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The Great Australian Dream…Thursday Doors

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

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

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

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

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

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

 

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John Brack, The Unmade Road

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

 

Wahroonga House rear

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

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

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

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

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Me in the front yard of the house. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Making Up Friends…Charles Dickens Quote.

“It is the fate of most men who mingle with the

world, and attain even the prime of life, to

make many real friends, and lose them in the

course of nature. It is the fate of all authors or

chroniclers to create imaginary friends, and

lose them in the course of art. Nor is this the

full extent of their misfortunes; for they are

required to furnish an account of them

besides.”

― Charles Dickens, The Pickwick Papers

For those of you who have written novels, how have you felt when you’ve reached the end and your relationship with your characters is over? Or, worse still, when you’ve killed off one of your favourites?

I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Vivid Colours

Thought I’d treat you to some beautiful artwork by Pauline to mull over during the weekend. While you’re here, you can also think about the use of creativity, colour and self-expression. Is this a crime? Do we need to hide our coloured pens away? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Best wishes,
Rowena

The Contented Crafter

I was asked by a shop owner recently to bring in some of my work as she had heard of it and was interested in offering some for sale. She gave a glowing description of how she loves to support local artists and has several whose works move swiftly through her shop.

So, a few days ago, I packaged up a range of cards and small art pieces and took them in. I laid a few of the cards in front of her – leaving more cards and all of the artwork in my bag. She swept her hand through the examples and said “No, these aren’t what I sell – too vivid.”

The viewing took maybe five seconds.

I gathered up the rejected work and put them back in my bag. I didn’t offer her any more to look at and she didn’t ask to see them.

The impeccably…

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Weekend Coffee Share – 1st July, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share and a pinch and a punch for the first day of the month!

How has your week been? I hope it’s been going well. What’s the weather been like? We had some dreary rainy days last week but a few days of sun even if it’s freezing. I’ve had woolen gloves on and yet they’re still like ice blocks. I figure they lack the body heat to warm up even with the help of the gloves. These are desperate times. I’ve just put on the heater and will go out soon and hopefully boost my circulation that way.

Amelia Grease

This highlight for last week was watching our daughter appear in Grease the Musical which was put on by her school. She played a cheerleader and was also in the dance ensemble and we just loved seeing her up on stage. We also knew quite a few of the cast and were almost as stoked to see them up there. We’ve known one of Amelia’s friends since she was a year old so we go back a long way, which is really special.

Of course, the other thing about seeing Grease again was reliving my own teenage years where I must’ve watched that movie 10 – 20 times on the old VCR. We also played it at a slumber party for my 13th birthday. All but one of us had never seen it, but this girl had just moved to Australia from America and had seen it 13 times. We thought she was so cool!!

This is the last week of the school term here. We’re not going away these holidays. Our son will be appearing in the Scout Gang Show in the second week and that week is also packed with rehearsals. Our daughter has a lot of dance workshops and rehearsals. She’ll be doing her Grade 6 RAD exam in a few months and so it’s all action stations there and she also has a dance comp during the holidays. That had me trawling the globe in search of a tutu, but she’s borrowing one from her teacher. I suspect a growth spurt is around the corner and we’ll revisit the tutu next year.

Row a little boat

After all the excitement of watching Grease, I crashed over the weekend but I did read a fantastic book which I highly recommend. That was Richard Bode’s: First You Have to Row A Little Boat. Here are a couple of quotes:

“And so in time the rowboat and I became one and the same-like the archer and his bow or the artist and his paint. What I learned wasn’t mastery over the elements; it was mastery over myself, which is what conquest is ultimately all about.”
― Richard Bode, First You Have to Row a Little Boat: Reflections on Life & Living

“For the truth is that I already know as much about my fate as I need to know. The day will come when I will die. So the only matter of consequence before me is what I will do with my allotted time. I can remain on shore, paralyzed with fear, or I can raise my sails and dip and soar in the breeze.”
― Richard Bode, First You Have to Row a Little Boat: Reflections on Life & Living

I’m still reading Kate Grenville’s: The Secret River. The train trip to Sydney certainly helped me make some steady progress. The train is probably my preferred place to read. While it’s snugly curling up in bed with a good book, it’s way too easy to nod off.

Last week we had a particularly great prompt for Friday Fictioneers. It was a photo of a box office and it doesn’t take too much imagination to see how that image would resonate for me. Here’s a link to my contribution: Triple-Threat Friday Fictioneers. I thought I’d also share a link to Keith’s contribution which I found incredibly funny: Keith’s Ramblings – A Theatrical Tale.

In terms of the coming week, I’ll be giving a talk about photography at Girls’ Brigade on Wednesday night. I was going to talk about finding inspiration in the every day. However, after seeing a friend in hospital last week, I thought I’d write about what photography means to me. I’m very pleased with how this is turning out and will be posting it on the blog. I’ve started off with how having my photo taken as a child made me feel special. I’ve moved onto my travels through Europe with the camera. Then, I addressed how photography has helped me get through some particularly hard times when health issues flared up and I couldn’t work. My whole identity, not to mention my very survival, was under threat but photography gave me a new identity and something to talk about instead of work. Indeed, the more I thought out this life change, it actually sounded rather idyllic aside from the fact of being broke.

Well that about covers the last week. How was your week? Hope you had a great one.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by  Eclectic Ali. We’d love you to pop round and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Beach Escape…

This afternoon, I finally managed to get down to the beach for a good solid walk, making the most of the glorious Autumn sunshine before Winter sets in, sending the sun packing off to the Northern Hemisphere. Of course,  many of you are actively trying to speed that process up. However, we Aussies are a resilient bunch. Although Daylight Savings Time officially ended this morning, we’re not letting Summer go without a fight. By the way, temperatures reached a high of 27 degrees today. Happy Days! It was actually perfect weather.

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I really needed to get to the beach today. As you might’ve read, I’m fully immersed in researching and writing my collection of biographical short-fiction. These stories are based on the numerous stories I’ve collected researching our family histories, and there’s quite a cast of characters with a vast range of tales to tell. Each story feels like a book in itself as I research the person, location and historical framework and in effect pour all these ingredients into some kind of crucible and then try to pluck out the essence. That’s what I use to write these stories. I’m not simply writing their life stories. At times, this process has almost a mystical feel, like I’m pulling a rabbit out of a hat. That’s despite the stories being meticulously researched. So, my eyes and mind are literally buzzing from loads of alt-tabbing between various sources, which is like having flashing lights flickering in my face. It can’t be good. However, now that I’ve finally found my genre and have two stories down and two on the way, there’s no holding back.

Yet, while 100% immersion and a mono focus sounds great from a writing perspective, I still need to eat, sleep, shower and make sure my kids are taken care of and get where they’re meant to be on time and on the right day. These things are falling by the wayside at the moment, and they’ll soon be directed to the microwave and the freezer and told to “insert here”.

Well, it hasn’t got to that point yet. However, this is why I consciously need to pull myself away. I can’t attach a snorkel and keep writing underwater. I need to take breaks and undertake a variety of activities, while still keeping my eye fixed on the prize.

So, it was really great to finally get back to the beach this afternoon. It was bucketing down much of last week. Then, on the other days, it was either too sunny or I’d miss the boat or I’d simply forget to go. I know that doesn’t sound very motivated, but I’m only human. I can’t juggle ten balls in the air and expect to catch them all…especially when I’ve so focused on the one! Still, I keep asking myself How hard can it be to go for a simple walk, especially when it takes in such breathtakingly beautiful scenery? What kind of idiot am I? Well, my only rationale is that even when you live in Paradise, you still need to deal with the every day.

Beach Invaders

We don’t usually get so much seaweed on our beach. I think the heavy rain last week is probably to blame. 

 

Just for your enjoyment, I lugged my massive Nikon DSLR with zoom lens along the beach and thought you’d particularly like to see some Surf Lifesaving touches. The red inflatable boat is known here as a “rubber ducky” and is used for beach rescues. Not sure if you’re familiar with the red and yellow surf lifesaving flags. These flags mark safe swimming area, which is also patrolled by the lifesavers or lifeguards. The flags are also a key feature of our Summer beaches and you might arrange to meet friends “in-between the flags”. Or, if you’re terribly short-sighted like myself, you leave your glasses and towel under a flag, ensuring you get back there before they shut up shop for the day.

While we’re touching on our local surf-lifesaving culture, we have a junior program called Nippers, where young kids gradually learn the ropes. Like all these activities, there’s a huge dropout rate as the physical demands and competitive aspects take their toll. It also takes a lot of commitment, and that also has a sense of heavy competition. Our lives are full to overflowing most of the time.

Both of our kids did Nippers for a few years, before taking up Sea Scouts and shifting their focus over to still water and in our daughter’s case, onto dance. As I am finding myself, it’s hard to maintain a diverse range of interests when you’re trying to conquer the world. Or, at least a particular field.

So, I’ll leave you with a few pics of the kids doing Nippers from years ago and you can imagine yourself down at the beach bright and early on a Sunday morning with the rest of us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

CECIL WALKER

Had quite a surprise tonight to find out my husband’s Grandfather’s cousin was an international cycling champion. I can’t believe how many incredible stories I keep finding hidden ain the family closet or the fact that we’ve never heard anything about them.
Best wishes,
Rowena

CYCLE COLLECTION

Article taken from excerpts:

‘Australs and Legends’ by Theo van Kalleveen

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The Yanks were not the only ones to bolster Australian cycling. Cecil Walker, the all-round champion of America, played a part in a bonanza of splendid bike-racing during the mid 1920s.

During the late Twenties, Cecil Walker, the boy from Marrickville, reigned as the undisputed King of Cycling in all-round

competitions in America.

He returned to Australia on a number of occasions for relatively brief visits. He spent more time racing in his hometown of Sydney, rather than Melbourne, as his contract required him to ride there.

Like his contemporaries, he spent his best years in the States collecting Titles.

Young Cecil, being the son of a grocer, helped with deliveries on his bike. He has lost interest in his pony after he had been thrown in front of his mates. He joined the Marrickville Cycling Club instead. At…

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