert of the Musicians’ Club. She sang it well, too. She was a queer girl,” Leila laughed, “a little bit of a thing, with all the air of a tragedy queen. And you should have heard how she sang that! You know the words?”—she asked me over her shoulder:

“And because I, too, am a lover,
And my love is far from me,
I hated the two on the sands there,
And the moon, and the sands, and the sea.”

“And the moon, and the sands, and the sea,” Dick repeated. He rose, going to the window where Leila had stood, and looking outward. When he faced us again he must have seen the worry in my eyes, for he smiled at me with the old, endearing fondness and touched my hair lightly as he passed.

“What was she like—the girl?” Standish asked, lighting another cigarette.

“Oh, just ordinary and rather pretty. Big brown eyes that seemed to be forever asking a question that no one could answer, and a little pointed chin that she flung up when she sang.” Dick Allport looked quickly across at Burton, but Stan gave him no answering glance. He was staring at Leila as she went on: “I don’t believe I should have noticed her at all if she hadn’t come to me as I was leaving the hall. ‘Are you Mrs. Standish Burton?’ she asked me. When I told her that I was, she stared me full in the face, then walked off[Pg 474] without another word. I wish that I could describe to you, though, the scorn and contempt that blazed in her eyes. If I had been a singer who had robbed her of her chance at Covent Garden, I could have understood. But I’d never seen her before, and my singing wouldn’t rouse the envy of a crow!” She laughed light-heartedly over the recollection, then her face clouded. “Do you know,” she mused, “that I thought just now, when the girl was singing on the street, that I should like to know that other girl? There was something about her that I can’t forget. She was the sort that tries, and fails, and sinks. Some day, I’m afraid, she’ll be singing on the streets, and, if I ever hear her, I shall have a terrible thought that I might have saved her from it, if only I had tried!”

“Better let her sort alone,” Burton said, shortly. He struck a match and relit his cigarette with a gesture of savage annoyance. Leila looked at him in amazement, and Dick gave him a glance that seemed to counsel silence. There was a hostility about the mood into which Standish relapsed that seemed to bring in upon us some of the urgent sorrows of the city outside, as if he had drawn aside a curtain to show us a world alien to the place of beauty and of the making of beauty through which Leila moved. Even she must have felt the import of his mood, for she let her hands fall on the keys while Dick and I stared at each other before the shock of this crackle that seemed to threaten the perfection of their happiness.

From Brompton came the boom of the bell for evensong. Down Piccadilly ran the roar of the night traffic, wending a blithesome way to places of pleasure. It was the hour when London was wont to awaken to the thrill of its greatness, its power, its vastness, its strength, and its glory, and to send down luminous lanes its carnival crowd of men and women. It was the time when weltering misery shrank shrouded into merciful gloom; when the East End lay far from our hearts; when poverty and sin and shame went skulking into byways where we need never follow; when painted women held back in the[Pg 475] shadows; when the pall of night rested like a velvet carpet over the spaces of that floor that, by daylight, gave glimpses into loathsome cellars of humanity. It was, as it had been so often of late, an hour of serene beauty, that first hour of darkness in a June night with the season coming to an end, an hour of dusk to be remembered in exile or in age.

There should have come to us then the strains of an orchestra floating in with the fragrance of gardenias from a vendor’s basket, symbols of life’s call to us, luring us out beneath stars of joy. But, instead, the bell of Brompton pealed out warningly over our souls, and, when its clanging died, there drifted in the sound of a preaching voice.

Only phrases clattering across the darkness were the words from beyond—resonant through the open windows: “The Cross is always ready, and everywhere awaiteth thee…. Turn thyself upward, or turn thyself downward; turn thyself inward, or turn thyself outward; everywhere thou shalt find the Cross;… if thou fling away one Cross thou wilt find another, and perhaps a heavier.”

Like sibylline prophecy the voice of the unseen preacher struck down on us. We moved uneasily, the four of us, as he cried out challenge to the passing world before his voice went down before the surge of a hymn. Then, just as the gay whirl of cars and omnibuses beat once more upon the pavements, and London swung joyously into our hearts again, the bell of the telephone in the hall rang out with a quivering jangle that brought Leila to her feet even as Standish jumped to answer its summons.

