Tag Archives: Dad

Sailing…Launching the Laser.

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power.”

– Lao Tzu

Yesterday, the sailing season launched again for our son and this was his first time out on his new-to-him Laser. For the last two years, he’s been sailing in a Flying 11 along with a crew member. However, the two 15-year-olds were weighing it down. It wasn’t competitive and quite simply, they didn’t fit. That’s what happens to a lot of things with teenagers, and I don’t believe ours has had his major growth spurt yet. We’re expecting him to be around 6ft-6ft2 so he still has a way to go and he’s only just taller than Mum and Dad.

“One can choose to go back toward safety or forward toward growth. Growth must be chosen again and again; fear must be overcome again and again.”

Abraham Maslow

Of course, the cobwebs had set in over Winter and they were compounded by the new boat and the current situation of having to store the boat at home instead of the sailing club. So, that also meant Dad was driving with the trailer out the back, which I guess really took us into the league of serious sailors. We weren’t just part of the champagne set who keep this yacht thing on a mooring so we can boast to people that we have a yacht, even though we never take it out. Oh no! Our son is a sailor and he’s out on the water at every opportunity and my husband and Dad are the same.

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“Self-transformation is not just about changing yourself. It means shifting yourself to a completely new dimension of experience and perception.”

—Jaggi Vasudev

As you could imagine, taking the new boat out for the first time, there was going to be some teething problems, potential nerves and drama even before the boat hit the water. We had a packing list for the Flying 11 and I should’ve twigged that this needed updating for the new boat. Moreover, taking the boat with us, that included the proverbial kitchen sink.

I saw my role yesterday as observation and potentially a second pair of hands. However, that all changed when we started rigging the boat and Tweedledum and Tweedledee had not communicated well and a sail was left at home. Although Geoff knew how to rig the boat and would’ve been more useful there, he also knew what needed to be found. That meant I stayed put. helping Mr set up the boat…Yikes!!

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He makes it out onto the water and on time. His boat is called “Enjoy” and as he set out, I hope that would sum up his sail.

“A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

– Albert Einstein

If you know me at all, you’d know that means trouble…unless, of course, he could do it all by himself. He did most of it himself. After all, he’s new to this boat, but not new to sailing and he’s sailed Lasers before. However, there was the difficulty of attaching the sail to what might’ve been the boom, and we didn’t have the right gizmo to tie it on. This meant he was trying to tie a fiddly piece of rope, while I was simultaneously holding onto the boom and trying to pull back the sail with the limited strength I have in my hands. I am not Tarzan. Indeed, as many of you know, I have a disability. However, it’s usually an invisibility, and even though my son knows all about it and has lived with it most of his life, he doesn’t always understand its practical application and simply expects me to pull my weight. Be the parent he needs me to be, and I usually try to fit the bill and ignore the personal cost. Besides, I must admit that there’s a lot of pride when I can do whatever it is, and I’m really chuffed. I’ve not only come through for our son, but I’ve also stretched myself and had a small win. A can-do experience, which obviously feels so much better than the “I can’t”.

“A man’s true delight is to do the things he was made for.”

– Marcus Aurelius

While Dad was off fetching the missing sail, we were welcomed into the Laser fleet by the other sailors. So far, it appears that our son is the only youth sailing a Laser and the “oldies” were very welcoming and we had three enthusiastic helpers with rigging the boat. This was fantastic. There were a lot of subtleties with the rigging and the sort of tips you learn first hand, not in a book.  A few years ago, I was made aware of the “you know what you know”, “know what you don’t know” but there was also this square in the diagram for “what you don’t know you don’t know.” I’ve since kept an eye out for this stuff and when I’m listening to someone and it doesn’t make sense, it’s a pretty good indication that I’ve plunged into this territory and it’s time to use my two ears and only use my mouth for questions and clarification.

“What holds most people back isn’t the quality of their ideas, but their lack of faith in themselves. You have to live your life as if you are already where you want to be.”

– Russell Simmons

Needless to say, I fell deep into this camp yesterday as these experienced sailors were offering advice and I dearly wished Geoff would hurry back and pick up the conversation. However, at least I came prepared and had my notebook and pen in hand. That’s my unofficial brain.

We got the boat rigged. Bought him his pie to sustain him through the race and he was off to the briefing to sign in. Apparently, he needs to finish three races to get a handicap. So, the idea was for him to simply do three laps yesterday. I don’t think he was particularly focused on finishing though, and was just trying to get a feel for the boat. That was a more realistic objective.

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Downstairs at Gosford Sailing Club

Once we got him out on the water, Geoff and I retired to restaurant upstairs and enjoyed the view over wedges and a divinely creamy Chery Ripe Cheesecake.

Rowena sailing

Then, Geoff saw a boat being towed in and since we didn’t have our binoculars, he went off to investigate. It wasn’t Mr but while he was down there, he managed to get us a ride onboard a powerboat. Wow. It’s not often I get to go out on the water, let alone onto something fast. Remember, we’re a sailing family.

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My husband Geoff was also enjoying a bit of speed. 

We spotted Mr and tried to rough up conditions just enough to challenge him, without knocking him over. It was great to see him up close and I’ll also reiterate to be out on the water myself!

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Unfortunately, he didn’t finish. He had a sore knee and I think he capsized a few times. However, as I said, I don’t think he was particularly focused on finishing and was more concerned with finding his duck feet.

“What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny.”

– Anaïs Nin

Now, I’m back to thinking about learning to sail myself. There’s a group called Sailability, which takes people with disabilities out for a sail. I figure that’s a great place to start and start I must. I’ve been procrastinating about this for over a year now. Time to get on with it.

Are you a sailor or have you ever been interested in sailing? Do you have any adventures to share? I’d love to hear from you!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Not Quite A Perfect Father’s Day…

A picture tells a thousand words, but it can also tell a thousand lies. After all, how many of us stick those perfect-looking family photos up on our blogs and Facebook projecting this idyllic life out to all and sundry? Most of us do it unwittingly, simply sharing the moment. However, how many of us are brave enough to tell the truth? Admit we didn’t have a perfect day?

However, to be perfectly honest with you, I don’t believe online is the place to broadcast the truth either. Indeed, my grandmother who had quite a lot of wisdom stashed under the lid, used to say that you never run down your family to other people. While this can lead to the stiff upper lip and a swag of behaviors we’ve tried to overcome in subsequent generations, it also shows respect and allows family members to have their off days without fearing their dirty laundry will be aired in public and they need to hide themselves away.

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However, I’m also mindful that it doesn’t take much to project this image of the perfect, happy family especially if you’re still married to your original spouse and your kids scrub up alright. Indeed, without you even knowing it, you could even become a role model. That’s all well and good if you feel you deserve it. However, a lot goes on behind closed doors. Too much at times and you just can’t spill the beans and get it off your chest because it isn’t your story to tell. Or, as I said, you don’t want to broadcast what was really a blip on the radar…a bad day.

It was much easier to do that when the kids were small. You could share at playgroup about your toddler throwing a tantrum in the supermarket and exchange notes. It feels like more of a betrayal when you spill the beans on your teen. That you need to adhere to the code of silence. This is possibly quite different to when I was a teen and my mother played bridge and tennis with her friends. She was pretty discreet and I can’t imagine her disclosing any of our antics. Indeed, she is known to be very good with secrets…watertight. She doesn’t leak. Besides, I think she was inclined to hold back and keep our family’s business to herself. Indeed, I remember going to stay with her parents being given a list of things not to tell my grandparents for a swag of reasons. However, my grandmother knew I was the weakest link and most of the time I didn’t even need to say a word anyway. She already knew.

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Anyway, this Father’s Day was never going to be perfect. By that, I mean giving my husband breakfast in bed, opening presents and for us all going off to Church together. They always have something special at Church and a photo booth, which is lots of fun if your Father’s Day is shaping up alright, but salt in the wound if it’s not. However, only Geoff made it to Church today. I’m still getting over a virus and am taking things slow. Our daughter was off to dance rehearsals for Swan Lake and the curtain opens in only three weeks. So, she was gone for most of the day. Meanwhile, our son couldn’t sleep and didn’t get there either. It wasn’t a great show of family solidarity for Father’s Day and I just couldn’t make it happen either, which I probably would’ve done if I was feeling better.

However, despite a day which was teetering along like an apprentice  tightrope walker teetering back and forward from the brink, I tenaciously clung to my plans to cook a special baked family dinner and even a family specialty for dessert…my mum’s sponge cake topped with luscious passion fruit icing and dollops of cream. It was quite an effort cleaning all the paraphernalia and vitally important detritus off the kitchen table and I can’t remember the last time we actually set the table and had a more formal dinner.

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The Family Sponge Cake (oops I was struggling to blend the butter into the icing but it tasted great).

I don’t know if good food is a way to the heart, a way of helping people to bond and connect and for some of the walls to come down. However, it seemed to do the trick. Our daughter said the potatoes were the best I’d ever made, which is high praise coming from her as she eats like a sparrow. Our son wasn’t too hungry and was feeling tired and went off to bed without even trying the cake. However, he did start to perk up a bit.

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Indeed, they all did after I produced a big photo album and they started looking at old photos of Geoff’s Mum and Dad and the extended family. This was quite intentional on my part because Father’s Day is a hard day for my husband. His father died when he was around 16 just before Father’s Day 36 years ago. He didn’t get the chance to get to know his father as an adult. Obviously, the kids and I have never met him and there is quite an absence there. We don’t have a lot of stories and only a handful of photographs. So, it was really good to see Geoff and the kids pouring over these photographs and he could talk the kids through them. Our kids are a lot younger than their cousins so it was interesting for them to see them when they were their age. Sometimes, I must admit that it feels like our family missed the boat. We just weren’t there.

Meanwhile, there’s my Dad. We usually catch up with my Dad on  Father’s Day every year, although there are some years we celebrate on a different day because plans simply don’t come together, which is what happened this year. Father’s Day is held on the first Sunday in September here in Australia, and with the first Sunday falling on the 1st, it caught us off-guard. We didn’t have anything planned.

Dad didn’t mind. He was feeling exhausted as well and was happy to have a quiet day. We all seem to be getting over the Winter colds, which were compounded by heavy rain and winds during the week, which only reinforced our lethargy.

So, it wasn’t a perfect day. However, it did remind me to hang in there, even when things are far from perfect, and keep beavering away towards building connection, bridging gaps, misunderstandings and grumpiness. Never give up. If you think that sounds like a rallying cry, you’re right. I’m still trying to convince myself. However, your nearest and dearest are worth fighting for. Indeed, they are your world. For many of us, our forebears bore arms and defended our country and our principles. However, how many of us would make the supreme sacrifice for our family? I don’t know. Or, perhaps we’re prepared to die for our families but not prepared to live?

“If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do matters very much.”

Jackie Kennedy

These are difficult issues. What would I do to save my family? Would I give it my all? Or, would I shut up shop. It’s all too hard. After all, there probably is no perfect family, although there probably are perfect moments which we need to seize hold of and savor for eternity.

Perhaps, we should also abandon the entire concept of the perfect family. Understand that a Happy Birthday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day might need to be considered beyond the day itself when things turn pear shaped or even go catastrophically wrong. That it’s not just about the date but about celebrating the person and our relationship and might be more about something that happened last week, a few months ago than this particular day.

Naturally, for many father is a stranger. An unknown on a whole range of levels. Sometimes that’ s a ache and other time something not experienced, isn’t missed and perhaps others have even filled those shoes. I will not dare to presume to understand.

So, I guess I’m feeling like making a toast to overcoming disagreements, strained relationships, misunderstandings and working through even times where we are treated badly and a serious apology is in order. That’s not to gloss over the pain, betrayal and disappointment. It’s not to condone and accept domestic violence of any kind. However, it is to encourage working through rocky relationships and trying to nut things out, smooth things over and to keep talking. This  is as much directed at myself as anyone else. I find it much easier to retreat inside myself and shut the door. However, love and relationships are the most important things to me and it’s ultimately detrimental to  do that. The only way forward is to come out of my hidey-hole and get the ball rolling.

I am hoping you might also find these reflections helpful and you might like to add some thoughts or experiences in the comments. Our families and relationships mean the world to us so let’s try not only to keep hanging in there, but to also bring out the best in them too.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Sins of the Father…Friday Fictioneers.

Nobody believed me. Not even my own mother. It was 1941. Yet, the Kennedys  were already an institution, inscrutable, and you could sense the Camelot legend peculating in the wings.

Of course, I could never say they’d made a mistake or got it wrong, especially when it came to one of their own. Yet, I’d nursed Rosemary Kennedy before and after the procedure, and knew her as she was. Such a beauty. I’d heard the rumours, but there was no justification. It was a crime.

Every week, I took her flowers, but her father never came. He didn’t make mistakes.

100 Words

….

Please don’t ask me how a photo of an asylum reminded of the tragic story of Rose Mary Kennedy, who was given a lobotomy in 1941 at her father’s request and spent the rest of her life in one. To read more about her story, you can click HERE.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © J Hardy Carroll.

Just to account for my absence last week, I stumbled across yet another extraordinary family story and I’ve had to fully immerse myself in the details before I could even begin to understand or explain what happened.

In my last post, I wrote about my grandmother, concert pianist  Eunice Gardiner. Well, I’ve always known that her father was a Merchant Mariner with the Adelaide Steamship Company. However, I’ve known almost nothing about where he went and which ships he served on. So, I was quite excited to find a random newspaper reference online which placed him on a collier called the Dilkera which crashed into a small steamer, the Wyrallah in The Rip off Port Melbourne in 1924. He was Second Mate and a witness at the inquiry. Six men tragically lost their lives when the Wyrallah sank and many of them were married with young kids, so these deaths hit particularly hard. Daddy wasn’t coming home. It’s been quite interesting reading the inquiry reports in the newspapers and realizing just how fine a line there was between those who lived and those who died and even the fact that the accident happened at all. Indeed, if you only tweaked a few details, they would have remained two ships passing in the night.

Meanwhile, I’ve had a crash course on shipping protocols, geography, technology. While Melbourne’s one of Australia’s largest cities, I’ve only been there a couple of times and if I had to describe the city, I would’ve mentioned the trams, the Yarra River, fine dining, art exhibitions and the rag trade. I’d never thought of the sea port, even though we sailed out of Port Phillip two years ago when we caught the Spirit of Tasmania across Bass Strait and through this very same Rip which has claimed quite a few lives over the years.

Now, I’m trying to assemble all of the pieces and write the story.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Dead…Not Buried…Friday Fictioneers.

All Deborah had ever wanted, was to hear her mother say: “I love you”. Yet, the words had never come, and now it was too late. She could only forgive. After her father shot through, Debbie was always branded “a mistake” and became her mother’s scapegoat. Indeed, when she was five, Debbie was surprised her mother didn’t drown her along with the unwanted litter of kittens. However, she was now a successful crown prosecutor, married with a family of her own. Yet, she never let go of Sally… the precious friend who shared her Vegemite sandwiches, and opened her heart.

….

100 words exactly.

Goodness knows what prompted this tale of desperate hardship after spending a wonderful Christmas with my family. By the way, by “family”, I mean a group of about 20-30 of aunts, uncles, cousins etc and that was after a chaotic few hours at home  with mad present openings and the kids and pups chasing balloons around the kitchen. However, it is also a time of year when you do become aware of those who are doing it tough and didn’t have their lives served up on a silver platter.

We hope you and yours had a Merry and Blessed Christmas. “Happy Holidays” is more of an American saying, and not something we say in Australia and yet I acknowledge there is a place for it. It just feels a bit weird for me to use it myself. However, we all come together when it comes to wishing each other a Happy New Year. I am still working on my resolutions but they’re coming and I’ll be waiting until school goers back in February to implement them.

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields, where we write up to 100 words to a provided photo prompt. PHOTO PROMPT © Randy Mazie

Best wishes,

Rowena

Watching the Sailing…Gosford Sailing Club, NSW.

Yesterday afternoon, I was on duty as the sailing parent while Geoff was out on the water doing his sailing course, and our son was sailing his Flying 11 with the Juniors. It was an absolute scorcher of a day. So, after they launched off, I retreated upstairs and bought myself an iced coffee, slice of cake and started reading a fantastic book exploring life after trauma…Leigh Sales: Any Ordinary Day. More about that to come.

“We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch – we are going back from whence we came.”

John F. Kennedy

I am finding myself on a steep learning curve at the sailing club. Geoff is working next weekend, so I’ll be on my pat malone with the lad putting all the bits of his Flying 11 together, which is making assembling my old Ikea desk with instructions and an Allen Key look like a walk in the park. While I wasn’t a complete failure on the DIY front and doing anything practical, I’m become something of a space cadet after almost twenty years of marriage to a guru. Of course, he’s written nothing done, so passing on the baton is going to be depending on the lad and his trusty crew member and his Dad.

“On life’s vast ocean diversely we sail. Reasons the card, but passion the gale.”

Alexander Pope

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Sometimes, I wonder how I became the parent stuck on dry land. I’ve always loved sailing but my mobility’s an issue and at this stage, I’m waiting for Geoff to get through his sailing course so we can get out there in the Laser together. Ironically, after not being able to sail because I had no access to a boat, now I can’t seem to get the boat down to the waterfront which is less than a kilometre away. Ditto with the kayak. Sometimes, you have to wonder how having a Nike moment and just doing it can become so complicated.

“I am not afraid of storms for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

Louisa May Alcott

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By the way, a year or so after getting his Flying 11, the change in our son is phenomenal. They’re not an easy boat to master what with their more complex rigging and they’re also a faster but more tip-able boat than the bathtub Opti he’d been using before. I think every rookie on the Flying 11’s has a few rough weeks of despair and digging deep as they spend more time in the water than upright, but then after a few months it slowly starts coming together. Then, before they know it, they’ve outgrown it and they’re onto the lasers and something new. That will be our son next season.

“To reach a port, we must sail – sail, not tie at anchor – sail, not drift.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Have you ever been sailing and have a few stories to share? I’ve love to hear from you!

Meanwhile, here’s a tribute to my Dad who loves his sailing:

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Cuckoo Clock House…Friday Fictioneers.

As soon as he walked in, Jan was at peace. The boy with the cuckoo clock heart, had finally found his tribe in this museum of intricately carved clocks. No longer an outsider, they even shared the same heartbeat.

Unable to afford a human heart, his father had found a mysterious cuckoo clock at the local market, which he prayed would save the life of his beloved son. Yet, although the operation was a success, there was a strange side-effect. Dvorak’s American Symphony played like a broken record in his head.

At last, he understood. It was all about the house.

….

Welcome to another contribution for Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff Fields. This week’s photo prompt is © J Hardy Carroll and was taken at the Bily Clock Museum in Spillville, Iowa. The museum building was the residence of Antonín Dvořák during the summer of 1893 where he composed his String Quartet in F (also known as the “American Quartet”) and his String Quintet in E-Flat. You can hear it Here

 

 

Charles Ernest Pierotti…A Father’s Great Love.

This morning I was reading was reading in the Good Weekend about Keith Austen’s visit to London’s Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood in Bethnal Green. Although I’ve been to London, I haven’t been to this museum and it was simply something interesting to read about while having my morning cup of tea and bowl of porridge. Unfortunately, coffee’s verboten as part of my daily ritual these days and I restrict myself to cappuccinos in cafes once or twice a week, where I also allow myself two spoonfuls of sugar, which are also outlawed. Mind you, just to be deliciously inconsistent, chocolate in whatever guise it arrives in, is allowed free reign. I mightn’t have the most agreeable digestive tract and I might be generously proportioned, but I’m not on life support yet. I deserve a few of life’s simple pleasures.

In between mouthfuls of porridge and sips of tea, I read about what could possibly the world’s most tragic tribute ever produced by a grieving parent. Following the death of his infant son Patrick, famed English doll maker, Charles Ernest Pierotti, made an incredibly life-like replica which is on display in a glass case at the V & A.

Austen writes:

“To me the creepiest exhibit is also one of the most beautiful. It’s a pecularly life-like doll which lies in state in a glass cabinet, a wonderfully realized baby boy with curly blond hair and pale blue eyes. He is wearing a simple, embroidered christening gown. Then, you read the label: “Wax-headed baby doll, about 1900. Patrick Enrico Pierotti died as a baby. His father, the English doll-maker Charles Ernest Pierotti, made the dollas a portrait of him.”

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Charles Ernest Pierotti: Patrick Enrico Pierotti. Photo: V  & A Museum.

A quick Google search, took me straight into the V&A vault and I could almost reach out and and hold baby Patrick. Feel the weight of a thousand tears and their family’s grieving hearts. Most of us know someone who has endured the grief of losing a baby, or perhaps we have been there ourselves. It’s a shocker…an angst without end.

Interestingly, however, the online catalogue describes the doll in clinical detail without a drop of emotion:

“Wax portrait doll of a young male caucasian child, with blue glass eyes and blonde human hair curls inserted into the wax. It has a pink poured wax shoulder head, with a stuffed cloth body. The doll is dressed in in a long white cotton gown, with ribbon and a whitework trim and rows of tucks. There is also a cream carrying cape of cream patterned cotton, lined with cotton, trimmed with lace and ribbon ties. Long petticoat of coarse linen and whitework, a second petticoat of cream flannel. The chemise is of white linen.”

That I found creepy.

I needed to give this baby more than just a name. At the very least, a start and finish and if I could possibly ever find out, a cause of death. While child mortality was commonplace at the turn of the century, when it came to baby Patrick we have a such a life-like replica which is still in mint condition 118 years later, that I felt he deserved a word story as well as just an image.

Above: Dolls made by Charles Ernest Pierotti Photos: V  & A Museum.

So, I put on my researchers cap and headed off in search of a date of birth, a date of death, which I fully expected to find during that period. However, I found nothing. Nothing official to acknowledge that baby Patrick Pierotti was ever here.

I have to admit, that I’m a bit surprised, especially when this doll made in his very likeness is in the public eye. Surely, I’m not the only one who has probed a little further and asked these questions? So, now I’m off to contact the V & A Museum of Childhood and see if they can shed any light on it, and I’ll keep you posted.

There’s something for you to digest over your breakfast or whichever meal is next on your agenda. It’s rapidly creeping towards dinner time here and I still don’t feel like I’ve fully woken up yet. It’s a miserable, rainy Saturday and after doing my morning errands, I returned to my PJs and had a balmy nap with my electric blanket on. Life is good. That said, it could be a bit more productive.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS While researching this story, I came across an excellent post at Diyala’s blog regarding  Momento Mori: What is it? where she’s produced a very haunting piece of art featuring this baby doll.

 

Weekend Coffee Share- Happy Father’s Day 2018!

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Don’t you just love how special days automatically assume you’re having a great day and that you’re all happy, happy, joy, joy! Happy Father’s Day! Happy Mother’s Day! Happy Birthday!

What if you don’t feel like being happy? What if you’re feeling grumpy or even downright miserable? Are you supposed to paint your clown face over the scars and forget your candle’s already gone out? Perhaps, we should just take “happy” out of the equation and simply wish people: “Father’s Day”, “Mother’s Day”, “Birthday”. Perhaps, by not expecting happiness (or at the very least a day without any fights or squabbles), we’d be better prepared to deal with any disappointment. Yet, isn’t that also defeat? Don’t we want to be happy?

Perhaps, we’ll all feel happier after a few celebratory Dad jokes:

  • I’ll never date another apostrophe…The last one was too possessive.
  • I gave all my dead batteries away today… Free of charge
  • I dreamed about drowning in an ocean made out of orange soda last night…It took me a while to work out it was just a Fanta sea.

Well, that’s enough philosophizing. Special days always get me thinking and it’s a time where most of us pause and reflect to some extent…or have someone else’s philosophizing thrust on us. What does it mean to be a good Dad? How do we show our Dad how much we love and appreciate him? Then, there are those who have lost their Dad, perhaps even prematurely. Or, don’t have contact with Dad.

My husband’s father passed away almost 35 years ago when Geoff was only 16 years old, and it wasn’t long after Father’s Day. Indeed, driving home from my parents’ place tonight, Geoff said that my Dad’s been his father-in-law longer than he had his own father. While it’s great that he has my Dad, it does feel like he was short-changed. His mother died in 2000 the year we met, but she was 73 which wasn’t unreasonable. So, my Mum as well as Geoff’s sister and her husband have helped fill these shoes.

Our Father’s Day was fairly low-key. We went to Church this morning as a family and drove down to Sydney for lunch with my parents and brother. You might recall that my parents celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary a few weeks ago. Well, they’d been given a lot of chocolate, and as tough as it might’ve been, we had to help them eat it.

I’m not sure whether you have heard that Australia has just acquired our 6th Prime Minister in 11 years. Just over a week ago, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was ousted by his own party and all that is despicable and ugly in politics both on the stage and behind the scenes reveal itself in all its lurid glory. I didn’t have much faith left before but anarchy is looking good atm. Whoops! I think that’s what we’ve already got. I wonder who’ll be wearing the monkey suit next week?

Last week, was fairly quiet as I’ve been recovering from last weekend’s gastro bug. It really sapped the life out of me. So, there’s been no dancing on the tables from me.

Rowena Lizottes

Posing after our violin performance 2012. Lizotte’s is a rock n’ roll venue where the likes of Diesel have performed…and me! The music school hired the venue for our concert.

However, I wrote a short story called: “The Violinist” which was based when I sat for my Preliminary Violin exam and almost blew a gasket stressing out about getting an A and about doing the exam at all. I’d only taken the violin up to help my daughter, but then she quit and left me to finish off the term’s lessons and I have no idea how one term lead to another except that I did play at the end of year concert in a violin ensemble. I think that’s what really clinched it for me and my teacher must’ve been a very positive force to counter-balance what really was a rather cantankerous and difficult violin. I haven’t posted it here, because I have plans.

This week, I also participated in Thursday Doors.  hosted by Norm 2.0. This week, we visited the miniature village of Lower Crackpot, located in Tazmazia in NW Tasmania. These doors were so cute and pretty witty as well. Not surprisingly, the village has quite a satirical element. If you’re feeling like a bit of a laugh, please Click here

I also took part in Friday Fictioneers. This week’s effort seemed a bit far-fetched at first but then I remembered that three Japanese tourists had tried driving from Redland Bay to Stradbroke Island thanks to Google maps, and decided Panoramic Pete might not have been so hard to believe after all. You’ve have to read it to form your own opinion: When the Mirror Cracked…

Well, that’s enough from me. What have you been up to during the last week? I’d love to catch up.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Ecclectic Ali. We’d love you to come and join us.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS: Happy Father’s Day

 

Secret Shed Business…Friday Fictioneers.

“What’s Dad doing? He’s always out there in the shed! You sure, he hasn’t got another woman stashed out there?”

Pam had no idea. It was his space. A no go zone. She left him to it.

However, the deeper he tunneled into retirement, the less he came out, and Pam was starting to wonder whether she should be concerned. Surely, it couldn’t hurt to peak? Not that Pam was complaining. She hadn’t burned her bra in the 70’s, to end up cooking hot lunches for hubby now.

Indeed, with or without Brian, she was setting sail on a cruise….

……

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

F- Frederick McCubbin- A-Z Challenge

As you may recall, my theme for the 2018 A-Z Challenge is Writing Letters to Dead Artists.

Frederick McCubbin (1855-1917) was an Australian Impressionist and a member of the famed Heidelberg School of artists, which played a critical role in the development of a distinctive Australian art. Moreover, through his position as an instructor and master of the School of Design at the National Gallery (1888 to his death in 1917) he taught a number of students who became prominent Australian artists, including Charles Conder and Arthur Streeton. Indeed, when I read artist Jo Sweatman’s reflection on the man, it’s clear both he and his wife Annie, did a lot to foster Australian art and artists:

“It is impossible to think of the Old Gallery days apart from Fred McCubbin, that dearly loved man. In both Mr. and Mrs. Mac students found inspiring and sympathetic friends, who kept open house on Sundays to painters, musicians, and senior students at their home in Brighton. Mr. Mac had a fine tenor voice, and, singing “The Erl King,” hands clenched, hair more than ever on end, and voice almost hoarse with horror, he thrilled one to the marrow. Mrs. Mac was full of energy and enterprise. She first discovered the Athenaeum Hall and helped to make it the present home of painters[1].

220px-Frederick_McCubbin_-_Self-portrait,_1886

Self-Portrait 1886 Art Gallery of NSW

His obituary also provides a helpful snapshot of the man:

“Mr. McCubbin was essentially a landscape painter, and showed remarkable skill in dealing with and realizing the intricacies, colour, and atmosphere of the Australian bush. Especially could he suggest the great spaces of the forest, the artistic tangle of the undergrowth, and the charm of solitude and silence. In 1906 he visited England, and the influence of Turner was apparent in all he did subsequent to his return, which added considerably to the charm of his landscapes.[2]

When you think about Australia back to McCubbin’s early days, European Australia was barely 100 years old and still an infant. News from Europe arrived by ship and was 3 months out-of-date by the time it arrived. So, it was very difficult for Australian artists to keep up with overseas trends, although our artists travelled overseas and brought ideas back with them and new immigrants did likewise. Moreover, vast distances and poor transport within the colonies compounded this global isolation. While most Australians lived in cities, in more rural areas, you couldn’t just  pop next door for a cup of tea, let alone chat about your latest painting.

So, any movement which could draw fledgling Australian artists together, was critical for the creation of a uniquely Australian art. By the way, I don’t just see that as a political or nationalist urge, but the need for the person on the street to find their own reflection in art and literature. To see our trees, our birds, skies and beaches populated by characters like ourselves, and not simply having someone else’s world thrust upon us.

Personally, I mainly know McCubbin through his work: On the Wallaby Track (1896. For me the first thing you notice, is that it’s distinctly Australian. I can smell the scent of eucalyptus wafting through the bush, and hear the dried up gum trees crunch and crackle under foot. You’re definitely not in England with “her pleasant pastures green”.

By the way, “On the Wallaby”, refers to going bush looking for work. There was a serious  economic recession in the 1890s, and this battling swagman doesn’t only have himself to worry about, but also a wife and baby to feed. It can therefore be taken as a comment on the harsh economic times. By the way, McCubbin’s wife, Annie, and son modelled for the painting along with his brother-in-law. So it was a staged, constructed scene and not something he stumbled across.

On the Wallaby Track remains a fairly well-known work. In 1981, it came to life in a Kit Kat commercial:

In 1981, it also appeared on the $2.00 Christmas stamp. Indeed, I remember tearing it off a Christmas parcel from my grandparents, soaking it off and adding it to my stamp collection.  I was 12 years old.

However, once you put On the Wallaby onto a Christmas stamp, the scene takes on a different story. Indeed, the mother becomes Mary, the baby is Jesus and the swagman becomes Joseph.

Well, at least that’s what I used to see when the stamp first came out. The last thing on my mind back then, was being a Mum and having children. Indeed, I wasn’t too keen on all the trappings of womanhood back then, and this could well have been around the time that I threw in my angel wings to become a shepherd in the Church Christmas Eve Service. That had nothing to do with cross-dressing or wanting to be a man. Rather, it acknowledged dissatisfaction with the limitations of being “a young lady” i.e. being imprisoned in fancy dresses and patent leather shoes, which couldn’t get dirty. I wanted to have fun, and having fun should never be political.

However, I look at that painting through different eyes now that I’m a mother of two children. Now, I not only know what it is to have a babe on your lap, but also to see them grow up and almost disappear within their adolescent features.  So, now, I look at that painting and think of me out in the bush with my husband and our first born.

Jonathon &Rowena Coles Bay

 

Oh how times have changed!

So, I thought Slim Dusty singing Waltzing Matilda would be a suitable musical accompaniment to On The Wallaby Track.

That reminds me, family and being a family man are integral to reaching any kind of understanding of Frederick McCubbin and his work. He was the third of eight children himself and he and his wife Annie, had seven children. He worked in his parents’ bakery in the early days as a cart driver, and various family members posed for his works. Moreover, with the weekend open houses, it seems that both Fred and Annie McCubbin extended their notion of “family” to include his family of fellow artists. They fostered young talent and their home was a fertile breeding ground for Australian artists, where they could collaborate and exchange ideas. Indeed, their son, Louis and a grandson, Charles, both became artists.

So, now without further ado, he’s my letter to Frederick McCubbin…

Letter to Frederick McCubbin

Dear Frederick,

You passed away just over a hundred years ago, and I assume you’ve been resting in peace ever since.

Well, I’m sorry to disturb you, although I can see you being quite enthusiastic to jump out of your box, and find fresh inspiration to paint. I wonder how you would depict Australia today? What stands out and gives us a unique sense of identity? Or, does that still exist? Has Australian culture been diluted so much, that there isn’t anything left? I cringe whenever my kids refer to tomato sauce as “ketchup”. What’s the world coming to? I sometimes wonder whether we’ve given away our souls, without even questioning how precious they are. Mind you, trying to define an Australian has never been easy. However, while I struggle to pinpoint what it is, I have a sense of what it’s not.

By the way, I hope you noticed the stamp on the envelope. Does it look familiar? How does it feel to have one of your paintings on an Australian stamp? You must be pretty stoked. I really love: On the Wallaby Track. It feels so real. Like I could just walk into the canvas, pick up your baby boy, and hold him in my arms. Indeed, I could even switch places and slip into position with my own son.However, that could also have something to do with this painting appearing in a Kit Kat commercial.

Anyway, I look forward to hearing from you!

Warm regards,

Rowena

A Letter From Frederick McCubbin

Dear Rowena,

Thank you so much for your letter. I showed Annie and the rest of the family the stamp, and we popped the champagne. It was such an honour.

As much as I was consumed with creating an Australian art back in the day, I’ve been away too long to have a finger on the pulse these days. What I did notice, was that no one talks to each other anymore. You’re all hiding behind those silly screens. Indeed, after awhile, I started to wonder if anyone has any personality or character at all. Is this what your generation calls “the zombie apocalypse”?

Anyway, I have a very important question for you, Rowena…What happened to your painting? Why did you stop?

Last night, I snuck into your house and your pieces weren’t even signed.

Are you ashamed of them?

What are you hiding behind?

It’s time for you to come out, my dear.

Don’t be so afraid.

You have your own way of seeing. Your own unique vision. Seize it with both hands and ooze it into your words and onto the canvas. Your time will come.

Warm regards,

Fred.

References

[1] Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 – 1957), Saturday 5 April 1941, page 4

[2] Observer (Adelaide, SA : 1905 – 1931), Saturday 29 December 1917, page 12

Further Reading

Frederick McCubbin – Australian Dictionary of Biography

http://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/australianimpressionism/education/insights_intro.html

https://www.ngv.vic.gov.au/essay/the-art-of-frederick-mccubbin-a-view-of-his-materials-and-technique/

https://www.artistsfootsteps.com/html/McCubbin_Interior.htm