Category Archives: Travel

A Walk in Redfern, Sydney…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors! This week, we’re off for a walk through part of Sydney’s Redfern, which is located 3 kilometres south of the Sydney central business district. The suburb is named after surgeon William Redfern, who was granted 100 acres (0.40 km2) of land in this area in 1817 by Governor Lachlan Macquarie. You catch the train to Redfern Station to get to the University of Sydney and the footpaths are heavily populated by streams of students.

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Well you might ask why we’re going on a doorscursion around the backstreets of Redfern, when we haven’t been to the Sydney Opera House yet. Of course, if I were planning my life around notable doors, that would be a very good place to start.   However, as much as I admire doors and could even support a philosophy of “Doors for Doors Sake”, that’s a luxury I can’t afford at the moment. Rather, I’m needing to be pragmatic. It’s more of a case where the door follows me, rather than me following the door. That said, there doors are quite stationary and not moving anywhere so I still need to go to them. I just can’t go too far out of my way.

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This week, we’re jumping back in time, returning to the Carer’s Day Out, which was held at the Redfern Community Centre. As it turns out, it could’ve been named: Door Day Out. As you may recall, I’ve already written about returning to my old front door at Abercrombie Street, Chippendale and photographed swags of doors around my former stomping ground, the University of Sydney.

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Today, we’re alighting at Redfern Station and onto Lawson Street right into Abercrombie and back down into Caroline Street and into the park outside the Redfern Community Centre. This area is very much a celebration of Australia’s urban Indigenous culture, but it has also been a dangerous no go zone. I have struggled trying to juggle these two extremes as I bring you down here and actually felt quite a lot of relief to be able to walk around these backstreets safely, which wasn’t the case when I lived here in 1988. I have read various views about this area and in particular “The Block” and for me the bottom line is that for many people this area has been home. Their home might have been on struggle street but it was/is still their home and deserves respect. No one likes having high and mighty outsiders coming in and telling them that their home is crap. I know our place isn’t perfect and after years of fighting my health/disability situation, it’s not what I envisaged either. I know I wouldn’t like someone coming in here and highlighting all it’s faults with none of its strengths.

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Redfern is the birthplace of the urban Aboriginal civil rights movement in Australia. The establishment of Aboriginal-founded and controlled services in the 1970s, such as the Aboriginal Medical Service, the Aboriginal Legal Service and the Aboriginal Housing Company, provided inspiration for self-determination for many Aboriginal communities nationwide. 1972: Redfern-based Aboriginal activists establish a protest camp, for justice and land rights, on the lawns of Parliament House in Canberra. This ‘Aboriginal Tent Embassy’ was a critical political action in the Aboriginal struggle. 1973: ‘The Block’ is established and attracts an international reputation as the bedrock of Aboriginal activism in Australia. 1978: Radio Redfern, housed at the Black Theatre (now Gadigal House) provides a voice for Aboriginal people in Redfern. 1992: Keating speech given at Redfern Park. ‘Before that, Australians did not know what was going on in their own country. We shaped that speech!’ —Redfern elder https://www.pmc.gov.au/sites/default/files/publications/indigenous/empowered-communities/alt/description-redfern.html

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A tribute to The Block, housing development.

The Block would have to be the best-known, most notorious and controversial landmark in Redfern. Probably the best known Redfern’s great claim to fame was: The Block. Houses on The Block were purchased over a period of 30 years by the Aboriginal Housing Company (AHC) for use as a project in Aboriginal-managed housing. The focus of life in The Block has always been Eveleigh Street, which is its eastern border, with railway lines on the other side of that street. ‘The Block’ is an area in the immediate vicinity of Redfern station bounded by Eveleigh, Caroline, Louis and Vine Streets.

So, when you look at the front doors of Redfern, you can know those doors have endured and seen quite a lot and built considerable resilience. That they’ve also part of a community. They don’t stand alone.

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Caroline Street, Redfern.

Clearly, I’m just passing through Redfern and don’t expect to revisit many of these streets until I’m back here next year for another Carer’s Day Out, which could well be the case. I had a fantastic day out.

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This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

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Thought I’d let Puss have the last word, even if he/she might’ve been sitting around the corner in Abercrombie Street.

Bridge Street, Sydney…Thursday Doors.