She stood beside the piano as he gave answer to the call, watching him as if she expected evil news. Dick, who had moved back into the shadow from a lamp on the table, was staring with that same searching gaze he had bestowed on her when she had lingered beside the window. I was looking at him, when a queer cry from Standish whirled me around.

In the dim light of the hall he was standing with the[Pg 476] instrument in his hands, clutching it with the stupidity of a man who has been struck by an unexpected and unexplainable missile. His face had gone to a grayish white, and his hands trembled as he set the receiver on the hook. His eyes were bulging from emotion and he kept wetting his lips as he stood in the doorway.

“What is it?” Leila cried. “What’s happened, Stan? Can’t you tell me? What is it?”

Not to her, but to Dick Allport, he made answer. “Bessie Lowe is dead!”

I saw Dick Allport’s thunderstruck surprise before he arose. I saw his glance go from Standish to Leila with a questioning that overrode all other possible emotion in him. Then I saw him look at Burton as if he doubted his sanity. His voice, level as ever, rang sharply across the other man’s distraction.

“When did she die?” he asked him.

“Just now.” He ran his hand over his hair, gazing at Dick as if Leila and I were not there. “She—she killed herself down in the Hotel Meynard.”

“Why?” Leila’s voice, hard with terror, snapped off the word.

“She—she—I don’t know.” He stared at his wife as if he had just become conscious of her presence. The grayness in his face deepened, and his lips grew livid. Like a man condemned to death, he stared at the world he was losing.

“Who is Bessie Lowe?” Leila questioned. “And why have they called you to tell of her?” Her eyes blazed with a fire that seemed about to singe pretense from his soul.

His hand went to his throat, and I saw Leila whiten. Her hand, resting on the piano, trembled, but her face held immobile, although I knew that all the happiness of the rest of her life hung upon his answer. On what Standish Burton would tell her depended the years to come. In that moment I knew that she loved him even as I loved Dick, even as women have always loved and[Pg 477] will always love the men whom fate had marked for their caring; and in a sudden flash of vision I knew, too, that Burton, no matter what Bessie Lowe or any other girl had ever been to him, worshiped his wife with an intensity of devotion that would make all his days one long reparation for whatever wrong he might have done her. I knew, though, that, if he had done the wrong, she would never again be able to give him the eager love he desired, and I, too, an unwilling spectator, waited on his words for his future, and Leila’s; but his voice did not make answer. It was Dick Allport who spoke.

“Bessie Lowe is a girl I used to care for,” he said. “She is the girl who sang at the Musicians’ Club, the girl who spoke to you. She heard that I was going to be married. She wanted me to come back to her. I refused.”

He was standing in the shadow, looking neither at Leila nor at me, but at Standish Burton. Burton turned to him.

“Yes,” he muttered thickly, “they told me to tell you. They knew you’d be here.”

“I see,” said Leila. She looked at Standish and then at Dick Allport, and there came into her eyes a queer, glazed stare that filmed their brightness. “I am sorry that I asked questions, Mr. Allport, about something that was nothing to me. Will you forgive me?”

“There is nothing to be forgiven,” he said. He turned to her and smiled a little. She tried to answer his smile, but a gasp came from her instead.

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” she said, “so sorry for her!”

It was Standish’s gaze that brought to me sudden realization that I, too, had a part in the drama. Until I found his steady stare on me I had felt apart from the play that he and Dick and Leila were going through, but with his urgent glare I awoke into knowledge that the message he had taken for Dick held for me the same significance that Leila had thought it bore for her. Like a stab from a knife came the thought that this girl—whoever[Pg 478] she was—had, in her dying, done what she had not done in life, taken Dick Allport from me. There went over me numbing waves of a great sense of loss, bearing me out on an ocean of oblivion. Against these I fought desperately to hold myself somewhere near the shore of sensibility. As if I were beholding him from a great distance, I could see Dick standing in the lamplight in front of Leila Burton. Understanding of how dear he was to me, of how vitally part of me he had grown in the years through which I had loved him—sometimes lightly, sometimes stormily, but always faithfully—beaconed me inshore; and the plank of faith in him, faith that held in itself something of forgiving charity, floated out to succor my drowning soul. I moved across the room while Standish Burton kept his unwinking gaze upon me, and Leila never looked up from the piano. I had come beside Dick before he heard me.

He looked at me as if he had only just then remembered that I was there. Into his eyes flashed a look of poignant remorse. He shrank back from me a little as I touched his hand, and I turned to Leila, who had not stirred from the place where she had listened to Standish’s cry when he took the fateful message. “We are going,” I said, “to do what we can—for her.”

She moved then to look at me, and I saw that her eyes held not the compassion I had feared, but a strange speculativeness, as if she questioned what I knew rather than what I felt. Their `contemplating quiet somehow disturbed me more than had her husband’s flashlight scrutiny, and with eyes suddenly blinded and throat drawn tight with terror I took my way beside Dick Allport out from the soft lights of the Burtons’ house into the darkness of the night.

Outside we paused a moment, waiting for a cab. For the first time since he had told Leila of Bessie Lowe, Dick spoke to me. “I think,” he said, “that it would be just as well if you didn’t come.”

“I must,” I told him, “It isn’t curiosity.[Pg 479] You understand that, don’t you? It is simply that this is the time for me to stand by you, if ever I shall do it, Dick.”

“I don’t deserve it.” There was a break in his voice. “But I shall try to, my dear. I can’t promise you much, but I can promise you that.”

Down the brightness of Piccadilly into the fuller glow of Regent Street we rode without speech. Somewhere below the Circus we turned aside and went through dim cañons of houses that opened a way past the Museum and let us into Bloomsbury. There in a wilderness of cheap hotels and lodging-houses we found the Meynard.

A gas lamp was flaring in the hall when the porter admitted us. At a desk set under the stairway a pale-faced clerk awaited us with staring insolence that shifted to annoyance when Dick asked him if we might go to Bessie Lowe’s room. “No,” he said, abruptly. “The officers won’t let any one in there. They’ve taken her to the undertaker’s.”

He gave us the location of the place with a scorn that sent us out in haste. I, at least, felt a sense of relief that I did not have to go up to the place where this unknown girl had thrown away the greatest gift. As we walked through the poorly lighted streets toward the Tottenham Court Road I felt for the first time a surge of that emotion that Leila Burton had voiced, a pity for the dead girl. And yet, stealing a look at Dick as he walked onward quietly, sadly, but with a dignity that lifted him above the sordidness of the circumstances, I felt that I could not blame him as I should. It was London, I thought, and life that had tightened the rope on the girl.

Strangely I felt a lightness of relief in the realization that the catastrophe having come, was not really as terrible as it had seemed back there in Leila’s room. It was an old story that many women had conned, and since, after all, Dick Allport was yet young, and my own, I condoned the sin for the sake of the sinner; and yet, even as I held the thought close to my aching heart, I felt that I was somehow letting slip from my shoulders the[Pg 480] cross that had been laid upon them, the cross that I should have borne, the burden of shame and sorrow for the wrong that the man I loved had done to the girl who had died for love of him.

The place where she lay, a gruesome establishment set in behind that highway of reeking cheapness, the Tottenham Court Road, was very quiet when we entered. A black-garbed man came to meet us from a room in which we saw two tall candles burning. Dick spoke to him sharply, asking if any one had come to look after the dead girl.

“No one with authority,” the man whined—”just a girl as lived with her off and on.”

He stood, rubbing his hands together as Dick went into hurried details with him, and I went past them into the room where the candles burned. For an instant, as I stood at the door, I had the desire to run away from it all, but I pulled myself together and went over to the place where lay the girl they had called Bessie Lowe.

