Category Archives: Violin

Weekend Coffee Share…21st January, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, it’s just hit Monday afternoon at my place just North of Sydney, Australia and you’re welcome to join me for a cup of tea or coffee and even a chocolate macadamia cookie. Virtual consumption doesn’t put on any weight!

How has your week been?

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The kids BEFORE Jamboree

It’s hard for me to know quite where to start, because I was about to say that my new car was the best thing about my week, but then I remembered that the kids also came home from the Australian Scouting Jamboree last Tuesday and nothing compares to having them back home. We really missed them and I must admit that I was rather pathetic scouring through photos on the Facebook page trying to find them. Often, it was like “Where’s Wally” and our eyesight isn’t what it used to be either. It’s almost comic in hindsight, but on the morning they were due back, arrival times kept getting put back and it was becoming quite difficult to guage when the bus was going to pull up. Of course, there was no way I was going to miss the actual arrival of the bus and that incredible moment when the doors burst open and our scouts (in what ever condition they’d arrived back home in) burst through the doors. We allowed ourselves a 15 minute head start on the last message and I didn’t care about being early and waiting. I HAD to be there. However, we we’re about 5-10 minutes away when a text arrived saying the bus was off the freeway and it was clear that it was going to get there first. Yikes! Of course, this doesn’t sound very sensible, However, as they say, never come between a mother and her baby. Fortunately, Geoff was driving and he was more sedate and level-headed. However, as we entered the road where the bus was pulling up, council had decided to do roadworks. So you have a bus load of Scouts just off the bus and hoards of parents coming in to pick them up and you have this piddly council worker on his steam roller very sedately driving across blocking the road and there’s was also one of those !@#$ lollypop people standing there with the stop sign. Well yours truly with stitches in her foot and doing a hop-along Cassidy routine,  jumps out of the car and hobbles off to her children on foot. Love knows no distance, or it seems, no common sense either. Well, this must’ve jolted these council workers into action because they suddenly allowed the traffic to go round them. So, while I’m hobbling along at a galloping snail’s pace, Geoff drives straight through and pips me to the post. That’s the last time I act like an irrational maniac, I  mean, mother. Well, maybe not. It seems that I was put on this planet to act as a cautionary tale for others.

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Our son AFTER Jamboree

If we reverse up a bit, you might recall that I mentioned a “new car”. You might also recall that I’ve had more than my share of car troubles lately after badly scraping the car one week and writing it off in the hospital car park the next and two week’s later the replacement car was caught in a hail storm and we also expect it to be written off. All up, we were in the market for two replacement vehicles as the Nissan Pulsar we bought just after we were engaged and bought our house, is now something like 18 years old and it’s time for it to move out.

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Feeling like a new woman in my hot new car.

As it turned out, my husband became rather “absorbed” by his car quest cruising round online auction sites like many a crazy desperado hunting around Tinder. However, his dogged persistence paid off and he certainly caught my attention when he pointed out a red Alfa Romeo 159. While the Italians consider it a “family sedan”, it’s still rather sporty, very stylish and in addition to being RED, has a sunroof. I was in love. So was our daughter. We had to have that car. Yet, we also had to keep our heads. It was an auction and as Geoff reminded us, you’re not supposed to become emotionally attached before it’s yours. However, it was too late. I was all but dribbling all over my laptop screen.

Obviously, we won the auction and yesterday we took “Blue” as I think he’ll become known (a bloke with red hair in Australia at least used to be called “Blue” hence Virgin Blue) for a drive to get some good photos. That was a lot of fun. Blue is really good to drive and not just a car to get you from A to B. It’s an experience. Fingers crossed it remains a good experience. We are a little concerned about whether performance and reliability will live up to it’s Italian good looks and style.

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Anyway, we drove Blue down to Patonga. However, there was no parking by the beach or jetty and so we cruised around the backstreets until we found a more secluded location. It was very relaxing and serene and we also happened to spot a pelican cruising along.

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Our next location was in front of the Imagine sign at either Tascott on Brisbane Waters, near Woy Woy. That was a lot of fun too. Hard to believe that I’ve never photographed this sign before when I photograph almost everything in sight. However, I’m also a bit of a perfectionist and am wanting that perfect shot. I would’ve liked more sun and blue sky. However, I really wanted to share my good news and a compromise was in order.

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My daughter and I.

This week, I’ve also been writing up about our trip up North staying with my husband’s sister at Newrybar, near Byron Bay. This region is not only famous for its stunning natural beauty. It’s also bursting with creative energy and there’s music almost on even street corner in Byron Bay, and so many artists at the markets. I always come home feeling so inspired and that despite my devotion to my writing, photography and violin, that I’m only living at half mast and there’s so much more I could do. That I need to stop being afraid and stop aiming for absolute crippling perfection before I even get started and just do it. That there really is something inside which is worth coming out.

 

Here are some links to the posts I’ve written so far:

Saturday Night in Byron Bay

Byron Bay Markets

Main Beach Byron Bay

The Macadamia Nut Castle & Ballina

Walking Through Bangalow’s Past

Bangalow Doors – Thursday Doors

The Red Tree of Bangalow

Well, I think we’re into the last week of school holidays, which means it’s time to refocus on all the nuts and bolts of life and get organized. Find shoes for feet and sort out uniforms. It goes quite against the grain of wanting to make the most out of the last precious days you have left. Meanwhile, my daughter and I are off to see Charlie & the Chocolate Factory…the Musical tomorrow and one of my daughter’s dance teacher plays Veruca Salt so it will be particularly special. We can’t wait!

