Tag Archives: Central Coast

Gosford Sailing Club…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors.

As I walked through the familiar doors of Gosford Sailing Club for the Australia Day Regatta on Saturday, I pulled out my camera and thought: “You’ll do. That’s Thursday Doors done and dusted.”

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When you visit Gosford Sailing Club, you’ll find the front door is located at 28 Mason Parade, Gosford and the back door and marina, is parked on Brisbane Waters, a vast expanse of stunning blue water ideal for sailing, water sports and the oyster industry.

Gosford Sailing Club started out in 1932 as the Gosford Rowing, Sailing and Motor Club.

By the end of the 1932/33 season the club was referred to as the Gosford and Brisbane Water Aquatic Club and in 1941 it changed its name to the Gosford Sailing Club. It was not the first sailing club to be formed on the Brisbane Water but it is the only club that has survived. If you’re interested in maps and sailing, you can click through HERE/ to a map of Brisbane Waters put out by Marine Rescue.

 

Rather than focusing on doors this week, I thought you’d all appreciate experiencing the Australia Day Sail Past, which took place before the Regatta.

Our son took part in his Flying 11 and when we last caught sight of him, he was on the boat. However, as they say: “never turn your back on the ocean” and our son and many a teenager has much in common with the sea. The next time we see him, his boat is being towed past by the rescue boat with his crew member steering and he’s out the back being towed along on an inflatable donut printed with the Australian Flag. Just to add to the overall look, he was wearing the Australian Flag top hat my husband had bought him.

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Happy as Larry…Our Junior Aussie Larrikin.

However, what I noticed most about him was his smile. He was absolutely beaming. Happy as Larry. That’s something any parent of a teenager is also thrilled to see. After all, life with teenagers can be a bit like life at the top of Enid Blyton’s Magic Faraway Tree. You can never be sure who you’re going to run into.

By the way, our son received the Junior Aussie Larrikin Award at the Awards Presentation later in the day. Parenting a larrikin can be a mixed blessing and it’s not the sort of thing that attracts awards. They’re usually awarded to the kid who can sit still the longest, not the one who climbs the walls. An adult larrikin award was also presented. That character was throwing water from a water bottle at the crowd going past and managed to get both the Commodore and General Manager of the club.

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A Fire in the Sky… taken from Gosford Sailing Club November 2018. 

Quite aside from sailing, Gosford Sailing Club is a fantastic vantage point for photographing magnificent sunsets. Although I have bucket loads of sunset photos stored up on my hard drive, I can’t resist and stand their soaking up all those magnificent golden rays through my lens feeling like I’m in heaven.

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Sea Mists Gosford, Australia Day 2019. 

However, last Saturday afternoon, the sea mist rolled in instead for quite a different and beautifully mysterious experience. Nature is so incredibly beautiful and so ephemeral. Never the same.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed our visit to Gosford Sailing Club. This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Exploring Pearl Beach, Australia.

Although I’m not far off hitting a half century, I still haven’t lost a child-like appreciation for the tiny rock pools and their ephemeral cast of creatures ranging from small to the miscroscopic. Indeed, I still can’t resist the temptation to stick my finger in the water and poke something. I love fixating on a snail looking for any possible signs of movement, even if it was only a tad of a micro-millimetre. While such rock pools are nowhere big enough to be an octopus’s garden, they have that same sense of awe and magic.

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Limpet in a rock pool. 

Yesterday, Geoff and I drove to Pearl Beach, which is about 15 minutes drive away. When you look at the featured image, the row of buildings on the adjacent beach is pretty close to home. Map of Pearl Beach

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In typical fashion, I’d mixed up the date of the Pearl Beach Food & Wine Festival and we turned up a week late only to find an art exhibition in the hall instead and a half-hour wait for fish & chips. Hence, we ended up walking along the beach and onto the rocks. Well, at least our feet were doing the walking while our eyes were out on stalks with the camera at the ready. That’s right. I’m talking about a real Nikon SLR camera with a zoom lens and not one of those pathetic excuses for a camera AKA your mobile phone.

Pearl Beach North

Pearl Beach, NSW. 

Personally, I don’t need much encouragement to find spectacular beauty in the everyday, especially when it looks like this. However, knowing that people on the opposite side of the world who’ve never been to Australia, will get to share in these places through my blog, has helped me  to appreciate our everyday yet  incredible, unique beauty through fresh eyes.

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Rock Platform, Pearl Beach. 

Pearl Beach is located 92 km north of Sydney on the NSW Central Coast and about a 15 minute drive from Woy Woy of Spike Milligan fame. Nestled away from civilization via a steep winding road through the National Park, Pearl Beach has a smattering of beach houses hiding in the bush and a community hall which forms the social hub. Real estate prices are comparatively steep and Pearl Beach has become a bit of a hide out for the rich and famous where they appear remarkably understated, blending into the landscape. There’s also a very strong artistic influence and writers and artists are lurking in the undergrowth, cafe or somewhere along the beach and rock pools. I used to take my kids to playgroup there where Santa would turn up on a vintage fire truck siren blaring. There’s also a yoga group meeting there, which I’m planning to try out in a few weeks after the school holidays. Somehow yoga in Pearl Beach has added appeal and I’ll let you know how that pans out.

Pearl Beach Swimming Pool

Pearl Beach Pool

Speaking about our trip to Pearl Beach, we had an unexpected detour on the way home. We spotted a sign for an art and garage sale down a side street just before we drove back up the hill towards civilization. If you’ve got to know me at all, you’ll know that I’m an op shop and garage sale junkie and I’m hugely into retro and antiques. Indeed, I’m not really from the modern era.

Orange Table

This table is just begging for a serving of bacon and eggs. 

So, I was delighted to spot a vintage laminex table with original chairs which took me time travelling back to my childhood. I’m sure we had a table and chairs something like that…or perhaps it was my grandparents’. I could almost feel my small self trying to heave myself up and onto the seat…such a battle when you’re toddling around. I managed to resist the table but I did by an antique picture frame which has waratah’s carved into the wood, a wooden box with compartments inside to help me get more organized, an Oroton bag for $5.00 (you beauty!!) and a Companion to Henry Lawson Fifteen Stories, which has a lot of incredible insights into one of Australia’s greatest writers and a few good writing tips thrown in as well. It was written in 1959 and it’s currently sitting right beside me and I want to read and work through it immediately before it gets buried in my other good intentions.

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Garage Sale.

While there’s no photographic proof, a certain no-name violinist gave an impromptu recital at the garage sale to demonstrate a violin which was up for sale. Of course, the identity of this bold, shameless violinist remains a mystery but if you read in between the lines, you might be able to work it out. BTW the demo might’ve had a negative effect because as far as I know, the violin didn’t sell.

So, we ended up having quite an unexpected trip to Pearl Beach and today my husband went back to the garage sale and bought our son a surfboard. Looks like he’ll be extending his wings from sailing on still water to taking on the waves. Bring it on.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Moon Rising…Love and Loss.

Today, marked the end of an era.

Or, should I say, yesterday.

The clock has not long past midnight. No matter how much I try to pause time, it is now officially Wednesday. Tuesday is well and truly done and dusted. It’s been put to bed. Tucked in and even had its goodnight kiss…and a story!

So, what we’re really talking about is yesterday…Tuesday 5th May, 2015.

Yesterday, my parents sold their place at Palm Beach and our home away from home has gone.

Of course, we can still visit Palm Beach and it is only a 30 minute ferry trip away but it won’t be the same. I certainly felt I belonged there. That somehow I’d absorbed, even inhaled, that magnificent view across Pittwater, especially at sunset when the rose-orange lights swept across the water. That the outside had moved inside, becoming a part of myself.You know how it is when everything around you takes on a sort of spiritual significance and what you see, feel, hear, touch and small somehow get etched into your soul? It doesn’t happen every day.

Therefore, not unsurprisingly, I feel like I have left such a huge part of myself behind. That I am now some modern reincarnation of Keat’s La Belle Dame Sans Merci whose been relocated to the beach, where I’m left roaming along the mudflats with the soldier crabs.

After all, it’s hard when you’ve put down roots. When you pull them out of the ground to move on, you can’t but leave bits of you behind, which you can never get back. They’re tied to the soil, buried and have become a part of that place.

Once upon a time, I would have been totally and utterly devastated. Sunk into a full-blown catastrophe and threatened to lock myself in my room for eternity. Indulging and indeed fuelling my angst, by playing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and reading Keats. He was quite a jolly fellow after all, wasn’t he?!!

Although I’ve matured a little, I have been locked in a fierce debate with myself. I know that I should be grateful for the time we had there. Two years in Palm Beach, albeit part-time, is an absolute dream come true but it’s awakened something in my soul, which doesn’t want to be extinguished. It’s fighting like mad to survive and yet I just don’t understand what it is. Emotions never talk in neon signs and the views of the heart are often cryptic and difficult to interpret at best!!

I hoping I can still hold onto this and somehow take it forward.

However, this closure has reminded me of that age-old question: Is it better to have loved and lost that never to have loved at all? Is it better to stay safe or to have a taste of heaven and then have it suddenly snatch away?

It’s such a wrench…especially when you have lost someone you love more than life itself and for whatever reason, there is no return.

My approach has always been to move on. Find someone else. Take what you enjoyed about this place and enjoy it where you are. We actually live ten minutes walk to a glorious beach and we’ve brought the kayaks and Laser back home so we can still do our water sports. That said, I’ll really miss the friends I have made over there and what it meant for me to have an escape hatch. Moreover, we all know that the rebound often just compounds the hurt!

Geoff and Miss watching the moon rise.

Geoff and Miss watching the moon rise.

Tonight, it was a glorious full moon. We’d dropped Mister off for his Scout hike and stopped in at the lookout to turn around and chanced upon this…the moon rising over the Central Coast, just North of Sydney. I’d never thought of the rising moon as being symbolic of hope and new birth before but that was it’s message tonight. It reassured me that everything is going to be okay. It’s not the end of the world. You’re not going to die.

Indeed, being a bit philosophical about this difficult change, I am aware that by spending so much time in one place, we’ve actually narrowed our horizons quite significantly. Instead of looking out and seeing the world, we’ve been swimming round and round inside a very small pond. Although we still haven’t explored every nook and cranny, the rest of the world awaits. Indeed, there is even so much to explore right at home, which has been simply overlooked. There are also so many other places and I’ve never seen myself as a John Howard-like character. Our former Prime Minister has been spending his annual holidays at Hawk’s Nest ever since the Big Bang. As much as I love the comfort of the familiar and being a quasi local, I’ve always seen myself as more of an explorer.

And so I have quite mixed feelings as one chapter closes and another begins. It’s time to carpe diem seize the day, instead of being afraid.

Bring it on…but please give me a little head start. I’d like to be prepared!
How have you dealt with difficult transitions in your life? Please share
.

xx Rowena

A Drowned Rat in the Sydney Storm

Welcome to our nightmare.

We have spent the last three days being battered by cyclonic winds and extremely heavy rain. While we didn’t lose power, we’ve had a tree fall on the clothes line. The roofing in the back room started a quest for freedom and Geoff was up on the roof battening down the hatches. A glass panel also broke in the louver windows out the front and he had to stick up a sheet of plastic to keep the rain out. We also went through a staggering cast of towels, which soaked up water flowing in underneath the front door. For awhile there, my computer was even being protected by a beach towel draped over the top like a tent.

Geoff was up the ladder at the height of the storm fixing the roof.

Geoff was up the ladder at the height of the storm fixing the roof.

If you want to get a taste for it and walk in our shoes then:

1) Get a fire hose.Turn it onto full bore.

2) Add an industrial-strength turbo fan.

3) Throw in a bucket of beach sand.

4) Turn these all on at once and stand in front.

5) Have a blast!

Fallen tree branch down the street.

Fallen tree branch down the street.

That describes the physical impact.

However, there’s also the psychological impact…the fear. that deep-seated, incredible fear. The wind is whirling and howling outside with such terrifying force and the house is rattling, shaking and flapping and rain’s getting in places it’s never been before. After all, we live in a house not a leaky sieve! The force of the wind was so strong that I had to push the front door shut to close it. I am still shaking inside, not wanting to venture out and just wanting to wrap myself up in a huge doona and hibernate in the house like a bear. Actually, digging a deep cave underneath the house (something like a tornado shelter)  sounds even better!

Ocean Beach, Umina. The surf here is usually fairly calm so this churning mass is quite exceptional!

Ocean Beach, Umina. The surf here is usually fairly calm so this churning mass is quite exceptional!

That said, we ventured out yesterday afternoon to take some photos around town in between blows. There were fallen trees all over the place and streets and footpaths had been turned into instant duck ponds. At a local park, the shade sail had been savagely torn and was flapping around like a lunatic.Rows of bins had been blown around and were lying beside the road like rows of fallen soldiers. Indeed, our garbage truck had turned up right at the height of the storm and Geoff was out there holding it up so the track’s huge metal arm could lift it up and empty the waste. My goodness. Even that was an ordeal!

I'd do anything for a photo- including venturing out into the rain but Geoff was the wind beneath my wings.

I’d do anything for a photo- including venturing out into the rain but Geoff was the wind beneath my wings.

Just in case you think my penchant for hyperbole has gone into overdrive and my aversion to rain has clouded my judgement, the winds were gusting at up to 135 kph and in places 200 mm of rain fell in less than 24 hours. It was so bad that the kids’ school has been closed for two days. This has never happened before. Business in the area has virtually come to a stand still as well due to blackouts and fallen trees. It’s become something of a war zone.

Rubbish bins thrown around beside the road.

Rubbish bins thrown around beside the road. The sand has been swept in from the beach across the road.

I’m still shaking. Tomorrow, the kids are due back at school and I just don’t know. It doesn’t feel safe. After going through all of this, it’s only natural to want to keep my chicks safe in the nest. Right now, even stepping out the front door still feels terrifying. Dangerous.

Local bins.

Local bins.

Joked to a friend on the eve of the storm that I’d never survive in a cold climate.That I’d be stuck in the house for 9 months of the year. I mean…I even struggle with heavy rain. It’s my kryptonite. However, this was no ordinary rain storm. Even the authorities ordered people to stay indoors and only undertake essential travel. That’s more than rain phobia. It’s a severe storm.

Shade sail torn to shreds at the local park.

Shade sail torn to shreds at the local park.

After going through all of this and feeling rather ragged, avoidance is a luxury I don’t have. School’s open tomorrow and I need to get the show back on the road. Throw myself back out the door and put the rattles to rest.

Geoff out in the storm at Ocean Beach.

Geoff out in the storm at Ocean Beach.

It’s all very well to know the importance of confronting your fears and how this actually causes them to shrivel up and die but you still need to take up the challenge. Those aren’t somebody else’s shoes that I need to step into but my own. I’ve conquered mountains but now I simply have to do is step out the door but won’t be easy. That said given the usual morning chaos, I’ll probably be too rushed to even think about fear. Switched to autopilot, I’ll simply do it.

After all, a little bit of rain is hardly the end of the world!

Flags flapping in the storm.

Flags flapping in the storm.

This has been S for Sydney Storm for the Blogging from A-Z Challenge.

xx Rowena

Homeward Bound: Palm Beach to Ettalong.

No doubt, all weekends away end up feeling like Cinderella’s horrific crash landing after the ball. You’re back in rags, your coach is a pumpkin and both you and Prince Charming are so quite what you used to be.

My weekend in Palm Beach was no different and once I’d polished off that divine chocolate cake and all that luscious chocolate sauce, I was on borrowed time and the clock was really ticking.

Tick-tock..tick-tock…tick! TICK! BZZ!!!!!! Game Over!!!!!

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However, as the rain and wind whipped around, a lingering doubt emerged. Could the ferry service actually be cancelled?

If so, how on earth was I going to get home?

No ferry would stretch the 30 minute journey home into an extremely long, arduous, meandering journey involving 2 buses, 2 trains and not only a packed lunch but also dinner and possibly even a midnight snack.

This was obviously a serious concern!!

However, as if I would travel all that way when I could just stay another night and wait until the storm cleared! Yeah, right!! I could just imagine how well that would go down! There I was living it up in Palm Beach while Geoff had been at work and taxiing the kids around and then he’d be having to take time off work as well to get them to school. Yes, I’d be extremely popular!!

Indeed, it could even be grounds for divorce!

We’ve been on some pretty ragged rides on the ferry before, crossing the high seas where the waves loomed like skyscrapers overhead and our beloved ferry felt more like Scuffy the Tugboat, seemingly tossed like a salad in the ferocious  surf.  Of course, the kids who have a real penchant for melodrama, were freaking out about sinking, drowning and, of course,  even dying while the ferry plowed on through the drenching rain and heavy winds. Ghostly white and sitting on our laps wrapped up in our arms, the kids are vowing never to catch the ferry again. That was a few years ago now before they became intrepid sea scouts!

The ferry service was cancelled for the rest of the day after that.

I was concerned about the ferry being cancelled on Sunday too.  Sure, I know we’re not crossing notorious Bass Strait of Sydney to Hobart Yacht Race fame but the weather still gets wild enough. Wild enough to cancel the ferry. That’s right. There comes a point when even the most intrepid Palm Beach Ferry Captains hang up their hats and stay on terra firma.

However, I’m in luck. The ferry is running and although the weather is a little rough and wet, it remains quite civilised.

Sunset Palm Beach Wharf...so pleased that bird dropped into the shot!

Sunset Palm Beach Wharf…so pleased that bird dropped into the shot!

A friend from Church drops me off at the wharf with 15 minutes to spare where I can enjoy watching some people fishing while the sun sets. I am reminded of Ernest Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea. However, the keen fisherperson is a woman and she knows her stuff. With the precision of a plastic surgeon, she wraps up a cooked prawn in some plastic netting salvaged from a bag of fruit and pushes the hook through. That prawn won’t come off without a fight, so the fish will have to work a bit harder tonight if they want a free feed!!

At 6.15pm, this is the last ferry and in contrast to yesterday’s rowdy party atmosphere, the ferry is almost empty. There’s just a few weekend stragglers on board and pure silence. You could even meditate it was that quiet. Talk about a contrast!! We all sit inside…even me who is all but always out there on deck pushing the limits with my camera. Too wet, too windy and way too bumpy tonight. Time to take it all in through the rain-stained window.

The View through the Window- Palm Beach Ferry.

The View through the Window- Palm Beach Ferry.

As the ferry started approached Ettalong Wharf, I was looking out for Geoff and the kids and really looking forward to their enthusiastic greetings: “Mummy! Mummy!” and finding out how their scout camps went. These are the sort of exciting moments you live for as a parent: warm, gutsy hugs, smiles, laughter and a thousand stories all spilling out at once. That’s the thing about going away. As much as you protest against the homeward journey, we all know: “There’s no place like home!!”

The Palm Beach Ferry returns to near deserted wharf at Ettalong as the weekend draws to a close.

The Palm Beach Ferry returns to near deserted wharf at Ettalong as the weekend draws to a close.

However, when the ferry pulled into the wharf, there was no one there. The wharf was empty, deserted and not even a sign of our car anywhere. No enthusiastic waves. No hugs. No Mummy!!! Just the sun setting over a deserted beach and the sounds of the wind and the surf.

I knew I was being a bit ridiculous, especially after it was me who actually went away for the weekend. However, there was this residual small voice which I’d thought had disappeared long ago:

“Nobody loves me!”

It’s not that I’m looking for sympathy or even a chorus of: “where were they? Why weren’t they there to pick you up? How dare they!” I mean…it’s not like I cried or anything. However, after building up the big greeting all the way home and really looking forward to seeing the rest of the family, I did feel a bit sad, forgotten and (drum roll)  ABANDONED!!

Serves me right for going away for the weekend without them. This was karma and a taste of what it’s really like to be alone.

As it turned out, the family wasn’t far away and had got held up at scouts. Geoff and the kids had been unloading boats, kayaks and all sorts of paraphenalia from their weekend competing at the Sirius Cup at Sydney’s Balmoral Beach. That’s all. Nothing sinister!

Mister poking out his tongue while scouting at the Sirius Cup, Balmoral Beach.

Mister poking out his tongue while scouting at the Sirius Cup, Balmoral Beach.

Mister had had great fun and made it into the finals for the C2 at the Sirius Cup, which means a 2 person canoe. We were so proud..particularly as he’d overcome his fear of sharks and other nasties and gone for it!! Miss had done really well at her Cub leadership course too. However, there are unfortunately no photos.

A reflective moment during scout camp.

A reflective moment during scout camp.

It’s been a fabulous weekend. Absolutely fabulous!!

Geoff even managed to watch the Grand Prix! Unfortunately, it wasn’t Australian race champion, Daniel Riccardo’s day.

Boo who! Tomorrow…it’s back to yet another manic Monday morning. I’m going to need a pretty strong coffee to get me going. It’s going to be like raising the Titanic.

The Monday morning salvage routine is going to be tough!!

The Monday morning salvage routine is going to be tough!!

xx Rowena (and a few extra kilos after that chocolate cake!!)

 

Crime in the Quiet Carriage.

Breathe! Keep breathing! Remain calm!

But I can’t. I’m wound up. Seriously agitated and my brain is rapidly heating up, about to reach boiling point. No amount of relaxation, mindfulness or psycho-babbling positive self-talk is working. A rapidly ticking bomb, I’m about to go off. No small explosion either. This is definitely way beyond a small or even a medium-sized bang and rapidly accelerating passed a big one too. We’re talking a nuclear explosion… right here right now at this very precise tick of the clock.

Stop talking! This is a quiet carriage!!!

Stop talking! This is a quiet carriage!!!

There must be worse crimes against humanity than talking in the quiet carriage but right now, nothing comes to mind.

Before you start thinking I’m the psychopath, just let me just tell you that I’m on my way down to Royal North Shore Hospital to have a long awaited MRI of my brain. My neurologist hasn’t ordered this test for fun or as some kind of high-tech photo shoot. No, you seriously don’t have an MRI of your brain for fun and there’s definitely not going to be any smiling for the camera either. As if being covered in a white sheet and shut inside a white plastic tunnel being bombarded with weird electronic noises isn’t bad enough, they’re jabbing me somewhere with a needle.

Having a brain MRI. Covered in a white, sheet you disappear inside a white tunnel. Get bombarded by all sorts of jalting, beeping electronic noises. jabbed and then you're free to go home...you hope!

Having a brain MRI. Covered in a white, sheet you disappear inside a white tunnel. Get bombarded by all sorts of jalting, beeping electronic noises. jabbed and then you’re free to go home…you hope!

They’ve jabbed me with THAT needle before. They jabbed me right in the head, injecting radioactive isotopes straight into my shunt. I tell you, I’m a veteran of jabs and I’ve survived brain surgery and chemo but that jab in the head has no equal. It involved absolute and utterly excruciating pain. I can assure you, there’s some now graduated medical student out there who still bears the scars of near crucifixion in their hands. I dug holes in his soft, polished flesh with my unkept but piercing fingernails.

So here I am getting on the train thinking about the pain, the possible outcomes and how I’m even going to make it to the hospital as I’ve spent the best part of the last month in bed and traveling for almost 2 hours is a huge undertaking in itself. I don’t know what’s going on with me. Either I’m dying, or I’ve finally succumbed to the dark side of the force. I addressed this in a previous post: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/terminal-cyberchondria-yes-please/

Maybe after this monster test is over, the sun will come out again and this will all seem like a distance dream. A black cloud mysteriously scudding across an azure sky which suddenly disappears like magic…a miracle! I’ll go back to my life of champagne and…My goodness! Who am I kidding? We all know real life is no commercial break!

Being such a long train trip, I’m expecting to makes serious inroads on Booker Prize Winner  Richard Flannegan’s Death of A River Guide. Given the intensity and chaos of the MRI plus trying to juggle the kids and all their activities, this train trip is bordering on a sacred journey. I so desperately need peace and quiet and a lot of thought went into choosing the right book for the trip as well. I’ve been flicking through a couple of books over the last couple of days trying to work out where to head next. I’ve read two other Richard Flannegan’s lately and decided he was a pretty safe bet and I was seriously looking forward to both losing and finding myself in a good book. A want which had transcended into something of a desperate need. A cry of the soul.

However, instead of finding myself inside the much anticipated and heavily sign posted quiet carriage, this place is  more like a crowded pub during Happy Hour or even a flipping circus with clowns…wild clowns. There is raucous chatter everywhere..even laughter. How dare they?!! Harlots!

Welcome to the Quiet Carriage!!

Welcome to the Quiet Carriage!!

Alright, so I exaggerate a little. While there was some loud chatter down the other end of the carriage, there was one particular loud mouthed foreignor talking four times as loud as your average Joe talking with his friends…a group of seniors in case you’re about to blame the insensitive youth of today. Unfortunately, I was sitting right behind them. I soon started thinking about asking them to be quiet and pointing out the quite carriage signs which were clearly signposted throughout the carriage. I also thought about talking to the guard.

However, a few of my friends have mentioned the maniacs in the quiet carriages. The so-called “Noise-Nazis” who have a nervous breakdown over the sound of even the slightest pinhead of a pin being dropped. I like to be classified as the “nice woman” and not one of THEM…even by these totally rude, self-centred strangers I’m never, ever going to see again. Instead of being the bad guy, I chose the stoic high road…to suffer in silence. Of course, I could’ve alerted the guard if I’d been more nimble on my feet. They have a special announcement recorded for the socially inept. It goes something along the lines of: “This is a quiet carriage…If you want to talk, move to another carriage.”

I did consider moving to another seat or even try the standard carriage but it was all too hard. There wasn’t another seat and I’m not that steady on my feet. I couldn’t risk trying to change carriages while the train was in motion, even with my walking stick in hand. So instead, I sat as still and as silent as a marble statue…fuming. Fuming some more. I could feel the flames burning in my head. Smoke bellowing out my ears. I was mad. Irate. Furious. This was pure, unadulterated train rage.

Grannies show an umbrella can also come in handy!

Grannies show an umbrella can also come in handy!

In retrospect, I should’ve just taken a leaf out of my grandmother’s book. She would have bopped the lot of them on the head with her walking stick and told them in no uncertain terms that they were in the quiet carriage. “Are you blind? Can’t you read the signs?!!” My grandmother was pretty handy with her stick. What’s more, if she’d bopped them, she would have gotten away it.  After all, she was just a sweet, little old lady. There would have been no court appearances and not even the shout of “guard”! They would have taken their punishment and zipped it. Shown a bit of respect.

Me, on the other hand? One strike of my walking stick and I knew I’d be dragged off the train by armed guards and loaded into a paddywagon bound for greener pastures.

However, in the end someone else stepped in and played bad cop. Yet, this lot of seniors proved themselves a real bunch of reprobates.  They might have zipped it for about 2 seconds, which for this lot even felt like a very pregnant pause, and then continued bellowing through their inbuilt megaphones. You wouldn’t believe it. One of their phones even started to ring and of course another loud voice starts booming throughout the entire carriage. It wasn’t just a case of hello and goodbye either…more of a conversation and as far as I was concerned, quite the life story.

As I said, I know there have been worse crimes against humanity than talking in the quiet carriage but at this point in time nothing came to mind.

After reading and re-reading the same line of my book a hundred times over, I gave up on my book and surrendered to the noise.

Finally, we all alighted at Hornsby Station.

However, as the saying goes, it could always be worse. Aside from country trains passing through, there are no quiet carriages on Sydney trains. You just had to put up and shut up and if you don’t have the luxury of a seat, you also enjoy the thrill of having your nose jammed in a stranger’s armpit as well.

Anyway, after changing trains at Hornsby, I’m now heading down the North Shore Line on my home turf.

By now, I think we’d already established that lady luck wasn’t on my side. Of course, I had timed my train trip to perfection. Yes, it was home time for the hundreds and thousands of noisy, smelly, sweaty school kids who all piled onto my train as it stop started down the line. By this stage, all hope of reading my book was gone. Instead, I became the observer. I must say teenagers intrigue me. Potentially much more fun than the seniors yapping on about their super on the last trip.

I occasionally used to catch trains like this when I was at school…an all girls school. I must have been a bit older than this crowd because we were always conscious of the boys on the train and this lot seemed rather oblivious or perhaps it’s just that they didn’t have Hugh Jackman on their train. We did.

There were no looks, glances or giggles. Each group was its own island surrounded by their own impenetrable shark-infested sea. Ironically, the groups were arranged boys, girls, boys, girls throughout the carriage in their different uniforms. It all looked very strange to me and I felt like I’d landed in some weird, foreign universe. Why weren’t these teenagers all talking with each other? Did all these same kids catch the same train every afternoon sitting in the same “reserved” seats never giving each other more than a sideways glance?

The only thing standing in between them all was different uniforms and yet aren’t we all one human race? You wouldn’t think so. That said, we all know men are from Mars and women are from Venus…even my 8 year old daughter. She and her friends have been “at war” with the boys at school a fair bit lately.

If I could’ve had my way, I would’ve introduced all these kids to each other and tried to build some common ground. Not to play cupid or to nurture teenage romance helping some self-conscious souls find true love, but rather to begin a diologue and cross a divide that starts with different uniforms and extends to gender, skin tone, class, disability and results in war.

If only the problems of the world could all be solved on a simple train ride to Sydney, the world would be a much better place!!

PS As soon as we arrived at the hospital, we heard the dreadful, tragic news that Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes had passed away after a bouncer hit him in the neck, stopping blood flow to his brain. Being a brain surgery survivor myself and being in this really intense state prior to my brain MRI, the news hit me seriously hard. Hughes and his family and friends were no longer strangers but part of our neuro community and I loved them all with my entire heart..especially Sean Abbott who just happened to bowl the devastating ball. I send you love from the  very bottom of my heart!!

What a Wonderful World!

What absolute impertinence! Just who does she think she is? A virtuoso?

There I was performing What A Wonderful World with virtuoso violinist Ian Cooper and for a few brief moments, the world really was wonderful.

Wonderful but I must confess that I was actually playing along to a CD. Moreover, I could only manage a couple of very precious notes. That didn’t matter. I was in seventh heaven. I might have been a legend in my own lunchbox but I didn’t care. I was living the dream, even if I was only nibbling away at the very edges of the crust.

You see, even playing these few, very precious notes was a real turning point for me.

My violin and I have been experiencing something of a lover’s tiff lately. I had been practicing so hard and yet I just kept making mistakes. I wasn’t getting anywhere and to make matters worse, everyone around me was really flourishing and it felt like I was rapidly being left behind. My teacher has been very encouraging and I’ve looked back to appreciate how far I’ve come but there’s still been that frustration. That sinking sense of despair.

Last year, I was really encouraged by the idea that it took 10,000 hours of practice to become a concert violinist. That if I do indeed practice, practice, practice, I’ll eventually get there even if I’m in a nursing home by that point.

However, the way I’ve been playing lately, I’ve been starting to wonder whether the magic 10,000 hours of practice would actually make any difference. Am I going to be stuck at this point forever never getting any better?

Soon, I found myself accelerating down that dreadful, downward spiral.

“I’m hopeless. Can’t do it! What a loser! Perhaps, I just don’t have what it takes.”

We can’t be good at everything. Yet, when I started playing the violin, I thought I’d found a missing part of myself. That there was a violin buried somewhere deep inside my heart, within my soul. We were bound together, inter-connected…one.

An unlikely duo...the Troll and Smurf Ensemble.

An unlikely duo…the Troll and Smurf Ensemble.

This etching appeared in the London Illustrated News January 6, 1883.

This etching appeared in the London Illustrated News January 6, 1883.

I love my violin so much that I’ve even been buying what I call “violin miscellania” on eBay. I’ve managed to find a smurf and even a little troll who are playing the violin. I’ve also bought some ornate 19th century etchings.

Moreover, I’ve photographed my violin and I even had Geoff take photos of me playing my violin  (actually pretending to play) in front of the Byron Bay Lighthouse. I looked quite the professional although I was a bundle of paralyzed nerves when someone asked me if I was going to play.

Playing my violin at the Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay

Playing my violin at the Cape Byron Lighthouse, Byron Bay

As you can see, I love my violin!!

So if I am that passionate about the violin, how could I ever let it go? Give it up without a fight? Surely, I couldn’t get it that sense of connection wrong but now it was starting to strain, rip and tear, I wasn’t so sure. It takes two to tango and as much as I loved my violin, I wasn’t too sure about its feelings for me. I was getting a lot of mixed, if not downright negative signals and I could feel the relationship straining. We were ripping and tearing apart.

After all my hard work and many, many hours of practice and all the love that I’d poured into that ungrateful instrument, was this it? Was it over? Were we actually breaking up?

I simply wasn’t good enough.

Surely, not?!! I still had a bit of fight left. If only I tried a little bit harder, I could get there.

I persevered and I persevered but there was no big breakthrough.

Actually, it’s all been rather heartbreaking. I might be a grown up and all but I still just wanted to cry.

I know learning the violin isn’t like cooking 2 minute noodles. You just can’t add water. Chuck it in the microwave. Hey presto! You’re up on stage at the Sydney Opera House. Besides, water and microwaves do very nasty things to unsuspecting violins…almost as good as a match.

Yes, I know it takes at least 10,000 hours of practice to succeed. I also understand that the violin is a notoriously difficult instrument to learn, particularly at first.

Yet, that doesn’t help.

It is soul destroying when my violin squeaks like a mouse being strangled. I hate it when I keep bumping strings, playing two strings at once. Worse still, it drives me completely nuts when I’m trying to play two strings at once doing double stops and I can’t do it. Why is it that when I want to play two strings, I can only play one and when I want to play one I seem to play two? This instrument is doing my head in.

I must also confess that I haven’t quite been keeping up with my practice lately. Last year, I was routinely practising for about an hour a day (You have to practice hard when you pick up an instrument at 42 instead of age 4. That’s many, many hours of practice I have to catch up on!!) Yet, it just hasn’t been coming together and I must confess that I’ve been watching The Voice lately and have been just a little distracted.

So I confess. Yes, I haven’t been practice, practice, practicing after all. I’ve slacked off.

Shame! Shame! Shame!

Perhaps, that could indeed explain my stagnation.

Anyway, on Sunday my daughter and I went to a fabulous local concert featuring concert pianist Simon Tedeschi and virtuoso violinist Ian Cooper. I thought long and hard before inviting Miss along to the concert. She’s only just turned seven and the concert went for two hours but she loves music and the tickets were very affordable. You see the concert was held at a local nursing home and was part of the Musica Viva series sponsored by Lend Lease. It was also a very relaxed environment for Miss’s first formal concert. Ian Cooper made a captivating host throwing in comical snippets about his musical travels overseas (encounters with gypsies on the continent and meeting a group of Irish fiddlers sinking Guiness and then playing with them in an Irish pub). The elderly lady next to me was singing along not so quietly to some of the Gershwin numbers and my daughter was struggling to get her iPod to work and was reading her rainbow fairy novel towards the end. The audience clapped along at times and there was even a bit of movement in the seats. After all, how can you possibly sit still when you are experiencing such amazing music? No! You have to respond!

It is hard to think about adjectives to describe these magnificent musicians. I am just an incredibly humble, beginner violinist and I learned the piano way too many moons ago. James Morrison, who has to be the undisputed King of Jazz in Australia and beyond, wrote: “Putting Tedeschi and Cooper together is like mixing nitro with glycerine-an explosion of musical virtuosity”. They played an incredible range of music from classical Bach through to jazz, Irish jigs and Gypsy music.  I can’t really comment much on the piano side of things. However, I was watching Ian Cooper very closely, astounded as his fingers danced on the strings performing absolute magic. I have been playing for 18 months now and still find fourth finger challenging. Ian’s fingers moved well up the fingerboard, which for me, is such a long, long way from home. It’s like flying a rocket to the moon when you’re only on your learner’s permit.

I must also say that Ian exceeded all of my wildest expectations when he announced that he wasn’t just going to play 2 strings at once but all four and he pulled his bow apart and wrapped the horsehair around the strings and actually played beautiful music. I was absolutely gobsmacked!!

Anyway, despite my vows of being more frugal, I burst through the door at interval heading for the CD sales. Before I knew it, I was handing over all my spending money for the week and had bought 3 CDs. This is fairly extreme behavior on my part because I only own a handful of CDs but I had to have them. I had to take this performance home and immerse myself in all that lush, beautiful music. Seize the moment forever!

Anyway, there I was on Monday morning listening to Ian Cooper playing What A Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong fame, when I reached for my violin and started to pick out a few notes and played along. A humble beginner, I was now playing with Ian. Well, I have to admit it was only a couple of notes because Ian sort of wove this magic that transformed this piece of music into something I can’t describe.  Suffice to say that it was way too brilliant for this little beginner. All the same, I really did enjoy our “duet”. It was absolutely awesome! A real hoot!! I was definitely laughing on the inside…especially after all my violin battles lately. I felt that maybe…just maybe…my violin was starting to like me again.

Yes, I know I’m dreaming but when you open my violin book…preliminary grade… there is a quote from violinist Yehudi Menuhin:

“To play great music, you must keep your eyes on a distant star.”

Yes, Ian Cooper might be a very distant star. A star in a some far off galaxy. Yet, I’m on my way a few notes at a time and it’s quite okay to be a legend in your own lunchbox after all.

I encourage you to visit Simon Tedeschi’s website www.simontedeschi.com where you can listen to a few teasers and read some of his articles or visit Ian Cooper at www.iancooper.com Better yet, try to see them live in concert together. They really were a sensation!

Yes, it really is a wonderful world.

xx Rowena

1960's melamine pencil lead holder from m violin collection.

1960’s melamine pencil lead holder from my violin collection.