Tag Archives: education

Thursday Doors – Back to Dance 2021.

“Dance is the hidden language of the soul.”
Martha Graham

Collectively, we’ve posted many doors on this blog share. However, for most of us it’s the familiar doors which mean the most, especially our very own front door.

Well, this Thursday I was waiting for my daughter to finish her dance class, and I noticed the door to the studio with it’s welcoming sign and I thought I’d honour that this week. After all, this is 11th year we’ve walked through that door for another dance year, and now she’s about to turn 15. So, let’s just say: “she’s improved”.

Our daughter aged 4 at her first ballet open day where Mummy was finally let inside the door along with her camera. I think the aim here was just to point their toes.

Walking through this door has been a life changer for the kids and myself. Although I’d done ballet until I was about eleven, I didn’t really get into dance at all. Didn’t connect with it, and certainly wasn’t one to go to the ballet. I’m more one for the Sydney Writer’s Festival, or possibly the theatre.

However, that’s all changed. I’ve been metamorphosed into loving dance, not that I go to the ballet even now, I see so much of it through my daughter and right up close, that I haven’t felt the need. Perhaps, I’m missing out and I was edging towards taking our daughter to the ballet in Sydney, but then covid came along. Besides, we’ve been to a few musicals in Sydney. So, she hasn’t been deprived.

Anyway, I still remember the first day we walked through this door, and into the studio for her first class. What I remember most about that, was the door closing in front of me, and I was left behind. She was only three turning four. The teacher took her away, and she was gone. It was like her first day of school, only a little early.

Since then, we’ve had the annual concerts where before we humble parents and grandparents were able to see our little darlings prancing around on stage, we had to master the fine art of getting the hair in place. This act of torture is not for the faint-hearted when your daughter has very fine hair which knots easily and every stroke of the brush produces tears and a deafening scream. Of course, it’s all worth it when you see them up on stage.

Our daughter before her first ballet concert aged four. Isn’t she sweet!

It was around the time of the first annual concert, that our daughter appeared en pointe at home. This, of course, wasn’t on real pointe shoes when she was only four years old. Rather, it was on little blue plastic cups, but she was entranced and took it very seriously.

I don’t know if I looked at her back then and started seeing glimpses of the ballerina she would become. However, it wasn’t much later because right from dot she looked like a ballerina and through all the trappings of a knockabout kid who was doing nippers, scouts and going swimming at the beach in her school uniform on occasions after school, the ballerina was there just like Michelangelo seeing David inside that block of marble.

That’s not to say that she’s going to become the next Misty Copeland. In many ways, she’s already become herself and is already a ballerina now, even though she’s still got such a long way to go. Of course, this is the benefit of being Mum and Dad, Grandma and Grandpa. She was breathtakingly beautiful and an incredible dancer at four, and every time we see her dance, we’re absolutely dazzled. We’re not her teachers, or the judge. We don’t need to be critical. It’s our job to encourage, drive, and probably work about three jobs to get her through. However, you do that for your kid. You do whatever it takes to the best of your ability. Well, most of us at least try, and hopefully we can also support and encourage those who are left falling through the cracks, even if it’s only for a moment. We’ve certainly appreciated that ourselves many times over.

My adult ballet class. I’m wearing the satin ballet slippers and you can pick our teacher with her perfect foot and not wearing socks.

Anyway, since we’ve walked through that door, we’ve made many friends, and connected at a fairly deep and meaningful level over the years. Indeed, one of the things I found most difficult about covid last year, was not seeing all the other dance parents. We might see each other say for ten minutes in the waiting room after each class, which isn’t much. However, when you multiply that by a couple of classes a week over 11 years, those moments add up, and there’s been a lot of sharing. I have also done some adult classes over the years as well, and I’ve really loved them and made some wonderful friendships there. I’m not just a dance mum. I am a dancer (just not a very good one and also one with disability and health issues!! It’s quite ironic actually!)

Our daughter using her brother’s head as a ballet barre. Seems like she’s turned him into the supporting act. This was taken before the concert in our hallway at home.

So, walking through this one door, has opened many, many doors for us, and before I head off, I’ll also mention that our son also did hip-hop classes here with a former Billy Elliott from Melbourne and Broadway. He also made a friendship then, which resurfaced last year and last weekend we found ourselves comforting him after his Pop had a stroke and we drove Nan to the hospital. Our son was such a comfort to his friend, who ended up sleeping in our loungeroom that night.

Those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music.”
Friedrich Nietzsche

I think this is the most recent photo I have of our daughter on stage.

All of that started by walking through this door.

I know this quote appears in a corny ad, but it’s very true: “From little things, big things grow…”

This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors, which is kindly hosted by Dan Antion at No Facilities: https://nofacilities.com/2021/01/28/trinity-church-et-al-thursday-doors/

PS I just had to include this favourite.

This was the first time I saw her doing her ballet solo. Someone else took this photo and emailed it through to me, and I’m so grateful. I still absolutely love it.

A Place For Everything & Everything In It’s Place…Friday Fictioneers.

Jackson was seething with rage, and vowing revenge. Busted with a bottle of Bacardi at school, the Principal had poured it straight down the sink, slapped him with a three day suspension, and hauled his parents into the office. That was it. He was immediately despatched to Uncle Bill’s piggery to teach him a good, hard lesson. “Suspension was a punishment, not a holiday”. The stench of pig still permeated his skin, as he emptied the contents of the takeaway container into her desk. A place for everything and everything in its place, it was right at home.

….

100 words. This has been another contribution to the Friday Fictioneers hosted by Rochelle Wishoff-Fields at https://rochellewisoff.com/. Every week, we write 50 words to a photo prompt. This weeks PHOTO PROMPT @ Jan Wayne Fields.

By the way, if you’re interested in old family photographs, you might like to check out my previous past. After my Great Aunt passed away, I’ve been putting some photos together and, of course, came up with some complcations.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 9th November, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, I’m not quite sure what to offer you with your cuppa tonight. On Friday night, I made a Bombe Alaska for my friend’s 60th Birthday. Unfortunately, the meringue slid off the ice cream centre and the brandy wouldn’t light. So, you could say that it was “Fizzer Alaska” instead.

The Bombe Alaska before it went into the oven.

However, it tasted good anyway. I’d added a few extras like a layer of Nutella Butter Cream and roasted hazelnuts over the cake for extra lusciousness. It was yum and a lot of fun, even if it didn’t go according to plan. By the way, if you’re a keen baker or fancy a bit of dessert, you might like to check out my previous post.

Oh no! The meringue is starting to slide off the bombe. Not a disaster, but a triumph either.

Last week, was fairly difficult overall. Our teenaged kids are keeping us on our toes with our son not seeing the point of doing his final year of school and looking at TAFE to pursue sound engineering. It sort of makes sense, but it’s still a big decision and it’s taking me time to get my head around the ramifications of it all. As if that wasn’t enough to think about, our daughter has been making some poor choices of late, and we’re needing to get our heads around that too. Long gone are the days where we could physically pick up our children when they were running off the “wrong” direction. Now, we’re needing to try to work with the teenage brain, which science tells us is potentially incapable of making good rational choices until they’re 25. Yet, this unregulated teenage mind is moving forward at full throttle thinking it knows it all, knows what’s best and can do anything it likes. Sometimes the only thing standing in the way is their hapless parents, school authorities, or when things go really pear-shaped, the police. Meanwhile, I keep dropping what I view as pearls of wisdom into the hapless subjects’ minds while driving them from A to B. It’s a bit like dropping coins in a money box, except it seems that the plug at the bottom has often been pulled out and lost. Consequently, the coins are often falling straight through and rolling away. It’s not a very encouraging picture. However, somehow most teens and their parents survive to adulthood so it’s not all doom and gloom after all. I live in constructive hope.

Get To Know The Junior MasterChef Top Three
The finalists and judges of Junior MasterChef Australia 2020.

In addition to doing my baking at home, I’ve also loved watching Junior MasterChef and tonight is the Grand Finale. I’ve been so incredibly impressed with the dishes put up by the kids. They really knocked my socks off. If you’d like to watch any of the past episodes, here’s the link: https://10play.com.au/junior-masterchef-australia and you can find the recipes there too if you’re feeling particularly daring. Just because these cooks are young, doesn’t mean their dishes are any less impressive than their adult rivals. These kids are potentially the great professional chefs of the future and this pool of talent is a cut above the usual contestants for the adult version of the show. indeed, they’re absolutely mind boggling. I can’t wait to see who is going to win, and how the show is going to unfold.

However, before I move on from Junior MasterChef, I just heard the most priceless comment from one of the contestants, Georgia. You see, they’ve invited their mums onto the shows for the finale. Now, these kids have been doing just fine without their mums on set for the entire series, and have been able to go it alone. However, now they’ve reached the finale, mum is calling out from the gantry. My message to the mums is to back off. I think they know what they’re doing. These thoughts were going through my mind when Georgia piped up and said: “Who invited our mothers along?” Well, at least Filo is pleased his mum’s there.

Meanwhile, my WWI bio research is going really well. I have no idea how it’s going to find its place out there in the real world, because it’s a bit out there and it seems to sit somewhere in between academic history, creative writing, documentary and a movie script. Each of these things are ambitious on their own, and challenging the world order probably verges on suicide. After all, each of these disciplines is probably in its own box for a reason. I guess I’ll be finding out what happens when I break multiple moulds at once. Well, that is once I get all of this finished…

Oh well. Another week has begun. OMG! Do you ever have Mondays where the prospect of another week just wears you out, as you haven’t had enough time to recover from the week that’s been, or to resolve the splatter on the roof its left behind? Perhaps, I’ve been spoiled for awhile, because in so many ways life has been a lot simpler this year due to covid. While we’ve had to deal with the complications of hand sanitiser, masks, gloves, social distancing and toilet paper shortages, so many activities were cancelled that we haven’t been buzzing off over the place like manic bees trying to get everything done and take kids to three different places at the same time while trying to have some kind of a life ourselves. It’s been nice taking up the piano again, doing my extreme baking and doing hours of research. Indeed, it’s probably been something of a luxury…especially with my husband working from home and not commuting for three hours a day.

PS The last word on the Masterchef Junior front goes to Georgia’s Mum as she ate her daughter’s dessert the “Tropical Mess”…”she’s tricky to make a lunchbox for. She’s very particular with her flavours.” You’ve got to feel for the mother of Junior MasterChef.” I have some empathy with her. My kids have both been super fussy eaters and are very particular even if they aren’t MasterChefs themselves.

PPS I know I haven’t actually finished this post yet. However, I’d forgotten all about touching on the US election. I don’t know if I would’ve voted for Trump or Biden, but I’ looking forward to the changing of the guard.

Well, on that note, I’d better head off.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali. Here’s the link: https://eclecticali.wordpress.com/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share – 2nd November, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Before you get too comfortable, we’ll need to duck down to the supermarket because I just saw these irresistible Apple & Ricotta Fritters with Cinnamon Sugar on TV. I’ve never made anything like this myself before. However, I’ve been getting quite adventurous lately and really want to give them a whirl. Here’s the link: https://www.farmtofork.com.au/recipe-index/apple-and-ricotta-fritters-with-cinnamon-sugar

Are you tempted as well?

Humph…

Anyway, were you almost shocked like me that it’s now November and another year has almost gone up in smoke? I know this year is 2020, and it’s a year we’d all like to accelerate through, destroy, blow up, delete or all of the above. However, a year is still a year, and good things have happened in 2020. My cousin and his wife had a baby last week and friends got married and we’ve even been to a few parties lately. Of course, we’re rather shielded from the full impact of the virus and also extensive lockdowns here, but I’ve also been researching WWI intensively this year and that puts 2020 into perspective.

Last week was a bit clunky around here. There’s been the ongoing saga of our son’s subject choices for his last year at school and trying to keep him there for another year when he doesn’t need it to go into sound engineering. I’ve been doing my research which is very slow and I must admit I’ve been doing a lot of avoidance. I find it all confusing, and since I went down the university path and that was over 30 years ago, a lot has changed and I’m starting to feel like I’m from the era of the horse and cart (or is that actually his impression of me?) Not much has been said for a few days and he was home sick today. I can’t help wondering if I lie low and don’t say anything, he’ll accidentally get through Year 12 and he’ll at least have that under his belt before he heads off to TAFE to get a trade certificate to get into the sound engineering course he wants to do. However, this is probably too much to hope for and more stress is just around the corner.

Meanwhile, my research is progressing well. I’m still beavering away on my WWI research. I posted yesterday a South Australian farmer I’m researching, Herbert A Stewart who found close to 200 messages in bottles washed up on the beach near his home in Rendelsham , South Australia. He forwarded the letters onto their intended destinations with a cover letter, and there was one day where he found 47 bottles. So, at times he was really under the pump and while this would seem a unconventional way of supporting the war effort, it would’ve made such a difference to the families and friends of these men. I was also surprised to find that some of the messages in bottles thrown overboard in the Great Australian Bight were found in New Zealand. That’s extraordinary. I’ve also found it rather calming and reassuring to think about the ocean currents circulating around the world regardless of everything else that’s going on just like the sunrise and the sunset. There’s that continuity. At least, there was before cllimate change.

This afternoon, I went for a quick walk along the beach. Even though it’s almost Summer here, a cold wind was blowing and so I just did my walk and didn’t hang about. Not unsurprisingly, I almost expecting to find piles of bottles scattered across the beach after doing all my research. However, there wasn’t much to see on our beach today….just a jellyfish.

Meanwhile, it’s getting quite late. So, I’m going to head off.

So, what’s been going on for you? I hope you’re okay and keeping safe.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali: https://eclecticali.wordpress.com/

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share…27th October, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

How are you? How are you really? Are you fine and everything’s going along with the flow? Or, are you a bit like me and a few of your own cogs aren’t quite moving smoothly and those around you are doing it tough?

That’s where I’m sitting at the moment. I haven’t got my own house in order, but I’m being much more constructive helping a few friends who are doing it tough and it’s so much easier to see the necessary steps for them, but so much harder for myself. I’m staring too close to it and it’s gone a bit blurry. Actually, it’s not really my stuff I’m trying to get sorted. It’s my son and his choices for his last year of school. He wants to do sound engineering when he finishes up and has a good aptitude for it, and he’s gaining good experience at Church, especially when you consider other options have closed down. He wants to put his foot down on the accelerator and get on with it. I’d just like him to slow down and finish school. Have another year before he heads out into the big wide world. I am trying not to blow up like a firecracker and am saying very little, while I try to do my research and get my head around what he wants to do.

Meanwhile, I took my elderly neighbour to the specialist today. He was diagnosed with metastatic prostate cancer, which had got into his bones. He’s 90 so we know he isn’t going to last forever, but we love this couple dearly and they have always been a second set of grandparents to our kids and were such a help when they were small. Now, it’s our turn to look after them. They said they were right, but I said it’s always good to have someone else to listen and take notes. Moreover, as you’re probably aware, I’ve been through a bit medically so I’m well versed on these things. Well, at least, I knew to take pen and paper and write everything down. I could work out what was important later. It was also good that I could drive them there, and take that pressure off. It was only later on tonight that the reality of his situation really sank in and how incongruous it was that we were talking through cancer treatment very matter of factly. No tears. No emotions. It was business. This is what needs to be done. However, there are emotions and it’s only now that I’ve stopped for the day and am unwinding for bed, that the reality has sunk in. By the way, it’s no trouble to be there for them. It’s just what you do. Besides, my grandparents’ neighbours took very good care of them We were living 1000kms away and couldn’t be there for them in that day to day way. In fact, I don’t think I ever drove any of my grandparents anywhere. So, this is rather nice and while we were waiting, I listened to his stories. They both lived through the London Blitz and were also sent away to the countryside as children were. They’re a fascinating couple, and they walk down to the local shops together, and are so sweet. You rarely see a couple still living at their age, let alone walking around and still living in their own home.

Tomorrow night, we’re going to a friend’s birthday party and I’ve offered to make the cake. I’ve been having better luck of late, H owever, I’m concerned about how this cake is turning out. I’ve made a caramel mud cake with caramel icing. I’m hoping it’s okay. My friend lives in a pole home perched high upon pillars like telegraph poles and set among the gum trees. He calls his place: “The Treehouse” and its beautifully decorated with vintage and antique ephemera and he’s a fabulous host, especially when you bring the food and cake. So, so his cake, I’m wanting to build a treehouse. Fortunately, I have a mould for a small chocolate gingerbread house. I haven’t used it before but I’ve poured in the chocolate and I’m just wanting for it to set. I’ve also got ini Violet Crumbles and chocolate sticks and I’ve going to set up an invading hoard of Tiny Teddies. It’s going to be a lot of fun assembling all these ideas. I’m just not quite sure how we’re going to transport it there and whether to assemble it there. Finger crossed it works out well.

Meanwhile, I’ve been continuing on with my research and it’s taking shape, which is a relief. I have so many stories but am getting them structured and it’s all heading the right direction.

Anyway, I’d better head off and get to bed. I hope you’re going well.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share 28th September, 2020.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Well, after all these years of blogging, I’m lucky not to be battered and bruised!! When I pulled up to my desk this morning with my cup of tea, I noticed the counter had not only clicked over 200,000 hits, it now reads 201,823. Wow! I can’t believe I missed it so spectacularly, because I was keeping an eye out, even though I no longer take much notice of my stats. 200,000 hits is something to celebrate. Ring the brass bell and break out the champagne, or a personal treat, get stuck into the Tim Tams. The Vegemite can wait.

Meanwhile, it’s Spring over here and I’ve been trying to get out and enjoy the local wildflowers as much as I can. Unfortunately, my mobility has been hampered by that spot of rock surfing I mentioned last week, and my knee is still sore and going down stairs is quite tricky and I’m trying to rest my leg. However, a friend whose been living in Northern NSW, came down for a visit and so I took her out to see the Waratahs (scene of my rock surfing accident). While we were out there, I spotted a beautiful yellow wildflower I’ve never seen in the wild before. This striking flower is Isopogon anemonifolius, and its common name is “Drumsticks”. It was such a blast to come across this new flower, and I feel like an intrepid explorer when I’m out there. It doesn’t bother me that car after car is also pulling over and that all these admiring pilgrims have even forged a trail through the bush. After all, I don’t view these discoveries through the eyes of many, but my own and I’m just spellbound. You don’t need to go past nature to be inspired and feel your heart soar, even just a little. Of course, another aspect of that is that it’s free and I barely need to travel.

Of course, for most of us 2020 is the year of local. Anywhere but local or at least outside the state is banned. In many ways I don’t mind staying local. We were lucky that we managed to get up to Byron Bay for a week or so in January after the bush fires up North had settled down a bit. That’s a 10-12 hour drive with stops and even though I don’t do much of the driving, looking at the grey bitumen and the white line for all those hours, even if I am reading, talking or looking out the window, grates on you. You just want to wave a magic wand and turn up.

Our kids (now teens) are on school holidays for the next two weeks. Next weekend, our daughter has the Dance Production, which will be incredible as this is put on by the dance team at the dance school. Also, rehearsals take up much of this week. Notice that I’m not too disappointed about that. While they naturally need some time to chill out, smell the roses and socialize, too much time on their hands can be problematic.

This brings me to the subject of the end of school muck-up days which were held last week. Oh dear! It seems the end of this school year, has drawn out the most putrid pus out of our young people and made it public. I am hoping this students are the exception and not the norm and I really believe they are because there are beautiful young people who are an inspiration and are doing the right thing. There are also vulnerable, disadvantaged and simply uncool kids and members of our society at large who have been targeted through these well-planned, detailed scavenger hunts and these people are make of flesh and blood. They hurt. They break and they can’t always be put back together again. Unfortunately, a prestigious Sydney boys’ school seems to have taken this despicable form of scavenger hunt to another level, producing a pdf document which looks all the world like a business annual report. It’s seems that at least one of the boys receiving the document blew the whistle and I commend them 100%. I also feel for the boys in that year who have done and have always done the right thing and I feel for the parents of all. However, then I found out that my old school had their own not dissimilar treasure hunt circulating and today I heard about a school in Newcastle which outed a young woman who is a child sexual abuse survivor and sent her spiraling back down into the most intolerable depths of despair. To make matters worse, those details were made public by a trusted friend. I don’t know who this young woman is but I send her my love and hopes of a miracle. That she will find healing and reassurance of the good in humanity. Indeed, I’m struggling with that myself after these documents have come to light. Here’s a link to details of the list: https://www.news.com.au/national/nsw-act/news/private-school-students-tasked-with-vile-muckup-day-challenges/news-story/10a74efdfcedc9a0df6291ebde25383a

Meanwhile, we’re pottering along with our own kids, which has made me more compassionate to parents whose kids don’t believe like automated robots even after expensive schooling and possibly even intensive parent input (or absence which might be the case). You can’t make assumptions, because then someone will always rub your nose in your mistakes saying “Didn’t you know that “assume” means making an ass of you and me??!!” Anyway, I’ve been pleased that our son has been volunteering with sound at Church so far these holidays and will be helping out at a funeral tomorrow, even if I do need to drive him up. I might detour up to Maitland for a bit. Meanwhile with our daughter, she’s now going to parties and wanting to push the envelope. Stay out late. Walk around at night with her friends. Weekends are starting me mean “on duty” for us and I’m mighty grateful to have everyone tucked into bed at night, and a sense of relief.

I’ll leave you with an entertaining pic I took of a dog I saw at the shops on Friday. Max is some kind of Mastiff and looked straight out of a movie when he pulled up in a bright yellow ute. However, watching his owner try walk him down the street was hilarious. When he’s not on guard dog duties, Max is a big softie and just wants to play with other dogs. We were sitting at a cafe where there was a tiny toy poodle parked under an adjacent table with their ball. Well, Max spotted the tiny dog which was about the size of half his head and wanted to pass with the dog and ball. However, this massive, bony colossus was clearly to big for the footpath itself, let alone the tiny dog and his owner who seemed to be inversely proportioned to the dog, was also struggling to contain him. It was funny, although it might not have been. An inch either way, and there would’ve bee tables and people flying and a toy poodle crushed into a floor rug. Despite, or perhaps because of the pandemonium, you couldn’t but love Max and wrap your arms around him in a hug, even though he could well take your head off if he’s on duty.

Meanwhile, our Rosie’s just appeared with the rope toy. She has no doubt about her purpose in life. It’s to chase. This also means that it’s my job to throw…my only job.

How has your week been? What have you been up to?

I look forward to hearing from you.

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Alli here: https://eclecticali.wordpress.com/2020/09/25/weekendcoffeeshare-a-lot-im-getting-good-at-descriptive-headlines/

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I also got a haircut for the first time in over six months. Indeed, it could well have been 12 months thanks to the bush fire smoke and covid. No point restating the obvious. 2020 has been a difficult and very weird year.

The Triwizard Shorenament – Outing the Bully Boys of Privilege.

Yesterday, marked the end of Year 12 in our high schools, and was what’s colloquially known as “Muck-up Day”.

“Your path is your character defining itself more and more every day, like a photograph coming into focus.”

-Jodie Foster

As the name suggests, muck-up day spawns a lot of pranks, including the almost obligatory egg throwing at cars and shops. Indeed, at its worst, it summons up visions of Robespierre’s reign of terror, albeit in school uniform. However, for the students themselves, it means saying goodbye to school, friends, teachers and in many ways, plays one of the last notes of childhood. Yet, it’s also the first step towards liberation and a lot of fun…as long as nothing goes wrong.

By the way, knowing most of you are visiting from overseas, I should point out that Year 12 is the final year of school, and after students have completed their Higher School Certificate exams (HSC), they’re released from captivity into the world like a swarm of bees. That’s when they often head over the Queensland border to celebrate Schoolies Week at Surfers’ Paradise, or on this side of the border at Byron Bay.

In my day, Muck-up Day was more sedate. We might’ve signed each other’s school collars, filled in note and year books, and there had always been rumours of boot polish on the toilet seat. However, at least from memory, that was bad as it got. After all, if we got sprung, there’d be no all-important school reference.

However, from what I’ve gathered in recent years, Muck-up Day has spawned the treasure hunt…a rather quirky or challenging check list. All of this should just be a bit of fun. Indeed, a few years ago, I was eating fish and chips and taking photos at Terrigal Beach on Muck-up Day, and was approached by a few year 12’s. Their list included being photographed with a stranger. I think he might’ve put his arm around me. It was all good fun. They were all dressed in lairy neon outfits and were just running around, mostly sober having a good time and not hurting anyone.

However, this year a treasure hunt with a difference has unfortunately come to light. Sadly, this document reveals privileged bastardry is alive (and possibly even thriving) at at least one of Sydney’s prestigious boys’ school. Looking very much like an annual report, the instructions for the treasure hunt were cleverly entitled: The Triwizard Shorenament. This particular list included 10,000 points for flying down to Melbourne which is currently in Covid Lockdown, “shit on a train”, “break into Taronga Zoo”, drink “6 [vodka] Cruisers in 6 minutes” and “skull 700ml bottle of vodka”. In addition to the inherent elitism expressed, many of the acts are vulgar, anti-social, criminal and also show a concerning acceptance of alcohol abuse. Indeed, you’ve got to ask is this what their privileged parents consider “a good education”?

It’s certainly reinforced our decision to send out kids to the local state school. Well, it might not have been a choice, but there are good and bad eggs everywhere and you just have to hope either sort doesn’t go flying through your car window on muck-up day and hit you in the face.

Meanwhile, I’ve wondered how much media and community attention The Triwizard Shorenament is going to attract. While it’s certainly received some media coverage, there’s also that desire to repress. Stop the bad publicity.

However, I feel the actions outlined in this document, need to be assessed and used as a mirror, a score-card. Not just for the boys and the school involved, but also for the wider community. How did something like that see the light of day in 2020? Don’t we all know better? Moreover, there are six Anglican Ministers on Shore’s school council. Don’t they stand for something better than that? Or, is money all that matters? Are values such as character, integrity, compassion and equality to be spat on and reviled while the kings of the castle squash their minions under foot?

I hope not. However, for me these questions aren’t just ideological. Aren’t mere theory. This is where I’m from.

Of course, I didn’t attend Shore School. It’s a single-sex school for boys. However, I did attend the female equivalent. I was, and to some extent, am still part of this elite. While my life didn’t quite follow the plan and I’ve manged to find more snakes than ladders in my personal journey, I can still fit into those shoes and belong. It’s still where I came from, and part of who I am.

Perhaps, that’s what concerns me most about this despicable treasure hunt. I’d thought we’d moved forward in the last 30 years. That equality had gained a foothold. Moreover, that during the current coronacrisis, we as a society were becoming more caring, compassionate and understanding. Indeed, it is for this reason that the action of spitting on a homeless person disgusts me so much. Haven’t we all learnt just how close anyone is from landing on the streets? Indeed, it’s said many of us are only one maybe two pays away.

Of course, it could said, and it has and has been argued, only a small group of boys was involved. However, it doesn’t even take a close look at the report to see it’s a polished, detailed, and well-planned document. It’s not something put together on the fly and rashly emailed out in a moment of poor judgement. It looks like it was printed, and while I don’t have a lot of facts at hand, I think it was distributed to students and in a way that shows sufficient social acceptance for the plan. That the organizers weren’t stepping out of the mould and felt comfortable putting it together. There doesn’t seem to be an expectation of ridicule, shame, rejection by their peers. It was all carried out all but in the light of day.

However, it’s not easy to speak out against the cool or socially acceptable kids at school. There are also going to be students who were completely out of the loop and knew nothing about it at all, who’ll also have to live with the fallout, and amidst all of this, there will be some very distressed students and families. Although I deplore what was planned and the ideology behind it, I also believe in redemption. That the powers that be in the Class of 2020 can turn this around for good. Apologise and do some community service.

On this front, I’d like to refer back to a very gutsy speech given by Mitch Donaldson, the outgoing school Captain of Sydney’s Knox Grammar School at Speech Day 2007. In front of 1350 fellow students, 150 teachers and 600 parents in the school assembly hall, he spoke out against pressure from over achieving and overbearing parents, which had created a culture of cheating and bullying in year 12. He then pointed the finger at instances of parents who bullied school authorities into giving prestigious positions to their undeserving sons. He said: “There have been people in our year group who have stolen, who have belittled, and who have cheated their way through the past six years.” And most of them, he said, got away with it. But to those who played the game, he said, no matter who your father goes to the gym with, listen carefully. No matter what your efforts, you cannot and will not be able to ever buy respect.” Although that speech went on for 20 minutes,  apparently you could hear a pin drop. After all, the last thing you expect at a school assembly like that is for someone to tell it like it is. And at the end of the speech… after a moment of stunned silence… the whole hall rose to their feet and gave him a standing ovation. Mitchell Donaldson was angry with the injustice that he saw going on in his school 1.. That was an extremely gutsy move.

Sure, the instance at Knox Grammar was different to what went down at Shore, but you can see the parallels, and that they’re two cabs from the same rank.

I’ve inserted a couple of links here in case you’re interested in further reading:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-09-23/sydney-shore-school-threatens-expulsion-for-muck-up-challenges/12691756

https://www.heraldsun.com.au/news/elite-private-school-students-filmed-naming-worst-sydney-suburbs/news-story/67a23c2548fb0250af42a820d46302a4?from=htc_rss

I’d be interested to hear what you have to say about this, and how it might reflect on what you experience in your community. Meanwhile, I’ll site the values of the French Revolution… Equality, Liberty, Freedom.

These values are still worth fighting for today.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Source

  1. https://www.mpc.org.au/media/resources/2007/20071125.html

Dipping Our Toe Back into School.

Yesterday, our son returned to school for the first time in over a month. Sure, school holidays were thrown into the mix for two weeks, but they didn’t feel like school holidays, anymore than school from home really feels like school. Moreover, without leaving the house for the usual dance, violin and scout runs, it doesn’t feel like term time either. Indeed, so much of the scaffolding which keeps our lives together and provides this strange reassurance called “routine” is gone. That said, my husband is working from home and I’m still beavering away on my WWI research and writing.

Meanwhile, it’s change of seasons and it’s cooling down here in Australia. Indeed, I’m spending my days snuggled up in my PJs all wrapped up in my dressing gown, which even had a hood. However, I’m far from idle. Well, to be honest, that depends on which part of the day you find me. My hours have gone dramatically out of kilter and I’m getting to bed around 2.00-3.00am and waking up at lunchtime. But, hey. At least, I have a routine. It’s just not a very good one and it is something I’m at least working to change in theory.

As you’re no doubt aware, how to manage school and education during the coronacrisis has become a can of worms. My husband works in IT for Macquarie University in Sydney and on the few occasions he’s gone into the office, he’s said the place is a ghost town with bands of starving, marauding magpies descended on this solitary human in large, hopeful flocks. Uni is largely running online, aside from researchers who might need to go in to work to maintain whatever’s going on in the lab. A friend of ours in first year has mentioned his disappointment that the university life he’s long been looking forward to, has dried up and gone online. I remember what all of that was all about, and it was far more important than anything we learnt inside our lectures. So, I can definitely empathize with his disappointment.

Meanwhile, schools in NSW opened up one day a week for all students this week. We decided to send our 16 year old son who is in his second last year of school yesterday, but kept his 14 year old sister at home. These thought processes recognized the individual needs of our kids, the way things were being structured for the different age groups and also acknowledged the fact that the virus is still around. That while our stats are impressively good, there’s still that potential for the virus  to get out of the box. Moreover, since we’ve largely contained the spread, we haven’t anything approaching herd immunity, if that’s even achievable. So, we still need to be careful and our current status has been described as “precarious”. They’re expecting outbreaks, but they’re hoping to contain them through the tracking app (even if that doesn’t help you once you’ve caught the virus!)

Anyway, I thought teachers and parents in particular would be interested to hear how yesterday went. The first thing which really surprised me, was just how keen he was to get to school. Aside from visiting my parents on Mother’s Day, he hasn’t been outside for at least two weeks and had become some kind of extension of his computer screen. Yet, yesterday morning the night owl was up at 6.00 am bright-eyed and bushy tailed, through the shower and chose to actually WALK to school. It seems Sunday’s trip had woken him up and he was keen to get back out there again and really seemed to miss school and was keen to get back.

The school had put a lot of thought and preparation into making the school environment safe. Students have been divided up alphabetically to return one day a week and there’s a ratio of one teacher to nine students, giving ten in the classroom. There was a space of two desks in between students. There’s hand sanitizer going in and out as well as wiping down your desk along with no moving around between classrooms. They’re being absolutely vigilant and caring for the well-being of students and teachers as you would your own family. I am so grateful for that, particularly given my own vulnerability. I don’t want to be putting my own health needs before the kids’ education. Understandably, that’s become a huge strain. Indeed, I freely admit that I’ve felt the burden of Atlas on my shoulders at times. So, it’s been such a relief to have that burden eased.

Of course, I was full of questions as soon as our son walked in the door yesterday afternoon. He was my eyes and ears out in the real world…our intrepid reporter. Most of his friends were either allocated to different days, or were working from home, but he did see one close friend.

However, what really stood out to him yesterday was the silence…the absolute silence. He said he could even hear the trains going past, when usually all he can hear is the horn.  Somehow, that teeny little fragment of his day felt really precious…a truly unique and precious eyewitness statement, which was completely untarnished by other people’s opinions and observations. That’s what stood out to him, and as his mum who doesn’t often gets the details, I was over the moon.

So, now I’d like to hand the floor over to you and invite you to share how school is going in your neck of the woods. Just like it’s fascinating to try foods from different countries, how we do school is another intriguing point of difference, which is being made more interesting under the strain of the virus. I’d love to hear from you in the comments.

I’m also very conscious that our situation here in Australia is exceptionally good here in Australia, and our hearts go out to you who are experiencing the worst and are losing loved ones and living under siege. We carry you in our prayers and in our hearts and send our love!

Best wishes,

Rowena

R- Read…A-Z Challenge.

“Read a thousand books, and your words will flow like a river.”

― Lisa See

Welcome back to my series of Motivational Quotes for Writers for the annual Blogging A-Z April Challenge. These quotes are particularly geared towards writers working on a large project such as writing a book and aim to help you reach the end of the tunnel.

It was a toss up between READ and RESEARCH today. However, they overlap quite a lot and since I’ve covered research elsewhere, read it is.

For me, reading fuels and refuels a writer. After all, if we keep pouring our words onto the page, we need to put something back. Of course, experience is also important but reading helps us to arrange and interpret these experiences in ways which will excite and entice the reader.

“The more that you read, the more things you will

know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll

go.”

― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

 

“I cannot remember the books I’ve read any more than

the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.”

— Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Read the best books first, or you may not have a chance to read them at all.”
Henry David Thoreau

“The real importance of reading is that it creates an ease and intimacy with the process of writing; one comes to the country of the writer with one’s papers and identification pretty much in order. Constant reading will pull you into a place (a mind-set, if you like the phrase) where you can write eagerly and without self-consciousness. It also offers you a constantly growing knowledge of what has been done and what hasn’t, what is trite and what is fresh, what works and what just lies there dying (or dead) on the page. The more you read, the less apt you are to make a fool of yourself with your pen or word processor. …
“[R]ead a lot, write a lot” is the great commandment.”
(Stephen KingOn Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, 2000)

Best wishes,

Rowena

Speech Day 1928: The Life Lessons My Grandfather Heard.

As a woman, it’s already difficult to put myself in my grandfather’s shoes and know what it’s like to be a man. Moreover, not having a contraption like the Tardis to travel back in time, it’s also hard to rewind the clock back to 1928 when my grandfather left school as an 18 year old.My grandfather was also Catholic and attending Waverley College in Sydney, which is run by the Christian Brothers. Back at this point in time, there was a great divide between protestants and Catholics which I find hard to imagine these days, although its still rippling away under the surface.

Papa Curtin with Rowena 1969

My grandfather and I. 

Yet, almost 60 years later, I was also sitting at the back of the school assembly hall not paying much attention to what was being said. So, despite all these glaring differences, we were probably not all that different and had very much in common. The transition from the cloister of school into the next chapter has always been a big step.Yet, generation after generation, has gone before us. We were not alone. We have never been the first generation stepping out there trying to find out way, which I now find largely reassuring.  and I guess you just have to hope that most of them eventually found their way and as George Bernard Shaw said:

Life is not meant to be easy, my child; but take courage: it can be delightful.”

Being a by-product of my own generation, these attempts to walk in my grandfather’s shoes, have taken me back to one of the greatest movies of all time: Dead Poet’s Society, (Indeed, it would be my favourite if Casablanca hadn’t got there first!)  For those of you already replaying the movie in your heads, I’m reminded of that scene where English teacher John Keating played by our very much loved friend and mentor, Robin Williams, is looking at the portraits of ex-students on the wall and says:

“They’re not that different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope, just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilizing daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, lean in. Listen. You hear it?… Carpe… Hear it?… Carpe. Carpe diem. Seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”

-Dead Poet’s Society

As it turns out, I have been able to read the words my grandfather would have heard courtesy of the old newspapers which are now online. Eerily enough, these words actually have a Dead Poet’s Society feel about them, as most of these end of school speeches do. By the way, my grandfather had attended Waverley College, Sydney run by the Christian Brothers and the Address was given by Archbishop Sheehan:

Archbishop Michael Sheehan.

“Your years of youth, my dear boys, are very precious. It is the time in which you build for the future. The opportunities which are now close to your hands will, if neglected, never come within your reach again. Your greatest enemy is the spirit of ill-will and idleness; your best friend is the spirit of obedience and industry.

Your whole life from childhood to death is a warfare, a struggle against temptation. Every victory you gain over yourselves and over the powers of darkness brings with it a strengthening of your will, a strengthening of your character. 

The process of building therefore of which I spoke a moment ago means more than piecing together the divers kinds of knowledge. Let us put it in this way: your task is not only to build for your-selves the house of knowledge, but also and much more to build firm and strong the fortress of the will.

‘How will you take these few words from me? I know boys too well not be be conscious that they listen to old people like myself with a certain amount of patronage, and with a secret feeling that we are out of date and possibly suffering from a touch of dotage, and that therefore any advice of ours is to be taken with a good grain of salt.

Well, it may shake you a bit to hear that the boys of every generation have had exactly the same thoughts, and that when they grew up they found their mistake. One of the chief temptations of your time of life comes from a kind of pride, from a tendency to underrate the advice of the more experienced.’ His Grace concluded by again congratulating the Brothers and the boys on a most successful year, and wished all present the blessings of the Christmas season.” Catholic Press (Sydney, NSW : 1895 – 1942), Thursday 5 January 1928, page 25

Whether you agree with the Catholic ethos or not, I found good wisdom in there. The Archbishop, who’d been born on the 17th December, 1870 at Waterford in Ireland, did a pretty good job of crawling into the boys’ shoes, seeing himself through their eyes and hopefully captured their attention. In his roundabout way, he first encouraged the boys to listen to their elders and hopefully thus avoid some of life’s predictable potholes. He also wanted them to have a heart, a love of God and be living breathing humans. He didn’t want them to be walking encyclopaedias, robots or money-making machines.  He wanted each and every one of those boys to have a rich and complex life. Catholic or not, there’s a lot of good advice to hold onto there and you can adjust it to suit your personal creed.

There’s one thing I’d particularly like add.

That is the importance of family, close friends and having meaningful relationships, which you carry with you throughout your life. Having lived overseas and travelled, I know what it’s like to be that random atom drifting through space where no one knows you, your history, or your family. Moreover, as an Australian living in Germany, there was only the odd person who knew what an Australian was either and I got away with a bit under that heading too.

While there can be real freedom and liberation in flying away from all those ties, I felt quite lost without them too. There’s a lot to be said for having shared memories within a close community where you can bump into an old friend down the street and have those shared experiences, insights and memories. We have been living in our home for something like 18 years. That’s really crept up on us and initially, it took a long time to get established. However, I now have a genuine, informed interest in the people around me. This has nothing to do with career, paying off the mortgage or even putting food on the table. However, there’s food we don’t eat and we also have to cater for our souls.

What would your advice be to a young person leaving school at the end of 2018? Any regrets? Anything you did or observed that worked well and you’d like to pass on? We’d love to read your thoughts in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS I thought I’d better point out that these young men left school the year before the 1929 Fall of Wall Street. The Wall Street Crash of 1929, also known as the Stock Market Crash of 1929 or the Great Crash, started on October 24 (“Black Thursday”) and continued until October 29, 1929 (“Black Tuesday”), when share prices on the New York Stock Exchange collapsed. The crash, which followed the London Stock Exchange’s crash of September, signalled the beginning of the 12-year Great Depression that affected all Western industrialized countries. Wikipaedia These same men could well have fought or enlisted in WWII having had their own fathers serve in WWI. They didn’t have it easy.