Category Archives: Parenting

Cuckoo Clock House…Friday Fictioneers.

As soon as he walked in, Jan was at peace. The boy with the cuckoo clock heart, had finally found his tribe in this museum of intricately carved clocks. No longer an outsider, they even shared the same heartbeat.

Unable to afford a human heart, his father had found a mysterious cuckoo clock at the local market, which he prayed would save the life of his beloved son. Yet, although the operation was a success, there was a strange side-effect. Dvorak’s American Symphony played like a broken record in his head.

At last, he understood. It was all about the house.

….

Welcome to another contribution for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s photo prompt is © J Hardy Carroll and was taken at the Bily Clock Museum in Spillville, Iowa. The museum building was the residence of Antonín Dvořák during the summer of 1893 where he composed his String Quartet in F (also known as the “American Quartet”) and his String Quintet in E-Flat. You can hear it Here

 

 

Charles Ernest Pierotti…A Father’s Great Love.

This morning I was reading was reading in the Good Weekend about Keith Austen’s visit to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. Although I’ve been to London, I haven’t been to this museum and it was simply something interesting to read about while having my morning cup of tea and bowl of porridge. Unfortunately, coffee’s verboten as part of my daily ritual these days and I restrict myself to cappuccinos in cafes once or twice a week, where I also allow myself two spoonfuls of sugar, which are also outlawed. Mind you, just to be deliciously inconsistent, chocolate in whatever guise it arrives in, is allowed free reign. I mightn’t have the most agreeable digestive tract and I might be generously proportioned, but I’m not on life support yet. I deserve a few of life’s simple pleasures.

In between mouthfuls of porridge and sips of tea, I read about what could possibly the world’s most tragic tribute ever produced by a grieving parent. Following the death of his infant son Patrick, famed English doll maker, Charles Ernest Pierotti, made an incredibly life-like replica which is on display in a glass case at the V & A.

Austen writes:

“To me the creepiest exhibit is also one of the most beautiful. It’s a pecularly life-like doll which lies in state in a glass cabinet, a wonderfully realized baby boy with curly blond hair and pale blue eyes. He is wearing a simple, embroidered christening gown. Then, you read the label: “Wax-headed baby doll, about 1900. Patrick Enrico Pierotti died as a baby. His father, the English doll-maker Charles Ernest Pierotti, made the dollas a portrait of him.”

Patrick Enrico Pierotti2

Charles Ernest Pierotti: Patrick Enrico Pierotti. Photo: V  & A Museum.

A quick Google search, took me straight into the V&A vault and I could almost reach out and and hold baby Patrick. Feel the weight of a thousand tears and their family’s grieving hearts. Most of us know someone who has endured the grief of losing a baby, or perhaps we have been there ourselves. It’s a shocker…an angst without end.

Interestingly, however, the online catalogue describes the doll in clinical detail without a drop of emotion:

“Wax portrait doll of a young male caucasian child, with blue glass eyes and blonde human hair curls inserted into the wax. It has a pink poured wax shoulder head, with a stuffed cloth body. The doll is dressed in in a long white cotton gown, with ribbon and a whitework trim and rows of tucks. There is also a cream carrying cape of cream patterned cotton, lined with cotton, trimmed with lace and ribbon ties. Long petticoat of coarse linen and whitework, a second petticoat of cream flannel. The chemise is of white linen.”

That I found creepy.

I needed to give this baby more than just a name. At the very least, a start and finish and if I could possibly ever find out, a cause of death. While child mortality was commonplace at the turn of the century, when it came to baby Patrick we have a such a life-like replica which is still in mint condition 118 years later, that I felt he deserved a word story as well as just an image.

Above: Dolls made by Charles Ernest Pierotti Photos: V  & A Museum.

So, I put on my researchers cap and headed off in search of a date of birth, a date of death, which I fully expected to find during that period. However, I found nothing. Nothing official to acknowledge that baby Patrick Pierotti was ever here.

