Tag Archives: family

Step-Daddy’s Little Princess…Friday Fictioneers.

 

“Sweetheart, we love you so much. Pleeeeease come home, ” Sue desperately begged her daughter. “There’s lasagna for dinner… your favourite.”

Alice kept her gaze fixed on the floor, refusing to make eye contact. Seeing her mother again was like soaking in a warm bath, reminding her of how things had been once upon a time. Yet, the anguish in her soul, burned like a red-hot poker. That’s why she jabbed herself with the needles… to numb and forget the unforgivable.

“Alice, Emily misses her big sister.”

The heartstrings tightened until she could barely breathe.

No escape, Alice grabbed her bag.

….

100 words.

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

 

 

Dead…Not Buried…Friday Fictioneers.

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

….

100 words exactly.

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

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

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

Best wishes,

Rowena

Weekend Coffee Share…December 17, 2018.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Being so close to Christmas, I should be able to offer you a slice of home-made Christmas cake. However, I haven’t gotten around to that yet. Or, writing more than a couple of Christmas cards. Had you popped round yesterday, you could’ve had a slice of the All Bran Cake I made, which loads of dates, apricots and pecans and is best straight out of the oven covered in lashings of butter…yum. Yet, all is not lost. I have some scorched macadamia nuts from Haigh’s Chocolate Shop in Sydney. They’re very yum!

_DSC7905

All Bran Cake…My Grandmother’s Recipe.

Well, there are only eight sleeps til Christmas and the last week has been hectic as expected. I think it was Tuesday night, that we attended the End of Year School concert, where our daughter was dancing with her dance class and also performed a contemporary solo, which she’d choreographed herself. Our son was also working backstage and we saw quite a lot of his black shadow lurking in the background. That was a fun night which climaxed with the teacher’s band, which was a lot of fun. Even as a parent, I find it intriguing to see teacher’s actually unwind and party.

Tuesday, I headed down to Sydney to meet up with two school friends. One of them is living with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and is currently in intensive care after major surgery, and we wanted to touch base. I was expecting this to be a challenging visit and very confronting, although I’m quite used to the hospital environment and being the patient. The shoe was on the other foot this time, with my friend and I wanting to give our friend respect and dignity, but not too sure about what to say or how to listen given her speech difficulties. Although we all go and visit people in hospital, most of us have had no training or preparation for it and feel very much out of our comfort zones. Dread knowing what to say, even though just being there is enough. No doubt they just need to feel loved and see a familiar face.

IMG_2897

Elf meets pianist Michael Hope at David Jones’s Elizabeth Street Store. He even got to have a turn.

On my way home, I stopped off at the Gordon Violin Centre looking for a new bow for my violin. Replacing your bow is a major decision for even an amateur violinist and there’s a lot to think about in terms of the weight of the bow. Do you prefer a light or relatively heavy bow? Well, I thought I’d go in there and try a few out. This was quite a big step for me, representing a transition from mediocre violinist, to someone progressing and taking their instrument more seriously. However, I wasn’t quite prepared for what a leap this would be. As I walked up the stairs, I found a metal security door with a violin shaped into the framework. You had to press a buzzer to get in, which seemed rather formal and I had a feel I was about to step into very expensive, upmarket territory way beyond the $100 mark I was thinking of spending on my bow. Life at our place gets rather crazy and bows do get sat on. I’m not quite at the point of making a big investment. Not yet, anyway. So, you’ll understand that I was feeling rather sheepish when the door answered and I entered into this incredible salon environment which could’ve been in Paris, London, New York. There were rows of cellos and the decor was antique and 1920s-1940s and my grandparents’ era. I was spellbound. Yet, the best was yet to come. There was a room within the room, which was absolutely immaculate and there was a chaise longue and an upright piano inside. It could well have been a practice room or recording studio. I was in love! Meanwhile, I’ve found an $85.00 bow and he recommended I brought my violin in and tried it out. Ouch! I was left stammering but grateful I’d moved on from the $50.00 violin I’d first bought on eBay and at least had a Stentor. I’ll have to keep you posted on that in the New Year.

Thursday, I headed back down to Sydney for a lung function test and appointment with my lung specialist. This was just a routine thing, and I did a brief post showing some of the lengths staff have gone to spread some Christmas cheer: Hospital Cheer: Thursday Doors.

Whenever I have these medical appointments, I usually go on a little detour afterwards as a pick-me-up. After my appointments on Thursday, I headed into the city and ended up walking up to David Jones and checking out their Christmas windows, which have a Nutcracker theme. I had the elf with me and photographed him in the Queen Victoria Building and various other locations. However, he really had his real moment of fame when he played the piano alongside pianist Michael Hope at David Jones’s Elizabeth Street store. They’ve had a pianist in there as long as I can remember, and it’s just another reflection of the store’s prestige and tradition. Anyway, I asked Michael if I could take his photo, and he invited me to sit alongside him and we passed my phone onto a total stranger to film me “playing” beside him. Then, I produced elf and Michael played with him. It was the sweetest thing. By the way, Elf is slowly heading towards Afghanistan where my cousin is currently serving in the Australian army but I have ordered some reinforcements. We’ve become rather attached.

Family zoom

Friday, we were back at the school to attend our son’s Year 9 Graduation. This is a celebration, which is quite unique to our school as Year 10 and Year 12 are when students actually leave school, and in this instance, the kids are simply moving from the junior campus to the senior campus which is about a five minute drive down the road. Yet, it does mean leaving their teachers and siblings and friends in the junior years behind. So, it did get a bit emotional. It was also another reminder that our son is rapidly growing up and about to get into the serious end of school. Next year, he’ll need to knuckle down. _DSC7837

Friday night, a huge storm hit. Geoff rang me and said they were expecting hail so I decided to take the car to the local shopping centre and park it undercover. AS it turned out, there was no hail, but the shops had no power and the water was pretty deep. Should’ve stayed home, although I did manage to buy a scrumptious berry cheesecake.

Saturday night, we all headed off to the sailing club for the annual Christmas party. That was when a second storm hit. No hail, but heavy rain and flashes of lightening which I didn’t even try to photograph for some strange reason, but I did photograph the sunset afterwards. The air felt so crisp, clean and refreshing and I was stoked with the photos. It looks like the sky is on fire. However, we arrived home to find another blackout and they couldn’t say when the power was coming back on. Naturally, that was alarming and there have been local black outs (thankfully not at our place) that have gone on for a few days. My parents and aunty visiting from Western Australia were coming over on Sunday and the house was suffering from dreadful neglect. So, I needed this blackout like a hole in the head. It’s not easy trying to clean the house by candle and torch light. The power came back on about 11.00pm and By the time they’d arrive lunchtime Sunday, I’d baked a cake, set up my vintage chine tea set and given up on the rest of the house. That’s what doors are for. We had a great visit with my aunt, and I must tell you that I actually played Danny Boy and O Holy Night on my violin for them, which was a first. I call myself “The Closet Violinist” for good reason. Either I’m playing behind closed doors, or the door’s being shut to block the noise. However, I’ve been practicing a lot more lately and really getting into a rhythm and went for it. I was pleasantly surprised and my mother even said I had good legato. So, it looks like I might not be staying in the closet anymore.

_DSC7903

By the way, before I head off, I wanted to share a stroke of good luck we had tonight. We’ve been needing a new lounge suite for about the last five years. However, we haven’t found anything we liked and finances have also been tight. A few years ago, we found a lounge suite at the op shop which had two manual recliners. We bought this as a stop-gap measure. However, these had become stained and the springs had worn out. I’d thrown covers over them but they really needed to go. Then, our stoke of good luck. Our son and I were out walking the dogs when we spotted a blue leather suite with two single recliners beside the road. We dashed home and fetched my husband and the car and then I was left sitting beside the road minding our stash while they drove back and forwards. The old one is now out the front but will need to wait a week for collection. We’re stoked. We’re planning to replace the flooring in January so this was a great morale boost. My Dad also won a leg of ham at golf today, which he’s sending our way. So, that’s meals for January taken care of.

It’s funny how things work out. I’d been planning to have a garage sale for some time and have had loads of stuff stockpiled ready to go only I haven’t been able to get my head around holding on. I’ve no doubt complicated things way too much in my head. However, it’s been looking like it’s not going to happen and so I dropped a few large bags of clothes at the charity shop. I thought I’d go with more of a spirit of generosity, rather than holding onto things and more than likely applying a false economy. There are probably much better ways of making money than a garage sale. So, from where I’m sitting, it looks like a case of clothes out, lounge and ham in. Not bad!

What have you been up to lately? How are your Christmas preparations going? Hopefully better than mine!

Anyway, I’d better get to bed. I hope you’ve had a great week. This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Alli.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

 

Stepping Back to Elizabeth Bay, Sydney.

Yesterday, I carpe diemed the afternoon. After my doctor’s appointment at Royal North Shore Hospital, I  went on extensive detour via Elizabeth Bay, which took me across the other side of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and heading out towards Bondi and the opposite direction with a few doglegs thrown in versus heading home.

Map of Elizabeth bay & Sydney

Map of Sydney showing the location of Elizabeth Bay and Billyard Avenue, which is about halfway up the right hand side at the blue P. By © OpenStreetMap contributors – http://www.openstreetmap.org/#map=15/-33.8699/151.1983, CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=30198821

 

Such detours have been my modus operandi  after my medical appointments for many years. While they might only be for a few hours, these brief getaways can feel like an adventure exploring all sorts of nooks, crannies and cafes through my Nikon lens and sometimes even my pen.  While this excursion to Elizabeth Bay was perhaps my most extensive detour, it didn’t require a lot of walking and wasn’t going to tire me out. All I had to do was  catch the train to Town Hall, change for Kings Cross and then find a bus to take me down the hill to Elizabeth Bay.

Fortunately, it’s Summer here and we’re on Daylight Savings Time, which allowed me to steal away an extra couple of extra hours before sunset. I truly needed the extra time yesterday. My appointment was at 4.30 pm, and it was 6.00PM by the time I reached Kings Cross Station. Until recently, I would’ve been in darkness. Yet, the sun was still shining and it was perfect weather for photography, which was one of the reasons I’d decided to push the envelope and head out so late in the day.

However, all this enthusiasm, plotting and planning didn’t alleviate my guilt. I still felt like I was on borrowed time and rather naughty. Mum had escaped and gone off the grid. Moreover, to make matters worse, my mobile phone hadn’t charged the night before. So, I was off without a leash and sometimes even I didn’t know where I was. BTW, that wasn’t a joke. With my appalling sense of direction, it’s the truth.

Well, I suppose there are those of you wondering why I was going to Elizabeth Bay on what had evolved into Friday night when I live a couple of hours North by train and so much longer as the crow flies. No doubt, there are also those very sensible souls among you, who would ramp that up a notch into an agitated: “What on earth was she doing out over there with only 25 sleeps left before Christmas? What’s she doing going on random detours, when she should be focused on essential activities only? After all, next Saturday is her daughter’s dance concert and on Sunday, she’s performing Danny Boy on her violin at the end of year concert. This isn’t the time for stray, random excursions. It’s time to stick to the diary. Go through the check list and stay true to the path. This is no time for pursuing the road less traveled.

Eunice & Robert Wedding

My grandparents’ wedding photo: Eunice Gardiner and Robert Curtin.

However, about a month ago, I found out that when my grandparents were first married, that they’d lived in a flat at Caversham Court, 25 Billyard Avenue, Elizabeth Bay. I was so excited. It was like a spark of electricity igniting my soul. Well, that might be an exaggeration. However, I love finding out anything about them. It momentary brings them back to life, and I realize just how much I miss them. So, I couldn’t wait to check the place out in person. Walk the very streets they’d walked, even if I couldn’t experience that nunoo nunoo sense of being back in the very same flat. I had seen a few photos taken through the windows looking out across the harbour and I could feel myself looking out that very same window, seeing the world through their eyes for just a moment in time.To see through their eyes…how powerful is that? It’s what a writer attempts to do with a character, but it means so much more when it’s someone you love, especially when they’re gone.

Caversham Court

Caversham Court, 25 Billyard Ave, Elizabeth Bay.

Perhaps, I could rightly blame Google for this sense of urgency. This need to go there and experience Caversham Court for myself. You see, thanks to Google, I was able to check out Caversham Court both inside and out. When you see it all by itself online, it looks very distinguished with striking art deco features, and it’s clearly from another era. When I looked inside, I fell in love with interior layout of the flats, which have a circular room. I don’t think I’ve ever been inside a circular room like this. Indeed, any place I’ve ever lived it, has always been composed of rectangles and squares and you’re ultimately living in a box. This, on the other hand, was architecture. Much to my delight, the real estate agents had also posted photos looking through the windows across to Sydney Harbour. Naturally, I thought of my grandparents looking out through those windows. Yet, at the same time, not knowing their flat number, I couldn’t quite put myself in situ.Didn’t know which window was theirs.

