Category Archives: Parenting

Weekend Coffee Share -18th June, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Rather than joining me for coffee at my place, today I thought you might like to join me down at the San Antonio Bakery in Kirribilli. It’s right across the road from the stairs taking you up onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge. By the way, you might want to bring a bit of sun and the Northern Hemisphere Summer with you. It was a cheek-smacking 15°C (59° F) there today. Mind you, I must have Viking blood because yours truly sat outside this afternoon to soak up the Kirribilli charm, although I did wrap myself up in one of their blankets. By the way, the food there is amazing and I’ve indulged in a few of their delights. Today, I had a sort of nut crumble topping on a Nutella tart. The texture of the topping was fairly complex with a combination of seeds and nuts. The pasty was perfect and you can’t go wrong with Nutella.

Harbour Bridge Stairs

A wet day in Kirribilli. You can just make out the steps leading up onto the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

While I was there, I pulled out my notebook and simply started jotting. Kirribilli is a rather rustic part of Sydney with Victorian terraces heading down to the wharf and Sydney Harbour. If you were had bionic strength, you could throw a stone from Kirribilli Wharf straight through the Opera House windows if you were feeling like getting arrested and being rather unpopular.

As I said, I started jotted. A cold wind was blowing straight off the Harbour and round the corner blowing the Autumn leaves in the trees across the road. I was quite mesmerised by the fluttering leaves, although perhaps that was because the rest of me was snap frozen.

Of course, any sensible soul would’ve sat inside, but I wanted to experience Kirribilli. Be a part of it, and feel its breath blowing against my neck, even though it was freezing and giving me a different kind of goosebump experience.

However, my reasons for being in Sydney today weren’t social. After crossing the lung specialist off the list for the next three months, I was off to the gastroenterologist to see if he could do anything to get rid of The Cough. Well, he was full of ideas and conferred with the lung specialist on the mobile and they managed to cut it down to an endoscopy and colonoscopy. It’s not til August so I don’t need to get too excited about it yet. Some people go on a cruise, I’m cruising on off to the hospital. One thing I do know, is that a friend’s wife with MS died of bowel cancer because the early signs were dismissed. It’s important to keep in mind that things can always get worse and not to be complacent or in some kind of la-la land of uninformed positive thinking.

Anyway, aside from all that medical stuff today, there have been some great highlights during the last week.

Firstly, on Saturday my husband and I drove our daughter and friends up to perform in Starstruck at the Newcastle Entertainment Centre, about 1.5 hours North of here. This showcases school talent in the performing arts, and our daughter appeared in two dance numbers with the Year 7 dance troupe. I have to be honest and say that during their performance, I only had eyes for her. She was like a twinkling star, and as much as their was that immense pride in watching her perform, I was also dumbstruck. She didn’t get any of this from her father or myself. Sometimes, you’ve got to wonder whether God can be a bit random in how he allocates gifts and interests. That, or he has a very good sense of humour!

scouts prepared

 

Also on Saturday, we dropped our son off for an overnight Scout Camp and something like a 17km hike. That meant he was sleeping in a tent in this freezing Winter weather, which as my Dad would say, puts hairs on your chest. They had to carry everything in, and everything out so it was quite a credit to him. The hike ended at the local tip and the backpack went straight into the car and tales of aching feet, back, neck began to unfold. Clearly, he went to great lengths to avoid going to his sister’s dance concert, and we’re proud of his efforts.

Meanwhile, with our daughter at an evening performance and our son away at camp, Geoff and I ventured out for dinner at Mum’s cousin’s restaurant Talulah at The Junction in Newcastle. This place has become a bit of a rock to me when visiting Newcastle and I think I’ve been there about 3 times in the last couple of years. I remember going up to Newcastle for family get togethers. My grandparents initially lived there, and then we went up to see mum’s aunt and her family and there were 21sts, weddings, birthdays, christenings and unfortunately too many funerals of loved ones who died before their time. The family home was sold years ago, so the restaurant gives me some kind of bearings, and there’s an old piano in there which I wrote into a story a few years back. I don’t know if it came from the family. Or, was simply found beside the road, but it’s over 100 years old and it tells a thousand stories, despite staying silent. There’s also a Cenotaph outside the restaurant where a soldier stands to attention. He looks like he’s standing over the place and looking out for us. Goodness knows we’ve needed it at times. Apparently, the pigeons poop all over him, and doesn’t show him an ounce of respect.

I’m not real good as a food writer, especially when I don’t take notes at the time. However, each mouthful had such a burst of flavour and the meal was very refreshing. The ambiance was also fantastic. Quite aside from the fact that we’re family, Talulah feels like a stylish yet casual family home with appealing paintings throughout and fresh, modern decor. It’s a fun place to be and I could feel the stresses of life fall away, although I was also rather conscious of a growing list of “absent friends”. You can read a review Here

Before I move on from Talulah, I just wanted to share about our navigation difficulties, which you could say are something of a feature of our marriage. Geoff drives the car. I navigate. Unfortunately, this division of labour is driven by necessity, not ability and I have no shame in admitting that I could get lost in our own driveway. However, when it comes to navigating our way through Newcastle, I’m back being a kid in the back seat of the Holden and Dad’s driving through the streets without a map saying he only needs to go somewhere once and he can find his way back again. Of course, this boast was filled with bravado and a bit of cheek, but it was true. Moreover, it did sting a bit as I couldn’t direct Geoff to Talulah using Google maps even though I’d been there three times before. Geoff turned down Darby Street and from there, we zigzagged back and forth desperately hoping to see a spark of familiarity but seemingly driving deeper and deeper into the maze. Both of us were getting frustrated and it came very close to simply driving home, but we persevered. Quite frankly, I don’t understand why they don’t have signs set up specially for my visit…”Rowena turn here!” It would’ve made it so much easier.

In terms of blogging, I posted two more family history stories. Firstly, there was Fire in North Sydney…Grandma & the Mosman Bomber. The next one focused on my difficulties to finding my 3rd Great Grandmother, Maria Bridget Flanagan’s, name of birth: Digging Up More Family Bones. I’m hoping that by posting this info in my blog, that I might flush out the answers.

Getting these stories written up, is feeling great. I’m gaining more confidence in my ability to weigh up quite a mass of data, and actually get a story onto the page. As far as I’m aware, the data is well researched and documented, which is just as important in my mind as a good story.

Lastly, I wrote a story revolving around food for this week’s contribution to Friday fictioneers: Madame Cuisinier.

Well, I’m sorry for talking at you for so long. Clearly, there’s been a lot on and all the chatter in my head has spewed onto the screen. Thank you for listening and being there for me tonight. It’s much appreciated and I look forward to popping round to catch up on your week.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Family History Uncovered… Broken-Hearted Ivy Sues for Breach of Promise.

If you haven’t got stuck into the realms of family history, you don’t know what you’re missing out on. Murder, intrigue, theft, broken hearts…I’ve stumbled across the lot, mostly through the online newspapers. Indeed, I haven’t needed to ply elderly relatives with sherry. It’s all been there in black & white, and for better or worse, I’ve been a fly on the wall.

However, while there’s that excitement of stumbling across a bit of intrigue or scandal, I’m also mindful of respecting the people involved. Needing to be understanding, compassionate and above all else, ethical. Remind myself that these details appearing in the news, only represent a brief snapshot of the person’s life. Moreover, the news only reports on the sensational, and not the hum drum everyday. So, it’s far from representational.

This then raises the issue of whether such stories from the past are better left alone, buried in between the lines of text. Or, if there’s any point bringing it all back to life…

My view is, that we can learn quite a lot about ourselves and about life, from the ups and downs of our ancestors and their extended family and social networks. Moreover, since these people share at least some of our DNA, these life lessons are much more tailor-made and geared towards our make-up, and potentially much more relevant than something you’d read in a book. These people might not be us, but they’re at least part of that complex very populated DNA soup, which contributes to who we are.

Yesterday, I went back to 1857 sharing the story of a gripping fight, which took place on Sydney’s North Shore between Thomas Waterhouse, and a menacing thug known as “One-Eyed Bourke”.

Today, I’m sharing another story from my family history treasure trove. Today, I’m bringing you the love story of Ivy and Jack. Well, love story might not be the best way to describe their relationship, because after promising to marry Ivy many times and even after having a baby together, Jack kept Ivy dangling on a string while he started to pursue Paula Muller, who ultimately became his wife. Bastard. Naturally, I’m backing Ivy here, but someone also needs to speak up for Baby Jack as well. Baby Jack’s time on earth was very brief, and at this point I don’t know how long he survived, but it wasn’t long. However, while his father paid for Ivy’s confinement and was at least okay for them to be known as Mr & Mrs Berecry, when it came to actually filling out the registration papers, he balked and baby Jack didn’t get his father’s name. He was registered as “John Wilson” and the space for his father, was left blank. He wouldn’t acknowledge his own son.

Meanwhile, Ivy was left not only with a deep sense of heartbreak, but also the shame of being a “fallen woman”. The sense of limbo of their baby not having his father’s name, and trying to put that right even though their baby was dead.

While you are reading through Ivy and Jack’s story, I thought you ‘d enjoy listening to Phil Davidson singing: Broken Things. It’s

Valentine 1910

I have questioned whether to reproduce this story, and then wondered whether to change the names. However, it’s all there in the online newspapers. It wasn’t told me in confidence. Moreover, this story clearly illustrates just how much our dating culture has changed in a hundred years. I can’t see too many modern daughters submitting to their mother’s wishes regarding who they can date etc. A single parent is now also commonplace. I think it’s important to consider how things have changed. I’d also like my kids to think about who they’re dating, how to treat them and also how they should be treated. While suing someone for breach of promise sounds a bit ridiculous these days, the fact that we can no longer trust a person’s word, is cause for reflection. That’s hardly what I’d call “progress”.

Lastly, I should just point out my family connection with Ivy Wilson. Her mother was my Great Great Grandmother’s sister. We had a John Johnston who married Maria Bridget Flanagan and their daughter, Mary Anne married Thomas Charles Wilson, and had two children Thomas and Emma Ivy Wilson. My grandmother spoke of Mary Anne and how she had a beautiful singing voice.

So, without any further ado, here’s one of the many newspaper reports from the day…

my heart is yours

Enter a caption

BERECRY BACKS DOWN.

LEAVES HIS LASS LAMENTING But Ivy with the Broken Heart

Chases Her Carpenter to Court And Gets a Verdict for £200.

A sanguine-looking young man, arrayed in his working suit, named John Patrick Berecry, a contracting carpenter of Folly Point, was the defendant in an action brought against him at the District Court on Monday and Tuesday, before Judge Murray and a Jury of four, by a young woman named Emma Ivy Wilson of Collins-street, North Sydney, for breach of promise. The jilted one, who was but 21 years of age, three years younger than the loveless swain, claimed £400. Mr. Coyle and Mr. Alroy Cohen, instructed by Mr. J. W. Abigail, appeared for the plaintiff, while Mr. Breckenridge, instructed by Mr. Reynolds, appeared for the defendant. Berecry, in his answer to the plaint, denied the promise of marriage, and said that Ivy Emma was not always willing to marry; and further, that they agreed to rescind the alleged contract. Ivy Emma Wilson, a slender young woman of attractive appearance, living at home with her mother at North Shore, said she was introduced to Berecry by her brother at a picnic at Balmoral Beach at Eight Hour Day, 1907. She was 16 then, and had just finished her education at a girls’ boarding-school. Berecry was invited to a musical evening at her home, and her mother consenting, they kept company for a couple of years. Then, in December, 1909, they became engaged, and he gave her a ring, it being agreed that the wedding would take place on her reaching 21. In January, 1911, she went to Trundle for a couple of months, returning in March. About the end of that month Berecry seduced her, and the intimacy was continued right up to the following November, when a child was born. The infant, however, died shortly after birth. That same night Berecry called at the house, and told both the doctor and the nurse that plaintiff was his wife, but afterwards when a certificate had to be filled in, he retracted it. Some months after this, Berecry keeping her company as usual, she fell ill, and went to the hospital, and afterwards went away to Boggabri for the good of her health. Berecry saw her off. but by this time his PASSION HAD COOLED, for he never wrote to her, nor answered any of her letters. Before this, however, he could write her loving letters a yard long, and one of a bunch ran as follows; — Folly Point, Tuesday. My darling Ivy, — Just few lines to let know that I would wrote before but I was home to late on Monday night from the meeting. I hope you are getting on all right and soon be better for I miss you so no where go and I can’t enjoy myself without you. Now loving Bi Bi you are going to give up dancing and you will tell George that you do not want him any more. I gave up Flo and sis for you and I would give up hundred girls for you if will be true to me. Dear love I am going to keep you to your word and go to church every Sunday for about three years and will go one day Miss Wilson and come home Mrs. Berecry….

I was going up to Tom to-night to help to make some picture frames, but I was too tired. I did not feel too well to day. I was going to come home at dinner time but I stuck to it like a britan all day because I had to. Dear love don’t forget to remind me about a strange letter I got from Melbourne, Now don’t forget and I will tell you all about it if you are by your self it is about the best ever had. That hurt me about what that bloke said when Martin kissed you Sunday, he said he will tell gerry on you it hurt, did you see the look Jane give me when he said it and the other girl too, I felt like kicking him all up a tree. Now I got him set like george for saying that. I was going to tell you on Sunday that your ring is going to be a quid cheaper. It was going to be three pound ten, but it is going to be two pound ten. That for writing that letter for nothing. They have some nice ones for two ten the three ten are to heavy, but it don’t matter what they cost so long as it is for you. Dear love I am foreman of this job I am on for about a month if I don’t get the run before then I will be all right my own boss. What do you think, I am the dreadnaught. Now darling Ivy this Is all I have to say time. — Yours loveing Jack. x x x x x (score or more) all for you, nothing for Flo Mc Enmore.

DP826256

A Love Letter, Simon Charles Miger (French, Nemours 1736–1820 Paris)

Plaintiff, continuing, said that once Berecry. when she was ill, wished her to go with him to a party at a Mrs. Haron’s, and because she didn’t acquiesce, he said, ‘There must be somebody there you are afraid to see,’ and going out, he shortly came back ‘

WITH A REVOLVER and called her a blanky cow. She jumped out of bed and snatched away the weapon, which was found to be loaded ; and a little while later Berecry came back with the excuse that he was sorry. They parted good friends, Berecry mentioning that one of the bullets had been intended for himself. The wedding ought to have taken place In January of last year, but she learnt that he had engaged himself to another. Finally, after a lot of talk, they agreed that the wed-ding should come off on July 12; but one Sunday in June she discovered that he had been meeting one Paula Muller, her rival, and this made her so despondent that she drank lysol. Dr. Hastings, however, pulled her through. Berecry said he merely went to tell Paula that he must give her up, and on July 8 he asked Mrs. Wilson, her mother, to arrange for the wedding, recommending her to go to the Rev. Charles Jones, in Liver-pool-street, and promising to find the money for the ring on the ensuing Fri-day. Mrs, Wilson saw Jones, and arranged that the wedding would be performed by a Methodist minister. Then Berecry objected to any Methodist having a hand in it whereupon she got Jones to arrange with the Rev. Macaulay to marry them, and paid him 5s deposit. The ring was bought, and everything looked lovely this time, but when the hour came, Berecry was sick in bed, saying he had been vaccinated. Plaintiff hunted him up, and asked why he hadn’t sent her word, but he told her to go away and not worry him. However, she stayed talking to him till 10 o’clock, and extracted a promise that he would be married on the Saturday. No wedding took place, however, though Berecry took her to the pictures on the Monday. The next night she watched him meet Paula Muller and walk arm-in-arm with her to a picture show in Lower George-street. After he had seen Paula to the tram, plaintiff asked him what he meant by his conduct; but he denied he was with Paula. He next said he couldn’t give up Paula because he had borrowed £60 from her. This kind of humbugging went on for some time, and then finally his mother, when asked what had become of him, tearfully cried, ‘My poor Jack,’ and said he had gone away, she didn’t know where. She told his mother they were to have been married that night, whereupon the old lady said, ‘How could Jack keep you?’ adding that although he was her son, she could give him a character as the biggest liar in the world. A letter plaintiff wrote to him was as follows. — 42 Collins-street, Nth Sydney, 2/7/1913, Wed., 6 a.m. My dear Jack, — Once again you have driven me to desperation, and I can stand It no longer. You always promised before and after our baby boy was born that as soon as I came twenty-one you would marry me. Now you want to cut me off for another woman. You promised mum and I last night you would marry me in three months. Now, Jack, if you intended to marry me, would you be going away to-night to meet another woman? All I ask you is your name for the sake of your baby and my character. I don’t ask you to live with me or, yes, support me, as most people on the Shore think we are man and wife. If you are frightened of breach of promise with this other girl, what about me, that holds your love letters for over five years. The only thing I can see to do is to get Mr. J. W. Abigail’s advice on the matter, and that I intend doing first thing to-morrow, 3rd inst. Only last Saturday you were quite prepared to marry me at any time in the registry office (or rather you said you were) and me to go away for six months and keep it quiet, not to tell anyone. That I was prepared to do. You have broken your promise to me; I have not broken mine. I am prepared to be your wife at any moment, and ask nothing further from you. Once I poisoned myself for love of you, and through the shame which you have caused me. There is no telling how this will end. I can’t sleep at night. I can’t eat or rest day or night. — Your broken-hearted Ivy.

Continuing her story, plaintiff said she received no reply to this letter. She did not again meet Berecry until August 25, at the Quay, when he laughed at her, and inquired if she was trying to put the father of her child into gaol. He later on begged her not to go on with the case, saying that he had not refused to marry her. On October 10 she again met him, when after inquiring when the case would come off, he said, ‘You are only putting your neck in a sling, because I have not yet refused to marry you. I have lots of witnesses against you, and will put in a bill for £20 for your confinement. You will get five years, and I want my rings back.’ Evidence was called to show that Berecry told others that he would marry plain-tiff as soon as she came of age. Berecry did not give evidence, and therefore the matter resolved itself into a question of damages. And the jury, after a very brief deliberation, awarded plaintiff £200. Truth (Sydney, NSW : 1894 – 1954), Sunday 26 October 1913, page 11

…..

It is interesting reflecting on this situation between Ivy and Jack, because it reminds me about the relationship between Wassily Kandinsky and Gabriele Munter. In 1892, Kandinsky had married his cousin, Anna Chemyakina. She took care of her husband and moved with him to Germany. However, in 1903 Kandinsky met and began a relationship with Gabriele Münter, one of his students at the Phalanx School. The two became inseparable. Kandinsky kept promising to divorce his wife and marry her, stringing love struck Münter along. Finally, in 1911, Kandinsky returned to Russia, and divorced his wife. Yet, he still didn’t marry Gabriele Münter. Rather, he continued living with her as his lover. Unfortunately, when Germany declared war on Russia in August 1914, Kandinsky was considered an enemy alien and only had three days to get out. Since he couldn’t take much with him, he left the bulk of his paintings and possessions with Münter. The couple rushed to Switzerland and while in Zurich, Kandinsky broke up with her. For two years she urged a reunion. It took place in neutral Scandinavia in 1916, but failed. Well, that’s according to some of the sources I’ve read. Others are less clear about the breakup, suggesting he was still stringing her along. Well, Kandinsky did get married, but it wasn’t to Gabriele Münter. Rather, he married 18 year old, Nina Andreievskaya, and he didn’t tell Münter. Indeed, he only came clean four years later when she received a letter from his lawyer demanding she return his personal effects and artworks. Not unsurprisingly, Gabriele didn’t return all his paintings, and kept these as “moral compensation”. While I’m very surprised Gabriel didn’t burn the lot, she actually kept them safe behind a secret wall in her basement during successive raids by the Nazis and Russians. Kandinsky never saw his paintings again. However, in 1957, Münter gave the stash to Munich, Stadtische Galerie in Lenbach. At least, the survival of this collection was a positive outcome of Gabriele’s grief.

By the way, I should point out that Ivy married Abram Hocking in 1915. I lose track of her after the 1950s where she was living in Newcastle. I can only hope that she moved onto greener pastures and found love and happiness.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share… 3rd June, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, the fact that I’ve turned up here on time, should let you know that I’m having a quiet weekend and am not gallivanting around exploring new places, like I was last weekend. Indeed, I probably should’ve held off on some of last week’s news and popped it into this week so I could actually have something interesting to say.

How has your week been? I hope it went well.

Well, it’s officially Winter here now, and I guess that also explains my shift towards hibernation, and wanting to wrap myself up in thick woolly layers. Indeed, we’re all mighty thankful for a warm dog on the lap and they’re also thankful for the added warmth themselves. We don’t have central heating and we actually try not to heat the house at all to keep the electricity bills down and be kind to the environment. Most of the time, it’s not that cold. Mind you, I confess that I do have my electric blanket on low some nights. It feels so good. Despite Winter and the cold, the days are largely pleasantly sunny and I can’t complain too much. It’s actually 17°C or 63°F, which would probably make for quite a nice day out in London. Actually, the weather in London surprised me. It’s actually climbed to 25°C. I wonder if they’re actually enjoying it or starting to complain about the heat?

A few weeks ago, I had a call from my Dad’s second cousin about the family history, and this has launched an effort to try to get “my affairs in order”. Or, to be precise, get my ancestors’ affairs in order. I tend to dump new information into a file and intend to get back to it, but inevitable don’t and the information I’ve dumped might really belong somewhere else. I just put it there so I can find it again. Moreover, some family members warrant a book all of their own and so I’ve accumulated a hell of a lot of information and stories and it is rather overwhelming. It’s only when someone rings up that I’m forced to get on with it and get the chaos sorted out.

1910 circa Suspension Bridge German postcard

Cammeray Suspension Bridge circa 1910

 

My latest family history adventure, has taken me to New Zealand. My 3rd times grandparents John Johnston and Maria Bridget Flanagan (nee Docherty) were married at Invercargill and lived along the West Coast in fairly rugged terrain during the New Zealand gold rush. We went to New Zealand on our honeymoon and visited a few of these places so I am able to visualise their lives to some extent, which sort of brings their lives back to life. They ended up moving to Australia where John worked with his younger brother Alexander Johnston who was a building contractor, who built a beautiful historic bridge called the Cammeray Suspension Bridge. It was quite an engineering achievement in its day. Well, that is quite aside from the fact that the cables were rusting away by the 1930s and the bridge needed to be almost completely overhauled. These Johnstons also trace back to whiskey distillers on the island of Islay in the Scottish Hebrides. So, there are more than enough stories to tell and it’s been very difficult to wrap it all up and declared it “done”.

I also participated in Friday Fictioneers this week, which is hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s story Babushka had a Russian influence. Not sure where that came from, but isn’t writing like that? All sorts of snippets from all over the place, come together in a kind of dance.

We also went to a funeral on Friday. It wasn’t just a funeral. No funeral ever is. She was a friend, not a close friend, but our boys used to play AFL football together and you do get to know someone standing on the sidelines over a few years. Our boys have also been in the same class for the last couple of years, and while they’re not close friends, there’s that connection from their football days. However, unfortunately the thing that really connected us together is our common fight to overcome severe health issues to see our kids grow up. As much as you can say you’re going to fight it and put up a fierce incredible fight, sometimes you just don’t make it and I guess I’ve really come to believe we each have our time. You might get cancer. You get run over by a bus. You just don’t know.

a million birds take flight

During the burial, I looked up and saw three black cockatoos flying majestically like eagles overhead. They were strangely comforting.

So, while I questioned whether I should keep our coffee share light and chatty or whether I should share the funeral with you, I thought that was also part of my week. That it’s important to share our downs as well as our ups. To acknowledge the passing of a friend, and not just gloss over the surface like it doesn’t matter. It does.Indeed, I also wanted to share that although I expected to breakdown and really lose it at the funeral, I actually found it quite beautiful. It was held in a beautiful, local glass chapel and you look out onto majestic gum trees and the great outdoors…God’s creation. I was really touched by how my friend had touched so many lives through her enthusiastic and loving community involvement, and her particular love and focus was to help kids struggling to learn how to read. So, in her humble everyday style, she changed so many lives for the better and loved her family like a warm Mama bear, and so she will be keenly missed.

So, last week for me was more about rest, recovery and recharging the batteries than climbing mountains and conquering the world. All part of striving for some kind of balance, when we’re always living with so many competing pressures.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali. I encourage you to pop round and join us. 

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

A Weekend in Parramatta, Sydney.

Last weekend, my husband and I went to Parramatta for the weekend. In many ways, it was quite an unlikely place for us to go for the weekend, as it’s not exactly known as a tourist Mecca. However, I’m really glad we had the chance to explore this part of Sydney for the first time in any kind of depth. By the way, the reason we were staying in Parramatta, was that we were on a couple’s retreat hosted by Muscular Dystrophy NSW, which helps support my various “idiocyncracies”, as I’ve now  refer to them.

It is hard to quite known how to adequately describe Parramatta. Indeed, it’s hard to to encapsulate any place in a few words, or a handful of photographs. Yet, it’s seems that travellers, those of us who are only passing through, always feel the need to try, at least on the back of a postcard.

If I had to summarise Parramatta on the back of a postcard, I’d start of with a brief history lesson.

Parramatta was founded in 1788, the same year that the First Fleet arrived in Sydney. The British settlement desperately needed food and was struggling to find fertile soil in Sydney Cove.  During 1788, Governor Arthur Phillip had reconnoitred several places before choosing Parramatta as the most likely place for a successful large farm. Parramatta was the furthest navigable point inland on the Parramatta River (i.e. furthest from the thin, sandy coastal soil) and also the point at which the river became freshwater and therefore useful for farming. Although initially called Rose Hill, On 4 June 1791 Phillip changed the name of the township to Parramatta, approximating the term used by the local Aboriginal people.[19]

 

In 1789,Phillip granted a convict named, James Ruse, the land of Experiment Farm at Parramatta on the condition that he develop a viable agriculture. There, Ruse became the first person to successfully grow grain in Australia. The Parramatta area was also the site of John Macarthur’s Elizabeth Farm, which had pioneered the Australian wool industry by  in the 1790s. Philip Gidley King’s account of his visit to Parramatta on 9 April 1790 is one of the earliest descriptions of the area. Walking four miles with Governor Phillip to Prospect, he saw undulating grassland interspersed with magnificent trees and a great number of kangaroos and emus.

In years gone by, the story of Parramatta would’ve been a white man’s story. Indeed, when I was at school, we learned nothing about the frontier wars between Europeans and the indigenous Aboriginal people. It’s only now, that I’ve heard about the Battle of Parramatta, a major battle of the Hawkesbury and Nepean Wars, which occurred in March 1797 where resistance leader Pemulwuy led a group of Bidjigal warriors, estimated to be at least 100, in an attack on a government farm at Toongabbie, challenging the British Army to fight.Governor Arthur Phillip built a small house for himself on the hill of The Crescent. In 1799 this was replaced by a larger residence which, substantially improved by Governor Lachlan Macquarie from 1815 to 1818, which is now referred to as Old Government House.