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Byron Bay Markets…Sunday 8th January, 2019.

“Not all those who wander are lost.”

JRR Tolkein.

Every time, I go to the markets around Byron Bay whether they are in Byron Bay  itself or perhaps over at Bangalow, I have this all consuming sense of coming home. That this is me.

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I doubt this would come as a surprise to anyone these days. However, I was a 25 year old marketing executive when I first came to Byron Bay 25 years ago and had somehow managed to allow my writer-poet self to become fully corporatized. I also have to confess that I was on an ardent quest to find Mr Right, who also seemed to be corporatized and didn’t exactly draw out my creative side either. So by the time a friend of mine suggested that she could see me being a market stall holder in Byron Bay, it was a revelation. Indeed, by this time, this part of my self was even estranged and lost from me… buried alive and mummified in many dead layers of detrititus. Clearly, this was a shame particularly when I rewind back to my university days where I was performing my poetry at events like the Newtown Street Festival. Indeed, I could’ve gone right down this creative path so easily, but it was one thing to dabble in this world as a student. It was quite another to stay there and that wasn’t going to happen. Even if you took away parental influences, I was still a product of the system and once you get used to living the high life, it can become an end in itself.

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Anyway, when I was 25, I visited Byron Bay for the first time. I was driving very slowly from Sydney to Queensland to visit my grandparents in Ipswich and drove as far North as Maroochydore visiting friends via the breathtaking Glasshouse Mountains. To anyone who knows me now, it would come as quite a surprise that I actually set off all by myself in my beloved first car… the Mitsubishi colt. I loved the freedom of being able to stop off WHEREVER and just being totally free and independent. I made a friend, Jody, at the Youth Hostel in Byron Bay and we drove up to Murwillumbah and stayed at the Youth Hostel there on the river and kept in touch for a bit. There was definitely a sense of being Easy Rider or Thelma & Louise on this trip and when I arrived back home, I experienced a seismic shift. Nothing felt familiar and it was like I’d stepped into someone else’s life and not my own. Yet, this was also the time that the neurological storm in my head was brewing and a year later, I would be diagnosed with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain and off to the brain surgeon..a rather radical approach for staying in tune with yourself but I’ve always trod my own path.

I don’t think the markets were around back then, although they could well have been. Byron Bay and that entire region of North-East NSW was at the tail end of its hippy heyday and the streets were still packed with hippies and ferals. Kombies with surfboards loaded up top were parked along the beach and not taking their last breaths either. I think it must’ve been a round 1995. Whenever it was, it was definitely long before marriage, mortgage, kids and 24/7 responsibilities (which the dog has reminded me includes her. She’s just deposited the components of her tennis ball on my laptop. If ever I’m in doubt about what I’m focusing on, I just need to see where she’s deposited her bits of stick or ball. She’s onto me.)

Oops! My apologies! I’ve clearly taken you on a massive detour along the long and winding road to Byron Bay Markets, and at this rate we’ll be lucky to get there before they shut shop.

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The Byron Bay Markets are held Butler Street Reserve, which is just over the disused railway line and a short walk from the main street. Just in case you’d like to know when the markets are on, here’s a link. Having been to the artisan markets the night before, the initial impact of arriving at the markets didn’t quite get my heart racing as much as usual. However, I did hear the most exquisite violin my music, and was all ears. Where was it coming from? I started scouring left and right and discovered the virtuoso was a moth-eaten Pirate Cat. Looks like he could use a bit of a makeover, but he could play the violin better than me thanks to a recording.

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Just goes to show that you don’t need the best instrument to make heavenly music. However, perhaps he could’ve polished his boots…

As much as I loved the markets, I soon realized that our demographic has changed significantly since I was here last and both the kids have outgrown all the handmade children’s clothes and toys which used to draw me in. After many years of op shop devotion, paying full price for clothes has lost its appeal these days and things don’t fit me easily and madam is fussy. So, I’d covered a good 50% of the market before I’d spotted anything to buy and I was starting to wonder if a miracle was at hand. Would this be the very first time Rowie went to Byron Bay Markets and came home empty handed? Surely not!! However, don’t fear. I haven’t lost my magic touch. It turned out even markets like suspense, and the best was yet to come.

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Artist Markus May.

Indeed, I spotted a chatty Willy Wonka type character in a purple top hat and loud shirt with his sketches. What initially caught my eye was a sketch of a tree over a sheet of music. It was beautiful. However, I’m constantly watching my pennies and you don’t know what’s around the corner. So, I went for a smaller sketch of a woman in a purple robe and a card with female nude sitting on a bed taken from behind and she’s looking across the room to a picture of a fairy on the wall. It’s like she’s found her wings. There is an answer, a way out, a way up. We were chatting and it came up that I play the violin and he soon returned with a tiny sketch of a woman with red hair holding her violin. Her eyes are closed and it’s like she can hear the music in her soul without needing to actually play. Naturally, I had to have that. I also bought a few cards. I felt rather fired up after stopping off there.

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Above: Artist Marcus May.

Then, I spotted a vintage stall and I should be ashamed to admit to buying more books, but I’m not. Rather, I’m cheering because I found a 1937 edition of the famed Yates Garden Guide and a Wolf Cub Scouting Book from the 60’s from the UK. If you’ve seen our garden, well you might wonder what I’d be doing with a gardening book. Indeed, you’d be thinking I’d be buying something out of Hogwarts for casting nasty spells on gardens, because I’m a serial plant killer. However, both my grandfathers were avid gardeners and this one dates back just a few years before they embarked on married life. Looking at it, it’s hard to believe that it’s from my grandparents’ life time as it looks a lot older. Not quite ancient, but older than old. Well, Dad’s Dad would be turning 109 this year, which I guess was hardly yesterday. It just reaffirms how quickly time flies by.

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Sheltering from the sun any way you can!

By the way, I should’ve mentioned the heat and just how sunny it was at the markets. I’d forgotten my hat and sunscreen and was trying to stay in the shade just to survive. There are days when out hot Australian sun goes into griller mode, and this was one of those. Fortunately, there were some huge shady trees and the stalls themselves provided much needed shelter. Boy, I really needed it.

As it turned out, the heat was also to blame for a low turnout at the markets. Perhaps, people were at the beach or simply hibernating indoors. I’m not sure. However, you have to feel for the stallholders. For many, this is their livelihood. Bread and butter on the table kind of stuff.

Hey, before we leave the markets and head up to the beach, I wanted to share a few photos of a couple of double-decker buses I spotted across the road. You never quite know what you’re going to find around Byron Bay (other than the unexpected!)

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Before we head off to the beach, I thought I’d leave you with a parting shot of the Pirate Cat, who looks like he’s taken a Bex and is enjoying a good lie down.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Saturday Night in Byron Bay…January 5, 2019.

Although blogging is supposed to be an immediate medium, there was something about announcing to the world that we’ve abandoned the house to go to Byron Bay, which didn’t sit well despite leaving the three dogs in charge of home security. So, I’ve decided to write about our week that was a week in arrears so that I can still share my daily adventures with you and you can appreciate more of a local or quasi-local experience of the place.

By the way, we weren’t actually staying in Byron Bay itself. We were staying with family out at Nureybar about 15 minutes out of Byron in the lush green hinterland, which is breathtakingly beautiful and did I mention something about GREEN?!!! Geoff and I first met on NYE exactly 20 years ago and we came up here a few months later so I could meet his Mum and family before he disappeared overseas for a few months to America. I had been to Byron Bay once beforehand when I’d stayed right in Byron Bay at the Youth Hostel, which was quite a different experience. We’ll just leave it at that, although I could mention something about what happens in Byron stays in Byron.

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We really enjoyed our Spanish plate.

Anyway, we’d driven up on the Friday and after sleeping through most of Saturday, decided to head down into the Bay to go to the night markets and pick up some dinner. Food, markets, art, music…I was in heaven. The markets are held every Saturday night in the Railway Park as you drive into town. Unfortunately, the trains no longer make it into Byron Bay and so the Railway Park is something of an anachronism. However, it’s one of our favourite places in Byron Bay after the Lighthouse and the beach, because it has the most amazing climbing tree which has fallen over onto its side and somehow managed to stay alive. This makes it very easy for young kids to climb up into its branches and there’s nothing quite like being able to climb a tree and shelter in its branches. However, this tree also has a special kind of magic all of its own. Every time we go there, we usually find something hanging in its branches…a milk crate hanging by a rope, paper lanterns, sunflowers, ribbons. It just seems to be asking for us humans to leave something special behind for the next person who comes along. I think we might’ve tied a ribbon or scarf around it once. I’m not really sure.

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The kids leaving for Jamboree just over a week ago. Indeed, they’re almost about to leave. 

By the way, I probably should’ve reminded you that we were teen-free on this trip as our kids are away at the Australian Scouting Jamboree in South Australia at the moment. Ideally, we would’ve all gone up to stay with Geoff’s family but we couldn’t fit it in later. As much as we parents are supposed to enjoy being child-free, I must admit that it felt quite weird being there without them and visiting all our favourite haunts right down to going to Pinky’s for ice cream and fighting off the drips all by ourselves. It also felt strange not to have the dogs with us either, although it was rather nice to be able to leave my biscuit unattended on my plate and still find it there on my return.

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Anyway, getting back to the markets, I was dazzled by an amazing range of artworks, but unfortunately my budget and available wall space only extended as far as postcard-sized prints…something to jog my memory later. I bought a print of a mother whale with her calf for our son who wants to be a Marine Biologist. Then I wandered over to Deborah White’s stall and bought a mini wooden chopping board with one of her prints on top and a few cards. She incorporates a cellular perspective into her art which I really love. I love zooming in and macro photography myself and she seemed to see the world through a similar lens.

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I was so dazzled by the art and live music, that food was a secondary concern. Although my Brother-in-law had recommended the mushroom pasta, we actually ordered a Spanish plate, which was fantastic and something out of the ordinary.

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After dinner, we decided to walk down to Pinky’s on the main street order an ice cream and walk up to the beach. The streets were really festive and lined with buskers and the whole place felt so alive. I really wished it could be more like this where we live. We also live right near the beach and there’s a popular caravan park down the road. However, we have nothing like this. Our culture seems to be kept behind closed doors and I am guilty of this myself. After all, I am the Closet Violinist.

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The ice cream was rapidly dripping down my hands, over my dress and even onto and into my sandals. I could even feel its sticky sweetness in between my toes. I guess by now you’re thinking that’s a little too much information. That I’m oversharing. Well, before I move on, let me just let you know that my husband didn’t get any drips on him. I think it might be yet another Rowieism and that only I could manage to cover myself in ice cream at an age where most of us have developed a bit more sophistication and can eat an ice cream without wearing it.

By the time we reached the beach, the sun had set and the light was rapidly disappearing. On our right, the Cape Byron Lighthouse was doing it’s thing. I’ll never get tired of watching that place and going up there for a closer inspection. It feels like an old faithful friend after all these years. We usually go there with the kids and so there’s this progression of photos and the kids get taller and also less rambunctious and hopefully less of a liability. We usually get an ice cream up the top. That’s become a family tradition, along with the photos. One year, I even posed with my violin up there. That was rather funny because I’d only been playing for a year then and couldn’t really play much at all. However, I’d performed at the music school’s annual concert, which just so happened to be at Lizotte’s, a local rock n roll venue owned by Diesel’s brother. So, there I was a novice violinist hanging out in the red room where all these great acts had gone before me. It blew me away.

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By the way, I almost forgot to mention that there’s an informal drumming group which jams everyday on the rocks at sunset. I have taken better photos on previous visits but must’ve been having trouble walking because I didn’t quite have the energy to get up and photograph the drummers upfront. Mind you, I also liked watching these flowing fabrics move to the beat. They also told a story.

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Well, I hope you enjoyed our first night in Byron Bay. Our next stop will be the Byron Bay Markets.

Have you ever been to Byron Bay? I’d love to hear your tales. 

Best wishes,

Rowena

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I couldn’t resist sticking in this photo of the kids eating ice cream at the lighthouse. I think it was taken in 2011 when they were five and seven. 

Weekend Coffee Share…31st December, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s already New Year’s Eve here in Sydney and I’m briefly putting my feet up after leaving the pizza dough to rise and making Chocolate Mouse and Pavlova for dessert. We don’t go out on NYE. It’s not easy to venture into Sydney city for us to view the fireworks in person due to my mobility restrictions, and it’s not the safest time to head into the city either. Moreover, we also have the added complication that at least one of our dogs, Lady, is terrified of fireworks and breaks into a sweat when local fireworks get set off illegally. No doubt, that also happens where you live as well, and you’re also aware of how many pets go missing as a result.

Couple Ocean Beach best

I’m struggling to remember what happened during the last week and I had to confirm with Geoff that today is actually Monday. That’s a common phenomenon in between Christmas and New Year However, I should’ve remembered that there was a minor event called Christmas. How could I forget? Well, I’ll blame the heatwave for that.

We had a family dinner at home on Christmas Eve and headed out to Church for carols intermingled with the traditional Christmas tree manger reenactment.

We spent Christmas Day at my aunt and uncle’s place where we met up with my parents and the extended family. These Christmases fuse tradition and change. Much to my concern, there’s an increasing Melbourne contingent and missing persons from the celebrations. If you’re not aware of the rivalry between Sydney and Melbourne, it’s not quite as intense as it used to be but to have family exodus to Melbourne of all places, is a concern. Need to stem the tide. The highlight for me of this Christmas celebration was taking part in a jam session with my cousins with two on guitar, another on cello while I played my violin. It was a very interesting experience because my cousin was playing chords in a blue grass style and I was trying to listen deep into the music and pick out what became something like a song line to play on my violin and my violin actually sounded like a harmonica which surprised me. I usually play classics on my violin of the likes of Bach so playing blue grass ad lib was quite a change and I was very proud of myself for stepping so far out of my comfort zone and doing so well. Our son also joined in with the jam on guitar and also took over my violin plucking the Peter Gunn.Monopoly Go to Jail

We received this local fundraiser Monopoly for Christmas from my parents. Playing Monopoly is a good this time of year. I ended up in jail a few times.

After Christmas, we’ve been catching up with friends and we’ve also braved the post-Christmas sales. Not unsurprisingly, I found my way into yet another book shop.  where I bought Cicero’s: How To Be A Friend which was written in 44BC in Latin. I’m almost halfway through and highly recommend it. I also bought Oliver Sacks’: The River of Consciousness. In case you’re not aware, Dr Oliver Sacks is a neurologist who has written quite a few books including: The Man Who Mistook His Wife For A Hat. Have you stuck your nose in any great books lately?

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The weather around here has been fairly intense lately. After having three or four storms the week before Christmas including blackouts and hail, we’ve been caught in a heatwave, which has largely forced us underground. Indeed, we’ve been hibernating at home although I did venture to the beach two days ago for a photographic walk. That was a lot of fun, and despite initially thinking I wasn’t going to find much, the light was particularly good the clouds seemed to dance in the setting sun especially for the camera. I was also quite fascinated by the watermarks in the sand. All those wiggly lines of sand along the beach which resemble secret messages.

Well, it’s now 10.00pm  and after watching the 9.00PM fireworks, we’re listening to the NYE entertainment and Ross Wilson has just finished singing Can’t Get No Satisfaction and has moved onto his own hit Eagle Rock. This music is a good distraction from the choking smoke leaking in from the kitchen. Somehow, the hot plate which I swear I didn’t use tonight, ended up on high and the left over pizza has apparently been incinerated and it’s not safe for me to enter the kitchen. Indeed, even the rest of the family is covering their mouths going in there. Hoping the air is going to clear soon so we could put together our NYE dessert  of pavlova, chocolate mouse, fruit and cream. I was even thinking of chopping up some Tim Tams and sprinkling them over the top for a bit of added chocolate crunch.

Have you set any New Year’s resolutions? I’m still working on mine and as you can see by the dessert we’re having tonight, that my sins are continuing to mount.

I’ll be back in the New Year to share a snapshot of the Sydney Fireworks.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share…December 17, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Being so close to Christmas, I should be able to offer you a slice of home-made Christmas cake. However, I haven’t gotten around to that yet. Or, writing more than a couple of Christmas cards. Had you popped round yesterday, you could’ve had a slice of the All Bran Cake I made, which loads of dates, apricots and pecans and is best straight out of the oven covered in lashings of butter…yum. Yet, all is not lost. I have some scorched macadamia nuts from Haigh’s Chocolate Shop in Sydney. They’re very yum!

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All Bran Cake…My Grandmother’s Recipe.

Well, there are only eight sleeps til Christmas and the last week has been hectic as expected. I think it was Tuesday night, that we attended the End of Year School concert, where our daughter was dancing with her dance class and also performed a contemporary solo, which she’d choreographed herself. Our son was also working backstage and we saw quite a lot of his black shadow lurking in the background. That was a fun night which climaxed with the teacher’s band, which was a lot of fun. Even as a parent, I find it intriguing to see teacher’s actually unwind and party.

Tuesday, I headed down to Sydney to meet up with two school friends. One of them is living with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and is currently in intensive care after major surgery, and we wanted to touch base. I was expecting this to be a challenging visit and very confronting, although I’m quite used to the hospital environment and being the patient. The shoe was on the other foot this time, with my friend and I wanting to give our friend respect and dignity, but not too sure about what to say or how to listen given her speech difficulties. Although we all go and visit people in hospital, most of us have had no training or preparation for it and feel very much out of our comfort zones. Dread knowing what to say, even though just being there is enough. No doubt they just need to feel loved and see a familiar face.

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Elf meets pianist Michael Hope at David Jones’s Elizabeth Street Store. He even got to have a turn.

On my way home, I stopped off at the Gordon Violin Centre looking for a new bow for my violin. Replacing your bow is a major decision for even an amateur violinist and there’s a lot to think about in terms of the weight of the bow. Do you prefer a light or relatively heavy bow? Well, I thought I’d go in there and try a few out. This was quite a big step for me, representing a transition from mediocre violinist, to someone progressing and taking their instrument more seriously. However, I wasn’t quite prepared for what a leap this would be. As I walked up the stairs, I found a metal security door with a violin shaped into the framework. You had to press a buzzer to get in, which seemed rather formal and I had a feel I was about to step into very expensive, upmarket territory way beyond the $100 mark I was thinking of spending on my bow. Life at our place gets rather crazy and bows do get sat on. I’m not quite at the point of making a big investment. Not yet, anyway. So, you’ll understand that I was feeling rather sheepish when the door answered and I entered into this incredible salon environment which could’ve been in Paris, London, New York. There were rows of cellos and the decor was antique and 1920s-1940s and my grandparents’ era. I was spellbound. Yet, the best was yet to come. There was a room within the room, which was absolutely immaculate and there was a chaise longue and an upright piano inside. It could well have been a practice room or recording studio. I was in love! Meanwhile, I’ve found an $85.00 bow and he recommended I brought my violin in and tried it out. Ouch! I was left stammering but grateful I’d moved on from the $50.00 violin I’d first bought on eBay and at least had a Stentor. I’ll have to keep you posted on that in the New Year.

Thursday, I headed back down to Sydney for a lung function test and appointment with my lung specialist. This was just a routine thing, and I did a brief post showing some of the lengths staff have gone to spread some Christmas cheer: Hospital Cheer: Thursday Doors.

Whenever I have these medical appointments, I usually go on a little detour afterwards as a pick-me-up. After my appointments on Thursday, I headed into the city and ended up walking up to David Jones and checking out their Christmas windows, which have a Nutcracker theme. I had the elf with me and photographed him in the Queen Victoria Building and various other locations. However, he really had his real moment of fame when he played the piano alongside pianist Michael Hope at David Jones’s Elizabeth Street store. They’ve had a pianist in there as long as I can remember, and it’s just another reflection of the store’s prestige and tradition. Anyway, I asked Michael if I could take his photo, and he invited me to sit alongside him and we passed my phone onto a total stranger to film me “playing” beside him. Then, I produced elf and Michael played with him. It was the sweetest thing. By the way, Elf is slowly heading towards Afghanistan where my cousin is currently serving in the Australian army but I have ordered some reinforcements. We’ve become rather attached.

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Friday, we were back at the school to attend our son’s Year 9 Graduation. This is a celebration, which is quite unique to our school as Year 10 and Year 12 are when students actually leave school, and in this instance, the kids are simply moving from the junior campus to the senior campus which is about a five minute drive down the road. Yet, it does mean leaving their teachers and siblings and friends in the junior years behind. So, it did get a bit emotional. It was also another reminder that our son is rapidly growing up and about to get into the serious end of school. Next year, he’ll need to knuckle down. _DSC7837

Friday night, a huge storm hit. Geoff rang me and said they were expecting hail so I decided to take the car to the local shopping centre and park it undercover. AS it turned out, there was no hail, but the shops had no power and the water was pretty deep. Should’ve stayed home, although I did manage to buy a scrumptious berry cheesecake.

Saturday night, we all headed off to the sailing club for the annual Christmas party. That was when a second storm hit. No hail, but heavy rain and flashes of lightening which I didn’t even try to photograph for some strange reason, but I did photograph the sunset afterwards. The air felt so crisp, clean and refreshing and I was stoked with the photos. It looks like the sky is on fire. However, we arrived home to find another blackout and they couldn’t say when the power was coming back on. Naturally, that was alarming and there have been local black outs (thankfully not at our place) that have gone on for a few days. My parents and aunty visiting from Western Australia were coming over on Sunday and the house was suffering from dreadful neglect. So, I needed this blackout like a hole in the head. It’s not easy trying to clean the house by candle and torch light. The power came back on about 11.00pm and By the time they’d arrive lunchtime Sunday, I’d baked a cake, set up my vintage chine tea set and given up on the rest of the house. That’s what doors are for. We had a great visit with my aunt, and I must tell you that I actually played Danny Boy and O Holy Night on my violin for them, which was a first. I call myself “The Closet Violinist” for good reason. Either I’m playing behind closed doors, or the door’s being shut to block the noise. However, I’ve been practicing a lot more lately and really getting into a rhythm and went for it. I was pleasantly surprised and my mother even said I had good legato. So, it looks like I might not be staying in the closet anymore.

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By the way, before I head off, I wanted to share a stroke of good luck we had tonight. We’ve been needing a new lounge suite for about the last five years. However, we haven’t found anything we liked and finances have also been tight. A few years ago, we found a lounge suite at the op shop which had two manual recliners. We bought this as a stop-gap measure. However, these had become stained and the springs had worn out. I’d thrown covers over them but they really needed to go. Then, our stoke of good luck. Our son and I were out walking the dogs when we spotted a blue leather suite with two single recliners beside the road. We dashed home and fetched my husband and the car and then I was left sitting beside the road minding our stash while they drove back and forwards. The old one is now out the front but will need to wait a week for collection. We’re stoked. We’re planning to replace the flooring in January so this was a great morale boost. My Dad also won a leg of ham at golf today, which he’s sending our way. So, that’s meals for January taken care of.

It’s funny how things work out. I’d been planning to have a garage sale for some time and have had loads of stuff stockpiled ready to go only I haven’t been able to get my head around holding on. I’ve no doubt complicated things way too much in my head. However, it’s been looking like it’s not going to happen and so I dropped a few large bags of clothes at the charity shop. I thought I’d go with more of a spirit of generosity, rather than holding onto things and more than likely applying a false economy. There are probably much better ways of making money than a garage sale. So, from where I’m sitting, it looks like a case of clothes out, lounge and ham in. Not bad!

What have you been up to lately? How are your Christmas preparations going? Hopefully better than mine!

Anyway, I’d better get to bed. I hope you’ve had a great week. This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share -2nd December, 2018.

Welcome Back to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

While some weeks you’re lucky to get a tea or coffee at Beyond the Flow let alone something to eat, this week you’re being spoiled. I can offer you a slice of virtual Hazelnut and Raspberry Gateau, which I made for the Church Christmas Party. These cake experiments of mine don’t always work out and can be rather catastrophic. So, when this cake looked like something straight out of a bakery, I was so chuffed. I even managed to position the raspberries neatly around the edge and created a hazelnut praline pyramid on top. That was actually quite simple and yet it looked very dramatic and so clever. It was more a situation of good luck, patience and a few trips back to the supermarket as the recipe evolved but that hasn’t stopped me for feeling particularly chuffed and excited that I could get something right.

I think I speak for many of us when I say that I’m often just trying to stay out of trouble most days. A few weeks ago, I had a really bad run with the car and really felt I should stop driving or at least cut back. I scraped the car badly in the supermarket car park and then drove into a concrete lane divider in the multi-storey car park at the local hospital when I was taking our son to Emergency. I cracked the radiator and goodness knows what else. I felt really bad about it for a few days. However, as I started speaking to various friends, it turned out that the turning circle was very tight and they’d struggled to get around and weren’t at all surprised. That was reassuring. Anyway, the insurance company ended up writing off the car and we’ve gone out and bought an older Subaru Forrester at auction to get by and will get another good car once the dust has settled. However, we like the Forester so we might get a more recent model. We’ll just see.

Last Friday, I went down to Sydney for a medical appointment and in typical fashion disappeared on one of my excursions afterwards. This time I headed over to Elizabeth Bay on Sydney Harbour, which was quite a way from the hospital and the opposite direction to home. The appointment was late in the day and with all the end of year stuff going on, I knew going there wasn’t the most sensible thing to do. That I should be conserving energy and being a good little Vegemite. However, sometimes I get sick of being good. Being that Mum person who is straight-laced and driving kids from A to B and is supposed to have everything sorted. Stick to the routine and all that. Sometimes I want to go back to being a backpacker and going off the grid exploring all sorts of nooks and crannies without having to rush home to pick anyone up. I just want to escape all those time pressures and having to be somewhere and just be nowhere for a bit. Get off the leash.

Anyway, a few weeks ago, I found out that my grandparents used to have a flat at Caversham Court in Elizabeth Bay and I wanted to go and check it out. Walk the streets they’d walked. There’s something quite amazing about trying to squeeze into someone else’s shoes and try to see the world through their eyes. Walk along the very same streets they walked, and feel a sense of timeless magic which knows no bounds. Just around the corner from their flat, I came across a park on the waterfront with a few seats looking out across the harbour. I’m not sure bout whether you’re familiar with that concept of an empty chair representing an absent friend, but I photographed two of the empty park benches side-by-side and thought of them. Clearly, I didn’t know them as newlyweds. However, young love hasn’t changed and I could sense the love in the air. More than that. I could feel them sitting there in the park behind me enjoying a picnic and a glass of wine beside the harbour. How I wish it were true!

I shared more about walking around Elizabeth Bay Here.

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It was well and truly dark by the time I reached Central Station but not without it’s own photographic opportunities.

 

Thinking about other posts I’ve done this week, for Thursday Doors I wrote about Building 30, Royal North Shore Hospital. I came across Building 30 on the way to my medical appointment on Friday. It’s one of the older Federation-style buildings on the hospital grounds and it must be being renovated because it had these fabric sheets with fake Federation style windows printed on the sign which hid all the scaffolding and building site paraphernalia. I was quite intrigued by it all and could help wondering why and how much it cost, but took photos of it in the meantime. It was quite interesting and I did managed to find an old dilapidated door in there to keep our host happy.

This coming week is concert week at our place. My daughter’s dance concert is on Saturday. It’s a big deal. She’s in dance team and with something like eight costume changes, there’a a lot to organize and she could use her own Personal Assistant. They each have their own portable wardrobe, and look like the Queen of Sheba although with so many quick costume changes, they make good sense. She was talking to me tonight about all the steps she has to remember, and I was blown away. Unlike music, dance doesn’t seem to have a written score. The opening number is the highlight of the show and is every bit as challenging and dazzling as you’d expect. I saw a sneak preview at the recent nursing home concert, but can’t wait to see the final thing on stage and under lights… as well as her other dances. Indeed, I love watching the entire show. It’s brilliant and it’s amazing to see the students’ progression each year and how far they’ve come. Dance is much more complex and mentally challenging, than I’d ever realized  and then there’s also the physical side of things which completely blows me away, especially considering my own physical limitations.

Rowena Violin

Violin Concert 2015.

However, my daughter isn’t the only concert performer this week. Next Sunday, yours truly will be taking to the stage and playing a duet of Danny Boy on my violin with my teacher at the end of year concert. These concerts are held outside on a pecan orchard, which makes for a very relaxing, lush green environment. I’ve ramped up my practice for the last month and it’s coming along well. So, fingers crossed it’s going to come off well on the day. That’s always a bit of an unknown. I bit like making a cake for a special occasion, you can put in all the same ingredients and one day it works out perfectly and another time disaster beckons at every turn. At least, the violin has a dubious reputation and is well known for squeaking and making horrible noises. So, if my violin suddenly emits an ear-piercing screech right in the middle of Danny Boy just when the emotions are rising and the tears are starting to swell, my audience will more than likely let me off. It was the violin’s fault, and well beyond my control.

Lastly, while I was catching multiple trains halfway across the universe on Friday, I was reading Kathy Lette’s The Boy Who Fell To Earth. This is about a Mum who gets arrested for trying to procure a prostitute for her son with Autism, so he can lose his virginity before his 21st birthday. I’m still not quite sure what to make of the book or Lette’s excessive use of similes and puns, but I’m still reading it. It also seems a bit far fetched, which you might say goes with a standup comedy approach to writing a novel . However, for me, it still needs to be credible and I’m not quite sure this is. That is despite Lette writing from personal experience. Her 26 year old son Julian  was diagnosed with Autism when he was three. You might like to read a bit more about it in this review by the Australian Women’s Weekly Here

Have you read any good books lately?

Anyway, the night is no longer young and indeed the clock has accelerated past midnight and taken me with it. Another week begins in just a few short hours, and like Cinderella I’ll be back to the real world and needing to look responsible.  I guess that’s what makeup and a good choice of lipstick are good for.

Well, on that note, I’m heading off. I hope you’ve had a great week. This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share… 26th November, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, before I get much further, I should tell you it was much husband’s birthday earlier in the week and we had a wonderful lunch out together at a restaurant across from our local beach. The weather was stunning and we had such a relaxing time. Well, it would’ve been more relaxing if a group of young whippersnappers weren’t discussing their investment strategies and how much money you should leave in the pot. I was very tempted to ask them to ****up and tell them that some people actually like to enjoy life. Go out for lunch to get away from all of that. I can guarantee that when I was their age, I wasn’t discussing investment strategies. However, eventually the bright sun forced them inside and out of earshot.

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By the way, my apologies on the food and beverage front today. About all I can offer you is tea, coffee, water and some great music. I’m sitting out at my desk listening to Ian Cooper: Hard Axe to Follow featuring  violinist Ian Cooper, guitarist Tommy Emmanuel and Maestro Tommy Tycho. This where my story gets rather humbling, which is hardly surprising for someone who bills themselves as: “The Closet Violinist”. Even if you’re shy, if you have a modicum of talent, someone eventually drags you out of the closet into some kind of public arena. Wants to bless the world with your magic. Not so for a poor closet player. They either leave the door, shut or slam it in your face. People can be so insensitive!!

Anyway, as I said, I’m listening to Ian Cooper Ian Cooper and this piece of music is vaguely familiar and moving out of the background, until I’m wracking my brain trying to work out what it is. Indeed, I’m even glaring at the back of the cover, and still not getting any wiser. Clearly, I should’ve finished my cup of tea before I began this simple, yet apparently ambitious task. The peanut butter sandwich clearly wasn’t enough either. As it turns out, much to my embarrassment, they were playing a reinvention of Dvořák’s Humoresque . I say much to my embarrassment, because I’ve been learning this piece for over the last three months. I guess it’s a bit like when you’re introduce two close friends, and have a temporary memory lapse and can’t remember their name.

Meanwhile, the Closet Violinist is hard at work. For those of you with even a toe in the performing arts, you’ll know that the end of the year is concert season. So, I’ll actually be coming out of the closet and will be playing a duet of Danny Boy with my teacher at the end of year concert. Last week, she gave me a big tick of approval and said she’d be stoked if I played like that at the concert. Yet, I’m still working on it.

Perhaps, I shouldn’t be surprised that practicing more, produces more practice and consequent improvement. It’s so exciting to be polishing off a handful of pieces and I’ll soon be moving from the Suzuki Book 3 onto Book 4, where I start learning concertos. It struck me that even if I’m only learning concertos, that I can’t keep saying that I can’t play the violin anymore. We Aussies can be an understated bunch. So, I think I’d now describe my playing as “could be better, could be worse”. How’s that for confidence and self-esteem? To be honest, I’m just grateful when my violin doesn’t squeak or do its infamous cockatoo screech. While the violin can be such an incredibly beautiful songbird (even when I play it), it can also be so cantankerous. Yet, I must say I was encouraged recently when a newfound friend, who is an incredibly talented musician, said all musicians wrestle with their instruments. By the way, as you may be aware there are definite parallels between mastering an instrument and conducting a passionate love affair…the love, the intensity, arguments, silence and all too often a parting of ways possibly after a physical break of some description.

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Our Daughter performing her contemporary solo at a local nursing home. Photo: Dancin Mates.

This weekend, however, it wasn’t my turn to shine. My daughter performed with the Dancin Mates Dance Team at a local nursing home. They did the opening number from the upcoming annual concert and they each performed their solos. It’s been awhile since my grandparents were living in nursing homes now and this is the only time I visit one these days. I’m really pleased my daughter is involved with these performances, as it’s important to try and cheer up people who might be doing it tough and bring a ray of sunshine indoors to people who may not get out all that often. Even just being themselves and wearing their dazzling costumes would be enough to brighten someone’s day but then to see them dance, is utterly magical. Some of these young people are in the process of transitioning into the professional dance world and so they weren’t just seeing people with nowhere else to go. My parents also came up to watch which was very special for us.

There have also been some challenging times over the last few weeks. My health is doing well and my endoscopy and colonoscopy haven’t picked up anything too nasty. However, I have a friend battling advanced Motor Neurone Disease and things with her have been really difficult lately. There were a couple of days where I was so angry about it and ended up finding solace on my violin, which isn’t something I’ve consciously done before. After all, as a beginner, all that screeching is hardly relaxing. I have also been listening to some violin music and that’s been very cathartic as well. I think the tone of the violin, especially when it hits the high notes, really releases the anguished or troubled cry of the soul. Any thoughts?

I did a bit of baking through the week. It started out with attempting to make a birthday cake for my husband using GF flour. I don’t know what happened because what went into the cake doesn’t resemble the recipe and then the cake didn’t rise. While I was waiting to decide its fate, the dog decided to help herself and Geoff heard the tin crash on the floor and half the cake was gone by the time he got there. Golly. These dogs are quick. Fortunately, there had been two layers. By this stage, the logical thing was to throw it out. However, I must believe in raising the dead after all. I broke the cake up and decided to do a variation of a family dessert…Chocolate In-Betweens. In the original you have chocolate mouse in between sponge fingers which have been dashed with sherry. In this version, there was chocolate cake smothered in cream, splashed with Frangelico and then covered in the chocolate mouse filling from the original cake recipe. The patient was removed to the fridge to rest. Much to our surprise, the result was incredibly scrumptious and will be the beginning of a new thing.

In terms of blogging, I’ve been a bit quiet this week and only participated in Friday Fictioneers with: The Secret

Well, on that note, I’m heading off. I hope you’ve had a great week. This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena