Today, I was trying to find my very first Weekend Coffee Share post and got as far back as this post covering our trip to Byron Bay date 15th October, 2015. That means I have at least six years worth of these online weekly diary posts. What an amazing time capsule of our family life, and in the course of these posts our kids have grown from12 and 10 to 17 and 15. Such a difference!
I hope you enjoy!
If we were having coffee right now, I would never get to sleep.
So, I’m drinking a decaf tea served in a Tim Tam mug by the way. If you haven’t tried Australia’s favourite biscuit which is best eaten as the “Tim Tam Explosion” (one of the more polite terms I’ve heard), you haven’t lived. By the way, this is where you bite off both ends of the Tim Tam and dunk the end in a hot drink and suck through it like a straw. The chocolate melts and if you’re not careful, you’re Tim Tam falls in the drink and drowns. Such a waste!
This is an exceptionally rare packet of Tim Tams. The tray isn’t empty!!
Returning home from Byron Bay is never good but the fridge/freezer had seemingly died but miraculously returned to life once it had defrosted and the new fridge had been ordered. But the…
Before I ask you how your week was, and if anything, indeed, anything at all has transpired in your neck of the woods, let me offer you a drink.
If you’re in lockdown here in NSW, you might be wanting a stiff drink, although it could be worse. Covid could be spreading like wildfire unabated. We had 830 cases overnight and three deaths. Parts of Sydney have now gone into an extreme lockdown and a nightly curfew from 9.00pm to 5.00am I believe. Meanwhile, we live on the NSW Central Coast which was classified as part of Greater Sydney, but we lobbied the State government to be reclassified “regional”. That was passed, and so we’ll be left out of future Sydney lockdowns unless our own incidence warrants it. That’s a relief, I think.
Meanwhile, over the last couple of months, frictions have been mounting in the community. There’s the vaxers versus anti-vaxers, different attitudes to wearing masks and as the incidence of covid in Sydney has shot up and Police surveillance has increased, heated discussions about protecting civil liberties have also eschewed. Again these tensions climaxed on the weekend with large, sometimes violent, protests in Sydney, Melbourne and the Gold Coast and it just makes me wonder what on earth these people are thinking and what gives them the right to keep the rest of us locked down longer?
My personal view is that too many people take breathing for granted. As someone who has crook lungs and lives with dodgy breathing all the time and has experienced crisis point, being able to breathe is something to take seriously. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not important. Indeed, most of us think that not being able to walk is one of the worst things that can happen to you. However, not being able to breathe is fatal. I’m not prepared to play Russian Rouette with my own life let alone the lives of those I care about. My 15 year old daughter sums things up well: “Why can’t they just stay home for a month so we can get out of this?” Short term pain, for long term gain. Sounds logical to me. However, we’re still hearing about parties being held. Party is now a euphemism for “super-spreader event”. Well, at least, it is for the parties that make the news.
Meanwhile, I’ve been sinking into a deep state of hibernation. I’ve always been a bit of a pyjama princess. However, now after wearing PJs for a few months, and then putting on real clothes, they feel so scratchy on my skin. Unpleasant. I bought a really soft pair of cloud pyjamas from PJ Guru Peter Alexander, and they’ve been so soft. However, they’ve probably had the equivalent of 10years wear during lockdown and are wearing out. Never fear. I’ve ordered a replacement.
Anyway, as I said, I’ve been in a state of hibernation. I wasn’t feeling 100%, and didn’t get out for a walk for a few days. Then, I felt a bit wonky on my feet, and decided to wait until Geoff was free. On Saturday, we drove over to Pearl Beach and went for a walk around the rocks and peering into the rockpools for signs of life. It was rather liberating to get out. You know how it is once you finally fight off the inertia and get out there and you feel like you’re soaring on eagle’s wings, and wonder what took you so long to get out there. I blame the politicians. They keep telling me to stay home. I know they didn’t tell me to eat chocolate, and they do allow us out for exercise. However, the predominant message is to stay home, and I have.
So, after going out for our walk yesterday, Geoff and I went out kayaking today. I know that sounds incredibly sporty, especially for someone with disability issues. Well, I can assure you that I’m no Jessica Fox (Australian gold medal Olympian kayaker). I’m slow and I don’t have a lot of stamina, but we did manage to move and had in some ways a rather indulgent time out there on the water together. It was pure bliss. You can read more about it here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/08/23/kayaking-in-lockdown-a-new-beginning/
Meanwhile, we’ve been watching The Voice on TV. This year, the judges are Guy Sebastian, Jessica Mauboy, Rita Ora and Keith Urban. I always love watching the show hearing the music and the backstories of both the performers and judges. It’s all about people to me, and being an extrovert I need people more than ever. I see the judges smiling and chatting away on the TV and all sense of perspective just evaporates and they’re right here in the loungeroom with us and not a thousand miles away. I don’t know where it was being filmed but they’re hugging, breathing on each other without a concern in the world. So, it can’t be Sydney right here right now, which we all know anyway as these things are always filmed in advance.
By the way, here’s a real treat from The Voice, where Guy Sebastian performs Climb Every Mountain with contestant Julee-Ann who is legally blind and had to ask if anyone had turned a chair after an absolutely stellar performance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iKfOlZtNlxI
These photos of Geoff and I kayaking in lockdown are living proof of just how deceptive a photo can be. There we were floating on a magical, diamond carpet as the radiant Spring sunshine cast its magic over the water. It’s absolutely beautiful, and would make for a perfect postcard. There’s the bright blue sky dotted with a couple of woolly white clouds. There’s also the radiant Spring sunshine which isn’t hot enough to burn , but warm enough to defrost the Winter inertia. Indeed, Spring is something you feel right throughout your mind, soul and spirit; and you just feel invigorated. You don’t need flowers in the frame to know it’s the season of rebirth.
What the photo doesn’t say, is how hard it was for us to get there, or how long it’s been since Geoff and I went kayaking together. To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember. That’s despite having the kayaks sitting in our backyard, and it’s something we both love doing. I last went kayaking with friends back in January, but Geoff was at work and he went out with one of the same friends on a night kayak run without me. Meanwhile, our friend kayaks several times a week, especially during lockdown. Indeed, pre-lockdown, he used to kayak across Broken Bay to Palm Beach using a head torch to guide his path. Of course, I’ve told him he’s mad. His mother has told him to phone a friend and report in. Yet, at the same time, he’s like an age-old adventurer, and good on him. Yet, at the same time, I cry out from my chair in the loungeroom…”Me too!”
Unfortunately, it’s not so easy for us to just grab the kayaks and run. For some reason, we need to paint the house first. Research and write a series of books. That’s on top of the usual stuff like going to work, looking after the kids and throwing the ball endlessly for the dogs. For us, getting the kayaks on top of the car and down to the wharf is like packing up for our annual holiday and what with paddles, life jackets, water shoes etc we almost need to pack as much gear too.
On top of this, there is also my health and physical disability issues. When you struggle to walk and it doesn’t take much to have a stumbling fall, it doesn’t seem logical that paddling might actually be easier than walking. I don’t feel very competent at paddling because I’m a novice and my husband used to do white water kayaking in the Tasmanian rapids and also played canoe polo competitively. Our friend has also competed in the Hawkesbury Classic. The two of them could well and truly paddle off into the sunset at quite an enthusiastic pace together, while my kayak might drift round in a circle, and I might just enjoy floating for a bit. In other words, I’m not even trying to keep up unless it’s for conversation, which case they need to go at my pace which they do quite happily without complaint.
While I absolutely loved our paddle today and found the exercise and sunshine exhilarating and loved just drifting along like a cloud on the water, there were quite a few reflective moments.
The last time I was kayaking there, I was at a picnic with a group of friends. We had such a wonderful time out on the water, and as I said, unfortunately Geoff had to work. My friend Lisa was there with her son and I went out on the kayak with him. He’s ten years old and loved diving off the side and was full of such energy. Lisa was much more serene. She was like a beautiful swan gliding across the water as she paddled and her smile lit up the sky. It’s the truth. No exaggeration. Anyway, she passed away a few months ago after a long battle with breast cancer. I’ve mentioned that before. As much as you can try to convince yourself you’re okay and that you’re back on your feet again, I really missed her. Missed her deep inside my bones type missing her. I also miss being able to hang out with our friends in person as well. That hurts at a really deep level as well.
Then, there were also memories of going out kayaking as a family when my parents had a beach house at Palm Beach. It was a short season, but they had a jetty and a boat shed and it was so easy to get the kayaks in the water as long as it was high tide. The kids were much younger then, and Bilbo our beloved Border Collie (who some of you may remember), was there along with Lady and we’d paddle with the kids, paddle with the dogs. Paddle alone. I even went paddling when I was going through chemo to deal with a flare of my auto-immune disease. I loved kayaking that much, and yet now I rarely go.
Why is it so?
Well, Geoff was grateful I talked him into going today, and decided that the kayaks are going to stay on top of the car. That’s a statement, isn’t it?! It’s like having your sword drawn, and being ready for action.
That’s particularly important during lockdown. Somehow we need to find things we can do within the scope of the restrictions, while acknowledging but not dwelling on all the things we can’t. We are very lucky to live in this beautiful part of the world and be surrounded by beautiful beaches, and still waterways. It was also a choice.
Do you enjoy kayaking and have any stories to share? I’d love to hear from you.
I was so exciting to go whale watching vicariously from my couch in the Sydney lockdown. I have never been to Hervey Bay but it’s now on my bucket list. Absolutely breathtaking. Thanks so much Joanne for sharing and making my day so much brighter!
Hervey Bay, on Queensland’s Fraser Coast, is known as one of the best places in the world to watch humpback whales. Yes, you read that right – in the world. Don’t believe me? The waters off Hervey Bay have been scientifically recognised as a rare stopover site for migrating humpback whales and was the world’s first Whale Heritage Site. It’s where the whales stop, stay, and play during their winter migration. Rest and relaxation whale style. It’s also where mums bring their young – a safe place to nurse and teach them before heading back to their feeding grounds in the Antarctic. For young whales, it’s also a place to flex their muscles.
Twenty years of scientific research has proven that Hervey Bay is the only genuine stopover in what is one of the longest mammal migration journeys on the planet – a 10,000-kilometer round trip from the southern ocean…
How are you? I hope you’ve had a good couple of weeks, and I apologise for my intermittent appearances. I’ve been out of synch for awhile, which isn’t going to change any time soon. In case you’re not aware, I live in Greater Sydney and we’ve been in a covid lockdown since the 26th June and as of Saturday 6.00pm, the rest of the state joined us as well. This is life living alongside the Delta variant.
Of course, no one’s happy with this extended lockdown and those of you who have experienced far worse, might well be thinking we had this reality check coming. However, the numbers are still comparatively low, and this is largely precautionary. However, perhaps the worst thing about this statewide lockdown, is that it at least seems to be the result of the selfish actions of just a couple of people. With contacts being traced nd DNA tracking of the virus, it’s difficult to hide, and these individuals must be mighty pleased they’re no living in the Middle Ages when mob rule would’ve exacted its own justice.
It is strange being in lockdown, and yet it’s been a fairly universal experience at least at some point. For us, there are quite a few positives, as well as some not insignificant losses. My husband’s been able to work from home for almost the last 18 months. He’s a Senior IT Network Engineer at Macquarie University in Sydney and it’s usually a very hands on role. However, again thanks to technology, he can do most of his work remotely, and he’s been able to use the three hours travel time to renovate the house. We should probably be doing more together making most of this time, but we’re both busy. I’ve made huge progress on my research project writing short bios of WWI soldiers incorporating family and personal history. Our son has been the hardest hit and hovers in limb, while our old daughter is avoiding school via zoom and has converted our home into a dance studio.
Another interesting aspect to lock down where we live, is that we live in a beautiful location walking distance to the beach and a short drive away from so much stunning scenery. While we’ve been told in no uncertain terms to stay home, we are allowed to exercise outdoors with our household, or with one other friend. So, if you’re fit and healthy, can work from home, and are a true introvert, you could well be having the time of your life. If you don’t like shaking strangers’ hands and have a thing for hand sanitizer, it could well be a boon for you too. While I am incredibly grateful to be locked down in a scenic paradise, I am a true blue extrovert and I really miss seeing my friends collectively in person and seeing all of them and not just their head on a screen. That is a heartfelt ache too, not just a “would be nice”. I have a few good groups of friends and I miss doing like with them collectively and being part of a loving, intimate, touchy-feely herd. What’s more I think that needs to be said. Acknowledged and possibly shouted from the rooftops, because this current situation is anything but normal and I don’t want us to stop striving for what we in Sydney had pretty much regained. This is not the reality we want to have.
Anyway, I have enjoyed a few walks, including a walk along the waterfront at nearby Woy Woy. Perhaps, some of you have heard of Woy Woy before. British comedian Spike Milligan put Woy Woy on the map with the Goon Show, and his mother used to live there. These days with everyone in lockdown, it looks like the pelicans have taken over. The local Vinnies with it’s large glass windows, has become something of a mausoleum with a family frozen in time decked out in their Winter woolens. There was also a tea cup poised on apile of books on a coffee table beautifully decked out with a tablecloth. I admire how much love and attention to detail has goes into preparing the window displays, even in second hand shops. It seems to speak of such optimism and hope. That you’re not on your last legs just because you need to buy second hand.
Meanwhile, I’ve finished reading Ethel Turner’s 1894 novel: Seven Little Australians. It’s the story of widower, Captain Woolcot and six six children who has remarried a much younger woman and at this point in the story is 20 years old and has a baby. The story is told in the first person and it feels like Ethel Turner is talking to you herself, giving the book a very intimate and personal feel. She tells you right from the outset that this book is about naughty children, and isn’t a moral tale. This is entertainment and it makes you laugh, but there’s also more than just a reflective undertone and there’s definitely some character improvement along the way. Ethel Turner was only 23 when she wrote the book and it jettisoned her to international success attracting praise from the likes of Mark Twain. Anyway, I’d encourage you to read it. It’s usually classed as a children’s book, but it’s more what we now call young adult fiction, and I loved reading it myself. So I’d say age is no boundary, and I’ve also read praise from troops reading it on the Western Front in WWI. So, it’s appeal seems rather universal. If you’d like to read it, it’s available via Project Gutenberg here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/4731/4731-h/4731-h.htm
A few weeks ago, it was my birthday. In previous years, I’ve fully acknowledged and celebrated my birthday on the blog with equal enthusiasm and interest as the real world. However, this year, I didn’t quite get here, and it probably also reflects that my birthday in the real world didn’t go off with a bang this year either.
It was good, and indeed better than expected. However, my birthday (30th July) actually marked the day that Greater Sydney was supposed to come out of Covid lockdown, and I, and the collective we, knew after the third week of hard lockdown and with one week to go until our blessed release, that it wasn’t going to happen. There was going to be no extravagant birthday cake covered in candles with either my parents in Sydney or with my much loved friends. Everyone was going to be locked inside their little cells at home, and only let out for bad behaviour (my perspective on exercise).
However, while one is allowed to be a bit self-indulgent when their birthday plans go up in smoke (especially a Covid smoke), I know things could be worse, and that I have so much to be grateful for, especially when I see covid through a global lens. I checked the stats just then (which I don’t do on a global scale all that often) and globally there have been 206 million cases and 4.35 million deaths. In America alone (which ops the charts) there have been 621k deaths. Australia isn’t at the bottom of the charts and we have a much smaller population, but we have had 948 deaths. So, we have largely been spared the full force of this scourge here, although our lockdowns have been pretty tight and for vulnerable people like myself, we’ve spent much of the last 18 months in varying degrees of isolation and social distancing, while, of course, there are others who haven’t complied with restrictions or have lived away from the major cities and haven’t had to worry too much.
The other thing is that given my poor health and the somewhat dire state of my lungs, I am thankful and overjoyed for every birthday I have. So, I’m not saying that I spent my birthday at home crying either.
My birthday was on a Friday, and Friday nights are generally quite busy even in lockdown here. Our son has zoom with his youth group which sounds pretty rowdy and a lot of fun, and our daughter has a dance class right at dinner time. We also have our small group meeting for Church and we were getting together for a zoom party. So, we decided just to get Chinese home delivered that night, and deferred our family celebration to the following night, when we had home delivery from a local smokehouse we hadn’t tried before. This is I guess what we’d call “American” food, and I was particularly wanting to try Southern Fried Chicken that wasn’t from KFC. I made a Banoffee Pie for my birthday cake.
Meanwhile, during the day Geoff and I went for a bushwalk at the Mt Ettalong Lookout, which has the most magnificent coastal views over Pearl Beach to the right, and Umina Beach (home) on the left. When you see these photos, you’ll have absolutely so sympathy for my tough lockdown situation, and think I’m deluding myself. I’m in God’s country. However, breathtaking ocean views is not immersing myself in a room filled with my friends and being able to hug each other and talk totally oblivious of exchanging the air we breathe and what it might contain.
I know presents don’t make a birthday. However, I’m not going to deny how much they meant to me and how nice is was to open the front door and find a little treasure there. It was wonderful, and it meant so much more during this gloominess of Covid – a gloominess which, if we’re really honest with ourselves and others is at least a somewhat constant undercurrent of varying dimensions.) especially when you’re an extroverted people person like myself.
Anyway, I wanted to share a bit of the brightness which came my way on my birthday and offer each and everyone of you a virtual piece of cake.
Have you have any special celebrations during lockdown and what did you do?
So often when we reflect on Gallipoli, we hear of the men who sacrificed their lives. However, there’s another side to the story. That is the children of the dead and wounded men, also also paid an enormous, and mostly silent, price. Fortunately, the children’s columns in the newspapers provided a space where children would occasionally provide a glimpse, into this world.
On Sunday 30th July, 1922 a letter by Miss Brenda Taylor, aged 9, of Greenock, Piper-street, Leichhardt was published in Sunbeams, the children’s page in the Sun Herald. Sunbeams was edited by Ethel Turner, author of the Australian children’s classic: Seven Little Australians. A regular feature on the page was called “When I Grow Up”, and children wrote in gorgeous letters talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Brenda wanted to be a nurse:
“When I grow up I would like to be a nurse, so that I could look after poor sick people. If there happened to be another war I would go and look after the wounded soldiers. My daddy died of wounds at Gallipoli, where there were not enough nurses to look after the soldiers. I would love to wear the nice clean uniform of a nurse, and be in the children’s hospital amongst the little sick babies, as I love babies, and I don’t like to hear them crying. When I see the returned nurses with their badges I feel sure I am going to be one. I hope little girls will want to be the same so that there will be enough nurses for the poor soldiers if any more wars begin.
— Souvenir Prize and Blue “Sun” Card to Brenda Taylor (9), Greenock, Piper-street, Leichhardt — a little girl gallant enough, after her loss, to want to continue in the footsteps of her heroic father.”
Just to place young Brenda’s letter in context, there was also a letter from an ambitious crime-fighting detective:
TO MAKE CRIMINALS SHIVER
When I grow up I am going to be a detective, and gain fame, I will unravel mysteries that have baffled the greatest detectives of the world. If It is necessary for me to disguise while working on any case, my disguise shall be so complete that even my closest friends will not recognise me. First I will start In Australia, and when I’ve cleaned that of Its criminals, I will then proceed to London, and in disguise I will visit the slums of that city and learn what I can about different criminals, then gain their confidence, and arrest them in the act of pulling-off some of their greatest robberies. I will always play a lone hand, as you cannot rely on the police, who are generally blunderers. If any criminal defies me, I shall engage him In a battle of wits, and in the end I think I shall succeed in handing him over to the law to receive his punishment. Never shall I quit a case without unraveling it satisfactorily. Many people shall thank me for the services I have rendered them, and for me this will be sufficient reward. My name will spread throughout the world, and every criminal and wrong-doer will shiver at the mention of it.
There was also “Wanderer” from Bondi who’d decided to become a novelist rather than a pirate:
“NOVELIST RATHER THAN PIRATE
In the earlier stages of my life I entertained wild hopes of becoming a pirate; imagining myself, with a three-cornered hat tilted precariously on one side of my head, ordering men to get strung up the yard-arm, or to walk the plank. Lately, I have realised the utter insignificance of that career, as I will not be able to find a suitable crew, and if I did I would soon be hunted down. My present scheme for the future is to become a composer of prose and verse. I will live in a creeper-covered cottage in a quiet country town, there to pursue my work (perhaps I might marry by then, but that will not make any difference— only that the “star” boarder will have to seek a new residence). So as to have some varieties about the place, I will keep a few cows and a small stock of poultry. In the woodland dales I will compose my stories, and. now and then poetry. I hope to become gradually famous as a novelist. Then— and then only, will the zenith of my ambitions be attained— Blue “sun” Card to “Wanderer” (13), Bondi.”
Exploring Brenda Taylor’s Letter Further
Of course, young Brenda’s letter is heartbreaking. It was one thing for young, single men to sacrifice their lives for the Empire. It was quite another for family men with responsibilities and dependents to sacrifice theirs. Young children were left without fathers, wives without husbands, and were left to bring up the children alone. To put it in very simple terms, Daddy was never coming home.
Naturally, I wanted to find something out about her father’s war service, such as which unit he was in, and what happened to him. This is easy enough if you have a name. However, her father wasn’t named in the letter, and I couldn’t just search the service records for: “Brenda’s Dad”- no matter how powerful Google might be.
At the same, identifying a soldier with minimal information isn’t an impossible quest, especially now that so much information is available online. Indeed, these days, the difficulty is knowing when and where to stop. After all, we now have the whole wide world right at our finger tips and sometimes, as in trying to nut out Brenda’s letter, we need to draw on all of that. Even then, there comes a point when you realize, that you have to walk away without the answer. Indeed, that’s where I’m at with Brenda’s story. I still can’t be sure of who Brenda Taylor was, and don’t know her father’s name either. Yet, I haven’t given up. Storytelling is a collective process and hopefully these efforts will just be the beginning.
Yet, on the other hand, part of me wishes I could turn back the clock, and just appreciate Brenda Taylor’s letter at face value. Left well enough alone, and not asked who her father was, and tried to find his service records. After all, it’s such a heart-touching story. Here’s a little girl who lost her beloved Dad at Gallipoli when she was roughly two years old. That’s a serious loss, and I don’t feel comfortable questioning whether her story was true, and doubting the sincerity of a child. Of course, I want to be a believer. Hug this little girl who has lost her dad wholeheartedly without any of these lingering doubts.
However, any researcher worth their salt knows not to accept anything at face value. We have to ask the questions, accept the answers, and then somehow determine what we weave together into our version of the story.
So, despite a day of going backwards and forwards along time tunnels back into the past, I still don’t know the name of Brenda Taylor’s father, and can’t be entirely sure he died of wounds at Gallipoli or back at home.
A False Alarm
Initially, my efforts to identify Brenda Taylor were going quite well. NSW Births deaths and Marriages had a Brenda Beatrice Taylor born in 1915 in Mudgee to parents John G. Taylor and Beatrice Brownlow. They were married on the 17th February, 1910 at St. Paul’s Manse, Mudgee. This “G” might’ve been a “George”, and at a stretch, Brenda’s father might’ve been John George Taylor Service Number 7050. He was born at Newcastle-On-Tyne England, and was living at 2 Bay Street, Balmain, which isn’t too far from Leichhardt. However, he wasn’t a great fit. He’d enlisted on the 1st November, 1916 and clearly didn’t serve at Gallipoli. His next of kin was his sister, Mrs M. Foster, not a wife. There was also no mention of daughter, Brenda, either. However, marriages go awry, and he wouldn’t have been the only family man to have fled the home front for the front line without leaving a paper trail.
However, then I found the wedding notice for John G. Taylor and Beatrice Brownlow. Brenda’s father was actually a John Gavin Taylor, not a John George. So, that knocked John George Taylor 7050 out of the picture. Further research was required.
There was no other Brenda Taylor on the horizon, although the age of this Brenda Taylor didn’t quite match up. To be 9 years old on the 30th July, 1922, she needed to be born around 1911-1912. However, I couldn’t find an alternative born in NSW or Victoria. So, I persisted and found some good background stories.
Brenda’s mother, Beatrice Brownlow, had been born in 1889 to Samuel Brownlow and Agnes E. Bridge in Coonamble, New South Wales. Samuel was known as a “first-class horse trainer”, which sounded rather exciting:
A Veteran Trainer.
Sam Brownlow Re-appears on the Scene.
To the majority of Mudgee racegoers the name of the above well-known trainer will be quite familiar. The older sportsmen in particular will re member those grand old days when the then champions of the turf, such as King of the West, Eros, Myrtle, Reprieve, Prism, Contessa, &c. , met in battle array on the old course, and memories of Brownlow come back to them fresh and green. And now once more, after a fairly long absonce from the actual scene of turf warfare, Sam has come forth, like a giant refreshed, to renew his former occupation. The old spirit asserted itself — it was too strong for him to resist, and it is a strange coincidence that he will have under his care a horse which he trained a few years ago — I refer to Mr. J. C. Gunnell’s Nimrod. Sam has trained many good horses, notably King of the West, Myrtle, Eros, and Contessa, all of whom won races for the late J. D. Little at Randwick and Hawkesbury. When King of the West won the County Purse (now called the Rowley Mile) at Hawkesbury he was ridden by Tom Donoghue, who is now training in Mudgee. Brownlow once had private training stables on Bombira Hill years ago, where a good string of horses were located. He also went to Queensland with that great horse, Beadsman, with whom he won a great number of races there. Space will not permit of a lengthy description of our old friend’s many succeses as a trainer. We will simply say that he is a first class trainer, and has commenced with Mr. Gunnell’s horses, Nimrod and Grand Stuart, who are being prepared for the Mudgee meeting.
By now, the story was building nicely – layer up on layer up on layer. Yet, there were still some nagging doubts. These Taylors were based in Mudgee, and as yet I hadn’t found a link to Leichhardt, Sydney. Moreover, something else was glaringly missing. Aside from Brenda’s letter, there were no memorials in the newspapers honouring her father’s sacrifice on the battlefield, and this was unusual. Of course, there were families that kept it quiet, but they were few and far between. That also made me nervous.
Then, came the clincher. I came across the obituary for Brenda’s mother, Beatrice. She died on the 25th December, 1943 in Mudgee and it clearly mentioned that she was the “wife of Mr. J. G. Taylor, of Windeyer”, and also referred to her “bereaved husband”. Brenda’s father, John Gavin Taylor, was still alive.
Either Brenda Taylor’s letter wasn’t true. Or, there was another Brenda Taylor.
Brenda Taylor 2.0
I had one last search in the online newspapers at Trove. This time, I came across a wedding photo for a Brenda Taylor who married John Richard Keeffe at St John’s Church, Parramatta in 1938:
“Mrs. J.. Keeffe, formerly Miss Brenda Taylor, of Harris Park, who was married at St. John’s Church, Parramatta, on February 5. Misses Violet Keeffe, Ivy Taylor and Emily Keeffe are the bridesmaids, and Valmna Sweeney the flower girl. Photo. by McEnnally Studio”
I cross-referenced this with NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages, and found her listed as “Evelyn Brenda Taylor”. Would this finally be the clue which unraveled the mystery? Could I finally construct a solid trail from nine year old Brenda Taylor of Piper Street, Leichhardt to her father who really did die of wounds sustained in those early days at Gallipoli?
The closest I’ve come to finding an Evelyn Brenda Taylor is a Brenda Evelyn Taylor, who was listed in the 1911UK Census. She was 2 years old and was born and living in Rawreth, a village and civil parish in the District of Rochford, Essex, England, located between Wickford and Rayleigh. She was living there with her father, Edward Taylor, aged 23 born in Leatherhead, Surrey and was a Farm Labourer; and her mother, Alice May Taylor, was 21 from Chipstead, Surrey.
Could this be the right family? Did they migrate to Australia, and this is the very same Brenda Taylor who wrote into the Sun Herald on the 30th July, 1922?
I still don’t know, but I’m hoping that someone out there can help me set the record straight. I’d really love to know Brenda’s story – the whole story.
If anybody could shed any light on this, I’d really appreciate your help. I don’t have access to Ancestry which would most likely help.
Lastly, I should mention that this is fall of a broader project where I’m researching WWI through the letters of WWI soldiers, and exploring their family history nad lives before they went to the front.
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2
 Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 – 1954), Friday 4 August 1899, page 18
 Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 – 1954), Thursday 30 December 1943, page 5
 Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW : 1888 – 1950), Thursday 10 March 1938, page 9
Well, just as well we can share coffee online, because there’s not a lot of coffee sharing going on in the real world in my neck of the woods at the moment. We live in one of the most undesirable places in Australia right now , Greater Sydney, where that dreaded pestilence, Covid 19 Delta variant is on the move. 77 cases and one death were recorded today (Sunday) and they’re expecting over 100 tomorrow. So, it’s our turn to not only eat humble pie, we have to stay home and eat it alone or with members of our own household. The dogs said they don’t mind sharing humble pie with me, but hey don’t know what that is and are thinking more along the lines of meat pie.
So, how was your week?
I’m going to be honest with you, and say that the last six weeks for me have been really difficult, and if they hadn’t been difficult and if I wasn’t grappling with difficult emotions, there’ll be something wrong with me. I have had four close friends die in the last six weeks. One was 76 but the others were early 40s, 50, and 60 and they all had school-age kids. Sometimes my grief is focused on my friend, and what they are missing by dying so young, and in one instance it was right out of the blue and she and everyone who loved her, had no warning. It was such an enormous shock. She had a lot of much closer friends than I, but losing her still felt like being hit by a tonne of bricks. A few days later, I found out one of the closest friends I’ve ever had had passed away from cancer. She’d mentioned something to me about being sick a few years ago, but I had no idea she was fighting cancer. Her funeral was held last Thursday and due to covid restrictions, I watched it via live stream sat home. It’s something which is becoming more familiar, and it’s emotionally easier than being there. I didn’t cry until the end when they played the song she had as the ringtone on her phone: “What I did for Love”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxyaIYWpS3g I have ask my daughter if she would put a dance to it for my friend’s mum. My friend used to dance and I think it would mean a lot. Well, it would mean a lot to me anyway.
Meanwhile, it’s been school holidays here. Our daughter has been making candles and decorating them with crystals. They look quite pretty and I should post some photos. She’s also been doing some cake decorating and making things out of moulded clay. The dog has also appreciated some walks. I say dog because she only took Rosie because Lady keeps stopped all the time and Zac takes off like a bat out of hell. By the way, I should mention that Zac was the perfect therapy dog during my friend’s funeral. Geoff picked the sleeping Zac up and put him on my lap and said: “this is a job for a dog”. I should mention that Geoff held my hand as well.
I almost forgot, but my daughter and I went out and fed the local ducks, which we haven’t done for years and years since she was such a little girl. It was wonderful.
I am making good headway with my researching and writing up of the WWI soldiers’ bios. Over the last couple of weeks, I’m been writing the actually bios up so it’s really gaining momentum. I was stoked to find out that the nephew of controversial Australian ranger Ned Kelly served in WWI and so I’ve written up his story, which will add a bit of life to it, don’t you think?!!
Lock down is a rude shock. There we were on top of the world thumbing our noses at Melbourne (and most of the planet), miraculously invincible. Now, here we are in lock down with the Delta variant spreading through Sydney, and I’m sure it’s not just Melbournites who are glad to see us get our comeuppance. It’s the world. It’s alright. I can handle the rotten tomatoes. I know I let my pride get ahead of me. Or, should I say Sydney. However I’ve never under-estimated Covid, and I’ve been pretty committed to social-distancing and isolating even beyond requirements. Indeed, My husband and I are among those rare Australians who have had both of our Astra Zeneca shots and have served the two week waiting period as well. Yet, that’s still no iron-clad guarantee and our kids aren’t vaccinated. So, I’m not about to go fraternizing with Covid any time soon. Indeed, I’m curled up in my PJs with the dog sleeping on my lap, and working on my research/writing project. Aside from the unfortunate situation that I have to physically stay away from people, I’m okay with it.
Well, that depends on how long this lasts. I sort of bought the NSW Premier’s announcement that lock down would last for two weeks. Then, I remembered my last dance class and that “just one more, another one, one more” and before I knew it, I’d done 50.”
Please don’t let us pend 50 weeks in lock down. I might have written enough books to fill a library by then.
Anyway, the good thing about being in lock down here, is I live just a short walk from the beach, and we’re allowed to exercise. By the time I got moving, it was after sunset and even the golden after glow had sunk well below the horizon. I didn’t have my SLR with me and the aren’t the best photos I’ve ever taken, but they’re atmospheric.
Anyway, when I reached the beach, I noticed clumps of foam were washing back and forth with the waves, and looked like clouds floating on the sand. It was so atmospheric. Have a told you I love clouds? That I’ve landed in a lot of trouble photographing clouds, particularly dark and menacing storm clouds. Well, these pseudo clouds were safe. It was just a shame I didn’t have the SLR with me, although I doubt it wouldn’t been able to perform miracles on the beach after dark.
Well, at least I managed to get some exercise, and stretch my outlook beyond the confines of the house. Hibernation is so alluring, but so is being out in nature and perhaps I can get back down there in daylight tomorrow.
My week seems to fall under one very simple word – stressed!
As you may recall, our daughter was in hospital having tests last week, and since she’s come home she’s generally improved and is having more good days than bad days, although can’t always arrange the good days where they’re needed most, and is still needing to get her head around changes to her diet, which will hopefully settle things down as well. She has a condition called gastroparesis, and has been having a tough run of it lately.
Anyway, where some of the stress crept in this week, was that she was due to compete in a jazz dance duo at the Sydney Eisteddfod today, and there was a huge question mark about whether she would be well enough to go. Dancing at her level is full-on. So, she’s not just pointing her toes and smiling at the judges. The dance is fast paced, acrobatic in a sense, very precise and clearly demanding top physical fitness. It is also a duo. So, if she didn’t compete, she’d be letting down her friend and this is her very best friend who she’s known since she was a baby through playgroup. It’s a very personal, intimate thing they’re doing together, and to miss the premier competition would have been very disappointing. It also starts redefining her as “sick person” and “dancer” as more of a dream, and that was also something to be cautious of. We were leaning more towards pulling them out. However, they went well in class yesterday and so Thunderbirds were go!
They were on, and the madness was back on with the addition of a fairly extensive detour to buy some new jazz shoes which pushed the departure time forward by a couple of hours. I didn’t feel like a detour. Indeed, to be perfectly honest, I just wanted to stay in bed. The weather was wet, freezing, and horrible. I don’t cope well with wet, freezing, and horrible. That’s code for staying in bed. Or, at the very least, staying home. Yet, off we went. However, the performance went really well, and although they didn’t place they scored an impressive 87.
Meanwhile, Geoff and I caught up with a school friend and had Vietnamese for dinner. Tickets to watch were highway robbery and I was also concerned about covid as cases in Sydney are almost at double figures and we need to be careful.
We spotted a few unnatural kangaroos out and about in Chatswood
Last week, my son and I attended the funeral of a dear friend, Tom. He’d had a stroke a four months ago, and you could just imagine his horror when he comes to and found he was paralyzed on one side. It was cruel. However, it gave him extra time with his family and the opportunity for a slow, lingering goodbye, even if his passing was ultimately a relief. We’ve been friends with Tom and his wife or about ten years. They’re in their mid-70s, but fostered two children as babies who are the same age as our kids, and all the kids did dancing together, which is how we met and the kids used to ride their bikes together and we talked. You can get quite close to people in these most simple of circumstances. Anyway, our son reconnected with his friend via our Church youth group and they have a very tight group of guys. He rang our son just after pop had the stroke and I went round as well and we were right in the thick of it and drove my friend to hospital after the ambulance had gone. So, needless to say, by this point, we were tight.
Even though Tom had reached a good ag, led a good life, and t was a relief to see him released from a body which was no long his friend, a funeral is still a funeral. Unless you’re a robot, you’re not just going through the motions. There are memories, grief, sadness, joy – a real kaleidoscope of emotions. Then, there’s also being confronted by death, which is obviously very different from having a friend move away (which also happened last week). The funeral was held at the grave side and was right near the entrance to the cemetery and I was watching hearses coming and going, which was a macabre and almost troubling experience. After all the cemetery is an airport for the deceased – a one way departure lounge and of course, this was very different to visiting the old cemeteries for my family history research and there’s been no one new for 50-100 years and you’re talking to the birds.
However, in between all these thoughts, I focused on a stunningly beautiful Autumn tree, which was decked out in all its splendour and even though it was a cold, Winter’s day, the sky was a dazzling blue and the fusion of intense colour was absolutely magnificent. although I know Tom is now spirit and has gone to heaven to be with the Lord, being human and still of the earthly realms myself, it was rather comforting to think of Tom resting there looking up at that beautiful tree and just being. It was a very pretty spot to spend eternity and he might also enjoy watching the people and the cars come and go. Welcome in the newbies. He would have loved that.
On Saturday, I went to the dance studio to watch the singers perform. It was magic and such an antidote to dealing with hospitals and funerals. I do try to do that. Throw in something uplifting in the midst of the stress. While it might not seem appropriate to enjoy yourself when someone you love is very sick, dying or gone, you need to be able to pace yourself so you come out the other side and most of us don’t have the luxury of going down for the count.
Anyway, as you can tell it’s been a pretty deep week I’d better get this posted before cut off.