Category Archives: music

Night Musings With Grannie… Eunice Gardiner.

For all of us, there is this strange other world our parents, grandparents and even siblings inhabited before we came along. Yet, while we know world history was going on before we were born and stuck our proverbial tail in the donkey, it can be harder to grasp that the people closest to us had a life before we came along. Sometimes, the threads from these experiences are woven into wonderful stories told time and time again, which become part of our family fabric. On the other hand, these experiences can be thrown right to the very back of the cupboard and either not mentioned or strictly guarded and kept locked away behind closed doors.

Pix Eunice TV Screen Test

 

This all becomes rather more complicated when your relative had a public life. That you might’ve known them in private within that personal and family sense, but there was also this other public self. Perhaps, you stepped into this world now and then, or even belonged in it yourself. Or, perhaps it was a chapter which closed long before you came along and you don’t even know where to begin. Where is the magical red thread to guide you into that other world? The crumbs scattered along the footpath?

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Eunice Age 22. 

My grandmother Eunice Gardiner was an International concert pianist, music critic and professor of the piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Yet, she also had seven children, twelve grandchildren and nine Great Grandchildren, including two of my own. This very same person who played the piano for the Queen and was dubbed “Melba of the Piano”, also knitted little jackets for each of her babies and at least sewed some of their clothes. She made the Sunday roast and was renowned for making custard. She was mother by day, concert pianist by night. She spent a year touring USA and Canada leaving her husband and three children at home. This is an intriguing web. A complex woman who was well before her time.

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Mother and Daughter: Ruby & Eunice Gardiner (1940?)

There was also another parallel story…that of Eunice’s mother, my Great grandmother, Ruby Gardiner (McNamara). Ruby left her husband and adult son at home in Sydney to travel to London with Eunice so she could accept her scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Eunice was only 16 at the time and there was no question of her going alone. Her father, Reuben Gardiner Master Mariner with the Adelaide Steamship Company, said: “You might as well throw her to the sharks in Sydney Harbour.” Less than three months after leaving Sydney, Eunice’s father had a massive heart attack and died at sea near Adelaide. So, when Ruby left for London, she never to saw her husband again. In the one letter I have which he wrote to his beloved “Rube”, you could see they were close. They being apart was a necessary sacrifice, not a relief. Ruby was Eunice’s everything and accompanied her everywhere. They were seemingly inseparable. Ruby made pots of tea and helped entertain the press and, as I found out only last week, massaged Eunice’s hands to help keep them supple. It is then also no surprise, that many years later when her mother was in the hospice after a debilitating series of mini strokes, that Eunice would stop by after work at the Conservatorium and feed her mother dinner. Indeed, for many years Gran lived with Eunice and the family in Lindfield.

I’ve written about Eunice before and after years of research, I’m still finding more edge pieces and the picture in the middle is still patchy. Just when I think I’ve found all the missing pieces, something else shows up and the picture hazes over. Indeed, I have to wonder whether she doesn’t want to be found and that really wouldn’t surprise me. I know she’d be horrified to know that all those interviews she gave all those years ago, along with all the photographs and her writings as a music critic, are now available with the touch of a few buttons and a very long time travelling through Google. However, although that might tell me to leave her alone and let her rest in peace, she was and remains a public person. A woman who lived an extraordinary life, which shouldn’t just be pushed to the back of the closet and forgotten. Moreover, on a personal note, her DNA has been shared and passed on. There is also a wider family which also shares these same elements and ingredients. They might not be playing the piano but they’re dancing, writing, painting, drawing or obsessively focused on something. Moreover, Eunice had her musical “family” of brilliantly talented young musicians who speak a language the rest of us will never understand. They’re carrying her legacy forward and when you’re that unique needle in a haystack, I’d imagine it would be helpful to know you’re not alone. That someone else has trod that path and left some writings and recordings along  the road. So, in this weird macabre kind of way, my grandmother isn’t dead. She lives on.

Anyway, what precipitated my latest wanderings…

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The other night while was actually researching one of my grandmother’s colleagues, cellist Osric Fyfe, I stumbled across a new resource…a magazine called Wireless Weekly. I thought I knew about all the major media articles about my grandmother and to be very honest, thought I hadn’t left a stone unturned. Then, last week, I discovered a two page media feature in the Wireless Weekly dated 11th May, 1940. This was about a month after she’d returned to Sydney after five years in London. She had returned from London a star and there were interviews about her appearances on BBCTV and a movie Black Eyes with Mary Maguire. She was a person of interest. A person of the moment.

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What particularly delighted me about the photos in this media spread was that the photographer almost saw her through my lens. Every photographer, amateur or professional, has a tendency towards a different perspective ranging from the big picture wide-angle to the zoomed in or even macro perspective. This feature really focused on her hands. Indeed, you could say that it was a study of Eunice’s hands.

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Mother and daughter’s hands…Ruby Gardiner massaging Eunice’s fingers. 

My favourite photo zooms right in close, showing Ruby Gardiner massaging her daughter’s hands. I never knew she did this, and I was really touched at a deep personal level to tap into this level of intimacy between them. It was truly special and meant so much to me not just as their grand-daughter and Great Grand-daughter, but also as a mother now myself. It’s also got me thinking about my own daughter who is seriously interested in dancing and recently went into her first pair of pointe shoes. Her feet get very sore and perhaps it is now my turn to massage her feet. Be that silent force beneath her dreams.

