Tag Archives: childhood

The Great Australian Dream…Thursday Doors

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors just please don’t look at the calendar. It’s already Saturday afternoon and if I don’t hop to it, soon it will be Sunday.

There’s no point going back to yesterday, because I was a different person then.”

Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

This week, we’re jumping into our time machines and setting the clock back to 1971 when my parents bought their first home at 101 Coonanbarra Road, Wahroonga in suburban Sydney. I was two years old and they’d been renting a flat in Rose Bay in Sydney’s Eastern Suburbs. However, Mum was expecting my brother and I was getting to an age where I apparently needed a backyard.

However, while these were practical and heartfelt considerations, consciously or unconsciously, my parents were pursuing the Great Australian Dream of owning your own home parked on the suburban quarter acre block along with the Hills Hoist (washing line), Victa lawnmower, backyard BBQ and the lone family car parked in the driveway.

However, this Australian dream had a rather narrow vision. The prescribed family was  comprised of a married Mum and Dad, a pigeon pair of kids, and no divorce. Australia was still under the influence of the White Australia Policy. So, our Great Australian Dream also had a lot of inbuilt flaws and was racist, sexist and completely excluded our Indigenous Australians.

 

The Unmade Road John Brack.jpg

John Brack, The Unmade Road

Moreover,, while many Australians aspired to this domestic ideal of home ownership, some artists and writers condemned suburbia as a conformist and narrow-minded wasteland, as depicted in John Brack’s The Unmade Road pictured above.

 

Wahroonga House rear

The rear of the house before renovation. I loved seeing our old pram in the picture. Dad’s father is standing in the right corner looking rather removed. and wasn’t impressed with the place.

Getting back to Mum and Dad’s place, as you can see from the rear view of the house in its natural state, it was in a bad way. The sort of place real estate ads would describe as “renovate or detonate” or a”Renovator’s dream”. Indeed, it was so dilapidated,Dad’s father refused to go inside and you can even see him standing in the right hand side of the photo above looking unimpressed.

However, my parents weren’t completely insane, because it had location! Location! Location! Wahroonga is a prestigious suburb and the house was a short walk to Wahroonga Park and the station, where Dad caught the train into the city for work. The house was built around 1916 as a workman’s cottage and has since been demolished, although similar houses have been preserved in this street and now cost over $1 million.Every night Dad beavered away on the place after he arrived home from work. Indeed, the photo at the top shows the front of the house post-renovation. No doubt, he felt triumphant and rather vindicated when it was finished, and he’d proven his father wrong.

However, this triumph wasn’t without sacrifice. I think the MGB was sold to get the house deposit and Dad must’ve been exhausted going to work by day, fixing the house up at night and also having a toddler and a new baby and all that entailed. Living in the house itself was also quite unsafe and mum was horrified to see me bang my head after I fell over a broken floorboard. While we were staying in the house of horrors, my brother also developed whooping cough from his vaccination and was seriously ill. I can’t quite remember if there was a home visit from the doctor which caused my mother to almost die of embarrassment, or whether she had to take my brother out to see him. However, in an unrelated incident, I do remember my brother’s car basket going flying off the back seat of the Morris Minor as we drove over the railway bridge around this time. I was horrified. So, it seems that there were quite a few nightmare’s interwoven with my parents’  pursuit of the Great Australian Dream.

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Me in the front yard of the house. 

Fortunately, this house soon became a stepping stone and we only lived there for six months. After it was renovated, Mum and Dad rented it out and bought a bigger and better house in Warrawee. They never looked back and moved a couple of times before settling in there current home, where they’ve been living for almost 40 years. If you look at them now, you’d never imagine that they started out in such challenging conditions.

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The new house from the street with the Morris Minor parked in the driveway. 

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The rear of the house in Warrawee. The pram is still parked out the back.

I wanted to share this story as an encouragement to other young couples who are just starting out and struggling to save up for a deposit on their first home. You don’t need to start out where you’ll finish up and hard work,  determination, a bit of sacrifice and taking a chance can pay off. Indeed, quite a few of my grandparents generation bought a block and built a garage on it and lived in that while they built the house. Nothing arrived on a silver platter.

My parents’ experience fueled our own pursuit of the dream Australian home on the quarter acre block. We bought a renovator’s dream a short walk from the beach and figured we’d turn it over quickly and move on to something better. However, unfortunately my health and disability issues have slowed down our progress and we are still in the fixer-upper and it still hasn’t been fixed up. We’ve been here for 18 years now and what we did at the beginning needs to be re-done and we still haven’t replaced the floors. However, I’m glad in a way because our place is a home and has a sense of freedom and not having to tiptoe around and barely breathe in case the house gets dirty, the floors gets ruined and your idyllic Vogue Living home comes crashing down to earth in a pile of rubble.

Indeed, we have two kids and three dogs charging round the place and we can all stretch our wings and be ourselves. Give me a couple of years, and I hope to see a wrecking ball go straight through the place and we’ll start over.

I hope you’ve enjoyed our trip down memory lane and wondered if you’d like to share any stories about renovating, buying your own home or even about dreaming.

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0 Please pop over and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Chicken #FridayFictioneers

“Jump the fence, Tom. Come on. I dare you.”

“Dunno Miranda. Can’t you read the sign? No trespassing. They’ll shoot us.”

“Chicken!” Miranda goaded, all bluff. She’d never do it. The new neighbours were weird, possibly even aliens.

“Am not, chicken” Tom replied, jumping into the never-ending abyss.

“Tom!” Miranda screamed. “TOM!!”

Silence.

He’d vanished.

Miranda freaked. Home alone, she’d have to jump the fence, wrestle with whatever it was to get her brother back. She didn’t know if she could do it.

Meanwhile, Tom snuck back over the fence and hid.

This was his best prank yet.

….

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. PHOTO PROMPT © Randy Mazie.

98 words

This prompt brought back memories of my brother who had a friend who lived over our back fence. This little girl with long blond curls would climb up a tree on her side and down a tree on ours to visit. I’m not sure how many kids do that now. However, back then  fences between our houses were just a few planks to mark the boundary and we wandered freely in between each others’ houses. Within this friendly, embracing neighbourhood, I could see someone with a No Trespass sign really standing out.

By the way, I celebrated by Big 50 last week. Have been catching up with a whole lot of friends in small groups to make the most of it. It’s still Winter here and so I’m waiting for it to warm up before I organize a big party. I’m looking forward to it.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

T-Rabindranath Tagore: Letters to Dead Poets #atozchallenge

Dear Sir,

How are you? I hope my letter finds you at peace and feeling content. You are now one with the air we breathe, the earth,  the sun, the moon wherever it is your spirit lives. While I have my own views about what happens to us after death, I’m not so sure about the itty bitty details and I’m not about to tell a person of vast wisdom who already knows the answers in detail what may or might not be. You could even tell me the colour of the carpet.

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Writing to you has somehow transported me far beyond the bounds of these four walls and I’m down at the beach writing by candlelight chilled by the sea breeze. A full moon shines and majestic clouds charge like ancients chariots through the shadows and I fixate on a distant star and make a wish. The muse whispers in my ear and rather than tending to earthly concerns, I write. I read. I write. Indeed, lately I’ve been shut away in my writer’s cave.

While you can chop and change the order of things, every story has a beginning. So, that’s where we’ll start. Not at your beginning back in 1861 but going back to when we first met.  It was my grandmother’s funeral and the Priest read out one of your poems. To be perfectly honest, I couldn’t be entirely sure which one it was and after much searching, I’ve never found anything which quite matches up to those threads of memory.

In any case, I found this:

The Gardener Lxi: Peace, My Heart

Peace, my heart, let the time for
the parting be sweet.
Let it not be a death but completeness.
Let love melt into memory and pain
into songs.
Let the flight through the sky end
in the folding of the wings over the
nest.
Let the last touch of your hands be
gentle like the flower of the night.
Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a
moment, and say your last words in
silence.
I bow to you and hold up my lamp
to light you on your way.

Rabindranath Tagore

Meanwhile, as the older generation passes onto the next, the seeds of youth sprout and reach steadily skywards towards the sun, soaking up the wisdom of those who have been while pursuing youthful follies with great vigour.

Kids Angels Uniting Church 2008

The kids dressed as angels for the Christmas Eve Service, 2008.

When we first met, my children were only five and three. My son was in his very first year at school and just learning to read and write. Indeed, his work was little more than a blank page with his name written in huge uneven letters at the top with an equally catastrophic sentence chaotically splattered down below. I think my daughter was just starting to read and was drawing people with huge heads stuck on stick legs but she knew who each and everyone was.

You captured that wonder of small children in your writing in a way that’s all too easy to miss when you’re living in it day by day.

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Clouds And Waves

Mother, the folk who live up in the clouds call out to me-
“We play from the time we wake till the day ends.
We play with the golden dawn, we play with the silver moon.”
I ask, “But how am I to get up to you ?”
They answer, “Come to the edge of the earth, lift up your
hands to the sky, and you will be taken up into the clouds.”
“My mother is waiting for me at home, “I say, “How can I leave
her and come?”
Then they smile and float away.
But I know a nicer game than that, mother.
I shall be the cloud and you the moon.
I shall cover you with both my hands, and our house-top will
be the blue sky.
The folk who live in the waves call out to me-
“We sing from morning till night; on and on we travel and know
not where we pass.”
I ask, “But how am I to join you?”
They tell me, “Come to the edge of the shore and stand with
your eyes tight shut, and you will be carried out upon the waves.”
I say, “My mother always wants me at home in the everything-
how can I leave her and go?”
They smile, dance and pass by.
But I know a better game than that.
I will be the waves and you will be a strange shore.
I shall roll on and on and on, and break upon your lap with
laughter.
And no one in the world will know where we both are.

Rabindranath Tagore

As much as I love the idea of going to the edge of the Earth, lifting up my hands and going up into the clouds, Come to the edge of the earth, lift up your
hands to the sky, and you will be taken up into the clouds.”

“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
“We can’t, We will fall!” they responded.
“Come to the edge,” he said.
And so they came.
And he pushed them.
And they flew.”

― Guillaume Apollinaire

Colored Toys

When I bring to you colored toys, my child,
I understand why there is such a play of colors on clouds, on water,
and why flowers are painted in tints
—when I give colored toys to you, my child.

When I sing to make you dance
I truly now why there is music in leaves,
and why waves send their chorus of voices to the heart of the listening earth
—when I sing to make you dance.

When I bring sweet things to your greedy hands
I know why there is honey in the cup of the flowers
and why fruits are secretly filled with sweet juice
—when I bring sweet things to your greedy hands.

When I kiss your face to make you smile, my darling,
I surely understand what pleasure streams from the sky in morning light,
and what delight that is that is which the summer breeze brings to my body
—when I kiss you to make you smile.

The time that my journey takes is long

and the way of it long.

I came out on the chariot of the first

gleam of light, and pursued my voyage

through the wilderness of worlds leaving

my track on many a star and planet.

It is the most distant course that comes

nearest to thyself, and that training is the

most intricate which leads to the utter

simplicity of a tune.

The traveler has to knock at every alien

door to come to his own, and one has to

wander through all the outer worlds to

reach the innermost shrine at the end.

My eyes strayed far and wide before I

shut them and said, “Here art thou!”

The question and the cry, “Oh, where?”

melt into tears of a thousand streams and

deluge the world with the flood of the

assurance, “I am!”

-Gitanjali

However, as a writer myself and having spent years trying to juggle writing and loving and spending time with my husband and kids, when I’m in writing mode and the muse is stuck on overdrive, it’s very hard to strike a balance. Writing these Letters to dead Poets has become some kind of madness because writing to over 26 poets in a month and trying to squeeze inside a different poet’s skin, mind and shoes every day is incredibly hard work and very intense as I try to let go of myself and drift into my role for the day. Moreover, as the poets are in alphabetical order, they’re not conveniently clustered together in groups or flowing in time from one to the next to the next like an orderly London bus queue. I am out there in the ocean every day in my little paper boat trying to navigate my way.

woman writing

The way I see it, this journey lasts a month and things can be put aside and the kids are now old enough that they shouldn’t fall in a screaming heap if I’m busy. Indeed, I feel like I’ve put so much of myself on hold for so long and for such a multitude of reasons, that now when it’s very evident to me that my time has come, the rest can wait. Not all of it but surely nothing is going to fall off the side of the earth if heaven forbid I focus on my writing for a change.

Tagore-mother and child

Why should writers be made to feel guilty when we work? I never query my husband’s right to work or complain when work calls in the middle of the night and his off to spend the night with his “harem”…an entire network of computers all bickering with each other and refusing to talk.

Is that just because he gets paid for his work? Or, because his work is somehow more tangible than mine? He actually leaves the house, goes somewhere called an office and doesn’t tap away on a computer in his pyjamas.

Anyway, for all of these reasons, that’s why I loved your poem Authorship and I was thrilled to stumble across it again now. Even though the kids are that much older, it still very much applies and bring a smile to my heart:

Authorship

You say that father write a lot of books, but what he writes I don’t
understand.
He was reading to you all the evening, but could you really
make out what he meant?
What nice stores, mother, you can tell us! Why can’t father
write like that, I wonder?
Did he never hear from his own mother stories of giants and
fairies and princesses?
Has he forgotten them all?
Often when he gets late for his bath you have to and call him
an hundred times.
You wait and keep his dishes warm for him, but he goes on
writing and forgets.
Father always plays at making books.
If ever I go to play in father’s room, you come and call me,
“What a naughty child!”
If I make the slightest noise you say, “Don’t you see that
father’s at his work?”
What’s the fun of always writing and writing?
When I take up father’s pen or pencil and write upon his book
just as he does,-a,b,c,d,e,f,g,h,i,-why do you get cross with me
then, mother?
You never say a word when father writes.
When my father wastes such heaps of paper, mother, you don’t
seem to mind at all.
But if I take only one sheet to take a boat with, you say,
“Child, how troublesome you are!”
What do you think of father’s spoiling sheets and sheets of
paper with black marks all over both sides?

Rabindranath Tagore

Lastly, no discussion of your work would be complete without mentioning your homeland and your love for India and Bengal. I think you would enjoy reading Racism by Oodgeroo Noonuccal and the works of Maya Angelou. People who see the unity in humanity and want to tear down all the narrow-minded barriers which divide us.

Where The Mind Is Without Fear

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake

Rabindranath Tagore

However, as much as I could immerse myself in your poems forever and don’t want to say goodbye, I have to leave. I need to get some sleep and a dose of the much needed “balance” you prescribe.

I’ll be back.

Love and warm greetings,

Rowena

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Dancing Woman by Tagore

 

Snake Bait

“Quick kids! Get inside! There’s a Black Snake out there. No! Don’t run. Just walk. Watch where you’re going. Think!”

Isn’t that how any normal parent would react if there was a venomous Black Snake anywhere near their precious kids?!!

Of course!

But…NOT yours truly! I all but yawned and kept eating my Weetbix. I didn’t raise the alarm at all!! Without my morning caffeine boost, I was “non compos mentis”, mostly dead but still somehow alive….a virtual zombie. 

Out of the corner of my eye, I’d seen a sliver of Black Snake slithering through the freshly mowed grass and under the barbed-wire fence and into the cow paddock next door. Australian Geographic rates the Black Snake as Australia’s 10th most deadly snake and while unlikely to kill you, the venom causes blood-clotting disorder and muscle and nerve damage, enough to knock you off your feet http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/topics/science-environment/2012/07/australias-10-most-dangerous-snakes/

Although I registered seeing the snake, I blinked and it was gone. It didn’t seem real. More like a hallucination or apparition than the potentially life-threatening emergency it was…a deadly snake!

I kept eating my Weetbix.It takes a long time for me to wake up in the morning and switch from my surreal dream state into someone remotely functional.

Stopping to photograph the sugar cane and the approaching storm clouds near Grafton.

Stopping to photograph the sugar cane and the approaching storm clouds near Grafton.

Although Geoff had driven the entire way to Byron Bay, being a passenger also took its toll on me. Even after a good night’s sleep, I could still feel the car’s rumbling vibrations pulsating through me, the long-distance driving equivalent of “sea legs”. It also takes me a good day to adjust to my new surroundings, even though Geoff’s sister’s place is our home away from home. Just call me “slow”…even cold-blooded.

Anyway, Geoff stuck his head through the door, probably to check whether I was still alive, when he spotted the snake out the window. A man of action, unlike his more philosophical wife, he went straight outside to raise the alarm. The kids were out there picking mulberries and while they weren’t near the snake, there were no guarantees that “Joe Blake” (Australian rhyming slang for snake) didn’t have a few mates also sunning themselves out there in the grass.

What nobody usually tells you about Byron Bay and the surrounding regions is that they’re populated with snakes. Sure, they might not be found grinning on local postcards and there certainly aren’t any “Beware of the Snake” signs anywhere either. These are the sort of thing you leave out of your tourism brochures and “Welcome to Byron Bay” greetings. Not good for tourism.

However, that doesn’t mean they’re not there.

Geoff grew up on a farm in NE Tasmania where his Dad wasn’t the only one who boasted “the only good snake is a dead snake”. Dad’s brother had been bitten by a snake out in the bush when he was a boy and in Tasmania, any kind of snake is deadly poisonous, especially to a kid. So, this was quite a serious, life-threatening incident, which stayed with him for life. There was another story where Dad had spotted a Tiger Snake in the paddock at work. Dad was heading for the shed to find his gun but the snake, who was equally spooked and looking for “an out”, also took off down the paddock. Indeed, the snake was apparently keeping pace with Dad in what must have been the incarnation of his very worst fears, although I can’t help seeing it as a cross-country race with a difference. Yikes! They’re made of strong stuff down there in Tassie!

So, when it came to dealing with snakes, Geoff was no novice.

Although Geoff was quick off the mark to warn the kids, he didn’t press the panic button. He walked calmly because you don’t run around snakes. You stand still and pretend to be a tree. Besides, we’re quite used to snakes being around the farm. That said, when it comes to live snakes out on the loose, we’ve only seen the more benign carpet snake, which used to be curled up in the rafters in the garage, looking about as energetic as Homer Simpson in front of the TV eating donuts. Yet, just because we haven’t seen snakes out in the grass, that doesn’t mean we haven’t seen the evidence such as a six foot snake skin left dangling from the barbed wire fence overnight. There are also the stories and I’m not talking about the bush equivalent of the urban myth but first-hand, local accounts. One mum we knew had found a snake curled up underneath her son’s Tonka truck one morning. She found it because locals check under everything. Snakes don’t discriminate. Anything could be a potential “home”.

Anyway, the kids were outside picking mulberries and I can just imagine the deep purple juice staining their lips and running down their fingers. Mulberry picking is such a quintessential part of childhood like Twinkle Twinkle, wobbly-falling out teeth and Summers at the beach. Of course, none of these glorious visions include a poisonous, potentially deadly Black Snake lurking in the grass and an ambulance ride to Emergency.

Yummy mulberries.

Yummy mulberries.

Turns out the kids weren’t keen on any close encounters with snakes either. Once Geoff had told them about the snake, they promptly decided they had enough mulberries and came inside to eat the fruits of the harvest. Phew!

The kids eating the mulberries they'd picked on the farm, while I spotted a snake.

The kids eating the mulberries they’d picked on the farm, while I spotted a snake.

Unfortunately, this didn’t mean the snake saga was over as such. It was more like a mutual stand off. After all, the snake probably didn’t want to see us anymore than we wanted to see it…a form of mutual “respect”.

Have you had any encounters with dangerous local wildlife? Do tell!

xx Rowena

PS I’m now home and in the process of typing up all my tales from last week. I didn’t have a computer with me and they’re all hand-written in the journal which might sound rustically romantic but it’s a pain getting them sorted out.

The Beginning: Five Photos Five Stories

My journey of a million photos began with a humble Kodak Instamatic camera.

Before Dr Phil redefined all of life’s great milestones as “defining moments”, my mother escorted me and my box full of coins into the local photography shop to buy my very first camera.

A far cry from my current Nikon SLR, my pride and joy was a Kodak Instamatic 56X. These were manufactured from 1972-1977 . It was Simple Simon to operate and all I had to do was press the silver button on top and manually wind the film on. That’s right speaking of film, it used a 126 film cartridge you shoved up its backside. Oh yes! The flash was a disposable plug-in flash cube so it was something reserved for special occasions.

“To photograph truthfully and effectively is to see beneath the surfaces and record the qualities of nature and humanity which live or are latent in all things.”

Ansel Adams

Of course, any thought of being able to see your photos in the back of your camera before you paid to have them printed weren’t even considered. Rather, the cartridge was dropped off at the local pharmacy where it was sent off to Kodak for processing while you waited…at least overnight.. I still remember tearing open those packets of precious snaps with such excitement and love.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.

Henry David Thoreau

Although my precious photos might have been blurry and I’d inadvertantly chopped off subjects’ heads, stuck fingers over the lens and ended up with way to many photos of Baby Alive, the dog and my brother who was fond of showing off, they were still precious…my photos!

“Photography helps people to see.”

Berenice Abbot

While I’m no Ansell Adams, photography is a passion and so often my way of viewing and capturing both the world around me and the poetry within.

I was nominated by Geoff Le Pard fromTanGental for the Five Photos Five Stories blog Share: http://geofflepard.com/2015/06/10/five-photos-five-stories-day-two/

I was nominated to take part in this photo challenge by Ali Issac, who takes the most beautiful images and always has a story to tell about them. I would like to nominate Rowena at BeyondtheFlow, to take up this photo challenge baton.

The rules of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge are:

1) Post a photo each day for five consecutive days.
2) Attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction, non-fiction, poetry, or a short paragraph. It’s entirely up to the individual.
3) Nominate another blogger to carry on the challenge. Your nominee is free to accept or decline the invitation. This is fun, not a command performance!

I have decided to nominate Kath Unsworth from Miniscule Moments whose illustrations and photos are breathtaking and really worth a look: http://kathunsworth.com/

Do you have any special photographic beginnings you would like to share?

xx Rowena

Why Baby Loves Grandma!

Came across this photo tonight taken when my daughter was only four week’s old and she’d already developed a fine appreciation for Grandma’s gold jewelry.

That was taken about 9 years ago and she still has her grandparents wrapped around her little finger. That said, Grandma has retained custody of the gold necklace.

Even in her sleep, Miss isn't letting go of Grandma's necklace.

Even in her sleep, Miss isn’t letting go of Grandma’s necklace.

Revisiting these photos, reminded me of the incredible importance of seizing the moment. The fleeting transience of each and every passing moment…sands slipping through the hour glass in seconds.

Reminds me not to take anything for granted and to cherish the past and present as we step into the future with all its new advenures.

xx Rowena

Creating Space to Grow Up.

Until recently, I’d never consciously considered how much space my kids needed to grow up and truly reach their potential band and that without this, their growth could be stunted.

After all, we all need space to grow…just like a tree. An acorn could never become an oak if it had nowhere to stretch out its extensive branches.

However, in the expediency of getting by, it’s easy for the jungle to take over both physically and metaphorically and our growth is stifled.

veggie patch beginnings

veggie patch beginnings

In many ways, our kids have a lot of space. We have a backyard where they can explore a myriad of possibilities. Indeed, after the weekend, we even have the makings of our very own veggie patch. They also have our two dogs, Bilbo and Lady, to play with. There is seemingly plenty of room to move. Moreover, there’s also the beach just down the road where they can gaze out to the horizon and let their imaginations wonder far across the sea. That’s if we actually get there.

Indeed, there’s plenty of space for their minds, bodies and spirits to expand for growth.

However, while there’s all that space out there, their bedrooms are another story.

To be frank, they’re absolutely stuffed. Stuff keeps going in but little goes out. You could say it’s been the result of too much love, a soaring imagination and my obsession with op shops where I keep finding the most incredible things very cheap. It’s not uncommon for me to have piles of things waiting for them when they get home from school and despite my enthusiasm, they’re usually so ho-hum about them all. I’m lucky if they even look up from Minecraft long enough to roll their eyes!!

Our daughter's impressive three-storey doll's house is on the move.

Our daughter’s impressive three-storey doll’s house is on the move.

Anyway, just like Mr Creosote from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life, all that stuff couldn’t possibly stay in there forever and the big regurgitation process has begun: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhbHTjMLN5c

Mr Creosite about to explode just like the kids' bedrooms.

Mr Creosite about to explode just like the kids’ bedrooms.

Yes, stuff is literally spewing out.

Much of this is hastily dispatched into the boot and off to the op shop before anyone can change their minds.

However, there are also the left overs, which of course, none of those annoying decluttering “experts” never discuss.

Yes, indeed they never mentioned “no man’s land”.

Anyway, what all the cluttering experts conveniently forget to tell you is that the clutter gets incredibly worse before it starts to get better. That’s because most of your cupboards are packed like a loaded spring and once you start releasing the pressure, the stuff explodes all directions just like an exploding dandelion. The upon release, your clutter plants itself in some fertile corner of your house, grows roots and re-establishes itself somewhere else. These self-sown cultivates are then often joined by those hapless homeless items which keep moving round and round your house from the kitchen table, into the bathroom, the bedroom and perhaps even packed into storage.

Consequently, as a result of this “declutter” process, we have our son’s car bed and our daughter’s huge doll’s house sitting in our lounge room. That’s in addition to the sofa bed we brought back from Palm Beach which is perched in front of the piano, which I’ve been trying to give away for at least a year to a Mum who can’t seem to collect it. We also have a procession of tables and an old sofa bed to move on out the back. Our overcrowded house is indeed starting to look like a departure lounge for a gang of furniture allsorts.

As much as I'm looking forward to getting the doll's house out, it's hard to part with these personal touches.

As much as I’m looking forward to getting the doll’s house out, it’s hard to part with these personal touches.

While the decluttering Nazis can seemingly throw anything out without even a drop of sentimentality, I personally find all this change and transition quite stressful. While I’m delighted that my kids are growing up and becoming more independent and developing their own personalities, I just don’t know how much to let go. There are so many memories etched into their precious things and yet there’s way too much to keep. Indeed, I’m starting to feel like I’ve swallowed a push-me pull-you and I’m paralyzed between going forward and moving back, which should, at least in theory, place me in the present but I’m not so sure!!

Yesterday, for example, I came across a toy rainbow lorrikeet which sings when you press its tummy. Of course, you’d say to keep that. However, when I tell you that it’s beak and eyes are missing, you’ll say: “broken…toss!!” but when I tell you that Bilbo chewed it’s face off when he was a puppy and he’s now approaching old age, then that poor damaged lorrikeet tells more of a story that something brand new and pristine.It tells a story of growing up, growing old and ultimately moving on to that great blue doggie heaven in the sky.

Needless to say, the lorrikeet stays.

Yet, I’m fed up with having no space, wading through the mess on the floor and the arguments over cleaning their rooms. There’s so much stuff that we’re all feeling completely overwhelmed and quite frankly, I just want the lot to disappear. Poof!

Anyway, as I said, the kids are growing up and they can’t grow up without anywhere to move. Childhood slowly but surely needs to give way to … drum roll…the teenage years.

Mister in his new bed. His feet have outgrown his car bed.

Mister in his new bed. His feet have outgrown his car bed.

While this might be a period of dread for many parents, it feels less daunting for me than facing the terrible twos, although we’re not there yet. Although our 9 year old daughter thinks she’s already there, our 11 year old son, at least, seems blissfully unaware of what lies just around the corner when he starts high school next year.

It turns out that Minecraft does have some virtues, after all!!

So instead of simply writing about sorting that mess out and procrasinating

    , I’d better get back to it.

    Time and the tide of clutter waits for no one.

    xx Rowena

Grow Slow…Happy Birthday Miss 9!

Slow down, you move too fast
You got to make the morning last
Just kicking down the cobblestones
Looking for fun and feelin’ groovy
Ba da da da da da da, feelin’ groovy.

Paul Simon : The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)

Last night, as I kissed our daughter goodnight, she said: “This is my last night of being eight.” She was overjoyed!! She’s one of the youngest in her year at school and it’s no secret she gets a bit cheesed off that it takes eternity for her birthday to come round each year. There’s only a couple of months and the frustrating tail-chasing game starts all over again. Like all kids, she wants to grow up too quick. Our “little Miss” is 9 going on about 15 especially when she struts around the house in her fancy silver high heels, which almost fit her now. It wasn’t that long ago that I’d bought them from the charity shop for dress ups!!

That said, she is still a little girl and boys are still “yuck”…thank goodness!!

Im not sure how long that’s going to last with her brother who turns 11 in less than a fortnight and heads off to High School next year. I have no illusions about what all of that means. However, I feel much better prepared for the teenage years than I was for early childhood. At least, I can remember what it was like to be a teenager and I’m sure it was only yesterday.

Family Photo Back at Home.

Family Photo Back at Home 9 long years ago.

As we celebrate another round of birthdays and I’m forced to think about the passage of time yet again, I am reminded of time’s  cruel tricks. Since all other theories and explanations have failed, I’ve concluded there’s some kind of horrid, malevolent watch matcher lurking somewhere way up in the sky who keeps tinkering with the cogs and speeding things up. Don’t you agree?

I mean…Surely time couldn’t move that fast unless it was taking performance enhancing drugs and even then we’re talking about lethally high doses.

Someone or indeed, something, is doing an awful lot of tinkering with the gears up there. That’s the only way I can explain how time goes really fast when you want it to go slow and conversely barely seems to move at all, when you really want it to speed up like while you’re waiting in a supermarket queue and the person in front of you with enough food to feed an entire army can’t remember their pin and you’re running late and your child is standing on a street corner after dark in their ballet leotard and it’s cold and you don’t know what sort of creeps are hanging around.

Time always goes agonisingly slow then!!!

Ever the philosopher, me at around 6 months.

h Ever the philosopher, me at around 6 months.

Once upon a birthday, my grandparents used to sing me “Happy Birthday” on the phone and my grandmother would tell me year after year, about when they “got the phone call” and my father told them they had a grand-daughter and they’d put her in a warmer. She always left out all the details such as how I was facing sunny side up and things had been touch and go. That THAT phone call wasn’t just about “it’s a girl”. It was a serious answer to prayer and their daughter and grand-daughter had made it through a rather perilous journey called birth.

You forget that your baby is hopefully crying the first time you see them.

You forget that your baby is hopefully crying the first time you see them.

There were no life or death dramas when our daughter was born, aside from when Big Brother, the inimitable “Little Man”, decided to climb up on the hospital bed to have a cuddle with Mum and activated the  emergency switch. That immediately and brutally flung the head of the bed straight down and in the process, the drip stand fell down and bumped Miss on the head. Miss ended up with a bruise on her forehead and was sent off to the Special Care Nursery for observation. A storm in a teacup but we still stir Mister about that. It’s not his only tale. The antics of “Little Man” are legendary but largely just involve a healthy curiosity combined with high speed.

Getting back to our daughter’s arrival…

The first time ever I saw your face
I thought the sun rose in your eyes
And the moon and the stars were the gifts you gave
To the dark and the endless skies, my love
To the dark and the endless skies

Roberta Flack (a romantic song but so apt)

Little Miss a few days old.

Little Miss a few days old.

The other thing, I remember, of course, is the very first moment I saw her.  She was much smaller than I’d expected and only weighed 2.93 kg and was an average length of 49cm. She was exceptionally petite and I guess given that I’m quite tall myself (174cm or 5 ft 10″), I was a little surprised. She was so tiny that we needed to get her baby-pink, miniscule 0000 Bond Suits outfits from the Special Care Nursery where they were kept nice and warm for the premmie babies. My Mum was sent to buy some micro-clothes for when we went home.

Our Gorgeous Little Rainbow Fairy Almost Aged 5 and About to Start School.

Our Gorgeous Little Rainbow Fairy Almost Aged 5 and About to Start School.

I know I’ve mentioned time before but tell me, where does time go? I know lines like that are cliched and a road too well-traveled for a seasoned writer and yet, this great mystery still hasn’t been explained. Not all time travels at the same rate and where my daughter’s concerned, time has fast-forwarded faster than the speed of light!!

Miss on her first day of school.

Miss on her first day of school.

After all, I could have sworn she wasn’t born that long ago and she’s only just started school. Yet, somehow she’s migrated from infants into primary and is now well, perhaps not towering over all of the new kindergarten kids but has certainly moved on. I feel like I’ve been hit by a flying brick and I’m lost, almost in a trance or in a dream, while everything flies past me.

I’m so confused!!! (Remember John Travolta as Vinnie Barbarino in Welcome Back Cotter? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=29BoqCMRBFk)

I hope she’s had a Happy Birthday. She opened her presents before school and as it turned out, the local radio station was at school this morning and they wished her Happy Birthday on air…much cooler than on Mummy’s blog!!

Miss celebrates her birthday with SeaFM Radio Host Kristi before school.

Miss celebrates her birthday with SeaFM Radio Host Kristi before school.

She took the most amateur-looking Cake Pops to school for her class. I can’t believe I let her talk me into making those because, as my mother advised me, you never make something new for a special occasion and when I’ve broken that Golden Rule, I’ve regretted it. As we all know, regret with family birthday cakes is usually accompanied by nerve crushing angst, tears and if you’re really wound up…hurling the cake across the room.

That is, if the dog hasn’t eaten the cake first. I have very bad memories of a food-thieving, greedy Old English Sheepdog called Rufus being caught in the act. That dog used to steal food and swallow it plastic bag and all. Eventually, we’d find the evidence deposited on the back lawn!!

I don’t know how that dog survived for so long!

Happy Birthday Miss!

Happy Birthday Miss!

Instead of having a special birthday dinner tonight, the kids were off to Cubs and Scouts. As we still haven’t sorted out the details of either of the kids’ birthday parties yet, this was opportune as a few of their friends were there. That meant making a batch of chocolate cupcakes and huge boxes of chips for tonight’s celebration. Miss told the lady at the checkout that: “Scouts love junk food and we purchased supplies. What a great ambassador!

Happy Birthday Chocolate Cupcakes for Scouts.

Happy Birthday Chocolate Cupcakes for Scouts.

There’s a world of quotes which I could pass onto my daughter but here are a couple from AA Milne’s: Winnie The Pooh.

“Promise me you’ll always remember: You’re braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.”
A.A. Milne
“You can’t stay in your corner of the Forest waiting for others to come to you. You have to go to them sometimes.”

I also like this one from Stephen Fry:

“We are not nouns, we are verbs. I am not a thing – an actor, a writer – I am a person who does things – I write, I act – and I never know what I’m going to do next. I think you can be imprisoned if you think of yourself as a noun.”
Stephen Fry

Happy Birthday Precious Miss!

May all of your dreams come true..,in time. I’d like you to grow up before you open that dream fashion business in Paris. Climb some trees. Make clothes for your dolls and film them with your iPad. Ride your bike. Walk the dogs and wear your hair in plaits with rainbow nails and silver high heels, which are still too big and keep baking glittery cakes and drawing precious pictures just for fun.

As much as you yearn to grow up, you can’t rewind time. It only speeds up.

You might not appreciate it it now but there’s real beauty in growing slow.

Love & Blessings!

Rowena & Mummy

Me & My Girl

Me & My Girl

PS A week after Mister’s birthday sitting at Palm Beach, I stumbled across this song Forever Young by Rod Stewart, which I wanted to send to Miss as a post birthday present: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vgiLWNgpXiQ

Funny Friday: An Afternoon With Australian Actor-Author William McInnes

Last Friday, I was booked into an author talk with two-times Logie-winning Australian actor and author, William McInnes. However, after a huge day on Thursday, I wasn’t quite sure whether I’d make it. There was the trip down to Sydney and the emotionally confronting brain MRI but 5 minutes before my MRI, I also heard the dreadful news that Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes had passed away. Having survived brain surgery myself in the past, his death was pretty confronting. I wasn’t in good shape after all of this and more in the mood for deep hibernation. Yet, I was particularly keen to meet William McInnes and hear his story. There are many, many layers to this man.

Exhausted, sombre and dazed, I arrived at Woy Woy Library and sat in the front row where I could literally reach out and touch him. This was a delightfully small and intimate venue where you’re really up close and personal with the author. I was in seventh heaven!! Here I was inhaling the same air as William McInnes for a precious few hours and you never know quite what impact that will have. If you’ve heard his wild and wacky stories, you’ll know what I mean.

Fisherman's Wharf, Woy Woy, North of Sydney. The pelican perch on the roof waiting for fish from any possible source.

Fisherman’s Wharf, Woy Woy, North of Sydney. The pelican perch on the roof waiting for fish from any possible source.

Fisherman's Wharf, Woy Woy.

Fisherman’s Wharf, Woy Woy.

If you’re not Australian, you might not realise that Woy Woy is a bit of an unlikely location for an author talk of any sort let alone by a two-times Logie-winning actor and best-selling author. Although Graeme Simsion author of the Rosie Project recently spoke up here, Woy Woy is better known as being home to Spike Milligan’s Mum, having the best fish & chips and for its flocks of hungry, aggressive pelicans self-educated in the fine art of food theft. They’ll snatch your bag of fish & chips straight out of your hand without so much as an apology. That said, there has been quite an influx of refugees from Sydney and Woy Woy is becoming more eclectic.

It is no understatement that McInnes literally burst into the room converting this humble space into a stage…his stage. This man has presence…serious presence. There was gag after gag after gag.

William McInnes in uniform in the hit Australian TV series Blue Heelers.

William McInnes in uniform in the hit Australian TV series Blue Heelers.

After watching McInnes for years on the hit TV cop series, Blue Heelers, I at least thought I knew how he looked. However, the man who entered the room didn’t match up. His reddish hair was grey. He was exceptionally tall and he was casually dressed. I think I’m used to seeing him in uniform. Police uniform, that is. While he cracked jokes about his middle-aged spread, he still has the physique of the male lead and has been cast opposite glamorous beauties including actresses Sigrid Thornton and Claudia Karvan.

Actor and author William McInnes.

Actor and author William McInnes.

McInnes was there to promote his new book Holidays. I was there not only because of his professional credentials but also because he has publicly spoken and written about his wife, Sarah Watts’ heroic battle with breast cancer, which finally claimed her life around 3 years ago. They co-wrote a book: Worse Things Happen At Sea. I haven’t read this book yet because I needed a bit of a laugh after the last few weeks. Instead, I’m reading: A Man’s Got to Have A Hobby. I was told this book was hilarious, as is McInnes.

Indeed, I found him too funny. We all know about the clown and the tear and I’ve noticed in my own writing that the worse it gets, the funnier I become. When someone is exceptionally funny, I think you’re almost obligated to look for the scar tissue. More than likely, it won’t even be concealed beneath the surface. You’ll see it. Hear it. Even feel its pulse.

However, according to his wife, McInnes has always had a gift for comedy and after seeing him in action, I have no doubt that he’d even do well in that bear pit of stand-up.

While some author talks can get a little dry, McInnes rolled off tale after hilarious tale about his childhood growing up in Queensland’s Redcliffe, a popular beach suburb and on various family holidays. Much of this humour revolves around his father who makes your average embarrassing Dad look like a boring pussy cat.

1970s Barber shop: home of the short back and sides.

1970s Barber shop: home of the short back and sides.

One of my favourite stories was about when he went to get a haircut which, of course, turned out to be no ordinary haircut. If you lived through the 70s, you’ll know that the generational gap wasn’t just about sex, drugs and rock n’ roll. It was also about hair. Usually his mum gave him a haircut but she was busy so she sent him down to the local barber’s with the presumption that he’d return with the usual mandatory, short back and sides. However, it transpired that the barber shop had recently been re-birthed as a unisex hair salon, a new and intriguing development back in the 1970s when getting your haircut was like going to the toilet. There was the men’s, the ladies’ and nothing in between. Definitely no fraternization!

Anyway, McInnes goes into the salon and spots this hot girl he’d seen at the local rollerskating rink. At this point, all sense and reason evaporate and he’s putty in her precious, manicured hands. “Would you like a perm?” She asks. Being a little naive and nothing of a fashion plate, McInnes didn’t know what a perm was but swooning in her orbit, he agrees. Looking something like Goldilocks, with fear and trepidation, he headed home.

Now, you can just imagine how his father, who is renowned for his colourful vernacular, responds to this development. A WWII ex-serviceman, he was far from impressed. He tells him: “When I was your age, I was jumping out of planes chasing Germans”. The kids at school screamed: “Let’s get Horshack” (a character from this his 1970s series Welcome Back Cotter with an afro) There was also a hilarious run in with one of his school priests which I can’t even begin to relate. A bloke having a perm was beyond the pale! The whole experience was even too weird for McInnes. He soon shaved it off and his Dad was happy: “That’s a real man’s haircut”.

His memoir: A Man’s Got to Have A Hobby is full of such stories. The funniest I’ve come across so far, relates about  when he needed to go to the toilet on the way to his football match. They pulled into the service station and Dad reminds him to watch his mouth. After all, back in the day, it wasn’t polite to say you needed to go to the toilet. Oh no! Like many families, they used a swag of euphemisms instead. Out of respect to his mother’s sensitivities, at home they called it: “going goggers”, which in the great tradition of Australian speech, was abbreviated to: “I go gogg goggs.” You can just imagine why the poor petrol station attendant was so confused! He continues:

“Dad must have seen me having trouble from the lime-green ute and flung open the door. He tried to make things clearer. “For Christ’s sake…the boy wants to go goggers.. Goggers…gog…gogs…”

Still no comprehension from the attendant… ‘Listen, chief, the boy has to back out a mullet…Oh, Jesus wept, he wants to strangle one’…Still the attendant stared, …I whispered, ‘I have to poo. Can I use your toilet, please?’My father poked me with a finger. The attendant gave me a key. Dad growled. ‘Don’t let your mother hear you talk like that.”[1]

Let me reassure you that this is not how the average Australian speaks. We usually ask for “the throne” although we’re quite capable of using the word “toilet” in public these days. After all, it’s only natural!

As you can imagine, after all these laughs, I was not longer feeling lugubrious and had cheered up. Humour really does work magic.

While it really is impossible to separate William McInnes actor and author from the William McInnes husband and father who lost his wife,  this journey requires further work and consideration. I don’t want to do a rush job but give their story the time it deserves. It is a journey that our family is potentially walking although I seem to have more lives than a proverbial cat. I seem to be doing pretty well.

Stay tuned for the next installment.

xx Rowena

[1] McInnes, William; A Man’s Got to Have A Hobby, Hodder Australia, Sydney, 2006 pp 38-39.

Happy Gappy…when the tooth finally falls out.

The tooth saga is finally over. Well, at least, there’s a gap in proceedings… a much bigger gap than I’d ever anticipated. You could almost drive a bus through it!

Our daughter’s first top tooth fell out yesterday. She’d already lost her two bottom teeth do but they’re not the same. The two front teeth are the real trophies!

Trophies indeed! I listen to all the first graders chatting away and the little hands go straight in the mouth: “Look, I have a wobbly tooth.”

The conversation then turns to how many teeth they’ve lost, the same way they used to ask: “How many are you?” when they were back at pre-school.

The more teeth you’ve lost, the better your status.

Happy Gappy!

So of course, our daughter was over-the-moon excited when the tooth finally fell out.

I, on the other hand, coped better than expected and didn’t have the anticipated nervous breakdown. I’m also really proud of myself because I didn’t shriek: “my little baby has gone” in the middle of the school playground where the tooth fell out. Part of me wanted to. The part of me which also wanted to superglue that rogue tooth back into position and let my daughter be little for just awhile longer!!

You see, that cheeky grin with the baby teeth…that’s my girl!

For better or worse, that’s life. Things don’t stand still. There is constant change, evolution, growth and I’d be the first to complain if she was somehow stunted.

Besides, my daughter’s excitement is rather contagious!

Losing your baby teeth is as much a part of growing up as learning to ride a bike, pimples and learning how to drive. At the tender age of six, our daughter has already been on her first date. Been there done that!

I probably sound like one of those mums who’d like to pause their kids somewhere in the pre-school years. However, I’m actually pleased and indeed relieved that our kids are at school and more independent. I want them to grow up… not quickly but in their season.

At the same time, there is something almost magical about those baby teeth. Me being me, I can’t help wondering… if Peter Pan could keep his baby teeth, why not our daughter? Once those teeth  fall out, the line in the sand has been drawn. There’s no way back. Your child is onto the next chapter…no longer your “baby”.

On the other hand, if those baby teeth didn’t fall out, there wouldn’t be a tooth fairy and the tooth fairy is so much fun!

Of course, the tooth fairy was quite a topic of conversation yesterday. Our daughter is a smart little cookie…an investigator who calls herself a scientist. She asked me whether the tooth fairy was real or just pretend. I didn’t know what to say but I didn’t want to break the magic any sooner than I had to. So I used an old strategy. I answered a question with a question and turned the tables back on her.

Then I issued her with a challenge: “You need to find out who the tooth fairy is!”

I could almost hear her mind ticking over and her mind ticks very, very fast.

“What are you going to do?” I asked.

“I’m going to set a fairy trap.”

I don’t know whether she set a fairy trap or not but $5.00 appeared this morning and she announced at breakfast that her $5.00 note had a special fairy wand on it. We hated to disappoint her but this was just an anti-counterfeiting feature and not a fairy wand at all.

She also mentioned that she found fairy dust on her as well.

Tonight the discussions continued. She wanted to set up a camera to photograph the tooth fairy. My very quick-thinking husband quickly intervened and told her that no one has ever seen the tooth fairy and it explodes or disappears if anyone catches it. He didn’t want to mention the beer fairy ad but that did provide a bit of inspiration.

Even after all this hard work, the tooth fairy’s days are looking numbered…a bit like the rest of those precious little baby teeth which are now hanging precariously, wobbling away with very enthusiastic assistance!

Meanwhile, it looks like our happy gappy could use a set of false teeth.  All these gaps might look rather cute but it’s difficult to eat.

She looks like she could actually use a few false teeth to help her eat. It looks like she’s going to be a happy gappy for some time to come!

I guess she’ll be singing all I want for Christmas is my two front teeth!