Category Archives: Travel

Weekend Coffee Share 10th January, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, I am going to launch off the New Year with a huge philosophical question: why do I always leave writing my coffee share posts down to the last second where I’m racing the clock and nearly missing out by a hair’s breadth?

This sums up 2022 so far and may look familiar to friends of Max the Dog.

I don’t know. Indeed, now more than ever, I have no excuse. The air is covid soup out there, and so I’m either at home or walking around in nature, although I must confess I went to the opportunity shop last week albeit wearing a mask and avoiding all human contact because right now we know EVERYONE has the plague, even if they haven’t fully appreciated it themselves. I guess that also includes me, and my cough, but I always have that so it would be hard to know. Although I’m triple vaccinated and take my daily dose of 1000mg vitamin C, I fully expect to KNOW if and when I get covid on account of my crappy lungs.

Anyway, I’ve become so distracted that I’m distracted from my distractions, and even spent two days entering my family history stuff into Wikitree like a woman possessed. To be honest, I can’t really explain it, but there I was populating cyberspace with all these people who were strangely represented by little Lego people in my head and their little Lego city started out as Surry Hills and Paddington in urban Sydney, and spread out over the Blue Mountains to a place called Rylstone near Orange. It’s a place I’ve never heard of before but it was interesting reading the little newspaper clippings I came across about their life out on the farm there, especially after they’d come out from Ireland.

In a sense it’s not surprising that my need for people interaction, family and friends has become rather warped when I’m an extrovert living underground. We just had Christmas at home with the four of us and were even counting the three dogs this year. Yes, that means there were actually seven of us for lunch and almost enough to constitute a “party”. My parents decided not to attend the big family Christmas to be on the safe side, and by the end of me trying to convinced them to go, Dad won out and we stayed away too. I couldn’t be sure our kids didn’t have it, and I didn’t want Dad’s siblings who are mostly over 70 catching it and going down badly.

However, we made our own day, and we razzled things up a bit with a genuine German Gingerbread House from our local German bakery, and we went driving around looking at the Christmas lights. These were people’s houses so mostly they weren’t as spectacular as what Natalie had to share from Toronto, but there were a few houses that really made a valiant effort. Indeed, they were completely over the top in a way that had to be be seen close up to be fully appreciated.

Not only did we cancel attending the big family Christmas, we also cancelled our annual family holiday to Byron Bay to see Geoff’s sister at Nureybar two doors down from Liam Hemsworth btw. We couldn’t be sure that we wouldn’t be taking covid with us and that area is heavily anti-vax and into natural therapies and it really didn’t feel like it was going to be a true holiday. That we’d be having to be so vigilant, we were better off at home. However, we will take a rain check.

So what with going without the big family Christmas and the holiday to Byron Bay, it sounds like we’ll soon be wearing hessian sackcloth and truly going without. Some would say there’s growth and something strangely cleansing about all of this. You know, leading the simple life and all that. I’m not so sure. I get onto that devil of envy Facebook and see friends smiling away and having real holidays. Am I smiling back at them? What you you reckon? I haven’t stayed away from Facebook completely but it’s definitely not my friend right now.

Meanwhile, outside beckons. Not in a pleasant way though. It’s telling me to go for a walk. Exercise. That’s wonderful when I get there. However, it’s rather cosy at home in the air-conditioning and it’s muggy out. You can almost see the steam rising off the lawn. There’s good reason to go into a sort of comatosed limbo right now and wake up in March when it’s not so hot, muggy, and this covid peak they’re promising is gone. I can go into a crowded room of friends again with a mask and smile, hug and drink champagne without keeling over dead.

So, I’m probably not the best entertainment right now. However, I can recommend a good book. I loved reading Amanda Lohrey’s: The Labyrinth, and I’ve started reading Kay Warren’s: Choose Joy. I really should’ve been delving into that, because I’m been choosing to grumble instead. Well, grumble might be understating things a little but you get my drift.

Anyway, Geoff and I have been going on quite a few walks and even a trip to the Mt Penang Parklands, although the photos are still on my phone and in the pipeline, as the saying goes.

Well, I have to admit I’m proud of myself. I’ve been typing like crazy against the clock and thought that my hour was up but I still have 45 minutes to go. Well, of course, I still need to add a few photos and pretty it up a bit. I’ll even add a few links. Gee, you’re going to get all the bells and whistles now when I thought I might need to cut it short and come back later to finish it up.

This means I can now share my top ten songs for transitioning from 2021 to 2022:

I also shared a few insights into what Christmas 1921 was like after such a strange and challenging couple of years. Of course, we think we’re badly off and the world’s never known anything like this before, even though we’ve all heard of the Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1919 and there was something about two world wars as well. However, why let truth get in the way of a good story? Anyway, I shared a letter English-Australian author Ethel Turner, wrote to Australian children in 1921 and a fundraising drive she organised, while also writing a post setting the political and cultural context. Our 2021 wasn’t so bad after all.

Anyway, I have vowed to be more organised next week. Actually do my Weekend Coffee Share on the weekend instead of Monday afternoon Sydney time.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

Caught In The Never-Ending O’Sullivan Maze

Over the last couple of days, I’ve found myself caught in the ultimate avoidance device -the Never-ending O’Sullivan Maze.

Well, you might ask where and what on earth this is. If you’re looking for a physical address, you’ll be sorely disappointed. Hang on. There are actually physical addresses after all, but what this maze is referring to is nutting out my O’Sullivan family history and entering all these people into an online community at Wikitree. This is a free online database, which allows me to document and share my research and connect up with cousins without feeding the Ancestry machine. I am a great fan of the “free economy”.

Before I get stuck into the whys of the O’Sullivan Maze, I thought I’d launch off with the whats (or is it the whos?) Actually, it is a who. Who were the O’Sullivans? Next question: why do they matter?

Some would argue that they’re rather random and remote ancestors of mine. Although I don’t mention it very often on the blog, my surname is Curtin, although I’m actually known more by my married name, although I’ve only half-changed the legal documentation after 20 years of marriage. To reach the O’Sullivans, we need to go via the Curtins.

James Curtin, son of John Curtin and Bridget O’Sullivan with his wife, Charlotte Merritt

The story begins with John Curtin, who was my first Curtin ancestor to arrive in Australia. He was baptized on the 1st July, 1831 in the Parish of St Finbarr’s, City of Cork County Cork, the fourth child of Thomas Curtin a stevedore on Cork Harbour and Mary Scannell. On the 5th December, 1853 he sailed out of Liverpool as an Able Seaman on board The Scotia, and arrived in Sydney on the 2nd April, 1854.

On 5th September, 1855 John Curtin married Bridget O’Sullivan at the more humble, original St Mary’s Cathedral, Sydney . John was aged 22 and Bridget was around 19 years old.

Bridget O’Sullivan was born around January, 1834 in Mallow, County Cork, Ireland to Daniel O’Sullivan and Mary Egan. They were living at Jones Lane, Mallow when she was baptised on the 20th January, 1834 by Father DM Collins who went on to become part of a delegation of Irish priests to lobby the English government for support during An Gorta Mor or the Great Hunger. Her sponsors were Edward Foley and Johanna Leary. Bridget had two younger sisters, Catherine and Mary Ann. The O’Sullivans sailed out of Plymouth on the 6th July, 1851 arriving in Sydney  on the 8th October, 1851. Shipping records state Daniel O’Sullivan’s occupation as Farmer’s Labourer and Mary Ann was a dairywoman. Bridget was 15 years old. She could read and write and worked as a General Servant.

The O’Sullivans didn’t just come out to Australia because they had nothing better to do. Rather, there were probably two forces at work. Firstly, there was the An Gorta Mór (The Great Hunger or “Irish Famine”) 1845-1852, and the discovery of gold at Bathurst, NSW on the 12th February, 1851. When you put those two forces together, it was a no brainer. Moreover, Daniel’s brother David O’Sullivan, and Mary’s brother, Denis Egan, were already out here, and had paved the way.

Irish Signs at the Porterhouse Pub, Surry Hills.

That was how the O’Sullivan maze through Sydney’s Surry Hills and Paddington began. Around 1890, Daniel O’Sullivan’s brother, Denis and his wife Hanorah Cahill arrived in Sydney with their four children and youngest son, John Paul, was born in Sydney after they’d arrived. Their daughter Catherine Agatha married Thomas Edward Augustine Plasto on the 24th May, 1879 Sacred Heart Church, Randwick. They had six children before she died on the 25th November, 1891 and her husband went on to have an additional eleven children with his second wife. Fortunately, however, they’re not part of this maze, and the Plasto children were just the tip of the iceberg.

Anyway, before Denis and his family arrived on the scene, we had Bridget who had married John Curtin, and they had nine children. Before you start thinking they bred like rabbits populating Surry Hills, Paddington and beyond; three of their children died as infants.

Meanwhile, Bridget had her two sisters living nearby and I guess this is where I’m heading with this story…a story of three Irish sisters arriving in Surry Hills and the various ups and downs they and their descendants experienced. However, before I can really delve too much into the story, there’s the scaffolding of the actual family history and how these Irish families in Surry Hills and Paddington intermingled both genetically in families and as community. That’s what mathematicians refer to as the “working out”. You always need to be able to show your working out (if even if it’s as tedious and boring as those genealogical passages in the Bible.) You can’t just go from A to Z without being able to show how you got there.

Bridget Curtin’s sister, Catherine Murphy and husband Thomas had a grocery store at 410 Crown Street, Surry Hills. She did in 1895 and this photo was taken a block away on the corner of Fitzroy and Bourke Streets in the 1930’s. However, I thought it made a good parallel and I’m sure this woman, like Catherine Murphy, would’ve had her finger on the pulse and known what’s what in the community.

I have no sisters. I don’t have any idea of what it is to have a sister, and I’m barely in touch with my brother. I don’t want to idealise these relationships or create a closeness that wasn’t there. After all, perhaps these sisters had some intractable falling out and while they almost lived on opposite street corners, perhaps the emotional distance was an impenetrable void.

Charlotte Curtin and sons outside their grocery store on Cleveland Street.

That’s the trouble with writing non-fiction especially using real people with real names. Ideally, you somehow manage to walk in their shoes rather than turning them into a reproduction of yourself. Placing your stamp on their forehead. That is something I take rather seriously, and to be honest my efforts to reach the truth more often than not prevents me from writing anything at all.

My grandfather “Robbie”” and brother “Eddie”. Their mother’s handwriting was on the back of the photo.

Anyway, that’s not what I’m doing now. I’m transferring my who begat whom into this Wiki genealogy thing online. I don’t know why I started doing this. Well, I sort of do. I was talking to a friend and discovered a mutual connection via the Spora family and I was trying to nut it out. Bridget O’Sullivan’s niece, Johanna Maria Murphy, had married Gaetana “Frank” Spora and they’d had eight children. Three of their sons headed out to Rylstone near Orange taking the family out West. It’s interesting to see where all these various branches of our family tree headed of to.

Bert Curtin (left), and son Bob (my grandfather)

As it turns out, our family also sounds like a roll call of Irish Australia: Curtin, O’Sullivan, McNamara, Murphy, Donovan, Maguire, Quealy, O’Neil. They lived on Crown, Fitzroy, Albion, Arthur, Campbell and Ann Streets Surry Hills and also in Paddington and Woollahra. My grandparents made the radical move of crossing over the Sydney Habour Bridge after they got married in 1940. They starting out in Mosman, and settled in Lindfield, a suburb which came to represent their house within the family. My father and most of his siblings married outside the Irish-Catholic fraternity, which could well be a good thing. I married Geoff from Tasmania, and even then my kids managed to gain an additional O’Sullivan to add to two from me. I am yet to find out if mine are related. However, the Great Great Grandfather from West Maitland was actually born in Albion Street Surry Hills and his mother was Mary Sullivan, daughter of John Sullivan and Mary Bourke also of Cork. Small world…!

Anyway, I blame the mad lunatic in me who is in self-imposed lockdown trying to avoid the covid menace for all of this. The official stats clocked up to a massive 45,098 cases today and the graph just keeps soaring straight up. It’s covid soup out there and our family is madly trying to prepare for the likelihood that someone is going to bring Covid home, and how we’re going to manage that seeming inevitability. I spent a few hours on Friday afternoon trying to access RATs (Rapid Antigen Tests). There’s been no mention ANYWHERE about making them available for people with disabilities and chronic health conditions. Trust me. I’ve looked. It’s like we don’t exist. Physically I can’t queue for half an hour let alone 4-5 hours, and if I don’t have it, I don’t want to catch it while I’m waiting either. We can’t take our kids to be tested either. Indeed, that is even more of a no-no. Perhaps, they’ll have to walk. Who knows? I could be reading books, going for walks, baking, playing my violin and yet for some mad reason, I started working on this. The only explanation I can come up with is escape. Pure escape. No one would ever think to find me here – corona virus included.

Do you have Irish heritage? Or perhaps you’re Irish yourself? Maybe you have no Irish blood whatsoever, but you’d still like to have a chat. You’re all welcome. The cricket is on the TV but I’m ignoring that, and I can offer you a cup of tea, some leftover gingerbread house, but it’s a bit more difficult to offer you a seat on the couch.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Revisiting Badde Manors Cafe, Glebe.

Tonight, a friend tagged me on a photo of Badde Manors Cafe in Sydney’s Glebe, saying she thought I used to hang out there. I was pretty impressed by her memory, because each of us used to go there in our past lives before our paths crossed with pre-schoolers and babies at playgroup. However, Badde Manors was that sort of place. It left an indelible impression.

The Famous Cherubs Perched Up On The Roof

Anyone who has frequented Badde Manors has their own story to tell. I first went there at the start of 1989 when my best friend from school and I moved into a two storey terrace house on Abercrombie Street, Chippendale. It was right on the pedestrian crossing on the rat run from Redfern Station into campus, and we could sit up on the balcony in varying stages of sobriety, and prospective and unrequited requited love and call out to friends passing by. It was like living at the very centre of the universe and being surrounded by friends, life and opportunity. Indeed, across the road was the Reasonably Good Cafe where I used to do poetry readings back in the day. It was all there right at our fingertips…as I said, back in the day.

It was our flatmate, Michael, who introduced us to Badde Manors. He was a fair bit older than us, and much more suave, sophisticated and urbane. My friend hailed from the Northern Beaches, and I hailed from the North Shore, which might have had prestige but was sadly lacking in street cred and that’s what mattered more. I was probably doing my usual thing and wearing stripes and Country Road. I wasn’t conservative on the inside, but as we all know, it’s the outside which matters.

Indoor mural

Anyway, I was probably awkward, and although I was going into second year and was no longer a “fresher” I still had much to discover in the world, and that included Badde Manors. Michael introduced us one Saturday morning as we went to the markets and Macro Wholefoods.

I can’t even remember what I used to order there. Some kind of chocolate cake no doubt. However, what comes to mind now, is returning to Badde Manors in October 2018 and absorbing the cafe through the lens as it was that day – a frozen time capsule. I haven’t been there since, but get the impression from the web site that it might have been renovated.

Even the bathroom door was one of a kind!

Anyway, as I said, a friend tagged me on a photo of Badde Manors Cafe tonight, prompting me to post this photographic tour down memory lane. I thought others might want to join me here.

I especially hope those of you who used to hang out at Badde Manors have enjoyed sharing this trip down memory lane with me. It would be great if you could leave a few stories – a great thing to do on a wet and windy Boxing Day night.

I look forward to hearing from you!’

Best wishes,

Rowena

These are all my own photos copyright Rowena Curtin 2018.

Weekend Coffee Share – 6th December, 2021

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This weekend, I’m afraid I can only offer you some hypothetical pavlova. I was meant to make a pavlova for my son to take to Venturers tomorrow night and I forgot. Well, I thinking I’d probably make it tomorrow anyway, but I had actually forgotten about it. Or, perhaps that was just wishful thinking. Last week was so incredibly stressful, that I’ve gone splat over the weekend and not done much at all except recover.

Last Friday night was the first of three dance concerts our daughter will be performing in over ten days. I know that sounds a bit insane. However, due to the never-ending four month Sydney lockdown, production kept getting deferred until the first performance last Friday night and a second performance coming up on Wednesday night. The annual dance concert will be held on Sunday night. Then, we will have this event called Christmas, which is actually very important to me both spiritually and in terms of catching up with my huge extended family. However, every year it just seems to get more exhausting with me wondering are we actually going to get there? Or, are be going to break down somewhere in between?

At least, we’re not hosting this year and aren’t madly shifting furniture, ripping up carpet, laying down floorboards and painting the room. Yes, we did get the order wrong and had to be mighty careful with the painting. However, we learned for next time, which is why the next room hasn’t been touched.

A selfie taken beside the lifesaver’s flag. i am dreadfully short-sighted and always park myself at flag I go swimming so I can find my way back.

Last week, I think I mentioned that the weather’s been really lousy and we’ve had a lot of rain over the last couple of weeks. Well, we actually had a couple of days of brilliant sunshine and yours truly actually made it done to the beach and went for a swim. I also just sat on the beach and soaked up the sunshine and almost felt a wave of electricity flow through me. It was bliss! We only live about a ten minute walk from the beach, but I don’t get there as often as I should.

While sharing photos of my daughter and I, I thought I’d post this one taken of us in our new pyjamas at Peter Alexander. They were having a Black Friday saleich extended to Monday. I also bought a magical pair of red sequin Dorothy slippers, although instead of tapping them together and going home, I want to travel overseas. I’d love to be a free spirit like that at least in theory. However, having lived in the same house for twenty years now, that would seem to suggest I like bedrock stability instead.

Well, I think that’s all I’m going to share for now. It’s really late.

So, how has your week been? I’d love to hear from you in comments!

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 29th November, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I am in denial. Surely, there has to be more than 26 days left before Christmas? Unfortunately, these aren’t even full days and only the crumbs left usually after someone else has chewed up all your time denying that time honoured tradition of making your own Christmas cake, making decorations and squeezing as many parties in as you can back-to-back and even double-triple booked if you can pull it off somehow. Of course, having kids and having to double as Santa has modified things more than a little, but they add so much to the Christmas spirit you could hardly leave them out. Indeed, in so many ways children are Christmas, and as a Christian, the baby Jesus is ideally at the centre of everything, although I have to admit I struggle. How could the day that’s meant to focus on him be so incredibly distracting? Anyway, last year there wasn’t much of all of that Christmas hoopla to complain about anyway, and I don’t want to whinge to much or we may end up locked down or seriously restricted for Christmas 2021. No. Please delete all my whingeing. Yes, indeed! I’m really looking forward to Christmas and catching up with my large extended family. With covid restrictions, we couldn’t see them last year, this Christmas is going to be really special!

An Australian Christmas, Pearl Beach, New South Wales.

Do you have any plans for Christmas? Any special traditions? Perhaps, it’s a bit too early to talk about plans, but December seems to go so quickly that plan needs to shift gears into action very soon.

The tragic Christmas tree at Geoff’s work a few years ago.

However, all of that hasn’t stopped me from remaining neck deep in my research. Actually, I’ve managed to submit a 1000 word story to go into the Friends of Ethel Turner (Australian author) newsletter. I was really pleased to get that done, because I could feel myself chickening out. I’m sure many of you know that feeling all too well. You come up with an idea, which seems like a piece of cake, but as you delve into it becomes harder or more challenging than you thought. You want to run. Hide. Give up. Not such a good idea after all, but in the end you persevere, and you get it done. Indeed, you might even get a red tick and VG (very good) in the margin like I did writing my stories back in primary school.

Now, I’m chasing Ethel Turner through Europe. She went on a six month holiday through England and Europe in 1910 with her husband, Herbert Curlewis and children Jean and Adrian. She had a series of photographic essays published when she returned, and I’m currently reading through them and saving them onto my computer. I am particularly interested in her impressions of Paris. I spent a month there in 1992, which was special at the time, but has come to be an indulgence as time’s gone by and I haven’t returned. I also enjoyed reading about her struggles converting currency as they swept from country to country, and I remember what that was like and I loved the wide variety of coins, especially as a young child. I haven’t been back since the Euro simplified things, but lost something special in the process I feel. The coins family brought back and coins I brought back myself, are still very special to me- my treasure!

Unfortunately, reading about Ethel Turner’s travels are the closest I’ve got to travel for awhile. Indeed, with Zac the dog parked on my lap so much, it’s hard for me to even get out of the chair.

It is his fault, I’m sure!

The other rather demotivating influence on my exercise levels has been the weather. As you may be aware, I live in Greater Sydney and it’s been raining solidly for what seems like an eternity. As it turns out, we’re experiencing a  La Niña event, which increase the chance of above average rainfall across much of northern and eastern Australia during summer. Just when I was thinking of heading out in my bikini…NOT!!! Anyway, it’s looking like I’ll be needing to invest in a yellow raincoat this Summer.

This coming Friday is the beginning of dance concert season. I love watching my daughter dance. However, this is not a privilege which comes without a cost and that’s not just in terms of dollars and cents. Last night, I was sewing the ribbons and elastics onto her pointe shoes. I don’t know why these blessed things don’t come with all of this paraphernalia already attached. It’s not as though the ribbons have to be tailored to my daughter’s foot and petite ankle and it would be much easier for a heavy-duty machine to penetrate the leather at the back than my delicate fingers. Of course, the ballerina could sew on her her accoutrements. However, in between juggling school, dance and working at McDonalds, she doesn’t have much spare time. I, on the other hand, have eternity. Didn’t you know?

By the way, I was reading about Jesus washing the disciples feet just before I was asked to sew up the pointe shoes. However, I’m not so sure that being my daughter’s servant is what Jesus had in mind. These thoughts were echoed on the bedroom front.

However, it’s been a tough year for her with her health and lockdown. Sometimes, it’s nice to have someone take the edge off the pressure, and we could all use a fairy now and then. An extra set of hands. At the same time, I could use a bit of help from her too…and her brother.

Meanwhile, the Productivity Manager is ensuring it’s difficult to get out of my chair. By that, I’m referring to our dog Zac, who seems to pour himself into my lap and stay put until his sister, Rosie appears with a ball, and then he’s off standing a metre or two behind her ready to pounce.

The other productivity issue around here involves dog hair. It’s Spring and with three dogs, the fur is floating in black clouds all over the house. Lady’s fur (cavalier x Border collie) comes out in tufts, while the pups fur mainly snows although Rosie loses a bit of felt. I’ve read comments about corgies shedding so much you can make another dog out of the discarded fur, and I’ve thought the same with dear Lady and co.

Well, on that note, I’m going to head off. I’d love to hear from you!

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

Walkus Interuptus – Parenting Teens.

Late yesterday afternoon, Geoff and I made a hasty getaway to fit in a sunset walk over at Hardy’s Bay, about a 15 minutes drive away. Our kids are now 17 and 15 years old and hardly at that really young stage where we can’t get away without a minder. However, that doesn’t mean we’re not still attached to the leash. We are always only a phone call away.

As those of you who have lived through the teenage years can no doubt attest, you’re still not absolved of your responsibilities as a parent. Indeed, in some ways things can even ramp up. Even if the law doesn’t require you to provide constant supervision and your teens probably couldn’t think of anything worse, you’re still on a leash. Moreover, when they’re small you can delegate much of your supervision responsibilities to daycare, after-school care and grandparents. The former expire once your children start high school, and grandparents while willing are more than likely to be less mobile than they were once upon a time. Indeed, they could well appreciate a helping hand from them.

When it comes to Mum and Dad, they might not want to know or talk to you much of the time, but when trouble strikes, they certainly know how to find you. Overall, you want that. I want that. The alternatives can often be undesirable, and at worse, fatal. You don’t want teenagers in trouble trying to nut out complex situations for themselves, especially when they’re under the influence of drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, fear of being found out and the list goes on. It’s usual for me to pick my daughter and her friend up at odd hours. I never complain. Never lecture. Well, maybe sometimes. I do ask questions. Try to ensure everyone’s okay. I don’t portray myself as the cool mum, but I want them to know I care and I’d rather be the biggest dag and very uncool, and have them feel loved and valued.

A hastily taken snap as we returned to the car.

However, at the same time, we parents also need a break, a breather. We need to be able to walk out the front door and have a bit of down time. Of course, going on a date with my husband would be nice (especially after 4 months in lockdown). However, as I said, I’d much rather come home if there’s a problem. I’d much rather be there for our teens in the event of an emergency. I really do. You do believe me, don’t you?

What might’ve been – sunset at Hardy’s Bay on a previous trip.

Last night, Geoff and I headed over to Hardy’s Bay for a walk and to watch the sunset. However, we’d just managed to set foot onto the jetty and I’d managed to take a couple of photos, when the phone rang. I’d initially thought it was Geoff’s work. He’s in IT and on call. That could mean a trip into Sydney. However, this time it wasn’t work. It was Mr 17. He had a fire pit running at home. It all seemed pretty safe and he’s a scout, and Geoff made sure he had he hose set up beside him. What else could go wrong? Well, it turned out some burning coals had jumped out and he’d stepped on them. Of course, he was barefoot. That’s not because he wasn’t advised to put shoes . Of course, he knew better and living right near the beach, we’re pretty casual with out footwear and I must admit to going barefoot a bit myself, especially when I was younger. I don’t think you’ll ever catch Geoff without shoes on, although I just peered over to check and sure enough…bare feet. However, his shoes are right there beside him and I think he puts them on just to walk around the house. You know, it’s a minefield around here.

Anyway, Mr 17 had Googled his burn and rated it a second degree burn, and there were blisters. That meant a precautionary trip to hospital. Of course, you can just imagine the moans and the “here we go again”. It’s only been a few months since we were back there with our daughter. Surely, we don’t have to run up frequent flyer points going there? Geoff was all set to go and looked at me and said: “You’re not coming?” Well, I felt a bit of a piker. However, I needed to drive our daughter to dance and I’m immuno-repressed and it’s best for me to stay away. Of course, it would’ve been better if we could all have stayed away, but better to be safe than sorry. Geoff and Mr 17 were on their way. I expected to see them in upwards of 3 hours. It no longer amazes me that an emergency can proceed at a snail’s pace.

However, miracles do happen. Not only did they have an express trip through emergency. His foot was fine. Dad’s bandage and the betadine ointment would do the trick. By the time Geoff returned from parking the car, he was through.

We had intended to get out tonight, but time ran away from us. I had a very relaxing time reading out at the new table out the front, and then we had lunch together out there as well…a home date.

How do you find parenting your older children? Any stories to share? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Mum’s Taxi Revisits Mt Penang Gardens, North of Sydney.

It’s been quite awhile since you’ve heard a peep let alone a loud beep from Mum’s Taxi (AKA the Tutu Taxi). Being in lockdown for the last almost three months and throughout the last 18 months, I’ve literally been able to hang up my keys, stay in my pyjamas and write to my heart’s content. As blissful as that might sound for any writer, writing in lockdown is quite different to being a poet ensconced in your ivory tower. So, it was hardly no prison cell and I was allowed outside for exercise and could go walking along the beach, bushwalking or visit my friend in his social bubble. However, it’s not the same when park benches are covered in red tape because you’re not allowed to sit down, everyone’s wearing masks unless they’re exercising, and you have to QR code to enterjust about anywhere. So, it was with a mixture of jubilation, trepidation and continued isolation, that the people of Greater Sydney welcomed Freedom Day a few weeks ago.

Anyway, on Tuesday our daughter told me I was driving her up to get eyelash extensions. She paid for them. I wasn’t going to spend out money on that. I’ve never been a fan of fake eyelashes. However, she wears them for ballet concerts, competitions etc and so I guess once you’ve crossed that bridge, it makes more sense.

However, what she didn’t tell me was how long it was going to take. Now, I should’ve been prepared to hang round for eternity. After all, isn’t that what parents do for their kids? Wait?!! I’m not into all this cosmetic beauty stuff and how it all works. However, I did take a book, my journal and regretted not taking my SLR and just having the camera on my phone.

I started walking around looking for a park bench in the shade to read my book. By the way, I was reading Julia Baird’s: Phosphorescence: On awe, wonder and things that sustain you when the world goes dark. It’s an absolutely brilliant book, and what I’d describe as a “slow read”. I wanted to savour and enjoy almost each and every word. So, it’s taken me a very long time to finish it. Indeed, I started reading it in September last year. Honestly I thought it had been a year or even three. Here’s one great quote from the book:

Life is tempestuous and life is precious, and recognising that those two things are twinned is part of the secret of the truly phosphorescent.”

Julia Baird

There wasn’t much left to read, and I seemed to finish it off in about an hour. Of course, there was that great sense of regret you have when you finish a book you love and wave goodbye to your new best friend. Although I immediately decided I was going to start back at the beginning again. I really want to etch this book into my psyche and remember it all. It’s filled with stories and quotes from numerous thinkers and poets and it’s so very me. It’s like exploring a fascinating and exhilarating world, and I have also made a note to self to head out on a night kayak run with my husband and experience the Phosphorescence first hand for myself.

After finishing my book, I walked around the gardens regretting I hadn’t bought my digital SLR. However, the camera on my phone didn’t do too bad a job. Yet at the same time, I wondering whether photographing wildflowers in a man-made garden really counted, especially after going on some magnificent bushwalks and photographing the wildflowers actually in situ and in the wild. Isn’t it just like photographing lions in the zoo rather than heading off to Africa? The photos still look good. Indeed, they probably look a lot better, but they’re simply not the same.

Anyway, while I was there reading my book, I glanced up and noticed what appeared to be a class or two of young kids running down a steep, small grassy hill. They were having an absolute ball, and there is something so liberating about running fast down a grassy hill as a young child which almost feels like flying and you’re about to take off. Apparently, when I told friend about this my face was so animated that he asked me what childhood memories it brought back. There wasn’t anything specific and I can’t remember a lot of hills, but the exhilaration is still with me and perhaps I should sneak in there after dark and let myself go.

Reading my book and watching all those kids running must’ve done my head in, because yours truly who has been to this park a couple of times before, got lost and couldn’t find the exit. Indeed, I found myself stuck inside a maze. This is what happens when you’re exploring man-made garden instead of the bush. The bush is simple. You go in. You come out. Well, it is where I’ve been going bushwalking but these are hardly complicated hikes. Of course, I blame lockdown for this. So many everyday kills have been neglected and have rusted away. Indeed, I’m sure four months of solid repetitive research and writing at home has literally rewired my brain and done all sorts to my neuropathways. Indeed, while being so focused on a lockdown project so I’d have something to show for all that time might actually prove a mixed blessing.

Anyway, two hours later, my phone rang and I was summonsed to pick her up. We were going to go for a bushwalk together, however, it was now raining and so we raided a local bakery and had lunch in the car looking out onto the beach.

My daughter’s glasses on the dashboard looking out across our local beach.

And yes, the eyelashes certainly looked spectacular. Not completely ridiculous either, but not the sort of thing a hibernating bear requires. I’m actually looking forward to going to the hairdresser next week, and guess who is coming with me…

Looking out at the beach through the rainy windscreen while eating our lunch.

Have you been on any good walks recently or read any book books? I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 18th October, 2021.

Welcome to A Belated Weekend Coffee Share!

How has your week been? I hope you’ve had a good one, and there still might be some wind in your metaphorical sails to make it all the way to my place for your preferred beverage and a slice of Apple & Mulberry Pie with home made custard. You could do worse, although our son seems to prefer the Sara Lea variety himself. Obviously, he has no taste.

It’s now been a week since Greater Sydney had their Freedom Day, and had our restrictions eased. NSW has now reached an 80% vaccination rate and we’ve been allowed further freedoms – especially the vaccinated. Today, cases were down to 259, which is a big improvement, although they’re expecting cases to surge with opening up. In practical terms, it hasn’t made a huge difference to me because I’m still avoiding public places, crowds, people who aren’t vaccinated. That doesn’t leave a lot of scope. However, I have a few friends in the same boat and so I’ve been seeing them. I am trying to get down to Sydney to see my parents. That ideally means the four of us and the two of them, which is much more logistically challenging than I’d thought. So it hasn’t happened yet.

However, although we haven’t got straight back into it, opening up and returning to a state of relative quasi norm has helped. Things are starting to make more sense. At the very least, dance has returned to the studio which has really freed us up. People are starting meet up again and are less isolated. You can walk out your front door and not feel that Big Brother is watching you. It is a huge relief, although fast forward a week or two and let’s see how the case numbers and severity stack up. I am officially in “watch and see mode”.

The table was all ready for entertaining, but the weather had other ideas.

I was all poised to invite friends over for coffee last week on the very first day we opened up, and put the new table into action. However, the weather had other ideas and it rained for much of last week, which isn’t much good for an outdoor table, and the wind was also against us. However, yesterday a friend phoned up and had cupcakes and everything finally came together and we were able to launch the new table. Another two friends came over today, and we shared a few of yesterday’s left over cupcakes and an Apple and Mulberry Pie made from her homegrown mulberries. I’m quite well-known for turning something healthy into a fattening, unhealthy delight. However, “je ne regrette rien!”

On Saturday afternoon, Geoff and I ventured out to see whether a stretch of budding Flannel Flowers we saw at least a month ago had flowered. Sure enough, they had. However, it was getting late in the day, and they were closing up their pretty faces and nodded off for the day. So, we returned yesterday earlier in the day and they were just magical. Their faces were fully opened and just waiting to meet my camera lens. I wrote all about it here:

https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/10/18/floating-with-the-flannel-flowers/

I had a bit of a social experiment on Saturday after being challenged to go without screens for 24 hours one day this week. Considering I was halfway through the day at this point, I thought I’d give it a go. This screen-free existence excluded my phone, TV, computer but it didn’t mention anything about cameras that weren’t part of phones. So, photographing the flannel flowers was allowed. As a social experiment, we were asked to be conscious of our experience. I’m not one who lives on their phone, and I certainly don’t respond to every “ting”. However, there we were out in the bush, and the phone tinged. I thought it might be one of the kids, and so I had to check the phone. A friend was asking if I wanted to go for a walk. So, I felt I needed to give a quick reply. I felt caring for others was more important than rigidly sticking to the rules. Surely, 30 seconds out couldn’t do too much harm?!! Besides, not relying to a message could set off panic stations and launch a search party given my health situation and us being in Covid lockdown for so long. Going off the grid is a solid warning sign of troubled waters. Anyway, I kept going. Made dinner and decided just to ignore the TV, which my husband was watching. However, then “Letters and Numbers” came on and my husband and son were both watching in and nutting things out. Was it more important to stick to my guns, or connect with my family? Well, I sort of joined in just a little bit…just out of the very corner of my eye. However, next up was Dambusters – a documentary series about Britain’s WWII bomber pilots using these new bouncing bombs to blow up the German dams of the Ruhr region. I couldn’t miss this. So, once again I’d failed the test and proven myself of little willpower, but dare I say “flexible”, “accommodating”. However, I didn’t utrn my computer on for a good 24 -30 hours so I’m pleased I pulled that off. That, too, was probably my greatest challenge, because I sit on here for much of the day doing my writing and research. I don’t use my phone very often, and don’t watch much TV either. And what did I do instead? I saw all the stuff that had piled up around the house and cleaned and sorted some of it out.

Polish Pilots

I’ve been making really good progress with my research into the Polish pilots. I am currently reading Adam Zamoyski’s: The Forgotten Few: The Polish Airforce in WWII. I’ve flicked through it before and just read what I needed, but decided to read through it to soak up the full story beyond just my friend’s dad who served as a bomber pilot and later instructor. I have also been thinking what it means to be in exile like Roland’s dad, the Polish people and so many others escaping pat-war Europe, and troubles ever since. I also realized there are other points in time where we are also exiled, most notably I thought for the people who are left by their partners and simply told they want a divorce and to get out. Especially when kids are involved, that can also be an exile. The end of your world as you know it and absolutely devastating. I haven’t been through that myself, but it doesn’t mean I do not care.

Lastly, I did my first piece of flash fiction (100 words or less) in awhile last week. Inspired by my Polish research, I wrote; “The Woman in Kracow” who has a major life decision to make and has returned to her father’s grave in Kracow to seek his advice and attempt to connect with her Polish heritage when she was born in the UK. Hard to convey all of this in only 100 words, but the idea is that her mother was English and she doesn’t really relate to her father’s Polish roots. Anyway, here’s the link: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/10/14/the-woman-of-kracow-friday-fictioneers-14th-october-2021/

Humph. I’m now wondering whether I should’ve called it: “A Woman in Kracow”?

I’ll think it over.

Anyway, that’s about it for this week. I hope you’ve had a good week.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

Floating With the Flannel Flowers.

Recently, photographs of the native flannel flower started appearing on friends’ Facebook feeds and as much as I’ve been a reclusive bear during Winter and enforced lockdown, the prospect of photographing flannel flowers lured me out of my cave. By the way, my trusty companion was also lured out. While fully vaccinated people in Greater Sydney have now gained considerable freedom, Geoff and I are still playing it safe due to my health and his work. However, you can’t catch covid from the trees…or these understated beauties, Flannel Flowers or Actinotus helianthi.

Closeup of the Flannel Flower

I don’t know why I find Flannel Flowers so captivating. They really do look rather ordinary, and to the best of my limited knowledge don’t seem to have any redeeming medicinal properties. While they’re more closely related to carrots, Flannel Flowers bear a striking resemblance to the garden variety daisy, and could easily pass under your radar. After all, when you compare them to the imposing Waratah with it’s grandiose red magnificence, or the masses of golden yellow flowers I’ve photographed recently illuminated by the glowing sun, they’re nothing much. Indeed, perhaps that’s why they’ve waited until all these beauties have done their thing before they make an appearance. At least, that’s how the timing has worked out here.

Yet, they’re still beautiful. Don’t ask me why. They just are.

Margaret Preston

Moreover, it’s not just me who fancies them, and finds them a source of inspiration. Artists, gardeners, photographers are somehow brought under its spell. Mesmerised. That includes artist Margaret Preston and much loved author/illustrator May Gibbs who created Snugglepot and Cuddlepie and the Flannel Flower Babies.

May Gibbs’ Flannel Flower Babies.

Anyway, I’m supposed to be sharing MY walk with the flannel flowers, and what I viewed through the lens, NOT what appeared on someone else’s canvas or imagination.

We spotted this promising patch of would-be flannel flowers on our favourite water tower walk a few months ago. I intentionally don’t go there too often, because I don’t want it to lose it’s awe and wonder. So, I was trying to guesstimate when they’d be in flower, and thought it would be months rather than weeks. I haven’t seen any flannel flowers out on our other recent walks, but friends started posting photos, and then I noticed some driving home through the week. It was time to see if they were out yet. It was almost like going celebrity spotting. Were they going to be there? I was rather excited. This could just be me, but I blame lockdown. We haven’t had much to look forward to for some time, and I was hoping our little white wonders had hit the stage.

We were not disappointed. While they weren’t quite waving to us, they were definitely there. However, it was late afternoon, and what I didn’t know before, is they close their little faces at night.

That was yesterday, and Geoff and I returned today.

It was good, because it meant I’d been out for two walks in two days. While they weren’t overly long walks, it was exercise and I have to admit that’s dropped off during lockdown, even although exercise was well and truly allowed. I just seemed to take the advice to “stay home” too seriously along with my determination to get my lockdown research project up and running. Now, that the weather’s improving and we’re mostly enjoying balmy Spring weather along with the end of lockdown, I am starting to crawl out again.

I ended up photographing the flannel flowers from a variety of angles and even sat down on the ground, which isn’t such a comfortable position these days. However, fortunately, I had my trusty Geoff to help me get back up again. Although they’re generally portrayed from a face-on perspective, flannel flowers also look quite intriguing and even a bit wild viewed from behind.

Don’t they look magnificent reaching for the sky?!!

It is also interesting to see a broader overall perspective, even if it’s not the most spectacular photo I’ve ever taken. They grow amongst the scraggly bush and you’d probably describe the effect as “subtle”.

Flannel Flowers in the Scrub

However, every now and then, the flannel flowers have a bumper season. That’s what’s happened in the National Park at Port Macquarie this year, which had been ravaged by our devastating bushfires two years ago (It’s also where the koalas live). Anyway, you might enjoy checking these flannel flowers out. They’re almost growing like triffids there:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-09-17/flannel-flowers-burst-into-bloom-after-bushfires/100458610

Anyway, I hope you’ve enjoyed floating among the flannel flowers. I’m now thinking of finding some more.

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Woman of Kracow – Friday Fictioneers 14th October, 2021.

Should she stay, or should she go?

Pregnant, Alicja had flown from London to Kracow to consult her dead father. An intense man, he’d been a Polish fighter pilot in the famous Kosciusko 303 squadron. After years in exile, the iron curtain had lifted, and he’d died in his beloved Kracow. Thoroughly English, Alicja was a stranger here. Yet, despite longing to be plain “Alice”, she still held onto the Polish spelling.

Strolling through Main Square, she didn’t see the oncoming tram. However, an invisible force shoved her to safety.

“Papa! Papa!”

Somehow, she would stay.

Yet, could she?

…………

100 words

Four years ago, I met Roland in our local bookshop. His father was a Polish bomber plot in WWII, and he came from near Kracow which somehow managed to survive the war without being bombed to smithereens. I have been helping Roland research his father’s story and being in distant Australia, I decided to visit Kracow via Google Earth the other night. It was exquisite. Have you been there? It’s definitely on my bucket list. an interesting aspect to this research is that my Great Great grandmother was born in what went on to become Poland and she was till alive when my mum was a child. I looked up the village she came from some time ago, and didn’t relate to it at all. Meanwhile, I am hoping to find a bakery which makes Makowiec (Poppy Seed Roll). Or, I might have to try baking it myself. Soon, I’ll have to start calling myself Rowski!

Meanwhile, I have recently started a second blog, where I’m exploring English-Australian novelist Ethel Turner, who wrote the classic “Seven Little Australians”. However, so far I’ve been showcasing some of her other writing. Here’s the link:

https://teawithethelturner.com/

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields at https://rochellewisoff.com/ This week’s photo prompt has been provided by PHOTO PROMPT © Brenda Cox

Best wishes,

Rowena