Category Archives: Violin

Weekend Coffee Share…November 4, 2018

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

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

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

Gerard Willems

Concert Pianist Gerard Willems

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

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

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

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My son and crew out on his boat.

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Back to “The Con”…the Sydney Conservatorium of Music.

As you may recall, a few weeks ago I went back to Sydney University for the first time in decades. Well, last Wednesday night, I  found myself back at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music doing the time warp again. This time, I was attending concert pianist, Gerard Willems’ Twilight Recital, which marked his retirement from full-time teaching at the Con.

While it only seems like yesterday, I haven’t been back to the Con since my grandmother’s Twilight Recital around 30 years ago. At the time, I was in the throws of leaving school, but now I’m married with two kids and our eldest isn’t terribly far off leaving school himself. So, clearly a lot of water’s flowed under the bridge, and even much of the landscape has been swept away by the tide. Yet, I still felt remarkably at home.

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Gerard Willems and his former teacher, Nada Brissenden.

By the way, I wasn’t just attending this concert out of interest. Gerard is almost an extended member of the family via one of my mother’s “secret societies”. Mum and Gerard both attended Wollongong Selective High School and learned the piano from  Nada Brissenden who, along with her husband Harold, introduced Suzuki Music to Australia. Mum was a year ahead of Gerard, and their paths have crossed over the years, which included studying piano at the Con. There was also a rather significant-to-me soiree which my grandmother Eunice Gardiner put on to give Gerard further performance experience. Not that Gerard was one of her pupils. Rather, he was studying under Gordon Watson. This soiree was also interesting because Australian authors Ruth Park and her husband D’Arcy Niland were there. Knowing Mum knew Gerard and possibly also because she had some single sons, my grandmother also invited my mother to the soiree. So, it was actually Gerard who first introduced my parents at Lindfield Station for the very first time on Sunday 26th March, 1967. That’s a connection you never forget and was brought up again recently at my parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary.  There’s still is a group of Mrs Brissenden’s former students who get together, forming an extended musical family of sorts. After all, you have your genetic family but as a musician you also have your musical family.

However, I also had an ulterior motive for going back to the Con. I wanted to revisit my grandmother’s old studio. See if I could find my way through the old rabbit warren and back to her door. I remember going in there as a young child after visiting my grandfather who had a dental practice in nearby Macquarie Street. The Con itself was stark white back then and I remember some weird story about how they cleaned it using Coca Cola. I remember going up some stairs and along a longish corridoor and there was a grand piano in the room. Dad told me that it overlooked the Botanical Gardens. So, that narrowed things down quite a lot. So, I planned to arrive quite early for the concert to ensure no regrets.

Conservatorium Sign

A Sign Promoting one of my grandmother’s concerts at the Con around 1960.

By the way, the Conservatorium building is famous in its own right. In 1815, Governor Lachlan Macquarie commissioned ex-convict Francis Greenway to design the government stables. Macquarie had a grand architectural vision for the fledgling colony and what emerged was more of a “Palace for Horses”  in the Old Colonial Gothick style. Indeed, it reminds me of  Mad King Ludwig of Bavaria’s architectural extravagance. The cost and apparent extravagance was one of the reasons Governor Macquarie was recalled to England. In 1916, the building was extensively renovated and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music was established under directorship of Belgian conductor and violinist, Henri Verbrugghen, with the aim of ‘providing tuition of a standard at least equal to that of the leading European Conservatoriums’.

As I said, it’s been 30 years since I was last at the Con. For better or worse, a massive extension has been built and the original building has had an extensive facelift. Of course, it’s been tastefully done and if I didn’t have an intense personal attachment to the original, I’d only be impressed.

However, as much as I know we couldn’t let the old girl fall apart and that the building itself is representing Australian classical music on the world stage, a facelift is still a facelift. I miss the white paint. The cracks, wrinkles and crooked appearance. Indeed, I’d love to wipe all the beige away and bring her back out of her glamorous shell…even if only long enough to take a photo and then send her back to sleep.

The ticket office is in the new part of the Con and I noticed a sign saying “No Public Admittance” where I’m needing to access my grandmother’s studio. However, as soon as I explained the situation, I was granted access and off I hopped with my camera. I was so excited, even though I was warned that it had changed and the “rabbit’s warren was gone”. Dad had also told me that her studio looked out onto the Botanic Gardens, which narrowed things down quite a lot. I climbed up the stairs and slowly walked along the corridoor. I could hear piano music on my right and saw a grand piano through the window. Her room was further along from memory but very soon I was distracted by the sound of a violin tuning up downstairs. I found it rather strange than when I, the closet violinist come back retracing my grandmother’s footsteps, a violinist was playing. (As it turned out this was  Evgeny Sorkin who played Beethoven’s Sonata for Piano and Violin in D Major Op. 12 No. 1. with Gerard during the concert.

Yet, the main reason I was at the Con was to attend this concert. So, we’d better head upstairs into the gallery where I had an absolutely fabulous seat with a bird’s eye view. Verbruggen Hall seats around 550 people and as far as I could tell, everyone there loved Gerard, not just as a pianist but as a person. He exudes such warmth and embraces the audience. Gerard introduced each piece himself, usually with an extensive preamble and I was hanging onto each and every word. Indeed, I was voraciously taking notes up in my seat. Among so many other things, Gerard is a teacher and I felt like this concert was also his last hurrah in that department as well trying to share as much of his knowledge and somehow try to encourage the spirit of music which lives in each of us to soar.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. However, here are a few snapshots.

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Gerard Willems.

Firstly, I was struck by how Gerard would play that solitary, perfect note in a way that transcended our earthly realm and entered the heavens. Indeed, I was reminded of when you look up into the night sky and see the planet Venus twinkling almost like a star yet in its solitude. One of my great frustrations as a beginner violinist, was the difficulty of even being able to play one perfect note. I kept practicing and practicing and I’d play two strings instead of one. My bow would glide diagonally across the strings and screech like a flock of cockatoos. It was so incredibly frustrating and yet I was determined to succeed. Gerard made me appreciate the enormity of playing that one perfect note. That it’s nowhere near as easy as you think.

Secondly, I was completely blown away by his unbelievable physicality playing Chopin’s Scherzo No. 1 in B minor Op. 20. Remember the man is retiring and this piece of music, is very physically demanding. Incredible.

However, while the other pieces were far more complex, I couldn’t go past Moonlight Sonata, which was followed by the Brahm’s Lullaby. He played these because these are the pieces he played for his baby daughter, Clara, and grandchildren. Indeed, as he played the Brahms, his wife appeared on stage hold Clara’s hands and helping her to walk across the stage to her Dad. She is only one year old and beyond cute. I noticed when I later looked at the photos that she was wearing a black jacket which looked a bit like a conductor’s jacket. As I said, she was extraordinarily cute and it was so touching to see how much Gerard loves his wife and baby girl. That was another time when you could feel all the stars twinkling in the sky and a sense of magic.

After the concert, I stayed the night at my parents’ place and had been so overstimulated by the concert, that I couldn’t sleep for hours. All my matches had been lit at once and I was firing on too many cylinders I suspect.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sydney_Conservatorium_of_Music

 

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share- Happy Father’s Day 2018!

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Don’t you just love how special days automatically assume you’re having a great day and that you’re all happy, happy, joy, joy! Happy Father’s Day! Happy Mother’s Day! Happy Birthday!

What if you don’t feel like being happy? What if you’re feeling grumpy or even downright miserable? Are you supposed to paint your clown face over the scars and forget your candle’s already gone out? Perhaps, we should just take “happy” out of the equation and simply wish people: “Father’s Day”, “Mother’s Day”, “Birthday”. Perhaps, by not expecting happiness (or at the very least a day without any fights or squabbles), we’d be better prepared to deal with any disappointment. Yet, isn’t that also defeat? Don’t we want to be happy?

Perhaps, we’ll all feel happier after a few celebratory Dad jokes:

  • I’ll never date another apostrophe…The last one was too possessive.
  • I gave all my dead batteries away today… Free of charge
  • I dreamed about drowning in an ocean made out of orange soda last night…It took me a while to work out it was just a Fanta sea.

Well, that’s enough philosophizing. Special days always get me thinking and it’s a time where most of us pause and reflect to some extent…or have someone else’s philosophizing thrust on us. What does it mean to be a good Dad? How do we show our Dad how much we love and appreciate him? Then, there are those who have lost their Dad, perhaps even prematurely. Or, don’t have contact with Dad.

My husband’s father passed away almost 35 years ago when Geoff was only 16 years old, and it wasn’t long after Father’s Day. Indeed, driving home from my parents’ place tonight, Geoff said that my Dad’s been his father-in-law longer than he had his own father. While it’s great that he has my Dad, it does feel like he was short-changed. His mother died in 2000 the year we met, but she was 73 which wasn’t unreasonable. So, my Mum as well as Geoff’s sister and her husband have helped fill these shoes.

Our Father’s Day was fairly low-key. We went to Church this morning as a family and drove down to Sydney for lunch with my parents and brother. You might recall that my parents celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary a few weeks ago. Well, they’d been given a lot of chocolate, and as tough as it might’ve been, we had to help them eat it.

I’m not sure whether you have heard that Australia has just acquired our 6th Prime Minister in 11 years. Just over a week ago, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was ousted by his own party and all that is despicable and ugly in politics both on the stage and behind the scenes reveal itself in all its lurid glory. I didn’t have much faith left before but anarchy is looking good atm. Whoops! I think that’s what we’ve already got. I wonder who’ll be wearing the monkey suit next week?

Last week, was fairly quiet as I’ve been recovering from last weekend’s gastro bug. It really sapped the life out of me. So, there’s been no dancing on the tables from me.

Rowena Lizottes

Posing after our violin performance 2012. Lizotte’s is a rock n’ roll venue where the likes of Diesel have performed…and me! The music school hired the venue for our concert.

However, I wrote a short story called: “The Violinist” which was based when I sat for my Preliminary Violin exam and almost blew a gasket stressing out about getting an A and about doing the exam at all. I’d only taken the violin up to help my daughter, but then she quit and left me to finish off the term’s lessons and I have no idea how one term lead to another except that I did play at the end of year concert in a violin ensemble. I think that’s what really clinched it for me and my teacher must’ve been a very positive force to counter-balance what really was a rather cantankerous and difficult violin. I haven’t posted it here, because I have plans.

This week, I also participated in Thursday Doors.  hosted by Norm 2.0. This week, we visited the miniature village of Lower Crackpot, located in Tazmazia in NW Tasmania. These doors were so cute and pretty witty as well. Not surprisingly, the village has quite a satirical element. If you’re feeling like a bit of a laugh, please Click here

I also took part in Friday Fictioneers. This week’s effort seemed a bit far-fetched at first but then I remembered that three Japanese tourists had tried driving from Redland Bay to Stradbroke Island thanks to Google maps, and decided Panoramic Pete might not have been so hard to believe after all. You’ve have to read it to form your own opinion: When the Mirror Cracked…

Well, that’s enough from me. What have you been up to during the last week? I’d love to catch up.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS: Happy Father’s Day

 

The Journey Home…A Personal Quest.

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”

– Matsuo Basho

For those of you who have been following my blog for awhile, you’ve probably sensed that I’ve been grappling with something. Something like a whole lot of random puzzle pieces, and wondering why they won’t all fit together. Arranging and rearranging them and then darting down another wombat tunnel (these are rather long and extensive by the way) searching for another missing piece, hoping that this time, I’ll finally be able to see the entire picture. Or, at the very least, have all four corners and the edge pieces in place.

Fueling this quest has been a sense that something isn’t quite right, which might’ve been blown off as anxiety or misplaced perfectionism if the story had been a little different.

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The Good Little Girl.

Of course, the general recommendation was “to go with the flow”. The only trouble being, that I was beyond the flow. Moreover, nobody ever presented me with a map or gave me any directions whatsoever to try to find the flow, let alone a lift. Indeed, since whenever, I’ve never gone with the flow or even known what it was.  Hence, why I’ve called my blog “Beyond the Flow”.

Rowena 1981

Here I am in Year 6 aged 12. The Serious Student.

Lately, this sense of not going with the flow re-positioned itself, and I felt more like I was living in between the lines where I perhaps don’t belong to either group but see something in between that other people miss. This perspective is also rather interesting when you look at it from a visual perspective, as you’re inhabiting that white space between two sentences. Not that I can actually read either sentence, as I’m up too close. It’s all a blur. I’m just there. Indeed, I could well be fast asleep, and quite at peace in what actually seems an uncomfortable, or even isolating position.

Rowena Dressing up

I used to love dressing up and performing. My brother and I put on little shows at home.

By the way, I didn’t say that I was alone. I’m not. Indeed, I’m actually starting to wonder just how many of us hover in between worlds not really knowing where we belong and yearning to find our home. Or, perhaps we/they have reached a point of acceptance, or even giving up, and have pitched a tent where they are and set up camp.

For many of us, there’s a complicating factor which heightens this sense of living in between the lines. Of not going with the flow. Even, grappling to know who we are within our own skin, before we can even attempt to work out how we can find our place in the outside world.

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The Irrepressible University Student. You can see I’ve jumped right out of my box by now.

Personally, my struggle to know and understand myself raised up into something of a tsunami wave, after I was diagnosed with hydrocephalus or fluid on the brain when I was 26. Apparently, it had been there since birth, but randomly became symptomatic in my mid-20s. Suddenly, thanks to my diagnosis, I had an explanation for being quirky, uncoordinated, and not fitting in. Better still, I had a cure. A magic fix. I had brain surgery and was given a shunt, which not only reduced the pressure in my brain and improved my coordination, it also felt for a time like the lights had gone out. Indeed, I started to believe that the theatrical, extroverted independent woman I had always been, was largely the fabrication of this disease. That all this pressure in my head, had made me disinhibited. That at least some percentage of who I thought was me, was in actual fact the disease stepping into my shoes and even inside my very skin and taking over.

Poetry Reading

Performing My Poetry in Paris in 1992.

This, of course, left the door open for way too many questions, and they not only moved in, but also made themselves at home.

Indeed, it left many doors and pathways open as I grappled to find some rock solid sense of myself. That core at the very centre of my being. The bit that is left, when you remove and take off all the layers and external forces and just is.

“To know yourself as the Being underneath the thinker, the stillness underneath the mental noise, the love and joy underneath the pain, is freedom, salvation, enlightenment.”

Eckhart Tolle

Much of this exploration has either been unconscious, or going on in the background while I’m getting on with the realities of life. If you’ve lived with this , you’ll know what I mean when I say the front screen is running but there’s another screen running behind closed doors, behind the curtain, or even somewhere at the back of your eyeballs (the eyes being the window of your soul). I never intended to live and operate like this, and I must admit it’s been very frustrating. I’ve really struggled to know quite who I am, and then to confound it further, I developed a debilitating auto-immune disease, which side-swiped me like a massive monster truck. Of course, it didn’t stop to see if I’m okay, or to even help me get my bearings. It just kept going.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.”

Aristotle

Anyway, as I said, I’ve been niggling with this in the background and moving very much by feel. I feel comfortable, belong and really thrive in some settings, but in others, I shrivel up and am almost screaming in my skin to escape. I feel awful. There doesn’t need to be an explanation. Indeed, there often isn’t one.

Performance Queanbeyan 1886

 

I am coming to wonder whether it’s been this struggle within myself, which has taken me so deeply inside my family history. Indeed, now that I’ve found the missing piece of the puzzle, it feels like this is what I’ve been searching for my entire life. It wasn’t a coincidence that I wanted to swing from the chandelier. Or, that I wanted the be an actress right through high school (in addition to being a journalist). There was this pull from somewhere deep within my DNA, which didn’t connect with Mum and Dad or anybody in the near vicinity. However, deep within the lines of historic newspaper text, there it was. My grandmother’s grandmother performed in an amateur Minstrel Show in Queanbeyan, near Canberra. While it wasn’t New York, the programme was printed in the newspaper, and she wasn’t only the pianist. She was also acting. Indeed, Lizzie Johnston was playing Louisa in a romantic farce: The Rival Lovers. Finally, I had permission and acknowledgement of who I’ve always been. A constant beyond the ups and downs of life and collisions with life-threatening illnesses. An extrovert who doesn’t need a stage to perform, and can even perform in words upon the page, just like my kids sing and dance across the stage. Indeed, I don’t need a drink to perform a on stage either. Rather, I need someone to tie me to my seat in the audience.

Of course, that is not to say we’re pre-determined by our genes. However, personally I found it very encouraging that someone else in my family has been down this road, and I’m not crazy. That it wasn’t the result of too much pressure on the brain. It’s simply me. Moreover, there are quite a few performers on both sides of my extended family tree.

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My Great Great Aunt, Rose Bruhn, owned an elite hair and beauty salon in Brisbane but could also make kookaburras laugh on command, had a budgie who recited reams of Shakespeare. She appeared with them at charity fundraisers where she also performed poetry and she played the violin.

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

– Robert Frost.

Rowena Lizottes

The humble violinist. I was actually a rank beginner when this photo was taken, but I have an in-built sense of theatre.

However, I’m not sure that this discovery is going to change a hell of a lot. These days, I’m pretty content with what I’ll call “my lot”. I’ve been doing some performances on my violin, which isn’t quite the same as jumping out of a cake or swinging from a chandelier, but I now understand a little better why I wanted to perform, and wasn’t content to only play alone at home.

While this journey is incredibly personal, and having problems with your brain isn’t something to brag about, it was a story that needed to be shared. While it’s been a catharsis for myself, I wanted to reach out to people grappling with similar issues, and hold your hand. We are not alone.

The Missing Piece

Lastly, I wanted to share an animation of a favourite book of mine by Shel Silverstein: The Missing Piece . It might be simple, but it’s very profound.

If this post connects with you in any way, I would love to hear from you via the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 21st May, 2018.

 “It would be so nice if something would make sense for a change.”

Alice in Wonderland.

 

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share on Yet Another Monday Night.

Well, my excuse is that I had to get all dolled-up and formal on Saturday, and it was such a shock to the system, that I had to retire to my bed for all of Sunday and even much of today. While I did have a bit of a joke about having a Front Row Seat at the Royal Wedding, the truth is almost as inconceivable. I was playing my violin at Gig Night at the music studio and being a violinist to the very core, I had to wear my blacks. Indeed, I dug the Winter-weight Calvin Klein number out of hibernation, and strutted my stuff. Well, I wasn’t strutting because my shoes were too tight, I can’t strut at the best of times and inspite of myself I was more than a tad nervous. Not because I’m scared of performing. I knew I hadn’t really done enough practice and that there would be mistakes, but I didn’t want too many mistakes. Moreover, I didn’t want to stuff up the bits I always get right. I did that at the end of year concert and actually pulled off the tricky bits. After much philosophical reflection, I’ve decided that the violin is a bit of a temperamental character, who is insanely jealous and refuses to cooperate when ignored and like to stuff things up for you just for the hell of it. Yet, for some strange reason, I’ve remained faithful and haven’t packed up my bags and returned to the piano. Not yet, anyway.

 

You can read more about my performance in A Legend In My Own Hair Follicles

 

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary-wise; what it is it wouldn’t be, and what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?”

Alice in Wonderland

So how was your week?

Did you watch the Royal Wedding? What did you think of it? What were the standouts? While I didn’t have the opportunity to conduct a representative survey, from what I’ve heard, the Address seems to be the most talked about aspect of the wedding. It seems some people loved it, others thought it went on too long, and I’ve downloaded the transcript to fully get my head around it, although I’m yet to read it fully. In terms of the Address being too long, if I was the Most Reverend Curry, I would’ve made the most of having my one chance in life to speak to the world. While he might not have been Dr Martin Luther King, he had a beautiful and very powerful message about love and acceptance and with all the awful things happening in our world in both public and private arenas, we need a good dose of what he had to say. Indeed, we each need to wake up and start trying to make a difference in the same way that Harry and Meghan are already doing, and it will be exciting to see what kind of impact they’ll have, now that they’ve become a team.

Tomorrow, I have an appointment with my lung specialist. He’s usually happy to see me twice, or even once a year.However, after my lung function tests two weeks ago, it was “I’ll see you in two weeks”. They showed that my lung capacity has dropped 20% in six months. Mind you, I’ve had a lot of lung and even a severe sinus infection, and so the big hope was the the drop was due to infection. So, he whacked me on more “horse pills” and I tried to exercise more and do what I could to save me from more intervention. Of course, I’m “feeling better”. No, I truly am and I’m not coughing anywhere near as much. Indeed, a week ago when I was talking to my mother on the phone, she noted that I hadn’t coughed. Hopefully, her observations will be supported by tomorrow’s results.

By the way, I should’ve mentioned this earlier, but Masterchef Australia has started up again for 2018. I’m an absolute diehard fan of the show, and while I might not make the recipes they create, I do add little bits and pieces to my own cooking, to add a bit of pizazz. I’ve even cooked with fennel, which felt far more alien to me than a thing called a “custard apple” (thanks to my mother being a Queenslander).

Anyway, it’s Nigella Week on Masterchef and tonight, there was a an eleimination pressure test… Nigella’s Chocolate Feast. It was a hard show for a chocoholic like me to sit through. However, I’m already planning to make her fudgy brownies. They were so gooey and sensational.

Nigella Nutella Cake

Nigella’s Nightmare…The Avalanche.

I must admit I sympathized with Nigella’s Victims tonight, as they were making her Chocolate Olive Oil Mouse. Two years ago, I also came a cropped making Nigella’s Nutella Cake. Like one of the contestants, I also over-beat the egg whites, and it ended in disaster, which I dubbed:  Nigella’s Heartache. After all, it’s all well and good when people post beautiful recreations of your recipes, but it’s not so good when they flaunt their disasters all over the World Wide Web.

Before I head off, I just wanted to mention my latest contribution to Friday Fictioneers…A Special Child. This is written about a young girl on the Autism Spectrum who goes missing in the bush.

Zac running at Ocean beach May 18

Zac running along the beach.

Oops, I almost forgot. The dogs received a bit of an update this week…Pup Psychologist, Anyone? Since I posted this, we went on a disastrous trip with the three dogs to the beach yesterday when all three refused to come when called and Zac and Rosie were sprinting up and down the beach and Lady was wondering off on her own. There were a few fishermen along the beach and we could see the dogs stealing their bait, their and getting tangled in the lines. Time to go home. That is, if you can catch them. Training will now be intensifying for both dogs and humans.

Well, it’s getting late and I have a long and big day ahead tomorrow.

I hope you had a great week and I look forward to catching up on your news.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Royal Wedding…A Front Row View.

Sorry you couldn’t join me for a front row sear for last night’s royal nuptials. As I’m sure you’ll appreciate, it was a rather exclusive event and since Dame Edna was unable to make it, I went in her place along her my possum handbag. Unfortunately, the pups got out and followed me. Perhaps, you missed the TV coverage, but they had a great time chasing the corgis around Windsor Castle. So, I can assure you that everything you saw on tele last night was something they’d prepared earlier and went through multiple takes and extensive editing. After all, how did you think Meghan’s dress stayed Omo white with all those grubby little page boys and flower girls wiping their fingers all over it. I was aghast. Some idiot had fed the kids chocolate crackles to keep them smiling in the royal automobile, and in the true blue wedding footage, you’ll see chocolate finger painting all over that dress and a huge tear in that precious train from when they were playing tug of way. Just as well Meghan had plenty of acting training and knows how to keep smiling under circumstances that would make an a saint hopping mad. Now, you’ll also understand why Harry was looking so nervous and shedding more than the occasional tear.

Queen

Anyway, we had our own little running commentary as the full Royal cast passed us by. Upon the arrival of the Queen, my son pointed out that she was wearing “Hi Viz”. A friend also pointed out that she won’t get lost in the crowd. Anyway, she always looks delightful and I’m serious impressed at how the Queen and Prince Phillip keep going. They both walked into the Chapel unassisted from what I recall, which is a real commendation to them as well as a bit of good luck no doubt.

Rowena Zac Rosie

Watching the Royal Wedding from my front row seat.

The second thing I really appreciated about the wedding, was how Prince Charles was there to support Meghan Markle and her Mum, through what was quite an emotional thing of walking up and down the aisle. He was the consummate Gentleman and he was just like how I’d expect my Dad to be in that circumstance. He was just beautiful and I felt very compassionate. As Meghan’s Mum left the chapel, the only member of Meghan’s family to attend the wedding, Prince Charles against stepped up and walked her out. While Meghan’s Mum was rather regal herself through proceedings, it must have been a terrifying prospect. Yet, she handled herself with what is described as “aplomb”. I literally took my hat off for her and my high heels and put on my cosy ugg boots.

 

DSC_9754

By the way, my Ugg Boots were a real hit at Windsor Castle, and the envy of most of their guests. Of course, most of them were wearing what I call toe-crunchers and didn’t have the nous to put comfort before style. Indeed, Camilla even tried to snatch them off my very feet. Indeed, I had to threaten to tell the Queen, and it was only then that she let go.

This brings me to the address. Well, to be honest, I’d like to give the Most Reverend Michael Curry my address.In case you missed it or had continuous interruptions like yours truly, here’s a link: Link and here’s a link to the  Full Transcript , which is truly worth an indepth study more than a glossing over. This man not only wore his heart on his sleeve, her radiated love like the sun. Not just any ordinary love either. God’s love. I have a feeling. Indeed, I know, that if there were more people like him in this world, it would be a better place. Moreover, I think we’ll be saying the same about Harry and Meghan before too long. Indeed, they’ve each made a significant contribution to their chosen spheres.

So, to finish off the big day, I pulled out a couple of trays of my world famous lamingtons and shared them with the crowds. I made quite an impression and you might even see me on the next season of Masterchef. That’s if I’m not playing my violin at the Sydney Opera House. My calendar is clearly starting to fill up.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

A Legend in My Own Hair Follicles.

Before the magic of the Royal Wedding and seeing Harry and Meaghan tie the knot in spectacular fashion, I hung up my pink washing up gloves and metamorphosed into a star. I, the greatest unknown violinist, legend in her own hair follicles, performed Minuet by Beethoven with my violin teacher at Gig Night. That’s the modern equivalent of what was known as a “Soiree” back in the day. Indeed, it might have been more like my grandparents’ day, but there we were performing in the studio with real performance lights and sound equipment and our very own stage. It was personal, intimate and my husband and kids were all lined up in a row in the audience…my support crew.

Well, behind every star performer, there’s also their teacher. When it comes to my teacher, however, she had special duties. She was not only accompanying me in our duet in the kind of way that compensates for what I’ll call my “idiosyncrasies”, she had to help me on and off stage. Indeed, we made a decision that I would enter from backstage to prevent me from having a spectacular trip and fall getting up on the stage. I’m pretty good at reconnaissance these days, and I needed to hold onto the wall climbing up the step and was rather concerned that I could fall into the amp. The good thing is that the team at the music school is well versed in my idiosyncrasies and were only too willing to help. Moreover, I’m also one to speak up.

I should also point out that the staff at the music school have experienced these idiosyncracies before. A few years ago when we were performing at the school Christmas Carols, I stepped on the edge of the where the asphalt meets the grass and my ankle flipped over (not uncommon) and then I heard this crunch and fell. The pain was excruciating. Blood was dripping down my knee, but did I pike out? Does a violinist ever give up, even when the ship is sinking? Of course not. I played on and was helped on and off the stage that night too.

My performance tonight wasn’t perfect. I knew it wasn’t going to be. Yet, I was hopeful. Moreover, despite my nerves, I really love performing and being a part of a performance. I like getting out of my cramped quarters in our corridor of a dining room where I usually have to hold my breath as husband, kids, dogs, tennis balls squeeze or fly past and put my feet on that stage, dress up in my blacks and even put on come makeup and lipstick and be a violinist on the outside too. A musician. Knowing I belong here. That this stage is mine, even if it’s only for a few minutes. I own this space (something I picked up from dancing btw).

It’s a space I usually have to grow into, because it’s all too easy to put my playing down. I’m not in the Sydney Symphony Orchestra. So, how could I ever consider myself a violinist? I haven’t even tried to learn vibrato, because I really don’t believe in myself. Don’t believe it’s possible. Of course, as I said, I have a decent list of “idiosyncracies”, which let me off the hook. Moreover, be honest, it hasn’t felt that important. It’s been more important to simply be able to play without making mistakes. However, it’s something I come back to once in a while, and learning vibrato is a natural progression for a violinist. Just like my daughter will soon be getting her first pair of pointe shoes for ballet, I should be equally enthusiastic and bursting out of my skin to learn vibrato. Take the next step. I should be wanting to grow, even though it usually means a phase of going backwards as we tackle the new skill.

Anyway, the reason I’m writing about all of this is twofold.

Firstly, I wanted to share my violin world with you. I don’t write about it all that often, but I actually have a lesson each week. I am quite a fan of Suzuki method, although I use the music and don’t play by ear. For those who know Suzuki, I recently moved onto Book Three. I was so proud. It’s been a long journey. I have hydrocephalus and dermatomyositis.  So, I never thought I’d be able to play the violin at all and only took it up again when my daughter insisted on learning, and she needed some assistance. I sat in on her lessons and while she has a rather on and off again relationship with her violin, I’ve stuck with it. She’d probably get to my level after a few weeks’ steady practice, but I’d only be delighted to see her overtake me. Well, she already has. She performed at the Sydney Opera House with her school two years ago at the tender age of 10. Clearly, you’re much better off trying to play at the Opera House as a young beginner than a geriatric.

The other reason I wanted to share my violin journey with you, is to encourage you to consider taking up that instrument you’ve always wanted to play. To go back to the piano you played at a kid, which could well be used for displaying family photos and ornaments than it’s intended purpose. Have a go.

I never considered myself a real music lover or expert of any sort. However, I can sense this is changing. That something new is awakening within. Actually, it’s not something new. It’s like when you’re doing a big clean-up and you find something you haven’t seen for a good 10-20 years and you taken right back to that forgotten time and place and all the emotions come flooding back as there’s that sense of coming home. I have always loved to sing and was good enough, but my voice is rusty and my violin’s become my voice, and to turn to the words of Johnny Farnham’s The Voice I need to

You’re the voice, try and understand it
Make a noise and make it clear

Do you have any musical dreams? If you could be any musician, who would you be? I’ll have to give it some thought.

Best wishes,

Rowena