Welcome back to to Another Thursday Doors.

Before we touch down in the Sydney CBD, I thought I’d better give you a map and help you get your bearings.

Map of The Rocks NSW 2000

You might recall that last week I attended concert pianist Gerard Willems Twilight Recital at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music with my parents. On the way, I went on a detour (or “Doorscursion”) via The Rocks and then walked up Bridge Street to the “Con”. Last week, I shared The Rocks leg of the journey and this week, I’m taking you from George Street to the Conservatorium via Bridge Street.

Bridge Street isn’t one of Sydney’s most famous streets. Yet, although in this instance it was getting me from A to B, I was also retracing my mother’s footsteps on this journey. As a student back in the 60s, she used to walk up Bridge Street on her way to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. I could picture her almost running up Bridge Street possibly even running a bit late, especially when I spotted the imposing clock face peering down in judgement from the Public Lands Building. So, it was special to walk up Bridge Street and feel her with me, particularly as Mum and Dad were both meeting up with me at the concert. It was much more enjoyable to be able to do this walk while she’s still living than as a memorial.

So, I was just lucky that Bridge Street had such a plethora of stunning sandstone colonial buildings and some pretty photogenic doors. That said, there was also much to distract me. Bridge Street is full of history and so much phenomenal architecture.

Only 500metres long, Bridge Street is one of Sydney’s earliest streets, and started out as a path from the Governor’s house (then in what became Bridge Street) to the Military Barracks in Wynyard. It was named after the first bridge built over Tank Stream. By the way, for those of you not familiar with the Tank Stream, when Captain Arthur Phillip sailed into Sydney Harbour in January 1788, searching for a new settlement site, one of his main requirements was a reliable fresh water supply. As he sailed around Bennelong Point, now the site of the Sydney Opera House, he saw a wide-mouthed stream running into Sydney Harbour. At high tide, the water was deep enough for schooners to go as far as present-day Bridge Street. Here Phillip established the new colony, the new city and the beginnings of European Australia. Unfortunately, the Tank Stream has long been a storm water drain (Source: Sydney Water

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The Metropolitan Hotel, 1 Bridge Street.

Our Journey begins at No. 1 Bridge Street…the Metropolitan Hotel, which unfortunately has a McDonald’s downstairs so no great door photographing opportunities here.

 

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Burns Philp Building  7 Bridge Street, Sydney. Built 1901.

While the Burns Philp building is incredibly grand and held my attention, my roving eye was soon drawn away by the magnificent clock tower across the road, which is perched so graciously above the Department of Lands Building at 22-33 Bridge Street.

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The Department of Lands Building

Large public clocks like these always intrigue me and too often loom over me as a bad omen: “I’m late! I’m late! Late for an important date.” Or worse still I remember waiting on Town Hall Steps on a Saturday night in my youth waiting to meet a date and there’s always that fear that they’re not going to show up and that preoccupation with the clock. I also think of how these clocks have withstood time and so many people must’ve walked up and down Bridge Street under the shadow of this clock and while they have passed on, it is still here.

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However, I’ve allowed myself to be distracted. I’m supposed to be focusing on doors instead of clocks. So, let me just close the door on that meandering train of thought and we’ll keep walking.

Well, it looks like I haven’t found a door at the Department of Lands yet. So, you’ll just have to hold onto that thought for a bit longer.

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Here it is. Front Door, Department of Lands Building, Bridge Street, Sydney.

Across the road from the Department of Lands Building, we come to Macquarie Place. Again, I apologize for a conspicuous absence of doors here. However, as many of you will agree, it seems a bit rude not to include door-free landmarks we stumble across along the way. Indeed, I don’t know about you, but I feel a bit rude saying something along the lines of:  “Sorry, I can’t mention you because you’re not a door.”

Anyway, getting back to Macquarie Place… It’s a small triangle of land which was formalised as an open space with the erection of an obelisk in 1818 by Governor Macquarie to mark the place from which public roads in the colony were measured. A sandstone Doric fountain was also erected the following year. A sandstone dwarf wall and iron palisade fence were built around the site, and although the railings were removed between 1905 and 1910, part of the wall remains. While this area was rather spacious back in the day, it now looks small, overcrowded and when you see the obelisk, you can’t help wondering what on earth it’s doing there.

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The Obelisk, Macquarie Place, in 1926.

As I’m walking up Bridge Street, it was pretty hard not to notice The Gallipoli Club which is under construction and fenced off by some rather bright and colourful murals, which are rather out of keeping with the more traditional, surrounding architecture.  Positioned alongside grand sandstone buildings, these murals stand out and look fantastic as a temporary thing. As much as blending the old and the new can be quite effective, I also think it’s good to preserve the character of a place, especially in Sydney where we don’t have a lot of historic buildings of this calibre.

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The Gallipoli Club, Loftus Street, Sydney just off Bridge Street.

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Construction Entrance, The Gallipoli Club.

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I have always loved these quaint terrace houses located at 39-47 Phillip Street, on the corner of Bridge and Phillip Streets. Built in 1867-9, they look like something time forgot surrounded by soaring skyscapers and even pre-date the imposing sandstone buildings nearby.

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The Industrial Relations Commission

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Southern Cross University at 117 Macquarie Street.

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Hotel Intercontinental, 117 Macquarie Street and on the corner of Bridge Street. The InterContinental Sydney rests within the Treasury Building of 1851 – the first purpose-built government office in Sydney.

From the Intercontinental, it’s just a short walk across the road to arrive at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

I hope you enjoyed this doorscursion along Bridge Street to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music, even if my definition of door was rather broad this week. I certainly enjoyed my photographic walk. However, as I was putting this together, I realized just how rushed and incomplete it was. That said, I’ve put a lot of work into this chunk of the story. Of course, you could write a book about all the magnificent buildings in Bridge Street and their stories, but I’ll leave that for someone else.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

I’m now off to make myself a cup of decaf tea and head to bed.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Featured image: The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney.

Weekend Coffee Share…November 4, 2018

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere, I make no apologies for stealing your sunlight. However, if you’re joining me you’d better have your beverage “iced”. Although we haven’t reached a scorcher yet, the sun has had some very intense moments where we’ve definitely been back under the griller again.

How’s your week been? I hope it went well.

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Concert Pianist Gerard Willems

We’ve already hit the silly season here. On Wednesday night, I headed into the Sydney Conservatorium of Music to attend concert pianist Gerard Willems’ Twilight Recital. This was an intensely special and personal experience on so many levels, but in the end what truly made it special was Gerard himself whose heart and beautiful spirit was interwoven with the most incredible music. As you may recall, I play the violin and on many occasions, I’ve lamented my difficulties. Indeed, as I’ve struggled through a piece, I’d almost do a deal with the devil asking for just one perfect note. However, Gerard’s playing took that perfection to another level entirely. As I heard him play a series of single notes, each one was almost divinely perfect and I could almost see it wiggling it’s tail as it soared upwards to the stars. I understood then, for the very first time, that even achieving that one perfect note is beyond my human understanding. You can read mre about it Here

 

I arrived in the city a few hours early and went on a “Doorcursion” down to The Rocks, which is one of the first areas of English settlement in the country. In case you’re not too sure what madness a doorscursion entails, that’s lingo I picked up from Thursday Doors where us tribespeople go off in search of weird, wonderful and historic doors to show off to each other in the way that more regular people might show tatoos. This is only my second doorscursion. However, both times I’ve found that simply photographing doors makes me much more observant of an area. For example, I didn’t realize quite how many pubs are down in The Rocks and quite a few of my door photos ha d “Bar” or “Saloon” etched into the glass. However, as it turned out, my favourite door belonged to the Ladies’ toilet:

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After indulging in a sumptuous French dessert and cappuccino, I headed up to the Conservatorium via Bridge Street. This is a route my mother used to take everyday as a student at the Con. It was funny because I noticed a big sandstone clock tower on one of the buildings and I could well imagine my mother’s horror at the time…”she was late. Late for a very important date”.  Eventually I spotted the Con up the top looking like an alien spaceship. I’m sure it’s always looked odd but what with not getting into the city very often, I now find these more English-looking buildings out of place. We’re Australian.

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The Department of Lands Building, Bridge Street, Sydney. Constructed 1876-1892.

“It’s better to look at the sky than live there. Such an empty place; so vague. Just a country where the thunder goes.”
Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

My apologies for writing about my trip into Sydney in reverse. I also wanted to share that I read Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s on the train to and from. I’d seen it in the bookshop ages ago bought it on account of the movie, which from memory seems quite different from the book. I know I shouldn’t be surprised, but I always am. I’d like to read study the book in more detail, but I did like this passage about belonging…or not:

“She was still hugging the cat. “Poor slob,” she said, tickling his head, “poor slob without a name. It’s a little inconvenient, his not having a name. But I haven’t any right to give him one: he’ll have to wait until he belongs to somebody. We just sort of took up by the river one day, we don’t belong to each other: he’s an independent, and so am I. I don’t want to own anything until I know I’ve found the place where me and things belong together. I’m not quite sure where that is just yet. But I know what it’s like.” She smiled, and let the cat drop to the floor. “It’s like Tiffany’s,” she said.

Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Wednesday night, I stayed at my parents’ place and staggered home late Thursday afternoon. Friday…slept. The trip to Sydney took a lot out of me.

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Saturday, I found myself at the Sailing Club. Although I actually love sailing, I usually rate as ballast. However, now I’m needing to be the parent contact as my husband is doing a sailing course and isn’t available. This weekend was just a reconnaissance. Next weekend, Geoff’s working. I was just starting to write that I need to ensure the Flying 11 gets rigged correctly. However, there’s fat chance of that. I’m flat out just doing up my own shoelaces. He also ripped a sail last weekend and so I’m meeting up with Mr Sail Magic whose been doing a bit of sewing during the week. However, I was pleased to run into some friends who are doing the course with Geoff and it was pretty social afterwards. You can read more about it Here

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My son and crew out on his boat.

This week coming up is very stressful. While Tuesday might be the Melbourne Cup for the rest of Australia, I’m off to the Rheumatologist for a routine appointment. No dramas there except getting to and from. However, on Thursday I’m booked in for an endoscopy and colonoscopy which are not just routine but no indications of anything too dire either. I get dreadful heartburn and GIRD but was a bit anemic so they want to be careful.

So, after much fear, in trepidation and utter dread, I went into the chemist today to buy this stuff called “Moviprep”. You essentially take this stuff to clean out your bowels beforehand. This stuff is so volatile, that it’s split into two separate sachets, which you have to mix together yourself. This is all feeling very much like sticking Draino down my gob and if I wasn’t made of tougher stuff, I would’ve done the Australian thing, ignored my bowel health and run for the hills. Just to humour me a bit, when I get to the chemist, they offer me a choice of plain or orange. At this point, I thought there probably should be some kind of taste test or online review to advise us poor sods which way to go. So I asked my ever obliging Pharmacist who has seen me through many of my medical ordeals, which one he recommends. He tells me there’s the choice of revolting or really revolting and I take the lesser of two assaults on the palate…the orange. Clearly, there are no chef’s hats for this terrible stuff.

After dealing with all of that and finding out what truly awaits me late in the week, I headed into the supermarket deciding to make Mars Bar Slice and also finding out that Toblerone and Nutella are on sale. This is what I call a “preventative treatment”. Perhaps, if I eat enough chocolate beforehand, a few lingering flavours might overcome the culinary assault.

That’s a terrible place to finish up and I really should stick in some kind of good news story or a photo of a cute baby animal to sign off on an upbeat. However, Mars Bar Slice doesn’t make itself.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Watching the Sailing…Gosford Sailing Club, NSW.

Yesterday afternoon, I was on duty as the sailing parent while Geoff was out on the water doing his sailing course, and our son was sailing his Flying 11 with the Juniors. It was an absolute scorcher of a day. So, after they launched off, I retreated upstairs and bought myself an iced coffee, slice of cake and started reading a fantastic book exploring life after trauma…Leigh Sales: Any Ordinary Day. More about that to come.

“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.”

John F. Kennedy

I am finding myself on a steep learning curve at the sailing club. Geoff is working next weekend, so I’ll be on my pat malone with the lad putting all the bits of his Flying 11 together, which is making assembling my old Ikea desk with instructions and an Allen Key look like a walk in the park. While I wasn’t a complete failure on the DIY front and doing anything practical, I’m become something of a space cadet after almost twenty years of marriage to a guru. Of course, he’s written nothing done, so passing on the baton is going to be depending on the lad and his trusty crew member and his Dad.

“On life’s vast ocean diversely we sail. Reasons the card, but passion the gale.”

Alexander Pope

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Sometimes, I wonder how I became the parent stuck on dry land. I’ve always loved sailing but my mobility’s an issue and at this stage, I’m waiting for Geoff to get through his sailing course so we can get out there in the Laser together. Ironically, after not being able to sail because I had no access to a boat, now I can’t seem to get the boat down to the waterfront which is less than a kilometre away. Ditto with the kayak. Sometimes, you have to wonder how having a Nike moment and just doing it can become so complicated.

“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

Louisa May Alcott

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By the way, a year or so after getting his Flying 11, the change in our son is phenomenal. They’re not an easy boat to master what with their more complex rigging and they’re also a faster but more tip-able boat than the bathtub Opti he’d been using before. I think every rookie on the Flying 11’s has a few rough weeks of despair and digging deep as they spend more time in the water than upright, but then after a few months it slowly starts coming together. Then, before they know it, they’ve outgrown it and they’re onto the lasers and something new. That will be our son next season.

“To reach a port, we must sail – sail, not tie at anchor – sail, not drift.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Have you ever been sailing and have a few stories to share? I’ve love to hear from you!

Meanwhile, here’s a tribute to my Dad who loves his sailing:

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

The Rocks, Sydney…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors!

This week, you’d better back a hat, water bottle and a decent pair of walking shoes because we’re on a doorcursion  to Sydney’s Historic Rocks area, where European settlement began shortly after the arrival of the First Fleet in 1788.AS you can see from the photograph, The Rocks has some stunning views of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and fronts onto Sydney Harbour.

The route we’re taking starts out at Wynyard Station and we’re turning left into George Street. This is quite a chaotic construction zone at the moment. However, I managed to battle my way through to The Rocks, which clearly has to be a fertile breeding ground for photogenic doors.

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Map Showing the location of The Rocks, Sydney.

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This mural pretty much marked where I pulled out my camera and marks the start of The Rocks. While no doors are features, I felt it helped set the scene taking you back in time when the residents of The Rocks were living on struggle street.

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Next we come across Sydney’s oldest pub, the Fortune Of War, which was established in 1828 and has come to include a couple of pubs under one roof.

 

Russell Hotel Anime

The Russell Hotel (Previously known as The Orient) was built in 1887 in the Queen-Anne Style and in recent times appeared in the Japanese anime show: Free! Eternal Sunshine.

 

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Inside the Fortune O War Pub.

By the way, I should warn you as we continue our tour, that we’ll be dropping in on quite a few pubs. While The Rocks is a popular spot for a pub crawl, I hope you’re not in desperate need for a beer because we’re not stopping. We’re only checking out the doors and moving onto the next one.

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You’ll notice a Halloween joke out the front today.

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This front door belongs to the Julian Ashton Art School, which continues to train and encourage upcoming Australian artists.

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The Observer Hotel

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A bit more of a Halloween theme at this cafe.

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The Mercantile Hotel, The Rocks.

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I’m a big concerned about this door in the footpath. Could swear I could hear intermittent banging sounds.

After visiting all these drinking holes, it was inevitable that our doorcursion was going to end up here:

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I wonder if the riff-raff are also forced to use the Gents? This sign clearly pre-dates uni-sex toilets.

Well, I hope you enjoyed our doorscursion to The Rocks. I had a wonderful time. By the way, my walk through The Rocks was a detour on my way to the Sydney Conservatorium of Music last night. I was off to attend Gerard Willems’ Twilight Recital. Gerard is not only a brilliantly talented International concert pianist, he is such a warm and loving person and such a character. He was a year behind Mum at school and they both learned from another generous and encouraging soul, Nada Brissenden before studying at the Con. Mum studied piano there under my Dad’s mother, Eunice Gardiner while Gerard was under Gordon Watson. One night, my grandmother held a soiree at her Lindfield home for Gerard to get more performance practice and invited mum along. My Dad picked Gerard and Mum up from the station and that was the beginning of a whole new book, a whole lot more than just a chapter.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

The Endless Explorations of an Overstimulated Mind…

Life is what happens to you while you‘re busy making other plans.”

John Lennon

To the untrained eye, my thinking’s seemed pretty random of late…a mush of pea and ham soup with a few recognizable objects thrown in. Indeed, even I’ve been starting to wonder if there are any threads of logic tying my ramblings together. After all, there’s been no sign of  a train of thought methodically stopping all stations on the way to its advertised destination. However, after much consideration, I was relieved to find a noticeable thread running through it all, even if I did have to search for it.

Yet, as much as I love darting from light bulb moment to light bulb moment, I’ve also been feeling overwhelmed and wondering whether a more focused approach would be more productive.  After all, I’ve almost blown a circuit when all my light bulbs switched on at once. As much as that sounds fantastic from a creative point of view, I do have practical responsibilities. Indeed, clearly driving a car with a blown circuit is a liability. Moreover, members of the family need to eat, go places and live their lives. Yet, I also want to fulfil my own destiny. Walk in my own shoes.

So, today I thought I’d share some of this journey with you. I’m not even going to try to put a heading on it. I’m just going to grab my keys and go. That said, you ought to know we’re in Australia. I don’t want you to get lost before the journey’s begun.

First Stop:  Henry Lawson.

Henry Lawson by Lionel Lindsay

This journey began almost a month ago when I bought Colin Roderick’s: Companion to Henry Lawson’s Fifteen Stories at a garage sale in Pearl Beach. Fortunately, thanks to good luck or fiendish book hoarding tendencies, I already had its other half: Henry Lawson Fifteen Stories. Keen to write more short stories myself, I decided to get stuck into them. They’re designed for a high school audience and seemed quite thought provoking. I also wanted to immerse myself in my Australian cultural heritage. I stridently believe that everyone needs to know their own culture and step beyond the one-size doesn’t fit anybody global culture. So, I started reading more about Henry Lawson’s bio and was struck to find out he had a Norwegian father, Nils Larsen. I sort of knew that but that meant a lot more to me now. That you can’t just change a few letters in your name, and change who you are.

Second Stop: Bridget Donovan, Irish Famine Orphan Girl.

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Charlotte Merritt, daughter of famine orphan, Bridget Donovan.

As it turned out, Henry Lawson and his family were living in Mudgee in Western NSW where my 4th Great Grandmother, Bridget Merritt (Donovan) and husband George were living for several years. Bridget was an Irish Famine Orphan who came out to Australia onboard the John Knox as part of the Earl Grey Scheme. These Irish Famine Orphan Girls have been commemorated at Sydney’s Hyde Park Barracks as well as through historic research. As much as I’ve always loved an related to Henry Lawson’s works as an Australian, they suddenly meant a whole lot more to me now that they provided gained insights into how my family lived and the sorts of challenges they faced. Indeed, George and Bridget and their children could well have resembled one of Lawson’s characters and lived his short stories.

Third Stop:  Bourke, NSW.

Bertha Davies (nee Bruhn) and Herb Bruhn

Uncle Herb right as I knew him, along with his sister Bertha.

However, the connections didn’t end there. I also found out that The Bulletin magazine had sent Henry Lawson out to Bourke in 1893 to write stories about life in the outback. As it turned out, my grandmother’s uncle did a stint out in Bourke back in the 1960s. Moreover, Mum’s always told me this story about she was desperately looking forward to going to the Peter, Paul and Mary Concert, but was forced to go on a family holiday to Bourke instead. Although Mum was twenty and a student living out of home, there was no way she could get out of it. Even then, she was expected to do what she was told. No questions asked. So, I start picturing the family squished into the FJ Holden heading from Wollongong up over the Blue Mountains, through Dubbo and onto Bourke not quite following in Henry Lawson’s footsteps but I could sense a story in there somewhere.

Before I pursued this story any further, it was time to hit the research trail and see what I could dig up about Bourke in the old newspapers. Wow! Was I in for a surprise! While I knew Uncle Herb was into singing and I’ve at least seen an old black & white photo of him working on a musical production, I had no idea Uncle Herb was the Producer of the Bourke Musical & Dramatic Society.  As a town with a population scratching to reach two thousand souls, this was hardly the big time. However, he approached these productions with such professionalism, gusto and passion that he truly belonged on Broadway. From what I gather, they put on numerous productions including: Oklahoma, Cleopatra and South Pacific. Yet, given Bourke’s remote location, it was a battle for the show to go on. There were numerous efforts to recruit new members in the newspapers and he even offered free voice training. However, the appeal which really struck home was his quest to find a pianist, which must’ve hurt because my mother was not only a piano student at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. At this time, she was learning from Linley Evans who’d accompanied the great Australian opera singer, Dame Nellie Melba. However, mum was in Sydney and almost a thousand kilometres away.  Of course, Uncle Herb did approach my grandparents, but they decided she was far too young (Phew!!)

By this stage, the whiff of another story was almost knocking me out. However, the excitement didn’t end there. While I was scouring the old newspapers online, I stumbled across something like twenty poems Uncle Herb had had published in the newspaper. I didn’t even know he wrote poetry and as a poet myself, that was important. I’d found someone like me, and that’s not to be overlooked lightly. Indeed, I immediately wanted to drop everything and compile his poems into an anthology. However, than idea had a quick demise when I remembered that my own poems need a lot of sorting out and I’d better get my own poems in order first

Fourth Stop:  Honi Soit, Sydney University’s Student Newspaper.

Antonymns Rowena

Here I am back in 1990 running for election to edit Honi Soit .

Last week, while I was down in Sydney for the Carer’s Day Out, I detoured home via my former stomping ground, the University of Sydney. Quite aside from photographing the old buildings and retracing my footsteps, I found out that past issues of the university’s newspaper, Honi Soit, were available online. Needless to say, that proved quite a distraction.

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The Main Quad, Sydney University, 2018.

Hoit Soit was first published in 1929. As it turned out, my grandfather was studying dentistry at the time. So, that’s where my investigations began and I soon got caught up in all sorts of tales about students struggling to meet people on campus, which were exacerbated by the ruling that women couldn’t attend a dance unaccompanied by a man. Naturally, this ruling affected those who needed to meet new people most…the freshers.

Student Theatre Type

Above: The Arty Theatre Type

In my father’s day, I also found a very entertaining article advising freshers on “How to succeed at University by Really Trying”. May favourite was Graham Sawyer’s advice to college residents:

“Although a book could be written on entry into college the following hints may be of assistance.

  1. Be gracious, even when yelled at to answer the phone.
  2. Be mysterious, never take anyone (at all) into confidence.
  3. Get long distance phone calls, exciting letters . . . arrange these yourself,
  4. Rent a good painting for your room, when you have to return it say the artist was having a show, Australian art only of course.
  5. Buy from a junkyard a smashed up TR3 grille and inscribe it “September 1961, Sandra”. Put it in an obvious position.
  6. Have an affair with a girl in Sydney, and one in the old home town. Talk about it with passion, let whole college advise. Break one of the girl’s hearts, and plead guilty to the whole college.[1]
Student Graffiti Artist

Above: The Newspaper or Literary Type.

After browsing through a few back issues from my own time, I headed to 1969 the year of my birth. I was due to be born on the 20th July the day man landed on the moon and I wanted to read student coverage of the event. After all, the moon landing has become part of my personal narrative.

That was two weeks ago. However, in typical Rowie fashion, I still haven’t reached the moon landing. Instead, I stumbled into the Vietnam protest movement and my journey veered off in an entirely new direction. You see, my Dad had been called up to go to Vietnam and I almost felt a sense of duty to delve into it further.

Stop Five: Conscription & the Vietnam War.

Image result for Save Our Sons No Conscription

In 1964, the Australian Government introduced conscription. On the 10th March, 1965 the first ballot or “death lottery” was held, which covered men who turned 20 from January 1st 1965 to the 30th June. That included my Dad who was in the third year of his economics degree. It was pure chance, but Dad’s birthday came up. It was like playing pin the tail on the donkey, and suddenly the thumb tack went straight through Dad’s nose. He was in. That was that.

However, Dad still had a bit of time up his sleeve. He could defer until he’d finished his degree, but that would only buy him a year.

By now, you’ve probably gathered Dad got off. That’s a story in itself, involving what Dad called: “An Act of God” and once again brought into question that delicate fusion of destiny and chance. Not being a lawyer myself, I’m not exactly sure how this loophole stands up in court. However, you might recall that Billy Connolly referred to it in: The Man Who Sued God. 

Anyway, Dad was driving home from a party in the rain when his car skidded and careered across from one side of the Pacific Highway to the other into the path of an oncoming Mercedes Benz.  Needless to say, Dad was lucky to survive. However, he ended up with multiple fractures in his pelvis and a few broken ribs. When the police came to interview him, he managed to gloss over the bald state of his tyres and claimed: “it was an act of God”. Naturally, the Police were sceptical. However, what really mattered, was that his injuries rendered him medically unfit to go to Vietnam. So, it appears that even the army couldn’t argue with an “Act of God”.  By the way, in case you’re doubting the legitimacy of of divine intervention, the couple in the Mercedes had been having an affair and the accident opened the lid on that too. So, even if you don’t believe in the man upstairs, perhaps you’ll now believe in miracles.

Researching conscription and the early days of the Vietnam War has been fascinating, especially given my father’s involvement. I’m particularly keen to find out how these young men handled the waiting game. Although the birthdays had been drawn on the 10th March, the dates had been kept secret. The chosen ones would be notified by mail within a month and asked to report for a medical. Of course, there was no email notification back then and I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like for all those young men waiting to know their fate. Did they just get on with it and hope for the best? Or, was there an overarching sense of dread? I need to get my father relaxed and get him talking. He hasn’t said a lot. Although it’s over 50 years ago, it still feels relevant and must’ve been a significant stepping stone on his journey.

Last Stop:  Bien Hoa Airbase… Marigolds in Vietnam.

Bien Hoa

Although Dad didn’t go to Vietnam, all this research highlighted how little I knew about the Vietnam War and that I really ought to know more. In the past, I’ve found it rather intimidating with places names which weren’t familiar, and there’s always been a hostility to Australia’s involvement there. However, by starting to read about the war as it happened, it began to make more sense.

I’m not going to go into the battlefield side of things. However, I stumbled across an article by by  Dorothy Drain who’d visited Vietnam in 1965 as a war correspondent for Australian Women’s Weekly. There was one snippet within this story which really caught my eye. Indeed, my heart was glowing. Dorothy was near Bien Hoa Airbase, when she met up with B Company’s Sergeant Major, Eric Smith, “who was showing us with pride the marigolds blooming outside his tent”. He said:

“The wife sent the seeds. She sent me a Cootamundra Wattle, too, and someone swiped it with his big feet”[2].

Sergeant Major Eric Smith Australian War Memorial

I went on to find a photograph of the very same Sergeant Major, Eric Smith recording a tape to send back to his wife for Christmas. I don’t want to idealise this marriage of people I’ve never met. Yet, it warmed my heart.

Where To From Here…

red shoes

So, here I am at the end of another week wanting to consolidate all these fine beginnings. Write short stories galore. Yet, another week lies just around the corner with its own extraordinary moments. Indeed, on Wednesday, I’m planning a trip to the Art Gallery of NSW followed by a concert at the Conservatorium of Music where my grandmother Eunice Gardiner taught the piano and my mother was her pupil.

So, as much as I would like to slow life down for my pen to catch up, I still want to live. Keep my eyes open and absorb everything around me right down to the intimate, detailed minutae of things. I don’t want these light bulb moments to stop.

However, if you see me looking rather lost or woozy, could you please get me a chair or perhaps a glass of water. You could even give me a lift home.

After all, all this thinking, can wear you out. It’s surprisingly hard work.

I would love to hear any reflections you might have of any of the abiove. Clearly, it’s covered quite a lot of ground and it took quite a few days for me to gather my thoughts.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

References

[1] Honi Soit, March 5, 1963 Supplement.

[2] The Australian Women’s Weekly, December 8, 1965 p 7.

Flying Through The Eye…Friday Fictioneers.

As a five year old, Molly’s perspective of their European vacation was very different to her Mum and Dad’s.

While they were engrossed in the minutae of the architectural details, Molly’s gaze wandered upwards, drawn towards the huge eye peering down through the roof. The eye of a friendly giant.

“Molly! Molly!” he beckoned.

Sensing a miraculous adventure, Molly let go of her mother’s hand and started rising higher and higher. “OMG! Mummy! Daddy! I’m flying”

Then, she looked down.There was only blue sky, clouds and teeny weeny rooftops as small as Monopoly houses and the moon lay up ahead.

……

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Roger Bultot