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I also appreciated a close up picture of her hands at the piano. This is exactly the sort of photo I would take myself zoomed right in focusing on the fingers. Indeed, you can observe every little detail of her fingers and they’re almost perfectly preserved in time yet cold and untouchable at the same time. Even though these are the fingers of a famous and very accomplished pianist and her tools of trade, they’re not quite the same as the hands I knew. The very same hands which squeezed my newborn son’s feet, while she sang Twinkle Twinkle to him.

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Our son’s first Christmas with Great Grannie Eunice. 

 

How I wish I could’ve frozen time somewhere further along that path so that she was still here and more than just a photograph. Yes, I know. I’ve incredibly lucky to have all these newspaper resources about my grandmother’s life. Yet, at the same time, having all of that brings her back to life in ways I’d never dreamed and yet she’s still among the dead. She can not smile, laugh or make a cup of tea and when I read all of this, I simply want her back. Back for more than just a cup of tea, but to stay.

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My grandmother with my daughter. She was born on Eunice’s birthday 88 years later. I love my grandmother’s smile in this photo. She looks so happy!

I have spent so many, many nights with her on Google and even ten years after she passed, I can still hear her voices as clear as a bell and she always offers me a cup of tea. It could’ve been yesterday or even a few moments ago.

The heart knows no distance!

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS When you look at these photos of my grandmother with these young children, it seems like there was never any choice between career and family and somehow it all seamlessly came together. Photos and retrospectives tend to smooth out life’s rough edges and the bits which don’t quite fit into the narrative. There is no doubt in my mind that playing the piano was her first love and great, lifelong passion. Yet, then she met my grandfather. It was wartime and she found a second flame. Having a great talent and having had people sacrifice and invest in that talent, places an expectation. An expectation which led other female musicians of her day (including Australian Opera Singer Dame Joan Hammond) not to marry. Not to have a family. Eunice chose a different and more complex path, which was often fraught. There were times when these tensions boiled over. Eunice’s mother, Ruby, was a tower of strength, and there was also household help. So, Eunice wasn’t a modern female Atlas, carrying all of this on her shoulders alone. She was just like the rest of us. Only human.

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 28th January, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I hope you’ve had a great week and being the Australia Day long weekend, I’d better offer you a Vegemite sandwich along with our choice of beverage. Please don’t all run for the hills. I won’t force you to eat it!

We have had a busy and interesting week. It was the last full week of the school holidays and so there’s been that desperate urge for the kids to squeeze as much fun as they can out of those shrinking hours, while all the organizational nightmares of “Back to School” (Golly, why hasn’t anyone made a horror movie out of the return to school for the new school year?  Or, perhaps, they have and I just haven’t heard about it. Anyway, for those of you scattered around the globe, the Australian school year starts after the Australia Day long Weekend and that’s what’s wrapping up today. There’s a bit of variation between the schools. However, teachers go back tomorrow, our son on Wednesday and our daughter on Friday. So, come Monday, my New Year begins in earnest and all those best laid plans of mice and mum, need to swing into action…and I definitely need a good breather too! After all, all work and no play makes Mum rather dull and cranky too.

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Last Tuesday, my daughter and I attended Charlie & the Chocolate Factory…the Musical at Sydney’s historic Capitol Theatre. Our dance teacher, Miss Karina Russell, has a lead role and is playing that horridly spoiled brat, Veruca Salt. Miss Karina wears the most incredibly poofy and gorgeously delicious pink tutu, which reminds me of fairy floss and is straight out of a ballet girl’s pure imagination. She also has a double-decker tiara and pointe shoes and she actually does quite a lot of ballet throughout and her dance with the squirrels is simultaneously hilarious, terrifying and… (No spoilers here!) Anyway, we met up with Miss Karina and Willy Wonka played by Mr Paul Slade Smith at Stage Door and that was so much fun. We had the best day.

Above: Meeting up with Miss Karina Russell at Stage Door to get our programs signed after the performance to to say hello.

It was interesting for me to revisit Charlie & the Chocolate Factory and I can see that I’ll be having to read the book yet again so I can shake out what I’ve seen in various versions and get back to what exactly came out of Roald Dahl’s head. You see, while the action is set with the sweetly delicious context of a chocolate factory and I’ve read that it was based on Roald Dahl’s childhood experiences as a chocolate taster at a chocolate factory himself, there is a very dark and almost sadistic side to Willy Wonka and there is no doubt in my mind that this book really delves into the dark side, questioning why bad, greedy people usually win out at the expense of the good. Indeed, I feel Roald Dahl takes matters into his own hands and turns things around, ensuring that Charlie Bucket a boy growing up in grinding poverty but with a great brain triumphs over all the brats. You can read more about that in: Our Visit to Charlie & the Chocolate Factory…the Musical.

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The front doors of the historic Capitol Theatre, Sydney. 

I also wrote about the musical and more specifically about the historic Capitol Theatre for Thursday Doors.

Saturday took us off on a very different trajectory. It was Australia Day and Geoff and our son both took part in the Australia Day Regatta at Gosford Sailing Club. We had a wonderful day and a real highlight was the 11.00am Sail Past where skippers decorated their boats in as much Australia Day gumph as they could muster. It was a lot of fun and while someone else’s son was the obvious winner for the best decorated boat, our son won the Junior Aussie Larrikin Award. Instead of staying in his boat, he was towed along behind on an inflatable donut while his crew member steered and they were actually towed along because their wasn’t enough wind to compensate for the big lump of a teenage boy out the back. I must admit that his father and I were not impressed at the time, but it’s hilarious in hindsight and he was quite a hit. After all, you can’t really expect an entertainer to just sit in their boat counting knots, can you? Moreover, I really have to admit, that he’s very much my boy. I’d love to do something like that even now!