 

When it comes to location, Caversham Court has a lot going for it. It’s the first street back from the harbour and you only need to venture across the road, to find Boomerang, one of Sydney’s most expensive, prestigious mansions.  Elizabeth Bay House isn’t far away either. Indeed, nothing is very far away. Well, that’s except for me in terms of getting home.

So, now we’ll pick up my journey from where I caught the bus at Kings Cross Station. It’s at this point, that I regret not bringing a map and the fact that my phone didn’t charge last night and is as flat as a tack. Directions-wise, I’m on my own. If you know me well, this is a red flag moment and you should be hearing something along the lines of: Danger, Will Robinson!” However, at least at this stage, I’m heading the right direction. The bus is moving along Darlinghurst Road past the El Allemein fountain and turning right on cue. So far, so good. I know where we are.

It’s just after this point, that things became a little crazy and I became lost in space. it appeared that Elizabeth Bay was a lot smaller in real life that I’d expected, and not quite the landmark I’d imagined. Looking out the window, I can’t find Billyard Avenue anywhere and the narrow streets are twisting into a confusing maze. I have no idea where I am, or where Billyard Avenue is hiding. Elizabeth Bay is missing. I can’t see it anywhere. Of course, I pressed the panic button. Sought help from the bus driver, who I figured ought to know where he is going. However, to my horror, the bus driver’s never heard of Billyard Avenue and neither have the other passengers. While it might’ve been the centre of my universe, Billyard  had never crossed their path and they clearly weren’t missing it. However, a true hero of a passenger, Googled it on his phone and it was time to jump off the bus and backpedal down the hill. Of all the days for my phone not to charge, this wasn’t a good one.

These directions were a help, but not my salvation. I didn’t take in much of what he said, except that I needed to get off the bus immediately. It was rapidly leaving Elizabeth Bay and heading towards Miller’s Point. I’m on Greenknowe Ave walking past an Elizabeth Bay Cafe and keep walking into what turns into a dead end with no Billyard Avenue. Things aren’t looking right either. Of course, this is when it should’ve hit me that while I was exploring Elizabeth Bay on Google Maps,  I was approaching it from the harbour, not from behind via Kings Cross and these back streets. Well, it wasn’t exactly a back street because it was the main road, but it wasn’t Billyard Avenue and that’s all that mattered.  I knew where I was going, and simply didn’t know how to get there.

_DSC7254

Has anyone seen Zozo the cat near Billyard Avenue? With the troubles I was having trying to find Billyard Ave, my family might also have been filling out a Missing Person’s Report. Mummy: Last seen leaving RNSH heading for Elizabeth Bay…

Thank goodness for walkers. A lady redirected me down Ithaca Road. I should’ve mentioned, by the way, that my big, heavy Nikon camera with it’s even heavier zoom lens has been dangling from my neck all this time. That despite being lost and nowhere near Cavendish Court with the sun starting to fade as the time is speeding towards 6.30PM and the land of the setting sun, I’m stopping every few metres to capture the art deco architectural features, huge Moreton Bay fig trees overhanging the road, and just about anything else I come across. Somehow, the ordinary became extraordinary surrounded by these stately art deco beauties and a sense of yesteryear. A yesteryear when my grandparents actually walked these streets and called it home. A time when my grandmother wrote a letter into the Sydney Morning Herald encouraging open-mindedness during WWII when the Sydney Eisteddfod banned the use of German language in 1941. By the way, that’s how I found out they were living here. No one ever told me, and they must’ve lived here for less than a year because my uncle was born in Cremorne.

Finally, after so many twists, turns and restarts, I turn the corner and here’s the view of the harbour I was expecting all along and like an apparition, I finally spot a street sign heralding the appearance of Billyard Avenue. I could jump for joy.

In real life, Billyard Avenue is a narrow one-way street, which could be better described as a lane. Indeed, after seeing it online, it feels like the place has taken a deep breath, and shrunk, halving in size.

Mopeds Billyard Ave

Mopeds parked on the corner of Billyard Ave and Ithaca Road.

I stop to photograph a handful of mopeds parked at the corner. You see quite a few of them buzzing through Elizabeth Bay. Given the narrow streets and scarcity of parking, they seem like a great idea. They’re part of the lifestyle here along with walking smallish fluffy dogs…poodles, cavoodles and definitely nothing as ordinary as a Staffy or Blue Heeler.

_DSC7268.JPG

The Overgrown Tower, Cnr Billyard Ave and Ithaca Road.

Before I reach Caversham Court, I am struck by the block of flats on the corner of Ithaca Road, which is overgrown with vegetation of an unspecified species. Essentially, the building looks like a jungle was growing all over its head and that David Attenburgh could well appear out of the undergrowth at any tick of the clock. I wonder what species of human he would find in there? It all seemed rather mysterious, and a great setting for a macabre, Gothic novel.

Boomerang is across the road. It is hard to imagine an extraordinary, giant mansion backing onto this narrow road. Indeed, boomerang itself seems strange, mystical and it’s hard to believe that it actually exists and it is here. You can’t see much of the building itself. However, the door is a work of art from another era. I can almost imagine that if you removed the Boomerang from the door and threw it, that you might actually land somewhere back in the Dreamtime.

Still, I digress. I am here to check out and photograph Caversham Court. There she is with her architectural splendour, albeit rather penned in. I am filled with a strange sense of awe knowing my grandparents lived here as newly weds. That this was where they returned to after their honeymoon and the very first place they called home. I could sense them so strongly, but more in the sense of watching a movie than really feeling a concrete presence as such.

Gardenia

A Gardenia photographed outside Caversham Court

The block of flats next door is being renovated as are the steps and front foyer of Caversham Court. Indeed, the steps up to the foyer are covered in scaffolding and she actually looks a bit sorry for herself. If she were human and you turned the clock back a good 50 years, you’d be offering her “a Bex and a good lie down”. There’s not a lot more I can photograph here. However, I did spot and photograph a solitary white Gardenia flower growing in the garden bed out the front. While that might not excite you, my heart skipped a beat because my grandfather loved and grew gardenias. Obviously, this particular one didn’t date back to when they were living here, but it did give me a sense of him being here.

_DSC7282

The foyer, Caversham Court, looks like it’s having orthodontic treatment.

By now, the light was starting to fade. So, I headed back to Ithaca Road and left into Beare Park which fronts onto the Harbour. I’m not sure at this stage whether this little patch of soil is the full extent of Elizabeth Bay but it was what I would describe as “cosy”. There was the marina on the left and Beare Park on the right, which was a couple of handkerchiefs of grass with a few park benches facing the harbour. There was a teeny strip of sand near the marina and a green tennis ball caught my eye. I’ve had too many ball chasing dogs to ignore it and couldn’t help wondering if there’s a displaced green tennis ball at every beach. Moreover,  it seems that for every ball you lose, there’s always another green tennis ball to replace it.

Being Summer and Friday night, a few people were gathering to have a picnic dinner in Beare park, or to simply share a glass or two of wine. There were also a few dog walkers and I spotted a very excited golden Poodles and a Cavoodle running off the leash through the grass with their ears flapping. My goodness. I don’t think any other creature on this planet, can do “happy’ with quite the zest and enthusism of a dog. They’re the best!

_DSC7335

Two empty seats…one for each of my grandparents.

I sat on a park bench for a bit watching the Friday night yachts racing on Sydney Harbour. Checking out the ferries zipping along hugging the opposite side of the Harbour, which might’ve been Neutral Bay. I can never be overly sure of what’s where with my dreadful sense of direction. The only thing I could really be sure of, was that the ferries were in a body of water known as Sydney Harbour. That’s all.

Time has never been my friend, and by this stage I was really becoming conscious of getting home.  I didn’t want to get into Woy Woy Station too late and was becoming concerned about my safety. It was only supposed to be a quick trip after all.

_DSC7253.JPG

A great place for dinner along with a side-serve of philosophy.

So, I walked back up Ithaca Road and stopped at a deli up the top. Wow! This was like entering a food Mecca specializing in Greek food. I bought some calimari, dolmades and two servings of a dessert Galaktoboureko. It looked absolutely scrumpious and coming straight back to Elizabeth Bay for more, was going to be out of the question.

So, now I just had to cross the road to the bus and wait. And wait. And wait. Two buses failed to materialize, and I was starting to wonder whether I should walk or catch a cab and then reminding myself that we weren’t stuck in the outback. A bus would come and eventually it did.

At this stage, I’m not sure when I’ll be back to Elizabeth Bay. However, although I share this stunning spot with thousands and thousands of people who actually live in all those flats, it did feel like my own little patch of Sydney Harbour. My own personal getaway. That is something well worth coming back for…and more of that Galaktoboureko. Sadly, the kids were still awake when I got home and those two pieces had to be sub-divided. What a pity.

Have you been on any adventures lately? I’d love to hear all about them.

Best wishes,

Rowena

The Silence After the Storm…Friday Fictioneers.

The police found Mandi McDonald’s Commodore Stationwagon 500 metres downstream. She and the two children aged eight and six were deceased. The storm had hit Toowoomba with such fury. Mandi had been driving the kids home from school, and the car was swept away in the surging currents. Her husband was distraught. Lost all his family in an instant. No one knew how he was going to get through it. Or, even if he could. They all came to the funeral, and didn’t mean to stay away.  They just couldn’t find the words and didn’t know what to say.

….

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

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.

 

Mum’s Watching Peppa Pig…!!!

Today, I was caught in the act.  Lost in my own little world watching Peppa Pig, I’d forgotten that my husband was working from home and my son was home sick and they might find this a little strange.  That while I am renowned for being a little quirky both on and off the world wide web, watching Peppa Pig was setting new bounds of personal madness even for me. After all, I’m in my 40s and there weren’t any kids around. Surely, I coudl find something more intellectually stimulating, humorous or at the very least grown up to watch? What was wrong with me? Had my brain blown a fuse…or even worse?

However, as Geoff moved closer, that triumphant look of smug ridicule disappeared once he realized that Peppa Pig was making no sense. Indeed, Peppa Pig and friends were speaking German.

Peppa-Pig-Wutz_4-Germany-German-Deutschland

Peppa Pig in German

This is the first time I’ve watched Peppa Pig in German. You see, my blogging friend, Solveig Werner is teaching German and she recommended it in her Links for German Students. I’d never thought of brushing up my languages using you tube before. Obviously, you tube didn’t exist when I was at school and we were dependent on the very out-of-date German videos. On exceptionally rare occasions, I might run into a German tourist and might be able to have a go. Fortunately, my grandfather was fluent and had even taught German and took great pleasure writing to me in German. He was such a lovely man.

Well, you could ask me why I’m brushing up on  my German now. It’s not like I’m about to head over, and there are very few opportunities to speak German here. Well, let’s just say I was curious and wondering how much of it I could understand.

Rowena Backpacking

 

You see, after leaving university, I was backpacking through Europe for almost a year and much of that time, I was in Germany. Indeed, I lived in Heidelberg for around six months with a German family. So, my comprehension of German isn’t too bad, especially when we’re talking about “Bahnhof Deutsch” (Railway Station or tourist German) or cartoon German.

Anyway, returning to the home front. Having given my husband a bit of entertainment, he let our son in on the action and you could just imagine how he reacted when he found out his own mother was watching Peppa Pig!!!!  There are embarrassing mums, but this was right off the Richter Scale.

Geoff returned and goads him on: “You have to get her outside for a walk before she goes completely insane.”

At this point, a discussion also started up about how they were going to lure me out of the house. I’m not sure whether it was my husband or son who first came up with the idea. However, our son threatened to remove the kettle to get some movement. Funny that. I wouldn’t have thought I was that dependent, until I saw the huge mountain of used tea bags ready to head out to the worm farm.

To be honest, they probably have a point. It’s actually 2.30pm and I’m still in my PJs on a school day. While even the most devoted fashionista would agree that everyone needs a pyjama day now and then, it could well be the case that my PJ days are flowing together and are amounting to a reality break.

I’m not sure. While today, I’m definitely guilty as charged, I was out and about yesterday and I’ve since got dressed and taken all three dogs for a very energetic run along the beach. I managed to clock up 1.5km. So,I haven’t been bone idle. I’ve also been researching conscription and the Vietnam War. Surely, kilometres of thought must count for something to somebody out there? If so, could you please leave your details in the comments. You’ll be my new best friend.

Meanwhile, Peppa Pig is calling…

xx Ro