I had drawn back the sheet and was standing looking down at the white face when I heard a sob in the room. I replaced the covering and turned to see in the corner the shadowy form of a woman whose eyes blazed at me out of the dark. While I hesitated, wondering if this were the girl who had lived occasionally with Bessie Lowe, she came closer, staring at me with scornful hate. Miserably thin, wretchedly nervous as she was, she had donned for the nonce a mantle of dignity that she seemed to be trailing as she approached, glaring at me with furious resentment. “So you thought as how you’d come here,” she demanded of me, her crimsoned face close to my own, “to see what she was like, to see what sort of a girl had him before you took him away from her? Well, I’ll tell you something, and you can forget it or remember it, as you like. Bessie Lowe was a good girl until she ran into him, and she’d have stayed good, I tell you, if he’d let her alone. She was a fool, though, and she thought that he’d marry her some day—and all the[Pg 481] time he was only waiting until you’d take him! You never think of our kind, do you, when you’re living out your lives, wondering if you care enough to marry the men who’re worshipping you while they’re playing with us? Well, perhaps it won’t be anything to you, but, all the same, there’s some kind of a God, and if He’s just He’ll punish you when He punishes Standish Burton!”

“But I—” I gasped. “Did you think that I—?”

“Aren’t you his wife?” She came near to me, peering at me in the flickering candle-light. “Aren’t you Standish Burton’s wife?”

“No,” I said.

“Oh, well”—she shrugged—”you’re her sort, and it’ll come to the same thing in the end.”

She slouched back to the corner, all anger gone from her. Outside I heard Dick’s voice, low, decisive. Swiftly I followed the girl. “You must tell me,” I pleaded with her, “if she did it because of Standish Burton.”

“I thought everybody knew that,” she said, “even his wife. What’s it to you, if you’re not that?”

“Nothing,” I replied, but I knew, as I stood where she kept vigil with Bessie Lowe, that I lied. For I saw the truth in a lightning-flash; and I knew, as I had not known when Dick perjured himself in Leila’s music-room, that I had come to the place of ultimate understanding, for I realized that not a dead girl, but a living woman, had come between us. Not Bessie Lowe, but Leila Burton, lifted the sword at the gateway of my paradise.

With the poignancy of a poisoned arrow reality came to me. Because Dick had loved Leila Burton he had laid his bond with me on the altar of his chivalry. For her sake he had sacrificed me to the hurt to which Standish would not sacrifice her. And the joke of it—the pity of it was that she hadn’t believed them! But because she was Burton’s wife, because it was too late for facing of the truth, she had pretended to believe Dick; and she had known, she must have known, that he had lied to her because he loved her.[Pg 482]

The humiliation of that knowledge beat down on me, battering me with such blows as I had not felt in my belief that Dick had not been true to me in his affair with this poor girl. Her rivalry, living or dead, I could have endured and overcome—for no Bessie Lowe could ever have won from Dick, as she could never have given to him, that thing which was mine. But against Leila Burton I could not stand, for she was of my world, of my own people, and the crown a man would give to her was the one he must take from me.

There in that shabby place I buried my idols. Not I, but a power beyond me, held the stone on which was written commandment for me. By the light of the candles above Bessie Lowe I knew that I should not marry Dick Allport.

I found him waiting for me at the doorway. I think that he knew then that the light of our guiding lantern had flickered out, but he said nothing. We crossed the garishly bright road and went in silence through quiet streets. Like children afraid of the dark we went through the strange ways of the city, two lonely stragglers from the procession of love, who, with our own dreams ended, saw clearer the world’s wild pursuit of the fleeing vision.

We had wandered back into our own land when, in front of the darkened Oratory and almost under the shadow of Leila Burton’s home, there came to us through the soft darkness the ominous plea that heralds summer into town. Out of the shadows an old woman, bent and shriveled, leaned toward us. “Get yer lavender tonight,” she pleaded. “‘Tis the first of the crop, m’lidy.”

“That means—” Dick Allport began as I paused to buy.

I fastened the sprigs at my belt, then looked up at the distant stars, since I could not yet bear to look at him. “It means the end of the season,” I said, “when the lavender comes to London.”

Applauding The Accompanist

We glorify our winners. Raise them up on the dais, and quite rightly hang golden medals around their necks. Who hasn’t heard of Michael Jordan, Michael Phelps, Novak Djokovic, Ash Barty, Chris Hemsworth, Nicole Kidman? Who hasn’t had goosebumps, and been totally transformed by an incredible performance on violin, or any other instrument, yet barely acknowledged the accompanist was there?

Gold medallists also give a lot back. My daughter is wearing Kate Campbell’s gold medal from the London Olympics at a charity event.

I know I’m certainly guilty as charged.

A true accompanist is an interesting creature. While they might also be a performer, and capable of truly incredible feats in their own right, that’s not what they’re there for. Rather, a true accompanist serves to bring out the best in the performer, and might even compensate for their weaknesses and mistakes while claiming none of the glory. My violin teacher used to do this when we performed in concerts, and my mother is a piano accompanist who has accompanied singers and musicians in later life out of nothing more than kindness. Never asked a penny. Meanwhile, as she played the piano, she might teach them the correct German pronunciation for the German songs, or how to read music, which had nothing to do with playing the piano, but also helped to bring out their best. It is also what our son does when he is on sound.

What’s brought all this to mind? While working towards my son’s 18th Birthday photo book and slide show, I was looking through our ski photos from 2013 and there I was achieving my mission impossible. Instead of climbing Mt Everest and going up the mountain which wasn’t a possibility with my muscle weakness issues, I decided to go down the mountain instead.

As you can see, I made it down the mountain (if you can call Perisher a mountain, but I’ll conveniently overlook that I wasn’t skiing down the Swiss Alps and rest on my laurels. Perisher was steep and terrifying enough for me!!) However, what you might not notice in that photo on first inspection, is there’s a blue man further up the hill. He is no coincidence. Rather, that’s Tom, my Adaptive Ski Instructor, who I accessed via the Disabled Winter Sports’ Association. He’s not wearing any gold medals, or receiving any acknowledgement of his selfless capacity to get behind me, and extend my capacity. Enable me not only to get to the bottom, but to even make a start. I remember getting off the chairlift and standing at the top and looking down, something you should never do. OMG!!! It was terror on steroids, particularly as the bit at the start was very steep. Again, it wasn’t the Swiss Alps, but compared to the very gentle slope on the magic carpet, it was vertical. So what did Tom do? He held my hands or maybe it was my poles but he went backwards down this scary bit so I could go forwards. Obviously, that wasn’t a big deal for him, but it meant the world to me. It enabled me to get started, and feel so supported and encouraged and have a go despite my overwhelming fear, and my physical disability. I am incredibly grateful, and hope in turn that I might be able to give someone else what he gave me in someway. What my violin teacher also gave me. Someone who enhances your light, and is overjoyed to stand in your shadow as you strut forward, and never tries to cut you down to make themselves look good. After all, it’s all about you, not about them. Although you might be paying for their services, the money spent bears no correlation to who they’ve enabled you to become.

Violin Concert 2015.

Obviously, being an accompanist is a rather under-rated role. It’s a rather subtle unappreciated form of leadership, which goes on behind the scenes to build other people up on the quiet. However, while we’re drawn like magnets to the stars, but a true star will always defer to the source of their light.

Have you ever been an accompanist for someone else is some way? Or, perhaps you’ve accompanied someone else? What are your thoughts? Is there something you’d like to add?

Best wishes,

Rowena

Thursday Doors – Visiting Evergreen Road, Cork, Ireland.

It’s been awhile since I’ve contributed to Thursday Doors. Having been in and out of lockdown and keeping a low profile due to my vulnerable health status, I’ve been heading out into nature for my walks rather than places that have doors. However, I also have flirtations with Google Earth and go wondering overseas.

I don’t know if this map helps at all but it does feature Evergreen Road, which is on the Southern side of the River Lee. That road beside the riverbank looks ideal for my next walk.

This week, I went to Cork City, Ireland. It’s home to the Curtin side of my rather expansive gene pool, and went wandering along Evergreen Road. While this isn’t where most people head when they travel to Ireland, especially for the first time, it had special significance for me. When my 4 x Great Grandfather was buried, it mentioned that he was a “Native of Evergreen, Cork” on his tombstone. While I’m still not entirely sure what that meant, there is an Evergreen Road and an Evergreen Street, and a few Curtins who lived there over the years. However, just to annoy me, I’ve found no sign of him or his parents living there.

Blue Door Evergreen Road, Cork.

If you have had anything to do with family history and I am what would be classed as an obsessive addict, you would know that there are those ancestors who are very upfront, share all their secrets and are an open book. On the other hand, there are others where you’re pulling teeth just to get the very basics out of them. I understand that, and that even the dead might want their privacy. However, that doesn’t stop me from trying, or from being disappointed when I hit another brick wall. I have an insatiable curiosity.

As it’s turned out, some of the most elusive characters have given up their secrets in time, and that includes John Curtin. He was baptized on the 1st July, 1831 in the Parish of St Finbarr’s, City of Cork, County Cork, Ireland. HIs parents were Mary Scannell and Thomas Curtin, who was a Stevedore according to John’s death certificate. It took me about 30 years to finally find the ship which brought John Curtin out to Australia. He’d worked his passage over as a Able Seaman on board the Scotia, arriving in Sydney on the 4th April, 1854. We don’t have any photos of John Curtin. However, the other day, I stumbled across a physical description in the newspaper while looking for someone else. As you could well imagine, this physical description wasn’t there to praise his physical prowess. Yes, indeed. He was a wanted man, and this description appeared in the New South Wales Police Gazette and Weekly Record of Crime a list of deserting husbands on Wednesday 7 April 1880:

Deserting Wives and Families, Service, &c.

Sydney.—A warrant has been issued by the Water Police Bench for the arrest of John Curtin, charged with disobeying a Magisterial order for the support of his wife, Bridget. Curtin is about 50 years of age, 5 feet 7 or 8 inches high, fresh complexion, brown hair, short brown whiskers and moustache, shaved on chin ; dressed in dark tweed trousers and vest, and black cloth sac coat ; a blacksmith.”

This was followed up by this notice in the Sydney Morning Herald on Saturday 17 April 1880:

“John Curtin, 50, for neglecting to pay to the officer in charge of No. 3 station the sum of £8 15s., due on an order of court for the support of his wife, was committed to gaol until the order should be complied with.”

The timing of his disappearance wasn’t great. On the 12th March 1880, Elizabeth Curtin the wife of their eldest son John Thomas, had passed away leaving three children. Three days later, on the 15th March, their eight month old daughter, Mary Ann, was admitted to the Benevolent Asylum where she died on the 13th December, 1880. John and Bridget had also lost a two year old son the year before. Clearly, these were hard times, which perhaps begs the question: would they have been better off back in Ireland? Did they ever consider going back?

This stone cottage with the yellow door is my pick. So quaint.

Anyway, this brings me back to Evergreen Road in County Cork and 2022. I’d had a peek through Cork before and wasn’t surprised that it felt familiar was quite similar to Sydney’s Paddington and Surry Hills. Yet, it’s different and besides, I’m only talking about one street, and a small section at that. It’s hardly representative. Further explorations and clearly required.

By the way, while I was rambling along, I stumbled across the Evergreen Bar at 34 Evergreen Road, Turners Cross. Of course, I had to wonder whether it was around in John Curtin’s time, and indeed whether it might’ve been his “local”. If so, was he singing along to Irish music in there way back then? What would those walls say about him if only they could speak? However, my imaginative wanderings were cut brutally short when I found out the Evergreen Bar has been closed and is now being turning into housing. Oh! Woe is me!! It would’ve been nice to go there in person one day and simply wonder where John Curtin had been.

Meanwhile, I’ll leave you with a link to an Irish band, the Sea Captains, who had played at the Evergreen:

https://www.facebook.com/irishfolktradandballad/videos/956310704737274

https://www.facebook.com/irishfolktradandballad/videos/1818627758235603

One day, I hope to get to Ireland. Indeed, with covid running rampant, at the moment, I’d be happy just being able to get to Sydney.

This is a contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Dan Antion at No Facilities. Here’s the link: https://nofacilities.com/category/thursday-doors/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Our Sound of Music on New Year’s Day!

I couldn’t resist. When I saw that The Sound of Music was going to be on tonight, I knew that no matter how hard I might try to resist, I was going to watch it. Not just because it was on, and I had nowhere else to be, but because I wanted to watch it. That I had to go through the whole Sound of Music experience all over again. Immerse myself fully.

Miss outside the Brent Street Studios where the auditions were held.

Besides, Sound of Music brings back some very special memories of of my own. When my daughter was about nine, she came home from a dance class with a torn out strip of paper in her hand. On it were written the details to audition for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s production of the Sound of Music in Sydney. A scrap of paper wasn’t an auspicious beginning, and I must admit I was rather unenthused. My grandmother had been a child prodigy concert pianist, and I’d had expectations thrust on me at an early age. However, the desire was coming from her, not from me. Moreover, she’s very hard to say no to. Before I knew it, I was filling out the application form and sending off a photo. It was only then that I bought a copy of the movie, and saw how much our daughter looked like the original Marta, and wasn’t surprised when she scored an audition. The first thing she had to do was pass the height test. Then came the singing audition, and then onto dance.

These days, Miss doesn’t do a lot of singing. However, back then she’d performed in quite a few large choral performances at school, including School Spectacular. However, she’d also been diagnosed with vocal nodules and was struggling to speak let alone sing, and had been seeing a speech therapist. However, why let a small thing like that get in the way of your dream? Moreover, if you know us even just a little bit, you know we don’t give up that easily.

Persevering with the keyboard while on the nebuliser. I only need it a few times a day so not a big deal.

Just to complicate matters further, I ended up with a major chest infection, asthma and needing to go on the nebuliser in the week leading up to her audition. I wasn’t about to let that stand in my way either. Anything short of a near death experience, and I was getting her to that audition myself. Call us daft in hindsight, but once the juggernaut is in motion, it takes a hell of a lot to make it stop.

Miss playing the keyboard.

So, there we were a fine pair in the week before the audition. Miss with vocal nodules and me on the nebuliser. Yet, we prepared and practiced the songs. It had been years since I’d touched a keyboard, but I pulled out this gizmo I’d bought out at a market for the kids…a rollout electronic keyboard which could go on the kitchen table and it didn’t matter if we wrote the notes on it. It was hardly my mother’s precious Steinway grand. I also wrote the songs out with the corresponding letters because she coulddn’t read music. However, while learning the songs on the keyboard was sparing her voice, she couldn’t see the point of it all, and when the horse resisted, I pulled back. In hindsight, it was all probably a bit too much, but I meant well.

Converting the musical score into “Miss-Speak”. I really worked hard to help.

By the way, there was a rather comical twist to her audition. The night beforehand, we were able to stay with a friend in the city to make things easier. As it turns out, my friend was a Major in the Army Reserve and just happened to be in uniform when he dropped us off at Brent Studios. So, as you can see, she had a proper military escort to her audition.

Miss with the Major

We were kind of grateful when she didn’t make it through to the callbacks. I don’t know how parents magically “make it happen”, but we’d have been bending over backwards and inside out to pull it off. Yet, we would’ve done it.

Miss is now 15 going on 16. So tonight as I rewatched the Sound of Music, she was now almost the same as Liesl, the eldest of the Von Trapp children, but fifteen going on sixteen instead. Of course, this isn’t all smooth sailing, and she was the only one of us who was out and about last night.

If you would like to find out more about the original Von Trapp family, this is a good quick read: https://www.archives.gov/publications/prologue/2005/winter/von-trapps-html

In the meantime, with covid at large and management in NSW in complete disarray, it might be an opportune time to catch up with a few other movie classics. The Blues Brothers was on NYE along with Can’t Stop The Music with the Village People. I’ve watched that after midnight for probably the last five years but it was on before midnight this year and I missed it. I’m also trying to start reading Amanda Lowrey’s book: The Labyrinth (along with getting through a massive book pile). Gee, along with wanting to enjoy the outdoors and sort out the house, top of my wish list for 2022 is nine lives.

Best wishes,

Rowena

My daughter and I a few months ago after getting our post lockdown haircuts.