Tag Archives: family

At the Front Door…Thursday Doors.

Welcome to Another Thursday Doors!

For awhile now, I’ve been thinking about doing a post about our front door. While that sounds so warm and homely, it’s actually more of a tale of neglect, indecision and the downside of owning a “renovator’s dream”.

Jonathon & Amelia

Anyway, getting back to our front door, it’s what they call “Heritage Green”. Well, that’s what it is now, but we’re planning to paint the house a shade of grey and are thinking of installing a new front door and painting it blue.

In the meantime, however, that means our green door remains in a desperate need of a paint job, but nothing’s happening. Of course, I’ve been tempted to pull an old tin of paint out of the garage and simply touch it up. However, as anybody who had done any house painting at all would know, you can’t just paint. You need to prepare. Cover-up and fill all the holes and bumps and give the !@#$ door an almost surgical face lift. Clearly, there’s no point doing that when it’s only temporary. Well, to be honest, you and I both know that “temporary” could be another 20 years or even longer.

Jonathon Amelia Bilbo

This was our son’s first day of school in 2009 when they were aged four and two and about to have birthdays. I call this photo: “The Three Wise Monkeys”. That’s Bilbo our wonderful family dog (2006-2017). He looks like a Saint Bernard next to the kids in this photo, but he’s actually a Border Collie.

Jonathon & Amelia

The first day of school for 2010 aged five and three but about to have birthdays.

When we rewind a little further, we end up with the newly weds out the front along with my husband’s Austen Healey Sprite.

Geoff & Rowena Nelson Street 2001

I think this photo was taken on the Sprite’s last drive before it was garaged in our back shed. If you haven’t worked it out by now, progress is slow around here and the Sprite is still awaiting restoration.

So, while we often wonder about what goes on behind closed doors, there’s also what goes on in front of front doors. That parade of firsts and starts to a new year or era, which becomes a precious records of our ups and down through life. A door often makes a good backdrop, even if it’s desperately in need of a facelift itself.

Well, I hope you’ve enjoyed your visit to our place. This has been another contribution to Thursday Doors hosted by Norm 2.0. Why don’t you come and join us and share a few of your favourite doors. It’s a lot of fun and helps you see parts of the world you’ll never get to visit.

Best wishes,

Rowena

Night Musings With Grannie… Eunice Gardiner.

For all of us, there is this strange other world our parents, grandparents and even siblings inhabited before we came along. Yet, while we know world history was going on before we were born and stuck our proverbial tail in the donkey, it can be harder to grasp that the people closest to us had a life before we came along. Sometimes, the threads from these experiences are woven into wonderful stories told time and time again, which become part of our family fabric. On the other hand, these experiences can be thrown right to the very back of the cupboard and either not mentioned or strictly guarded and kept locked away behind closed doors.

Pix Eunice TV Screen Test

 

This all becomes rather more complicated when your relative had a public life. That you might’ve known them in private within that personal and family sense, but there was also this other public self. Perhaps, you stepped into this world now and then, or even belonged in it yourself. Or, perhaps it was a chapter which closed long before you came along and you don’t even know where to begin. Where is the magical red thread to guide you into that other world? The crumbs scattered along the footpath?

Pix Eunice playing piano at Academy

Eunice Age 22. 

My grandmother Eunice Gardiner was an International concert pianist, music critic and professor of the piano at the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. Yet, she also had seven children, twelve grandchildren and nine Great Grandchildren, including two of my own. This very same person who played the piano for the Queen and was dubbed “Melba of the Piano”, also knitted little jackets for each of her babies and at least sewed some of their clothes. She made the Sunday roast and was renowned for making custard. She was mother by day, concert pianist by night. She spent a year touring USA and Canada leaving her husband and three children at home. This is an intriguing web. A complex woman who was well before her time.

FT25 Ruby and Eunice

Mother and Daughter: Ruby & Eunice Gardiner (1940?)

