Tag Archives: books

Weekend Coffee Share – 19th June, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How have you been? I missed last week. I was flat out and before I knew it, it was Monday afternoon. So, here I am on Sunday afternoon trying to get ahead of myself this week. By the way, I can offer you some home baked Chocolate & Pecan Cookies, which are pretty scrumptious along with a cup of tea, coffee or even something random if you like. We’ll look after you here. However, I should warn you that we have three dogs and they make things rather lively for unsuspecting visitors.

Before I go any further, I would like to invite you to check out a conference held in Sydney for Young People called Standing Tall. They had a day of speakers and the day was livestreamed and available online for three months. I watched in myself and really found myself changed at the end of the day and having faith that I can actually make my dreams happen. Wrote a post which includes links to other motivational videos posted by the speakers. I was stunned at the amount of really good quality talks available free online. While the program is geared towards young people, it’s suitable for all ages. It’s not often I say this, but I challenge you to check it out here via my post: Learning to Dream Again After Standing Tall.

It’s Winter here. However, the weather has been glorious lately albeit a little chilly at times. Last weekend, Geoff and I were finally able to visit my parents in Sydney after a 12 month break due to covid lockdowns and ongoing cautious isolation. My parents have a glorious, well-established cottage garden. The camellias are flowering and they have these massive camellia reticulatas whose flowers are as big as saucers and even stunning when they’ve fallen from the tree into the groundcover down below. https://www.camelliagrove.com.au/

We also went whale watching last weekend, which was more about water watching instead. We might have seen the odd flicker in the water, but that was it. However, as you’ve no doubt heard before, it’s more about the journey than the destination. I was proud of myself for getting up the hill and onto the headland, especially as the track was pretty rugged with plenty of rounded rocks just waiting to trip me up. Unfortunately, I haven’t been walking too much over the last couple of days and need to catch up. Apparently, I’ve only taken 110 steps today. That isn’t entirely true. I’ve been sorting things out at home and have physically exerted myself but didn’t have my phone on me.

Lately, I’ve stepped up more with my writing and have entered two competitions. There was a 500 word piece for a Furious Fiction competition run by the Australian Writers’ Centre, and I also entered a 250 word competition out in Mudgee in Western NSW which had to be based on a photo and you have include the photo. Note that I said “include” and not “attach”. They wanted everything hard copy and there will be an exhibition. I only found out about the competition the night before so I had to work pretty hard turning all that around and getting it in the post in time, and am rather chuffed that I pulled it off. I now have a list of upcoming competitions and am putting myself out there. Of course, everyone wants to win, but entering in itself is a win of sorts and far better to throw your hat in the ring and lose, than not having a go.

Collapsing uer the weight of my new book haul with Zac the dog on my lap. I think he was sitting beside the books and you can see his black ear sticking up.

Well, we’ve been beavering away on the house, and it’s starting to pay off. We have way too much stuff, and we are trying to downsize but temptation keeps crossing my path. Yesterday, I just happened to find myself at another second-hand book sale. This time I didn’t count my haul, but it must be close to 50. That might sound insane, but when you consider I paid $25.00 for them, it makes a lot of sense. The only issue is how am I going to read them all? Anyway, I touched on all of this is my previous post for What’s On My Bookshelf? for June.

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

Anyway, this has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer.

Best wishes,

Rowena

What’s On Your Bookshelf? – June, 2022.

“I can never read all the books I want; I can never be all the people I want and live all the lives I want. I can never train myself in all the skills I want. And why do I want? I want to live and feel all the shades, tones and variations of mental and physical experience possible in my life. And I am horribly limited.”
― Sylvia Plath, The Unabridged Journals of Sylvia Plath

Well, today’s question isn’t so much what’s on my bookshelf, but what’s in the green shopping bag beside my reading chair and what’s in the car boot, which I haven’t quite owned up to yet?

Confession time…again!!!

My last confession came after I brought 38 books at the Pearl Beach Books Sale.

This confession comes after raiding the local PCYC Book Sale, which included leftovers from the Pearl Beach Book Sale. For a book addict like myself, I was in seventh heaven fossicking through a hall full of books.

I’m sure I don’t need to explain to you how tempting it was, especially as the books were only $2.50 each and my stash came under the “bulk deals” category. I paid $30.00 for my two bags full including ($5.00 worth of home made slice and rather tempting chocolate cupcakes. Yum!!)

A selfie with my new book stash today and the dog’s ear in the foreground. I think Zac was beside the book pile not underneath it.

I haven’t done a head count yet, and am still in denial. (I’ve been doing such a good job of clearing out at home and like a true addict, I’ve gone and undone it all again. However, I am still sticking to what I said after raiding the last book sale. I’m going to read them and pass them on.)

Here are just some of the titles I’ve bought home:

Frank Reid: The Romance of the Great Barrier Reef (1954), David Lodge: Thinks, Margaret Atwood: The Edible Woman; Antoine de Saint-Exupery: Le Petit Prince (in French), DH Lawrence’s: Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Harold Lewis: Crow On A Barbed Wire Fence; Simon Tolkein: The Inheritance; Elizabeth Jolly: Cabin Fever; and My Father’s Moon; Rosie Batty: A Mother’s Story; Wendy McCarthy: Don’t Fence Me In; Michael Caulfield: The Vietnam Years; New York New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art: The City in Art and Literature; Mark Marix Evans: Over The Top: Great Battles of The First World War; Alice Pung: Unpolished Gem.

As you might appreciate, there’s quite an eclectic selection there which is one of the beauties of second-hand book sales. They’re so stimulating taking your thoughts all sorts of directions across the globe and through time. I also appreciate picking up quite a few Australian works. As much as I love to discover the world, I also love seeing my world reflected back at me in print.

Meanwhile, I’m reading Kerri Maher’s: The Paris Bookseller. It’s essentially based on the life story of Sylvia Beach who founded the original Shakespeare and Company Bookshop in Paris. However, it also follows James Joyce very closing, especially the banning of Ulysses. It’s a wonderful read, especially for anyone who has been to Paris and visited Shakespeare and Company. I went there when I was in Paris in July 1992, and had heard they held poetry readings there. I mustn’t have known too much about the legendary status of the place because I went and approached the legendary George Whitman whether I could do a reading and blow me down after reading my self-published anthology, he agreed. I didn’t know that at age 23 I was reaching the pinnacle of my performance poetry career. I went corporate when I came home, because while it was okay to take one year off and wander through the nooks and crannies of Europe, it wasn’t meant to become a way of life. As it turned out, my health went pear-shaped and we’ve also decided/needed to focus on our kids, but this has also given me the space and freedom to write which I wouldn’t have had otherwise.

Humph! I am getting a better understanding why I’m such a slow reader. I keep writing instead.

So, what have you been reading lately and what’s on your bookshelf? I’d love to hear from you!

This has been a contribution to What’s On Your Bookshelf?

Best wishes,

Rowena

Carpe Diem – Friday Fictioneers: 8th June, 2022

Jane wasn’t one to complain. However, this new-fangled motivational seminar was the last straw. She only attended under duress.

“We’re librarians. We don’t need all that motivational mumbo-jumbo?” She grumbled over morning tea. “What about all the potholes? It’s roadworks who need a rocket up the arse.”

“Must be the new mayor,” Daphne groaned. “He’s so positive, he’s painful. Doesn’t he realize we librarians prefer our adventures in books, NOT in real life?!”

Not anymore. Jane resigned. Booked a one-way ticket to Bali. She was last seen kayaking off a waterfall, and wasn’t alone.

She was finally living her dreams.

………

100 words PHOTO PROMPT © David Stewart

When I showed my husband this week’s prompt, he showed me photos of dare-devils kayaking off waterfalls. I must say them very impressive, reckless and also potentially stupid. Of course, I could ever do anything like that, only write about it. However, today I attended an motivational seminar via livestream called Standing Tall. It’s actually for teenagers. However, I wanted to see what it was about. I’d signed my kids up for it, and also thought I might benefit myself. After all, you’re never too old to learn. The livestream will be available for the next three months and I highly recommend you check it out. Here’s the link: https://www.standtallevent.com/online

It’s a few years ago now…kayaking with Bilbo and Lady at Palm Beach.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields at https://rochellewisoff.com/ We’d love you to join us!

Best wishes,

Rowena

What’s On Your Bookshelf?

The simple answer to this question, is too many books. Our 18 year old son would tell you there are far too many books in our house. Indeed, he of messy room and dumping his stuff our in the spare room for the last two years, even took me to task about it last night and had the audacity to ask me how many of them I’d actually read. While I must admit the same question frequently crosses my mind, the point is that the books on the shelf are either waiting to be read or they’re too good to part with, in which case getting rid of them would be akin to murdering a close friend. As avid readers, I’m sure you will understand, even if you have converted over to one of those dreadful, electronic Kindle-type devices.

So, what have I been reading?

Well, I’ve actually been reading quite a lot of books (at least for me) lately.

The dog highly approves of a night in reading.

The first cab off the ranks was Mark Lamprell’s: The Secret Wife. I’m not going to go into much detail here but I highly recommend it, and point you to my non-spoiler review: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2022/04/23/midnight-with-the-secret-wife/

This month took me back into Ethel Turner territory. There was an Open Day at Woodlands, where she was living when she wrote her iconic classic: Seven Little Australians. I am currently reading her WWI trilogy, and in the last month I’ve finished The Cub and Captain Cub and the last one Brigid and The Cub arrived in the mail today and I can’t wait to get stuck into it. It addresses some really interesting issues, and one that intrigues me is the whole business of mothers giving their consent for underage sons to fight. Ethel Turner didn’t give her consent for her own son, Adrian, to go but pushes the barrow in the book. I am also analysing these books in detail for my blog dedication to Ethel Turner: Tea With Ethel Turner: https://wordpress.com/view/teawithethelturner.com

Meanwhile, I am still reading Kerri Maher’s The Paris Bookseller, which says it is “inspired” by the life of Sylvia Beach who founded Shakespeare and Company, the famous English-language bookshop in Paris, and was the only one with the courage and vision to publish James Joyce’s controversial novel: Ulysses. This book was a natural choice for me, because I did a solo reading at Shakespeare and Company when I was staying in Paris in 1992, which was rather extraordinary in itself, but particularly considering I was only 23 at the time. I had to pass an intimidating interview with the inimitable proprietor, George Whitman and even had to draw up my own promotional poster to go in the window. These days, it feels like I made the whole thing up, but I have photographic proof. It really did happen.

Performing My Poetry at the Shakespeare Bookshop, Paris 1992.

Anyway, if you have ever considered reading Ulysses but have been too intimidated or just couldn’t understand a word of it, I have come across a wonderful annotated version online at the James Joyce Project: https://www.joyceproject.com/ i dare you! Give it a try!!

Or, if you’ve read it, please let me know how you found it, but no spoilers please!

Lastly, I’ve ordered Tony Birch’s book of short stories: Dark As Last Night, which has won the Christina Stead prize for fiction (NSW Premier’s, judged by Beth Yahp, Bernard Cohen and Nicole Abadee). You can read another of his stories here: https://www.theguardian.com/…/tony-birch-my-dads-ashes… It views a tough subject with a touch of humour, and is a great read.

What have you been reading lately? Why not join us at What’s On Your Bookshelf and share it with us? You can link up your post below.

What’s On Your Bookshelf is a monthly link-up co-hosted by Debbie (Deb’s World), Jo (And Anyways), Sue (Women Living Well After 50) and Donna (Retirement Reflections). #whatsonyourbookshelfchallenge

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 22nd May, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

It’s Sunday night here, and I thought you might like to join me watching Masterchef. Thank goodness, I’ve already had dinner or I’d be salivating like a blood hound all over the keyboard and the dog blissfully sleeping underneath. Tonight, they’re fusing two cultures together, and I just saw the most divine lobster dish along with an incredible dessert which personified was pure indulgence. Sorry, I can’t remember what was in it, but since none of us can actually sample these dishes perhaps that’s possibly a good thing. Despite the judges’ rapturous praise, we’ll just convince ourselves it all tastes like cardboard or some equally bland substance.

How was your week?

The big news here in Australia is that we voted in our Federal Election yesterday and we have a change of government. Prime Minister Mr Scott Morrison from the Liberal Party has been replaced by Mr Anthony Albanese of the Labor Party. It’s still early days but the analysts are busy. I must admit I feel sorry for people who have lost their seats, regardless of their political persuasion.

Last week for me, revolved around our daughter’s dance performance in a series of concerts featuring young talent aged 13-21 on the NSW Central Coast. It’s not easy to land yourself a spot and Miss had 2-3 previous attempts. So, this was a huge celebration. There’s also relief because she wants to be a professional ballerina, and getting through this year was a sign she’s on the right track. She was doing her contemporary dance, which involved picking up a rose with her feet and transferring it around which doing all her “tricks”. I’m not usually anxious watching her, and you’d think I might’ve been sitting there proud as a peacock especially wearing my fancy new scarf. Instead, I kept worrying she was going to drop the rose, or else would go wrong. We’d had a stressful afternoon chasing up a few requirements last minute and catching every red light in town when time was of the essence. I could mention something about Murphy’s Law, except that her performance went so well, that I’m just grateful.

Miss in Flight

Meanwhile, I’ve been reading a great new book, which I guess could well be deemed a diversion as I’m already reading a few books and need to get back to my WWI research and analysis. However, I popped into my local bookshop looking for a book of short stories by Tony Birch: Dark As Last Night. I needed to order that one in, but as one who has no capacity to resist temptation in bookshops, I had the most fleeting glance at the shelves and came home with Kerri Maher’s: The Paris Bookseller. It’s “inspired” by the story of Sylvia Beach who found the iconic English-speaking bookstore: Shakespeare and Company. It just so happens that I did a solo poetry reading there in 1992 as an impressionable 23 year old. So, the book is incredibly personal for me. However, so far the plot focuses around James Joyce and the banning of Ulysses, which feels quite relevant these days with what’s been going on in many political circles. I also finished Irish philosopher, Michael Harding’s: A Cloud Where The Birds Rise. It’s made up of excerpts from his reflection on life published via his weekly column in the Irish Times.

My Poetry Reading Shakespeare & Company Bookshop, Paris 1992.

In other news here, we’re trying to have some kind of radical clean-up. I don’t really like the term “declutter”, which is just so dismissive and disrespectful about your precious treasures. An excess of books, for example, is not clutter. It’s inspiration, education, transformation all within those printed pages, and in too many cases, too difficult to part with. However, at least I’m getting through a few books atm, but I don’t think I’ll be able to part with any of these They’re all keepers! Yet, I at least had some success in the bathroom and cleared out a garbage bag of potions and Miss has thrown out four bags of stuff from her room. All of that barely scratches the surface, but it’s progress.

Feet and Shadows at the Beach last week.

Lastly, Miss and I went for a few brief visits to the beach to destress last week. Couldn’t resist photographing our feet in front of the view.

We also spotted some inspirational words painted onto rocks at the far end of the beach:

Well, that’s all folks.

This is another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer at: https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share…15th May, 2022.

Welcome To Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This weekend I have the absolute privilege to share something incredibly precious and rare with you…sunshine. Unfortunately, I suspect it’s but a rare intermission in between our months and months of rain, but that makes it all the more special and I guess I should’ve been out there today to make the most of it.

However, I went for a magnificent bushwalk yesterday to my favourite little spot overlooking Pearl Beach and across to Palm Beach and all of Pittwater. While, it’s not Sydney Harbour, the views are almost as breathtakingly beautiful and from my vantage point, I feel like I had to all to myself. I didn’t need to compete with all of Sydney for a vantage point…only the birds!

Looking towards Umina Beach. We live in between the beach and the white sphere about a third of the way in from the right.

How was your week?

Mine was good, but fairly busy juggling family commitments, while getting stuck back into reading two novels by Australian literary giant, Ethel Turner, which are set in World War I and so also crossed over with my research there. I managed to finish: The Cub, which was published in 1915 and sees seventeen year old John leave for Gallipoli after his older brother who enlisted in England, was killed in action fighting in France. However, this forms only a fraction of the story, and the thread is picked up in the second novel in the series: Captain Cub. However, the books focus more on the home front than the war itself and the sagas of two families.

The reason I was binge reading Ethel Turner last week, was that I’d booked into an Open Day at her former home Woodlands in Killara, and I was trying to wake up my dormant brain cells so I could sound at least somewhat knowledgeable when I introduced myself to the speakers there, which included two of her Great Grandsons. However, it didn’t really work because all that happened was that I had all this Ethel Turner stuff in my head in a jumbled fog, and nothing was coming out in neatly defined packages, and especially not the whole grail where you can sum her prolific and profound writing output up in a single word and be the ultimate unrivalised genius on the subject. Or, at least that’s what distilling facts into a single word is supposed to do. Personally, I don’t feel it would do her justice, but when you’re trying to enter the realms of the academic elite, you need to play by their rules not your own.

Anyway, in the end I decided not to go. It was going to be at least a one hour drive, and they were expecting huge crowds, terrible parking and I couldn’t help conclude that I could well pick up covid. After two years of caution, it seemed stupid to throw caution to the wind. Moreover, I saw the doctor on Friday and in what sounded like a prophetic warning, she told me that more people have died from covid in the last six months in Australia than the previous two years. So, while the politicians might be telling us we’ve switched the clock back and returned to an almost normal, the stats and medical folk are telling a different story.

Meantime, while I had my nose stuck in The Cub from 1915, our daughter, “Miss”, posted a clip on Tik Tok and unlike any of my posts here on WordPress, her clip went viral and as far as I know has now had 2.5 million views.

Well, you might ask what attracted such a response, and fool like me, you might actually believe that her video was especially meaningful and required many hours of careful planning, creativity and construction. However, you’d be mistaken. It was a very spontaneous and erroneous piece which she’d put together during her Nursing TAFE course. The school has a small quasi hospital set up and she filmed the patient dummy in bed, and then turned to film her friend swinging in the swing chair. It lasts all of a minute, and while funny and quirky, doesn’t justify that many views, especially when my philosophical musings which really might improve someone else’s life, barely attract enough traffic to fill a lane let alone a super highway. I have been wondering lately what it means to live in a society where people can read, but choose not to. This could sadly be the result.

The Lockheed Hudson A16-112 built 1939 and received ex-USA on 5th December, 1941. Photo: Geoff Newton.

So, meanwhile Geoff headed North to Newcastle to attend the Central Coast Air Show. Here’s some footage from Seven News: https://www.facebook.com/7NEWSsydney/videos/371368371635055

Lastly, I thought you might appreciate checking out last week’s contribution to Friday Fictioneers. Our photo prompt this week was a single long-stemmed rose, inspiring various interpretations of love, marriage, relationships. I found them very thought provoking. Here’s a link to my story: Musings Of A Rose, and it will take you through to the rest: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2022/05/12/musings-of-a-rose-friday-fictioneers-12th-may-2022/

This is another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Natalie the Explorer at: https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Midnight With “The Secret Wife”.

If you go digging through my archives, you’ll notice that despite being a self-confessed book addict, I rarely write book reviews. That’s because I’m unfortunately more of a book collector than a voracious book reader. Of course, I have good intentions, and get carried away on the wings of fancy, but all too often the rubber doesn’t hit the road.

Anyway, today I’m breaking with tradition because I’ve just finished reading Mark Lamprell’s: The Secret Wife, and I’m too excited to keep it to myself. I absolutely loved it, and thought you might love it too. I rarely read non-fiction, and despite my best intentions, have often failed to finish even novels I love. So, the fact I was sticking matchsticks in my eyes to stay awake and finish this book, is a very strong endorsement. Indeed, to quote Australian music legend Molly Meldrum: “Do yourself a favour”, and read this book.

So, what was so good about it?

For me personally, I’m Australian and I enjoy stories from my own backyard, as well as reading foreign literature. Indeed, I suspect each of us likes to see our own world reflected back to us through the arts, as much as we also appreciate a more cosmopolitan diet. Yet, at the same time, it wasn’t consciously Australian and would easily translate elsewhere.

Secondly, I really appreciated the highly developed characterisation with his profound understanding of human nature. The storyline hinges on the friendship of two very different women, Edith and Frankie, their husbands and children and is mostly set in the 1960’s. Naturally, as characters in a novel, they go through many ups and downs, dramas, catastrophes and successes. Lacking in self-confidence myself too often, I related very strongly to Edith even though I’m a born extrovert and would’ve loved to be Frankie in my dreams.

I also really appreciated how Lamprell handled the interaction of this wily cast with the finely-tuned precision of a symphony conductor, yet with casual realism. There were times the characters became people I know, but I also felt Mark knew me like the back of his hand. I’m sure I got goose bumps more than once.

Another point I greatly appreciated about the book was Mark’s dynamic and complex vocabulary. Not all writers appreciate words, but I love words with a passion and am quick to take my hat off to those who make the effort (or even flourish). My kids have told me off for writing in books, but I always read books with a pen in hand, and my pen was very busy throughout (which is a great sign, btw.) I even jotted a few words in the back.

It is also worth noting that The Secret Wife is a historical novel. I was touched and impressed by Lamprell’s eye for detail and accuracy. It’s so easy to Google these things now, that there’s no excuse for getting them wrong. There is just enough detail to add flavour and authenticity, but not too much to bog you down.

All of that makes me sound intensely critical and punctilious (to steal a word from Mark). However, what we’re all looking for is a gripping story. A tale which draws us in and keeps throwing us bait until we’re caught hook, line and sinker. Where we can’t put the book down, yet we don’t want the book to end either. That is certainly true of The Secret Wife. The plot is also refreshingly unpredictable. He leads us up one path, and then we are taken somewhere else entirely, although not left alone lost in the dark either.

I know I’m saying a lot without saying much at all about this book. That’s because I know how much I hate spoilers. I just want a “yay” or a “nay”, and something to back it up. Yet, I’m busting to talk to someone about it.

However, I’m also into biography. So, once I like a book, or fancy an author, I want to delve into their head, their heart, their past, present…the works. (Indeed, I’ve been doing just that with author Ethel Turner over at my other blog Tea With Ethel Turner.) So this leaves me asking: “Who is Mark Lamprell?” and I suppose you might be wondering the same thing, and why I read: The Secret Wife, especially when I could’ve been reading your blog posts and works of fiction instead…

Mark Lamprell – Photo Ian Erick

Well, the official answer is: “Mark Lamprell is an (Australian) writer of novels and children’s books published in sixteen countries and twelve languages, including the novels The Full Ridiculous and A Lover’s Guide to Rome. He also works internationally as a writer and director in film, with movie credits including Babe Pig in the City, My Mother Frank, Goddess, A Few Less Men and Never Too Late.

There’s a more complex answer here, where Booktopia asked him Ten Terrifying Questions: https://www.booktopia.com.au/blog/2022/04/21/ten-terrifying-questions-with-mark-lamprell/?fbclid=IwAR10IScuXeqzO3eEluwWUtZb9ICn93sRAXkHBCS8JUqbAwLBQxZpsZ6Kwwk

However, for me, Mark Lamprell was also my uncle’s school friend. My dad was one of seven, and being the eldest grandchild, I was only ten and eleven years younger than my youngest uncles. So, it wasn’t unusual for me to be down at the house when their friends were around. Moreover, their house was a sprawling Californian bungalow. None of the doors were ever locked, and people simply came and went. Oftentimes, we’d be gathered around the kitchen table philosophising. One would be having breakfast, another lunch and someone else having a snack. It was definitely laissez-faire, although there were still non-negotiables like my grandfather wanting my uncle to get his hair cut.

My grandmother in a professional capacity. This was for the BBC around 1938.

Yet, as I’ve mentioned before, my grandmother was Eunice Gardiner, an international concert pianist, music critic and later professor piano at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. In the loungeroom, there was her Bechstein grand piano, and after my grandfather passed away, it was joined by a large concert-sized Steinway grand, which she’d brought out from England. Having two large grand pianos in your lounge room, certainly makes a statement.

My Great Grandmother, Ruby Gardiner (McNamara) was in some ways Edith to my grandmother’s Frankie. Both of them stood their ground at times, and were still their own people. I look at this photo now with Ruby looking across and even deferring to her daughter as though she’s not expecting to be in the shot. Hadn’t picked up on that before.

So, the house had this sort of dichotomy, and that fits in very well with Frankie’s world in The Secret Wife. Moreover, like Frankie, there was so much we didn’t know about my grandmother’s career, and who she was. Indeed, I venture to suggest that everyone probably has their secrets. Things even our nearest and dearest know nothing about.

While The Secret Wife and I were obviously a very good fit, I ended up reading it because the publisher sent me a copy to review. I was attending a novel writing workshop with Graeme Simsion (author of The Rosie Project who I’ve reviewed before). I mentioned that I’d attended a similar workshop with Mark Lamprell at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, and the publicist said she’d send me a copy of his new book. I was delighted, and mentioned he was a family friend. The book duly arrived, and I thought I’d better read it tout de suite to honour the deal. No forgetting to read this book. By this time, I picked up an extra 38 “friends” at the Pearl Beach Book Sale. So, it wasn’t that The Secret Wife was without competition. I clearly needed to get reading.

Family Press Photo 1960 around the time of the TV interview.

However, reading The Secret Wife now was mind-blowing timing. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by historian, Ann Curthoys, who let me know that back in 1960 my grandmother had appeared on an ABC TV panel interviewing Paul Robeson, an African-American singer, actor and civil rights activist and soon of a former slave when he toured Australia in November 1960. The interview covered racism, equality and freedom and was recorded on the 5th November, 1960. Three days later, JF Kennedy defeated Nixon in the US presidential election, and it was broadcast on the 13th November, 1960. It was just under three years before Dr Martin Luther King’s famous  “I Have a Dream” speech, which followed a march by over 200,000 people on Washington on the 28th August, 1963. I was able to order a copy of the interview, and have been working on a transcript. I am gobsmacked.

A media shot – my grandmother with the eldest boys at the piano around 1942.

So, reading: The Secret Wife which is set in this similar social context, was an incredible fusion. However, my grandmother was leading a different life to anyone really what with her prodigious talent and being married with seven children and still pursuing her career. But I think she just had this trajectory in her mind and it just kept going. She probably knew nothing else.

As for my grandfather, there was a miniature grand piano on their wedding cake. So, I doubt he had any illusions. My grandmother, her piano and her career were a package deal. There was never any suggestion she was going to stop.

Wow! There’s been so much to think about, and more to come. For now, I’m going to let the book settle. I really want to talk it over, and share it with someone (something I obviously can’t do in a review.) Maybe, I’ll start talking to myself.

Best wishes,

Rowena Curtin

PS One thing I didn’t mention was that my grandfather was the consummate book collector and my grandparents’ house was overflowing out the back and under the house with boxes, and boxes of books. Indeed, when my grandparents first got married, my grandfather’s mother sent over his books to their new home, and they apparently arrived even before the furniture.

Don’t you just love family stories?!!

Featured image: Geoff Newton. Thank you Zac the dog for posing for the camera. Since he spends much of his life sleeping underneath my keyboard and while I was reading the book, it seemed appropriate for him to appear in the photo.

What’s On Your Bookshelf?

This is my first contribution to a blogshare which is right up my alley: What’s on Your Bookshelf, hosted by DebSueDonna, and Jo. I could be here for several years and you’d be long gone, if I literally went through every single book on my bookshelf, and the contents of my To-Be-Read Piles around the house could also tie us down for awhile. However, what I’ve actually reading is thankfully a much shorter list. Indeed, I’m currently reading one book.

This rather exclusive solitary read is Jules Sebastian’s Tea & Honesty. It is hard not to introduce Jules Sebastian without mentioning her famous husband musician Guy Sebastian. I don’t like linking women to their famous husbands as though they’re nothing more than an pretty accessory and that they have no world, thoughts or achievements of their own., However, I did buy this book because she was Guy’s wife, and I knew something of their personal journey beyond the music industry. I quick flick through, showed Jules was very much a powerhouse in her own right. Moreover, she shares about being naturally shy, and she is a good listener, an observer, a thinker but in a kind, gentle and encouraging way that’s very refreshing. Moreover, I found out this Jules has a few worlds a knew nothing about. and they lead an interesting and very challenging life at times and she’d have a lot to say. What I didn’t know was that Jules has her own Youtube Channel and a program Tea With Jules: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC6Y0dEiUcSIClA5KkqywvJA

I’m about halfway through it now, and I’m deliberately reading it slowly to take it all in. I think it’s very timely as many of us face a restart after the last two years. Jules reflects back on interviews and gives really good advice for people starting out and wanting to start a dream from scratch and how to find a way through the jungle and towards success. That’s such an important part of the road to success we don’t often hear about. BTW I wasn’t so keen on the podcasts. I think they’re geared towards a different demographic.

Meanwhile, although this book is still in transit, I’m going to mention it anyway along with the usual way I stumbled across it. The book in question is Irish author Michael Harding’sThe Cloud Where the Birds Rise, with illustrations by Jacob Stack. I stumbled across it a few days ago when I went on a quick trip to Midleton, Cork via Google Earth and of all the places I should come across, I find a bookshop. Of course, I had to check out the books they had on offer and looked up their website. That’s when I saw the book and it was like love at first sight. However, I resisted temptation and decided to do a bit of research before I bought another book into the house. That’s when I came across a podcast where Alan Keane interviewed Michael Harding on The Artists’ Well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrRYg1hvCh0 Now, I was really hooked, and after enjoying this interview so much, I headed off to absorb Michael Harding’s podcasts (@hardingmichael) and I’ll be lucky to find my way out the front door for the next six months. I’m riveted.

So, naturally, I can’t wait for this book to turn up, and I must confess, I bought another one while I was there (to justify the postage of course!): Staring at Lakes. I’ll report back and let you know how they go.

Well, that’s about it for now.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Meandering Through Midleton, Ireland: the Bookshop and Author Michael Harding.

Yesterday afternoon, I stumbled upon Irish author, Michael Harding, while I was browsing through a bookshop in Midleton, Ireland. While you’d obviously expect to find a book in a bookshop, the remarkable thing is that I was there. After all, I was visiting Midleton Bookshop via Google Earth from the comfort of my loungeroom in Umina Beach – just North of Sydney, Australia.

Me in my element

Being a compulsive bibliophile, of course, I had to check out their web site to better appreciate what might be displayed in their front window. The funny thing was, it was like they already knew I was coming. Their home page features a fabulous quote from Katrina Meyer: “A book is a magical thing that lets you travel to far-away places without ever leaving your chair.” As it turns out, it’s not only books. It is also Google Earth.

How typical of me to go all the way to Ireland (even virtually) and find a bookshop?!! Not only that. I managed to find a book I really, really wanted too! The book in question is Michael Harding’s The Cloud Where the Birds Rise, with illustrations by Jacob Stack.

Temptation Overdrive

I don’t know how well you know me. Of course, most of you have never been to my house and seen the overcrowded bookshelves, and book piles breeding faster than proverbial rabbits beside my lounge chair (where I currently write), my bed and on my desk overlooking the back garden. If you had been here, you’d probably be screaming at me: “NOOOO Roweeenah! Not another book! You haven’t even read the books you’ve got, and you have more on the way. Have you no self-control?” (Said, of course, as though self-control is the pinnacle of human development, and expanding your mind is a bad thing). You might even say something truly dreadful along the lines of me being crushed to death and buried alive once my teetering book pile finally topples over. Of course, I’ve brought all this disaster on myself. All because I couldn’t say “no!”

However, in my defence, I haven’t ordered the book yet, but who am I kidding? You and I both know the sun’s not going to set today, without me clicking on that irresistible “Buy Now” button.

Michael Harding – Image unashamedly swiped from his podcast

Meanwhile, during this rather pregnant pause between spotting the book and placing my order, I did make a brief attempt at self-control and tried to see inside the book online. That didn’t work, but I did find a podcast where Alan Keane interviewed Michael Harding on The Artists’ Well: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrRYg1hvCh0 Now, I was really hooked, and after enjoying this interview so much, I headed off to absorb Michael Harding’s podcasts (@hardingmichael) and I’ll be lucky to find my way out the front door for the next six months. I’m riveted.

It’s at this point that I finally realize I’ve left my virtual self paused in suspended animation outside Midleton Bookshop. Goodness knows what the proprietors think of having this stranger permanently glued to their front window. Indeed, they’ve probably already had me carted away in the paddy wagon. If I’m lucky, I might just find myself incarcerated down the road from Midleton Workhouse where my 4 x Great Grandmother, Bridget Donovan, ended up during the Great Hunger. She in effect won her golden ticket out of there when she was plucked out of this sea of starving, feverish unfortunates and despatched to Sydney on board the John Knox as one of the Irish Famine Orphan Girls under the Earl Grey Scheme. Indeed, she was even given a trunk of clothing, Bible and necessities to make a decent life for herself on the other side. Chasing Bridget was why I went to Midleton today. I wanted to see where she was from, and walk in her shoes for a bit.

So, I guess this leaves us in suspended animation. Are you familiar with the works (or should I say words and ideas) of Michael Harding? Have you been to Midleton, County Cork, Ireland? Or, perhaps you have some connection to the Irish Famine Orphans who were sent out to Australia? Alternatively, you might just want to say hello and that’s fine too. I’d love to hear from you. Indeed, it would be wonderful to have a cup of tea with you in person, but such is life particularly given the current state of play with covid.

Best wishes,

Rowena Curtin

Weekend Coffee Share 24th January, 2022.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? If you were coming to my place, we’d be sitting out the front wearing masks and sending hand signals. Covid has gone from being “over there” (a common phrase used here in Australia due to our geographical isolation) to being in certain hotspots, and then “out there” but not local. However, now it is here but not here. Loads of friends have had it or have it, but as far as we know, it’s not inside our house, or indeed inside our very own lungs. At least, we think it’s not. I can’t even even smell a RAT let alone buy one.

When I think of covid creeping around like this and the sense of it finally getting hold of you, I’m reminded of a kid’s folk story which was read aloud to me with great inflection and animation. “Who’s Got My Hairy Toe?” There are a few variations of it, but the one I know finishes off very dramatically with the dreaded monster saying: “YOU”VE GOT IT!!!!” I still haven’t forgotten that sense of absolutely leaping out of my skin forty years later, but there’s what this whole lurking omnipresent covid situation feels like right now. Fortunately, some vulnerable people I know (including those with my medical condition) have got through omicron without going to hospital so that is encouraging.

Meanwhile, life goes on.

Most of the news this week relates to our son, who is just a couple of months off his 18th birthday. Last week, he went away to the Church’s youth Summer Camp. This is probably the highlight of his year. He does sound and DJ work usually at camp, which he loves. I don’t know a lot of what happens at camp, and the old adage “what happens at camp stays at camp” applies, although I did chase up covid transmissions afterwards and he was full of stories about the pranks other people were caught up in. While he was away, we got into his room and I was just going to wash the bedding, but before I knew it, I was going a major clean and we were actually able to walk through the joint to install an air-conditioner. This was good, because we were expecting to lock him away in there for a few days after he got back as a precaution. However, when he arrived home he was so animated and full of stories, it was hard to stay away.

Going to Summer Camp isn’t such a thing here in Australia like it is in America and possibly Canada. However, our kids have gone on Scout and youth camps. The first time our son went off to the Scout Jamboree, we received an urgent text warning us that funnel web spiders had been found in two backpacks when they arrived home. Our son promptly removed his pack from his room and dumped it at my feet. I don’t know what madness made him think Mum was the great protector and defender against deadly spiders, especially when HE’S the one who is into spiders. However, kids are always unpredictable and keep putting parents on our toes. There were no spiders in the pack, and hopefully no covid in him now.

It did feel good to get his room sorted, and it’s encouraging me to keep going.

During all this household sorting business, I came across a postcard advertising sailing with the Young Endeavour. The Young Endeavour Youth Scheme, in partnership with the Royal Australian Navy, provides young Australians with a unique, challenging and inspirational experience at sea on board the national sail training ship Young Endeavour. The actual ship is a replica of Captain James Cook’s Endeavour which “discovered” the East Coast of Australia in 1770. These days we are hopefully more sensitive to Australia’s Aboriginality, and that Australia was never “lost”, or a blank canvas, or “terra nullus”. However, that’s another story.

What matters here, is that I actually managed not only to fill out the paperwork, the next day I was notified that he had a berth. On the 21st March, 2022 he sails out of Geelong, Victoria and arrives in Sydney on the 30th nine days later. This means we’ll be driving him down there, and will be there to see him arrive back. This is such good news, because he’s had quite a few significant disappointments and setbacks due to Covid. Most notably, he missed out of his European History Tour in 2020 and that was a very big deal. This, he feels, makes up for that, so now we’re saying our prayers and crossing our fingers that all goes smoothly and he’ll be off. Nothing is a certainty anymore and while I try to be optimistic sometimes I feel doomed. That we might indeed be under an unlucky star. However, usually my spirits lift and our plans aren’t dashed on the rocks after all.

Meanwhile, in between trying to get our daughter organised for heading back to school on February 2nd, I’ve been beavering away on my family history research. I’ve taken January off my WWI research and wasn’t intending to do much research at all but the weather hasn’t been the best, covid’s around and I’m back at it.

My book pile is also growing beside me. These are the books I’ve bought in the last couple of weeks, and a new book pile which is growing beside my writing chair in the loungeroom. This is not the book pile on the coffee table or the book pile I lent to a friend first because I thought she’d get through them all before me. There’s still Kay Arthur’s: “Choosing Joy”, but recent arrival are Tim Hawkes: “Ten Leadership Lessons You Must Teach Your Teenager”. I’m going to start reading that today, and I think the title is just asking for me to read one lesson per day. Jules Sebastian’s book: “Tea and Honesty” arrived today. I couldn’t wait to order that even though I’m well and truly overloaded with books already. She’s married to international musician Guy Sebastian. Guy’s songs are deep and philosophical. Moreover, Jules’s brother committed suicide while they were on their honeymoon, so I think she’ll have some good things to say. There’s also Sally Rooney’s novel: “Normal People”. It’s been around for awhile. Have you read it? Then, there’s Mark Kurzem’s: “The Mascot” which is a WWII Jewish escape story. I loaned it to a friend first and he loved it. Lastly, I’m reading my aunt’s national history of the Stolen Generation to fill background on some of my family history. My great grandfather’s cousins were married to Aboriginal women and living in the Yass Black Camp so I’m trying to find out more about that.

Uncle Roy left and my grandfather on the right. This might’ve been my grandfather’s 90th Birthday.

Lastly, my Great Uncle passed away during the week. I think he was 97 and still lucid. I haven’t seen him for quite awhile. He was the youngest in the family and my grandfather was the eldest and there were four sisters in between. They were born and raised in Hahndorf in South Australia which is like living in a museum in many ways, especially if you are living in one of the original houses on the main street. The Haebich used to have the blacksmith’s shop on Main Road and my grandfather told stories of watching the hot iron wheel plunging into water a steam shooting up. It must’ve been such a spectacle especially back in the days before TV and the Internet. I’m not even sure he went to the movies as a young child. He never mentioned it. Thanks to covid and distance, we won’t be getting down there for the funeral.

The Kids and I outside Haebich’s Cottage 2013

Well, that’s all folks.

How are things with you going? 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