Category Archives: Parenting

Weekend Coffee Share – 17th February, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you after another week? I things are going well and you’re ready to face another week with a smile, and not a sense of impending doom. I’m not a morning person and Monday mornings usually hit me like a concrete slab crashing down to earth and of all the places it had to land, it was on on poor little ol’ me.

Anyway, I don’t want any of you to think of me as a “snowflake” or even from the “snowflake generation”. While I had heard of this term before, a conversation with our 13 year old daughter brought it back to mind. She told me that my generation were the snowflakes, not hers. Well, in case you’re not familiar with the term, the term “snowflake generation” was one of Collins English Dictionary‘s 2016 words of the year. Collins defines the term as “the young adults of the 2010s, viewed as being less resilient and more prone to taking offence than previous generations“.

The reference originally hails back to Fight Club’s Tyler Durden who blurts out:“You are not special. You are not a beautiful and unique snowflake. You are the same organic and decaying matter as everyone else”

While I’m here, there are two other bits of teenage slang you might appreciate. Firstly, there’s “boomer”. According to my kids, this has now extended beyond the original baby boomer generation to include anyone who is clueless, especially when it comes to global warming.

As far as being a “Karen” is concerned, the urban dictionary writes:

“A Karen is a kind of person who is unhappy when little things don’t go their way. They are a, “Can I speak to your manager?” kind of gal. The bitchy soccer mom of her friend group that nobody likes.
“Do you see her over there? She’s such a Karen.”
The Sydney Morning Herald’s, Julia Baird, tackled the Karen issue in the Saturday paper and raised some interesting points. For starters, there’s no male counterpart to Karen giving the term a sexist stance. My question is that if girls and young women are using this term (and just let me add that I’ve never heard a male use the term), what does that say? I’m planning to have a chat about this with my daughter and perhaps also her bestie. After all, her mum’s name is Karen.
If you’d like to check out Julia’s article, you can click HERE. By the way, I’d also like to point out that Julia was in my Australia Women’s History tutorial at uni and shes a really top-notch journo and well worth reading.
Anyway, I can’t believe that I actually posted this without mentioning Valentine’s Day! What is wrong with me? Have I developed total amnesia? Well, I think it’s probably been more of a case on being so focused on my research that I forget what else is happening. Moreover, I’ve shared the Valentine’s Day stories a few times in the real world and have moved on a bit since Friday. However, I did want to share with you how Valentine’s Day for me has changed throughout the years. Here in Australia, it’s not as big as in America and it’s more something for singles. When I was younger, I’d go to great lengths to send someone I like an anonymous card, which reached its zenith when I had a backpacker write two in German and another backpacker posted them for me from Berkeley, California. I didn’t think things through very well because I invited both of these prospectives to a dinner party at my place. They’d never met before and surprise! surprise! They’d both received Valentine’s in German from Berkeley, California. Well, I just hope they saw it as a joke.
Those days are gone now that my husband and I have almost been married for 20 years. That said we went out for dinner at a scrumptious local Italian restaurant, but that was also after driving the kids around and doing an emergency dash to buy my son a belt to hold his formal pants up. They both went to a formal Valentine’s day dinner with their youth group. BTW before I get off the subject of Valentine’s Day, each of them received something like 5th hand plastic roses which had done the rounds at school. It looks like Cupid wasn’t having much success.
Meanwhile, my research into the stories of WWI stories continues. I’m still not sure whether it is taking shape or just growing into something like a massive mushroom cloud about to envelope the earth. Yet, at the same time, there are such gaps in the historic record or difficulties trying to find out where someone was wounded or died and to me with my very strong sense of place, these details matter. Moreover, since I’m writing non-fiction, I can’t just make it up either. However, that works both ways and most of the time the real stories and the raw emotions which go along with them, are so much better than anything I could manufacture.
One of the challenges I’m facing is my lousy sense of direction and spatial relations. There are people like my Dad who only need to go somewhere once, and they’ll always find their way back. Of course, it makes perfect sense that there’d be outliers at the other end of the  spectrum who can’t even find their way out of their own driveway. That’s me. So, compounded by the fact that I live way over here in Australia and can”t just jump on a plane and walk around the battlefields of France, I’m having a lot of trouble tracking down where everyone was. Moreover, since I’m focusing on individual stories, I don’t have that big picture stuff and that understanding that these were big groups of people moving around under the direction of Captains, Generals etc. They weren’t wandering round the French countryside like lost sheep. That said, prior to the Battle of Amiens 8th August, 1918, all the Australian divisions on the Western Front hadn’t fought together before so you had to check what they were up to and even then you have to ensure they were still there, weren’t in hospital, or on furlough. You can’t assume anything. So, you can see how writing these seemingly simply stories can get rather challenging.
Tonight, I posted a few photos of the magnolia flower out the front. This magnolia is known as a “Little Gem”. However, it’s flowers are massive and would easily fill both hands. They’re the size of a saucer. Anyway, after researching these incredibly intense WWI stories and accounts of the battlefield, the magnolia flowers almost assumed an ethereal glow.
Anyway, unfortunately, time is running away. Or, to be honest, it ran away a few hours ago and I’ve made no effort whatsoever to catch up and am about to start paying for it.
So, I hope you have a wonderful week ahead.
This has been another contribution for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.
Best wishes,
Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 10th February, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I should preempt today’s coffee share with a few “Glub! Glub! Glubs” because after surviving extreme bush fires and choking smoke, we’re now experiencing damaging heavy rain and winds and flooding. Indeed, you don’t even need to live near a river to be affected and today our daughter had a day off school because a tree had fallen across power lines and the school was also flooded. Her older brother wasn’t impressed. He had to go to school.  As far as the impact on us is concerned, our back room which is one of those atmospheric indoor-outdoor rooms with Laserlite to let in the balmy light, leaked like a sieve. This is the third time we’ve had to virtually everything out of the room. The last two times, hail had peppered holes through the roof like machine  gun fire. This time there were numerous gaps for no explained reason and my husband superhero that is, had to get up on the roof armed with goodness knows what goopy sealand stuff and paint to seal it up. I told my son that’s what his job will be when he grows up. Something tells me our daughter will never get up there in her pointe shoes and she’ll need to find equality in other areas, especially something which doesn’t involve removing spiders from the house!

