Tonight I’m celebrating a journey of epic proportions. For the first time in four months, we actually drove over the Hawkesbury River Bridge and into Sydney to visit my parents and brother. The last time we came out of lockdown and we saw them again, I was so excited and I was soaring. It reminded me of going up to see my grandparents in Queensland and I’d almost be leaping out of my skin waiting to see them. I was much calmer this time. I hadn’t made a cake or anything (which is rather exceptional), and I’ve been trying to pace myself a bit. All these rushes of excitement can be quite exhausting and I’m just trying to remain on more of an even keel.
Usually, I’d take my violin down with me and mum would accompany me on the piano. However, I haven’t practiced much in the last six to 12 months so there wasn’t even a quandary about taking that. Instead, I sang long to a couple of Beatles songs…Michelle, Hey Jude, Yellow Submarine as well as Are You Lonesome Tonight? My voice was very rusty, and I’ve been thinking my lung situation had destroyed it. However, it might just be that my register has changed with age. So, I might be doing a bit more singing in the shower. I’ve also made a note to self to get back into practicing my violin and piano. I’m better focusing on one thing but that’s not a balanced life, and now that we’re out of lockdown to some extent, the juggling act has returned.
Tomorrow, our daughter goes back to school. It’s going to be a rude shock, as she was ill and missed a lot of school before lockdown and she’s been doing some schoolwork online from home for the last four months which has included going to the beach. A number of bikinis have arrived in the mail along with sunglasses, and I guess the teachers know what they’re up against and hopefully she can catch up.
As yet, I still haven’t made it to the hairdressers yet. That’s coming up for my daughter and I on Thursday. I’m looking forward to it. meanwhile, she had eyelash extensions fitted during the week. This was something totally out of the realms of my experience as I barely even wear lipstick these days (especially being at home in my PJs during lockdown) . However, now she’s working at McDonalds, she can afford such essential services, and I was merely roped in for taxi duties. Of course, she didn’t tell me it was going to take two hours until were about to leave and she suggested I might need a book!
So, while she was there, I hid out round the corner at the Mt Penang Parklands finishing off my book (Julia Baird’s Phosphorescence: On awe, wonder and things that sustain you when the world goes dark.) I also walked around photographing the wildflowers. In typical Rowie fashion, I managed to get lost and struggled to find my way back to the entrance. However, I was somewhat relieved to read that the architect of these 56 hectare gardens liked to think of it having a hide and seek element to it. However, I don’t think seeking my self was quite what he had in mind!
Meanwhile, my research projects are progressing. As you may recall, I’ve been helping my friend research his father’s experiences as a Polish bomber pilot in WWII. It’s a slow process exacerbated by the language difficulties, but we’re making headway. It’s also turned out that others have been posting about his dad and a few of his close mates and that’s really added so much to his story. There are two Christmas greetings his follow pilot Alojzy Dreja sent to English families they’d met in December 1940 and both of these speak about the suffering of fellow Poles imprisoned by the Germans and the Russians. They give a good feeling of what it was to be in exile, but grateful in a sense to at least be free. meanwhile, on the Ethel Turner front, I am currently reading Little Mother Meg, which is the third book of the Woolcot series which includes her most famous work: Seven Little Australians. I haven’t written a post over at Tea With Ethel Turner for a week now. So, that’s a priority. It’s hard to be in so many places at once, especially now that lockdown in easing and we’re getting busier.
BTW I thought you might enjoy this little quote from: Little Mother Meg. The Woolcot’s are holding a dance at their home, which is known colloquially as “Misrule” and Meg’s teenaged brother Bunty who is a bit awkward is a bit unsure about interacting with the girls:
“but what in the world can I talk about to a girl I’ve only just met? You just say,`May I have this dance?’ and she says, `Yes’- if she doesn’t say no, thinking I look the right cut to crush her feet to jellies – and then what on earth is there left to say?”
Meg walks Bunty through the sorts of small talk he can undertake with the girl and then she offers him some very sage advice:
“But do your best to forget all about yourself, and try to give the girl as nice a time as you can.”
I really appreciated that, because when you’re nervous and so self-conscious, you’re not thinking so much about the other person. Indeed, being more thoughtful about them, would definitely give you an advantage.
By the way, I also remember being incredibly nervous and self-conscious about dating when I was at school. Ouch! It could be painful, awkward and so embarrassing.
Lastly, Geoff and I went on an unexpectedly short visit to near by Hardy’s Bay to watch the sunset after Mr 17 burnt his foot on hot coals from his fire pit. There was a quick trip to hospital just to be sure, but he was given the okay and I’m sure that must’ve been the fatest turnaround time on record there. He was in and out in about 30 minutes.
Anyway, that’s about it for the last week.
I hope you’re all keeping well, and had a good week.
Late yesterday afternoon, Geoff and I made a hasty getaway to fit in a sunset walk over at Hardy’s Bay, about a 15 minutes drive away. Our kids are now 17 and 15 years old and hardly at that really young stage where we can’t get away without a minder. However, that doesn’t mean we’re not still attached to the leash. We are always only a phone call away.
As those of you who have lived through the teenage years can no doubt attest, you’re still not absolved of your responsibilities as a parent. Indeed, in some ways things can even ramp up. Even if the law doesn’t require you to provide constant supervision and your teens probably couldn’t think of anything worse, you’re still on a leash. Moreover, when they’re small you can delegate much of your supervision responsibilities to daycare, after-school care and grandparents. The former expire once your children start high school, and grandparents while willing are more than likely to be less mobile than they were once upon a time. Indeed, they could well appreciate a helping hand from them.
When it comes to Mum and Dad, they might not want to know or talk to you much of the time, but when trouble strikes, they certainly know how to find you. Overall, you want that. I want that. The alternatives can often be undesirable, and at worse, fatal. You don’t want teenagers in trouble trying to nut out complex situations for themselves, especially when they’re under the influence of drugs, alcohol, peer pressure, fear of being found out and the list goes on. It’s usual for me to pick my daughter and her friend up at odd hours. I never complain. Never lecture. Well, maybe sometimes. I do ask questions. Try to ensure everyone’s okay. I don’t portray myself as the cool mum, but I want them to know I care and I’d rather be the biggest dag and very uncool, and have them feel loved and valued.
However, at the same time, we parents also need a break, a breather. We need to be able to walk out the front door and have a bit of down time. Of course, going on a date with my husband would be nice (especially after 4 months in lockdown). However, as I said, I’d much rather come home if there’s a problem. I’d much rather be there for our teens in the event of an emergency. I really do. You do believe me, don’t you?
Last night, Geoff and I headed over to Hardy’s Bay for a walk and to watch the sunset. However, we’d just managed to set foot onto the jetty and I’d managed to take a couple of photos, when the phone rang. I’d initially thought it was Geoff’s work. He’s in IT and on call. That could mean a trip into Sydney. However, this time it wasn’t work. It was Mr 17. He had a fire pit running at home. It all seemed pretty safe and he’s a scout, and Geoff made sure he had he hose set up beside him. What else could go wrong? Well, it turned out some burning coals had jumped out and he’d stepped on them. Of course, he was barefoot. That’s not because he wasn’t advised to put shoes . Of course, he knew better and living right near the beach, we’re pretty casual with out footwear and I must admit to going barefoot a bit myself, especially when I was younger. I don’t think you’ll ever catch Geoff without shoes on, although I just peered over to check and sure enough…bare feet. However, his shoes are right there beside him and I think he puts them on just to walk around the house. You know, it’s a minefield around here.
Anyway, Mr 17 had Googled his burn and rated it a second degree burn, and there were blisters. That meant a precautionary trip to hospital. Of course, you can just imagine the moans and the “here we go again”. It’s only been a few months since we were back there with our daughter. Surely, we don’t have to run up frequent flyer points going there? Geoff was all set to go and looked at me and said: “You’re not coming?” Well, I felt a bit of a piker. However, I needed to drive our daughter to dance and I’m immuno-repressed and it’s best for me to stay away. Of course, it would’ve been better if we could all have stayed away, but better to be safe than sorry. Geoff and Mr 17 were on their way. I expected to see them in upwards of 3 hours. It no longer amazes me that an emergency can proceed at a snail’s pace.
However, miracles do happen. Not only did they have an express trip through emergency. His foot was fine. Dad’s bandage and the betadine ointment would do the trick. By the time Geoff returned from parking the car, he was through.
We had intended to get out tonight, but time ran away from us. I had a very relaxing time reading out at the new table out the front, and then we had lunch together out there as well…a home date.
How do you find parenting your older children? Any stories to share? I’d love to hear from you.
Pregnant, Alicja had flown from London to Kracow to consult her dead father. An intense man, he’d been a Polish fighter pilot in the famous Kosciusko 303 squadron. After years in exile, the iron curtain had lifted, and he’d died in his beloved Kracow. Thoroughly English, Alicja was a stranger here. Yet, despite longing to be plain “Alice”, she still held onto the Polish spelling.
Strolling through Main Square, she didn’t see the oncoming tram. However, an invisible force shoved her to safety.
Somehow, she would stay.
Yet, could she?
Four years ago, I met Roland in our local bookshop. His father was a Polish bomber plot in WWII, and he came from near Kracow which somehow managed to survive the war without being bombed to smithereens. I have been helping Roland research his father’s story and being in distant Australia, I decided to visit Kracow via Google Earth the other night. It was exquisite. Have you been there? It’s definitely on my bucket list. an interesting aspect to this research is that my Great Great grandmother was born in what went on to become Poland and she was till alive when my mum was a child. I looked up the village she came from some time ago, and didn’t relate to it at all. Meanwhile, I am hoping to find a bakery which makes Makowiec (Poppy Seed Roll). Or, I might have to try baking it myself. Soon, I’ll have to start calling myself Rowski!
Meanwhile, I have recently started a second blog, where I’m exploring English-Australian novelist Ethel Turner, who wrote the classic “Seven Little Australians”. However, so far I’ve been showcasing some of her other writing. Here’s the link:
Some days, you need to tell Winter it isn’t Spring. However, today it’s the reverse. Now, we’re into Spring, it’s cold and the heater’s on again. Of course, yours truly who was quickly jumping on here before going on a walk, is now re-evaluating the state of affairs outside and considering hibernation instead. I think I might’ve mentioned “tomorrow” before.
Yesterday, was Father’s Day here. It wasn’t the most exciting Father’s Day we’ve ever had. We couldn’t even get out there and go shopping due to lockdown let alone get down to Sydney to see my dad. Our daughter also worked at McDonalds all afternoon. However, I did manage to order Geoff a great t-shirt from Tasmania. My friend was telling me about how she visited this place that handmade spoons when she was down there, and while we were chatting on the phone, I Googled the place. I thought very seriously about buying one of their spoons for our 20th wedding anniversary this Thursday. However, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, and so I just went for the shirt. Geoff is very handy, and while he isn’t into wood turning, he’s always fixing something at home and using tools so it seemed like a great gift.
Anyway, we had a bit of unexpected theatre with the packaging. The t-shirt arrived very well camouflaged inside a cute little cardboard box so I decided not to interfere with it and give it to him as is. However, what I didn’t notice until he came to unwrap it, was that it had been sent in a re-used box from Lush Cosmetics. They make handmade soap which we’re usually really allergic to. On top of that, even those of you who don’t know Geoff very well, would spend a minute with him and know he just not a Lush kind of bloke. The other angle to this story, is that Geoff often wraps presents in deceptive boxes, especially computer castoffs from work. So, he’s giving you a $20.00 book, but you think you’ve received a $2000 laptop. So, it was quite apt that Geoff’s t-shirt would come disguised as fancy soap albeit without the scent. He deserved it.
Meanwhile, we are still in lock down. Overnight, 1, 282 cases were reported, which is pretty shocking for us when we were used to having no cases at all. I don’t know whether this increased case load was inevitable and we were just lucky it didn’t hit sooner. However, the way I see it, we were given this incredible gift of being covid free, and we needed to maintain and protect that with zeal. To have the gift and break it, to me is a greater loss. We knew what was at stake, and I wouldn’t say we’ve blown it yet but we certainly need to play our cards very carefully. We also need to know that those who are playing our hand, are being cautious and yet at the same time trying to get us out of this wretched lock down soon. I know that might sound like mission impossible with one leg going forward and the other leg in reverse. However, perhaps that’s what wisdom’s all about – a precarious balancing act. Not only that. I think it also takes listening to advisers and a diverse range of opinions, and above all else, individuals who don’t believe they have all the answers themselves. Consultation is important, and it certainly isn’t a sign of weakness.
I managed to get out more last week. Geoff and I went out to check out the local wildflowers, especially the Waratahs, which are conveniently growing beside the road not far from here. These magnificent grand flowers are our state floral emblem and are very rare in the wild and such a treat. There was also an abundance of these captivating golden flowers from the pea family. They glowed like lightbulbs in the sun and were pure magic. So, you could say I was rather blessed, and I am definitely most thankful, but I still miss my close friends and my mum and dad, aunts, uncles, cousins – a wealth of people I always took for granted. I don’t anymore.
Meanwhile, I am rapidly advancing down the pathway towards obsession. It’s a quality not unknown to myself, but I’ll blame lockdown for the latest development. I’ve become absolutely obsessed with Australian author, Ethel Turner, who wrote Seven Little Australians and 39 other novels in addition to editing children’s columns in several newspapers. Seven Little Australians was published in 1894 when she was 24 years old and so she’s hardly current. Yet, that doesn’t mean that she’s not contemporary in that way that very perceptive people are. She seems to have an incredible insight into people, and characterization and the challenges they face. One of the issues I find particularly interesting is how she writes about death and characters facing death. I don’t know about you, but I’ve prayed for people who are dying and some of them pull through and others don’t and it does make me ponder about the point of it all. So does young Nell in the sequel to Seven Little Australians, The Family At Misrule. So much has changed in the last 120+ years. Yet, we’re still human and growing up is still a complicated and challenging business. Anyway, my obsession is on hold at the moment pending the arrival of my eBay packages. Don’t you just love eBay especially in lock down?!! I’m not the only one here eagerly awaiting packages either.
Well, that’s about all I’m allowed to share.
I hope you’ve all had a good week and things are going well!
So often when we reflect on Gallipoli, we hear of the men who sacrificed their lives. However, there’s another side to the story. That is the children of the dead and wounded men, also also paid an enormous, and mostly silent, price. Fortunately, the children’s columns in the newspapers provided a space where children would occasionally provide a glimpse, into this world.
On Sunday 30th July, 1922 a letter by Miss Brenda Taylor, aged 9, of Greenock, Piper-street, Leichhardt was published in Sunbeams, the children’s page in the Sun Herald. Sunbeams was edited by Ethel Turner, author of the Australian children’s classic: Seven Little Australians. A regular feature on the page was called “When I Grow Up”, and children wrote in gorgeous letters talking about what they wanted to be when they grew up. Brenda wanted to be a nurse:
“When I grow up I would like to be a nurse, so that I could look after poor sick people. If there happened to be another war I would go and look after the wounded soldiers. My daddy died of wounds at Gallipoli, where there were not enough nurses to look after the soldiers. I would love to wear the nice clean uniform of a nurse, and be in the children’s hospital amongst the little sick babies, as I love babies, and I don’t like to hear them crying. When I see the returned nurses with their badges I feel sure I am going to be one. I hope little girls will want to be the same so that there will be enough nurses for the poor soldiers if any more wars begin.
— Souvenir Prize and Blue “Sun” Card to Brenda Taylor (9), Greenock, Piper-street, Leichhardt — a little girl gallant enough, after her loss, to want to continue in the footsteps of her heroic father.”
Just to place young Brenda’s letter in context, there was also a letter from an ambitious crime-fighting detective:
TO MAKE CRIMINALS SHIVER
When I grow up I am going to be a detective, and gain fame, I will unravel mysteries that have baffled the greatest detectives of the world. If It is necessary for me to disguise while working on any case, my disguise shall be so complete that even my closest friends will not recognise me. First I will start In Australia, and when I’ve cleaned that of Its criminals, I will then proceed to London, and in disguise I will visit the slums of that city and learn what I can about different criminals, then gain their confidence, and arrest them in the act of pulling-off some of their greatest robberies. I will always play a lone hand, as you cannot rely on the police, who are generally blunderers. If any criminal defies me, I shall engage him In a battle of wits, and in the end I think I shall succeed in handing him over to the law to receive his punishment. Never shall I quit a case without unraveling it satisfactorily. Many people shall thank me for the services I have rendered them, and for me this will be sufficient reward. My name will spread throughout the world, and every criminal and wrong-doer will shiver at the mention of it.
There was also “Wanderer” from Bondi who’d decided to become a novelist rather than a pirate:
“NOVELIST RATHER THAN PIRATE
In the earlier stages of my life I entertained wild hopes of becoming a pirate; imagining myself, with a three-cornered hat tilted precariously on one side of my head, ordering men to get strung up the yard-arm, or to walk the plank. Lately, I have realised the utter insignificance of that career, as I will not be able to find a suitable crew, and if I did I would soon be hunted down. My present scheme for the future is to become a composer of prose and verse. I will live in a creeper-covered cottage in a quiet country town, there to pursue my work (perhaps I might marry by then, but that will not make any difference— only that the “star” boarder will have to seek a new residence). So as to have some varieties about the place, I will keep a few cows and a small stock of poultry. In the woodland dales I will compose my stories, and. now and then poetry. I hope to become gradually famous as a novelist. Then— and then only, will the zenith of my ambitions be attained— Blue “sun” Card to “Wanderer” (13), Bondi.”
Exploring Brenda Taylor’s Letter Further
Of course, young Brenda’s letter is heartbreaking. It was one thing for young, single men to sacrifice their lives for the Empire. It was quite another for family men with responsibilities and dependents to sacrifice theirs. Young children were left without fathers, wives without husbands, and were left to bring up the children alone. To put it in very simple terms, Daddy was never coming home.
Naturally, I wanted to find something out about her father’s war service, such as which unit he was in, and what happened to him. This is easy enough if you have a name. However, her father wasn’t named in the letter, and I couldn’t just search the service records for: “Brenda’s Dad”- no matter how powerful Google might be.
At the same, identifying a soldier with minimal information isn’t an impossible quest, especially now that so much information is available online. Indeed, these days, the difficulty is knowing when and where to stop. After all, we now have the whole wide world right at our finger tips and sometimes, as in trying to nut out Brenda’s letter, we need to draw on all of that. Even then, there comes a point when you realize, that you have to walk away without the answer. Indeed, that’s where I’m at with Brenda’s story. I still can’t be sure of who Brenda Taylor was, and don’t know her father’s name either. Yet, I haven’t given up. Storytelling is a collective process and hopefully these efforts will just be the beginning.
Yet, on the other hand, part of me wishes I could turn back the clock, and just appreciate Brenda Taylor’s letter at face value. Left well enough alone, and not asked who her father was, and tried to find his service records. After all, it’s such a heart-touching story. Here’s a little girl who lost her beloved Dad at Gallipoli when she was roughly two years old. That’s a serious loss, and I don’t feel comfortable questioning whether her story was true, and doubting the sincerity of a child. Of course, I want to be a believer. Hug this little girl who has lost her dad wholeheartedly without any of these lingering doubts.
However, any researcher worth their salt knows not to accept anything at face value. We have to ask the questions, accept the answers, and then somehow determine what we weave together into our version of the story.
So, despite a day of going backwards and forwards along time tunnels back into the past, I still don’t know the name of Brenda Taylor’s father, and can’t be entirely sure he died of wounds at Gallipoli or back at home.
A False Alarm
Initially, my efforts to identify Brenda Taylor were going quite well. NSW Births deaths and Marriages had a Brenda Beatrice Taylor born in 1915 in Mudgee to parents John G. Taylor and Beatrice Brownlow. They were married on the 17th February, 1910 at St. Paul’s Manse, Mudgee. This “G” might’ve been a “George”, and at a stretch, Brenda’s father might’ve been John George Taylor Service Number 7050. He was born at Newcastle-On-Tyne England, and was living at 2 Bay Street, Balmain, which isn’t too far from Leichhardt. However, he wasn’t a great fit. He’d enlisted on the 1st November, 1916 and clearly didn’t serve at Gallipoli. His next of kin was his sister, Mrs M. Foster, not a wife. There was also no mention of daughter, Brenda, either. However, marriages go awry, and he wouldn’t have been the only family man to have fled the home front for the front line without leaving a paper trail.
However, then I found the wedding notice for John G. Taylor and Beatrice Brownlow. Brenda’s father was actually a John Gavin Taylor, not a John George. So, that knocked John George Taylor 7050 out of the picture. Further research was required.
There was no other Brenda Taylor on the horizon, although the age of this Brenda Taylor didn’t quite match up. To be 9 years old on the 30th July, 1922, she needed to be born around 1911-1912. However, I couldn’t find an alternative born in NSW or Victoria. So, I persisted and found some good background stories.
Brenda’s mother, Beatrice Brownlow, had been born in 1889 to Samuel Brownlow and Agnes E. Bridge in Coonamble, New South Wales. Samuel was known as a “first-class horse trainer”, which sounded rather exciting:
A Veteran Trainer.
Sam Brownlow Re-appears on the Scene.
To the majority of Mudgee racegoers the name of the above well-known trainer will be quite familiar. The older sportsmen in particular will re member those grand old days when the then champions of the turf, such as King of the West, Eros, Myrtle, Reprieve, Prism, Contessa, &c. , met in battle array on the old course, and memories of Brownlow come back to them fresh and green. And now once more, after a fairly long absonce from the actual scene of turf warfare, Sam has come forth, like a giant refreshed, to renew his former occupation. The old spirit asserted itself — it was too strong for him to resist, and it is a strange coincidence that he will have under his care a horse which he trained a few years ago — I refer to Mr. J. C. Gunnell’s Nimrod. Sam has trained many good horses, notably King of the West, Myrtle, Eros, and Contessa, all of whom won races for the late J. D. Little at Randwick and Hawkesbury. When King of the West won the County Purse (now called the Rowley Mile) at Hawkesbury he was ridden by Tom Donoghue, who is now training in Mudgee. Brownlow once had private training stables on Bombira Hill years ago, where a good string of horses were located. He also went to Queensland with that great horse, Beadsman, with whom he won a great number of races there. Space will not permit of a lengthy description of our old friend’s many succeses as a trainer. We will simply say that he is a first class trainer, and has commenced with Mr. Gunnell’s horses, Nimrod and Grand Stuart, who are being prepared for the Mudgee meeting.
By now, the story was building nicely – layer up on layer up on layer. Yet, there were still some nagging doubts. These Taylors were based in Mudgee, and as yet I hadn’t found a link to Leichhardt, Sydney. Moreover, something else was glaringly missing. Aside from Brenda’s letter, there were no memorials in the newspapers honouring her father’s sacrifice on the battlefield, and this was unusual. Of course, there were families that kept it quiet, but they were few and far between. That also made me nervous.
Then, came the clincher. I came across the obituary for Brenda’s mother, Beatrice. She died on the 25th December, 1943 in Mudgee and it clearly mentioned that she was the “wife of Mr. J. G. Taylor, of Windeyer”, and also referred to her “bereaved husband”. Brenda’s father, John Gavin Taylor, was still alive.
Either Brenda Taylor’s letter wasn’t true. Or, there was another Brenda Taylor.
Brenda Taylor 2.0
I had one last search in the online newspapers at Trove. This time, I came across a wedding photo for a Brenda Taylor who married John Richard Keeffe at St John’s Church, Parramatta in 1938:
“Mrs. J.. Keeffe, formerly Miss Brenda Taylor, of Harris Park, who was married at St. John’s Church, Parramatta, on February 5. Misses Violet Keeffe, Ivy Taylor and Emily Keeffe are the bridesmaids, and Valmna Sweeney the flower girl. Photo. by McEnnally Studio”
I cross-referenced this with NSW Births, Deaths and Marriages, and found her listed as “Evelyn Brenda Taylor”. Would this finally be the clue which unraveled the mystery? Could I finally construct a solid trail from nine year old Brenda Taylor of Piper Street, Leichhardt to her father who really did die of wounds sustained in those early days at Gallipoli?
The closest I’ve come to finding an Evelyn Brenda Taylor is a Brenda Evelyn Taylor, who was listed in the 1911UK Census. She was 2 years old and was born and living in Rawreth, a village and civil parish in the District of Rochford, Essex, England, located between Wickford and Rayleigh. She was living there with her father, Edward Taylor, aged 23 born in Leatherhead, Surrey and was a Farm Labourer; and her mother, Alice May Taylor, was 21 from Chipstead, Surrey.
Could this be the right family? Did they migrate to Australia, and this is the very same Brenda Taylor who wrote into the Sun Herald on the 30th July, 1922?
I still don’t know, but I’m hoping that someone out there can help me set the record straight. I’d really love to know Brenda’s story – the whole story.
If anybody could shed any light on this, I’d really appreciate your help. I don’t have access to Ancestry which would most likely help.
Lastly, I should mention that this is fall of a broader project where I’m researching WWI through the letters of WWI soldiers, and exploring their family history nad lives before they went to the front.
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2
 Sun (Sydney, NSW : 1910 – 1954), Sunday 30 July 1922, page 2
 Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 – 1954), Friday 4 August 1899, page 18
 Mudgee Guardian and North-Western Representative (NSW : 1890 – 1954), Thursday 30 December 1943, page 5
 Cumberland Argus and Fruitgrowers Advocate (Parramatta, NSW : 1888 – 1950), Thursday 10 March 1938, page 9
In January my husband and I had to rush my Dad to emergency. We had to take a strange route to avoid traffic. We also had to keep him calm. He was ironically excited in his delirium from level 10 pain. We thought he would need to stay a few days but in reality the […]
Monday was all azure blue skies and glorious sunshine. However, of course, when we were going sailing on Tuesday with my Dad, it was dull and overcast, and we weren’t even sure there was going to be any wind.
However, that didn’t really matter. That’s because it’s been a couple of years since I’d been out sailing with Dad, and thanks to being cautious about covid, we haven’t seen him for a while either. Moreover, our daughter was also on school holidays, and I’d finally managed to pry her away from her friends for a day out. So, when you look it at like that, no matter how the sailing turned out, we were in for a wonderful day!
Yet, that’s not to say we still weren’t hoping for a perfect day out. A steady, but not gale force, wind with sunny skies good for photography, great conversation, and I did mention something about food? I was particularly looking forward to ordering my Fisherman’s Basket from Palm Beach Seafoods. Yum. Nothing like a good grease and oil change now and then! I’m now really sure grease is good for my engine, but it sure tastes good.
This all brings me to possibly the most challenging aspect of sailing. You’re 100% at the mercy of the wind. Be that too much wind, not enough wind.
Well, maybe it’s not quite 100% controlled by the wind, because other weather factors also come into play. We get some scorchingly hot Summer days here where I’d rather not be out on the water burning to a crisp. On the other extreme, I know some of you live in parts of the world where your marinas are buried under snow and ice in Winter, and that puts an end to sailing. On this front, we’re pretty lucky. Our Winters are pretty temperate, and you can sail all year round. However, there’s still about a month each year where you’re better off staying home and snuggling up in your woollens in front of the heater.
Dad sails a Catalina. It’s a beautiful boat with everything you need to sleep onboard and it certainly feels luxurious. You can sit up there on the deck and soak up the view without the boom hitting you on the head and throwing you overboard. You can also get in and out of the boat without getting wet. That can be a real bonus.
However, there’s still something thrilling about being in a small craft almost at one with the ocean, even if it is pretty hard work constantly adjusting the sails and ducking under the boom. However, there’s that exhilaration of speed and shooting through the water, which is pure fun.
Of course, catching the wind on any sail craft is problematic, and also seems to require an intuitive sense. Indeed, the initiated, can pick up speed in a relatively light wind and in such a small craft, its absolutely exhilerating!!. Indeed, putting all this overthinking aside, it’s fun. Pure fun.
Anyway, I’ve put the cart before the horse already talking about sailing, because we still need to catch the ferry from Ettalong to Palm Beach. Meanwhile, our journey to Palm Beach on the ferry from Ettalong is always an adventure, and I was really looking forward to that too. It’s been a few years, and what with Covid, we’re lucky to travel anywhere at the moment. However, while we had perfect weather on Monday, it was chilly with grey, overcast skies yesterday, and instead of hanging out outside as usual, we huddled indoors. I took no photos, and sat there wearing mask and gloves…humph.
In additon to the ferry and sailing trips, I was also looking forward to having my fisherman’s basket at Palm Beach Fish & Chip Shop. This has been a ritual ever since I was my daughter’s age, when I stayed at “Palmy” with a friend. I even worked there briefly, but didn’t make the cut. I was more in-tune with baking than the fast food industry. However, I still like to reminisce, especially about nights eating pizza at Palm Beach jetty with friends, while drinking Dad’s second-rate French Beaujolais.
However, they’re closed on Tuesdays, and I was left staring through the window at an empty shop. We sat down and had lunch together at the other takeaway shop. I enjoyed a very generous fish burger while chatting with our daughter, which was probably the most remarkable part of the day. She’d planned to bring a friend along and they were going to head to the beach while Dad and I went sailing. However, the friend was grounded, and our daughter didn’t quite twig that lunch with Papa included sailing. The last time we took her sailing didn’t go well. She was absolutely terrified. However, she was much younger then, and Dad had more of a racing yacht then. It was much more sensitive to the wind and I remember some exhilarating (terrifying) moments. While Dad’s always looking for converts to sailing, he hasn’t taken our daughter or my mother out on the boat since then.
Sailing’s been something I’ve dabbled in as a by-stander over the years. I went sailing with my dad a few times when I was at school. We sailed lasers down at Middle Harbour, and I really loved it. Again, it was more of an exhilarating experience and nothing to stop you from flipping over, which is why my Dad prefers the safety and security of his yacht these days. I don’t know why those sailing outings with my dad stopped all those years ago. That was him, not me. I would’ve kept going. The family also spent a week onboard a yacht sailing around the Hawkesbury River and Pittwater. A few years ago, my parents had a place at Palm Beach and the previous owners had left a laser behind. This was a wonderful opportunity for our family. Our son was doing sea scouts. It was great for him to have access to our own boat, and I went out with my husband. I was really little more than ballast, and he did all the hard work. However, I still loved being out there, and a few times we even took the dogs. If I didn’t have my health difficulties, I could see myself as a sailor. I can sense the waves in my soul, which could also be what makes for the poet in me.
Meanwhile, to get out to the boat, we caught a ride from the marina. This is fun too, because this guy gives us an entertaining tour of the houses. He knows who owns which massive waterfront mansion, and always throws in some incredible stories to boot. His feet also told a story, and wished I could make a portrait. They were definitely sailor’s feet… tanned, weathered, a few jagged broken toe nails and dusted with sand. This is his second life, and he used to be more corporate. However, he clearly belongs here now, and could well be a very good friend of Hemingway’s if he was still alive today and found his way Down Under.
Dad was not happy when we pulled up at the boat. It’s only been a week, but the seagulls have pooped from one end of it to the other. Indeed, they’ve even left a nest, making themselves right at home. Fortunately, there were no eggs and Dad unceremoniously cast that into the water filled with disgust. As he cleaned the deck, the seagulls were circling like vultures. They weren’t about to give up their perch without a struggle, and no doubt their squawks of complaint acknowledged Dad’s impertinence. Meanwhile, my daughter and I waited down below in luxury. I was becoming pleased that she’d come. She was admiring the Catalina with its plush interior, and she enthusiastically raised the curtains and peered out through the portholes. Phew! It was starting to look like we had a convert in our midst, and that the terror was gone. That she might actually enjoy sailing after all. Wouldn’t that be great?!!
As I said, Dad was thinking that we weren’t going to get any wind, and we’d be under motor. However, the wind managed to get up to a trifling 2 knots, which wasn’t enough to ruffle the water, but we did get under sail. It was very relaxing , quiet and peaceful. I had a go at steering, which according to my dad was “having a sail”. To be honest, it all felt pretty calm and timid. Moreover, of course, it was only when we were heading back that the wind managed to get up to around four knots. Dad said that often happens, and I could see that he also liked a faster sail. A bit of an adrenalin rush. However, we managed to keep my daughter happy, and that was the real success of yesterday’s voyage.
Indeed, I was reminded of the importance of little things yesterday. That just sitting together is enough. You don’t need an action-packed, adrenalin-fueled adventure to have a great time. Indeed, we don’t even need to have words. We can just be.
Yet, of course, it was also pure magic to be out there again. I love experiencing the enormity of being out there on the water, even if we weren’t out at sea and far away from land. I loved soaking up this vast enormity of water all around me, with the rim of the coast snug around us. Indeed, from the comfort of my desk, I can’t help wondering what it would be like to be onboard one of those triangles of white sail you see far out on the horizon. It looks so peaceful from a distance, even though I know it’s like the proverbial duck floating on the water. While it’s all grace above, those feet are paddling like fury, working hard down below. Moreover, it’s dangerous, and I don’t need to look far to see someone who has lost their life onboard a yacht out there. Indeed, it reminds me. There’s much to be said for dreaming, but not all dreams are meant to become real.
So, in my mind’s eye I’m hovering around the horizon in my little white yacht. There’s wind in the sails, dolphins jumping past and life is all blue skies and sunny days.
Have you been sailing? Are you a sailor? I’d love to hear from you and more about your adventures.
Dan couldn’t believe his luck when he spotted an almost new, wooden high chair sitting beside of the road. It had been sent straight from heaven, landing right at his feet. Although a new job would’ve been better, it was still an answer to prayer. He said nothing to Jess, and wrapped it up in a huge, pink bow. Dan didn’t have a TV, and didn’t worry about the news. Never found out what had happened, and how that high chair came to be sitting beside the road. The chair didn’t share its tragic secret either. It was starting over.
This has been a contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. https://rochellewisoff.com/ Please forgive my clumsy links here. I’ve been forced over to the new block editor and am lost in the undergrowth. I am improving but still have a lot to learn.
This week,I’m just going to keep it brief because time’s gone up in smoke and it’s really late and I’m trying to turn over a new leaf and wake up with the birds (I mean kids) and get myself back into more regular sleeping hours. You might recall that I’ve mentioned all this before, and the struggle continues. Being in lock down along with Winter colds and lethargy haven’t helped either. However, now that Spring’s arrived, I feel a new lease of life and the need to get the show back on the road.
By the way, I apologise for some of my formatting difficulties For those of you who aren’t familiar with WordPress, they’ve changed their editing processes completely and I’m unable to find quite a few features I depend on and I don’t really feel like wasting a lot of time trying to nut out this system I don’t like. I’ve noticed a few of you aren’t happy about these changes either. So, perhaps we should start a revolutions.
Anyway, I might try to get back tomorrow to flesh this out a bit more.
In the meantime, I hope you and yours are keeping well and safe. This is another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali.
PS I almost forgot to mention that we sent our once beloved family car off to the wreckers this week. She’s been with us for 19 years, and drove us home from our wedding and also brought the kids home from the hospital when they were born along with numerous holidays, commutes to work etc. You can read more about that here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2020/09/06/farewell-to-the-family-car/
Yesterday, was Father’s Day here and rather than repeating myself, you can read more about it here:
Yesterday, was Father’s Day here in Australia. While for some, particularly in Western Australia where life in almost back to normal, it might have been business as usual yesterday, for us it meant not going down to Sydney to see my Dad “just in case”. This wasn’t particularly upsetting, because we saw my parents a few weeks ago and intend to go down in a few weeks when everyone’s not out and about quite so much. We just wanted to be cautious. After all, you can’t uncatch covid, and you can’t uncatch giving it to someone else. Moreover, when a few of you are highly vulnerable, caution is the better side of valour, as the saying goes.
Meanwhile, during the week people were asking what we were doing for Father’s Day as though it were New Year’s Eve. You can’t just “do nuffin” or “stuff all”, not even when you’re a dad of a bub and all you want to do is sleep for eternity. Gee, in retrospect that now seems particularly harsh. I’d be much nicer to Geoff in hindsight, and even let him put up his feet for the day rather being so exhausted myself, that it was still action stations. We also had the added complication, that I was critically ill much of the time our kids were small, and it wasn’t easy. Indeed, we were parenting in a constant storm. However, we weren’t the only ones, and there are even more battlers out there now what with Covid and everything that goes with it. I give all you mums and dads of young bubs a huge shout out today. Hang in there if you’re finding the going is tough.
It doesn’t seem like all that long ago, that Geoff and I were back there juggling newborns. Soon, one of these days, Geoff and I might become empty nesters. This is both something you look forward to and dread as a parent, much like your kid getting their driver’s licence. You’d love them to drive themselves around, so you can hang up your taxi plates. However, you want them to drive inside a very protective plastic bubble. Indeed, let’s make that a concrete-reinforced bunker!
Anyway, our kids are now 16 and 14. Without any hesitation of a doubt, they were much more enthusiastic about Father’s Day spirit when they were in pre-school, and it pretty much got left to me to save the day. I probably should’ve rallied some time last week to get them motivated, but I was lost in a covid fog. Actually, I was touching base with the kids’ teachers. No physical contact allowed for most of this year and the wheels have fallen off and I’m just trying to get the full picture (even if it does fall into the “You don’t want to know department”, as in my daughter’s algebra result).
Anyway, at least Geoff had a chance to watch some car racing today, and the two of us went for a quick bush walk right on sunset. There were some real explosions of colour in the trees and I did take some photos, but more as a reminder to head back today to do them. After all, it’s Spring here and we’re stepping out of hibernation albeit wearing mask and gloves in crowded areas.
My sympathies to people in Melbourne and anyone else who celebrated Father’s Day in lock down. There’s no point trying to put too bright a spin on lock down. It is what it is, but hopefully the numbers will come down and you and yours will be okay. Anyway, we’re thinking of you.
Well, now I’ve finished my toasty, I’ll beheading back to the lookout to explore those stunning flowering trees. It’s amazing how motivating it is to have a beautiful Spring day where the air’s just filled with balmy light. I’m almost on top of the world.
So, was it Father’s Day yesterday in your neck of the woods? Did you do anything to celebrate? Or, perhaps it was more a time of reflection, disappointment or regret. If so, I’m thinking of you. Our day ended hit the downward spiral after dinner. So, we know all about less than perfect special days. Indeed, it’s often these special days which seem to turn out the worst.