Tag Archives: entertainment

Weekend Coffee Share…23rd July, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, I’ve been a bit of a bower bird and we’re enjoying the warm fire at the Central Coast Bar and Grill where we indulged in a scrumptious Sticky Date Pudding. Indeed, we loved it so much, that I had to make one for dessert last night and added some pecan nut praline for good measure. Dinner was supermarket lasagna just in case you think I’m about to enter Masterchef myself.

Amelia Coast Quest

Last week, was jam packed with rehearsals and performances. Our daughter competed in Coast Quest with her dancing and went extremely well. Well, perhaps “extremely” is being a somewhat over the top. However, if you’d seen her beaming smile when she came second in her ballet solo and third in her contemporary (with a higher mark of 89), you’d understand. We don’t receive many awards, so these were pure gold.You can read about the the full experience here.

 

 

The kids were also performing in the  Scout & Guide Gang Show with four performances at Laycock Street Theatre. The show was fantastic, and this was more our son’s turn to shine. He even made an appearance as NASA astronaut Michael Collins from the Apollo 11 (moon landing) mission. He delivered his lines well and smiled throughout the entire show. He looked like he was having a ball. Our daughter’s involvement was cut back due to clashing commitments with dancing but just managed to stay in the show. It looks like it will be her last. Needless to say, I spent a lot of time last week in the audience. It is a role I cherish, and I turn it into a much more active role by encouraging the performers. I also love watching the performances, and really feel quite privileged. I’m definitely not there under sufferance.

Last week, I also took part in Friday Fictioneers. I actually had two attempts this week, after some feedback, and my second effort An Unpredictable End was much better received.

The kids have been on school holidays for the last two weeks, and school goes back tomorrow. So, I’m thinking along the lines of getting organised for the term ahead while writing on the blog. That works, doesn’t it? Humph…

Anyway, it’s actually a beautiful sunny day outside. Well, not quite as warm as I’d first thought. It’s about 18°C so still not what we’d consider “balmy”. It’s still rug-up weather as far as I’m concerned.

Hope you’ve had a great week and I look forward to hearing from you!

This has been another contribution to the Weekend Coffee Share hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Gang Show 2018

The Family Taxi is getting quite accustomed to chauffeuring our budding performers to rehearsals and performances. However, just because there was “another one”, that doesn’t lessen our excitement and enthusiasm, even if the petrol tank was getting thirsty.

After seeing our daughter place in a local dance competition through the week, last night we saw both kids perform in the Scouts & Guides: Central Coast Gang Show. Quite aside from being the proud parents and laughing at our son’s crazy assortment of pants and costumes including an orange sheet for a Flintstones’ scene, we had such so much fun. The theatre was intimate, and we were only three rows back from the stage. While we weren’t quite singing out load, I was definitely singing-a-long  in my head to the likes of Inspector Gadget, Flash Gordon theme, Pokemon, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Scooby Doo. Indeed, with all those great songs, I’m surprised I wasn’t dancing in the aisle. You see, I can be the ultimate in embarrassing mums. The highlight for my son came, when he played the third NASA Astronaut, Michael Collins, in a skit.

 

While you might think of knots and camping when it comes to Scouts and Guides, the Gang Show has been around since 1931 when Ralph Reader, a Rover Scout trying to make his mark in theatre in the USA and London, was asked to write a Scout-based variety show to raise money for a swimming pool for the Downe Scout Camp (now a Scout Association National Activity Centre). Rehearsals began under Reader’s direction on 25 May 1932. Initially the show did not have a title, but during a rehearsal break, he asked a cast member if everyone was ready, and the response was “Aye, aye Skip, the gang’s all here”. The first production, The Gang’s All Here, ran between 30 October and 1 November 1932 at the Scala Theatre in central London.[1]The show was not a sell-out, but enough was raised to fund the swimming pool and the show was well received. Baden-Powell, the founder of scouting, persuaded Reader to produce another show in 1933. This was The Gang Comes Back and ran for a week.Reader continued to write and produce the London Gang Show. In 1934 the show became The Gang Show and Crest of a Wave was performed for the first time, becoming over the years the anthem. In 1937 the London show became the first amateur production to have a Royal Command Performance (an honour repeated in 1957 and 1964). A feature film called The Gang Show, starring Ralph Reader and The Gang, premièred at the Lyceum Theatre, London in April the same year, and in New York in December 1938. Now, it appears right around the world- Gang Show Wikipaedia The Central Coast Gang Show has been running for 32 years.

What I love about the Gang Show, is that it gets a whole load of young people up on stage, who might never have considered getting involved in the performing arts. These kids are singing, dancing and committed to six months of pretty solid rehearsals. That’s not a mild-mannered undertaking. These are young people who are learning to express themselves in meaningful, productive ways and are building up essential qualities like perseverance, having a go and being part of a team. I also believe the stage shouldn’t be confined to the likes of Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. We also need that amateur layer as well. Not as a charity case with positions occupied for those who couldn’t make it. Rather, because it offers us something else. A form of entertainment which isn’t Hollywood and that hopefully reflects, at least in some way, out local culture.

So, after all the excitement of watching my kids and all the rest dancing and singing under lights and going through a plethora of costume changes, the curtain fell and the Gang Show was over for another year. I have to admit there was a bit of disappointment. That sense of loss once the show is over. It was a great night.

Have you ever attended a Gang Show performance? Or, even been in one yourself? Where and when was it? What did it mean to you? I’d love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

BB8… Welcome To Our World!

This week, we celebrated our daughter’s 10th Birthday.

Happy Birthday Miss!

So far the celebrations have been fairly low key as she’s just started at a new school and we’re still getting organised.

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However, we did manage to get her BB8, the cute little droid from Star Wars 7: The Force Awakens. He’s a fantastic toy, which you control via the touch screen on your iPad. As he glides along the floor, he babbles away in electronic gibberish, similar to R2D2. Not only that. He even writes you text messages:

“Aggressive life forms detected”…This was the dogs.

“Debris detected”. This was the waste paper bin.

“Unidentified humanoid life forms detected”…us.

“Distress signal detected”…BB8’s head had fallen off.

So, just like we welcomed Miss into the world ten years ago, this week she welcomed BB8 into her world.

I don’t know what it is about him but he’s absolutely irresistible…even to a serious technophobe like me, who still goes into daily battle with the TV remote!

Perhaps, it’s because he’s fun…loads of fun. Fun is good.

But is being “fun” enough? Don’t you need to have some sort of purpose, goals, function, destination and ideally all of the above?

I would like to think so but maybe I’ve over-rated their importance. Perhaps, I should thrown away my Clark Kent glasses, roll aimlessly across the floor while chirping incomprehensible nothings and when my sweet little head falls off, just wait for someone else to put me back together again?

Be fun-tabulous!

I don’t know.

After all, is that really how to win friends and influence people?

I didn’t think so.

However, when you compare my popularity with that of BB8, you know who’s winning and it certainly isn’t Madame Smartypants! Oh no! Not at all!

So what makes BB8 so irresistible and please don’t just tell me it’s all just marketing hype. I haven’t been anywhere near any of that !@#$ and I’ve fallen head over heels in love with the little guy.

There has to be more to it. Something deep and subliminal and also a bit sneaky so you can’t quite work it out. It’s definitely not a conscious thing. At least, not for me.

Of course, I could go and research how his carefully chosen features somehow trigger some sort of psychological response. He is small, vulnerable and his electronic mutterings do sound quite a lot like a chirping baby bird. All of this might trigger some innate urge to protect him…especially if you, like us,  have pets in the house who could well decide that he’s their kind of toy. After all, if you were a Border Collie obsessed with chasing tennis balls, wouldn’t a robotic ball just be your idea of heaven?

Exactly!

So, BB8 was very astute to flag the dogs as: “Aggressive life forms detected”.

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Bilbo & BB8: “This is NOT a tennis ball!”

Meanwhile, my parents rang up to wish Miss a Happy Birthday. While I chatted with Dad afterwards, he mentioned how amazing it was that a kid could get a robot for their birthday. Then he added, almost apologetically, that when he was ten, we didn’t even have TV in Australia. With that comment, Dad suddenly aged and then I also remembered how the ice man used to get round in a horse and cart when he was a boy. That’s right. There weren’t electric refrigerators in Australia then either. As for computers, the closest thing could well have been the slide rule.

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Miss on the phone to my parents.

I don’t remember a lot about what I received for my 10th birthday but my grandfather gave me an electric blanket for my 9th birthday. These were pretty new back in the 70s. Papa arrived at my party looking so chuffed with this huge box tucked under his arm looking like Santa (he wasn’t exactly slim!) I still remember my incredible excitement! My other grandparents used to send me $5.00 notes through the mail. $5.00 actually bought you something then!

All this reflecting wasn’t doing us any good. Although Miss was the one who’d turned a year older, it was actually my father and I who had suddenly aged, as we were brutally reminded that we’re not children anymore!

Indeed, it was far worse than that!

Somehow, we’d both become living dinosaurs…wonders to modern science.

I have no idea how this came about but it was definitely a good time for my head to fall off so I could bury it in the sand.

Another birthday? I really just don’t want to know!

How about you? Do you have any special birthday stories? Funny presents? Then and now stories? I’d love to hear them!

xx Rowena

The Rugged Road to School Spectacular…

Nothing makes my stomach churn more than yet another parent gushing about their progeny’s achievements. Indeed, this chunderous gushing of  superlatives has almost had me hospitalised in the past. Just call me Mr Creosote from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life. A bucket simply isn’t big enough! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aczPDGC3f8U

Film and Television

Mandatory Credit: Photo by Moviestore Collection/Rex / Rex USA (935963a) Monty Python’s The Meaning Of Life, Terry Jones, John Cleese Film and Television

However, just because someone is young and just happens to be my daughter, does that mean I should repress my pride and hide her under a proverbial bushel? Especially, when my pride has nothing to do with her singing ability but is more about her incredible tenacity and persistence in the face of formidable adversity?

Of course not!

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Miss Spectacular

After spending a few months under the medical microscope, Miss performed at School Spectacular last weekend, singing 30 songs as part of the 1,500 voice Combined Choir. It’s a privilege for anyone to appear at School Spec but after being diagnosed with severe vocal nodules on top of a rare digestive disorder, Miss was definitely overcoming the odds. Indeed, after undergoing months of voice therapy, it’s been a rather rugged road to School Spectacular!

Around April this year, Miss was diagnosed with having severe vocal nodules, which are basically blisters on your vocal chords. Her voice was very squeaky and she was missing letters in words and it difficult for her to talk, let alone sing. These nodules were caused by vocal abuse (ie screaming at her brother and less often mother) and stomach acid. The treatment involved intensive speech therapy and regular exercises and it probably won’t surprise you that routine isn’t our thing. We wanted that magic pill…the instant fix but without any alternative, we had to rise to the challenge.

Amelia hospital

Miss in Hospital

At the same time we found out about the vocal nodules, Miss was also diagnosed with Delayed Gastric Emptying, a rare disease where her digestion is very slow and she doesn’t feel hungry. Consequently, she doesn’t eat. She also gets stomach aches, reflux and all sorts of symptoms from not eating. She has been seriously underweight and had real trouble staying alert. She was looking pretty sick for awhile there before we found some food replacement drinks, which had made quite a difference to her weight and equilibrium.  She’s also been prescribed an appetite stimulant. You can just imagine what her moods have been like when she’s not eating at all! It’s been a serious concern.

While these problems weren’t imminently life-threatening, she went through a battery of tests and even a hospital admission in a very short period of time. While she didn’t say it felt like the end of the world, you could see those thoughts written across her sullen face. What with having a chronically ill mother and knowing what I go through, she was no stranger to what living with a chronic illness entails. She knew that when it came to life’s game of Snakes and Ladders, she’d definitely landed on the snake and wasn’t happy!

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Snakes & Ladders…life’s ups and downs.

Fortunately, sometimes those ladders can equally be just around the next corner…

Of course, when I heard how bad her voice was, I was absolutely devastated. It was the vocal equivalent of being told your child is on the verge of spending their life in a wheelchair. Although it wasn’t going to kill her, for a kid who loves singing, drama and is thinking of becoming a teacher, this was serious stuff.

Of course, I knew it could be a  lot worse but pointing that out when she was devastated, doesn’t help. She needed hugs,  time and if she just stuck with her exercises, everything would be absolutely fine! Denial can be a wonderful thing!

Knowing how hard it is for anyone to stick with such exercises, her speech therapist dangled the School Spectacular carrot in front of my wide-eyed daughter. She even spoke to the teachers at school to develop an integrated, team approach. This was really inspired thinking because our Little Miss is extremely strong willed and that will doesn’t always comply with requirements.

Her voice was so bad that she was told that she needed to rest her voice. She wasn’t allowed to sing for at least 3 months and had to mouth the words at choir. Of course, this was like shutting a wild bird in a cage but she complied. I love singing myself so I know what that meant.

Amelia Gretel on stage

Miss on Stage Performing Marta with her Musical Theatre Class.

That was until it came to auditioning for the role of Marta, the second-youngest Von Trapp child in the Sydney production of The Sound of Music. Miss does musical theatre and she came home from class with a web address to apply for auditions

As far as I was concerned, getting the role was the equivalent to flying to the moon. Of course, you superficially encourage their dreams but you don’t even need to look deep in your heart to know that this is a dream and not part of the real world. It’s your job as parent to encourage such dreams while gently bringing your child back down to earth safely without smashing into a thousand pieces. After all, we all know what happened to Humpty Dumpty!

Knowing how much the vocal nodules were affecting her voice, I knew she didn’t stand a chance and subtly tried to encourage her to audition for something next year. Next year when, of course, everything would be better and “just fine”.

Of course, she wouldn’t hear of it and burst into tears: “But Mummy! I’m the right height now and I’ll never be the right height ever again!”

As a parent, you come to appreciate when you’re beat. I filled out the application and attached a photo and pressed send. Meanwhile I developed a nasty bronchitis and was on standby to go to hospital when the email arrived. She had an audition.

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Practicing for her audition.

 

 

She didn’t receive a callback but she was stoked about the audition and a seed was definitely planted.

Swings and roundabouts, missing out on Sound of Music meant she could still do School Spec. Yes! Miss and her entourage were starting our way up the ladder again.

You can read about School Spectacular here: https://beyondtheflow.wordpress.com/2015/12/01/introducing-school-spectacular/

Among the 30 songs our daughter sang with the Combined Choir, one had a particular resonance:

 “Climb every mountain,

Ford every stream,

Follow every rainbow,

‘Till you find your dream.”

Rodgers and Hammerstein, The Sound of Music.

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Sound of Music Tram near School Spectacular.

It almost brought tears to my eyes knowing just how far she’d come and what it meant to her not only to be able to sing in the shower again but to perform in School Spectacular. As she said:

“Last year, being in School Spec was my dream and it came true!”

Of course, achieving such dreams doesn’t happen single-handed and our choir had an impressive support crew headed by the choir teacher, exhausted parents and I’m also going to mention big brother who has been supporting his sister’s creative dreams without getting jealous and has simply encouraged her. Thanks to her friend’s family, Miss also enjoyed fabulous accommodation across the road and was spared a lot of travel. Geoff and I were also incredibly thankful for that. It was great to give the “taxi” a break.

I hope our daughter’s story might encourage you to overcome your hurdles and reach for the stars. That the seemingly impossible can become a reality and even exceed your expectations.

So, even though I’m risking joining the chunderous brgging parents collective, in so many ways our daughter’s journey to School Spectacular has made her a  hero:

Hero

There’s a hero
If you look inside your heart
You don’t have to be afraid
Of what you are
There’s an answer
If you reach into your soul
And the sorrow that you know
Will melt away…

And then a hero comes along
With the strength to carry on
And you cast your fears aside
And you know you can survive
So when you feel like hope is gone
Look inside you and be strong
And you’ll finally see the truth
That a hero lies in you
That a hero lies in you
That a hero lies in you

Mariah Carey

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0IA3ZvCkRkQ

If you have written any encouraging posts about overcoming similar difficulties, please leave a link in the comments below.

xx Rowena

 

Introducing School Spectacular.

As I mentioned in my previous post, our daughter performed with her school choir at School Spectacular last weekend. As most of you live overseas, I thought I’d give you a brief introduction to “School Spec”…the extravaganza of a lifetime!

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The Marching Band Performing Outside.

Held at the Sydney Entertainment Centre, the 2015 Schools Spectacular involved 3,600 performers from more than 400 public schools. Fifty-one featured artists were joined by 2,000 dancers and a 1500-voice choir. You can just imagine how that all looked under lights!

The 2015 theme—This is our World—reflected the dreams and hopes of young people through the medium of music and dance.

The Schools Spectacular is a real melting pot involving students of varying ages, cultures, skills and socio-economic backgrounds, hailing from country, metropolitan and isolated regions of NSW.

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Miss Spectacular

Our daughter performed with the Combined Choir, under Choral Director Ian Jefferson. They accompanied featured artists right throughout the night, performing 30 songs complete with actions after an intensive rehearsal schedule. I was getting tired just watching them but although a few fell asleep before the finale, most of them just kept going and going and going like the famed Eveready bunny.

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The Combined Choir during the Finale. This was around 11.00 PM and they were still going!

As you’d expect, the usual platitudes get rolled out at these events and yet there is such truth. Saying that being in School Spectacular is something you’ll never forget isn’t just rhetoric. It’s so true. Moreover, it really does give the kids the experience of what it means to perform in a big, professional production what with grueling rehearsal schedules, being on time and being part of a team. They are also touched by the more experienced performers and absorb their experience like thirsty sponge.

I should also mention that it doesn’t take long to realise that School Spec isn’t just about showcasing young talent. It’s also about promoting Public Education and showing off all it has to offer. That it isn’t second best.

As a creative person myself from a family of musical performers, what I do know is that it’s not always easy to get that opportunity to perform and like writers getting published, for many musicians they’re desperate to be heard. Have that venue and feel the exhilaration of performing in front of such a large, vibrant crowd…the thrill!

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The Finale.

If you are local, School Spectacular will be televised on Saturday 7.00 PM and you can look out for Miss Speck-tacular among the sea of white shirts.

xx Rowena