I have to admit, that I’m a bit surprised, especially when this doll made in his very likeness is in the public eye. Surely, I’m not the only one who has probed a little further and asked these questions? So, now I’m off to contact the V & A Museum of Childhood and see if they can shed any light on it, and I’ll keep you posted.

There’s something for you to digest over your breakfast or whichever meal is next on your agenda. It’s rapidly creeping towards dinner time here and I still don’t feel like I’ve fully woken up yet. It’s a miserable, rainy Saturday and after doing my morning errands, I returned to my PJs and had a balmy nap with my electric blanket on. Life is good. That said, it could be a bit more productive.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS While researching this story, I came across an excellent post at Diyala’s blog regarding  Momento Mori: What is it? where she’s produced a very haunting piece of art featuring this baby doll.

 

Weekend Coffee Share- Happy Father’s Day 2018!

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Don’t you just love how special days automatically assume you’re having a great day and that you’re all happy, happy, joy, joy! Happy Father’s Day! Happy Mother’s Day! Happy Birthday!

What if you don’t feel like being happy? What if you’re feeling grumpy or even downright miserable? Are you supposed to paint your clown face over the scars and forget your candle’s already gone out? Perhaps, we should just take “happy” out of the equation and simply wish people: “Father’s Day”, “Mother’s Day”, “Birthday”. Perhaps, by not expecting happiness (or at the very least a day without any fights or squabbles), we’d be better prepared to deal with any disappointment. Yet, isn’t that also defeat? Don’t we want to be happy?

Perhaps, we’ll all feel happier after a few celebratory Dad jokes:

  • I’ll never date another apostrophe…The last one was too possessive.
  • I gave all my dead batteries away today… Free of charge
  • I dreamed about drowning in an ocean made out of orange soda last night…It took me a while to work out it was just a Fanta sea.

Well, that’s enough philosophizing. Special days always get me thinking and it’s a time where most of us pause and reflect to some extent…or have someone else’s philosophizing thrust on us. What does it mean to be a good Dad? How do we show our Dad how much we love and appreciate him? Then, there are those who have lost their Dad, perhaps even prematurely. Or, don’t have contact with Dad.

My husband’s father passed away almost 35 years ago when Geoff was only 16 years old, and it wasn’t long after Father’s Day. Indeed, driving home from my parents’ place tonight, Geoff said that my Dad’s been his father-in-law longer than he had his own father. While it’s great that he has my Dad, it does feel like he was short-changed. His mother died in 2000 the year we met, but she was 73 which wasn’t unreasonable. So, my Mum as well as Geoff’s sister and her husband have helped fill these shoes.

Our Father’s Day was fairly low-key. We went to Church this morning as a family and drove down to Sydney for lunch with my parents and brother. You might recall that my parents celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary a few weeks ago. Well, they’d been given a lot of chocolate, and as tough as it might’ve been, we had to help them eat it.

I’m not sure whether you have heard that Australia has just acquired our 6th Prime Minister in 11 years. Just over a week ago, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was ousted by his own party and all that is despicable and ugly in politics both on the stage and behind the scenes reveal itself in all its lurid glory. I didn’t have much faith left before but anarchy is looking good atm. Whoops! I think that’s what we’ve already got. I wonder who’ll be wearing the monkey suit next week?

Last week, was fairly quiet as I’ve been recovering from last weekend’s gastro bug. It really sapped the life out of me. So, there’s been no dancing on the tables from me.

Rowena Lizottes

Posing after our violin performance 2012. Lizotte’s is a rock n’ roll venue where the likes of Diesel have performed…and me! The music school hired the venue for our concert.

However, I wrote a short story called: “The Violinist” which was based when I sat for my Preliminary Violin exam and almost blew a gasket stressing out about getting an A and about doing the exam at all. I’d only taken the violin up to help my daughter, but then she quit and left me to finish off the term’s lessons and I have no idea how one term lead to another except that I did play at the end of year concert in a violin ensemble. I think that’s what really clinched it for me and my teacher must’ve been a very positive force to counter-balance what really was a rather cantankerous and difficult violin. I haven’t posted it here, because I have plans.

This week, I also participated in Thursday Doors.  hosted by Norm 2.0. This week, we visited the miniature village of Lower Crackpot, located in Tazmazia in NW Tasmania. These doors were so cute and pretty witty as well. Not surprisingly, the village has quite a satirical element. If you’re feeling like a bit of a laugh, please Click here

I also took part in Friday Fictioneers. This week’s effort seemed a bit far-fetched at first but then I remembered that three Japanese tourists had tried driving from Redland Bay to Stradbroke Island thanks to Google maps, and decided Panoramic Pete might not have been so hard to believe after all. You’ve have to read it to form your own opinion: When the Mirror Cracked…

Well, that’s enough from me. What have you been up to during the last week? I’d love to catch up.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Ecclectic Ali. We’d love you to come and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS: Happy Father’s Day

 

Weekend Coffee Share… 26th August, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you and how’s your weekend shaping up, if you still have any of it left? It’s now Sunday night here, and I’m opting to share the weekend that was meant to be instead of the weekend that was.

Conservatorium Sign.jpg

A sign outside the Conservatorium advertising my grandmother’s upcoming concert . 

Yesterday, I was planning to attend Open Day at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music  where my grandmother taught and performed as a concert pianist and my mother attended as a pupil…her pupil. I wanted to try to find my grandmother’s old studio which I can really only remember as a young child being taken for a visit…stairs and long corridoors. Dad tells me her room overlooked the Botanic Gardens. That mystery will have to be unfold on another day.

Conservatium of Music (1)

The Conservatorium of Music, Sydney.

When you look at this grandiose apparition, it’s hard to believe that the Conservatorium  was originally built as the government stables. They must’ve had special horses. Or, Governor Macquarie was trying to transform a rugged convict outpost into a cultivated society.  Nothing like a few grandiose buildings to give a place a bit of  a step up. The Conservatorium was designed by former convict architect, Frances Greenway, and constructed 1817-1820. It is the only example of a Gothic building designed by Greenway still standing. The cost and apparent extravagance was one of the reasons Macquarie was recalled to Britain. I wonder why.

That was yesterday’s plan.

Today, I’d planned to go to the annual Irish Famine Memorial Annual Gathering at the Hyde Park Barracks, which is coincidentally located just down the road from The Con and was also design by Frances Greenway. The gathering primarily commemorates over 2000 Irish Famine Orphan Girls who were sent to Australia under the Earl Grey Scheme. These orphans included my 4th Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan. I didn’t know anything about that growing up, and only found out about five years ago through a random Google search. I don’t know why this connection means so much to me, but she’s more than just a part of me. Bridget came from Midleton Workhouse, County Cork and I’ve also been researching the other girls she came out with. I was surprised to see they led quite disparate lives and seemingly didn’t huddle together. Getting to the gathering could well have advanced my research, but I guess it wasn’t meant to be.

Family photo

A Family Portrait.

Well, as much as this was the weekend that wasn’t, thank goodness we made it to my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary on Thursday night. I don’t know where the numbers finished up, but there were something like 80-100 guests. Rather than focusing on them, Dad wanted it to be more of an opportunity to catch up with family and friends who’ve both individually and collectively have meant the world to them. While I’d expected catching up with so many people all at once, was going to be like speed dating barely able to sustain a conversation, I actually managed to have quite a meaningful night and have rekindled a few connections and made some new ones as well. I had a fabulous time.

_DSC6208

Our puppy Zac was keen to join us for the party.

My apologies for going backwards through the week, but the build up to the big party was bigger than Ben Hur. While I had very little to do with the actual planning and I wasn’t even required to bake or make a speech, getting myself and the family ready for the big night was a job and a half. I had my hair cut for the first time in two years a few weeks ago. People kept asking me how I felt about getting it all lopped off as though it was a monumental decision, not neglect. I also ordered new contact lenses, not that you’d know that I wear glasses. They always come off for photos. It’s a family tradition. I was quite chuffed and amazed by the time we pulled up. Our son in a suit. The dry cleaner had resurrected my daughter’s dress and we’d paired it up with a white trench and even high heels. Her friend had braided her hair at school…one of the benefits of an education. After 17 years of marriage, my husband still fitted into his wedding suit and almost looked as dashing as ever. As for me, I barely knew myself. I seemed to “scrub up alright”.

DSC_0521

Government House, Parramatta.

Lastly, I participated in Thursday Doors for the second time this week. This blogshare is hosted by Norm 2.0 at Thursday Doors and I really recommend you check this out. There were doors featured from all over the world, and I loved revisiting my backpacking trip around Europe in many of the posts. I took it easy this week and posted a recent photo I’d taken at  Government House, Parramatta.

So, how has your week been? Hope you’ve had a good one.

This has been another contribution for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop over and join us for a “cuppa”.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 20th August, 2018.

Welcome to Another Coffee Share!

How are you? How was your week? My manners have improved this week, as I often launch into an animated diatribe about my week, without even thinking of you. While you could interpret that as “rude”, I’ll excuse myself by saying that I’m excited to catch up with you and I thought you might be interested in a few snapshots of Australian life. That’s one of the things I really love about our Weekend Coffee Share is gaining a more personal insight into what it’s life to live in an other country.

_DSC6091

Bushfire Viewed from Ettalong Beach, NSW.

After seeing some spectacular photos of the fires ravaging California and hearing horror stories of mass destruction and heartbreak, we had our own local  bush fire this week over at Killcare, North of Sydney and about a 15 minutes drive from here. I woke up one morning and feel a thick cloak of smoke immediately wrap around me, and there was a definite tightness and constriction in my lungs. I have about 55% lung capacity. So, the panic buttons went off and I was wondering whether I’d need to get out. However, the wind must’ve changed because the smoke dissipated and by afternoon, I actually ventured to our local beach where I could photograph the towering plume of smoke without suffocating.

Saturday, saw a different kind of fire. Our kids were attending District Scout Camp at this very remote camp site at Sugree Bag Creek. Different scout troops were attending and each had its own camp fire blazing by the time we’d turned up late afternoon after our daughter’s dancing. These fires don’t just happen and there’s quite a lot of science involved. I saw our scout leader clearing away the grass with a shovel, and I’m not sure what else was involved but when my husband picked the kids up the next day, I was told that the fires didn’t go out overnight and the local bush wasn’t set alight. People are so quick to criticise and blame teenagers. Yet, here we had at least 50 or so kids with fires, bush and no problems.

My husband and I decided to turn the drive into more of an experience, which is why I’d come along. Of course, only one parent was required to do the actual driving. It was about a 90 minutes drive to the camp site and while you think of the outback in terms of remote in an  Australian sense, once you leave the road less travelled and continue onto the roads rarely travelled, it doesn’t take long for you to either experience that sense of getting away from it all or feeling isolated and I little bit vulnerable. There’s “nothing there”. However, ideally you don’t go camping in the supermarket car park and you actually do experience all that’s entailed with getting away from it all and you find out what you’re made of. You find interest in nature and the simple life instead of being glued to electronic, TV or having your nose in a book. This is living.

This lecture is as much for myself, I should point out. I could easily have read a book for much of the drive instead of engaging in conversation or looking out the window. As we drove off the main road and kept driving and driving onto what was by now more like a driveway or a cattle path, I noticed a rising sense of impatience…”Are we there yet?” I felt like we’d almost driving off the edge of the earth and I should’ve been embracing it. Enjoying the get away. Appreciating the benefits of switching off instead of being constantly switched on and lit up like a Christmas tree. By the time we reached Spencer, it was like “there’s nothing here”. I was really hanging out for some coffee and cake by then too. It was 5.00pm and everything was shut. Well, that was except the “Dunkirk Hotel”…an open air pub with a wooden sign suspended over a picnic table.

This coming Thursday, my parents will be celebrating their 50th Wedding Anniversary and all sorts are coming out of the woodwork and turning up for the festivities. My Dad is the only one making a speech, and I’ve supplied him with photos so there’s been no role for myself in all of this, which perhaps could be a good thing. However, that hasn’t stopped me from thinking about their big day and what it was all about. I just don’t have much to go on, because I wasn’t there which isn’t always a given but that’s how it was for us. Obviously, many of the people who were there on the day are no longer with us or have drifted beyond their orbit. One of the interesting snippets from my parents’ wedding was that my grandfather was a pastor and so he had another minister there at the start so he could walk my mother down the aisle and conduct the service. My Dad’s family was Catholic and Mum and her family were Lutheran and they got married in a Lutheran Church. That meant Dad’s family needed to get dispensation from the priest to attend. I don’t even know what that is, but it sounds serious. Mum’s wedding car also broke down on the way to the Church. The reception was held at my grandparents’ home in Lindfield.

2david-bottin1957

Anyway, while I was pottering around with my research, I found a photo of my mum taken at a school reunion back in the 80s and found her year had set up its own web site, which included pdfs of the school newsletter. I was particularly interested in the Principal’s reports. One was headed “the casual cult” and spoke out about the horrors of casual dress, manners and the “bodgie pack”. More time research required. Also, there were quite a few references to the girls outperforming the boys academically, which I hadn’t anticipated from that era. I have sensed that the needs of boys are being swept under the radar, which is all well and good if you only have daughters and don’t believe in some form of equity.

I’ve also been making considerable progress researching not only my grandmother’s career as a concert pianist, which I’ve mentioned before. She worked as a music critic in the 1950s for the Daily Telegraph and despite so many of the old newspapers being uploaded onto Trove, the Daily Telegraph has only just been uploaded and I’m finally able to read her reviews without trudging into the State Library viewing them on the reel to reel and paying a fortune to print them out. I’m now in the process of converting them to text and pasting them chronologically into a word document. Sounds all well and good but why did she have to attend so many concerts and be so prolific? I know. I’d be complaining if there was only a handful of words but it’s going to take some time to get this under my belt. 1950 alone is currently standing at 30,000 words and I’m not done yet. I should also point out that she had four children under ten at the time, although her mother lived with her and she also had home help. Nevertheless, she was an extraordinary woman.

Book

By the way, I am still making my way through Raphaelle Giordano’s: Your Second Life Begins When You Realize You Only Have One. This supposed novel features a whole lot of steps towards finding greater satisfaction and fulfillment in your life. This week, I focused on: “Throw out ten things”. That was all well and good. However, it didn’t bargain on us stopping at a roadside sign advertising “FREE” in huge red painted letters. We had no idea what was free when we pulled over. However, being out in the country, we expected something along the lines of oranges or horse manure. However, much to our delight, there were bags and bags of good books, which somehow found their way into the boot of our car. Although common sense tells you not to bring bags of books into your house when you’ve just downloaded your ten items, the book didn’t say you couldn’t. So, now I’m clearing more space and my husband will no longer be sleeping on the train. He has a lot of reading to do.

Meanwhile, you might enjoy reading my review on the book so far and my progress Here.

Books

So much more creating more space…there’s an avalanche of books.

Lastly, I have come across a blog share, which you might like to take part in. This was my first week over at Thursday Doors hosted by  Norm 2.0. . Here’s my contribution.

St Johns Parramatta door

Thursday Doors…St John’s Cathedral, Parramatta, Sydney.

Well, that’s me done for another week. It’s been great catching up and I look forward to catching up on your news.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Off On A Saturday Drive…

Welcome to being a scout parent. Your kid experiences the magic of the great outdoors, while you have the pleasure of being stuck in the car for a long drive. Well, I tell a fib because I wasn’t exactly stuck in the car, and I wasn’t driving either. Geoff was driving, and once we’d dropped off our charge, we made numerous photography stops and took full advantage of the great outdoors. Well, perhaps not full advantage because we didn’t exactly go for an extended hike, but I did walk our daughter down to the registration tent.

_DSC6125

This weekend, was District Scout Camp and it was held in the middle of nowhere,  and not even near the great outback. It was held in the camping grounds at Sugaree Creek and the only signs of civilization were numerous cow pats, no cows and a cluster of tents with camp fires going. Due to its lack of proximity to any landmarks, there is no point providing a map.

_DSC6131

Of course, there’s something naturally mesmerizing about being around a camp fire. Yet, the magic doesn’t just happen and there’s a lot of careful skill and preparation which goes into building a good one too. After having a local bush fire this week, it was good to hear that the camp fires survived the night and remained under control. Of couorse, we expect no less from our scouts.

_DSC6140

There’s something soulful about a tree skeleton silhouetted by a cloudy blue sky.

Of course, this is why you go camping and why we love our kids being involved with Scouts. It’s important to commune with nature, sleep under the stars and especially get away from technology, phones and gadgets and even talk face-to-face. Indeed, as much as I was wondering if we were ever going to get there, I know there’s much to enjoy about going on a long drive seemingly surrounded by nothingness and needing to find those points of interest. I guess this also includes not looking at my phone or reading a book either. The latter becomes very tempting.

_DSC6194

After leaving camp, we drove to Spencer. Don’t really know what it’s main claim to fame is, but there is a caravan park and it would be a great place to get away from it all, especially on a boat.

_DSC6195

It was after 5.00pm by the time we reached Spencer and the sun was setting and the place was shut. All except a makeshift pub…The Dunkirk Hotel, which was just this sign and a picnic table under the tree.

_DSC6198.JPG

_DSC6204

Mangrove Creek photographed from Spencer.

If you are interested in checking out more around the Sugee Bag Creek area, I recommend reading Return to Sugree Bag Creek

Have you ever been involved with Scouts or Guides and have any camp memories? I’d love to hear from you!

xx Rowena

No Regrets…Friday Fictioneers.

Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll were a different story as a kid.  Bouncing in between Mum and Dad with a revolving circus of “aunts” and “uncles”, I was safer riding my bike unsupervised on the road, than being at home. Yet, I was only knee high to a grasshopper, and still had my training wheels on.

No food, but always money for smokes and booze.

Then, the car pulled up. The minute I looked into her eyes, I knew she was going to be my new Mum, and climbed in.

Clearly, I’d be better off with this stranger, than the devils I knew.

….

104 words.

Friday Fictioneers is hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. Every week she posts a photo and we write 100 words to the prompt. This week’s PHOTO PROMPT © Yvette Prior. I’d encourage you to have a go. I find writing to someone else’s prompt really extends the scope of my writing and gets me thinking outside my usual four walls.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I considered adding some kind of explanation to the story last night, and could well turn this into a longer short story. I have seen a young boy riding his bike outside my house a few times without anyone in sight, which is extremely unusual for a young kid these days. I spoke to him once because he was riding near my driveway and I was about to reverse and let’s just say that going backwards isn’t my thing. I haven’t said anymore to him or know anything about him. He probably lives a few doors away. However, I’ve been taught and my kids have been taught not to talk to strangers  so I haven’t crossed the line, even though as a Mum with kids and reasonably well known in the area, I’d probably fall into a blurry area.

That’s when I started thinking about reversing all that ingrained education about stranger danger. What if the stranger was actually the salvation?

The way I pictured this was possibly in a court room where the once child is now an adult and is testifying to support his purported kidnapper. He went freely and he was better off. He was safe. I had a few gems which I sadly had to delete along the way. I had him trying to find somewhere to rest his pillow in between the holes in the wall. I also had Mum pregnant with another baby, and the kid’s determined not to let another kid follow in his footsteps, but I wasn’t sure about a likely course of action there. I also reversed the common comment you hear about there’s no manual to raise a kid and had him saying there was no manual for a kid trying to raise their parents. Such great ideas, and too few words. I rarely write short stories but this one is luring me in.