Right from birth, Karen had never understood her creative, dreamy daughter, Matilda. A marine biologist, her entire world was classified into the natural order of things while Matilda didn’t fit into any category, and she couldn’t get a diagnosis!
“Matilda!” she screamed after stepping on a wet painting.
Battling long covid, now more than ever she questioned:“Why couldn’t I have a normal child?”
Karen fell into her chair, immediately leaping to her feet. The neck of Matilda’s violin had snapped like a dead man hanging from a noose, and Karen had become “The Scream”.
I was delighted to see this week’s prompt as I play the violin, although I stop well short of calling myself a violinist these days. Practice had dropped off before my lessons stopped during covid, but I’ve been picking it up a bit again lately and am practicing Peter Allen’s hit: “I Still Call Australia Home”. My mother used to play it on the piano and I’m wanting to play it with her and I really do love the words of the song.
When I was growing up, Mum would occasionally lose patience with the eccentricity of the rest of us and ask: “Why can’t this family be normal?” Mum played things pretty much by the book but the rest of us didn’t even know where to find it. As it turned out, in my mid-20’s I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus and had a shunt inserted to sort things out. Being creative, I wasn’t exactly “fixed” but I was a new improved version of myself and at least I wasn’t falling over all the time.
It wouldn’t surprise me if my husband had told me not to leave my violin on a chair in case someone sat on it; and I’m probably lucky my violin’s still in one piece.
Another week has just rushed past like an express train and I’m struggling to remember what happened. Or, perhaps it was more a case of being hit on the head a few times and I’m struggling to get my bearings. That’s probably more like it, because I haven’t exactly been busy in the traditional sense. More like hyper-distracted. Indeed, I’ve acquired a new, and very addictive distraction which involves shopping online at Salvo Stores. I’ve included a few of my more extraordinary finds for you to check out:
To be honest, I’ve needed a fair bit of distraction lately. Or, perhaps the reverse is true and that by distracting myself, I’m only shooting myself in the foot and now is actually the time to be uber-focused, vigilant and pedantically one-track minded. I don’t know but before this cryptic conversation with myself goes any further, I probably should spill the beans and bring you into the picture.
I’m not sure about how much I’ve said about what’s going on with my health atm. I have an auto-immune disease, dermatomyositis (DM) and associated fibrosis in my lungs, which is known as Interstitial Lung Disease (ILD). I developed the DM after the birth of my daughter and have been living with it for 17 years. The ILD developed about 10 years ago and had been largely contained but the fibrosis has gradually increased. The theory is that as long as the DM is in remission, the lungs will be stable. All was going well until a mix up with a script cut my medication in half and unlike many other scripts, I didn’t manage to lose this one. Bugger! Consequently, my autoimmune disease flared up a bit. IN the meantime, I had a respiratory virus in December and covid in January. Yet, I seemed to recover and had a wonderful time in January catching ferries and walking extensively around Sydney. So it’s hard to understand how I came to fall on my sword and end up so sick and desperately short of breath and my lung capacity dropping from 50% to 30% Not only that, I suddenly became my lung specialist’s best friend as he started exploring and sharing my case. That obviously spells TROUBLE!! Yet, at the same time, I’ve set out fiercely determined to heal myself. I’m going for a 10 minute walk most days and using a device called a respiratory exerciser where you inhale and try to raise three blue balls off the ground. At first, I could only raise one but now I’m getting the third one up some of the time and that has to be a good sign. We are also praying. I would probably prefer to pray for God to wave a magic wand and instant make me better. However, he has a wonderful sense of humour and I know I have to do my share too and that’s the exercise. I should also do more singing. After all it’s singers, swimmers and brass players who give me hope because they can end up with above average lung capacity. So, instead of trawling through the Salvo Stores I should be singing all night.
We had a very special day today. Our daughter auditioned for a local youth performing arts show with the dance school she attends and we were able to watch. She appeared in three classical ballet dances: a trio, a duo and her ballet solo. She is always amazing and naturally looks the part with her physique which is a stroke of genetic fortune (especially considering I am about 10-15cm taller than her). However, none of this comes on a platter and there’s a lot of hard work and she lives and breathes ballet with a passion.