Above: Our son the “Junior Aussie Larrikin” with his Flying 11.

Well, they’re very much the highlights of the last week. I should also mention that it’s been very hot and that the heat could make for a post all on its own. However, I don’t want to become an Aussie whinger so I’ll keep my mouth shut and head for the air-conditioning.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Our Visit to Charlie & the Chocolate Factory… the Musical.

On Tuesday, my daughter and I ventured into Sydney with a group from her dance school to see Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…the Musical. Being a Roald Dahl tragic and chocolate lover, this musical was a must see.

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My daughter with her dance teacher, Miss Karina Russell, at stage door after the performance.

However this production had an added attraction. Miss Karina Russell, our dance teacher, was playing Veruca Salt. That’s right. She was playing that awful rich brat of rich brats who I remember so clearly demanding: “I want an Oompah Loompah and I want it NOW!!” However, that’s not all. We’d already seen her costume when the cast performed at Carols in the Domain and she’s wearing  what looks like a double-yoker of a tutu, a double-decker tiara, a faux mink jacket and pointe shoes and she actually manages to get some ballet in before she meets her demise. She looks amazing. Indeed, all the costumes were fantastic. However, that’s all I’m going to say about the show other than, you should try and see it.

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Does doing adult dance classes make me the ultimate dance Mum? After years of driving my daughter to classes and concerts, I suddenly wanted to get out of the chair and have a go myself and I loved it. Found them so invigorating and creatively it blew me away.

However, if we go back to the title, you’ll see that this post addresses our visit to the musical, and it is in no way intended to be a review of the show. Rather, this is more of a review of how yours truly can complicate matters and achieve the extraordinary without even leaving her seat. It also looks at my personal connection with Roald Dahl. I know that might sound a bit full of myself and you’re probably wondering what this mad Australian woman has in common with Roald Dahl the literary genius. “Tell ‘er she’s dreaming!” Well, I’ll get to that.

inside the theatre

Inside the theatre.

If you know anything about me at all, you’ll know that when my daughter and I went to see Charlie & the Chocolate Factory- the Musical, that it had to be out of the ordinary. That since we don’t do anything via the road well-travelled, that we’d wind up on our own trajectory.

Firstly, as I explained, OUR dance teacher, Miss Karina Russell, is playing Veruca Salt. Yes, that’s correct. Your eyes aren’t playing tricks on you. She is OUR dance teacher. I know that probably sounds preposterous… Rowena learning dance when I have a debilitating cocktail of significant disabilities/chronic illnesses (hydrocephalus, dermatomyositis and Institital Lung Disease). However, somehow I found a pathway through and around all of that to take adult dance classes at the same studio as my daughter, Dancin Mates, here on the NSW Central Coast. I did some sessions of lyrical and contemporary dance with Miss Karina a few years ago. Moreover, in addition to the steps, she took us on a journey through how contemporary and lyrical dance rose out of the relative straight-jacket of classical ballet and introduced me to a range of choreographers and their philosophies. Naturally, this was of particular interest to me as a writer, and I’d go home and Google them all. Of course, Miss Karina asked me if I watched them dance. Of course not. I was interested in the words.

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Stage Door

Secondly, while we were sitting in our seats waiting for the curtain to rise, we had a drama of our own.  While it’s our role as audience to sit in our seats while the performance is on stage, yours truly took off her glasses for a group photo, and put them on the floor under her seat. Of course, you know what happens next, don’t you?!! They disappeared. In a truly farcical “only you, Rowena” way, my glasses vanished. So, I start blindly groping under my seat probing through the dark like my fingers have eyes. Yet, on the first couple of sweeps, nothing. My daughter is sitting next to me, she gets recruited and switches on the torch on her phone. Tips out all our merchandise and starts going through our backpack (which was packed with the kitchen sink) searching for them. Nothing. Although I lose my glasses almost every morning under my bed and always find them, I’m now starting to panic. Really panic. Here we are on our musical theatre experience of a lifetime, and I’m not going to see anything at all. CATASTROPHE!! Of course, I didn’t want to alert the rest of our group. I didn’t want to be the problem child, especially when I was one of the parents. However, just as mysteriously as my glasses vanished, they returned. They must’ve gone off in the Tardis and returned.

Anyway, as I said, our experience of Charlie & the Chocolate Factory…the Musical was unique and treading down roads few have trod.

This takes me onto Roald Dahl and my incredibly personal connection to the man. While we know his books, Roald Dahl himself is an enigma of his own making. Indeed, when it comes to getting to know Roald Dahl, he’s quite the slippery fish.

I first started researching Roald Dahl a few years ago, when I included him in my blogging series: Letters to Dead Poets Letter to Roald Dahl. What particularly attracted me to Roald Dahl the man was our shared experience of going through a major neurological event and how that impacts on just about every part of your being.

Roald Dahl plane

Roald Dahl with his plane.