Above: St John’s Church

So, having given you a brief historical snapshot, how about you join me at Parramatta Station. After such a long trip, I just had to stop for refreshments at the Guylian Cafe, where I had a heavenly chocolate dessert and a cappuccino. From there, I walked across to Church Street. On the left, there’s historic St John’s Anglican Church and across the road, you’ll find Parramatta Town Hall, which reminds me of a two-tier wedding cake. Next to the Town Hall, the future of Parramatta is starting to rise out of what has often been hard times. Indeed, throughout our walks around the Parramatta CBD, new buildings and construction sights resemble alien intruders. Next to the Town Hall, we spotted the Bourke Street Bakery, where we had an unforgettable Raspberry Cream Meringue Tart. That’s when we spotted the captivating water fountain, and I’ve just found out this whole area is now called Centenary Square. There’s a ping pong table, large outdoor chess set and on Sunday night, we even spotted a group doing salsa outside together. So, there really are moves afoot to give Parramatta not only a facelift, but also a strong community feel and a heart.

This leads me into a dynamic thriving food area further up Church Street, known as “Eat Street”. Personally, I found this area had a sort of bazaar feel about it with restaurants and street food all sandwiched together to a point that you’re almost not sure where your chair or table belongs at times. There are street vendors, restaurants from a smattering of cultures…Italian, Greek, Lebanese, Thai, Mexican, Cuban. The choices were dazzling and in the end we went to a burger place my husband had been to near work and I had a pork belly burger. We went to a chocolate cafe for dessert. Yum.

Above: I spotted these in the Army Disposal Store.

Moving further Church Street towards Phillip Street, the buildings looked rather old and sad to be honest. There’s old and historic, but quick cheap and nasty construction only gets worse with age. However, that’s not to say that the shops didn’t have character and appeal. Indeed, we found an army surplus store, which in itself is a rare breed these days, but this one also had loads of personality, and there was even a chandelier when you walked in. I also found Tom Cruise and the Terminator on the wall 80s style. In terms of interesting places, I should also point out the Bavarian Bier Cafe, which is housed inside an historic Church. We had planned to have dinner there on Saturday night, but couldn’t get a table.

Above: The German Bier Cafe.

We stayed at the Parkroyal Hotel on Phillip Street, and really enjoyed our stay. As I said, we were staying there with other couples from Muscular Dystrophy NSW. We met up together in the foyer and had a beautiful dinner in the hotel restaurant together on Friday night. I think I only knew one person well beforehand, but by the end of the weekend, we were one big happy and well-fed family and exchanging email addresses and contacts. It really felt like such a blessing to all get together, but it was also great that the weekend away also provided for time for Geoff and I to be on our own. We have really been quite desperate to spend any time to actually focus on each other and take care of each other, without trying to spread ourselves four ways, or even further if the dogs or work are also demanding attention. We are by no means alone in this and I’m very grateful to Muscular Dystrophy NSW for organizing the retreat, my parents for taking the kids and a friend for minding the dogs and the home front.

In my next post, we will visit Elizabeth Farm and Old Government House.

Have you ever been to Parramatta? What are your thoughts about it?

Best wishes,

Rowena

Conspiracy Theory…Friday Fictioneers.

The time was coming, when Mavis would leave this world in much the same way she arrived… with nothing.

However, Mavis had her own ideas. If the Chinese Emperors could take their terracotta armies and the Egyptians had their slaves, Mavis was going to be buried in her lounge room in her own Empire.

“Mother, we’re going for a drive,” her daughters chimed in unison. Although they were middle-aged, Mavis always knew there was trouble whenever they palled up. There was no way they were taking her to a nursing home. She’d die first.

Then, she saw the cake. “Happy Birthday, Gran!”

……

This has been another contribution for Friday Fictioneers. PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wisoff-Fields.

Best wishes,

Rowena

A Legend in My Own Hair Follicles.

Before the magic of the Royal Wedding and seeing Harry and Meaghan tie the knot in spectacular fashion, I hung up my pink washing up gloves and metamorphosed into a star. I, the greatest unknown violinist, legend in her own hair follicles, performed Minuet by Beethoven with my violin teacher at Gig Night. That’s the modern equivalent of what was known as a “Soiree” back in the day. Indeed, it might have been more like my grandparents’ day, but there we were performing in the studio with real performance lights and sound equipment and our very own stage. It was personal, intimate and my husband and kids were all lined up in a row in the audience…my support crew.

Well, behind every star performer, there’s also their teacher. When it comes to my teacher, however, she had special duties. She was not only accompanying me in our duet in the kind of way that compensates for what I’ll call my “idiosyncrasies”, she had to help me on and off stage. Indeed, we made a decision that I would enter from backstage to prevent me from having a spectacular trip and fall getting up on the stage. I’m pretty good at reconnaissance these days, and I needed to hold onto the wall climbing up the step and was rather concerned that I could fall into the amp. The good thing is that the team at the music school is well versed in my idiosyncrasies and were only too willing to help. Moreover, I’m also one to speak up.

I should also point out that the staff at the music school have experienced these idiosyncracies before. A few years ago when we were performing at the school Christmas Carols, I stepped on the edge of the where the asphalt meets the grass and my ankle flipped over (not uncommon) and then I heard this crunch and fell. The pain was excruciating. Blood was dripping down my knee, but did I pike out? Does a violinist ever give up, even when the ship is sinking? Of course not. I played on and was helped on and off the stage that night too.

My performance tonight wasn’t perfect. I knew it wasn’t going to be. Yet, I was hopeful. Moreover, despite my nerves, I really love performing and being a part of a performance. I like getting out of my cramped quarters in our corridor of a dining room where I usually have to hold my breath as husband, kids, dogs, tennis balls squeeze or fly past and put my feet on that stage, dress up in my blacks and even put on come makeup and lipstick and be a violinist on the outside too. A musician. Knowing I belong here. That this stage is mine, even if it’s only for a few minutes. I own this space (something I picked up from dancing btw).

It’s a space I usually have to grow into, because it’s all too easy to put my playing down. I’m not in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. So, how could I ever consider myself a violinist? I haven’t even tried to learn vibrato, because I really don’t believe in myself. Don’t believe it’s possible. Of course, as I said, I have a decent list of “idiosyncracies”, which let me off the hook. Moreover, be honest, it hasn’t felt that important. It’s been more important to simply be able to play without making mistakes. However, it’s something I come back to once in a while, and learning vibrato is a natural progression for a violinist. Just like my daughter will soon be getting her first pair of pointe shoes for ballet, I should be equally enthusiastic and bursting out of my skin to learn vibrato. Take the next step. I should be wanting to grow, even though it usually means a phase of going backwards as we tackle the new skill.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing about all of this is twofold.

Firstly, I wanted to share my violin world with you. I don’t write about it all that often, but I actually have a lesson each week. I am quite a fan of Suzuki method, although I use the music and don’t play by ear. For those who know Suzuki, I recently moved onto Book Three. I was so proud. It’s been a long journey. I have hydrocephalus and dermatomyositis.  So, I never thought I’d be able to play the violin at all and only took it up again when my daughter insisted on learning, and she needed some assistance. I sat in on her lessons and while she has a rather on and off again relationship with her violin, I’ve stuck with it. She’d probably get to my level after a few weeks’ steady practice, but I’d only be delighted to see her overtake me. Well, she already has. She performed at the Sydney Opera House with her school two years ago at the tender age of 10. Clearly, you’re much better off trying to play at the Opera House as a young beginner than a geriatric.

The other reason I wanted to share my violin journey with you, is to encourage you to consider taking up that instrument you’ve always wanted to play. To go back to the piano you played at a kid, which could well be used for displaying family photos and ornaments than it’s intended purpose. Have a go.

I never considered myself a real music lover or expert of any sort. However, I can sense this is changing. That something new is awakening within. Actually, it’s not something new. It’s like when you’re doing a big clean-up and you find something you haven’t seen for a good 10-20 years and you taken right back to that forgotten time and place and all the emotions come flooding back as there’s that sense of coming home. I have always loved to sing and was good enough, but my voice is rusty and my violin’s become my voice, and to turn to the words of Johnny Farnham’s The Voice I need to

You’re the voice, try and understand it
Make a noise and make it clear

Do you have any musical dreams? If you could be any musician, who would you be? I’ll have to give it some thought.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Pup Psychologist Anyone?

It’s been quite awhile since the dogs have made much of a blogging appearance, and now they’re back with a vengeance. Our brother and sister pups, Zac and Rosie, are now about 9 months old and let’s just say, have developed plenty of “personality”. Personality, which has had me searching the depths of Google for parenting support. While parenting courses for young humans are usually free with at least a yummy morning tea thrown in, training your pups is expensive and so we’re trying to muddle along on our own. I think the pups are onto this are expanding their horizons well beyond desired bounds and it’s time to ignore those puppy dog eyes and for nice cop to become tough cop. Put my foot down, even if a paw or two gets stepped on in the process (which happens quite a lot around her with twelve paws under foot.

DSC_8233

Rather than offering any solutions to the difficulties of puppy training, I’m just going to let it all flow …a bit like a glass of red wine on a white carpet. Or, a pink fluoro highlighter pen which has been chewed into a puddle of pink with splashes of ink on the guilty party’s paws.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with our dogs, there are three of them. Lady, a border collie x cavalier is about 6 years old and we’ve had her since she was two. She’s a rather mellow dog and about the size of a Border Collie with the Cavalier’s floppy ears and facial appearance. She’s mostly black with a tip of white on her tail, chest and paws. Isaac “Zac” and Rosie are both 9 months old and are supposedly Border Collie x Kelpies but we suspect there could well be some greyhound in the mix. Zac has the long legs of a ballet dancer, and can look rather statuesque when he strikes a pose. Zac also happens to be our resident lap dog. He’s very snuggly and I had been thinking he had an innate sense of intuitive compassion, but I’m also wondering whether he just likes a warm lap in the cooler weather. Rosie has white legs and face with black spots, which are rather cute. She’s evolved into a feverish fetchaholic. Of course, we’ve all seen one of those in action, but rarely at rest.

Bilbo with ball

I had to honour a fallen hero. Bilbo appropriating another dog’s ball.

So, I guess you could say like around here isn’t dull and that’s why we need a resident dog psychologist and in their absence, there’s me…and Google.

Firstly, there’s chewing. Of course, prevention is better than cure. So, most dog owners know that anything on the floor is fair game and that just like toddler proofing your home, you need to put things up if you don’t want the dogs chewing it up. However, not all dogs have read the manual, and Rosie has had no qualms about making choice selections from our kitchen table and exercising puppy power. I think perhaps her most impressive achievement to date, has been taking a pink highlighter pen out of the jar on the kitchen table and chewing it up until there was a pool of pink ink on the tiles and splashes of ink on her front legs. There was no denying that crime. She was caught in the act.

DSC_8401

A scene of canine carnage in our lounge room.

Of course, providing your pups with a steady supply of bones is a good idea. As I said, prevention is better than cure. However, sometimes I’m flat out getting to the butcher for the humans. Moreover, when I have bought bones, they’re instantaneously gnawed out of existence. Don’t ask me how they do it. I didn’t know bones were a fast food. Indeed, I thought they were supposed to keep your dog occupied for hours. Silly me.To think I had the audacity to think of myself as a bit of an expert on dogs. Clearly, I know absolutely nothing about them at all.

However, clearly the same can’t be said about them, because they can read me like a book. Indeed, they can read my soul much better than most humans. They really are amazing.

This takes me onto their next issue… our in-house Fetchaholic.

If our experience is anything to go by, this addiction all starts out in a fairly understated way. Someone in the household can’t resist giving that adorable little pup a tennis ball. Before that one corrupting tennis ball appears across it’s radar, that pup was pre-programmed to chase sheep, rabbits, and rid the world of rats. However, now all of that’s changed. That very same pup has suddenly had all that genetically pre-determined brain circuitry re-wired, and if your dog is very particular like our Bilbo was, all they’ll see is a green sphere. In hindsight, that was a blessing because Rosie isn’t particular. Tennis ball, half a tennis ball, felt of tennis ball right down to the very last remnants of fur of tennis ball, she’s back. Or, she’s dropping a bit of stick over the top of my laptop. I guess she thinks I’m just as addicted to tapping away on this thing and need a diversion. Indeed, she probably thinks she’s doing me good and giving me exercise.

She’s wrong.

Her pestering is only annoying in the end, but just as I’m getting fed up and about to confiscate the ball, she gently taps me with just one paw pad  and it’s so much like she’s tapping me with a finger, and that she’s not a dog, that I can’t resist.

That said, I’ve just put the ball up and told her to sit. However, in true fetchaholic fashion, she’s returned with the remains of a toy mouse, which had a pull the string wind-up mechanism some time ago. After ignoring that, she’s returned with a bit of stick…a remnant of a bit of stick…and its offspring. We’re talking desperation on both sides. How do I get this dog to leave me alone?

I dropped the ball over onto my son’s lap, he just passed it back.

Humph. It’s definitely time to make myself a cup of tea and perhaps that will  break the cycle. Just had to rethink that. Zac is now sitting on my lap, and while you’d think that might provide a sort of barricade in between Rosie and I, she’s now dropping her paraphernalia on the top of him.

At this point, you’re not the only one asking why we adopted two pups and why we didn’t just stick with Lady. Apply the KISS Principle…Keep It Simple, Stupid. Well, I wouldn’t know how to keep it simple and I clearly don’t know how to say: “No”. I just keep going until I fall in a screaming heap.

This brings me to my next issue…a fear of other dogs.

Lady & Zac

Lady and Zac running along the beach in January.

Usually, our dogs socialise with other dogs as a pack and feel quite comfortable with each other’s support. If anything, they can intimidate a lone dog on the beach. However, yesterday, I took Zac to the beach by himself and while he initially loved running and really got some great exercise, it was quite a different story when he saw other dogs. He was cowering behind me like a young child hiding in their mother’s skirts. He even jumped up behind me putting his paws on my shoulders. He was terrified with his tail between his legs and then that fear turned to aggression and he really got narky and was snapping and snarling at the other dog, who retaliated and they both ended up back on their leads. It was time to go home, a time-honoured parenting trick.

Zac running at Ocean beach May 18

Zac running yesterday before we bumped into any dogs.

I have also taken Rosie walking on her own and she’s also quite cowardly in public and walks much of the way with her tail between her legs. It’s been quite a concern because you want your dog to be happy and have positive interactions with their own. Fortunately, Zac and Rosie are fine when they’re together.

I’m think the answer here could be taking them out more by themselves, so they can build those social skills. They are very much like twins and miss each other terribly  when they’re apart, even if it’s only for a short time.

Zac Seal

Zac swimming looking like a seal. You can see how this character wouldn’t go too well on a lead.

Just when I thought I had everything covered, my last gripe is tugging on the lead. We seem to be having some success with Rosie on this front, and it is Zac who turns into a racehorse as soon as the lead goes on. Indeed, “pulling on the lead” is an under-statement. We have tried a Halti collar and he’s somewhat getting used to it but he doesn’t like it. The funny thing is that he is so placid without the lead, and I can’t really understand what fires him up so much. Of course, he loves going for a walk but this is more extreme. This is like a canine Clark Kent going into a telephone booth and emerging as Thor.

Lady kids coffee

The funny thing is with all these canine antics, they provide us with endless entertainment way better than any television show and they’re our critters. They might not be our own flesh and blood, but perhaps that’s part of their appeal. Dogs live with us are part of our own families and so much like us and yet they’re not. Despite all our attempts to humanise them, they’re still dogs. And we love them, perhaps even because of their foibles or perhaps it’s us who have actually fallen under their spell and we might need to consider who is Master. Our dogs can be very proficient trainers. Indeed, my dogs have trained me.

Chewing, ball chasing and lead pulling, I wouldn’t be without them.

Do you have a dog and do you have any recent posts you’d like to share? Please leave them in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena