Category Archives: Sydney Postcards

Art: When the Creator Becomes the Created…

Last week at the Royal Sydney Easter Show, my daughter and I crossed to the dark side and had our caricatures done.

For anyone else, this would simply be  a bit of fun, a memory to take home and it wouldn’t also turn into a soul searching analysis of what it’s like to be created, not creating. Of course, yours truly had to analyze the whole experience. Pull it apart and put it back together again…give or take a missing piece or two.

Obviously, you’ve experienced my photography. However, you might not be aware that I did the photography and publicity for my kids’ school for 6 years and gained a lot of experience photographing people.  I know what it’s like to peer into a face, observing details, responding to a smile, a twinkle or even the withdrawal of acute shyness to draw someone out. I know how to work with all these personalities to create a story in 6 x 4 and hopefully bring out their best.

However, it’s a rare moment that I’m in front of the lens. Or, as in this instance, at the mercy of the cartoonist. Sure, he might use pen, ink and crayons but he has an inbuilt lens. You have to have a good eye. Be an excellent reader of people to pull off any kind of caricature. After all, you’re not just reflecting the surface, but peering deeply into the pond needing to fish out hidden gems in a very short time.  BTW, although I’m usually behind the lens, I’m actually quite an extrovert and all the world’s my stage. I have no trouble performing for the camera, or the artist.

Surprisingly, it was actually my daughter who mentioned getting our caricatures done. I wasn’t entirely convinced.

You see, I’d been forewarned. While I was backpacking through Europe as a 22 year old, I caught up with Mum and Dad in Paris and had my portrait done outside Notre Dame. Being a serious, philosophical poet, I insisted on a more serious, reflective portrait. I did NOT want to look like an airhead. Ever since, my mother, who was standing back watching the proceedings with abject horror, has wanted to get that portrait fixed to show “my lovely smile”. I didn’t know what she was talking about until a few years ago and now I agree. “Smile, Rowie. Look at the birdie!” On the same trip, two of my friends decided to get their caricatures done in the shadows of the Eiffel Tower. They were dreadful and I don’t think those sketches have even seen daylight. My two very attractive friends, had nearly been turned into trolls. Of course, I photographed their reactions in situ. What a friend?!

So, when it came to getting our caricatures done at the show, I wasn’t naive. The cartoonist was warned! Yet, I became so relaxed with him, that I forgot to take my glasses off until it was too late. That is very unusual. Indeed, I’d be surprised if any of you have actually seen photos of me wearing the glasses I wear all the time. The glasses which are all but glued to my nose. I’m terribly short sighted and now near-sighted, and am becoming somewhat thankful for the glasses I’ve always despised.

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That’s not to say I was entirely at ease in my new role. Not that I’m a control freak. However, I did feel more than just a little curious watching him sketch away, especially when passers-by stopped and inspected OUR portraits in detail when WE couldn’t see it. Well, as usual, I exaggerate a tad. We did get to see quite a lot of the work-in-progress and I know both my daughter and I were noting which pens he used for what. She has a good chance of doing the tools justice, while I dream. I do a much better job writing about drawing (and dancing, skiing, playing my violin and making Nigella’s Nutella Cake) than actually doing it. However, I am starting to wonder about this life as a voyeur…Isn’t life meant to be lived?

However, of course, you also learn a lot watching…including the remote possibility that I might be a control freak after all!

That’s why I wondered whether the artist would ruin it by adding colour and whether the finished product would self-destruct when it went through the laminator, even though it was meant “to protect it”.

However, the thing about control freaks is that we like control for a reason. That when we don’t have control, things can go wrong. Get destroyed. Just like our caricatures when that blasted laminating machine turned us into a piano accordion. Been there, done that myself at home. That’s why I wasn’t sure about the laminator. That’s why I become the control freak. Things conspire against me.

caricature finished with Graeme

Wow! We were so impressed with how we looked. If you’ve ever watched the quintessential Australian movie: “The Castle”, you’ll know this is “heading straight for the pool room.”