You see, during WWII, Roald Dahl was a pilot in the Air Force and he fractured his skull when his plane crashed and experienced personality changes as a result. Indeed, it was after this accident that Roald Dahl started writing and left behind his job working as an engineer for Shell. His biographer, Donald Sturrock, wrote:

“A monumental bash on the head” was how Dahl once described this accident in the Western Desert, claiming that it directly led to his becoming a writer. This was not just because his first published piece of writing was a semi-fictionalised account of the crash, but also because he suspected that the brain injuries which he received there had materially altered his personality and inclined him to creative writing.”

His daughter Ophelia recalled her father’s fascination with tales of people who had experienced dramatic psychological and physiological changes – such as losing or recovering sight – after suffering a blow to the head. He also told her that he was convinced something of this sort had happened to him, as it explained why a budding corporate businessman working for Shell, without any particular artistic ambition, was transformed into someone with a burning need to write and tell stories. This hypothesis was doubtless attractive, too, because it pushed potentially more complex psychological issues about the sources of his desire to write into the background.

Nowadays doctors might well have diagnosed Dahl as suffering from what is called post-concussive syndrome. The initial symptoms of this condition are normally forgetfulness, irritability, an inability to concentrate and severe headaches. Dahl suffered from all of these. In some patients the symptoms disappear, but leave behind longer-lasting behavioural changes, which are usually associated with mood swings and an increased lack of inhibition. In some cases, too, it can also result in a fundamental alteration of the perception of the self.1.”

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Roald Dahl with wife actress Patricia Neal

However, that was not the end of Roald Dahl’s involvement with the neuro ward. 5th December, 1960 Roald Dahl’s son Theo was out walking with his nanny when a taxi veered into his pram and he was thrown into the air and landed head first onto the pavement fracturing his skull. Moreover, Theo also developed hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain and was given emergency brain surgery where they inserted a shunt. However, shunts were particularly unreliable back then and were notorious for getting blocked. This required a surgical fix, and there were serious concerns about how these surguries would affect Theo’s cognitive development. I remember how my Dad rallied when my shunt blocked, and how Dads can be a mighty force fighting to save their child no matter how old they are. So, I wasn’t surprised that Roald Dahl decided to take matters into his own hands. Dahl recruited the guy who made the hydraulic petrol pumps for his model planes and Theo’s paediatirican and togehter they developed a new shunt which saved thousands of lives, before it was superceded.

Then, as if the Dahl family hadn’t already seen enough of the neurology ward, in February 1965 his wife Patricia Neal suffered a severe stroke after an aneurism burst while she was pregnant with their fourth child, Sophie. She spent three weeks in a coma and then Roald Dahl devised a grueling rehabilitation program, which saw her return to the screen.  However, that is a story in itself.

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Who would’ve thought that a secret harbour was inside my head?(Hydrocephalus)

As you may be aware, I was born with hydrocephalus after Mum had a very difficult birth (not unsurprisingly I was facing the wrong way something which hasn’t changed unfortunately). However, for some reason it lay dormant like a volcano until my mid-twenties, when for some strange reason whatever had been compensating for the presence of this harbour in my head stopped and within about a six to twelve month period it blew its stack. Indeed, just about the only symptoms I had growing up was being a bit clumsy, rather extroverted and impulsive and having difficulty finding a hat which fit. It was only when I was 26 and a sense of vertigo I’d had after a bad flu didn’t clear up that I went back to the family GP who’d been treating me since I was 12, and the long and short of that, was that I was diagnosed with Dandy Walker Syndrome, a variation of hydrocephalus. After a grueling six months where I rapidly went down hill, I had brain surgery in July 1997, where they inserted a shunt. I was off to rehab for 6 months as an outpatient and left wondering if I would ever reclaim my life. The impact of all of this was like being struck by a bomb only I could never see or confront my enemy and it took a few years to feel vaguely myself again.

So, rewinding back to 1997 in Perth’s Mount Hospital, you have a young Australian woman who experienced a reversal of Roald Dahl’s big bang. Instead of having all my neurons suddenly switched up at once, mine were all switched down just as suddenly, when the shunt was put in. I very distinctly remember waking up from surgery and feeling like someone had turned down the lights. Not in terms of what I could see or hear, but I guess something along the lines of how I processed everything. I felt very, very quiet. This wasn’t, I believe, something which was apparent to those around me and I am still to this day, an extrovert and I’m sure countless people are still trying to tone me down. This was all about how I felt inside myself. Naturally, when I read about Roald Dahl’s experience, I understood what he went through immediately. Wished I could talk with him about it.

There is so much more which could be said about how personal tragedy shaped Roald Dahl’s writing. However, that will be another post. However, I hope this might encourage people who have experienced an adverse neurological event, that there is hope. That the light can switch back on. Never give up. You might even become a best-selling author, especially if you actually get your book finished!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Here’s a link to my Letter to Roald Dahl from my Letters to Dead Poets series: Roald Dahl: Letters to Dead Poets

And Roald Dahl’s Fictional Reply

Sources

Roald Dahl: The Plane Crash Which Gave Birth to A Writer

Donald Sturrock, Storyteller: The Life of Roald Dahl.

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Heading Home. This is outside Sydney’s historic Central Railway.

Capitol Theatre, Sydney…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors!

This week, my daughter and I waltzed through the doors of Sydney’s historic Capitol Theatre to see Charlie & the Chocolate Factory- The Musical and had the experience of a lifetime. You see, our dance teacher, Miss Karina Russell, is playing that most annoying of spoilt rich brats, Veruca Salt and we attended the performance with about 20 other students and parents in a great big riotous rabble who were very one-eyed with our affections, while of course wanting to enjoy and absorb the entire show to the max.

While I’m busting to share a bit about seeing the musical, first I’m going to run through the architectural aspects of the theatre because, after all, doors are about architecture. Yet, at the same time, you could say that for a fledgling performer,  getting their foot in the door and better still, having their name printed up on their dressing room door under that golden star, represents the fulfillment of a journey of a thousand miles, a lot of hard work and faith in their vision no matter what.

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The Front Doors – Capitol Theatre

This year, the Capitol Theatre will be 127 years old. That’s older than any of us will ever be, and naturally this grand old dame has a past. Indeed, you’ll hardly be surprised to know, that she’s been revived (and you could even say reincarnated) into various guises over the years. After all, even a building must feel like a change from time to time.

 

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A horse bus trundles past and carts line up outside the New Belmore Markets, published by Kerry and Co, Australia, 1893-1909, MAAS Collection, 85/1284-1538

The Capitol Theatre started out in life in 1892 as the New Belmore Markets, in Haymarket (although they were officially named after the mayor, Sir William Manning). The building was designed by council architect, George McRae, who also prepared the design for the Queen Victoria Markets. The market’s motif of fruit and foliage may still be seen in the terra cotta decorative relief of fruit and foliage in the spandrels of the arches.

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2012/104/1-2/9 Photographic print, black and white, mounted, elevated view of Wirths’ Circus performers and animals on stage and in circus ring watched by the audience at the Hippodrome (Capitol Theatre), Sydney New South Wales, photographed by J D Cleary

In 1916 the building was converted to a hippodrome designed specifically for the Wirth Bros circus, which included a reinforced concrete water tank for performances by seals and polar bears. The tank had a hydraulically controlled platform that was raised from the base to form a cover that doubled as a circus ring when the pool was not in use. While I know the use of live animals in circuses is something many of us no longer condone, the clowns and acrobats still make the circus a show.

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Inside Capitol Theatre – Charlie & the Chocolate Factory…the Musical.

Within 10 years the circus became financially unviable and Wirth Bros initiated the idea of converting the theatre to a picture palace or movie theatre and Union Theatres became its next tenant. The classical reproduction statues and architectural props were manufactured in the US, scrupulously numbered for shipment and reassembly – supervised by Sydney theatre designer Henry White. Opening night was held on Saturday 7th April, 1928:

 

OPENING CEREMONY

The effect of the new Capitol Theatre on the crowds which entered it on Saturday night was bewildering, and a little overwhelming. One seemed to have stepped from under the dull skies of everyday life and passed into an enchanted region, where the depth of the blue heavens had something magical about it, and something heavily exotic. Clouds passed lightly over; then stars began to twinkle. Then again all was blue and clear.

This “atmospheric” effect had been carried out, not only in the auditorium itself, but also in the entrance lounge, so that it leapt upon the visitors the instant they left the street. The construction and decorations were all in the Venetian style. Facing the entrance above the doors which led to the stalls ran a slender balustrade, with tapestries hanging over it and lying against the pinkish-brown, variegated stucco of the walls. At either end stairways in two flights ran up to the balcony. Everywhere one looked there was bas-reliefs set into the wall, tapestries hanging, twisted pillars of red and gold.

In the auditorium itself there was a much greater profusion of sculpture and architectural detail and objects of art; but the great size of the place enabled all this to be set forth with no suspicion of cramping. Indeed, the designers have achieved a remarkable feeling of depth and vastness. The two sides of the theatre are quite dissimilar in treatment. On the left, as one faced the screen, the irregular facade terminated in a delightful garden, with a round tower in the midst, supported by red and white Florentine pillars, with flowering vines drooping down towards the orchestra, with flocks of snowy doves. On the right a series of huge pedestals and niches, bearing reproductions of the Hermes of Praxiteles, the Capitoline Wolf, and other famous statues, and thrown into relief by the decorative cypress trees behind, led down to a large palace-front with a balcony. As for the proscenium itself, that was roofed in red tiles, to heighten the feel- ing of out-of-doors, surmounted by groups of beautiful glowing lamps, and very richly ornamented, a particularly attractive feature being a row of peacocks with electric lights behind them.

The lighting in fact, played a great part in the theatre’s success. In general it was diffused, and gained a pleasantly restful quality from the blue that floated In the roof; but at the same time bulbs bad been concealed here and there, so as to bring out the features of the decoration and give the surroundings vivacity. Sometimes, when all the main lights had been extinguished, there remained a charming half-glow on the proscenium, with the lamps, a glow of scarlet in the niches behind the statues, and a yellow glare behind some trelllslns at the sides as the dominant notes.

The first event on Saturday night when the curtain of rich varigated red and green rose from the footlights was the official opening of the theatre by the Chief Civic Commissioner (Mr. Fleming). The directors of Union Theatres, Ltd., said Mr. Fleming, deserved the highest praise for this venture, which had cost them £180,000. It was remarkable to think what progress the films had made during the very few years they had been in existence. He himself could remember attending the first motion picture screened in Sydney.”Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 – 1954), Monday 9 April 1928, page 4

 

However, thanks to the advent of TV, attendances at theatres plummeted and after the very successful staging of Jesus Christ Super Star in 1972, the future of the Capitol Theatre hung in the balance once again and plans were made to demolish it and replace it with a modern lyric theatre. In 1981 Australia’s last remaining atmospheric theatre was snatched from the jaws of the bulldozer by a Heritage Council conservation order and plans were made to restore the building and create a world-class lyric theatre. You can read more about that here.

So, after all these different roles, as I said, the Capitol Theatre is currently hosting Charlie & the Chocolate Factory…the Musical. Although my daughter does a lot of dancing and has appeared in multiple performances, we only get to one of these big shows every couple of years and when we do we get right into it buying the merchandise, the musical score and feeling lost somewhere in between this fabricated world and reality. The first big musical I went to was Annie and then my daughter and I went to see Matilda a few ago. However, Charlie has a special place in our hearts thanks to Miss Karina, who I mentioned is our dance teacher and staring as Veruca Salt.  She spends the entire show in a very fancy and oh so over the top pink tutu, pointe shoes and a double-decker tiara…only the best.

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Although Miss Karina has one of the lead roles, we didn’t know how long she’d appear on stage and whether she’d actually get a chance to dance very much. Aside from having seen her costume and being warned she gets eaten by squirrels, we were in the dark. Her performance was going to be a complete surprise. Moreover, that’s what it’s going to stay, because I don’t want to spoil your fun either. Let’s just say there was much more that I expected and that if you like a bit of ballet but might not get through an entire ballet, you’ll love this. Indeed, it might even encourage you to hit the big time.

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After the performance, we all headed round to Stage Door to meet up with Miss Karina and we had the added bonus of Willy Wonka as well. I think all of us had seen her the day before in the studio. However, it was like we hadn’t seen her in years and as she walked out stage door, she was swamped. A performing artist can have fans, but nothing compares to this. I hope she felt the love, because I sure did.

I am still working on a more extended post about our Charlie experience, but it’s taking longer than I’d hoped. I researched Roald Dahl a few years ago for a series I wrote: Letters to Dead Poets. It turns out the Roald Dahl and I have some peculiar similarities and while I been beavering away on that post for a few days, I have to get a lot of details right and it’s taking longer than I’d hoped. However, getting historical facts wrong is worse in my book than making grammatical errors or spelling mistakes. Yet, I haven’t given up. It’s simply a work in progress.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

The Woman in the Red Car…

“Red has guts …. deep, strong, dramatic. A geranium red. A Goya red … to be used like gold for furnishing a house … for clothes, it is strong, like black or white.”

–Valentino

For those of you who have been following my ups and downs here on Beyond the Flow for awhile, you’ll know that I’ve had some car troubles over the last couple of months. These began with a nasty scrape in the supermarket car park and was following up with driving into a concrete divider in a car park which cracked the radiator and our red Nissan Pulsar was written off. For those of you who appreciate a bit of humour, I say that I took my son to the Emergency Department but my car didn’t make it home alive. My husband bought a Subaru Forester and we all really loved that car. However, I think it was only two weeks after we bought it, that I got caught in a hail storm and the car is covered in dents and everyone else we know, has had their cars written off. So, we were back to the online auctions and that’s when my husband stumbled across an Alfa Romeo 159. I can’t remember what year is was made and I struggled to remember the 159 part, but the trait I never lost sight of, was that is was red. An absolutely luscious red that makes you want to go and put on your tap shoes and dance on the table.

“There is a shade of red for every woman.”

-Audrey Hepburn

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I need to brush up on my modelling skills.

However, it wasn’t just the colour that lured me in. It is Italian and oozes with Italian style and pizazz. Indeed, the Italians invented pizazz. This included a leather interior. I have always wanted a sports car, and while this is technically classified as a family sedan, this Italian sedan has nothing to with being sensible, responsible and did I mention anything about being dowdy? Not on your life. In other words, my Red Alfa, who in typical Australian fashion, could well be named “Blue” is my midlife crisis, post-disability and chronic illness mobile.

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Look who popped out of my sunroof!    Photo Geoff Newton

Although the car actually arrived home on Friday, I wanted to wait and get some good photos incorporating our beautiful local scenery rather than photographing it while it was simply parked in our driveway. While I clearly need more experience posing as a photo model, we haven’t turned out too badly and didn’t crack the lens.

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The pelican didn’t seem that interested in my new car.

On our first photo stop, we drove over to Patonga about a fifteen minute drive away. Being a Sunday during the January Summer school holidays, there were no parking spots at the beach or near the wharf and so we meandered around through the back streets until we found a spot on the Hawkesbury River side and there was a stunning pelican swimming back and forth doing its rounds.

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The backwaters of Patonga, NSW.

We also thought we’d head over to Koolewong on Brisbane Waters to photograph the car in front of the Imagine Sign. Based on the game of Scrabble, IMAG_NE features large letter pieces which spell out the word “IMAGINE”, with a space where the second “I” would be and invites the community to interact with the sculpture to complete the word.

Created by Australian visual artist and creative producer, Emma Anna, the artwork originally exhibited at Bondi’s famous Sculpture by the Sea in 2008, and has since featured around the world including at Denmark’s inaugural Sculpture by the Sea in 2009.

I think the sculpture was installed on the Gosford Waterfront towards the end of 2016 and yet I’ve never stopped and photographed it, which really is rather extraordinary when you think of the vast myriad of things I have photographed. I don’t often drive into Gosford so it’s probably a case of out of sight, out of mind. However, I’ve always loved it. Not only do I love to imagine, but I also love Imagine by John Lennon.

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Let me reassure you the car was stationary when these photos were taken. Photo: Geoff Newton.

Needless to say, the kids are expecting to be driven to school in the Alfa, instead of the bomb which usually gets parked at the station. We’ll have to see.

Lastly, I’ll leave you with some of my favourite driving songs:

Lastly, as I was just wrapping up with a Google search for “red car” to see what turned up, up popped The Wiggles hit:   The Big Red Car, which dare I say it, has to rate as a driving song and has certainly been a big hit. It just wasn’t quite the driving song I was hoping for:

Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga, Big Red Car
We’ll travel near and we’ll travel far
Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga, Big Red Car
We’re gonna ride the whole day long
Murray’s in the back seat
Playing his guitar
Murray’s in the back seat
Of the Big Red Car
The Wiggles: Big Red Car
I’m not sure that the Wiggle’s Big Red Car is a good place to finish up, but c’est la vie. What do you think about my new set of wheels? What are a few of your favourite driving songs? When it comes to what I usually listen to in the car, it’s usually the local radio station or a CD like David Bowie. I do like listening to him in the car. Ed Sheerin’s another but I usually hear him on the radio. That reminds me of beautifully moving ballad: Perfect.
Anyway, I’m actually heading off this time.
Best wishes,
Rowena

Saturday Night in Byron Bay…January 5, 2019.

Although blogging is supposed to be an immediate medium, there was something about announcing to the world that we’ve abandoned the house to go to Byron Bay, which didn’t sit well despite leaving the three dogs in charge of home security. So, I’ve decided to write about our week that was a week in arrears so that I can still share my daily adventures with you and you can appreciate more of a local or quasi-local experience of the place.

By the way, we weren’t actually staying in Byron Bay itself. We were staying with family out at Nureybar about 15 minutes out of Byron in the lush green hinterland, which is breathtakingly beautiful and did I mention something about GREEN?!!! Geoff and I first met on NYE exactly 20 years ago and we came up here a few months later so I could meet his Mum and family before he disappeared overseas for a few months to America. I had been to Byron Bay once beforehand when I’d stayed right in Byron Bay at the Youth Hostel, which was quite a different experience. We’ll just leave it at that, although I could mention something about what happens in Byron stays in Byron.

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We really enjoyed our Spanish plate.

Anyway, we’d driven up on the Friday and after sleeping through most of Saturday, decided to head down into the Bay to go to the night markets and pick up some dinner. Food, markets, art, music…I was in heaven. The markets are held every Saturday night in the Railway Park as you drive into town. Unfortunately, the trains no longer make it into Byron Bay and so the Railway Park is something of an anachronism. However, it’s one of our favourite places in Byron Bay after the Lighthouse and the beach, because it has the most amazing climbing tree which has fallen over onto its side and somehow managed to stay alive. This makes it very easy for young kids to climb up into its branches and there’s nothing quite like being able to climb a tree and shelter in its branches. However, this tree also has a special kind of magic all of its own. Every time we go there, we usually find something hanging in its branches…a milk crate hanging by a rope, paper lanterns, sunflowers, ribbons. It just seems to be asking for us humans to leave something special behind for the next person who comes along. I think we might’ve tied a ribbon or scarf around it once. I’m not really sure.

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The kids leaving for Jamboree just over a week ago. Indeed, they’re almost about to leave. 

By the way, I probably should’ve reminded you that we were teen-free on this trip as our kids are away at the Australian Scouting Jamboree in South Australia at the moment. Ideally, we would’ve all gone up to stay with Geoff’s family but we couldn’t fit it in later. As much as we parents are supposed to enjoy being child-free, I must admit that it felt quite weird being there without them and visiting all our favourite haunts right down to going to Pinky’s for ice cream and fighting off the drips all by ourselves. It also felt strange not to have the dogs with us either, although it was rather nice to be able to leave my biscuit unattended on my plate and still find it there on my return.

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Anyway, getting back to the markets, I was dazzled by an amazing range of artworks, but unfortunately my budget and available wall space only extended as far as postcard-sized prints…something to jog my memory later. I bought a print of a mother whale with her calf for our son who wants to be a Marine Biologist. Then I wandered over to Deborah White’s stall and bought a mini wooden chopping board with one of her prints on top and a few cards. She incorporates a cellular perspective into her art which I really love. I love zooming in and macro photography myself and she seemed to see the world through a similar lens.

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I was so dazzled by the art and live music, that food was a secondary concern. Although my Brother-in-law had recommended the mushroom pasta, we actually ordered a Spanish plate, which was fantastic and something out of the ordinary.

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After dinner, we decided to walk down to Pinky’s on the main street order an ice cream and walk up to the beach. The streets were really festive and lined with buskers and the whole place felt so alive. I really wished it could be more like this where we live. We also live right near the beach and there’s a popular caravan park down the road. However, we have nothing like this. Our culture seems to be kept behind closed doors and I am guilty of this myself. After all, I am the Closet Violinist.

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The ice cream was rapidly dripping down my hands, over my dress and even onto and into my sandals. I could even feel its sticky sweetness in between my toes. I guess by now you’re thinking that’s a little too much information. That I’m oversharing. Well, before I move on, let me just let you know that my husband didn’t get any drips on him. I think it might be yet another Rowieism and that only I could manage to cover myself in ice cream at an age where most of us have developed a bit more sophistication and can eat an ice cream without wearing it.

By the time we reached the beach, the sun had set and the light was rapidly disappearing. On our right, the Cape Byron Lighthouse was doing it’s thing. I’ll never get tired of watching that place and going up there for a closer inspection. It feels like an old faithful friend after all these years. We usually go there with the kids and so there’s this progression of photos and the kids get taller and also less rambunctious and hopefully less of a liability. We usually get an ice cream up the top. That’s become a family tradition, along with the photos. One year, I even posed with my violin up there. That was rather funny because I’d only been playing for a year then and couldn’t really play much at all. However, I’d performed at the music school’s annual concert, which just so happened to be at Lizotte’s, a local rock n roll venue owned by Diesel’s brother. So, there I was a novice violinist hanging out in the red room where all these great acts had gone before me. It blew me away.

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By the way, I almost forgot to mention that there’s an informal drumming group which jams everyday on the rocks at sunset. I have taken better photos on previous visits but must’ve been having trouble walking because I didn’t quite have the energy to get up and photograph the drummers upfront. Mind you, I also liked watching these flowing fabrics move to the beat. They also told a story.

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Well, I hope you enjoyed our first night in Byron Bay. Our next stop will be the Byron Bay Markets.

Have you ever been to Byron Bay? I’d love to hear your tales. 

Best wishes,

Rowena

ice cream at lighthouse

I couldn’t resist sticking in this photo of the kids eating ice cream at the lighthouse. I think it was taken in 2011 when they were five and seven. 

Weekend Coffee Share…31st December, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s already New Year’s Eve here in Sydney and I’m briefly putting my feet up after leaving the pizza dough to rise and making Chocolate Mouse and Pavlova for dessert. We don’t go out on NYE. It’s not easy to venture into Sydney city for us to view the fireworks in person due to my mobility restrictions, and it’s not the safest time to head into the city either. Moreover, we also have the added complication that at least one of our dogs, Lady, is terrified of fireworks and breaks into a sweat when local fireworks get set off illegally. No doubt, that also happens where you live as well, and you’re also aware of how many pets go missing as a result.

Couple Ocean Beach best

I’m struggling to remember what happened during the last week and I had to confirm with Geoff that today is actually Monday. That’s a common phenomenon in between Christmas and New Year However, I should’ve remembered that there was a minor event called Christmas. How could I forget? Well, I’ll blame the heatwave for that.

We had a family dinner at home on Christmas Eve and headed out to Church for carols intermingled with the traditional Christmas tree manger reenactment.

We spent Christmas Day at my aunt and uncle’s place where we met up with my parents and the extended family. These Christmases fuse tradition and change. Much to my concern, there’s an increasing Melbourne contingent and missing persons from the celebrations. If you’re not aware of the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, it’s not quite as intense as it used to be but to have family exodus to Melbourne of all places, is a concern. Need to stem the tide. The highlight for me of this Christmas celebration was taking part in a jam session with my cousins with two on guitar, another on cello while I played my violin. It was a very interesting experience because my cousin was playing chords in a blue grass style and I was trying to listen deep into the music and pick out what became something like a song line to play on my violin and my violin actually sounded like a harmonica which surprised me. I usually play classics on my violin of the likes of Bach so playing blue grass ad lib was quite a change and I was very proud of myself for stepping so far out of my comfort zone and doing so well. Our son also joined in with the jam on guitar and also took over my violin plucking the Peter Gunn.Monopoly Go to Jail

We received this local fundraiser Monopoly for Christmas from my parents. Playing Monopoly is a good this time of year. I ended up in jail a few times.

After Christmas, we’ve been catching up with friends and we’ve also braved the post-Christmas sales. Not unsurprisingly, I found my way into yet another book shop.  where I bought Cicero’s: How To Be A Friend which was written in 44BC in Latin. I’m almost halfway through and highly recommend it. I also bought Oliver Sacks’: The River of Consciousness. In case you’re not aware, Dr Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who has written quite a few books including: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. Have you stuck your nose in any great books lately?

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The weather around here has been fairly intense lately. After having three or four storms the week before Christmas including blackouts and hail, we’ve been caught in a heatwave, which has largely forced us underground. Indeed, we’ve been hibernating at home although I did venture to the beach two days ago for a photographic walk. That was a lot of fun, and despite initially thinking I wasn’t going to find much, the light was particularly good the clouds seemed to dance in the setting sun especially for the camera. I was also quite fascinated by the watermarks in the sand. All those wiggly lines of sand along the beach which resemble secret messages.

Well, it’s now 10.00pm  and after watching the 9.00PM fireworks, we’re listening to the NYE entertainment and Ross Wilson has just finished singing Can’t Get No Satisfaction and has moved onto his own hit Eagle Rock. This music is a good distraction from the choking smoke leaking in from the kitchen. Somehow, the hot plate which I swear I didn’t use tonight, ended up on high and the left over pizza has apparently been incinerated and it’s not safe for me to enter the kitchen. Indeed, even the rest of the family is covering their mouths going in there. Hoping the air is going to clear soon so we could put together our NYE dessert  of pavlova, chocolate mouse, fruit and cream. I was even thinking of chopping up some Tim Tams and sprinkling them over the top for a bit of added chocolate crunch.

Have you set any New Year’s resolutions? I’m still working on mine and as you can see by the dessert we’re having tonight, that my sins are continuing to mount.

I’ll be back in the New Year to share a snapshot of the Sydney Fireworks.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena