Tag Archives: Buckingham Palace

A Chip Off The Old Block… Friday Fictioneers.

The sea was churning back and forth in George’s stomach. His eyes were turning green, and he didn’t know which way to turn. Whether he could crawl out from beneath the burden of destiny, this pre-ordained future he had no say in. He didn’t want to sit still, drink tea and become a stodgy portrait. Rather, he liked painting rainbows and digging in his veggie patch. Was mesmerised by the magic of watching beans grow. Imagined what it was like to be a tree.  No, when George grows up, he wants to dance and he might even want to sing.

….

100 words.

This story took off with a life of it’s own and I had no intention of writing about little Prince George and his life’s choices. I noticed the chip in the prompt and thought of the number of times I’ve been told that I’m “a chip off the old block”. That I’m very much like my dad. It annoyed me at times, especially when my Dad did his Masters of Creative Writing and pursued a life long goal of writing a book, which as anyone who has been following my blog for more than a week, knows is my goal and I’ve been working hard towards it for the last 10 years. I also look a lot like my Dad, but unlike me, he doesn’t like appearing online and so I can’t share a photo. He’s a mystery man.

I really do feel for people who end up growing up within strong family expectations and shadows and hope they manage to put their own stamp on what they do within those frameworks.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Ted Strutz.

Best wishes,

Rowena

L – London…A-Z Challenge.

“London goes beyond any boundary or convention. It contains every wish or word ever spoken, every action or gesture ever made, every harsh or noble statement ever expressed. It is illimitable. It is Infinite London.”

– PETER ACKROYD, London: The Biograph

Welcome to London on Day 12 of the Blogging A to Z April Challenge. I spent a week in London in August, 1992 while I was “backpacking through Europe” (but mostly based in Heidelberg). Clearly, I don’t know much about London at all. Moreover, I have absolutely pathetic map-reading skills. So, even if I knew the place, I’d still get us lost.

Yet, forging ahead under the stressful demands of the A-Z Challenge, I still had to come up with the goods. So, for awhile there, I was longing for the foolhardiness of youth, where you can know absolutely nothing about a subject, and yet still present yourself as a fully-fledged expert.

So, rather than taking you on an actual tour of London, I decided to focus on what London meant as a cultural epicentre for generations of Australians who went there to get their big break. These included the likes of Dame Edna, the Unmentionable, Clive James and Germaine Greer. It also included my grandmother, concert pianist Eunice Gardiner, who was awarded a scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music, and became part of this cultural exodus. 

1937 London Debut in June

Eunice Gardiner was born on the 24th February, 1918. At the age of 16, she won a scholarship to study at the Royal Academy of Music in London. However, the scholarship didn’t include her living expenses. An enthusiastic fundraising effort was launched, led by Lady Gordon and supported by pianist Frank Hutchens. These efforts culminated in a Testimonial Concert at the Sydney Town Hall on the 6th June, 1935 where she performed  Beethoven’s Waldstein Sonata and works by Liszt. There was never any question of Eunice travelling to London alone. Indeed, her father said he’d “rather throw her to the sharks in Sydney Harbour”. So,  on the 3rd December, 1935 she set off with  her mother on board the Esperance Bay. Four months later, her father died of a heart attack back in Australia, giving some idea of the incredible personal sacrifices performers and their families made to pursue their careers in London. You couldn’t have a foot in both camps.It was all or nothing, and for many that also included their sanity and their very soul.

FT25 Ruby and Eunice

My grandmother (right) and her mother, Ruby Gardiner (McNamara). Ruby was very much the wind beneath her wings!!

Eunice and her mother lived in London for around four years. During this time she performed for the Queen (who we know as the Queen Mother), her hands appeared in the movie Black Eyes and she also had a regular spot performing on BBC TV which came to an abrupt end, when the BBC shut down as soon as war was declared (humph sounds a bit too familiar during this coronacrisis!!)

Pix Eunice TV Screen Test

Press coverage of her time in London on her return reported:

“The highlight of her tour occurred when she played before Queen Elizabeth at a private reception at the home of Lord and Lady Howard de Walden; the function was arranged by Miss Macdonald of the Isles for students and Empire visitors. Miss Gardiner said the Queen was extremely charming , and complimented her on her playing and choice of music. Broadcasting, televising and film work have also come within Miss Gar-diner’s ambit. Miss Gardiner’s film experience was a strange one, as she did not appear on the screen, and her name was not even mentioned. She .provided the music for Mary Maguire in a film entitled Black Eyes, in which Mary, who was supposed to be learning the piano, was playing badly at first, and a three-minute shot was taken of Miss Gardiner’s hands as she played. At first she found she was not playing badly enough for the part ! In the same film she also provided music which the music master was ostensibly playing. In London. Miss Gardiner, said, the midday concerts arranged by Myra Hess at the National Gallery were extremely popular, and only one shilling was charged. Miss Gardiner played at one of these concerts only the day before she left England.” 1.

Eunice crochet group

The Crochet Circle, London. My Great Grandmother (second from the left) is crocheting a shawl for her first grandson, who was born back in Australia while they were away.

Eunice and her mother returned to Sydney on the 23rd March, 1940 partly to escape the war, but also because Eunice was under contract to the A.B.C. for three months, and would be touring Australia with the famed English conductor, Sir Thomas Beeeham.

When my grandmother returned to Australia, I doubt she had any idea of just how long it was going to take to get back to London. Indeed, a full decade had passed. Although she’d planned to go to London in 1948 on her way home from a 12 month stint in New York, a bout of appendicitis and consequent surgery, destroyed those plans.

Of course, there were regrets. London was LONDON.

Eunice returned to London in April 1951 as a music critic for Australian Consolidated Press, and she was one of only two Australian journalists covering the opening of the  Festival of Britain. She was away for three months, and I should also point out that at this point of time, she was married with four children and her mother back home in Australia. I clearly remember her telling me when she was well into her 80’s, how much she loved being spoiled over there. She specifically mentioned having a doorman to open the door for her at the hotel, which clearly didn’t happen as mum back home. As much as she loved her children, she was incredibly driven by her love of music, her career as a pianist and was never one to simply be absorbed by osmosis into domesticity. She ultimately ended up with seven children, and these tensions stayed with her for life, and possibly even beyond the scope of her failing memory. It was never an easy balance.

By comparison, my trip to London seems rather trite. I was only there for a week, and I was only doing touristy things. So, my time in London lacks the gravitas of my time in Paris, which still resonates almost thirty years later.

Geoff Le Pard

Geoff Le Pard and Dog out walking through London. 

In recent years, for me London has become associated with my long-term blogging friend, Geoff Le Pard. I’ve thorough enjoyed his tours of London mostly with Dog. He would clearly do a much better job of guiding you around London. Indeed, a few years ago, we were looking at doing a joint blogging tour of London, after I found an old letter in a London guidebook. I’ve been thinking with the current travel bans, we should resurrect this project and see how far we can take it. After all, it is a rather quirky story of an Australian and an Englishman who’ve never met retracing the footsteps of a mysterious Australian tourist who visited London back in the 1960’s or thereabouts.

Above: Photos Geoff Le Pard.

Anyway, I thought I’d share a few links to Geoff’s posts. Firstly, Geoff and Dog went on their Thames Bridge Walk, from Putney to Tower Bridge. I also love his posts covering London’s street art and thought you might enjoy: Street Art in Shoreditch.

There’s much more of London on Geoff’s blog. However, I’ll have to leave you to it. Daylight is rapidly fading and it’s been a few days since I’ve been on a walk. With all this social isolation, I’ve been going a bit stir crazy as soon as the typing stops.

Have you ever been to London and have something to share? Or, perhaps you call London home. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

References

 

  1. Age (Melbourne, Vic. : 1854 – 1954), Thursday 21 March 1940, page 4

Dog’s Best Friend!

No symphony orchestra ever played music like a two-year-old girl laughing with a puppy- Bern Williams

Have you ever considered why humans became dog’s best friend? Why they chose people over  some other beast? I know it sounds unlikely now. However, way back at the dawn of time,  if dogs and cats had  become best friends instead of enemies, history would not have been history.

So, in the words of scientist Julius Sumner-Miller: Why is it so? Why did dogs choose us?

Another conundrum worth exploring, why is there such a close bond between kids and dogs? Kids pull their tails, dress the dog up in all sorts of clothes, sunglasses and hats and wheel them around the house in the doll’s pram. Yet, despite all of this abuse, the dog still comes back for more. Indeed, dogs are particularly protective of the children in their family.

Why is it so?

Is it, as we humans often like to believe, that dogs love us with a pure, unconditional, altruistic love giving us unfettered affection and undying loyalty? That dogs live and breathe to be with us, love and even adore us?

Or, could it possibly be a case of enlightened self-interest?

I don’t know about you and your dog but our two dogs absolutely live, breathe, think and even see through their stomachs and it’s amazing how their undying love and devotion swells in those gorgeous, puppy dog eyes whenever there’s even a crumb of food around.

My mother-in-law coined the phrase “cupboard love”. She was no fool and not as easily conned as some.

Conversely, when there’s no food around, our dogs are nowhere in sight sleeping like comatose floor rugs, completely oblivious to my existence and that of the entire universe. That is, of course, unless the garbage truck or the posty are going past. Then they mysteriously reincarnate their lifeless fur coats and almost combust in a mad, barking frenzy.

“Properly trained, a man can be a dog’s best friend.”
— Corey Ford (American Humorist)

Lady captures the feral schoolbag.

Lady captures the feral schoolbag.

As much as I am notorious for caving in to pressure and giving tidbits to the dogs, the kids are prime targets, especially their school bags, which house their sadly neglected sandwiches (see my previous post). Being smaller, the kids are also easy targets for food theft as they’re around dog height and also tend to leave food on the floor. Our dogs are accomplished food thieves. Lady has been caught standing on top of the kitchen table scoffing home-made Jamie Oliver Lasagna. Obviously, you can’t knock her taste.

Last night, I caught Lady our gorgeous 2 year old Border Collie/Kind Charles Cavalier in action. She’d not only taken possession of our daughter’s school bag but had also managed to fish out a tasty wrapper.

DSC_6466

Lady ambushes my daughter’s school bag and finds a tasty wrapper.

                                 But…

                                It’s not just about food.

What sort of cat could ever provide us with a kennel like this?

What sort of cat could ever provide us with a kennel like this?

Every dog also needs their own castle and that’s something no cat could ever provide!

The Ultimate Kennel Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

The Ultimate Kennel Photo by DAVID ILIFF. License: CC-BY-SA 3.0

So what’s your verdict? Is it a case of true love? Or do we expose the dog as history’s ultimate cad? Let me know.

xx Rowena