It was at this point, that being a creator myself made such a difference. As much as I was very disappointed to see our portraits seemingly destroyed when they looked SOOOO good, I knew what it meant for Graeme to watch as his creation almost met its death. From this point, we were no longer artist and client. We were united in our desperate efforts to salvage the artwork. Performing CPR, twice we fed it back through the very laminator which almost destroyed it, largely melting out the creases. He said it was his best work of the day and that he’d struck a chord with us. Got a vibe. I know what that’s like and what his creation meant to him. It was no longer just a piece of paper. He’d poured heart and soul into each and every detail and you look at our larger than life smiles, and a real sense of joie de vivre really springs from the page. To have that destroyed in front of your very eyes, was horrible. Sure, much worse things can happen, but it’s a hard thing for a creator to see their creation munched up like that. Yet, like the subject, the phoenix has largely risen from the ashes and is about to sojourn underneath  our exceptionally think Webster’s Dictionary, which is the width of two city phone books…HUGE and weighs a tonne!

By the way,I’d like to give a huge shout out to our cartoonist…Graeme Biddel at http://www.caricature.net.au

How have you felt being the subject, instead of the author? The creation instead of the creator? Or, perhaps your creation has been lost in some way? I’d love to hear from you. Please leave your thoughts in the comments.

Love & smiles,

Rowena

 

 

Happy New Year – Sydney

We would like to wish you and yours a Happy, Healthy and Wonder-Filled New Year.

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The kids watching the fireworks on TV. 

We had an action-filled NYE at home watching the fireworks on TV and playing psychiatrist to Lady who was a quivering mess AFTER the fireworks had ended.

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Geoff comforting Lady.  Taken without flash. Didn’t want to freak her out any further!

Every year, the movie: Can’t Stop The Music plays after midnight and after watching it last year, I was back again tonight and I’m listening to YMCA.  That song  followed me through so many life changes. I remember dancing to YMCA at school and uni formals, numerous parties. After having kids, Geoff and I danced with the kids  to YMCA at the daycare family discos.  Now, here I am listening to YMCA  on NYE at home whole playing psychiatrist to a stressed out dog. The fire works terrify her and she trembles, dribbles and totally freaks out and that’s when she’s on our laps.   So, tonight I was doing the YMCA in my writing chair. No complaints though just great memories. That said, my 20 year old self is sneering at my current self asking: “Have we met?”

I am still working on my New Year’s resolutions but I’ve at least practiced my violin two nights in a row so that’s a good start.

How have you spent NYE? I’d love to see your posts so please leave links in the comments.

xx Rowena

Sailing With the Sea Plane.

Yesterday, we went sailing at Sydney’s Palm Beach with my Dad. For sailing affectionados, the yacht was a 34 ft Catalina. Given our close encounter with the sea plane, I should also clarify the yacht wasn’t a WWII aircraft.

More of a photographer than sailor, it was my job was to sit in my Princess seat, making sure I didn’t fall overboard. Same with the lad, except now that he has his level 2 sailing certificate, more was expected from him…especially knowing the difference between port and starboard,  stern and bow. Actually, even I know that.

You could say that the Catalina has a few bells and whistles. This includes an in-mast furled mainsail, which means you just need to use the winch to get the sail up and down. By the way, I’m merely ballast on these sailing trips, so that’s the full extent of my technical expertise.

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Geoff and Mister finally out in the Laser. Sailing on a much different scale.

Yet, sailing on the Catalina is obviously much more luxurious than our humble Laser. At the same time, I miss being right on the water, though I love not having to keep a constant eye on the boom. Ouch!

Naturally, we’ve been out on the Catalina before. However, we’ll dubb yesterday’s sail: “Who Has Right of Way?”

Dad was letting the rest of us steer, which was great fun but we don’t know all the intricacies of sailing etiquette. This meant we were constantly checking …especially being the Christmas holiday break. There was a huge cacophony of craft on the water. A veritable fruit salad of yachts, water skiers, kayakers, paddle boarders, ferries and even the sea plane thrown in.However, being under sail and something about being under a starbord tack, the lot moved out of our way…even the ferry.

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While I know I said I was ballast, I did have an extensive turn steering the yacht. That is, under my father’s much needed supervision. You could also say that I had considerable assistance from my husband and son. I have no sense of direction and could get lost in a paper bag.

Yet, since I can drive a car, you’d probably think steering the yacht would’ve been second nature…a proverbial piece of cake. However, steering a yacht is a very different kettle of fish (thought I’d sneak that one in too!). After all, the road has lanes, which prevent me from swerving all over the place. However, you obviously don’t go sailing in the local pool and there are no marked lanes. Moreover, there’s no auto-correct built into the steering either. So, every time I over-correct, I have to compensate.

It wasn’t pretty.

Indeed, no doubt to the trained observer, our meandering yacht appeared very confused. Indeed, perhaps the Water Police were all set to arrest the “drunken sailor”. Not that I’d had a drop. Indeed, I was stone sober.

That’s when my Dad kindly suggested:”maintaining some kind of course and not moving the steering wheel quite so much”!

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Our son having a contemplative moment inbetween giving his mother advice.

Meanwhile, my son wasn’t so kind and my husband “helped” whenever we passed another craft.

I didn’t mind. I have no ego and would rather bumble along having a go, than staying in my Princess seat being decorative. After all,when you carpe diem seize the day, you get used to wearing egg on your face. Moreover, you get less and less self-conscious when you step out of your box onto someone else’s turf and don’t need to get it right. Be perfection personified. You can just be your pure, unadulterated self in its shining glory.

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As it’s hard to photograph yourself sailing, I photographed this passing yacht.

By the way, if you’re not into sailing, you might not fully appreciate its complexities. That there are actually many restraints and limitations you can’t appreciate from land. So, you’re not as free as a bird and sailing isn’t a surrealist dream.

Far from it.

Rather, all of your senses are constantly switched on looking out for other craft, reading the wind and maintaining an equally keen eye on what’s going on beneath the water. You’re especially needing to monitor the depth of the water and changing underwater landscapes. After all, while the dangers of crashing into another boat are more obvious, you don’t want your keel getting stuck…or worse. Fortunately, the yacht has sonar which provides a depth reading and underwater map, taking away much of the dodgy guess work. Yet, you still need to be alert and Captain the thing. Machines are simply there to assist, not take over.

Consequently, sailing is like watching that proverbial duck gliding along. Serene and peaceful from a distance, there’s a lot of work going on beneath the surface to keep the yacht moving, safe and on track.

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It’s not a bird or a giant Australian mosquito. It’s the Sea Plane. Photo c: Rowena Curtin.

However, all these safety concerns ramped up a notch, when I noticed the sea plane coming in to land. The sea plane flies from Rose Bay on Sydney Harbour to Palm Beach and is an incredible site to watch…theatre in motion.

I was tracking the sea plane through the lens, when it suddenly took a sharp turn and we were staring eye to eye. That’s right. The yacht was smack bang on the runway.

seaplane-landing

That’s when Geoff asked Dad who had right of way…the yacht or the plane?

If you don’t sail, you might not appreciate that sailing is like a game of chess. That determining who has right of way, is an intrinsic part of sailing and this fundamental rule can determine the safety of the players. One false move could prove deadly…especially when it means taking on the sea plane head on.

At this point, I didn’t care who had right of way. I was all for exit stage left. After all, as Geoff’s uncle, a returned serviceman, used to say: “Some rights are worth dying for. The right of way isn’t one of them!”

However, although it felt like the sea plane missed us by a whisker, there was never any doubt. The plane was in like Flynn.

Mind you, I felt sorry for the pilot trying to land in that dog’s breakfast, wondering how many of them actually looked up? Indeed, did they even know it was there?

Of course, this is where I came into my own. The rest of the world might have disappeared, but my zoom lens was fixated on that plane tracking its every move. Indeed, it was glued. The plane was zooming in closer and closer just about to land and my trigger finger was going ballistic.I was in photographic, wow! wow! heaven.

Just as well Geoff was steering! I was so single-focused that the lens could’ve smacked straight into the sea plane before I’d registered any form of contact.

What a day! Sailing, photography, scenery, sea air…

Oh happy days!

xx Rowena

Lugubrious Dark Gully, Sydney.

Yesterday, we levitated out of our post-Christmas slumber to go sailing with my Dad. His yacht is moored at a mysterious location known locally as: “Dark Gully”. Before you start thinking he’s a pirate or smuggler of sorts, Dark Gully is in Palm Beach, a place made famous overseas by the hit drama series: Home & Away.

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Map of Palm Beach, Sydney. The Left or Western side is Pittwater with still water and the right or Eastern coast has waves.

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Mind you, just because Dark Gully gets its name from being sheltered from the sun, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have its mysteries. Top of the list, is a sandstone cave which has a window and a door. Of course, it doesn’t take much imagination to view this mysterious hide-out as an Aladdin’s Cave. A treasure trove overflowing with some kind of stash more interesting than broken boat parts, tangled fishing lines and last year’s empties. Unfortunately, despite extensive surveillance while we were living in the area, I’ve never witnessed even the twitch of a twig outside that place. I swear they come and go by moonlight and yes, the moon is on that side of the hill.

By the way, speaking of not seeing things in the area, the late George Michael lived just over that hill and I didn’t see him coming or going either. Not that I was operating some kind of amateur surveillance or stalking operation down there. As far as I was concerned, the water was always an empty, black ink. Of course, I sort of knew there were flying mullet, stingrays and sharks lurking beneath the depths, but I never saw much action on top of the water. There was just the huge yacht which moored a few metres away from our boat ramp  every Christmas. Humph… there could well have been activity there. However, I was too busy photographing the moon to notice. Yes, that’s right I was stalking sunsets and moon rises with my camera, not celebrities I didn’t know were there.

Next up…sailing at Dark Gully and you can also read about exploring Dark Gully and Palm Beach in this previous post: Exploring Palm Beach…Our Borrowed Backyard.

xx Rowena

Christmas Coffee Share!

Welcome to our Christmas, I mean Boxing Day, Weekend Coffee Share.

We hope you and yours have had a wonderful Christmas, celebrating the season.

Not quite sure what to other you in the way of drinks this week. I’m leaning towards tea or coffee with a slice of Christmas Cake or toasted Stollen.

We celebrated Christmas Day with lunch at my aunt’s place with the extended family and then back to my parent’s place for “dinner”. The kids spent much of the day in the pool mucking around with my cousins. I didn’t get in yesterday, although I did manage a pre-Christmas dip in my parents’ pool.

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Never too old for pool toys!

It’s now Boxing Day Monday and we’re perched in front of the TV set watching the start of the Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race. Winds are currently 10-15 knots yet to the untrained eye, they appear stronger. The yachts are keeling over at about a 45 degree angle. While I’m no veteran of the race, they seem to leaning over more than usual.

Yesterday, my aunt asked our son when he’s going into the Sydney-to-Hobart. Give him a few years. He starts racing locally in January.

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Start Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race 2016.

By the way, Perpetual Loyal made it out of Sydney Heads first. We’re still watching, listening to all the sailing talk and giving our son a few lessons. I know watching sailing is no compensation for being out there yourself. However, this is his chance to learn from the masters…and my husband who is providing us with arm chair commentary.

Today, I’m following my father’s Boxing Day Tradition and not doing anything. Well, I am writing and jotting down all the snippets from yesterday.I know writing isn’t doing anything but it’s letting energy out, rather than taking energy in and that’s what I need. So, although I’m in my writing chair surrounded by the family and dogs glancing at the yacht race, I’m still in my own little space bubble. I need to breath. Stretch my wings again. I feel like I’ve been locked in a matchbox and I need to break free. I suspect that’s all the built-up pressure of the end of the year and I’m now  finding myself needing to reflect and debrief. Let myself flow. It’s been so stop start lately that I’ve become jammed somewhere in  between the accelerator and the brakes (if that makes any sense). That description makes a lot of sense to me.

By the way, the camera people were just catapulted off the back of the yachts as they leave Sydney Harbour, picked up by the rescue boat. It sure looked odd and more of an emergency than a planned operation, especially as there are sharks in Sydney Harbour.

Christmas Eve we went to Church and then off to a pot luck dinner. By the way, they were giving away hampers at Church and they were offering them to the person with the loudest voice. No surprises there. My son’s voice boomed out and we’re now feasting on chippies, fruit mince pies etc watching the race. Yum! I’m about to head out to the kitchen for a piece of toasted stollen . More yum. Couldn’t fit in half the goodies yesterday. So while I’m explicitly doing nothing today, I am feasting away.

We went to my aunt’s place in Sydney for the usual big, extended family Christmas and went to my parents’ place afterwards. No one was hungry although I did manage to squeeze in another piece of pudding, custard and brandy butter but only just!

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Lego Santa Loves Christmas Cake.

I’ve been blogging about the lead up to Christmas, which I thought you might enjoy. I wrote about The Meaning of Christmas Cake. After finally making my Christmas Cake, I’d packed it up to take to my parents’ place mid-week and the dog got in and ate it…Christmas Dogastrophy. Bilbo just asked me to clarify that it wasn’t him. It was Lady, who naturally ended up at the very top of Santa’s naughty list…not that it bothered her. She kept wagging her tail and looking up at us with her huge brown irresistible Cavalier spaniel eyes showing no remorse whatsoever.She very good at that!

Bilbo & Lady

Bilbo & Lady

I also ended up making a second Christmas Cake…the Aussie Harvest Cake. This adventure and indeed, it did turn into an adventure started out with driving round and round trying to find a bottle shop which was open at 10.00PM…All For A Sozzled Christmas Cake. If you’re not into making your own Christmas Cake, you might not appreciate that they’re very heavy drinkers. This one was demanding an entire cup of brandy. I’d be sozzled.

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Yet the adventures didn’t end there. I should’ve realized that3 kgs of dried fruit was hugely excessive and that this recipe would produce a monster cake to feed an army. Obviously, I didn’t and that’s how I came to develop the Christmas Cake Workout .

In addition to all the Christmas preparations, I also took part in Friday Fictioneers again. I’m really enjoying these challenges and have been thrilled with the results. If you haven’t tried writing flash fiction, I encourage you to have a go. You might also surprise yourself. American Diner Down Under.

Well, I hope you and yours have had a Merry Christmas and we also wish you a Happy and wonder-filled New Year!

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Diana at Part-Time Monster and here’s the Link-Up

Love,

Rowena, Geoff, Mr, Miss, Bilbo and Lady.

For those who have been following the growth of the sunflower seeds, which were salvaged from the MH17 crash site site in the Ukraine, two are flowering for Christmas.

 

 

 

 

Watching Crowded House.

Last Saturday night, Crowded House performed live on the steps of the Sydney Opera House.

Unfortunately, we missed it, but the concert was televised ABC TV on Sunday night and we were all parked in front of the TV reminiscing with Neil Finn and the band. Indeed, they were playing in our very own lounge room. Weren’t we lucky!!

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Neil Finn

In case you haven’t heard of Crowded House, it’s an Australian rock band. It was formed in 1985 by  New Zealander Neil Finn and Australians Paul Hester and Nick Seymour. They were later joined by Neil’s older brother, Tim Finn. Both Neil and Tim Finn hailed from Split Enz.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not a band person and there have never been any bands I’ve hero worshipped, longing for their next album. However, there were favourite songs, which I’ll never forget, but you probably need to be 40 something or over to know any of these.That said, I can mention Electric Blue by Icehouse without embarrassing myself.

Anyway, getting back to Crowded House…

I got quite a rush hearing many of the old Crowded House songs again. Not that I could’ve picked them as Crowded House. Yet, the songs were very familiar like running into an old friend. Crowded House was always there.

Actually, I’m quite grateful that I’ve had this opportunity to reconnect with Crowded House now and intend to buy their CD. Well, at least a CD. No doubt, they’ve put out more than one. It will be joining me in the car. I do a lot of driving!

So, having confessed that I’m anything but a Crowded House expert, I’m obviously breaking the most fundamental rule of writing… writing about something I know very little about. While I understand that this could be my undoing given there are  obsessive fans who know each and every hair on their heads.

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Tim & Neil Finn

However, there can also be a different kind of story. More of a getting to know you, dipping my little toe into the waters and sharing the journey kind of story. Moreover, while many people would be interested in pulling their music apart , I found myself watching and absorbing the band as people.There was something intangible about each of them which really touched me.  They all came across as really interesting, warm and genuine people with a very strong sense of something like a cross between empathy and compassion. I’d really like to sit on a beach watching the moon rise listening to these guys talk. Not about the band, being in a band or being a star but to hear their philosophical observations of life. I could sense wisdom, which isn’t a trait I usually attribute to band members but it was there. I know it was there.

So I wasn’t really surprised when I came across these quotes from Neil Finn:

“I try to put myself into unusual and difficult situations as often as I can in order to capture the element of struggle in the music.”

-Neil Finn

“So I think rather than being attracted so much now to working with my heroes, I’m sort of more attracted to working with completely unlikely strangers because it’s more exciting really.”

-Neil Finn

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Tim Finn…you could really tell he was having a blast!

There were also some poignant quotes from his older brother, Tim Finn:

“True contentment comes with empathy.”

Tim Finn

“Weave me a rope that will pull me through these impossible times.”

Tim Finn

“I’m a live performer and I love playing live.”

Tim Finn

Anyway, on that note I’ll leave you with a few songs:

 

Enjoy!

Crowded House: Don’t Dream It’s Over.

Do you have a favourite Crowded House song? What is it?
I find it hard to pick out of these three.
xx Rowena
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The End.

Sense-sational Schools Spectacular 2016.

If you are one of those people who experiences creative overdrive when all your senses get stimulated at the very same time, then perhaps you’d better stay away from Schools Spectacular. It’s the largest variety show in the world and included 5,710 performers, which also gives the show its other name: “Schools Specktacular” as most parents require the Hubble telescope or a telescope to spot their kid. You’ve just got to hope you can find them at the end.

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Our daughter heading in to perform.

Anyway as you’re well aware, I see through the lens of my SLR camera. It gives me much better vision than my glasses and not only that. It saves that vision for later and I can watch it again and again and again.

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Photo: Rowena Curtin

However, those “Spectacular Powers That Be” banned so-called “professional” cameras. So, for the first time EVER, my extra long lens worked against me. My poor camera was banished to the boot.

Down but not out, I took over Geoff’s “camera phone”. Desperate times called for desperate measures. I was back to being a mere mortal again. It felt like the photographic equivalent of riding a bicycle in a Formula One race. Although the phone might be good at taking selfies, that’s not what I was there for.

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The Dancers…Rowena Curtin.

However, all wasn’t lost. It turns out Geoff’s camera phone has a curiously abstract perspective, capturing some interesting effects.Well, it wasn’t just his camera phone because there was still a photographer’s eye hard at work. I thought I’d get some interesting effects with the dancing sea of arms and legs. I  just didn’t know  how they’d turn out.

I would also like to recommend reading my previous post about some of the disability access struggles I had at the venue… Qudos Bank Arena at Sydney’s Olympic Park. I didn’t write this for my own benefit. These issues need to be raised for the greater good. Here’s Accessing Schools Spectacular.

xx Rowena