I was particularly delighted to see the new duo for the first time which she performs with a young man she’s known forever at the studio and I guess this for me is what ballet is all about and it really is like she’s finally arriving after starting ballet 14 years ago as a three year old and there’s that graduation from flats, to pointe shoes, doing solos, getting your first real (expensive) tutu and then there’s that magical connection in a good duo which is sensational. They might not be Torvill and Dean of the dance world in other people’s eyes, but they were to me and they were spectacular.
After the audition, we went out for lunch across the road. That was also truly special and not something we do terribly often.
Have you read any good books lately? I am currently reading “Seven Poor Men of Sydney” by Australian author Christina Stead. It’s largely set in Watson’s Bay on Sydney Harbour but is quite a dark tale and perhaps not the best thing for me to be reading with the state of my lungs. However, Stead’s characters are generally lonely misfits and I’m immersed in family and community so my lifestyle is very different. The book is very philosophical, which I love and Stead writes beautifully and there’s plenty of underlining throughout which is my mark of a great book. Here are a few of my underlinings:
“Who does not wish to spend his life in communion with himself?”
“You can be absorbed in Nature, as-as in the sea, as if you melted into the sea and were diffused through the oceans of the earth. There is peace where her mysteries are an open book to you; in her inmost recesses she has perfect peace, even for the most fevered.”
I have 50 pages left, which is too much to polish it off tonight but at the same time, I’m on that downhill run where I’m eager to follow all the threads and reach the end, even though I will miss it when it’s done.
Meanwhile, I’ve also been researching her father, naturalist David G. Stead and he led me astray onto a whole different journey as he was a naturalist and conservationist and he wrote a series of articles in the children’s section of a Sydney newspaper which make for interesting reading. His column was called “The Great Outdoors” and was narrated using the voice of an emu called Dirrawan. Stead was rather broad in his understanding of the great outdoors and one of his early columns gives a detailed account of mud sediments at the bottom of the ocean, especially at the deepest part of the ocean in the Marianna Trench, which is clearly well away from the Australian outdoors. Anyway, I’ve managed to download the text from the online newspapers after undertaking text corrections and they’re now getting a further clean up as the analysis begins. This has also been a brilliant distraction.
So, how are things with you going? No doubt, I should’ve asked you that at the outset and offered you “coffee, tea or bonox” as my mother would say. However, I got a bit carried away. So, please forgive me.
This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer.
PS I almost forgot to mention that Miss and I decorated our new phone cases this week. This is an idea she picked up from Tik Tok where you cover the cover the back of the cover in tiling plaster and stick objects into it like a collage. It was so much fun and I was really happy with the results even if they’re not the most practical phone cases around.
I often wonder where these photo prompts were taken and try to bring that into the story somehow. That said, I am often stumped. However, this week I have an advantage because I took the photo. It was taken in Rose Bay, on Sydney Harbour and there were a few alleyways of shops to explore and I think Rochelle would like it there as I spotted a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel and there’s an significant Jewish community there. Unfortunately, I was too late in the day for the bagel but I hope to head back soon. I am yet to post about my trip to Rose Bay. I lived there in a flat with my parents for the first couple of years of my life. If you feel like a virtual trip, click here: Rose Bay
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff Fields at Addicted to Purple.
Right now, I feel like I could poor a bucket of ice right over my head. Apparently, it’s 22°C and by rights I shouldn’t be complaining because the mercury is going to hit 36 °C later today. However, I’ll blame Zac the dog who is sleeping on my lap for blazing like a furnace and if it weren’t for him, I’d also elevate myself out of the chair and nab the remote control for the air-conditioning and turn it back on. Forget being stoic and developing resilience and grit. I want comfort!