There was also another parallel story…that of Eunice’s mother, my Great grandmother, Ruby Gardiner (McNamara). Ruby left her husband and adult son at home in Sydney to travel to London with Eunice so she could accept her scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London. Eunice was only 16 at the time and there was no question of her going alone. Her father, Reuben Gardiner Master Mariner with the Adelaide Steamship Company, said: “You might as well throw her to the sharks in Sydney Harbour.” Less than three months after leaving Sydney, Eunice’s father had a massive heart attack and died at sea near Adelaide. So, when Ruby left for London, she never to saw her husband again. In the one letter I have which he wrote to his beloved “Rube”, you could see they were close. They being apart was a necessary sacrifice, not a relief. Ruby was Eunice’s everything and accompanied her everywhere. They were seemingly inseparable. Ruby made pots of tea and helped entertain the press and, as I found out only last week, massaged Eunice’s hands to help keep them supple. It is then also no surprise, that many years later when her mother was in the hospice after a debilitating series of mini strokes, that Eunice would stop by after work at the Conservatorium and feed her mother dinner. Indeed, for many years Gran lived with Eunice and the family in Lindfield.

I’ve written about Eunice before and after years of research, I’m still finding more edge pieces and the picture in the middle is still patchy. Just when I think I’ve found all the missing pieces, something else shows up and the picture hazes over. Indeed, I have to wonder whether she doesn’t want to be found and that really wouldn’t surprise me. I know she’d be horrified to know that all those interviews she gave all those years ago, along with all the photographs and her writings as a music critic, are now available with the touch of a few buttons and a very long time travelling through Google. However, although that might tell me to leave her alone and let her rest in peace, she was and remains a public person. A woman who lived an extraordinary life, which shouldn’t just be pushed to the back of the closet and forgotten. Moreover, on a personal note, her DNA has been shared and passed on. There is also a wider family which also shares these same elements and ingredients. They might not be playing the piano but they’re dancing, writing, painting, drawing or obsessively focused on something. Moreover, Eunice had her musical “family” of brilliantly talented young musicians who speak a language the rest of us will never understand. They’re carrying her legacy forward and when you’re that unique needle in a haystack, I’d imagine it would be helpful to know you’re not alone. That someone else has trod that path and left some writings and recordings along  the road. So, in this weird macabre kind of way, my grandmother isn’t dead. She lives on.

Anyway, what precipitated my latest wanderings…

Pix 1940 May 11 pg 24.jpg

The other night while was actually researching one of my grandmother’s colleagues, cellist Osric Fyfe, I stumbled across a new resource…a magazine called Wireless Weekly. I thought I knew about all the major media articles about my grandmother and to be very honest, thought I hadn’t left a stone unturned. Then, last week, I discovered a two page media feature in the Wireless Weekly dated 11th May, 1940. This was about a month after she’d returned to Sydney after five years in London. She had returned from London a star and there were interviews about her appearances on BBCTV and a movie Black Eyes with Mary Maguire. She was a person of interest. A person of the moment.

Pix 1940 pg 2 full page

What particularly delighted me about the photos in this media spread was that the photographer almost saw her through my lens. Every photographer, amateur or professional, has a tendency towards a different perspective ranging from the big picture wide-angle to the zoomed in or even macro perspective. This feature really focused on her hands. Indeed, you could say that it was a study of Eunice’s hands.

Pix 1940 May 11 Ruby Massages Eunices Hands.jpg

Mother and daughter’s hands…Ruby Gardiner massaging Eunice’s fingers. 

My favourite photo zooms right in close, showing Ruby Gardiner massaging her daughter’s hands. I never knew she did this, and I was really touched at a deep personal level to tap into this level of intimacy between them. It was truly special and meant so much to me not just as their grand-daughter and Great Grand-daughter, but also as a mother now myself. It’s also got me thinking about my own daughter who is seriously interested in dancing and recently went into her first pair of pointe shoes. Her feet get very sore and perhaps it is now my turn to massage her feet. Be that silent force beneath her dreams.

Pix 1940 pg 25 piano close up

I also appreciated a close up picture of her hands at the piano. This is exactly the sort of photo I would take myself zoomed right in focusing on the fingers. Indeed, you can observe every little detail of her fingers and they’re almost perfectly preserved in time yet cold and untouchable at the same time. Even though these are the fingers of a famous and very accomplished pianist and her tools of trade, they’re not quite the same as the hands I knew. The very same hands which squeezed my newborn son’s feet, while she sang Twinkle Twinkle to him.

Jonathon Christmas 2004

Our son’s first Christmas with Great Grannie Eunice. 

 

How I wish I could’ve frozen time somewhere further along that path so that she was still here and more than just a photograph. Yes, I know. I’ve incredibly lucky to have all these newspaper resources about my grandmother’s life. Yet, at the same time, having all of that brings her back to life in ways I’d never dreamed and yet she’s still among the dead. She can not smile, laugh or make a cup of tea and when I read all of this, I simply want her back. Back for more than just a cup of tea, but to stay.

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My grandmother with my daughter. She was born on Eunice’s birthday 88 years later. I love my grandmother’s smile in this photo. She looks so happy!

I have spent so many, many nights with her on Google and even ten years after she passed, I can still hear her voices as clear as a bell and she always offers me a cup of tea. It could’ve been yesterday or even a few moments ago.

The heart knows no distance!

Best wishes,

Rowena

PS When you look at these photos of my grandmother with these young children, it seems like there was never any choice between career and family and somehow it all seamlessly came together. Photos and retrospectives tend to smooth out life’s rough edges and the bits which don’t quite fit into the narrative. There is no doubt in my mind that playing the piano was her first love and great, lifelong passion. Yet, then she met my grandfather. It was wartime and she found a second flame. Having a great talent and having had people sacrifice and invest in that talent, places an expectation. An expectation which led other female musicians of her day (including Australian Opera Singer Dame Joan Hammond) not to marry. Not to have a family. Eunice chose a different and more complex path, which was often fraught. There were times when these tensions boiled over. Eunice’s mother, Ruby, was a tower of strength, and there was also household help. So, Eunice wasn’t a modern female Atlas, carrying all of this on her shoulders alone. She was just like the rest of us. Only human.

 

Weekend Coffee Share…3rd February, 2019.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

This week, you’re in luck. You can have a slice of piping hot Peach Upside Down Cake with a scoop of creamy Vanilla ice cream with your choice of tea, coffee or whatever. I don’t know what possessed me to go baking tonight when the kitchen was already a bomb zone and the dishwasher is broken and the teenage substitutes are unreliable at best. Indeed, I suspect they have a few faulty circuits. However, being Sunday night, I felt the call of the Sunday roast, which thanks to still going through the Christmas ham, I decided to make a special dessert instead.

Peach Cake

Peach Upside Down Cake…Yum!

Last week was momentous. One by one, the rest of the family fell like dominoes returning to the real world. Tuesday, Geoff was back to work. Wednesday, our son was back to school and is now in Year 10. Our daughter had the longest reprieve. She went back to school for only one day on Friday and then she was off for the weekend again. It’s a tough life.

Jonathon & Amelia

Back to school 2019.kwr

By the way, it was funny seeing photo after photo of kids of all ages, shapes and sizes heading back to school. Themes and variations. Parents should warn their kids that if they don’t smile at the camera or worse still, they frown, cry, snarl or make a stupid face, it’s going to spread like gastro all around the world wide web and haunt them forever. Facebook never forgets. It bringing these things back from the deepest depths of its memory and no parent can resist clicking share and making the bad photo do the rounds again.

Zac & Amelia reading

Even the poor dog has homework. However, he soon nodded off and went to sleep.

Anyway, we got through the first week of term one. I can tick that one off. How many to go? Can I stick my head in the sand now? Or, do I really have to face another school year.

Last night, I revisited my parents’ old holiday house at Sydney’s Palm Beach going through masses of photos and posted two of them:

Girl on the Sand

Above: Footprints Running Through Sand

Driving Through the Clouds

Making Tracks.

Meanwhile, I participated in Friday Fictioneers again. This week’s photo prompt featured a tee pee, and took me into the realms of Native Americans, which was right out of my league as an Australian who has never been to America and has a healthy respect for Indigenous cultures. I wanted to show respect and came very close to skipping this week. My piece was called: Natural Justice and also raised some interesting issues about how to view historic literature through our modern day concepts of equality and social justice.

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Gosford Sailing Club.

For Thursday Doors, I featured Gosford Sailing Club. Both my husband and son are sailing members and I am hoping to be able to start sailing soon myself.

Well, how was your week? I hope you’ve had a great one.

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share, hosted by Eclectic Ali.

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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