Category Archives: Writing

Christmas 1921 with Ethel Turner and the Sunbeamers

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way.”

Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

After providing a brief sketch of the state of play during Christmas 1921 in my previous post, we’re now going to spend Christmas 1921 with famous English-Australian author, Ethel Turner, whose first novel: Seven Little Australians placed her up on the international literary stage. However, she also wrote 39 other novels, and of more relevance to us, she edited a string of children’s pages in various publications, and it’s here where we’ll be touching down.

Born on the 24th January, 1870, Ethel Turner was 51 years old in 1921, and a year younger than I am now. She was married to Judge Herbert Curlewis and they were living at their home in Avenel, Mosman, Sydney although they spent Christmas 1921 at Palm Beach. Daughter, Jean,  was twenty-three, and son Adrian was twenty and studying Law at Sydney University. By Christmas 1921, Ethel Turner had had 22 of her handwritten  novels published, and King Anne was her offering for the year. She was famous.

However, for Ethel Turner it wasn’t the empty fame of celebrity. Rather, there was a strong sense of purpose and a desire to make a difference, and do good. While I can be dangerous to interpret Three Little Maids as being purely biographical, there is also much truth and Dolly (who is said to be Ethel) made this statement about becoming an author: “One night…I felt I must do something. I felt I couldn’t just go on doing little things always,-staying at home and helping, and going to dances, and playing tennis. I used to think I should like to go as a missionary, – not to China, of course, only somewhere here where people were very poor and miserable. But that night I didn’t seem to want anything but to write books that people would love to read, and that might do them some good.[1]

This aspect of Ethel Turner is often lost….the visionary, the world-changer, the woman who had experienced financial hardship as a child and relocated across the world for a better life, worked hard and overcome. She’s simply viewed through the lens of Seven Little Australians as though she were a one book wonder. However, it appears that the massive difference she made to the lives of children through the series of children’s pages she edited has been forgotten, along with how she nurtured the artistic and literary abilities of younger generations through these pages. She was such an inspiration!

The trouble is that it’s very hard to condense an inspiration into a few lines or words to satisfy those who don’t want to immerse themselves more fully into the longer story. However, in this instance, can I caution you to sit down. Make yourself a cup of tea, and in the words of the great Molly Meldrum: “Do yourselves a favour!”

We’re going to pick up with Ethel Turner on the 20th November 1921.  Sunbeams had only been launched on the 9th October, 1921, and just over a month old, and still in the nest. Yet, that didn’t stop Ethel Turner from launching an ambitious plan to make a difference that Christmas:

“FROM A CHAIR IN THE SUN

ABOUT SUN FAIRIES

Dear Young People, — One of the many tastes we have in common, you and I, Is our love for conjuring tricks. Here is one I particularly want you to try. Take a child with the corners of its mouth right down and its eyes running over with tears (there are any amount of them in the hospitals and crowded back streets, alas). Go up close to it, and with a quick sleight-of-hand slip into its fingers a tiny doll as pretty as a fairy. In less than half a minute the eyes will dry and the mouth corners go up. This trick has never been known to fail. So now then, let us do it together. Your part is to buy a tiny celluloid doll or kewpie, dross it in something very fairylike — gay and pretty, or comical as an elf — put it in a, tiny box, and post or hand it in to “Sunbeams.” My part will be to find the children in the hospitals and back streets about Christmas time. I shall also examine the dolls carefully — we will call them Sun Fairies— and give three prizes of half-a-crown each to the three most attractive ones, and six “Sun” honor cards. You need send no coupon with this competition, as the doll will cost you anything from twopence to sixpence. Send December 1st.

Yours ever,

Ethel Turner[2]

Ethel Turner received an enthusiastic and touching response to her call for contributions. On the 11th December, 1921, she wrote:

“THE SUN FAIRIES

ROOMFUL OF WONDERFUL DOLLS DAME MARGARET DAVIDSON’S WINNERS

The response to the “Sun” fairies competition was splendid and many little “Sunbeams” will be cheered by the really wonderful little dolls sent in… It was a lovely spirit which prompted the competitors to send in the dolls — they were not concerned with winning prizes, but with doing something with their own hands which would give pleasure to children, to whom dainty dolls are a rare and precious luxury. Many of the children marked their entries: “Not sent in for a prize,” and pinned to almost every doll was a pretty little greeting to the recipient. They sat about all over the floor and the chairs and tables rather impatient in their boxes, just as trapped butterflies might be; they were eager to be gone upon their task of carrying sunshine. They were dressed in silk and spangles, in little frilly skirts of lace, in bridal gowns; in elf costumes; there were little mother fairies with tiny children around them, father fairies, fussy and important, fairies with opera cloaks on, and carrying bags; baby fairies, red riding hood fairies; one or two arrived with their beds and bedding, a few with suit-cases for the week-end and complete wardrobes. Wendy came, together with John and Michael, and Peter Pan. And wands! There were enough wands to have enchanted all Sydney and turned it to happy ways had they been held up. And no one, not any one, had forgotten the pretty little card with “From one Sunbeam to another” and other affectionate greetings. Dorothy Makin’s box of dolls, which won first prize, lacked only the bride groom to make the wedding party complete. But then it is so difficult to make a fairy-like creature of a man who should be dressed strictly in black. It was a rainbow wedding, and the bride chose ivory satin for her gown. She also had an overskirt of lace, and trimmed her whole frock with pearls. She wore the usual wreath and veil, and carried a bouquet of white blossoms and a fan. Her maids were frocked in rose, mauve, coral and eau-de-nil silk net, and wore quaint filets round their heads. Just by way of being different, they all carried fans instead of bouquets. Five little fairies, in five little boxes with five little Christmas cards, were sent by Betty Blake, who was second prize-winner. Betty dressed her fairies in white lace, showing beribboned petticoats. Glinting beads of gold and silver shone like spangles on the little dolls which will gladden the hearts of sick children on Christmas Day. Betty Grimm’s Sunbeamer was dressed in her party frock of rose-colored silk net, and she carried a lovely curling white feather fan. (But even fairies cannot live in party frocks all the time, so Betty sent along a box full of neatly made clothes for everyday wear, and did not forgot even a tiny tin of powder to powder her nose.[3]

Of course, this touching story of generosity and human kindness is not complete without hearing about the sun fairies final destinations:

THE SUN FAIRIES: How The Kiddies Loved Them”

I know that all of you who made a “Sun” Fairy will be delighted to hear how much joy they gave to the children who received them. Here are two letters which tell you all about them:–A.I.F. Wives and Children’s Holiday Association.

Furlough House, Narrabeen. Dear Sunbeams, — The dear little sun fairies arrived quite safely, and as fresh as when’ they left the designers’ hands. I am sure if the little donors could have seen the pleasure they afforded when received on Christmas Day they would be delighted to know they were indeed sun fairies in so much as they made radiance shine from each receiver’s face. With all good wishes to the Sunbeams from all the soldiers’ children at “Furlough House,” Yours sincerely, Ruby Fowle, Matron The second letter comes from Mrs Lyster Ormsby, who in the crowded streets of the city has for years sought to bring joy and sunlight into the lives of the little children there. Soup Kitchen for Little Children, 40 Burton-street, Darlinghurst. Dear Little Sunbeams,— I want to thank you for the dainty little ladies, fairies and babies the came to the Soup Kitchen during Christmas week. They came all neatly tucked away in a box, and was told they were to be given to some of the poor little’ girlies that I know as presents from “one Sunbeam to another. Well it happened that some of my little pals were hanging round when I unpacked your box and if you could have heard the “O-o-ohs” and “A-a-ahs” of admiration that came from them as I drew each dolly out of the box, you would have felt that you had sent a real sunbeam along. I gave your dollies away in many different quarters, and I feel sure you will be glad to know that each and every one received a warm and loving welcome from the new mistress. Among my little Soup Kitchen Girlies was one who has just left school and so felt too big for a doll. She always has a real live baby in mind-but still I could tell by the look in her face that she was just envying all the smaller girls; so I picked out a tiny kewpie doll that had been so prettily dressed in baby frills and I said: “I know you’re fourteen, Alice, and too big for dolls — (she thinks she is, you know) – but this is a Kewpie for luck and it goes on the rail of your bedstead. Would you like it?” She just loved it, and rushed off home to put it on her bed right away, “Good-bye, little Sunbeams, and a happy new year to you all from Inys Ormsby.[4]

And now we’ll back peddle just a little, and read Ethel Turner’s Christmas Day letter to her Sunbeamers:

A VERY MERRY XMAS FROM A CHAIR IN THE SUN

Christmas Day

Dear Young People,—

Do you know Anna? What Anna? Merry Christmas anna happy New Year. Yes, I know this is the seventh time you have been asked this same joke, but that is the best about Christmas Day, isn’t it, there is such a rosy, kindly light everywhere, that you are ready to smile seven times at anything and everything. I hope that you are, every one of you, as happy as larks to-day: the boy with the sixpenny humming top, as well as the one with the expensive aeroplane. Happiness, real lark-like happiness, isn’t a thing to be bought with money; it is a thing right inside you. There is really an amazing amount of it lying about free in a sunshiny land like this; believe me it is not shut up in those expensive toyshops, pleasant though those places are. Happiness is just a little light, bubbling thing that you make for yourself, just as the lark makes its song. Good-bye till next week. Do you know Anna?

The Sunbeamer[5]

I hope you have been each to absorb each of these letters word by word, and truly absorb an Ethel Turner who might appear idealistic, utopian and off with the very fairies she was passing on. However, aim low has never had much of a ring to it, has it?!! I personally found her sentiments so heart-warming and encouraging, and way too good to be lost for eternity in a bunch of newsprint.

So, I hope you and yours are managing to find some of that lark-like happiness this Christmas and carry it into the New Year as well.

Best wishes,

Rowena Curtin


[1] Ethel Turner, `Three Little Maids, pp 302-303.

[2] Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 20 November 1921, page 2

[3] Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 11 December 1921, page 2

[4] Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 15 January 1922, page 2

[5] (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 25 December 1921, page 22

Revisiting Badde Manors Cafe, Glebe.

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

The Famous Cherubs Perched Up On The Roof

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

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

Indoor mural

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

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

Even the bathroom door was one of a kind!

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

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

I look forward to hearing from you!’

Best wishes,

Rowena

These are all my own photos copyright Rowena Curtin 2018.

The Valentine’s Day Baby 1962- Friday Fictioneers: 8th December, 2021.

Jesus might’ve been born in a manger, but at least he knew who his parents were. Better known by her flamboyant stage name, Susie Sunshine, Julie was mortified to discover she’d been found abandoned as a baby in the back of a 1956 Morris Minor parked outside Middleham Motors, Woy Woy and her genetic identity was an unfathomable mystery. Known as “The Valentine’s Day Baby”, she was conceived in May 1961, but still no idea. However, technology had improved. She’d finally found the courage to order a DNA testing kit. Now, the truth lay in the envelope on her desk.

100 words – Photo prompt  – Copyright – Claire Fuller

Can anybody come up with any suggestions for Julie’s fictional father? I’ve left a trail and it’s not that difficult to follow. If you look at the map down below, It’s on the NSW Central Coast in between Sydney and Newcastle.

Map of Wyong, NSW | Hotels Accommodation

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields https://rochellewisoff.com/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 29th November, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

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

An Australian Christmas, Pearl Beach, New South Wales.

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

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

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

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

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

It is his fault, I’m sure!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

Back to Earth…Friday Fictioneers 29th October, 2021.

Willow couldn’t understand how her precious Forest with the mop of blond curls running naked through the bush, had become the devil, creating this monstrous, subterranean machine fueled by coal seam gas. Where had she gone wrong? She’d raised her kids off the grid in Nimbin’s hippy heartland. Now, he was calling himself “Steele” – the antithesis of all she held dear. She could barely look at his photo, dwarfed by those massive machines without a blade of grass in sight. Yet, she wasn’t giving up. She clutched the amazonite crystal in her palms, and knew he’d be back.

……

99 words. PHOTO PROMPT © Douglas M. MacIlroy

Map from Byron Bay to Nimbin

Bringing up children is a wonderful thing is so many ways, but it also has it’s challenges. If most of us are honest, we would like our kids to have similar values and beliefs to our own, and are disappointed, feel rejected when they turn the other way in an equally zealous way. I thought about how people’s love or nature or technology/Science can become a religion, and with decision-making around the covid vaccine, these clashes are confronting many families and groups of friends at the moment, and it’s quite divisive.

For those of you wondering about amazonite:

Amazonite helps to harmonize apparently different motivations and interests by bringing the truth to light without emotionality, and allowing one to see another point of view. It facilitates this process both between people, and within an individual psyche. Therefore it is good for meditation and inner work to clarify inner conflicts and confusion and integrate the self.” https://beadage.net/gemstones/amazonite/

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields https://rochellewisoff.com/ PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wishoff Every week we write up to 100 words to a photo prompt, and we’d love you to join us.

Best wihes,

Rowena

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

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

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

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

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

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

Julia Baird

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Morning After – Friday Fictioneers

“Forget a Hail Mary, Mike. Make that a Bloody Mary, with an extra shot of Vodka.”

“Hair of the dog, eh Meg? You okay?” Tim the barman asked. Bloody Marys were a well-known hangover cure. Meg was sous chef at their two hat restaurant, and she’d been on a bender. She knew he knew, but neither of them said a word. However, she’d never hit the bottle this early before, and it wasn’t going to happen on his watch. He left out the vodka, made a Virgin Mary to go, and grabbed his keys. “Meg, I’m taking you home.”

…..

100 words

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields https://rochellewisoff.com/ PHOTO PROMPT © Rochelle Wishoff Every week we write up to 100 words to a photo prompt, and we’d love you to join us.

Best wihes,

Rowena

 

Weekend Coffee Share – 18th October, 2021.

Welcome to A Belated Weekend Coffee Share!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Polish Pilots

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

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

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

I’ll think it over.

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

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

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

Should she stay, or should she go?

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

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

“Papa! Papa!”

Somehow, she would stay.

Yet, could she?

…………

100 words

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

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

https://teawithethelturner.com/

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – Freedom Day 11th October, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

I don’t know whether I should be shouting: “Hip Hip Hooray” today, or in mourning. Today, Great Sydney finally came out of its extensive 106 day lockdown now that we’ve reached a vaccination rate of 70%. After a peak of 1603 on September 10, we were down to 496 cases today. That’s not a perfect world, and not yet a safe space for vulnerable people like myself to enter yet. I was about to say it offers hope, but it could also demonstrate reckless abandon after being careful for so long. It’s interesting too to see where people head as soon as they break out? Is is to see friends and family they’re been shut away from for so long? I can’t blame people for possibly wanting to get to the hairdresser first. I was planning to have at least a friend over to christen the new table today, but of course, it rained and being an outdoor table, that’s not much fun unless you’re a woolly Border Collie with thick, protective coat. For those of you who still remember Bilbo, he was a great one for standing out in the rain and getting soaking wet.

Well, I know there’s been a lot of table talk going on around here, but this week I’m proud to announce that the table has been sanded back, restored and in situ. I have well and really rung the brass bell over that, as it would’ve been easier to move heaven and earth. I’m sure those of you with real homes can testify to that as well. That a seemingly easy decision to put a table out the front can require so much work, negotiation, acceptance and maybe even grief! Sometimes, I wonder what it would be like to leave alone and just be able todo what I want, when I want and not have to consult ANYBODY – or have someone else scuttle my plans, especially due to a lack of planning on their part. (Speaking of which I’ve had two pairs of ballet pointe shoes and a sewing basket left beside my chair. One of the downsides about coming out of lockdown, is that the pointe shoes needed to be replaced. However, one pair is heading back to the ballerina to do herself. BTW She’s very excited because she managed to get a Billie Eilish ticket today).

You can read more about the table here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/10/09/table-talk-table-done/

Tis week, I slowed down over at my new blog: “Tea With Ethel Turner” this week with only adding one post. However, it was a post that meant a lot to me. I was reading her somewhat autobiographical novel, Three Little Maids, when almost at the end I found what I’ve dubbed: “A Writer’s Prayer”. Through this prayer, Dolly (who is said to represent Ethel Turner) tells her sister how she prayed to get a book published and that her calling might be to write books that “do some good”. As a writer with the same heart-felt desire in mind, it meant the world to me and perhaps you would love it too: https://teawithethelturner.com/2021/10/07/a-writers-prayer-ethel-turner/

By the way, I had quite a few technical issues with the new blog, and ended up changing format to sort them out. So, I apologise if you had any difficulties last week.

The other thing I’ve been working on lately, is the story of my friend’s father who was a Polish Bomber Pilot serving in the UK during WWII. It’s been my friend’s quest to write a book about his father’s experiences of escaping Poland and into Romania where he was interred, and smuggled out into France where he served before arriving in England. Roland’s father never taught his children Polish, and unfortunately the Polish pilot’s records in England are all in Polish. So it’s been a beast to sort anything out. Google translate has helped with clarifying online resources, but otherwise its a slow and laborious process. I had a bit of a breakthrough this week, when I found a pdf in Polish online. It was written by one of his Dad’s friends an was a story of the “Three Muskateers”. It even ad a few pages just about Roland’s dad. It was wonderful, except it was all in Polish. So, I tried a little experiment. I typed up the Polish and pasted it into Google translate. It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. Well, it was like magic. There really was a story behind all those words which made absolutely no sense to me. Indeed, I thought the start of the story was very touching. There is this old Polish man with all the photos taken in his entire lifetime contained in a biscuit tin his cousin brought back from England. It was incredibly poignant but also pretty heart wrenching to all the photos of a lifetime can fit into one biscuit tin. It’s nothing for me to take 200 photos in a day. However, it would do me good to put the most precious ones in a tin so I can see the the trees. By having so many photos, we might as well have none in a way.

Anyway, who would’ve thought I’d be typing up Polish like that? In some ways my life feels incredibly random, and yet my insatiable curiosity won’t just let me settle with a fragment of such a good story even when I’m immersed in so many other gripping stories pursuing Ethel Turner and my WWI stories. I’m not going to be very good at interacting with people about the mundane realities of daily life if I ever make it fully out of isolation!

So, how are are things for you? Have you had a good week? I sure hope so!

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

Best wishes,

Rowena