Good morning All.
I came across this post on my phone as I was waking up this morning. We’ve had a couple of really hot, humid days here and my breathing’s been really bad. It’s been tough.
I also try to impact some wisdm into my kids, who are now teenagers, so even catching them on their way out the door can be difficult and what does mum and dad know anyway? Enough to know we need to apply the KISS principle when talking to our kids…Keep It Simple, Stupid.
This poem is an excellent encouragement.
I was around 13 or so when I first read this poem by Langston Hughes. I remember thinking… wow, now there’s someone who’s telling the truth about life!
Around this age is when childhood starts to end… innocence gives way to experience. It’s a sad thing if you think about it… the loss of innocence… having to come to terms with the black and gray areas of life.
This poem gave me a lot of comfort during that time in my life and ever since then when my life has gotten crazy and out of control.
I always marveled that Hughes chose the image of a crystal staircase. Why this image? Why not a vase or something… silly kid thoughts, right?
Now that I’m in adulthood I know that a crystal staircase is what makes a poet a poet and what transforms a good writer into a great writer.
Welcome my friend! Thank goodness for these weekend coffee shares. Lately, they have been the only time that I have focused on connecting with you. I’m hoping to improve that!
If we were having coffee, I would, as usual, be so happy to spend some time with you. We are all in the midst of the holiday season. How is that going for you? A friend of mine always called this time of year the HoliDAZE. That seems especially apt this year.
If we were having coffee, I’d want to talk to you about something I’ve been batting around in my brain this week. I recently read an article about two French women who were resistors during World War II. They were friends as children and then became a couple. Same sex relationships were obviously challenging back in those times.
“You can’t connect the dots looking forward you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something: your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. Because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you the confidence […]
This week, I can actually share a good dose of balmy sunshine with you. It’s a lush Spring day here (just North of Sydney) and I’m feeling rather re-energized, and the bear is out of hibernation, and almost active. We dropped another carload of stuff off at the charity shop and we booked a council clean up for tomorrow. However, although large bulky items are disappearing left right and centre, our place is still packed to overflowing.
Well, we still live here, and we haven’t moved for 20 years. So, you could say we’re very settled. Alternatively, you could say we’ve been buried alive, but that wouldn’t be very nice and not a good way to start off a friendly chat over coffee, tea and left over Sticky Date Pudding. My Sticky Date weaves a strange spell over people. So, you don’t want to come in with a barrage of criticism and miss out, do you?
How has your week been? I hope it’s gone well. It’s been getting easier to escape the omnipresent influence of the coronavirus here now that cases in Melbourne are coming down, and Sydney didn’t take off and has managed to avoid lock down. I don’t know whether that’s because we’ve all been careful, but I know we’ve been lying low for a long time and didn’t go down to Sydney for Father’s Day with everyone out and about. A bit of short term sacrifice made for long term gain.
Last Wednesday, Geoff and I celebrated our 19th Wedding Anniversary. We got married two days before 9/11 and flew to New Zealand first thing on the morning on the 12th having watched the destruction and tragedy unfold on TV the night before Sydney time. Mum mentioned the other night that we must’ve been brave catching a plane at the time and heading overseas. However, flying to New Zealand felt like an even safer option. It’s even more isolated than Australia. However, as we toured Rotorua with its gurgling thermal pools and returned to our hotel to watch the coverage at night, the two landscapes made a ghostly parallel with the steam rising out of the geysers and the ash rising out of Ground Zero. No one will ever forget where they were and what was happening for them at the time and how we all were gripped in the wake of those attacks. Life has never turned back.
It’s unfortunate that talking about our Wedding Day invariably involves 9/11. It was such a magical day and the consumate fairy tale. It was held at Curzon Hall which is just like a fairytale castle. I’d always wanted to have my wedding reception there. It’s so magnificent, especially here in Sydney which is largely a modern city. By the way, let me just say, I’d love to live there. However, after we returned from our honeymoon, we were back to our “Renovators Dream”, which was meant to be a stepping stone but we’re still here 20 years later and the renovation still isn’t done yet.
As I mentioned, Geoff and I went out for lunch for our anniversary at a local nursery. In addition to lunch, we’d decided to buy a Cymbidium Orchid, which I’d had in my wedding bouquet and in pots at the Church. However, although the nursery was out of stock and so we we ended up buying a couple of Gardenias and some ornamental cabbages as well. I haven’t done a great job with gardening in recent years. However, I saw some photos of when our son was learning to walk and I’d planted heaps of bulbs in the garden and really took care of it, and it looked quite pretty. Of course, I’ve been very ill since then and I’m not getting younger either. However, it gave me a flash of hope. Or, at the very least, a maybe…
It would be lovely for our house to become a home again!
Meanwhile, my research continues. I’m now reading Louise Mack’s A Woman’s Experiences in the Great War—was published in 1915. Louise Mack was an Australian journalist and author who was based in London when the war broke out. Of course, all journalists were vying to cover the war and it was unlikely they’d send a woman. However, she spoke four languages, had her papers all ready to go and was very persuasive. That, along with having a lot of pluck, courage and determination. The book outlines her eye-witness account of the German invasion of Antwerp and what it was like living in occupied Brussels. After she returned to Australia in 1915, she gave a series of lantern tours around much of Australia talking about her experiences in Belgium, which particularly brought the sufferings of Belgium to life. Although they were outlined in detail in the newspapers here, it must’ve been much more meaningful to meet someone who had been there and lived through it. Australia responded generously to help the Belgians and extensive fundraising was undertaken right around the country, which I only found out about while doing this research project.
Are you reading anything at the moment? I always seem to be reading a lot of different things without getting them finished, which concerns me. Somebody more disciplined and regimented would finish one before they start on the next, and if they were iffy about finishing it, they’d pass it on. I have been reading some books I really love for awhile. Some, I really don’t want to finish, and this includes Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence: on Awe, Wonder and Things That Sustain You When the World Goes Dark. It’s a brilliant book, but it’s also one you can draw out and don’t need to read it in one sitting for it to make sense. I’m also reading Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. A few years ago, I started reading: The Book Thief . Although I absolutely loved it, I’ve started it twice and haven’t got through it, and I don’t know why. Perhaps, that’s one I really have to focus on. Meanwhile, this morning I started reading Selwyn Hughes’s How To Help A Friend. This book is brilliant too. While this might be stating his message too bluntly, e argues that everyone who considers themselves a Christian not only has a responsibility to care, but should have the heart for it as well. Just to share one quote I particularly appreciated from this book: “Harvard psychologist Gordon Allport called love `incomparably the greatest psychotherapeutic agent in the universe.'” I can see this book is really going to fire me up, although it might make me a bit disillusioned as well. After all, it is usually difficult to translate visions into reality, but I have to believe that if our hearts are in the right place, that we’ll at least offer some difference and a bit of hope.
Anyway, I’d better keep moving. I’m trying to get things sorted out for the council clean up. Our Rome took almost 20 years to construct, so it’s not going to disappear overnight. However, we’re at least we’ve making some good progress, and are trying to keep the momentum going.
How has your week been? What have you been up to or have you read something you’d like to share? I’d love to hear from you and hope you and yours are keeping well and safe.
It was our 19th Wedding Anniversary on Wednesday a figure which automatically takes me through to next year which will be our 20th and worthy of all the pomp, circumstance and luxurious travel it deserves. At this juncture, I don’t know whether I’m looking forward to the same time next year, or whether we should be carpe diem seizing the day while the going is good. After all, everything is relative and 2020 hasn’t been our worst year by a country mile.
Rather, while there have certainly been some struggles, we’ve also had some surprising good luck and overall I think we’re coming out ahead. Not that this stops us from being very conscious of the horrors, disappointments and draining inconveniences which are still being endured globally. However, I don’t want to appeal to the sympathy vote ourselves when compassion, understanding, financial support and love really need to be channeled towards those who need it most and that isn’t us.
However, I did want to celebrate and acknowledge that Geoff and I have made it this far. Share that we actually did manage to get out for an indulgent, romantic lunch at our favourite special venue…the Impact Plans Cafe at nearby Empire Bay. Although we’ve had quite a few luxurious sunny days, this wasn’t one of them. Indeed, it was cold and wet and we even wondered whether the cafe would still be open for a late lunch after Geoff had attended a zoom meeting for work. However, it was like they were just waiting for us and only a couple of tables were taken, which was wonderful in terms of staying covid safe. I’m naturally cautious about going to cafes even though there’s virtually no known covid around here.
As I considered this post, I wondered whether to to put the wedding photo first as the featured image, or whether to start off with our older, more decrepit selves and then flash back to Cinderella and Prince Charming on their big day when, to use the Australian vernacular “we scrubbed up awlright”.
Knowing what lies ahead, I feel tired just looking at those two naive “babes in the woods”. This is actually how my father refers to himself and my mother when my birth started going horribly wrong like an express train accelerating straight over cliff, except I was stuck and not moving anywhere. I can relate to that ourselves looking back. No matter how prepared or cocky you might be, you simply have no idea what’s going to hit you right between the eyes. That’s what we should have been prepared for, instead of thinking about a five year plan.
Nineteen years down the track, it only natural to ask whether we’d go back and do it all again?
“Can it be that it was all so simple then Or has time rewritten every line If we had the chance to do it all again Tell me, would we? Could we?”
-The Way We Were.
Or, would we run, possibly even in two opposite directions?
I don’t know. There’s a big part of me now that thinks Geoff and I should’ve boarded a yacht and just kept sailing continuously out towards the sunset. Don’t go chasing rainbows. Stand tall like a sunflower and stare deep into those rays and not turn round.
However, I suspect this life of simplicity, without the love and responsibilities of becoming parents, wouldn’t be as rich. That a life well-lived is a textured tapestry filled with ups and downs and no one’s trajectory usually keeps just going up and up.
That’s not to say I’ve given up. As a writer, I still believe in stories and one day I’ll get there after all these years of scribbling and tapping away. I’ll have that published book clutched firm in the palm of my hand.
I don’t know what that has to do with our wedding anniversary, except I do. Our marriage is a partnership and due to my disability and severe health conditions, I haven’t been able to work in the way I expected and to maintain my career in marketing. Indeed, after going through chemo and almost giving up the ghost a few times, it no longer seemed quite so relevant either. I didn’t care how many widgets were sold. I wanted people to be content. I wanted our world to be a better place. All the extra layers of fluff really didn’t matter most of the time. That good loving, caring relationships were more important and I also felt I had a lot to relay through my writing and research. Not just my own observations and opinions, but also those gathered up along the road. Wisdom, after all, is a collective “being”. It’s not just the product of one mind.
Meanwhile, I want to go and dig up our wedding photos etc and show the kids. We also have our wedding video which we’ve never edited and have certainly never shown the kids or any of our current friends. I wonder what they’ll think of the two glamorous love birds? I wonder if they even see a glimpse of us?
It was a long, long time coming and extremely overdue. Yesterday, our blue, 2001 Nissan Pulsar was ceremonially collected by the wreckers and carted off to heaven.
A few days ago, I’d been overjoyed that Geoff had finally gotten around to getting it towed away. It was finally going to be scratched off our never-ending to-do list.
However, when the moment finally came and this massive tow truck pulls up outside our place to cart her off, it was a different story. Indeed, I was more reflective than expected and both Geoff and I formed a guard of honour of sorts to see her off.
We’ve been through a lot with that car. We bought it new in February 2001 just after we’d got engaged on Valentine’s Day, it just so happened that we bought the house in about the same week. Things were on the way up back then. All our Christmases had come at once, and we were impervious to future bad luck. We were engaged and invincible! We’d come through our bad luck and it was all going to be smooth sailing from here. None of what I now know to be the regular ups and downs of life, that precarious journey along the snakes and ladders, and far away from the laws of gravity which dictate that what goes up, comes down.
it’s been about 18 months since the car was last driven. In that time, it’s been superseded by the two luscious red Alfa Romeos. I don’t know what it’s taken so long for that car to go, However, there was something about me needing to clear stuff out before it could be hauled away, and Geoff needing to arrange to get it picked up. I’ll also blame Covid, even though it was awaiting pick up at least a year before Covid came along. I should also mention that my husband grew up on a farm in North-Eastern Tasmania where deceased vehicles simply rusted into the dirt. However, we don’t live on a farm. Moreover, my husband is collector of cars and you could say one more just blended into the landscape, even if the landscape was just a suburban back yard. There’s also this other factor that we’ve almost had the blue Pulsar for 20 years and it has simply become part of our landscape…here but not here.
Seeing the old girl off, brought so many memories to mind, especially bringing the kids home as babies from the hospital, which is such a massive event for all families. Huge. Yes, the kids had come home in the blue car. Fallen asleep in the blue car. Fought in the blue car. Thrown up all over the back seat in the blue car. My husband and I had argued in the blue car, and at least he’d driven off in the blue car in a few heated moments. However, what I hadn’t remembered til tonight, was that we drove home from our wedding in the blue car. I’d totally forgotten that. I only remember pulling up at the Church in the Mark IV Jaguar convertible. I was such a princess and it might’ve only been for one day, but the memory remains (and I still have the tiara to prove it.)
So, by the time the old girl was being hauled up on the tow truck, I almost felt like dragging her back. Giving them back their $150.00 and saying I’ve changed my mind. No! The blue car will stay with us forever. Can become some kind of water (or even rust feature) in the back yard. After all, all those memories are so precious. They need to preserved and it felt surprisingly sad to wave her off. Yet, at the same time, our place is getting buried alive in cars and it had to go. Time to cherish the memories and the photos without its physical presence.
Still, you know that just like saying goodbye to Bilbo the family dog who had been with us for 12 years from the time our daughter could crawl, the car also served us through a long, and monumental time in our lives. From when our son was a baby to being just one year out of school. By this time, it was our back up car and we’d bought a younger red Pulsar, which I unfortunately wrote off in the hospital car park a few years ago. While I’m not a real car person, the family car certainly takes you places and some how becomes more than just a car. Indeed, how many people recognize their friends by their car? How many people become their car. or it becomes them? There’s some strange psychology in that. Indeed, there could well be an entire branch of psychology dedicated to cars and their owners. It would be busy.
I wonder if any of you have had a car for a long time and it saw you through a lot? Or, do you have a special car with some stories to tell? How do you relate to your car? Is it just an A to B job? Or, a character car which is something special? I should mention that we also have a Morris Minor, but that’s another story for another day.
Six years ago I met Australian cartoonist and humanitarian, Michael Leunig, in a lift on the way to hear him speak. I was overwhelmed by excitement and the sense that this special opportunity was destiny. That I was meant to catch the lift with Leunig. I have come such a long way since then, but I don’t want to forget the journey or what it was like to be there, because there are still so many people going along the road I trod only they’re isolated now during covid and unable to heave their loved ones around. Perhaps, this will make it through to one of you and I send my love on the wings of angels and may you know that God holds you in the palm of his hand, even if you can see he’s there. Love, Rowena
Sometimes I’m flapping my wings so much that I can’t even see what, or in this instance, who was standing right in front of me waiting to get into the very same lift. It was Michael Leunig…the cartoonist, poet, artistic visionary, philosopher, humourist. Of course, being my usually oblivious self, I had no idea. Fortunately, my friend tapped me on the shoulder and the next thing, I was boldly introducing myself and we shook hands. I actually shook hands with Leunig. Oh my goodness! I was never going to wash my hand again!!
Not only did I get the chance to shake Leunig’s hand, we talked. Even though I talk underwater, I somehow had to condense so much into just a sentence or two and managed to mumble something about him being a light bulb in the darkness when I had brain surgery. That was enough. After all, when you…
Well, as it turned out I had to cancel the big birthday bash this year. No swinging from the chandeliers in front of thousands of friends and followers during this dreadful coronacrisis. My husband took the day off work and we headed across to MacMaster’s Beach for lunch at the Barefoot Cafe. I’d been there a few weeks ago and had a scrumptious prawn spring roll. Moreover, it was outdoors, the sun was shining and it has a priceless panoramic view sweeping across the beach and headlands. It’s pur magic and you don’t need to be a millionaire to enjoy it.
This birthday wasn’t anything special in a way. Last year, was the Big 50 and everything that goes along with that. I was hoping to have a big belated 50th birthday bash at some point, but along came the bush fires and now covid. I still haven’t entirely given up on the idea, but it’s not going to happen any time soon.
Geoff ignoring the “No Stopping” Sign at MacMaster’s Beach.
Anyway, I’d thought I’d share a few photos with you from the not so big day.
Meanwhile, as we all know, a birthday lingers on and goes on for a few days by the time you get around. Yesterday, we headed down to my parents’ place in Sydney for a birthday lunch with my parents and brother. That went really well and we had a fantastic chocolate cake from the local French patisserie/chocolate shop. I also had a chance to practice my piano playing on a real piano instead of my daughter’s keyboard as I wait for the Yamaha MX88 keyboard to arrive. Needless to say, Bach’s Minuet in G sounded infinitely better on mum’s Steinway Concert Grand. I know a poor tradesman always blames his tools, but the sound was like chalk and cheese. Mum gave me a few tips and I rummaged through her music collection and found a compilation of Easy to Play Classics. I am not too proud to admit that after a 20-30 year break from regular piano playing, that I’m not above going back to beginner pieces. That said, I can still play some of Moonlight Sonata and Fur Elise from memory. So, not all is lost.
I’m waiting for my synthesizer/keyboard to arrive and I spotted Schumann’s “I Believe” on mum’s keyboard. Yes, I have hope that I’ going to progress beyond Bach’s Minuet in G which I first learned as a 9-10 year old.
It would be lovely to get together with all my blogging friends together under one roof and celebrate something…anything…one day. While it lovely and really interesting to mix with people from all around the world through blogging, it’s a pity that it’s so difficult to meet up in person. After all, I’d love to give each of you a piece of birthday cake and take you on a bit of a real life tour of some of these breathtaking local views.
This year the judging of the Best Sponge Cake at the Royal Sydney Easter Show was breaking with tradition. In addition to the regular judging panel from the Country Women’s Association, Melissa Leong from Masterchefwas guest judge. She couldn’t wait to slice into Madge Gerbera’s sponge. She’d won Best in Show for 25 years, and was “the Sponge cake Queen”. However, the knife couldn’t cut through. There was something odd in the middle of the cake. Meanwhile, back home Grandma couldn’t find her teeth. Last seen when she helped herself to the mix. Humph! This was a truly unforgettable sponge.
Ever since I was a small child, I’ve had an acute phobia of false teeth. So, while for some finding a rodent of any description in their cake would give them the horrors, for me, it would be a set of false teeth.
I had actually planned to write about my mother and her sponge cakes. She was the sponge cake Queen of our family and friends and she added a bit of melted butter and warm milk to her sponge cake. She icing them with passionfruit icing, filled them with cream, but also kept a piece plain for my Dad who doesn’t like icing.
The recipe came from a family friend, Val Gerber, who I believe had won at the Brisbane Show and the recipe was printed on the back of the Fielder’s Cornflour as “Val’s Sponge”. I remember meeting Val when I was a little girl out on the farm. We were treated to a very special country afternoon tea where the table almost sank under the weight of all the cakes and treats. Yum!
“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.
When you think about what remains of our life stories after we’re gone, it’s all about family connections…DNA. However, most of us can’t live with family as our only source of human interaction. We also need friends.
Every friendship is unique, just like our fingerprints. No two friendships are the same, which means we need to cherish each and every friend like gold, and they’re certainly not simply a stepping stone to get us where we’re wanting to go. Rather, I’d prefer to think about how I could ease my friend’s journey in some way, although I’ve had some truly wonderful friends who’ve been literal lifesavers when I’ve been seriously ill, barely able to look after my kids and they’ve driven them to and from daycare, school, fed them, cooked us meals or simply, and very importantly, listened. Finding understanding and acceptance, especially given my rare health and disability issues, has been a struggle and such a God-send when I’ve found it. There are those two parallel footprints in the sand. We’re each independent and carrying our own load, but we’re also there with and for each other through life’s ups and downs, cups of coffee, walks along the beach and no doubt through the storms.
These photographs of footprints in the sand could tell a story of their own. However, they were actually taken while I was out walking along Pearl Beach with my friend who I’ll call “Henry’. I turned around and saw our footprints side-by-side in the sand stretching uninterrupted almost along the full length of the beach and they told a story of friendship, and what it means to be a friend. Well at least that’s what these two sets of parallel footprints said to me.
“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.” – Muhammad Ali
In many ways my friendship with Henry breaks a few taboos. As you know, I’m married to Geoff and well you might ask what’s the story of my friendship with Henry? To put you at ease, Roland is the same age as my Mum and Dad and while some people might go for that kind of age difference, it definitely puts up a roadblock for both of us. Besides, I am clearly and most definitely married and if I was going to have an affair, I wouldn’t be hanging out once a week at a local cafe next door to the bookshop where Henry and I met. Rather, I’d be heading off to Sydney well and truly away from this goldfish bowl where everyone knows yours and everyone else’s business.
“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod, my shadow does that much better.
By the way, I first met Henry a few years ago in our local bookshop. He was looking for books about WWII German history to write about his father’s war service as a Polish fighter pilot in the RAF. I knew of a good book through my own German/European heritage on my mum’s side and so we had that cultural connection, as well as our shared writing interest. Henry and I also made time for each other. Time to meet for coffee once a week, and at much the same time every week… very much like clockwork. Many of my friends don’t operate like clockwork, or don’t feel the need for that weekly coffee/ tea fix. However, I need it just like I need food and water and the car needs to be topped up with petrol. Geoff has joined us a few times, and the kids have met him. Moreover, they know that my meetings with Henry are set in stone unless it’s mission critical. Aside from my violin lessons, there haven’t been many restrictions placed on my time since I stopped work a few years ago and I think it’s good for them to know I’m not available on tap. Another thing I really appreciate about my friendship with Henry, is that he takes me seriously. He sees something more in me than this incomplete, imperfect scrambling character I see inside myself, and he gives me hope. Reads my writing and takes it seriously and even edits it and provides suggestions. He is kind, considerate and in the mould of his chivalrous Polish father, a gentleman and someone I trust and can truly rely on.
Our shadows captured walking down the beach…Henry with his cap on and me lugging my camera bag along.
“It’s your road, and yours alone, others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.”
Henry’s friendship has also been a very important for me during the coronacrisis. For a few months there, he was all but my only physical social contact outside the family. He is fastidious about maintaining social distancing, is very protective of my health and also has a small social circle and takes precautions when he’s out. Our cafe’s been closed and I’m not quite ready to head back yet So, we’ve been going for walks along the beach instead. We did actually try to get a coffee at Pearl Beach last week but that all stops at 2.30pm over there so we didn’t have the opportunity to support local business. Gotta say, I was pretty disappointed, but we’re still coming out of covid and it is Winter here and there aren’t a lot of people around. However, they can also become a viscous circle.
A few years ago, I used to have my dog-walking friends who were important to me. However, mornings and I haven’t been well acquainted of late and that’s fallen by the wayside. Moreover, I’ve seriously missed all the incidental friendships, which are structured around our activities and haven’t happened during lock down. Unfortunately, although dance has returned to the studio, parents are excluded and I’m still being cautious. The coronavirus is down, but not out.
This massive cauliflower-shaped cloud decided to join us as well as a pod of dolphins which I didn’t quite manage to capture on film.
Anyway, might I encourage us all to unapologetically pursue and maintain our friendships. Indeed, I’ve made some really strong friendships through blogging, which have added a very interesting and largely international dimension.