The highlight of the last week was catching up with some school friends for dinner at the Butcher’s Block in Wahroonga, Sydney. Coincidentally, it turns out we were meeting up with our friend Natalie who moved to Toronto, Canada and I’ve always found it kind of nice that I get a window into my friend’s world in Toronto through our intrepid host, Natalie the Explorer. There were ten of us for dinner and a number couldn’t make it, which I think you really notice with school friends because we used to hang out in pairs, within groups and while some of these allegiances changed over the years, there were those friends who made it all the way through and almost became an institution. I went to an all-girls school and while that didn’t preclude a romantic attachment, I haven’t heard of any but we certainly had no boys to couple up with although there was the school gardener who was rather young, handsome, blond and considered hot property at least on the bus. Fortunately, none of my close school friends have passed away but a number keep to themselves and I haven’t seen some truly close friends for over 10-20 + years. Indeed, putting that into words really paints an awful picture and I feel almost honourbound to get fired up and do something about it. Not all of these friends are real social and of course “we’re all busy”, but I think sometimes we need to exit stage left and leave all of that behind…the lists, the mess, the family obligations and say I am going to see you. I am going to make room for that coffee with a friend, a dinner, a weekend away. I’m not going to let the people who matter most to me get drowned out by weeds. Of course, it’s a bit harder when they don’t make the time. Don’t feel the need or desire to have coffee with you or even to return an email or text. You are in the past dead and buried. Well, as they say, “that’s their loss”. What I will say, is that I truly appreciate our school reunions and the opportunity to make new friends or strengthen various friendships which sort of hovered beneath the radar back at school. While in a sense these school friendships are in the past, there’s something really special about them. Well, that’s what I think anyway. You’re thrown into a lift together and under each other’s noses, arm pits the works with these often very strange creatures called teachers and rules and regulations, especially in our case, which often didn’t make sense. I started at the school in Year 6 back in 1981 so we’re not talking about the era of the horse and cart here, but we had to wear leather satchels to school and we also had to use cartridge ink pens. While the satchel sounds bad, inflicting ink pens on kids when biros are freely available was sadistic. How could they? We weren’t allowed to walk on the grass. Couldn’t go into a shop in school uniform or talk to boys either (which probably should’ve gone at the top of my list of prohibitions!!) Thank goodness, we’d been spared wearing gloves, but we did have to wear hats, which I’m sure had nothing to do with sun protection, especially the Winter Tam-o-shanter which made for fabulous frisbees at the train station and it was nothing for them to take flight and go on all sorts of unplanned adventures on their own. Clearly, you had to be there to appreciate the place in all it’s glory, which is probably much the same for every school although for different reasons and why school friends become a kind of survival network. If you can get through school together, you can conquer the world.
So let me propose a toast to absent friends and an open invitation for them all to come home.
Meanwhile, I’m still writing up my posts from my houseminding stint in Sydney and still going on massive research detours. You might recall that I visited Watson’s Bay on Sydney Harbour and started reading Christina Stead’s novel: “Seven Poor Men of Sydney” which was set there back in the 1920s. Indeed, she lived there from 1911-1928. Well, I’m very passionate about biography and family history and so I started pouring through the old newspapers putting all that background together and was fascinated by her father, David Stead, who was a noted naturalist who was an expert in Australian fish and actively campaigned for the preservation of Australia’s native plants and animals at least as early as the 1920[‘s. He’s speaking out about koalas being killed for their furs, women wearing the feathers of exotic birds in their hats and I guess the thing that really struck me was there were tigers roaming through Singapore only 100 years ago. Indeed, his writings provide a terrifying reflection of a world we’re coming close to destroying. Yet, he was blowing the whistle over 100 years ago. Much not only to think about there, but to act on as well!
Meanwhile, the while all of that’s been going on, there’s my health which has been refusing to lie down in the background and is still trying to push me out of the way on centre stage crying: “Look at me!” Or, more pertinently “Listen to me” be it a cough, choke or shortness of breath. I think the increased prednisone is helping and the coughing has really calmed down a lot. I was able to catch the train to dinner and got through the night without mishap so I’m feeling pretty chuffed. I even got to wear my red high heels, although I managed to slip them on when I arrived and hide the dreaded flats in my bag. That’s the beauty of being first to arrive and the bathroom was conveniently right behind my seat. Surely, even I couldn’t trip over and break my neck taking only a couple of steps (You bet I could but thank goodness it didn’t happen this time.) Mind you, I could also ask why I felt compelled to wear the flashy red shoes at all when they were hiding under the table almost all of the night (Of course, I had to point them out, didn’t I ?!!)
This week I have more medical appointments, but excitingly it’s our son, J.P.’s birthday on Wednesday. He’s turning 19. My goodness time is flying.
Well, I’d better head off to bed and hope by some miracle it’s cooler in there than it is out here with the dog. I know I’ll be complaining about the cold before too long, so I’ll try to be thankful instead.
On that note, what have you been up to? I’d love to hear from you and look forward to catching up on your news.
Hugo recently moved out, and his flat mate Maddy was initiating him into the cruel hard world of the local laundromat.
“Why can’t you just upload your washing and download it when it’s done? You can do everything else online.”
“OMG, Hugo! You’re such a Neanderthal. Doing your own washing is all part of becoming a responsible adult. You’re 18. Time to embrace DIY! Besides, why do you think I come here? Or, didn’t you notice we have our own washing machine? Going to the laundromat is so much more than doing your laundry.
While we’re still at Cremorne Point, I thought I’d introduce you to the Robertson’s Point Lighthouse. Just to clarify any confusion, Robertson’s Point is the original name of Cremorne Point and the lighthouse is located in Athol Wharf Road.
Constructed in 1909, Robertson’s Lighthouse is identical to the lighthouse located at nearby Bradley’s Head near Taronga Zoo and very cute. Ideally, I would’ve walked down to see it close up, but with my mobility questionable I decided against it, especially as you need to walk down (and up) a ladder to get there. So, these photos were taken from the ferry to Mosman Bay.
While the lighthouse itself is very photogenic, it also has a great back story. Although postcard Sydney is always blue skies and sunshine, Sydney Harbour also gets a lot of fogs which can make navigation difficult. While it seems hard to believe now, ferries used to get lost in the harbour prior to the light house. Indeed, on the 24th November, 1908 the Australian Star reported:
The decision of the, Harbor Trust Commisioners to place a powerful’ light in Cremorne Point has not been made a moment too soon. In foggy weather Mosman’s Bay has been a difficult place to find. On very dark nights the low-lying headland looms up threateningly, and the ferrymaster has to pick up his course from the lights on the hills beyond. Just how the skippers in the old days fared without hardly a guiding light to give them the cue to their position can be imagined. Someday, perhaps, a genius will invent a light that will completely pierce our wintry logs, and then the spectacle or ferryboats bound around Bradley’s bringing up in Rose Bay, and others from Neutral Bay or Mosman finding themselves in Farm Cove instead of in Circular Quay, will be events of the past.” 1.
Golly, so hard to imagine a ferry getting lost these days as they manoeuvre their way around the harbour and I even photographed ferries chugging along through the fog and rain myself and they were staying on course.
By the way, if you go down to the lighthouse at night, you could well hear the animals across at Taronga Park Zoo. Miss was down there for a midnight walk and could hear the elephants and the seals. That would’ve been extraordinary.
Well, I’m going to keep moving as this was only a quick stopover today.
Australian Star (Sydney, NSW : 1887 – 1909), Tuesday 24 November 1908, page 4
How are you? I hope you’ve had a good couple of weeks. For those of you on the Northern side of the equator, I hope you’re not counting your Spring chickens before they hatch! I’m not quite ready to give up on Summer yet.
The big news here last week was that Miss turned 17 on Friday. Naturally, we had to roll out the red carpet or at least get her presents wrapped and bake a cake. I asked her what she wanted for a cake and she chose Key Lime Pie, and I suspect I’ve actually eaten most of it. I managed to get her an eclectic assortment of things along with her main gift which was active wear from Eckt. She lives in dance and gym wear so it made good sense. Of course, so many memories flood your mind on birthdays…the ghosts of cakes and parties past and memories of that very special baby when they first entered the world with nothing but a cry and how you loved them more than life itself.
The other news was that I went down to Sydney for an appointment with my lung specialist on Tuesday, which went reasonably well and on the way home we visited my Mum and Dad. We haven’t seen much of them since covid and they’re still being very cautious and largely keep to themselves. There’s Romeo’s Pies near the hospital and Mum has a really special connection with the ladies who work there. When I last bought pies for her the, they drew bright happy faces on the boxes and were so friendly. They just adore my mum.
So I thought I’d get them more pies and hopefully more lovely messages while I was there. Well, they didn’t disappoint and they were soooo lovely. It’s a shame mum wasn’t there to hear them herself but they wrote on the box again for her. How precious is that!!! They were such an inspiration to me and a reminder that kindness isn’t rocket science.
Meanwhile, I’m back to posting the photos I took while we were house minding at Cremorne Point on Sydney Harbour. I realized I’d got badly derailed doing what was supposed to be background research on Watson’s Bay and a few weeks I think had gone by and I realized I’d dug myself quite the rabbit warren and disappeared completely. So, I put that on hold and wrote up about walking down to MacCallum Pool via Cremorne Reserve. Of course, I couldn’t resist looking for some background stories there either and I found quite a few interesting goings on at the pool which I’m yet to post. So many stories, so little time!
Lastly, I’ll leave you with a photo taken around sunset yesterday locally at Hardy’s Bay. Obviously, it’s very muted especially compared to the very dramatic sunsets I photographed in Sydney. The sun is currently setting behind the hills on the left and there wasn’t much colour to be seen. At the same time, this softer sunset was peaceful and relaxing in a Monet kind of way.
After going for a short walk along the jetty, we ran into some friends who were having a pizza picnic on the foreshore and we joined them for a few hours. I was fully engaged in conversation and oblivious to the lights illuminating the darkness behind me looking stunning. How could I miss them? Humph! I miss a lot of things.
Anyway, it’s time for me to get to bed now. It’s already Monday.
Well, I hope you’ve had a great weekend and I look forward to catching up on your news.
“Friggin’ heck,” Dad blasted. “Look at ya sister. She’s a star, and you can’t even kick the ball.”
Timmy just stood frozen on the spot and tried to let his father’s insults bounce off. Dad and his father before him had both played Rugby League for Australia. “How did I end up with this runt of the litter who loves maths?” He said. “Must’ve been switched at birth.”
The smokes had killed his dad before he’d become Dr Tim James – the first Australian in space.
None of his mates ever understood why he never watched the footy.
This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields at Addicted to Purple.
As I’ve mentioned before, we were house minding at Cremorne Point on Sydney Harbour for three weeks in January, which gave us quite an opportunity to see my home city as a tourist would, cramming as much as we could through the ever shrinking hour glass. Having been caught up with parenting for many years and then covid, extended lockdowns and self-imposed isolation due to my health; it felt like an eternity since we’d been to most of these Sydney landmarks and we were definitely out there to carpe diem seize the day. Moreover, with the ferry wharf conveniently down the road, the thrill of catching ferries and almost immersing ourselves in our beautiful harbour, they became our compass.
We left Circular Quay and were poised out on the deck with the wind in our hair and thriving on the exhileration as the ferry gained pace amd we left the Sydney Harbour Bridge behind.
Not unsurprisingly, catching the Manly Ferry was our first extended ferry trip. Catching the ferry to Manly has always been a very Sydney thing to do and the ferry makes the beach accessible to those living further afield. The ferry trip itself is also out of this world heading East through the harbour with spectacular 360 degree views. Then, you cross the Sydney Heads. That can get very lively with the ferry swooning up and down and chances are you’ll get wet, but its thrilling all the same. Wouldn’t miss it, especially for the safety of an inside seat. Boring!
I have so many memories of catching the Manly Ferry. There’s footage of me on Super 8 film catching the Manly Ferry when I was about five, which I still sort of remember. I also went to Manly as a teenager with friends and I remember buying Chinese food by the plate load on the famous Corso in a variation on the usual “chew and spew”, “all you can eat” venues which were around at the time. My best friend also lived in Collaroy and was forever catching the Manly Ferry back home after a night out on the town. Recently, my friend’s parents told me about how they’d met at Manly Beach years ago and there was such a sparkle in their eyes…happy days!
Manly wasn’t quite so perfect the day we went. There was quite a strong wind blowing and Ocean Beach was punctuated with signs warning “Dangerous Current”. When the lifesavers left for the day, everyone was even ordered out of the water, which seemed fairly exceptional. The beach was officially closed…even to idiots who didn’t care about sacrificing their own lives and taking their hapless rescuers with them.
The currents weren’t the only dangers we encountered in Manly. There were the seagulls, and before you burst out laughing about me being afraid of measly little seagulls, these weren’t your ordinary sea gulls. They were sea gulls on steroids, veritable terrorists swoop diving and snatching bits of our kebabs right out of our hands. They were an absolute menace! I’ve encountered pushy sea gulls before. You know the ones who puff themselves up, look real bossy and squawk like a union boss. They were nothing compared to this gang of thugs. The most aggressive of these sea gulls actually had no feet but was so annoyingly menacing, we had no pity. This was war. We were sitting on the steps down to Ocean Beach at the time and I seriously considered moving away. They were horrid!
Anyway, here I am listing Manly’s faults when I’m usually much more sunny side up. So, let me reverse back a bit and return to Circular Quay so we can take catch the ferry together and start over and return to Manly Cove where the ferry pulled in.
I’m going to do a bit of a very basic walk around Manly in a separate post.
Meanwhile, we’re going to catch the ferry back to Circular Quay. By now, sunset was approaching and the light was doing its magic and performing all sorts of tantalising tricks. I was smitten, but then again. I’m an easy target.
Unfortunately, I’d managed to get salt crystals on the lens on the way over, and while they didn’t show up on many of the shots, they were very noticeable photographing into the sunset and unfortunately I lost many good shots. Such is life, as a photographer. Lady Luck doesn’t always work in your favour and there are inevitably disappointments and lessons for next time.
All too soon, the Sydney Harbour Bridge came into view and ever closer welcoming us back to Circular Quay. Even though I saw The Bridge multiple times a day while we were staying in Sydney, I was still in awe. She is absolutely incredible.
Good night, Sydney. Sleep well.
Have you ever caught the Manly Ferry? Do you have any special memories? I’d love to hear from you.
Before you answer, how about you pull up a chair and I’ll wait on you hand and foot delivering up your choice of tea, coffee or Bonox. We can also get stuck into a packet of scrumptious Tim Tams. I know I’m not always the greatest host, and I’ve repeatedly nattered away without even asking how you’re going. So please make the most of the new me while it lasts.
The big development here this week is that our daughter, the inimitable Miss, went back to school on Wednesday going into Year 12, which is her final year at school. The start of the new school year is always a jolt. Holiday’s over. Time to face the music and get back to the real world. Or, at the very least, ensure she has a clean uniform and doesn’t run late on the first day. I ticked both of those boxes and much to my delight, she also agreed to have her photo taken before we took off. Could I be so lucky?!!
Returning to school, also means a return to dance.
I have to admit, I’m really looking forward to her getting her driver’s licence so I can hang up my taxi driver’s hat and stay glued on the couch.
Our son, JP, is still in holiday mode and having a trial run on a sound engineering job next Saturday night. We will be driving him to and from which means we’ll be picking him up from Wyong an hour away at 1.00am. So we’re really excited about him getting his driver’s licence too.
Meanwhile, I’ve been working flat out posting photos and accompanying stories from my three week stint house minding at Cremorne Point on Sydney Harbour. it’s taking a lot long than expected as I really jampacked a lot into some days and I’m doing multiple posts for these days. I am starting to wonder if I’ll ever get to the end. If you’d like to check out these posts, you can just scroll backwards from here.
While there are no doubt sports enthusiasts among you, I ended up watching an international ballet competition called the Prix de Lausanne through the week. Although Miss has been doing ballet for years, I’d never heard of the Prix de Lausanne, but my friend’s son was competing and I found myself rather enjoying and intrigued by the live stream. I don’t pretend to understand much about ballet, but I try. What I found interesting about this competition, is they also have classes and these are livestreamed so it allows dancers and teachers all around the world to tap into and absorb this expert advice and apply it to themselves. I was also delighted that another Australian dancer, Emily Sprout was competing and she did extremely well and was awarded a prize. Congratulations Emily! You can see her classical solo here if you’re interested.