Category Archives: Renovating

Table Talk…Table Done!

“There are times when wisdom cannot be found in the chambers of parliament or the halls of academia but at the unpretentious setting of the kitchen table.”
― E.A. Bucchianeri

Don’t know how it is round at your place, but getting anything done around here is a very long and winding road that makes mission impossible look quick and easy. So, any successes need to be celebrated with the full brass band out in force and waving the flags. We did it! Yesterday, we finished restoring our new to us but anything but new outdoor table.

“If the home is a body, the table is the heart, the beating center, the sustainer of life and health.”
― Shauna Niequist, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes

While restoring the table has been a journey, just getting it here has been a story in itself. My friend Roland found the table “beside the road*”. When I saw it in his lounge room, I was filled with envy. Damn! Why didn’t I find it? Well, to be honest, even if I’d found it, I wouldn’t have been able to shift it unless it was just down the road and the kids actually lifted a finger to help. Geoff, I’m afraid wouldn’t not have aided and abetted bringing any more tables home. We already have enough tables!! However, as it turned out, Roland had second thoughts, and decided it was too big. Before he could offload it to the opportunity shop, I stuck my hand up, and it was all mine. He even stuck a post-it note on it with my name on it. So there could be no challenges to my precious piece of real estate.

There was just one problem.

Well, there was more than one problem.

There usually is around here, which is why getting anything done is such an arduous, circular process.

The Table Arrives in the Dark of Night.

Firstly, the table needed transport, and unfortunately not being related to Enid Blyton’s Magic Wishing Chair, it wasn’t going to sprout wings and magically fly down the mountain to our place. It needed Geoff, and that required more than a confession. Serious negotiation was required. You see, there was already a table and a fish tank out where the intended table was meant to be going. The fish tank has been sitting here waiting to make to next step of it’s future life after it started leaking something like five years ago, and the existing table was falling apart and we’d bought the wood to replace the top. However, nothing had happened and Geoff has been painting the house, replacing the guttering, and anything but idle. I decided that table could go out the back. I didn’t care where the blessed fish tank went as long as it was gone. I didn’t care where the lot went. I wanted my new table out the front so I could have friends over outside once this wretched lockdown eased, and actually start getting social again within the safety of home. After all, we’ve not been in lockdown for 106 days and Monday is Freedom Day. I want to be a part of it.

Sometimes, hints are broad suggestions aren’t enough. Roland was wanting to clear his garage and I desperately wanted to table here, and measuring tape or no measuring tape, Geoff found himself making room for the table, and driving up the hill to pick it up. I don’t play the “Happy Wife, Happy Life” card often, but by now I was in make it happen mode. He had no choice but to capitulate and assist.

“To share a table with someone is to share everything.”
― Paul Krueger, Steel Crow Saga

However, there was just one small complication with the table. It was more of an indoor table than an outdoor table, and aside from needing protection, he top needed sanding. In other words, the table was “a project”. What’s more, the rest of the family was quick to extricate themselves and call it “YOUR project”. Geoff fetched the orbital sander from the garage and with my arms vibrating and my head buzzing, I started rowing backwards and forwards giving my arms quite a workout, which proved quite a shock to the system in itself. Seeing me with a power tool in hand must’ve been like an apparition too. Rowena the Writer is a far cry from Bob the Builder and his mates.

This could be the raised hand of a drowning woman as the sanding continues…

“To gather together around a table – the ultimate symbol of communion – is the only truly authentic way to properly prioritise the ritual of eating.”
― Michelle Ogundehin, Happy Inside: How to harness the power of home for health and happiness

After beavering away for a veritable eternity with the orbital sander, the scratches were definitely winning. Moreover, these scratches giving have that worn-in distressed look that people go out of their way to age their furniture. The table looked like the scene of a cat fight with random scratches all over the place, and the annoying perfectionist in me was starting to picture our guests sitting at the table and counting all the scratches and thinking about how awful we were. I did try saying they’d be much more interested in the dessert and conversation, and wouldn’t care but I knew better. I asked Geoff for stronger sandpaper, and at this point he finally realized I wasn’t wanting to do a superficial sand, but more of a reconstructive face lift. I wanted to strip this baby right back to bare wood, even if it meant losing loads of personality. It could regain character in time.

the lingering mystery square, which looks like a UFO flying across one end of the table.

Now, the belt sander came out, and it was incredibly satisfying to see all those scratches evaporate in clouds of dust.

“The oldest form of theater is the dinner table. It’s got five or six people, new show every night, same players. Good ensemble; the people have worked together a lot.”

Michael J. Fox]

“Here’s yet a spot,” she cries, desperately rubbing. “Here’s the small of blood still.”  This spot isn’t going anywhere either.

I don’t think I’ve actually mentioned that the table top is oak. It has a beautiful grain, and when I finally came to apply the decking oil, the wood just shone. It looked amazing. Although it was “your project”, Geoff ended up sanding and painting the legs. By then, my arms had had it. I’m much more in favour of teamwork than being a lone ranger – especially when I’m the one needing assistance.

I know you can’t be too demanding about a free table that was left out beside the road, but what possessed someone to sandpaper so ferociously against the grain? Thanks to the belt sander and yours truly, all gone!

The table was finally finished yesterday and moved into position. It looks amazing. I cooked up a big lamb roast with all the trimmings to celebrate last night, but it was cold and dark by the time it was really so we still haven’t christened the table yet. Moreover, I’ve been tapping away in here in my pyjamas with the dog on my lap ignoring the outside world, which is so bright and sunny. Geoff has gone sailing.Our daughter is doing her final dance class in the kitchen and for dinner or worse our world here in Greater Sydney is about to open up.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 4th October, 2021

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This is actually my second coffee share post this week, and while it’s too late for the blogshare, I wrote a post from my new blog: Tea With Ethel Turner, which got up in time. However, I still decided to put this together because so much is going on. At least, it seemed that way, but perhaps that’s only because not much has happened for so long what with being in lockdown for the last three months.

Well, the big news is that our NSW State Premier who is simply known as “Gladys” resigned after being hit with corruption charges by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The irony is that the public and the media have almost unanimously come out in support of Gladys and feel ICAC’s timing stinks. We’re due to start coming out of lockdown on 11th October. Covid cases have dropped back own again which is encouraging, but Gladys has been our fearless warrior woman defending us from covid and trying to keep the economy going. Like Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews, she’s been giving a 11.00am daily update until about a week or two ago. I didn’t watch these very often, but they were repeated throughout the day and on the nightly news and they brought calm and stability during very tempestuous and uncertain times. Now, Gladys has gone and the Deputy decided to go as well. He’s had enough and is leaving politics. I think someone else has also left, resulting in three by-elections. Goodness knows what’s going to happen now without Gladys to keep covid out. I might be weird, but I already miss her. Gladys, don’t leave us!

Yesterday, Geoff and I went out in the kayaks. I’m not sure whether I’d go so far as saying we went kayaking, because we were test driving how I went in the red fibreglass kayak instead of the much heavier, cumbersome yellow bathtub. It went okay. It felt a lot more unstable and I almost had that sense you have when you’re first earning to ride a bike. I had to be very conscious and focused on what I was doing or I felt I’d lose my balance and end up tipping over. However, tipping over was very unlikely much of the time, and getting beached posed a much greater threat. It was low tide and we headed inland which was more like a wetland or swamp and there was only a depth of about 30 centimetres. We knew a friend of ours was also out kayaking and we eventually caught up with him and a friend. It was so exciting to see him. This normal thing of seeing friends, bumping into friends has become so precious after being in lockdown for 14 weeks now, you’re soon doing the happy dance (which isn’t such a good idea when you have lousy balance and your in a kayak).

The yellow bathtub

Meanwhile, the preparations for Freedom Day are starting to get under way at our place. Freedom Day is scheduled for Monday 11th October. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure what so called freedoms we’ll be getting then, and it doesn’t really apply to vulnerable people like myself, because we have to stay on guard and if anything, be more cautious about who we hang out with. However, I think it allows me to go down to Sydney to see my Mum and Dad and that’s at the top of my out of jail bucket list.

Anyway, as I said, we’ve been doing some work around the house in preparation for being able to have people over here again. Geoff has painted much of the house, although we still have to get onto the front door. I was initially wanting to repair the table out the front, which has also been storing a large fish tank so we couldn’t use the table. A friend of mine had found a lovely old table beside the road and I’d fallen in love with it, and he was thinking it was too big for his room and he might get rid of it. Well, naturally I quickly put up my hand. However, we already have a few excess table inside the house, and I was trying to find the right time to mention the new addition to Geoff. A table is a very difficult thing to hide, especially when I needed him to pick it up! Meanwhile, my friend was starting to lose patience with the delays. I was getting frustrated with the delays. I could be sitting out the front in the sun reading instead of being stuck inside. I needed a reading nook. I needed somewhere covid friendly for friends to chat.

Picking up the table.

Well, we have now picked up the table, and today I started sanding the top back and I’ll finish it off tomorrow and also paint the legs.

Going against the grain like this, these scratches had to go.

It’s been an interesting process sanding back the table top. While some people deliberately destress their furniture, the table had some nasty scratches which looked like a cat had gone crazy. In another patch was very badly scratched after goodness knows what idiot madly tried sandpapering the varnish off working against the grain. These scratches didn’t add character and while I’d never be sitting at a friend’s place chatting and eating dessert and counting the number of scratches on their table, the thought did cross my mind. It’s probably that same part of my brain which frets about “red pen” (a writer’s nemesis) and having one comma out of place in a published work. Yes, I know. I need to go and get a life. Believe me, I would if I could. So, after using the orbital sander for the best part of 3-5 hours and still having scratches, but now having patches of light appearing through the immovable dark (the table is made of oak and had been vanished). I couldn’t see how I could get get the surface to a point of equilibrium. To a point where it didn’t look like I’d tried really really hard to get it right but had clearly given up and thrown in the towel. I asked Geoff if we could apply some varnish stripper to clean it up a bit. IT’s only at this point that he brings out the belt sander, which was clearly the right tool for the job and in minutes sawdust and varnish were flying and the table top was as smooth as a baby’s bot. Well, it will be when I’m done. The battery had gone flat and it was getting late. We didn’t want to disturb the neighbours.

A rare sighting of Rowie using power tools.

However, it’s now looking like I’ve become one of those fusspots who are never satisfied. As all that dark varnish disintegrated before my eyes and those immovable scratches were pulverised into sawdust, the tabletop started to look rather plain and devoid of character. It looked like it had had it’s personality removed, and that somehow even those very scratches which grated on me like fingernails scraping down a chalkboard, gave give it character. The table now had a perfect face, but it almost appeared unnatural. Or, at least it will when I finish it off tomorrow.

Anyway, with the way things are around here, it won’t take it long to get knocked around a bit. This house is the personification of “Misrule”.

Well, on that note, I’d better head off. I don’t think I’ve actually asked you much about how you’re doing and what madness is going on in your neck of the woods.

Meanwhile, you might like to join us over at the Weekend Coffee Share, which is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Take care and best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – Happy New Year!

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share & Happy New Year!

That said, I think it’s a bit early to declare 2021 a Happy New Year just yet. However, perhaps if we speak positive words over the coming year, it might just come to pass. Not that 2020 was a particularly “bad” year for us. However, we have had some absolute shockers in the past, so it had some pretty stiff competition. Also, Australia has largely managed to contain covid, and we haven’t experienced the terrible suffering and numbers of deaths seen overseas. However, that’s also because we’ve been cautious and established tight preventative measures often at a voluntary level. We’ve seen what the virus has done overseas and we don’t want to catch it. I particularly don’t want to catch it due to my severe pre-existing medical conditions. That’s just logical and if I have to delay some gratification for a bit, such is life. I’ll do it. I won’t complain and I’ll make the best of it. Indeed, that’s what I’ve done and my WWI research is powering along, and we’ve also made great headway with renovating our loungeroom and clearing alot of stuff out of the house.

The renovated loungeroom.

So, we start 2021 with new beginnings. We’re opening up our home, and inviting people over instead of locking the doors and barring the windows and hoping no one ever dares to pop in and knock on the door. We had my parents over for Christmas Day, and with covid restrictions down to 5 visitors, we had four friends over for dinner and after midnight, there was a change of the guard and our daughter had two friends stay the night. She hasn’t brought these friends over before so this was a big step forward. We’d rather she brings her friends here rather than hanging out locally. I’m sure I don’t need to explain that to anyone out there.

Trying on glasses at Specsavers wearing masks…our brave new world.

Another new beginning for 2021, is that I’ve gone back to extensive journal writing. My journaling has taken on different forms throughout the years. Traditionally, I’ve just used a free form notebook. However, for awhile there, I’ve gone to printed diaries with a day to a page, and on other years, a week to an opening. I use my diary writing as a mixture of recording what happened as well as exploring how I feel about things, and it seems quite a lot of storytelling. For awhile there, I’ve been fine with just doing my online blogging and haven’t felt a need for a private space. However, that changed towards the end of last year, when I started becoming more aware that there was stuff I just wanted to share with myself. I didn’t want someone else’s response , opinion or suggestions. I just wanted to sit with myself in this still pond of thought and just be, although being a writer, of course, that involved shedding lots of words, letting the emotions flow. These days, I don’t feel the need to share these feelings publicly or even to one soul. I’m quite happy to let life bounce along on the outside and leave it be. Besides, other people generally don’t have the time to listen to the whole story, especially when the story takes days to tell. You’d be needing to have toilet breaks, nap and meal breaks or a supply of ultra-strong, intravenous coffee.

Anyway, as it turns out, even I don’t have time to listen to myself. I’ve been writing in my new journal for hours some days, and providing pages and pages of back story going back 20 years to when we first bought the house, and why our renovation plans were so badly scuttled. Life is complicated. Complicated isn’t quick. Well, that’s unless you go for the bullet journal approach, which could be rather brutal when things aren’t going in your favour and you’ve travelled down snake after snake without landing on any ladders.

There’s also another reason I’ve been reflective lately. My great aunt, Louise, passed away on New Year’s Day. She was such a wonderful woman, and I regretted not keeping in touch more. I regret not having the self-confidence to just ring up and say hello. I have no trouble talking to strangers and yet feel nervous calling people I know. Silly, isn’t it!!

My grandmother second from the right with her siblings at the Glasshouse Mountains, Queensland around 1940.

Anyway, her death triggered a search through the old photo albums, and by the end of the night, I was feeling quite upset. I won’t use the word depressed, because what I was experiencing was grief. Not only that my aunt had died, but how that whole generation had now passed away, and along with them a way of life and big sprawling families with lots of cousins and connections. I was particularly close to my grandparents, and I missed them all over again too. That’s not to say that looking up the photos was a mistake or a bad thing to do. It just acknowledges that I’m human, not a robot. When we love someone, it’s natural to grieve. It’s naturally to think of the bigger family picture they were part of and miss that too. It’s also a reminder to make the most of the living and stay connected, particularly at the moment when we’re much more disconnected during covid.

1919 Spanish Flu Outbreak, Sydney.

Meanwhile, I’d like to encourage you to check out my previous post. I found a letter to the editor from 1919 talking about lifestyle restrictions in Sydney during the 1919 Spanish Flu Pandemic. It was a great piece, and way too relevant to us now.

Well, that’s enough from me.

Wishing you best wishes for 2021!

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 22nd December, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, it’s been a few weeks since I’ve popped by for coffee. Of course, I’m full of excuses and, of course, they’re all very compelling. Top of the list, is the house situation. We’re having my parents over for Christmas lunch, which has somehow necessitated a major renovation of our house in just a few weeks. Fortunately, my husband Geoff has been working from home much of this year, or it wouldn’t have been possible. Not that he’s been renovating on the job. It’s just that he hasn’t been commuting around 2 hours each way to work, and is actually alive at the end of the day.

Geoff cutting up the old carpet. Good riddens, at last!

We’ve actually been trying to launch this reno project for the last six months. The floor boards have been waiting in the garage for us to find someway of magically caterpulting the old piano out the front door. In the end, it turned out to be a classic case of “divide and conquer”. We couldn’t give the piano away as a whole, but it ended up leaving the house in pieces. We’ve kept the keys and pedals, and our friend loaded up the rest on his trailer and disappeared into the sunset. Well, it hasn’t entirely disappeared and a friend did mention something about seeing piano parts outside his place. It does sound a bit suss.

Deconstruction in progress….

As any of you who have renovated will agree, one thing leads to another. Once we moved out the furniture and got the new floor down, it became pretty clear a wall needed painting and then the room. I wasn’t much chop on the painting front, and so I drifted out into what really should be known as the “dump room”, and steadily started making progress and soon I found myself swept up in a whirlwind. Or, more to the point, hundreds of books found themselves caught up in the whirlwind and swept out the door to the charity shop. I decided I’d disposed of enough books to send an entire bookshelf packing, enabling us to turn the dump room into a retreat and we’ll be moving a couch out there tomorrow.

While it’s very satisfying to be on such a roll, with three days to Christmas, it’s hard to know quite when to call it a day and start shoving everything back in, not pulling more of it out. Yet, I’m planning to drop another load off to the charity shop tomorrow and the car’s not full yet. What else can go? What else can I turf and release that bit more space? It’s a sort of mania once it gets hold of you, but while we need to get the house as clean and spacious as possible, we also need to cook and cooking requires ingredients. Yikes, how does a simple lunch become so complicated? I’m sure if Jesus was in charge, he’d just tell me to make them all Vegemite sandwiches and be done with it. Keep it simple, Stupid.

Anyway, what else has been going on?

Well, we were relaxed. Being part of Great Sydney, we watched Melbourne go into lock down and we were just a little superior about it. After all, we always knew Sydney was better than Melbourne. However, Melbourne’s got it’s revenge. Covid’s back with a vengeance with a cluster generated out of Avalon just down from Palm Beach. This general area known as “the Northern Beaches” is now in lock down and people will be doing Christmas at home, potentially alone. It’s pretty tough, especially when people do so much to prepare for the big day, and I know I’ll really be spewing if my parents can’t come up. Christmas is Christmas. It is more than sacred.

How is Christmas looking in your neck of the woods? Are you catching up with family or friends? Or, are you playing it safe, or possibly in lock down. It’s rough when Christmas gets cancelled. I think even the great Scrooge would complain about that.

Anyway, I’d like to wish you are yours a Merry and blessed Christmas and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Cooking the Books.

We’ve all seen some weird things in 2020. However, things have really gone mad around here now. Indeed, even madder than usual, if that were possible. As you can see, I’ve starting cooking the books, and we’ll be eating words for Christmas.

Well, we will be unless our renovations and reorganizations get a wriggle on.

Indeed, being typical renovators, we’ve taken two steps forward, three steps back, on the hope that we’ll have a place for everything and everything in it’s place by Christmas Day. This hope is now starting to look like a fantastic dream, and I should be a lot more worried than I am. However, I’ve had good training. You can always hide a few things in the oven, the clothes dryer or under the bed at the last minute if you have to. Failing that, there’s the car.

The car bed finally leaving the house.

Of course, the road to renovation didn’t start 5 days before Christmas. Rather, the wheels were set in motion a few months ago when our son’s car bed finally left the house for an extended holiday at a friend’s place.

There’s a bear in there, and a piano frame as well…

Yet, there was still the problem of the old piano no one wanted in the loungeroom. However, it turned out that deconstructing the piano solved that problem and a friend of ours was quite happy to take it away in pieces, although we have kept the pedals and the keys. Then, it was full steam ahead, which also included an incidental painting of the room.

Geoff finally cutting through the carpet.

While Geoff was busy there, I started getting quite ruthless with the books and realized we probably needed to halve the number of books in our place. Well, that’s if we were ever going to be able to have people over once again. In other words, be able to open the place back up again, and not be afraid of somebody coming over.

Indeed, it’s been all too easy to forget we used to have people over, including holding the kids’ birthday parties. Whatever happened to us?

It’s called dermatomyositis an auto-immune disease where you’re muscles attack themselves and it’s been compounded by Interstitial Lung Disease, which has left me with 50% lung capacity. We’ve been in survival mode for so long, but with Geoff working from home this year due to Covid, we’ve finally been able to get ahead. Indeed, we’ve even saved money. So, 2020 hasn’t been all bad.

Well, it’s actually because of Covid that the renovations had to get a wriggle on. Usually, we go to my aunt’s place every year for a big Christmas with the extended family. My dad is one of seven, so what with all my cousins and now their kids, it’s become quite a tribe. However, they’re not getting together this year, and so my parents are coming to our place, and there’ll only be the six of us. Indeed, with such a small group, I feel we need to include the three dogs in on the head count. Nine sounds a lot better!

Lady’s keen to join us at the dinner table for Christmas lunch.

This means, of course, that I’m needing to cook, and not just cook the books. However, that can wait at the moment. We have a ham in the fridge, and I’ve made a Christmas cake and there’s also a pudding. So, I’ve made a good start.

All these books ended up in the kitchen while we were moving furniture around. Our dump and run room is now in the process of being cleaned out, and we’ve swapped the lounge and the dining table over so we’ll have two tables for Christmas Day, while creating a potential place for our teenaged kids to hang out. Or, perhaps it will be for us parents when, and if, their friends ever come over. I’m really looking forward to this new chapter, and it feels quite liberating.

Yet, at the same time, we still need to find a place for everything and have everything stashed away in its place by Christmas Day.

What have we done????

How are your Christmas preparations going? I hope yours are a lot less chaotic, and your plans are going well. Yet, at the same time, there’s also Covid to consider and its intent on ruining quite a few Christmases this year. Nearby Sydney has a cluster on the Northern Beaches and they’ve gone into lock down, and I’ve hearing of a few cancelled plans. However, cancelled lunches is nothing compared to the incredible loss of life the virus has claimed on a global scale, and there will be a lot of empty chairs this Christmas Day, and a lot of heart-ache. We are thinking of you and sending our love!

Anyway, I’d better get back to it.

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Piano Deconstructed.

As the saying goes “you can’t even give a piano away anymore”, especially when it’s over a hundred years old, out of tune, verging on decrepit, but with just enough life left to hope someone else might take it on. For the last five to ten years, we’ve been trying to give our piano away. Although we’ve had a few nibbles over the years, there have been no takers, and it just kept sitting here covered in picture frames, and an accumulation of household detritus and dust.

“Some people are aware of another sort of thinking which… leads to those simple ideas that are obvious only after they have been thought of… the term ‘lateral thinking’ has been coined to describe this other sort of thinking; ‘vertical thinking’ is used to denote the conventional logical process.”

Edward de Bono

However, as we found out, it’s all about the packaging. Or, perhaps I should say, how you package it. While no one wanted the entire piano, we finally managed to get our friend Neil interested in the parts. Indeed, he ended up towing most of the piano away in pieces over a few trips, and we were particularly excited to be able to keep the strings in tact, even if Geoff did have to saw through more than 10 centimetres of solid wood to pull it off. Neil’s already mounted the felts in his loungeroom where they’ve become an curious discussion point, and there are plans for a seat out of the wood. Meanwhile, I’m wondering how the birds and possums are going to respond to the ghostly sounds the keyless strings will be playing out in the bush until he works out what to do with it.

Yours truly photographed with the hammers extracted out of our piano. Neil’s cleverly mounted this on a wall. It’s intriguing.

Meanwhile, I have to tell you how much we enjoyed deconstructing this humble 100 year old piano. I know that sounds absolutely terrible, especially when I’m from a family of accomplished pianists. Indeed, it felt very much like a chainsaw massacre, especially after we found out much of it had been glued together, and the only way to get it apart, was to saw it to pieces.

However, ironically pulling it apart emphasized the beauty of its parts, which had become lost in the whole, especially once some of the keys weren’t working, and the cost of restoration was never going to pay off.

Indeed, it was quite incredible to appreciate just how much work, skill and attention to detail had gone into constructing the piano, and I guess we felt a bit sad that it had ended up being a useless lump of furniture and a burden. Indeed, it went further than that. The piano had actually become a significant roadblock, stopping us from renovating our loungeroom and getting it to a state where we’d be comfortable inviting friends over and dare I say it (drum roll) ENTERTAINING!!

So, I guess you won’t be surprised when I tell you that this situation with the piano has become a great analogy for explaining how to deal with a large persistent problem. Somehow, we need to find a way of carving it up into smaller components which will be much easier to deal with so we can clear the decks.

I also think our handling of the piano problem also shows how persistence can backfire. Sometimes, we need to stop persisting and give up. Stop putting up with a burden, problem, difficult person or situation and decide that “enough is enough”. It is going, going, gone!

Do you have any special memories of the piano? Or, perhaps you have a few horror stories instead. It’s a shame that the piano no longer holds it’s place at the heart of the family home with people gathered round to sing and play together; and also how it’s demise can also be attributed to the clutter Nazi’s who on’t let another gather dust. It is OUT!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 19th May, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, I guess I’d better ask all of you how you’re going first up and what’s happening around Covid 19 in your neck of the woods? You might need something stronger than a tea or coffee to get through that conversation. So, I’d better off you some chocolate. What do you prefer? We’ve acquired quite a stash in lock down. I’ve been doing the shopping online and snapping up chocolate on sale. It’s much tastier than toilet paper.

Quite frankly, I don’t know whether I’m Arthur or Martha at the moment. While I’m “creative” and not necessarily a great one for routine, I usually have the bare bones in place. Those activities which form a scaffolding and framework for the week and some sense of direction when you wake up in the morning. Indeed, you might actually wake up in the morning even the most chaotic and disorganized people and the freeist of free spirits have their anchor points. Indeed, I’m sure I had more structure when I was backpacking through Europe wandering like a cloud without a watch and no itinerary whatsoever, than living like this in Covid 19 lock down. What am I supposed to be doing? Where am I going?

Well, most of the time, the response to the latter is nowhere. Although I have been out for a few walks. This is what you term “exercise”, which sort of takes the buzz out of it to be honest, even if it does involve walking along our gorgeous beaches.

Oh, and before one of you remembers that I went down to Sydney to see my parents last weekend, I’ll stop being melodramatic, and express some gratitude for how well Australia’s getting through the coronacrisis and what a difference this has made to people like myself who are at high risk, and also to people with chronic or life-threatening conditions who depend on hospital beds. We’ve seen horrific scenes around the world but somehow we’ve been spared. It’s hard to understand, and I hope we have a handle on it now that restrictions are being lifted. It would be an absolute miracle.

Personally, I have to admit that the stress of having the coronavirus hanging round, particularly after having a few major asthma attacks during the Australian bush fire crisis and being locked away for a few months n the air-conditioned loungeroom, it’s a lot to deal with. The fact I’ve survived and got through without a scratch,  seems to minimize the battle and it’s like it never happened. My house didn’t burn down. I didn’t lose the lot. Nobody died. No trips to hospital. However, what our family has been through wasn’t nothing, and we’re not the only ones fighting these invisible battles beneath the radar either. It’s very hard, because it takes so much energy and thought to speak out that your emotions become quite intense and if the person you open up to doesn’t at least acknowledge your experience, you just give up. You don’t try again. Rather, you become silent, even though you might still be talking and the words are still coming out and your face, all except for your eyes, are smiling. In so many ways this is dangerous territory, because you’re rapidly disconnecting not only with those around you, but also to much of your self. That’s something those of us who know somebody who is going through a bit, especially an invisible battle, need to keep in mind.

Anyway,  restrictions are easing throughout Australia. Last Wednesday, our son returned to school for one day. That was quite interesting. When I asked him how it went, he mentioned the absolute silence. With so few students there, it was so quiet. He said that he could even hear the local trains going past, where usually he could only ever hear the horn. Our daughter hasn’t gone back to school yet. However, it looks like they’ll both be back to normal school hours next week. To be honest, that really freaks me out, and yet it’s perhaps a return to normal that we need, although I’m still concerned about them bringing home the virus and you just can’t presume that the kids will be okay themselves if they catch it. Meanwhile, having them home has felt like an extended holiday and it’s been great not having to drive them around. My son and I have been doing some cooking together and our daughter’s painted the back of her bedroom door cow pat, which looks really cool.

While some people have been Spring cleaning as their lock down activity, I’ve been writing but we’ve also been working on the house and yard and getting some renovations done. As you may recall, we bought a camper caravan for me to escape to if I need to quarantine from the family. It’s still parked out of the house, while Geoff sorted out the backyard, repair the garage roof and trimmed the bougainvillea before we could even start on restoring the camper. Then he won a few pallets of floorboards last weekend at an auction and  now I’m slowly moving the china out of the cabinet and relocating it wround the house. I don’t know if you’ve quite been on the hunt for real estate like this trying to squeeze your treasures into every nook and cranny. My friend works in a giftware shop and she does this all the time, and has a few casualties along the way. So, far so good. The piano is also going to be dismantled and put out for council cleanup. It’s really crappy, but I’m hoping I might be able to salvage some of the bits to stick them up somewhere around the house. I also want to make a sculpture of my grandmother the concert pianist where the pedals could become her feet. I’m not sure about how I’d build the rest of her, but I have some brass cuckoo clocks up in the roof, which I also thought about incorporating into a sculpture. By the way, what with storing up all these components, you might actually get the idea that I can actually sculpt, when I’ve never made a sculpture before in my life. That said, i did buy some wire and glue to make these papermache figures. Anyway, needless to say our house is bursting at the seams from all my inspirational ideas.

Meanwhile, I’ve been getting back into blogging again. I did my first Friday Fictioneers post for quite while and I also wrote  couple of poems which were inspired by Henri-Frederic’s: Journal Intime. I haven’t posted these as that limits what I can do with them. However, I did write a three part series reflecting back on our precious dog, Bilbo, who we lost three years ago. This wan’t soemthing I’d planned and to be perfectly honest, I woudl’ve opted for something more uplifting and funny at this point in time. However, there is humour in these posts as I reflect on Bilbo’s antics and I share about how we worked through our grief in perhaps some unconventional ways, which might help someone else get through their situation and perhaps feel less alone. I also want to leave these memories and reflections for our kids. They don’t pay much attention to Mum’s scribblings at the moment and I often feel I’m writing to myself when I really am often writing for them. That’s just the way it is and at least i have you friends out there who appreciate and encourage me in the present.

Anyway, here’s a link to the first of these stories which talks about Bilbo’s diet: The Dog We’ll Never Forget

My apologies for scooting off. Time has just flown away and I need to get to bed before sunrise this morning.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share.

Best wishes and please stay safe and well.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share…9th September, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share. This week, I’d like to offer you a slice of pavlova with fresh cream, strawberries and passion fruit or piece of Mars Bar Slice. Well, you’re welcome to have both if you like but you might regret it later.

Today, is our 18th wedding anniversary and perhaps it is a sign that we’re no longer newly weds, that I’m sitting here typing away on my laptop, which is teetering precariously on top of the dog (Zac) while my husband has gone to sleep. However, it’s also a week night and so there isn’t much of a chance to swing from the chandelier tonight. However, we did enjoy an absolutely delicious meal prepared by my gorgeous support worker and I made the pavlova for dessert. It’s also still a bit too cold to do anything really special. We’re planning to go on a Sydney Harbour Cruise when it warms up a bit both to celebrate our anniversary, but also my 50th birthday. I didn’t want us to just go out for dinner because it was expected. I wanted us to make the most of it. Do something really special when the timing is right and everything aligns.

These days when I look back on that bride and groom, I feel we were very naive, even though we were 35 and 32 at the time. Each of us had been through some pretty intense experiences. I’d survived two lots of brain surgery, had backpacked through Europe as well as seeing quite a lot of Australia. Geoff lost his Dad when he was 16, his Mum just after we met and his brother in between. However, when I mentioned this sense of naivety to him tonight, I more or less concluded that it was more a sense of ignorance about what it was like to become parents. I’m not sure if anything can prepare you for that both in terms of the most extreme joy you’ll ever experience and the most stress, worry, frustration and a whole lot else. Before kids, there were relationships, connections and responsibilities, but there was that sense that you could always leave. Walk away. Or, in the case of your parents, runaway from home which always seemed a lot brighter in the middle of an argument, than being homeless has in reality. As a parent, you’re it…especially when your children are small.

In hindsight, my childhood seems well removed from what I’ll refer to as the realities of life. My friends and I played in the bush, caught tadpoles, climbed trees and swung from metal bars, which would now be deemed unsafe. Well, that’s exactly what they were and I still remember a friend falling off and breaking her front tooth. We also played “brandings on the wall” where you had to move from one side of the wall to the other without being hit by a tennis ball traveling at speeds almost exceeding Australian fast bowler Dennis Lillie who was “pounding down like a machine” back in the day. Don’t think I played brandings more than once, making a hasty retreat back to playing hopscotch or cat and mouse in the school weather shed. This was at the co-ed country school I attended for a few years and I think I went back to playing hopscotch and stayed away from the boys most of the time.

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I’ve been thinking a fair bit about my childhood over the last week after driving out to Galston and walking through my old primary school and then driving out to see the old house, which was on five acres with a dam and a horse. They were good times roaming through the paddocks or the bush with my dog, a collie called Lassie (just to be original). There used to be a dairy down the road where my friend used to live and I remember clambering over the hay bales. It was a great place to grow up, although it was rather isolated, especially down our end of town. We moved closer to the city when I was 12 and we were walking distance to the train station and school. So, I became quite independent and was able to get around easily for better or worse.

By the way, I should point out that it’s rather funny pausing for thought with your laptop perched on top of your dog, while they’re breathing in an out. My laptop is rising and falling with his breath, assuming quite a life of its own.

I’ve been keeping up with my goal of blogging at least three times a week for the Weekend Coffee Share, Thursday Doors and Friday Fictioneers.

My post for Thursday Doors featured the first house my parents bought together back in 1971 when I was two years old. I wanted to share their story as a point of encouragement to young people looking at saving to buy their first home. It really can seem like mission impossible and for many in Sydney these days, it is. Indeed, we bought our first home just out of Sydney on the NSW Central Coast which is much more affordable. We also discovered the beautiful beaches and natural scenery away from gridlocked traffic and the rat race. It’s been a great place to bring up our kids. Here’s the link: The Great Australian Dream- Thursday Doors

I had a bit of fun with  my post for Friday Fictioneers and wrote about  The Odd Couple. 

Well, I think that about covers last week in brief and the dog has decided that he’d had enough of supporting my writing and he decided to hop down onto his comfy and sturdy bed.

What have you been up to lately? I hope you’ve been going well.

Well, it’s now Late Tuesday night and I’m only just getting around to posting this. I spent last night trying to find photos online of the dairy which used to be at the end of our street. However, it’s not like it never existed. It only appears as a brief mention in real estate advertisements. Makes me feel older than my years, because it wasn’t THAT long ago.

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Great Australian Dream…Thursday Doors

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors just please don’t look at the calendar. It’s already Saturday afternoon and if I don’t hop to it, soon it will be Sunday.

There’s no point going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

This week, we’re jumping into our time machines and setting the clock back to 1971 when my parents bought their first home at 101 Coonanbarra Road, Wahroonga in suburban Sydney. I was two years old and they’d been renting a flat in Rose Bay in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. However, Mum was expecting my brother and I was getting to an age where I apparently needed a backyard.

However, while these were practical and heartfelt considerations, consciously or unconsciously, my parents were pursuing the Great Australian Dream of owning your own home parked on the suburban quarter acre block along with the Hills Hoist (washing line), Victa lawnmower, backyard BBQ and the lone family car parked in the driveway.

However, this Australian dream had a rather narrow vision. The prescribed family was  comprised of a married Mum and Dad, a pigeon pair of kids, and no divorce. Australia was still under the influence of the White Australia Policy. So, our Great Australian Dream also had a lot of inbuilt flaws and was racist, sexist and completely excluded our Indigenous Australians.

 

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John Brack, The Unmade Road

Moreover,, while many Australians aspired to this domestic ideal of home ownership, some artists and writers condemned suburbia as a conformist and narrow-minded wasteland, as depicted in John Brack’s The Unmade Road pictured above.

 

Wahroonga House rear

The rear of the house before renovation. I loved seeing our old pram in the picture. Dad’s father is standing in the right corner looking rather removed. and wasn’t impressed with the place.

Getting back to Mum and Dad’s place, as you can see from the rear view of the house in its natural state, it was in a bad way. The sort of place real estate ads would describe as “renovate or detonate” or a”Renovator’s dream”. Indeed, it was so dilapidated,Dad’s father refused to go inside and you can even see him standing in the right hand side of the photo above looking unimpressed.

However, my parents weren’t completely insane, because it had location! Location! Location! Wahroonga is a prestigious suburb and the house was a short walk to Wahroonga Park and the station, where Dad caught the train into the city for work. The house was built around 1916 as a workman’s cottage and has since been demolished, although similar houses have been preserved in this street and now cost over $1 million.Every night Dad beavered away on the place after he arrived home from work. Indeed, the photo at the top shows the front of the house post-renovation. No doubt, he felt triumphant and rather vindicated when it was finished, and he’d proven his father wrong.

However, this triumph wasn’t without sacrifice. I think the MGB was sold to get the house deposit and Dad must’ve been exhausted going to work by day, fixing the house up at night and also having a toddler and a new baby and all that entailed. Living in the house itself was also quite unsafe and mum was horrified to see me bang my head after I fell over a broken floorboard. While we were staying in the house of horrors, my brother also developed whooping cough from his vaccination and was seriously ill. I can’t quite remember if there was a home visit from the doctor which caused my mother to almost die of embarrassment, or whether she had to take my brother out to see him. However, in an unrelated incident, I do remember my brother’s car basket going flying off the back seat of the Morris Minor as we drove over the railway bridge around this time. I was horrified. So, it seems that there were quite a few nightmare’s interwoven with my parents’  pursuit of the Great Australian Dream.

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Me in the front yard of the house. 

Fortunately, this house soon became a stepping stone and we only lived there for six months. After it was renovated, Mum and Dad rented it out and bought a bigger and better house in Warrawee. They never looked back and moved a couple of times before settling in there current home, where they’ve been living for almost 40 years. If you look at them now, you’d never imagine that they started out in such challenging conditions.

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The new house from the street with the Morris Minor parked in the driveway. 

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The rear of the house in Warrawee. The pram is still parked out the back.

I wanted to share this story as an encouragement to other young couples who are just starting out and struggling to save up for a deposit on their first home. You don’t need to start out where you’ll finish up and hard work,  determination, a bit of sacrifice and taking a chance can pay off. Indeed, quite a few of my grandparents generation bought a block and built a garage on it and lived in that while they built the house. Nothing arrived on a silver platter.

My parents’ experience fueled our own pursuit of the dream Australian home on the quarter acre block. We bought a renovator’s dream a short walk from the beach and figured we’d turn it over quickly and move on to something better. However, unfortunately my health and disability issues have slowed down our progress and we are still in the fixer-upper and it still hasn’t been fixed up. We’ve been here for 18 years now and what we did at the beginning needs to be re-done and we still haven’t replaced the floors. However, I’m glad in a way because our place is a home and has a sense of freedom and not having to tiptoe around and barely breathe in case the house gets dirty, the floors gets ruined and your idyllic Vogue Living home comes crashing down to earth in a pile of rubble.

Indeed, we have two kids and three dogs charging round the place and we can all stretch our wings and be ourselves. Give me a couple of years, and I hope to see a wrecking ball go straight through the place and we’ll start over.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip down memory lane and wondered if you’d like to share any stories about renovating, buying your own home or even about dreaming.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0 Please pop over and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Making the Grass Greener.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”

Eleanor Roosevelt

A few short weeks ago, we looked out over our backyard the same way Moses saw the Promised Land. However, all we saw was a dust bowl with three dogs standing somewhere in it and a few holes dug in for good measure. Indeed, if I hadn’t seen the three dogs, I might’ve wondered whether a wombat had taken up residence in our backyard. Some of these holes were huge.

Needless to say, the grass wasn’t happy.

“I believe a leaf of grass is no less than the journey-work of the stars.”

Walt Whitman

Moreover, just to add to it’s struggles, we’re in the throws of a serious drought and just because we’re not farming out on the land, doesn’t mean we haven’t been affected by the lack of rain. It might not be affecting our livelihood but our backyard was a dust bowl.

“The moment one gives close attention to anything,
even a blade of grass, it becomes a mysterious, awesome,
indescribably magnificent world in itself.”

–   Henry Miller

So we have digging dogs, dry drought and then there’s the sandy soil. We live metres away from the beach and while this very same sandy beach might be a thing of beauty, our sandy soil is largely infertile could go a few rounds of IVF. Indeed, even the weeds had given up trying to grow in our backyard. There was just bare sand.

To be perfectly honest, I didn’t hold out much hope of ever seeing green grass out the back, let alone anything approaching a lawn. I’d more or less assumed that my husband had also given up. After all, it had been awhile and there wasn’t exactly a lot of activity out there.

However, I don’t know what happened, but my husband sent up the backyard sprinkler system again. That was step one. Then, he built a very clever lawn growing contraption of the likes I’ve never seen before. Just like Australia has the rabbit proof fence, my husband built the dog proof lawn protector by simply nailing four planks of wood together and covering it with chicken wire. Just like the Parable of the Sower, my husband sowed out the lawn seed, covered it with the protector and then it was on with the sprinklers every night.

Then, miracle of miracles, we now have lawn. Indeed, the dog proof lawn protector has been moved onto its second location and much of the grass in the first plot is still alive.

Sometimes, I think we can settle where we are believing that things can’t get any better. That this is as good as it gets and we can forget to prepare the soil, sow the seed and water our dreams or just even our basic needs. It’s too easy then to fall into an engulfing sense of despair where there is not point lifting a finger or even trying to get up off the ground and pick up our mats.

I also want to say that I’m proud of my husband for coming up with our dog proof lawn protector. He commutes to Sydney puts in a long day’s work and is my carer 24/7 as well as being a father to our kids and the three crazy mutts. In so many ways, that’s life. We’re all busy. We each have our lot. Our hardships and our blessings. Last weekend, he started a sailing course. So, now he’s not only enjoying some green grass, he’s also experiencing some smooth sailing. Well, perhaps in time.

Is there something that’s changed recently in your life that’s made a difference? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena