Tag Archives: dog

Midnight With “The Secret Wife”.

If you go digging through my archives, you’ll notice that despite being a self-confessed book addict, I rarely write book reviews. That’s because I’m unfortunately more of a book collector than a voracious book reader. Of course, I have good intentions, and get carried away on the wings of fancy, but all too often the rubber doesn’t hit the road.

Anyway, today I’m breaking with tradition because I’ve just finished reading Mark Lamprell’s: The Secret Wife, and I’m too excited to keep it to myself. I absolutely loved it, and thought you might love it too. I rarely read non-fiction, and despite my best intentions, have often failed to finish even novels I love. So, the fact I was sticking matchsticks in my eyes to stay awake and finish this book, is a very strong endorsement. Indeed, to quote Australian music legend Molly Meldrum: “Do yourself a favour”, and read this book.

So, what was so good about it?

For me personally, I’m Australian and I enjoy stories from my own backyard, as well as reading foreign literature. Indeed, I suspect each of us likes to see our own world reflected back to us through the arts, as much as we also appreciate a more cosmopolitan diet. Yet, at the same time, it wasn’t consciously Australian and would easily translate elsewhere.

Secondly, I really appreciated the highly developed characterisation with his profound understanding of human nature. The storyline hinges on the friendship of two very different women, Edith and Frankie, their husbands and children and is mostly set in the 1960’s. Naturally, as characters in a novel, they go through many ups and downs, dramas, catastrophes and successes. Lacking in self-confidence myself too often, I related very strongly to Edith even though I’m a born extrovert and would’ve loved to be Frankie in my dreams.

I also really appreciated how Lamprell handled the interaction of this wily cast with the finely-tuned precision of a symphony conductor, yet with casual realism. There were times the characters became people I know, but I also felt Mark knew me like the back of his hand. I’m sure I got goose bumps more than once.

Another point I greatly appreciated about the book was Mark’s dynamic and complex vocabulary. Not all writers appreciate words, but I love words with a passion and am quick to take my hat off to those who make the effort (or even flourish). My kids have told me off for writing in books, but I always read books with a pen in hand, and my pen was very busy throughout (which is a great sign, btw.) I even jotted a few words in the back.

It is also worth noting that The Secret Wife is a historical novel. I was touched and impressed by Lamprell’s eye for detail and accuracy. It’s so easy to Google these things now, that there’s no excuse for getting them wrong. There is just enough detail to add flavour and authenticity, but not too much to bog you down.

All of that makes me sound intensely critical and punctilious (to steal a word from Mark). However, what we’re all looking for is a gripping story. A tale which draws us in and keeps throwing us bait until we’re caught hook, line and sinker. Where we can’t put the book down, yet we don’t want the book to end either. That is certainly true of The Secret Wife. The plot is also refreshingly unpredictable. He leads us up one path, and then we are taken somewhere else entirely, although not left alone lost in the dark either.

I know I’m saying a lot without saying much at all about this book. That’s because I know how much I hate spoilers. I just want a “yay” or a “nay”, and something to back it up. Yet, I’m busting to talk to someone about it.

However, I’m also into biography. So, once I like a book, or fancy an author, I want to delve into their head, their heart, their past, present…the works. (Indeed, I’ve been doing just that with author Ethel Turner over at my other blog Tea With Ethel Turner.) So this leaves me asking: “Who is Mark Lamprell?” and I suppose you might be wondering the same thing, and why I read: The Secret Wife, especially when I could’ve been reading your blog posts and works of fiction instead…

Mark Lamprell – Photo Ian Erick

Well, the official answer is: “Mark Lamprell is an (Australian) writer of novels and children’s books published in sixteen countries and twelve languages, including the novels The Full Ridiculous and A Lover’s Guide to Rome. He also works internationally as a writer and director in film, with movie credits including Babe Pig in the City, My Mother Frank, Goddess, A Few Less Men and Never Too Late.

There’s a more complex answer here, where Booktopia asked him Ten Terrifying Questions: https://www.booktopia.com.au/blog/2022/04/21/ten-terrifying-questions-with-mark-lamprell/?fbclid=IwAR10IScuXeqzO3eEluwWUtZb9ICn93sRAXkHBCS8JUqbAwLBQxZpsZ6Kwwk

However, for me, Mark Lamprell was also my uncle’s school friend. My dad was one of seven, and being the eldest grandchild, I was only ten and eleven years younger than my youngest uncles. So, it wasn’t unusual for me to be down at the house when their friends were around. Moreover, their house was a sprawling Californian bungalow. None of the doors were ever locked, and people simply came and went. Oftentimes, we’d be gathered around the kitchen table philosophising. One would be having breakfast, another lunch and someone else having a snack. It was definitely laissez-faire, although there were still non-negotiables like my grandfather wanting my uncle to get his hair cut.

My grandmother in a professional capacity. This was for the BBC around 1938.

Yet, as I’ve mentioned before, my grandmother was Eunice Gardiner, an international concert pianist, music critic and later professor piano at the NSW Conservatorium of Music. In the loungeroom, there was her Bechstein grand piano, and after my grandfather passed away, it was joined by a large concert-sized Steinway grand, which she’d brought out from England. Having two large grand pianos in your lounge room, certainly makes a statement.

My Great Grandmother, Ruby Gardiner (McNamara) was in some ways Edith to my grandmother’s Frankie. Both of them stood their ground at times, and were still their own people. I look at this photo now with Ruby looking across and even deferring to her daughter as though she’s not expecting to be in the shot. Hadn’t picked up on that before.

So, the house had this sort of dichotomy, and that fits in very well with Frankie’s world in The Secret Wife. Moreover, like Frankie, there was so much we didn’t know about my grandmother’s career, and who she was. Indeed, I venture to suggest that everyone probably has their secrets. Things even our nearest and dearest know nothing about.

While The Secret Wife and I were obviously a very good fit, I ended up reading it because the publisher sent me a copy to review. I was attending a novel writing workshop with Graeme Simsion (author of The Rosie Project who I’ve reviewed before). I mentioned that I’d attended a similar workshop with Mark Lamprell at the Sydney Writer’s Festival, and the publicist said she’d send me a copy of his new book. I was delighted, and mentioned he was a family friend. The book duly arrived, and I thought I’d better read it tout de suite to honour the deal. No forgetting to read this book. By this time, I picked up an extra 38 “friends” at the Pearl Beach Book Sale. So, it wasn’t that The Secret Wife was without competition. I clearly needed to get reading.

Family Press Photo 1960 around the time of the TV interview.

However, reading The Secret Wife now was mind-blowing timing. A few weeks ago, I was contacted by historian, Ann Curthoys, who let me know that back in 1960 my grandmother had appeared on an ABC TV panel interviewing Paul Robeson, an African-American singer, actor and civil rights activist and soon of a former slave when he toured Australia in November 1960. The interview covered racism, equality and freedom and was recorded on the 5th November, 1960. Three days later, JF Kennedy defeated Nixon in the US presidential election, and it was broadcast on the 13th November, 1960. It was just under three years before Dr Martin Luther King’s famous  “I Have a Dream” speech, which followed a march by over 200,000 people on Washington on the 28th August, 1963. I was able to order a copy of the interview, and have been working on a transcript. I am gobsmacked.

A media shot – my grandmother with the eldest boys at the piano around 1942.

So, reading: The Secret Wife which is set in this similar social context, was an incredible fusion. However, my grandmother was leading a different life to anyone really what with her prodigious talent and being married with seven children and still pursuing her career. But I think she just had this trajectory in her mind and it just kept going. She probably knew nothing else.

As for my grandfather, there was a miniature grand piano on their wedding cake. So, I doubt he had any illusions. My grandmother, her piano and her career were a package deal. There was never any suggestion she was going to stop.

Wow! There’s been so much to think about, and more to come. For now, I’m going to let the book settle. I really want to talk it over, and share it with someone (something I obviously can’t do in a review.) Maybe, I’ll start talking to myself.

Best wishes,

Rowena Curtin

PS One thing I didn’t mention was that my grandfather was the consummate book collector and my grandparents’ house was overflowing out the back and under the house with boxes, and boxes of books. Indeed, when my grandparents first got married, my grandfather’s mother sent over his books to their new home, and they apparently arrived even before the furniture.

Don’t you just love family stories?!!

Featured image: Geoff Newton. Thank you Zac the dog for posing for the camera. Since he spends much of his life sleeping underneath my keyboard and while I was reading the book, it seemed appropriate for him to appear in the photo.

Driving to Pearl Beach, Australia.

The white chariot headed out for a relatively short drive over to neighbouring Pearl Beach with young Miss at the wheel again rapidly accruing her driving hours. In case you missed the big announcement, about ten days ago Miss got her Learner’s Permit and now has mostly me bailed up in the front seat while she accrues her mandatory 120 hours of supervised driving. She seems to love driving, and mostly finds it very relaxing, and it must be such a great feeling to be driving herself to all sorts of places we rarely ever seem to get to ordinarily. We are going to know our local area like the back of our hand by the end of next week at the rate we’re going.

Today, she drove us around to Pearl Beach in between dance classes, which only allowed me to squeeze in a quick walk, take a few photos and to also check out the Little Book Library by the beach, which has long been an absolute treasure trove.

Indeed, that reminds me that the Peal Beach Annual Book Sale will be coming up soon on the Easter long weekend. This is a time to leave the family at home and to ensure the car is empty. For booklovers like myself, this is TEMPTATION and by my very own definition of evil last last when I was referring to the pokies, EVIL. It appears that even something good for you can become evil in excess (and especially when your house is already bursting at the seams with books!!)

Meanwhile, I was also curious to see how the beach was looking after the recent floods. The last time I was at Pearlie about a week ago, a great river had opened up and was carving a path from a back estuary straight through the beach. Indeed, it looks like it has always been there. However, I don’t recall seeing the beach carved up like that before. Then again, I don’t recall it raining like this before either. It’s been so intense and seemed to out last Noah’s 40 days and 40 nights by a country mile.

There was still a trailing snake carved deeply through the sand where the flood waters had been, but the river had almost dried up.

What I did find was one of these little “houses” made out of driftwood on the beach. Although it wasn’t anything like approaching a proper house, and was little more than a handful of sticks thrown together, it spoke promise to me…hope, optimism, new beginnings.

Wedding at Pearl Beach today.

Then, I noticed a wedding taking place further down the beach. How exciting was that. Not only were the bride and groom celebrating their big day and promising to love each other through it all, they had a dry wedding and glorious sunshine. They must’ve been deliriously happy, amazed and grateful.

Stick Tepee

However, that wedding is but a bright spark in an uncertain world. Lately, I’ve really been wishing I could wave my magic wand over the Earth and just make everything better. End this dreadful invasion of the Ukraine. Magically restore homes, businesses and lives lost during our extreme flooding here in NSW and Queensland. Getting rid of covid is another aspiration. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be a miracle worker?!!

Such a loving dog! This is how many hours are spent, usually with my keyboard resting on his back.

Meanwhile, I’m back home and Zac is sleeping on my lap, and the troubles of the world seem very far away, and yet our son is coughing and our daughter is staying overnight at her friend’s 18th. Potential trouble is never far away, even if it doesn’t actually knock on your door. However, hope is also there as well, often to be found in the little things, especially at first, and so it can be so easy be missed.

How are you going in your neck of the woods? I hope you are doing well, and thank you for popping in.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Doughnuts at a Stormy Terrigal, Australia.

Normally, our daughter works at McDonald’s on a Sunday afternoon. However, she was free this afternoon and she bounced into my room suggesting donuts and a walk at Terrigal. We had discovered this donut shop during the week and had fallen deeply in love. I also was keen to go for a walk, despite the rain. Indeed, just as we’d decided to go, the heavens opened up and the Pacific Ocean came down. We checked the weather radar, and it wasn’t hanging round long. So, off we went.

Terrigal looking towards The Haven

It seems strange and perhaps lacking in respect to actually enjoy oneself at the moment. Russia has invaded the Ukraine, goodness knows what that means. Of course, that situation downplays the floods in Brisbane, Gympie and the usual suspects are also appearing on the news. However, we’ve barely been out since June last year, and I make no apologies for actually having fun, or spending time with the recently turned 16, Miss.

Terrigal Haven and the fishing co-op where we used to buy fish on our holidays when I was a child.

It is strange in a way to think that with everything that’s going on, that so many places are so unaffected and the rhythms of life and nature go on as normal. C’est la vie. When Lady Luck, God or whoever, lights up your path, you’ve got to seize the chance with both hands and make a run for it.

Photo sourced from their Facebook page.

So, we bought a tray of six very scrumptious doughnuts. I won’t go through all the variations, but they had a luscious Creme Brulee Doughnut with toffee on top and a veritable subterranean lake of custard inside. As our daughter mentioned, the doughnuts aren’t too sweet, the doughnut itself is thick and doughy and there’s a luscious generosity about them. They’re a definite treat, and probably something which should be classified as a “sometimes food”.

Terrigal Pool

We headed across the road, and chose a dry section of wall by the beach, and sat down to consume our hoard. After all the rain, the ground was still wet and the beach itself was covered in seaweed and didn’t smell the best. From here we not only had a stunning view of the beach, we could also watch the brewing clouds which were getting darker, full-bodied and you didn’t need to check the radar to know rain was on its way.

Meanwhile, the promenade beside the beach was pleasantly populated with dogwalkers without being crowded. Now that out kids are older, small children have regained their charm and they were incredibly captivating. We could smile and wave without needing to keep up 24/7. We’re definitely beyond that now.

Miss and Geoff watching the crabs and the waves

Doughnuts eaten, exercise began and we walked round the rocks on this new fangled walkway the council has constructed. It’s all terribly civilised and extends access beyond the young and intrepid adventurer, but its a huge contraption superimposed on nature and I much prefer the Terrigal of my childhood. It was an unsophisticated, regional seaside town. Now, it’s Australia’s incarnation of Monaco by the sea with high density living and something in between Byron Bay and Surfers Paradise. That, I guess, makes it uniquely Terrigal and I do like it. I love seeing all the people there and there is something to be said about living it up at times too…fine dining, dressing up, and not just getting around in kayaks, sail boats, water shoes and having a real swim at the beach.

We were enjoying watching an abundance of largish rock crabs scuttling over the rocks while large waves smashed against the rocks launching a myriad of sounds something in between an orchestra and a choir as the water flowed through holes and caves. It was magic.. nature’s music.

Then, my phone rung. The number wasn’t in my contacts, which is rather unusual for me, especially when our daughter is with us and isn’t calling from one of her friend’s phones. “I think we’ve found your dog. Do you have a Lady Newton?” In hindsight, I felt like denying all knowledge of a Lady Newton. There we were on a rare outing with our daughter. Indeed, we’d actually gone out. However, annoyance was overcome by relief and gratitude and these strangers safely secured Lady in our backyard and sealed the back gate up which had become ajar in the rain.

So, the magic was over. Like Cinderella at the stroke of midnight, we were off home.

Well, I hope you enjoyed our trip to Terrigal.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Isaac Newton Aussie Dog Spotted in Ireland – Thursday Doors.

Well, I know I’m really stretching the truth a very long way, by even suggesting that our dearly beloved Border Collie x Kelpie, Isaac Newton (mostly known as Zac) has been over to Ireland this week, and more specifically to to the quaint little village of Carrigaholt in West Clare. If ever there was fake news, this had to be it. However, I was checking out Carrigaholt myself via Google Earth and whizzing along all sorts of country roads and photographing derelict old farm houses, when Zac stood right next to the screen and got beamed up into the story.

I know that travelling from Sydney to Carrigaholt might sound rather random, and in my usual style, it sort of is. However, my Great Great Grandfather, Edward Quealey, was born in nearby Lisheenfurroor, and it was late the other night and I wandered off to check it out and ended up in Carrigaholt. Indeed, I feel like it was all meant to be.

I’ve written more about Carrigaholt in my previous post here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2022/02/10/waking-up-in-carrigaholt-county-clare-ireland/

However, I’ll highlight a few doors for you here.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping some doors open up soon for me to physically get to Ireland. Australia’s had our borders closed for almost two years, and we’ve had young kids and health issues to consider, but now more than ever I just want to get on a plane after doing all this exploring.

Have you ever been to Ireland? Where did you go? How was it? I’m like a sponge and could just soak Ireland up, although it could be a bit cold for me at the moment. That said, it’s been quite hot here over the last couple of days. I am very grateful for the air-conditioning.

Anyway, this is a contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Dan Antion at No Facilities. Here’s the link: https://nofacilities.com/category/thursday-doors/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Dog Under the Tea Table.

For those of you who don’t remember him, this is Bilbo, our beloved Border Collie who passed away four years ago.

Well, it’s part of Bilbo. If you knew how much Bilbo loved his food, and how he got in trouble with the vet for having about six meals a day eating all the kids’ leftovers, you’d know this photo is very apt.

Perhaps, I should be feeling like a traitor, posting photos of Bilbo while Zac is snoozing away on my lap with the keyboard perched on top of him like always as I tap away. Am I betraying Zac, by thinking of his predecessor? Or, am I betraying Bilbo by getting another dog? Actually, we have three dogs. Personally, I think they’d understand.

This was Bilbo’s last trip to the beach before he passed.

I was so heartbroken when Bilbo passed away, and crossed over that blasted Rainbow Bridge. I’ve never had a cat. So, I’m not sure whether cats also cross over the Rainbow Bridge. Or, do cats they have their own heaven? I don’t know, but it makes sense. After all, how could cats and dogs ever be in the same place and call it heaven? Perhaps, there is someone with greater wisdom than I out there who could explain it all.

Monte Carlo with my Crinoline Lady Tea Cup.

Anyway, we had quite a fancy afternoon tea what was now ten years ago when I made Monte Carlos and got out one of my grandmother’s tablecloths and the crinoline lady tea cup. So traditional, and visions of High Tea come to mind. Then, there’s Bilbo under the table, and looking like he’s volunteering to clean the plate.

I miss him, and our other dogs. Each of them has a place with us that’s just their own. Unique. There’s not some dog-shaped cookie cutter we use around here, and every dog is just the same. They’re each unique, and I love them all dearly and they were each wrapped around me like Zac is now, and also wrapped around my heart.

There is a part of me who strives to get “there”. Be organised. Pull out all the bells and whistles, and pull it off. Although that sounds rather cryptic, I’m sure you know what I mean. That when you have a fancy tea party, your dog doesn’t jump up on the table and help themselves to the cake. Or, that you go somewhere special with your kids, they simply sit there as still as statues. Or, if the situation permits, they just or smile and wave just like the Queen without any youthful exuberance whatsoever. Such kids don’t really exist beyond the royal family, do they? I’m sure of it.

Our Philosophical Dog walking along beside the tide. He doesn’t like getting wet paws.

Anyway, for those of you who remember dear Bilbo who was once quite a regular at Beyond the Flow, we might raise a cup of tea and a biscuit and remember all our fur babies who have passed.

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Great Cake Heist

Last night, we fell victim to a dastardly criminal mastermind, and much to my personal embarrassment and shame, I have to confess it wasn’t the first time either. Rather, it was a repeat offender…a “recidivist” as the convict records would’ve reported in utter disgust. Wonder how many lashings dear Rosie would’ve received back in the day for thieving half the freshly baked coconut cake off the kitchen bench last night? Instead, we just banished her outside. She was lucky she wasn’t dispatched up the hill to the RSPCA, which in this case should be renamed the Royal Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Humans.

Mango and Raspberry Coconut Cake with cream cheese icing.

However, this raises another curly question…forgiveness.

Should we forgive and forget? Turn the other cheek? Let Rosie steal tonight’s replacement cake? Or, should we inflict the greatest of punishments? Make Rosie an outside dog?

Meanwhile, Rosie is parked right at my feet, which is rather unusual. Should I interpret this as contrition? That she’s actually sorry? Indeed, she’s now licking my ear and there’s no ball in sight. If it were any other dog, and I’d have no doubt. However, Rosie is her own dog. She bows to no master, and refuses to come when called. I find it hard to believe Rosie has developed a conscience overnight, but stranger things have happened.

Meanwhile, we have a teenager at large tonight and dubious conduct might not just be the province of the canines in the house. With all this focus on covid and the thieving canine , have I been overlooking the biggest elephant in the room of all?

Parents of teens on New Year’s Eve, stand on guard!

Best wishes,

Rowena

Kayaking in Lockdown…A New Beginning.

These photos of Geoff and I kayaking in lockdown are living proof of just how deceptive a photo can be. There we were floating on a magical, diamond carpet as the radiant Spring sunshine cast its magic over the water. It’s absolutely beautiful, and would make for a perfect postcard. There’s the bright blue sky dotted with a couple of woolly white clouds. There’s also the radiant Spring sunshine which isn’t hot enough to burn , but warm enough to defrost the Winter inertia. Indeed, Spring is something you feel right throughout your mind, soul and spirit; and you just feel invigorated. You don’t need flowers in the frame to know it’s the season of rebirth.

What the photo doesn’t say, is how hard it was for us to get there, or how long it’s been since Geoff and I went kayaking together. To be perfectly honest, I can’t remember. That’s despite having the kayaks sitting in our backyard, and it’s something we both love doing. I last went kayaking with friends back in January, but Geoff was at work and he went out with one of the same friends on a night kayak run without me. Meanwhile, our friend kayaks several times a week, especially during lockdown. Indeed, pre-lockdown, he used to kayak across Broken Bay to Palm Beach using a head torch to guide his path. Of course, I’ve told him he’s mad. His mother has told him to phone a friend and report in. Yet, at the same time, he’s like an age-old adventurer, and good on him. Yet, at the same time, I cry out from my chair in the loungeroom…”Me too!”

Don’t you love my dreadful kayaking hat!

Unfortunately, it’s not so easy for us to just grab the kayaks and run. For some reason, we need to paint the house first. Research and write a series of books. That’s on top of the usual stuff like going to work, looking after the kids and throwing the ball endlessly for the dogs. For us, getting the kayaks on top of the car and down to the wharf is like packing up for our annual holiday and what with paddles, life jackets, water shoes etc we almost need to pack as much gear too.

Geoff’s Kayak.

On top of this, there is also my health and physical disability issues. When you struggle to walk and it doesn’t take much to have a stumbling fall, it doesn’t seem logical that paddling might actually be easier than walking. I don’t feel very competent at paddling because I’m a novice and my husband used to do white water kayaking in the Tasmanian rapids and also played canoe polo competitively. Our friend has also competed in the Hawkesbury Classic. The two of them could well and truly paddle off into the sunset at quite an enthusiastic pace together, while my kayak might drift round in a circle, and I might just enjoy floating for a bit. In other words, I’m not even trying to keep up unless it’s for conversation, which case they need to go at my pace which they do quite happily without complaint.

While I absolutely loved our paddle today and found the exercise and sunshine exhilarating and loved just drifting along like a cloud on the water, there were quite a few reflective moments.

The last time I was kayaking there, I was at a picnic with a group of friends. We had such a wonderful time out on the water, and as I said, unfortunately Geoff had to work. My friend Lisa was there with her son and I went out on the kayak with him. He’s ten years old and loved diving off the side and was full of such energy. Lisa was much more serene. She was like a beautiful swan gliding across the water as she paddled and her smile lit up the sky. It’s the truth. No exaggeration. Anyway, she passed away a few months ago after a long battle with breast cancer. I’ve mentioned that before. As much as you can try to convince yourself you’re okay and that you’re back on your feet again, I really missed her. Missed her deep inside my bones type missing her. I also miss being able to hang out with our friends in person as well. That hurts at a really deep level as well.

Mister kayaking along with all 40+ kilos of Bilbo our Border Collie…the calm before the splash.

Then, there were also memories of going out kayaking as a family when my parents had a beach house at Palm Beach. It was a short season, but they had a jetty and a boat shed and it was so easy to get the kayaks in the water as long as it was high tide. The kids were much younger then, and Bilbo our beloved Border Collie (who some of you may remember), was there along with Lady and we’d paddle with the kids, paddle with the dogs. Paddle alone. I even went paddling when I was going through chemo to deal with a flare of my auto-immune disease. I loved kayaking that much, and yet now I rarely go.

Out on our kayak adventure.

Why is it so?

Well, Geoff was grateful I talked him into going today, and decided that the kayaks are going to stay on top of the car. That’s a statement, isn’t it?! It’s like having your sword drawn, and being ready for action.

Move over Huckleberry Hound. Lady enjoying her kayak adventures.

That’s particularly important during lockdown. Somehow we need to find things we can do within the scope of the restrictions, while acknowledging but not dwelling on all the things we can’t. We are very lucky to live in this beautiful part of the world and be surrounded by beautiful beaches, and still waterways. It was also a choice.

Miss pretending to be out in the kayak. It’s a beginning.

Do you enjoy kayaking and have any stories to share? I’d love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Rowena

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Weekend Coffee Share – 16th August, 2021.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? I hope you’ve had a good couple of weeks, and I apologise for my intermittent appearances. I’ve been out of synch for awhile, which isn’t going to change any time soon. In case you’re not aware, I live in Greater Sydney and we’ve been in a covid lockdown since the 26th June and as of Saturday 6.00pm, the rest of the state joined us as well. This is life living alongside the Delta variant.

Would you like a cup of tea? However, this cup of tea has also been in lockdown, and is well and truly cold by now.

Of course, no one’s happy with this extended lockdown and those of you who have experienced far worse, might well be thinking we had this reality check coming. However, the numbers are still comparatively low, and this is largely precautionary. However, perhaps the worst thing about this statewide lockdown, is that it at least seems to be the result of the selfish actions of just a couple of people. With contacts being traced nd DNA tracking of the virus, it’s difficult to hide, and these individuals must be mighty pleased they’re no living in the Middle Ages when mob rule would’ve exacted its own justice.

It is strange being in lockdown, and yet it’s been a fairly universal experience at least at some point. For us, there are quite a few positives, as well as some not insignificant losses. My husband’s been able to work from home for almost the last 18 months. He’s a Senior IT Network Engineer at Macquarie University in Sydney and it’s usually a very hands on role. However, again thanks to technology, he can do most of his work remotely, and he’s been able to use the three hours travel time to renovate the house. We should probably be doing more together making most of this time, but we’re both busy. I’ve made huge progress on my research project writing short bios of WWI soldiers incorporating family and personal history. Our son has been the hardest hit and hovers in limb, while our old daughter is avoiding school via zoom and has converted our home into a dance studio.

This view overlooking Pearl Beach and across to Lion Island is only a 5 minute drive away.

Another interesting aspect to lock down where we live, is that we live in a beautiful location walking distance to the beach and a short drive away from so much stunning scenery. While we’ve been told in no uncertain terms to stay home, we are allowed to exercise outdoors with our household, or with one other friend. So, if you’re fit and healthy, can work from home, and are a true introvert, you could well be having the time of your life. If you don’t like shaking strangers’ hands and have a thing for hand sanitizer, it could well be a boon for you too. While I am incredibly grateful to be locked down in a scenic paradise, I am a true blue extrovert and I really miss seeing my friends collectively in person and seeing all of them and not just their head on a screen. That is a heartfelt ache too, not just a “would be nice”. I have a few good groups of friends and I miss doing like with them collectively and being part of a loving, intimate, touchy-feely herd. What’s more I think that needs to be said. Acknowledged and possibly shouted from the rooftops, because this current situation is anything but normal and I don’t want us to stop striving for what we in Sydney had pretty much regained. This is not the reality we want to have.

Anyway, I have enjoyed a few walks, including a walk along the waterfront at nearby Woy Woy. Perhaps, some of you have heard of Woy Woy before. British comedian Spike Milligan put Woy Woy on the map with the Goon Show, and his mother used to live there. These days with everyone in lockdown, it looks like the pelicans have taken over. The local Vinnies with it’s large glass windows, has become something of a mausoleum with a family frozen in time decked out in their Winter woolens. There was also a tea cup poised on apile of books on a coffee table beautifully decked out with a tablecloth. I admire how much love and attention to detail has goes into preparing the window displays, even in second hand shops. It seems to speak of such optimism and hope. That you’re not on your last legs just because you need to buy second hand.

View into Vinnies street d me.

Meanwhile, I’ve finished reading Ethel Turner’s 1894 novel: Seven Little Australians. It’s the story of widower, Captain Woolcot and six six children who has remarried a much younger woman and at this point in the story is 20 years old and has a baby. The story is told in the first person and it feels like Ethel Turner is talking to you herself, giving the book a very intimate and personal feel. She tells you right from the outset that this book is about naughty children, and isn’t a moral tale. This is entertainment and it makes you laugh, but there’s also more than just a reflective undertone and there’s definitely some character improvement along the way. Ethel Turner was only 23 when she wrote the book and it jettisoned her to international success attracting praise from the likes of Mark Twain. Anyway, I’d encourage you to read it. It’s usually classed as a children’s book, but it’s more what we now call young adult fiction, and I loved reading it myself. So I’d say age is no boundary, and I’ve also read praise from troops reading it on the Western Front in WWI. So, it’s appeal seems rather universal. If you’d like to read it, it’s available via Project Gutenberg here: https://www.gutenberg.org/files/4731/4731-h/4731-h.htm

By the way, if you’re interested in history and family history, you might appreciate a post I wrote this week about trying to unravel the story of nine year old Brenda Taylor, whose father apparently died of wounds in Gallipoli and for this reason, she wants to become a nurse: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/08/08/wwi-gallipoli-when-daddy-didnt-come-home-brenda-taylors-story/

I also wrote a post about celebrating my birthday during lockdown: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2021/08/14/the-ghosts-of-birthdays-past/

How has your week been? I hope it’s gone well.

This is another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share is hosted by Natalie the Explorer https://natalietheexplorer.home.blog/

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS: The dogs wanted to have the last word:

Zac on my lap. I call him my “Productivity Manager” . Having a big dog on your lap who suddenly turns deaf when you’re trying to get out of your chair doesn’t do wonders for my productivity and the keyboard doesn’t always work at its peak either bouncing up and down on his back.
This is Lady and Rosie. This photo is very misleading on Rosie’s part as she’s usually harassing us to throw the ball and is a pure working dog.

Thought I’d better do her justice:

Needless to say, Rosie can be annoying. She is currently drop dropping her ball on my keyboard.

The Only Departure Lounge We’re Going To See.

Isaac Newton Border Collie x Kelpie pleads not guilty. That the stuff on the departure lounge isn’t his. Indeed, it’s never been in his. Indeed, in a situation that’s starting to sound very reminiscent of the notorious Shapelle Corby of I didn’t put that marijuana in my boogey board bag, he says: “I know nothing”.

However, of course, we all know that Border Collies are smarter than the average dog. Of course, he does jigsaws and loves reading reading chunky books to expand his already astounding intellect. That’s why he’s deemed this pile surplus to requirements. Been there, done that, and being a good dog, has piled everything up all by himself ready for departure to the charity shop. (Humph his kennel must’ve been packed with all of that inside with no room to swing a cat.)

Lady’s working hard…

Well, Zac’s not the only dog working to get this load out the door. The others decided to pitch in.

Well, at least, they turned up.

Better still. I’ve cleared out more stuff, and the house is looking so much better.

Indeed, it’s grateful.

Meanwhile, the rocking horse is starting to look nervous. Am I going to be the next to go?

How is your new year going? You got something more exciting to deal with than sorting out the house? It’s been pouring with rain and there are covid clusters in Sydney, so staying close to home’s the way to go for me atm, while Geoff’s had to go back into work for the week.

Best wishes,

Rowena and the doggies.

Walking With Isaac Newton…

You would expect that after going for a walk with Isaac Newton, I’d finally understand a bit of physics, and if an apple fell on my head, I  might end up with more than a bruise or an apple pie.

Well, I wasn’t disappointed. A lesson in physics was exactly what I got, especially Newton’s First Law of Motion, which states that every object will remain at rest or in uniform motion in a straight line unless compelled to change its state by the action of an external force.

Indeed, as soon as I attached Isaac Newton to his lead and opened the front door, that’s exactly what I got when this mild-mannered iso-sloth was catapulted across the road and down the footpath at an alarming speed and strength and despite my concerted efforts to reign in the beast, I almost became airborne. Isaac Newton was strong, enthusiastic and while he might’ve given me the occasional backwards glance to ensure I was still attached, he never paused long enough to check if I was still alive, or might actually need a rest to catch my breath.

Needless to say, walking with Isaac Newton is an experience. I usually take him out with a Halti collar on to reign him in. However, I couldn’t find it and had to use stealth to get him out the door without the other dogs cluing in, which is pretty difficult because all I have to do is put on my joggers and I have three gun-ho, enthusiastic dogs swarming at my feet complete with sound effects. It makes it very hard to decide who I’m going to take, because I clearly can’t walk all three dogs by myself. Two of us could mage the three at once, but that would involve cooperation, teamwork, thinking outside one’s own sphere, which does occur but just not in any regular, predictable pattern. They have to be “in the mood”.

Zac & Rosie

Rosie & Zac at home

Anyway, Zac is peering over my shoulder wondering who on earth this Isaac Newton is as his sister Rosie leaves another tennis ball on my desk and his hovers in her shadow.

Isaac Newton, for those of you who haven’t met him before, is our Border Collie x kelpie who I think is now 2 years old, although another year might’ve passed. Indeed, I think it has. I’ll blame covid for that missing year, even though I probably post it long before, but I can at least blame Covid for losing much of this year…the dreaded 2020.

“Genius is patience.”

Isaac Newton – a message to Zac from his wise namesake.

Walking with Zac is an experience. He doesn’t stop the entire time, and he doesn’t slow down either. Rather, he maintains a strong, fast determined pace which is only disturbed when he sees another dog. Any other dog seems to be the devil incarnate, and Zac lunges, gnashes his teeth and is quite terrifying. So, we’ve now taken to walking off the beaten track, and avoid other dogs like the plague. Clearly much training is required and I am working on it, but with such a strong dog, prevention seems better than cure at the moment.

Lastly, as we were tearing round the block yesterday, I started chatting with an older woman (while maintaining social distancing, of course!!) and after a very short time, Zac was just like that annoying kid tugging on her hand and whingeing: “Mum, I want to go home”….”Mum, stop talking!” Zac started crying and carrying on. He liked moving at a quick pace and wasn’t happy about coming to an abrupt standstill.

“It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.”

Confucius – a message from Zac.

Personally, I felt some negotiation was in order. A bit of give and take. If you take me “walking” at a flying gallop, then I can pause for a chat, check out a cockatoo, or even to take a photo if I like. It doesn’t even need to be a friend and I don’t need to get your paw print of approval in advance either. That said, I’m not unsympathetic to his plight. We’ve all been caught out waiting and waiting for someone to wind-up that conversation so we can keep moving. However, Zac also needs to understand that he’s not the centre of the universe and us humans are simply planets caught in his orbit.

Lady at Ocean Beach

My favourite photo of Lady at the beach, which was taken 5 years ago, which is a long time in dog years. 

Meanwhile, back at home, there was also much complaint. None of the dogs like being left behind, and I’m sure Lady believes it’s her ordained right to go on each and every walk, and in some ways she has a valid point. She’s the only one who walks well on the lead and doesn’t take off like a bullet train. The interesting anomaly here is that we adopted her as a two year old and she came to us fully trained (even if that did include getting up on the kitchen table to steal food!!) So, that seems to suggest we’re at fault.

Anyway, my walk with Isaac Newton at least ticked off the exercise box for yesterday, and I also managed to lure Geoff out to photograph and watch the sunset over at Daley’s Point about 15 minutes drive away. This way I managed to get my exercise and sunshine with Zac and conversation, photography and nature with Geoff. It was a win-win, especially when I got home and checked out the photos which are coming up.

How does your dog go walking on the lead and do you have any tips? Isaac Newton might be needing some expert training, especially as he’s supposed to be a support dog and not a greyhound racer. 

Best wishes,

Rowena