Without any further ado, I’d better check whether you’d like tea, coffee, hot chocolate or some other beverage of choice. I thought you might like to join me and dig into one of these biscuit sandwiches I found at a cafe in Newtown, Sydney today. It was absolutely scrumptiously divine  with rich butter cream in between two chocolate biscuits dipped in sprinkles for a bit of festive colour and crunch. Wow! I feel like getting straight back on the train for more, except the trains were out today after the storm so I’ll have to exercise some uncharacteristic patience.  Meanwhile, I’ve sitting next to a chunky caramel kit kat. Have you tried one of these? I’m a recent convert and they’re sooo good!

So how are you and what have you been up to?

King Street Newtown historic

Last Monday, I met up my friend Stephen who was part of a group of friends I had in my early 20s and we’d largely lost touch I got married and moved a little North to the Central Coast, which is part of Greater Sydney. We met up at Sydney’s Central Station and caught the train to Newtown which is 4 kms South-West of the CBD. Traditionally, it’s had a large student population and was rather grungy and bohemian. However, now it’s become highly expensive and let’s just say the place has had a face lift. Stephen and I found a cafe where I found the biscuit and walked down King Street onto City Road past Sydney University. .

 

We had planned to go to a lecture but I’d mixed up the date and we were a month early. So, we went out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant off Broadway, called the Holy Duck. It was wonderful and we had a cocktail each. To be more about our adventure, click HERE

My adventures researching the stories of WWI to gain a better understanding of our family’s involvement and what happened in general continues. This project has been like jumping off a cliff clutching an octopus. I just keep ploughing deeper and deeper with no idea where the next soldier’s letter will take me. It’s been a real confirmation of that old proverb…”everybody has a story”. It’s interesting rebuilding the story of WWI through the eyes of the little people. Privates who had no say in what happened and were simply flotsam and jetsam ordered around by top brass or shot at by the enemy. However, they still had concerns of their own like the rest of us and reading through y husband’s Great Uncle Ralph’s diary, right before the Battle of Amiens which proved to be a critical turning point in the war, he’s writing about not getting mail for awhile with the underlying implication that he was missing home. Or, perhaps there was a certain someone we don’t know about who he was missing in a special way. That said, he does express hope that the war will soon be over: “Let us hope that Providence will be kind to us this stunt and enable us to make a move that will go a long way towards winding up this ghastly business.”

The new school year kicked off a week ago. Getting the family and the house ready for this is to be a logistical nightmare. Now that I’ve been studying more of the logistical side of managing a war, I realize the operations side of the household has been sadly lacking. That love isn’t enough to get the troops moving. We need to get all that boring stuff which feminism and equality was supposed to do away with, done. Speaking of this reminds me that I’m intending to have a talk with the kids about equality. How’s this for a bumper slogan…”Equality begins at home”.

Anyway, the start of the new school year, is always when the rubber hits the road with my new year’s resolutions. After all, it’s virtually impossible to stick to just about any resolution during the January holiday period in Australia. We’ve all gone troppo. So, now I’m trying to get into the routine of going for a walk after I drop the kids at school in the morning. I managed to pull it off on the first two mornings. However, on the third, I ran into a friend and went for a talk instead. Since, then I made up for a few walks almost reaching 10,000 steps on my rip to Newtown, although I don’t done much walking since. It’s been raining. Yes, I know it hasn’t necessarily rained all day everyday but it hasn’t exactly been inspiring and like most of us with our best-intentioned resolutions, I’ve fallen off the wagon.

My other resolution is to try to do at least 30 minutes of daily violin practice. This has been rather hit and miss as well. Some nights, I forget. Others, I’ve been too busy and others I simply can’t be bothered.

So, perhaps I need to add reading motivational books to to list of resolutions.

Yet, all the same, there’s another school of motivational thought which is geared well towards limping and impaled failures. That’s the idea that something is better than nothing and not to let a mediocre effort convert to giving up. That the person who cuts back the number of cigarettes is still making progress even if they haven’t quit. That it’s better off to be an imperfect vegan who cuts back their consumption of plastics and fossil fuels than making no change at all. That our instance on perfection, can inherently cause us too fail. I get that. Yet, at the same time, I still want to tick all the boxes. Get everything right.

I know we’re almost heading into March, but how have you been going with your resolutions? Are you still chipping away at them? Or, have you moved on altogether?

Anyway, I thought I’d give us a few motivational quotes to spur us on…

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent” – Calvin Coolidge

“If you fall behind, run faster. Never give up, never surrender, and rise up against the odds.” – Jesse Jackson

“Never let your head hang down. Never give up and sit down and grieve. Find another way. And don’t pray when it rains if you don’t pray when the sun shines.” -Richard M. Nixon

“Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.” ―Harriet Beecher Stowe

“There is no failure except in no longer trying.”– Elbert Hubbard

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”

–Robert Collier (1885-1950), American self-help author

 

“It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”Confucius

 

“Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat.”F. Scott Fitzgerald.

 

Well, I’m not sure whether all those quotes are enough to get me away from my writing to clean up the incredible mess from last night’s storm and leaking roof, but they were encouraging. Indeed, they actually pose a strong argument for ignoring the mess and just keep researching and writing until the book’s done. If only! However, something tells me that could be rather catastrophic on too many fronts. Better have a look at Plan B.

This has been a return to writing for the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

A Short Victory…Friday Fictioneers.

All James ever wanted was to eat a bowl of ice cream. However, James was severely lactose intolerant and ice cream was forbidden. Now a teenager, he was sick of everyone asking why he he had to have soy milk. Why can’t you have ice cream? What’s wrong with you? To compound his troubles, his mother hovered over him like a hawk. However, she wasn’t going to be at camp, and James had forged her signature on the medical forms. Finally, James indulged in his very first bowl of ice cream. All good until he got stuck on the bus.

….

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s PHOTO PROMPT © Na’ama Yehuda.

Best wishes,

Rowena

At Home in Byron Bay on Australia’s East Coast.

Ever since I first stepped foot in Byron Bay, it’s felt like home. Not that I’ve ever been able to live here in a physical, geographical postcode sense. Rather, I’m perpetually “just visiting”, and my sense of belonging is more metaphorical. More about finding my tribe here, rather than owning real estate. After all, I am beyond the flow and it’s perfectly normal to think outside the square here. To extend your horizons so far beyond the norm, that all your inhibitions melt and flow away. There’s no ridicule. No one’s laughing at you. It’s creativity personified and you can be whoever you are with that same liberating freedom, as diving off a bottomless cliff and finally learning to fly.

Kombi Byron Bay

In it’s heyday, Byron Bay was Kombi paradise with rows of Kombis parked beside the each with boards on top.

At least, that’s how it used to be.

Every time I come up here now, I see less and less of old Byron as the surviving remnants of her golden hippy era, are increasingly consumed by “progress”. Indeed, these days Byron is starting to look more and more like Sydney’s Double Bay and dare I use the word “posh”. I don’t mind posh and posh has its place. However, for those of us who actually remember old Byron (and even I came along fairly late in the piece), posh can go someplace else. Instead, I say bring back the Kombis all lined up along the beachfront with their surfboards perched on top…trophies celebrating freedom, sun, surf, sand and eternal Summers. The gateway to the inland hippy heaven of Nimbin, Byron was full of hippies, rainbows and a Mecca to the thriving counter-culture.

Byron Bay unicorn

That’s the Byron I first visited in around 1994. At the time, I’d sold out on my creative side and had gone fully corporate myself working as a marketing executive in the Sydney CBD and living nearby in a trendy, converted warehouse apartment in Sydney’s Broadway, a stone’s throw from Glebe. I’d graduated from Sydney University. Hung out in cafes writing and performing poetry while searching for the meaning of life. That’s before I headed off backpacking through Europe on what was meant to be the last hurrah before finally growing up and settling down to a real job, a career, a husband, mortgage, kids and a dog in the burbs. Implicit in all of this, was that I would personify the values of my parents, my school and the almighty North Shore. Of course, that had absolutely nothing to do with running away to Byron Bay and doing the happy dance barefoot on the beach.

That’s probably why I experienced such a jolt when I first came to Byron Bay. That despite having all the trappings of the corporate life, it wasn’t me. Or, at least, it wasn’t fully me. I was staying at Jay’s Hostel in Byron Bay and a group of us hung out together in the way that travellers do, almost bonding immediately in a way that’s impossible back home. I bought myself a hippy dress, hung out at the beach and in cafes philosophizing about life the universe and everything. No doubt, I also scribbled away in my journal, and wrote poetry. I felt so alive.

I don’t know what happened. However, it was like I’d been struck by lightning while I was in Byron Bay. When I arrived back in Sydney, my life there both at work and at home felt strangely unfamiliar. It was like I’d stepped into someone else’s life. It no longer made sense.

In hindsight, it’s no surprise. I was working long hours stuck in an office without any windows doing number crunching and database analysis of all things. How does a poet end up doing that? That is probably my greatest folly. The job description had changed, but I persevered trying to get some stability on my CV. They might as well have handed me a shovel, because I was rapidly digging my own grave. Coincidentally, it was while I was in this job, that the unchartered harbour in my head (known medically as hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain) was starting to make its presence felt. I was becoming seriously ill, although I wrote it off as stress at the time and moved to Western Australia.

I didn’t make it back to Byron Bay again until I came up here with my now husband, Geoff, in 1999. Geoff’s mother was living at nearby Nureybar with his sisters’ family and I was on my best behavior. It was very different going back to Byron Bay with him. He works in IT, and it’s not that he isn’t creative, but he didn’t connect with it in quite the same way I did.

Over the years since then, we’ve generally come up to stay with his sister at least once a year as a family and we’ve explored Byron Bay and the lighthouse with the kids. This has also been a very different experience…ice creams up at the lighthouse, stopping down at the Railway Park in town for the kids to enjoy our climbing tree…a fig tree which was damaged in a storm and fell over onto its side. By some miracle, it survived and grows along the ground, enabling even young kids to climb up into its branches and explore. The tree also has a special place in the local community. We’ve seen ribbons and scarves tied around its branches. A milk crate suspended upside down by a rope. A few times, a local woman known as “Mamma Dee” has done community art projects in the park. She had a heartfelt concern for young people and wanted to fill the park with love and connection and for young people to believe in themselves. Too many young people she knew had taken their own young lives, and she doing what she could to make a difference. Well, at least, she touched me. We’ve also met Christian groups giving away free food in the park and across the road, the Adventist Church runs a soup kitchen. All these things are acknowledgements of the darker remnants of old Byron…the many lost, broken and searching people who flee to Byron Bay in search of answers to life’s imponderable questions or to simply simply escape.

During these years when the kids were young, my sister-in-law would often mind them to give me a break and I’d disappear over the hill and into Byron. Once again, I’d found my wings and had that same sense of creative liberation, I’d experienced on my very first visit. Byron Bay was very much “my place”.

Fast-forwarding to 2020, we’re back at Nureybar again for a family holiday. It’s been three years since we’ve all be up here for an extended family holiday together. Geoff and the kids came up without me two years ago when I was sick and Geoff and I were child-free last year, when the kids were away at the Australian Scouting Jamboree in South Australia. So this means, the kids are three years older since we were here last, and the family dynamics have changed quite a lot. Indeed, the kids are no longer kids, and have evolved into teens. Indeed, our son is about to embark on his second last year of school.

So, instead of finding myself shooting off to Byron Bay solo, it’s been me and my girl…Miss 13. This has launched me into yet experiencing yet another perspective of Byron and I am a 13 year old girl buying bikinis and reporting everything back to my friends back home. Well, maybe not. I did turn 50 last year and I clearly can’t squeeze my feet back into a 13 year old’s shoes or even her bare feet. I would’ve loved to take her back to my Byron Bay, which was much more philosophical and reflective than commercial. She remembers some of it, such as the ladybird shop which used to pump clouds of bubbles down the main street. However, even the graffiti on toilet walls was good up here and it’s all but gone.

Yesterday’s trip to Byron Bay culminated in the Twilight Markets which are held in Railway Park around our climbing tree. We were wandering around and I bought a cards with prints by local artists. My daughter wanted to buy this candle thing where you poured scoops of wax beads into a glass container to make your own candle. I bought our son a kangaroo skin bracelet. We spotted Nutella donuts and they were an immediate must have just in case they sold out. Yum!!! They were divine. However, while we were soaking up the ambience and running back and forwards to the ATM across the road, the clouds were playing nasty tricks in the sky and it seems that all these national prayers for rain to extinguish the bush fires and ease the drought, were suddenly answered while the prayers of the market stall holders hoping to make a living, went unanswered. The heavens opened. Just a little at first and the stall holders valiantly persevered. The band moved back undercover and played on. The food vans stayed put. However, the rain had other plans and I just managed to buy some CDs from the band before they packed up and called it a day. The food vans were made of tougher stuff and we bought a plate of gado gado and by this stage, there was no hope of eating it under our tree. Rather, we hot-footed it back to the car as fast as we could with a plate of foot threatening to escape. While sitting in an almost generic white Subaru Forrester might seem rather ordinary, it was strangely atmospheric. We put on the new CD and as the rain fell all around up, we were making memories. It was so much fun and I felt 21 again.

Despite the rain, we headed back down there again today. Needed to stretch our wings.

More fun lay ahead, which started out trying on sunglasses and outfits at a vintage shop. How do you like our red sunnies? We didn’t buy them. I could hardly get multi-focals for the pair I tried on, but they were a lot of fun. We explored shop after shop and worked our way up to the beach. Still wet and overcast, we didn’t even consider swimming, but we did enjoy listening to the band at the Byron Bay Hotel who was playing Eagle Rock. We crossed the road and walked down onto the beach where we spotted something like 200 surfers hit the surf and formed a circle. Initially, I’d thought it was a surf school, but then I wondered if it was a funeral or memorial. There’s always something at Byron Bay you can’t quite explain and I just remembered that included a guy we spotted on the street corner known as “Cool” who was about 70 and swirling a hoola hoop while singing along and shaking maracas with a difference…one was a pineapple and the other was a banana.

Our holidays aren’t over yet. So, I’m interested to see what else Byron Bay and this incredible region have in store.

I’ll come back and add more photos once we’re back home. Our Internet connection is not the best here and is frustrating to say the least.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Maitland Thomas Butler WWI – The Brother Who Missed The Boat.

The research road continues today as we meet up with Maitland Thomas Butler, Maud Butler’s older brother. I introduced you to Maud Butler in a previous post: Jack and Maud.

As you may recall, my Great Great Uncle Jack Quealy served in France during WWI and a few months ago I set out to gain a better understanding of what he went through. A sense of moderate urgency was given to the project, because our son will be visiting Europe in a few months’ time on a school history excursion. They’ll be spending ANZAC Day at Villers Bretonneau and I wanted him to be fully informed about our family members who’d served. There were quite a few, especially Geoff’s Great Uncle Ralph French who was killed in action and he is also part of this project.

Jack Quealy WWI

Great Great Uncle Jack Quealy

My attention initially honed onto an entry in GG Uncle Jack’s service records, which showed he was wounded in action in France on the 28th August, 1916. No further details were given and naturally I wanted to know where he was. This seemed relatively simple at the time with all the resources of the World Wide Web at my fingertips.

However, working this out was a lot harder than I’d expected. The information captured in service records is very scant, and doesn’t include the more detailed information a researcher like myself desperately craves. I wanted to know exactly where he was. Find that X marks the spot imprinted the very spot where it happened. To my way of thinking, I also assumed he had to be injured in a battle, and I wanted to know more about that too, along with who he was with and finding tales from or about his mates. The old adage “somewhere in France” simply wasn’t enough. I had to know more. Not getting terribly far, I widened my search and soon found myself swimming well out to sea without a paddle. However, finally, all this research is starting to develop some perimeters, and is taking shape.

Maud Butler AWM Robert Fletcher

Maud Butler in uniform on board the Suevic 1915.

It was this wider search which introduced me to an entire cast of fascinating characters,  including  ship stowaway, Maud Butler, who I’ve already explored in previous posts. On 22nd December, 1915 she stowed away on board HMAT A26 Suevic dressed as a soldier as a desperate effort to get to  the front and serve as a nurse.  I’d hoped GG Uncle Jack had caught the same ship. However, as I’ve already explained, he’d already left on board the Aeneas two days before…another detail which wasn’t easy to come by via the route I used. Much to my disappointment, Maud and Jack weren’t even two ships passing in the night.

While Maud Butler’s story is gripping and also has a complexity which draws me in, I was going to put her to one side and continue my research into the troops themselves. However, not wanting to leave a stone unturned, I wanted to check out her brother’s service records. You never know. I thought he could also have a story to tell.

Indeed, when you read accounts of Maud’s “adventure”, her brother is almost pivotal to the story. Private Les Spriggs mentioned them both in a letter dated 25th January, 1916 from the Aerodrome Camp, Heliopolis, which was published on Wednesday 22 March 1916 in the Wyalong Advocate and Mining, Agricultural and Pastoral Gazette :

“…The first day out at sea there was a girl discovered on board dressed in a uniform. She was trying to get to Egypt to see her brother who was wounded in a hospital. She was put off on to a passing steamer[1].

Maud’s brother was also mentioned in a message in a bottle, which was thrown overboard from the Suevic on the way to the front. The following message was written by Mr. Ted Blakey, of Manly, to his mother and found off the Victorian coast.

“At sea, Saturday, December 25, 1915, 4 p.m. My dear Mum,—I am sending this note by bottle from the Victorian coast. I hope you will get this O.K. We have just finished our Christmas dinner—turkey and pork. Everyone on board is O.K. A girl was found on board dressed as a soldier; she was going to fight with her brother at Gallipoli, Oh, well, good-bye for the present.—I am, your loving son, Ted.[2]

Maud openly denied she was simply going to the front to see her brother. Rather, she spoke about her plans to serve as a nurse after her valiant attempts to sign up with the Red Cross and at Victoria Barracks failed due to inexperience. However, she mentions that her brother is at the front:

“It is not correct that I joined the ship just in sport, to see my brother who is at the front,” said Miss Maud Butler. “My object was to do what I could to help. I wanted to join the Red Cross, and I tried very hard to get accepted. When I failed I bought a khaki suit and stowed away…In fact, it was before my brother went away at all,” continued Miss Butler, who was seen yesterday at the rooms of the Young Women’s Christian Association, “that I wanted to go. He has been at the front for six months.[3]

However, as it turns out, Maud Butler’s brother, Maitland Thomas Butler, was nowhere near the front in December, 1915. While I can’t be sure of his exact whereabouts, I suspect he was living at home with Mum and Dad in Cessnock and working as a miner locally. Born 10th June, 1897 at Coen, Far North Queensland, he was only 18 years old at the time and underage. The legal enlistment age was 21 and men needed to be 19 years of age to go overseas. However, they could get parental consent.

Fast-forwarding to 11th April, 1917, Maitland Thomas Butler enlisted, putting up his age to 21 years one month and also incorrectly stated that “Weston NSW” was his place of birth. However, on 12th April he was “discharged underage” from the Sydney Showgrounds. The stated cause was “letter written by mother”. It looks like his mother had hotfooted it down to Sydney and submitted a statutory declaration stating that “my son Maitland Butler is only 18 years of age. He will be 19 years of age on the 10th June 1917.” It seems a bit rough that a letter from Mum could end the dreams of  a grown man. However, having had her young daughter try to flee overseas to the front, Mrs Rose Butler was clearly putting her foot down. Getting her own troops back in order. As a parent of teenagers myself, I have a great deal of empathy for Rose and Thomas Butler and I can’t help sensing the same iron will and determination in the mother, which was found in the kids.

However, just like sister Maud who didn’t give up on her first attempt and boarded a second troopship in uniform, Maitland Butler didn’t give up on his dream of getting to the front either. On 19th September, 1917 he enlisted again. This time he was more inventive and signed up as “Frank Emerson” at West Maitland. On 19th December, 1917 he embarked for the front onboard A38 Ulysses from Sydney and disembarked on the 13th February, 1918 at Southampton, England.  On 7th July, 1918 he was taken on strength in France by the 2nd Battalion from the 26th reinforcements.

During his time with the 2nd Battalion, Maitland participated in the Allies’ own offensive, launched to the east of Amiens on 8 August 1918. This advance by British and Empire troops was the greatest success in a single day on the Western Front, one that German General Erich Ludendorff described as “the black day of the German Army in this war”. In Mid-September they fought around Menin Road, Belgium which formed part of the wider Third Battle of Ypres. Maitland Butler was later gassed on the 25th September, 1918 rejoining his company on 1st October, 1918. I will expand on his war service at a later date.

Up until this point, you could probably say that Maitland Butler’s service record, while not without its moments, fell inside what you could call the range of “normal soldier behaviour” (a variation on what the kids’ high school refers to as “normal teenage behaviour”). However, not unlike his famous sister and her voyage leaving Australia, Maitland Butler landed in hot water coming home.

ss_euripides_lsOn 6th September, 1919 Maitland Butler embarked for Sydney onboard the Euripides. All went well until he went on shore leave in Durban,  South Africa and failed to return at the end of shore leave on the 1st October. A day later, he was reported AWOL when his ship sailed for Australia at 1318. Almost two weeks later, on 13th October, 1919 he reported to the AIF Office and was charged with:

Charge 1. Neglected to obey troopship orders in that he was not on board HT Euripides at 1318 2.10.19 when she sailed for Australia.

2.AWL from 2200 1.10.19 to 1130 13.10.19 to 1130 13.10.19

He was awarded 168 hours detention & forfeit 28 days pay AA.46.2d by Lt Beveridge in Durban. However, he escaped from escort while being taken to civil gaol for safe custody 1200 and was captured a day later and charged with gambling by the civil police. 12th November, 1919 he embarked in Arrest on S.S. “Chepatow Castle” for Cape Town and four days later he disembaked ex CHEPSTOW CASTLE CAPETOWN & reported to the AIF Depot. Finally, on 20th November, 1919 Maitland Butler embarked onboard HT Nestor for continuation of voyage to Australia & demobilisation.

He was home at last.

After touching base with Maud and Maitland Butler to some extent while out on Research Road, I couldn’t help but parallel their contrasting experiences of travelling to and from the front. Maud went to very great lengths to stowaway on board HMAT 26 Suevic masquerading as a man in soldier’s uniform. Then, there’s her older brother, Maitland Butler, going to equally great lengths to avoid getting onto his ship in Durban and coming home. Either way, the two of them no doubt gave their parents some hefty headaches and they could’ve used a Bex and a good lie down. Or, at the very least, a very strong cup of tea.

Best wishes,

Rowena Curtin

References

[1] Wyalong Advocate and Mining, Agricultural and Pastoral Gazette (NSW : 1900 – 1928), Wednesday 22 March 1916, page 2

[2] Koroit Sentinel and Tower Hill Advocate (Vic. : 1914 – 1918), Saturday 22 January 1916, page 2

[3] Bendigo Independent (Vic. : 1891 – 1918), Wednesday 29 December 1915, page 5

Services records Maitland Thomas Butler.

Wikipaedia.

Last Weekend Coffee Share 2019

Welcome to the Last Weekend Coffee Share for 2019!

My apologies for taking an unscheduled blogging break over the last couple of months. It hasn’t been intentional, and I haven’t fallen off the perch. Rather, I’ve been deeply immersed in a research project which could well turn into a few books, articles and goodness knows what. I’ve also been having serious breathing difficulties from the bush fire smoke. However, that’s cleared up lately. Well, at least it has for me. So much of NSW on fire and it’s absolutely devastating.

As you may recall, I’ve been working on writing up some historically based family stories and while I’d been trying to work through them chronologically, I ended up taking a serious detour and researching a few family members who served in WWI in the Australian Army. Their service records were rather scant and so I’ve filled the gaps by reading letters sent back from the front by other soldiers and I slowly started getting the picture…along with being seriously distracted. I periodically try to remind myself that I’m a writer first researcher second. That while research for research sake can be edifying, that my mission is words on the page. With so many material being available online these days, I find it very easy to move dart around and not actually document my findings as I go. Of course, that’s way more methodical, and like tying  lead weights to your wings , which really slows down the flow. Yet, somehow when you’re writing history, you need to do both. Multitasking has never been my thing. Anyway, that sort of explains where I’ve been.

Geoff Amelia Jonathon

This brings to up-to-date. Time to wish you all a belated Merry and blessed Christmas. What did you get up to? Christmas is such a varied time for people and it can magnify that sense of grief and loss along with feelings of self-doubt and criticism.

Santa and Sticks.jpg

Caught Santa red handed leaving sticks for the pups.

We had a wonderful Christmas Day. We attended Church on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day, we opened presents at home. This year we had our first ever fake Christmas tree, which has taken some getting used to but it was better than nothing and the real real was very expensive this year thanks to drought and bush fires. Our kids are now 15 and 13 and so Christmas has matured with them and we enjoyed something of a sleep-in. We drove down to Sydney to my aunt’s place for Christmas lunch, which the kids invariable spend in the pool. I always pack my swimmers just in case but never get in. I’m too busy listening to family stories and talking. Naturally, food is also a priority and this year I took down my Caramel Nut Tart, which really was a sensation. We also had traditional Plum pudding, hard brandy sauce and custard. It wouldn’t be Christmas without it. This year Mum wasn’t feeling well and didn’t make it to the big family Christmas and Dad left early and had clocked off by the time we reached their place. It’s hard to get everyone coordinated.

Since Christmas Day, I’ve gone into some kind of comatose inert state. All that end of year stress has wiped me out and I feel exhausted and the cogs need to start unwinding and returning to normal. Doing my research or curling up with a book is ideal for this time of year. I’m sure some of you must relate to that!

This brings me to the New Year and that dreadful process of setting goals, making plans and hoping that you’ll wake up January 1 as someone else…an entirely new and improved version of you! It’s never happened before and yet I live in hope. The only trouble is that some of my goals, objectives and fantasies clash with each other. I want the house to organized and clean without spending my entire life doing housework. Indeed, my main goal is to get a book published next year. That one has carried over since forever. Indeed, I might actually get somewhere if I do go with keeping the house clean. It does seem to be more achievable and if you saw our place, you’d be shaking your heads…”Are you really sure about that?!!” I think if I got everyone else to move out, I’d probably succeed on both fronts but I’d be absolutely miserable. As they say on Facebook, life is complicated.

We need to be more organized next year. Our son is going into year 11, which is his second last year of school. So, this place needs to transform from Chaos central into a well oiled machine.  I’ve bought myself a diary and calendar. He’s actually reorganized his room after weeks of refusing to tidy it up. So, that’s looking very promising. We still need to get rid of a lot of stuff.

Anyway, that’s enough talk about being organized. We’ve also been enjoying the festive spirit. Last night, we saw Jumanji with friends and had dinner at a local Chinese restaurant we hadn’t been to before. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy the movie and was mainly going to hang out with my friends. However, I really got into it and it was probably good for me to give a movie all my attention instead of half watching it while I’m researching or writing on my laptop. Dinner at the Chinese restaurant felt like a trip down memory lane. It’s been close to 20 years since I last had dinner at an authentic Chinese restaurant and by that I mean one with the red covered menus and serves Fried Ice Cream. I was full to exploding and yet I had to share a Fried Ice Cream with Geoff for old time’s sake. It was divine.

Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve also been going to trivia nights with a friend and we’ve won a couple of meals and drinks. The categories don’t really suit me. I’m great at history (no surprises there!), but am hopeless at sport and music questions and bomb out completely. However, as a team we perform well and have won a few dinner vouchers and Geoff and I went out for dinner there last Saturday night.

Violin & concert violinist music

The other news is that I performed at my end of year violin concert. This year I played Where Is Love from the musical Oliver. We chose this piece because it wasn’t going to over-stretch me and I was really busy at the end of the year and not in good shape to conquer something challenging. The plan was to play it as a duet. However, the day before I received a text from my teacher saying she was in hospital with a kidney stone, but that I “could do it”. Humph! Fortunately, I was playing the melody for all but one line of the piece and so a tweaked that and said my prayers. The violin can be a  very disagreeable instrument prone to terrible squeaks and it doesn’t care that you have an audience. It likes to remind you who’s the boss. With this in mind, I gave my performance a brief intro and said that I usually go for safety in numbers, but that hadn’t worked out this year. I also mentioned that many of us have asked “Where is love?” or “Where is hope?” “Where is good luck?” Some times, you just need to open your eyes, turn a corner or keep your fingers crossed…like I’m doing now.” Phew! At least I had the audience on side. It didn’t really matter how I played now, although it did and I was told I gave my best performance yet. What a relief.

I’m sorry my thoughts are all over the place tonight. It’s been such a long time since I’ve even checked in on my blog and I had a lot of catching up to do.

Anyway, this has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes and Happy New Year!

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – October 28, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? How has your week been? It’s now Monday morning here for me, which is my usual time for checking in with you after the weekend is done and dusted. I don’t really have much to offer you this morning unless you like a fresh roll with butter and Vegemite on top. Otherwise, you might have to come back later. I’m currently sipping on my cup of English Breakfast Tea, which I re-heated in the microwave after dropping the kids at school and running through the chemist and supermarket. Turns out yet another prescription’s expired. Humph! This is all too much for a Monday morning, especially after things on the home front blew up last night. Like all families, stuff brews for a bit them blows, but it’s not good when more than one person blows at the same time. It’s hard to know how to divide my attention, and not ignore somebody.

Newton Family.JPG

Last week, we drove up to Queensland for my sister-in-law’s wedding on the Gold Coast. It was a beautiful wedding, especially because they’ve both been through a lot and against the odds, they’ve found love again. We had the wedding ceremony on Saturday at 6.00pm and on the Sunday we had what could be described as a post-wedding wake where we met up for lunch at this historic mill site with a large sprawling cafe and an animal farm. It was not only an occasion of catching up with family. I also had some rather deep and probing conversations with a few people, and experienced that sense of delight and disappointment when you meet someone you connect with but doubt you’ll see again. Meanwhile, we were staying with Geoff’s other sister just South of the border at Nureybar, in the hinterland behind stunning Byron Bay. What with going up for the wedding, we didn’t get to go anywhere else, although it was novel to be in the country listening to fruit bats fighting in the fruit trees at night, which to the city person to me sounded rather sinister and macabre.

Lady at Ocean Beach

Lady at Ocean Beach, NSW.

Talking about not getting out and about, that reminds me that our so-called “holiday” was cut short a day after two of the dogs got out and Lady was missing overnight. Geoff had been working on the car to get it ready for the trip and didn’t quite latch the back gate properly. When our daughter went to feed them, she found the gate wide open and Rosie and Lady were gone. Just to compound the difficulties, Lady’s tag had fallen off a few weeks ago and I’ve had a chest infection and hadn’t quite managed to get a new tag. So, while she is microchipped, she didn’t have a tag. Rosie had a tag, but as we later found out, she refused to be caught. So, when they were found on the road, they managed to catch Lady and they dropped her at the vet in the morning and we picked her up. Meanwhile, Rosie arrived back at home about 11.00pm looking absolutely exhausted. She’s a border collie x kelpie and she looked like she’d been running all that time and had well and truly overdone it. While the two dogs were at large, my daughter and I were driving around the streets and stopping off at the beach trying to think like a dog so we could find them. Geoff hit the streets with our other dog, Zac, hoping he’d draw them out. They walked about 10 kilometres without finding any trace of them at all.  It was so eerie being out there. The whole place was just silent. There were very few cars or people out and about although we saw quite a few cats roaming about, their eyes glowing in the headlights. It was like we’d escaped from planet Earth and landed on “Planet of the Cats”. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but it certainly wasn’t “Planet of the Dogs”. Ours were nowhere to be found.

That was enough excitement.

Bridget O'Donnell and children

Meanwhile, I’ve been digging deeper into my family history research along with pursuing that burning question…how did they survive the horrors of the Irish Famine? This branch of my family, the Quealy’s, came from Lisheenfroor, Moyarta, Kilrush, County Clare. I don’t blame you if that all means nothing. Lisheenfroor sounded like somewhere out of an Irish fairytale when I first heard about it too. To put it simply, we’re talking about West Clare and if you’re familiar with the famous etchings of the Famine which appeared in The Illustrated London News, 1849-50 that’s the area I’m talking about. It’s been pretty confronting knowing my ancestors went through all of that and I dread to think of what they saw and experienced themselves, and yet this is what I need to know. I can’t turn my back on what happened. It is a part of me.

miss_kennedy_medium

However, none of that pays the bills. It doesn’t help organize the family and keep the household running smoothly either. Indeed, it has quite the opposite effect. It sends me into my research tunnel and the world around me could disappear. Moreover, to be able to write this all up in any meaningful fashion, I need to go into this tunnel and nut things out. Distraction is clearly distracting, unproductive and to put so much energy into the research without grabbling with all and writing it up is somehow self-destructive. I don’t know if you agree with that. Yet, the cost of getting to the end and getting it all finished, if that is even possible, is very high.

If you’re a writer yourself, perhaps that rings true to you too.

That constant tension between survival in the real world versus knowing what you’re made of and striving towards that elusive creative or storytelling goal.

Anyway, perhaps I should’ve stuck to offering you tea, coffee and a Vegemite roll. Perhaps, you’re chilled, relaxed and don’t grapple with these tensions. Indeed, I could easy walk down to the beach and post a very pretty photo of the golden sand and rolling ocean glistening in the sun. Some times, it’s not a good idea to think. Worse to dream. Just stay in your rat-run and not take the blinkers off.

Rowena Pearl Beach 2018

Here’s a relaxed outdoor shot I prepared earlier. It’s me on the rocks at Pearl Beach, NSW and that beach in the distance is home. 

Meanwhile, Lady our fluffy Border Collie x Cavalier who is losing black clouds of fur as we head into Summer has plonked herself under my desk and on my feet. She tells me not to grapple with anything and sleeping through life in your bed is okay, as long as a cat doesn’t move into your territory. She tells me that it’s okay to plunder food off the table or the bench and that being in a little bit of trouble is worth a tasty morsel in your belly. She also tells me that life is too short to wait until you get it right to tell a story. Start telling and the story will tell itself if it wants to be told.

Deary me. I would never have thought that Lady could be such a fountain of wisdom. Trust me. She keeps it a closely guarded secret stashed behind her gorgeous floppy ears and fluffy coat.

I think that just about covers things here. How about you? What have you been up to lately? I look forward to hearing from you.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

Rosie and ball

PS Rosie insisted I included photo of her.