Tag Archives: friendship

A Meeting of Minds….Walks With My Friend.

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.

C.S. Lewis

When you think about what remains of our life stories after we’re gone, it’s all about family connections…DNA. However, most of us can’t live with family as our only source of human interaction. We also need friends.

Every friendship is unique, just like our fingerprints. No two friendships are the same, which means we need to cherish each and every friend like gold, and they’re certainly not simply a stepping stone to get us where we’re wanting to go. Rather, I’d prefer to think about how I could ease my friend’s journey in some way, although I’ve had some truly wonderful friends who’ve been literal lifesavers when I’ve been seriously ill, barely able to look after my kids and they’ve driven them to and from daycare, school, fed them, cooked us meals or simply, and very importantly, listened. Finding understanding and acceptance, especially given my rare health and disability issues, has been a struggle and such a God-send when I’ve found it.  There are those two parallel footprints in the sand. We’re each independent and carrying our own load, but we’re also there with and for each other through life’s ups and downs, cups of coffee, walks along the beach and no doubt through the storms.

Footprints Pearl BeachThese photographs of footprints in the sand could tell a story of their own. However, they were actually taken while I was out walking along Pearl Beach with my friend who I’ll call “Henry’. I turned around and saw our footprints side-by-side in the sand stretching uninterrupted almost along the full length of the beach and they told a story of friendship, and what it means to be a friend. Well at least that’s what these two sets of parallel footprints said to me.

“Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.”
– Muhammad Ali 

In many ways my friendship with Henry breaks a few taboos. As you know, I’m married to Geoff and well you might ask what’s the story of my friendship with Henry? To put you at ease, Roland is the same age as my Mum and Dad and while some people might go for that kind of age difference, it definitely puts up a roadblock for both of us. Besides, I am clearly and most definitely married and if I was going to have an affair, I wouldn’t be hanging out once a week at a local cafe next door to the bookshop where Henry and I met. Rather, I’d be heading off to Sydney well and truly away from this goldfish bowl where everyone knows yours and everyone else’s business.

“I don’t need a friend who changes when I change and who nods when I nod, my shadow does that much better.

-Plutarch.

By the way, I first met Henry a few years ago in our local bookshop.  He was looking for books about WWII German history to write about his father’s war service as a Polish fighter pilot in the RAF. I knew of a good book through my own German/European heritage on my mum’s side and so we had that cultural connection, as well as our shared writing interest. Henry and I also made time for each other. Time to meet for coffee once a week, and at much the same time every week… very much like clockwork. Many of my friends don’t operate like clockwork, or don’t feel the need for that weekly coffee/ tea fix. However, I need it just like I need food and water and the car needs to be topped up with petrol. Geoff has joined us a few times, and the kids have met him. Moreover,  they know that my meetings with Henry are set in stone unless it’s mission critical. Aside from my violin lessons, there haven’t been many restrictions placed on my time since I stopped work a few years ago and I think it’s good for them to know I’m not available on tap. Another thing I really appreciate about my friendship with Henry, is that he takes me seriously. He sees something more in me than this incomplete, imperfect scrambling character I see inside myself, and he gives me hope. Reads my writing and takes it seriously and even edits it and provides suggestions. He is kind, considerate and in the mould of his chivalrous Polish father, a gentleman and someone I trust and can truly rely on.

Roland & Rowena

Our shadows captured walking down the beach…Henry with his cap on and me lugging my camera bag along.

 

“It’s your road, and yours alone, others may walk it with you, but no one can walk it for you.”

– Rumi

Henry’s friendship has also been a very important for me during the coronacrisis. For a few months there, he was all but my only physical social contact outside the family. He is fastidious about maintaining social distancing, is very protective of my health and also has a small social circle and takes precautions when he’s out. Our cafe’s been closed and I’m not quite ready to head back yet So, we’ve been going for walks along the beach instead. We did actually try to get a coffee at Pearl Beach last week but that all stops at 2.30pm over there so we didn’t have the opportunity to support local business. Gotta say, I was pretty disappointed, but we’re still coming out of covid and it is Winter here and there aren’t a lot of people around. However, they can also become a viscous circle.

DSC_0158

A few years ago, I used to have my dog-walking friends who were important to me. However, mornings and I haven’t been well acquainted of late and that’s fallen by the wayside. Moreover, I’ve seriously missed all the incidental friendships, which are structured around our activities and haven’t happened during lock down. Unfortunately, although dance has returned to the studio, parents are excluded and I’m still being cautious. The coronavirus is down, but not out.

Ferry and big clouds2

This massive cauliflower-shaped cloud decided to join us as well as a pod of dolphins which I didn’t quite manage to capture on film.

Anyway, might I encourage us all to unapologetically pursue and maintain our friendships. Indeed, I’ve made some really strong friendships through blogging, which have added a very interesting and largely international dimension.

Friendship matters!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

 

Midnight With the Philosopher’s Journal.

Well after midnight the night before last, a melancholy spirit crept into the house via the backdoor, and  joined me, my cup of decaf tea and row of Cadbury Hazelnut chocolate.  Zac, our gorgeous Border Collie x was sleeping across my lap nursing my keyboard,  while the rest of the house slept (or at least pretended to be asleep). In hindsight, I half wonder whether Zac was there to protect me from such spirits late at night, in the same way he guards the house from more physical threats. After all, when you put things in perspective, we often need more protection from ourselves than an intruder.

Anyway, as some of you would be aware, I’ve been researching and writing a collection of short  bios of Australians serving in France during WWI. I won’t just say soldiers, because my latest addition is Bill the Bantam Bugler, a bantam rooster who joined the 13th Battalion 12th reinforcements in camp at Liverpool in Sydney. Not one to be left behind,  he boarded the Suevic on the 22nd December along with the intrepid  Maud Butler and travelled to Egypt, before arriving in France.As it turned out, Billy the Bantam found his own battlefields in farmyards across France where he became the all-conquering Australian Napoleon of the chicken run. No rooster was too big for this little guy bursting with fight.

It was while I was researching Billy, that I came across a series of journals put out by the NSW Red Cross during the war. These journals have been a treasure trove of snippets, taking me off in all sorts of directions.

As you might’ve gathered by now, my research proceeds in anything but a straight, linear path and darts off on multitudinous detours. These are okay. Indeed, you could well consider them “the scenic route”. However, being in unchartered territory, I also need to develop strategies for finding my way back to the main road, or I’ll never get this finished.

Anyway, in the August 1916 edition, I found a quote which has taken me off on a completely different journey, forging a new main road straight through the bush. It reads:

“Never to tire, never to grow cold; to be patient, sympathetic, tender; to

look for the budding flower and the opening heart; to hope always; like

God, to love always–this is duty.”

Henri-Frederic Amiel

Amiel's journal

I’d never heard of this Swiss philosopher before, or  his famous journal: The Journal Intime. That’s now changed, and I spent the rest of the night reading through the most profound, gripping quotes, which I thought you might also appreciate. These all come from his journal:

“I am a spectator, so to speak, of the molecular whirlwind which men call individual life; I am conscious of an incessant metamorphosis, an irresistible movement of existence, which is going on within me — and this phenomenology of myself serves as a window opened upon the mystery of the world.”

“He who floats with the current, who does not guide himself according to higher principles, who has no ideal, no convictions–such a man is a mere article of the world’s furniture–a thing moved, instead of a living and moving being–an echo, not a voice. The man who has no inner life is the slave of his surroundings, as the barometer is the obedient servant of the air at rest, and the weathercock the humble servant of the air in motion.”

“A bubble of air in the blood, a drop of water in the brain, and a man is out of gear, his machine falls to pieces, his thought vanishes, the world disappears from him like a dream at morning. On what a spider thread is hung our individual existence!”

“Our true history is scarcely ever deciphered by others. The chief part of the drama is a monologue, or rather an intimate debate between God, our conscience, and ourselves. Tears, grieves, depressions, disappointments, irritations, good and evil thoughts, decisions, uncertainties, deliberations –all these belong to our secret, and are almost all incommunicable and intransmissible, even when we try to speak of them, and even when we write them down.”

“Composition is a process of combination, in which thought puts together complementary truths, and talent fuses into harmony the most contrary qualities of style. So that there is no composition without effort, without pain even, as in all bringing forth. The reward is the giving birth to something living–something, that is to say, which, by a kind of magic, makes a living unity out of such opposed attributes as orderliness and spontaneity, thought and imagination, solidity and charm.”

“He who is silent is forgotten; he who does not advance falls back; he who stops is overwhelmed; out distanced, crushed; he who ceases to grow becomes smaller; he who leaves off, gives up; the condition of standing still is the beginning of the end.”

I particularly loved this quote with it’s note of pure melancholy, and social isolation:

“I can find no words for what I feel. My consciousness is withdrawn into itself; I hear my heart beating, and my life passing. It seems to me that I have become a statue on the banks of the river of time, that I am the spectator of some mystery, and shall issue from it old, or no longer capable of age.”

As I read this,  I pictured myself as Michelangelo’s Statue of David standing beside the River Neckar in Heidelberg where I lived many years ago. Or, perhaps, I was seeing Amiel, and I’ll recast myself as the Venus de Milo, which I saw in the Louvre on the same trip.

Perhaps, many of us are also feeling like that powerless, detached, isolated statue on the river bank. We’re simply watching as our loved ones, income, jobs, businesses, savings are all being swept away by the river’s flow, and there’s nothing we can do to hold them back. In so many ways, we are powerless. Or, our capacity to respond and “fix” the impact has been greatly reduced, and this doesn’t sit well in our mindset of “Just do it”, “Make it happen”, or “you can be anything you want”.

Where are we to turn?

My Dad used to say that doing something tough “put hairs on your chest”, which I wasn’t keen on as a girl, but I now understand that he was talking about building grit and resilience. Whatever doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger. He also said: “life wasn’t meant to be easy.” However, he didn’t use the full quote:

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

― George Bernard Shaw

Anyway, getting back to what brought me into my melancholy zone of reflection the other night. Australia is now at the point of legitimately easing social distancing restrictions. While this is seemingly great news, for me personally its implications are mixed. Being at high risk myself, I need to work out what all of this means for me. Being in more of a melancholy mood at the time, I could see myself being left behind at home, while the rest of the country was out partying. Indeed, I even saw myself as that child stuck inside peering out while all the other children are playing. My hands and face are pressed hard up against the window watching all the others play and there’s such a deep, unfathomable heartache. A never-ending but very private cry.  In hindsight, it’s pretty clear that my thoughts galloped ahead of themselves.  We’re not at the point of coming out yet here in NSW, and I might not be left behind. The spread is being very well contained and might be all but wiped out.

With my chronic health and lung issues, these universal restrictions have not only been a lifesaver, for once we’re all in the same boat. Before they came about, with my husband working in a known hot spot and the kids being at school, we were expecting that I’d need to evacuate both from the community and from our family as well. Australia’s initial infection rates were heading along a similar trajectory to Italy and we had no reason back then to believe Australia would largely dodge the bullet. Consequently, we bought a camper to house me away from the family in our backyard. That’s how serious it was. Now, Australia’s in an entirely different position where we’ve almost eradicated the virus, but we’re not there yet.  New cases are still appearing, including a new cluster in Victoria. Restrictions haven’t eased much as yet. However, we will now be able to visit my parents for Mother’s Day tomorrow with the kids. That’s two and adults and dependent kids. That’s all that’s allowed, although school is going back one day a week, but we’re holding back at the moment. I don’t know how it’s going to look in a few weeks. So, I could well have freaked myself out without reason. Our State Premier is taking a very cautious approach. I might not get left behind.

Anyway, in the meantime, I was pleased to hang out with Amiel for a few hours, which has now extended into reading his journal, which is accessible online here and I strongly recommend reading the introduction as well:  Journal Intime

I am trying not to get too caught up what many of us know as “the dark side of the moon”. However, I also feel it’s important to acknowledge that it’s there. That it’s okay to indulge in it for a time, but like my many research detours, we shouldn’t linger too long and always endeavour to get back to the main road. Or, even return via the scenic and take a more uplifting route if we can.

I would love to encourage you to read Amiel’s journal with me and stay tuned for further posts. I already have a few up my sleeve.

How are you getting through the coronacrisis? Are you okay? Or, have you also had times of feeling melancholy, afraid or just confused? Even just having shops, Church, dance studio, schools, parks, museums and art galleries closed is throwing us out of kilter, and we’re not dealing with the worst of it.

It’s important to let these feelings out and share where we’re at. We don’t need to hide our grief away. Those of us well away from the epicentres, have big shoulders and are able to help carry the weight of your grief. It belongs to us all. You don’t need to bear it alone. Thankfully, the Internet is enabling us all to connect despite layer up on layer of border closures, shut downs and precautions and we can spread the love around like lashings of butter on hot toast.

From my place to your place, hang in there and we hope you’re doing okay.

Love,

Rowena

PS A big thank you to all my blogging buddies who’ve been through lock down with me! I truly appreciate our friendship!!!

Being There For Each Other…An ANZAC Day Tribute.

These days, it seems that ANZAC Day – the 25th April – is the only day almost universally held sacred and respected throughout Australia. ANZAC Day commemorates when the Australian and New Zealand forces first set foot at ANZAC Cove, Gallipoli on the 25th April, 1915. However, it’s come to represent all Australians who’ve served in armed conflicts, because as we’ve unfortunately come to find out, the Great War wasn’t “the war to end all wars”.

Kids at the cenotaph

As Scouts, one or both of our kids have participated in the local ANZAC Day march for almost the last 10 years. In particular, they’ve marched in memory of Geoff’s Great Uncle Private Ralph French who was killed in action near Mont St Quentin 4th September, 1918.

Robert Ralph french Photo

Geoff’s Uncle, Private  Ralph French 

However, Geoff also had his Uncle Jim who served at Gallipoli and Beersheeba with the lighthorse  and his brother Daniel served in the Sinai campaign in addition to Uncle Angus who he never met and Uncle Len. His grandmother also had one of the those embroidered French postcards from her cousin Jack Burke. Not so many served on my side of the family. There was my Great Great Uncle Jack Quealey and the two Gordon brothers, Roland and Frank. That was WWI. Geoff’s Uncle Ralph and Uncle Walter both  served in New Guinea during WWII along with my Great Uncle, Jack Gordon. More recently, Geoff’s brother Terry was on the last ship to Vietnam and as a medic, nursed the injured returning home and at least one cousin served in the Gulf War.

Poppies Geoff Amelia Jonathon

Geoff and the kids find Uncle Ralph at the Australian War Memorial

So, as you could imagine, ANZAC Day weighs heavily on our hearts and we’ve done our utmost best to ensure our kids know what it’s about. WWI and almost WWII are drifting beyond living memory. So, it’s no longer a scenario of “lest we forget”. We need to pass on the stories and sow the seeds. Ensure the younger generations know what happened, the sacrifices and the importance of maintaining the peace, though not always at any cost.

Robert Ralph French cenotaph

This year, our don was supposed to be commemorating ANZAC Day at the dawn service at Villers Bretonneaux on the battlefields of France. I went into overdrive researching what our family members went through over there, so he wouldn’t be standing there like a dingaling not knowing what had happened. However, thanks to the coronavirus, his excursion was obviously cancelled along with ANZAC Day marches throughout Australia. It is a solemn time, and it’s quite significant that we can’t do ANZAC Day in the usual way. Indeed, we couldn’t even watch the march on TV, although no doubt the Dawn Service was televised and hopefully we can watch that again later tonight. We didn’t get up to light candles and stand at the end of the driveway. I don’t know if many people did it around here, but it didn’t feel the same and I thought I’d rather do something on my blog.

Jack Quealy WWI

My Great Great Uncle Jack Quealey

Anyway, while we were watching the ANZAC Day coverage on TV today, I heard this incredible poem describing a soldier’s dependence on “mateship”. I don’t know why I’ve never heard this poem before, because it’s a poem every Australian should know right alongside Waltzing Matilda and the Man From Snowy River. Indeed, even more so, because what it refers to as the male bond of “mateship” could just as easily be represented by words such as:  “friendship”, “trust”, “Compassion” and “love”. Values which are just as important at home, as on the battle field, and we have much to learn from the brave and selfless men and women who have served our people. Moreover, we can add to them, our brave fire fighters and the front line warriors battling the coronavirus along with the teachers caring for their children in our schools. From our home to yours, we thank you.

major-james-norbert-griffin

Geoff’s Great Uncle, Major James Griffin.

So, after all that “Blah, blah, blah” (as my daughter would say), here’s the poem, followed by an actual story which lived out these lines in the trenches of WWI France.

MATES 

Duncan Harold Butler 1906-1987

I’ve traveled down some dusty roads, both crooked tracks and straight,
and I have learnt life’s noblest creed summed up in one word, “Mate”.
I’m thinkin’ back across the years, a thing I do of late
and these words stick between me ears “You gotta have a mate.”

Someone who’ll take you as you are regardless of your state
and stand as firm as Ayers Rock because he is your mate.
Me mind goes back to ’43 to slavery and hate
when man’s one chance to stay alive depended on his mate.

With bamboo for a billy-can and bamboo for a plate,
A bamboo paradise for bugs was bed for me and mate.
You’d slip and slither through the mud and curse your rotten fate
But then you’d hear a quiet word – “Don’t drop your bundle, mate.”

And though it’s all so long ago this truth I have to state,
A man don’t know what lonely means ’til he has lost his mate.
If there’s a life that follers this, if there’s a Golden Gate,
The welcome that I wanna hear is just “Goodonya mate”.

And so to all who ask us why we keep these special dates,
Like ANZAC Day, I tell ’em “Why? We’re thinkin’ of our mates.”
And when I’ve left the driver’s seat and ‘anded in me plates
I’ll tell Ol’ Peter at the door “I’ve come to join me mates.”

…..

From your soldier boy

Embroidered French Card.

As I mentioned, I wanted to share a story which exemplified the incredible bonds of mateship outlined in this poem. I stumbled across this story during my WWI research.

Coincidentally, two newspaper men crossed each other’s paths in training camp at Kiama (South of Sydney) before they left for the front. They were George Washington Brownhill journalist and proprietor of the Forbes Advocate, and Sergeant Ray Colwell, a journalist with the Daily Telegraph. While in training in the UK, Brownhill sustained a football injury to his leg, which effectively put him out of action. However, fortunately, he saw just enough service to write a series of informative articles and letters home. Indeed, in his case, the pen was certainly mightier than the sword and I am most grateful for that. Unfortunately Sergeant Ray Colwell, was killed in action on the 7th June, 1917 at Messines. Although he wasn’t with him at the time, George Brownhill wrote a glowing letter outlining their friendship to Ray’s parents:

LATE SERGT. RAY COLWELL

The following letter has been received by Chaplain Colwell from Sergeant-Major Brownhill, who was Sergeant Ray Colwell’s great friend from the time he entered camp at Kiama until his death at the front: — What would it be possible for me to write in any way to lessen your sorrow?

However, it may be a comfort to you to hear from me, who was your dear son’s constant companion and friend for almost the whole of the time that he was in the uniform of his King and country.

Something in me claimed him as a chum the first time I saw him at Kiama, and it pleases me to think that he responded. I liked and admired him, and thought of him almost as a brother. He was one of the whitest, straightest, and sweetest natured men I have ever known, or expect ever to know, and possessed many intellectual qualities that made his friendship a privilege. I never heard him express a wrong sentiment, and believe that he never harboured one.’ He was kind and thoughtful to a degree in his dealings with his fellow-men and soldiers, and every member of the reinforcements of which he and I were members loved and admired him.

To me personally he was tender when he might have been harsh, thoughtful and patient when he might have been any thing else, and always a clean-thinking, clean-living, honest fellow, whose companionship I delighted in.

Ray left England for France a little earlier than I did, but I joined up with him at Bapaume, got apportioned to the same section and tent, and together, side by side, we marched into our battalion’s share in the great engagements at Bullecourt. There we were in the trenches for two days and the best part of three nights, during which time we were subjected to heavy enemy shelling, and the worst elements of snow and rain. We shared the same dug-out, helped one another in our work, kept together for protection against the cold, and exchanged confidences in the long watches of the night. When our platoon was relieved I was in a rather broken-down condition, and it was largely by Ray’s help that I got away from the danger zone.  The enemy seemed to guess our movements, and poured in a shower of shells as we crept away into the darkness. That was the time of all times when a man might have thought of himself first.

Ray, being strong and well, could have been one of the first out of the shell area, but his place was in the rear, helping his almost helpless friend, and cheering me on with words and actions of encouragement. He was a man all through the episode, and I will never forget how good he was to me, and how self-sacrificing.

Afterwards I was in hospital for a fortnight but then rejoined the battalion, and our comradeship was resumed in all its warmth, save that while he strong and buoyant, was out on parade each day, I remained on the sick list and in quarters. When the battalion was moved up to ‘the region of Messines I was sent back to hospital, and finally reached Le Havre; where a Medical Board declared me unfit for further active service, and I am now engaged in clerical work in our base depot office. It was thus that the ties of our mateship were severed, and thus that I was not with Ray at Messines.

Will it be any consolation to you to know that the end was instantaneous, and the agony of a lingering death was spared him? He died from wounds in the head, and he died as a soldier and a man, as brave, as kindly, and as good a fellow as ever wore the uniform’ of his country. And if he had had time for one last thought, it would have centred around the father and mother, his brothers and sisters, who were the all in all of his love and affection. An arm of aid to the weak, A friendly hand to the friendless; Kind words — So short to speak, But whose echo is endless. The world is wide— these things are so small — They may be nothing, but they are all.  Methodist (Sydney, NSW : 1892 – 1954), Saturday 29 September 1917, page 7

Surely, there’s little doubt that everyone would love to have a friend like Ray!

Lest we forget!

Best wishes,

Rowena

 

Over the Rainbow Bridge…

Yesterday morning, a wise old dog taught me a hard lesson. That as much as there is a time to be born, there is a time to die and no matter how hard we might try to fight or change the overall scheme of things, that is a hard and unrelenting fact.

It is what it is.

Yesterday morning, the kids came racing in while I was still asleep and trying to pretend it was Monday morning, crying that Bilbo our beloved Border Collie, was dead. Even though we’d taken Bilbo to the vet and knew the prognosis wasn’t good, he’d perked up a bit and we had reason to hope. Indeed, even as the news hit, I still hoped the kids had got it wrong. That he was just asleep.

As you can see, I can stretch hope beyond the bounds of reason, and well into the realms of imagination. I can even stretch it further…something I blame on being a poet.

Bilbo had died seemingly peacefully in the backyard near his beloved Jacaranda tree. He clearly didn’t suffer. That’s a relief. It should be relief enough. However, I’m human. Indeed, I’m more human than I thought, because far from being made of stone after all we’ve been through, I am emotionally distraught. I’ve cried, but I’ve also had the strength to be there for the kids and answer their questions and reassure them, as much as I could, that everyone around them isn’t about to pass away too.

Bilbo with ball

Bilbo with his ball. Actually, that’s another dog’s ball. Humph! Just call him obsessed!

We buried Bilbo in the backyard with one of his many tennis balls and I sprinkled rose petals into his grave. In other words, we gave him the same kind of send off we’d do for any family member, although his was more intimate…just Geoff and myself.

Meanwhile, I know this is going to hurt for awhile.

Another aspect to Bilbo, is that he has been quite a feature here on my blog and has even written a few posts himself and has his own extensive circle of human and dog friends. I am grateful to not only have these memories, but it means so much to have shared Bilbo with you and that you have at least come to know him in part. It is no exaggeration to say, he was a four-legged angel. He loved us so completely with every cell in his being. I have never had any doubt that he would die protecting us either, giving us such a sense of safety and security. Yet, he wasn’t your bounding extrovert. He was actually a deep-thinking, somewhat melancholy introvert. I always described him as that bloke standing in the corner of the pub keeping to himself and holding his beer. He never jumped up on anyone. That’s Lady.

Fortunately, we still have our other dog, Lady. She’s an incredibly happy dog, who is forever wagging her tail. Indeed, she was wagging her tail at Bilbo and I couldn’t help thinking that, just like me, she was telling Bilbo to wake up.

“The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his heaven, not man’s.”

-Mark Twain: Letter to W.D. Howells, 2 April 1899.

So, when I think of Bilbo walking over the Rainbow Bridge, I hope that he’s found a fill in family with the kind of tireless energy required to keep throwing his tennis ball…time after time. With his new, revitalized energy, they’ve going to need it.

RIP Bilbo…19th November, 2006 – 26th June, 2017.

Love,

Rowena

 

Bilbo going home

Saturday’s visit to the beach turned out to be his last. He laboured up and down the beach like an aged warrior and only managed a few laboured attempts to chase his ball. Mostly, it just rolled into the water. Lady doesn’t chase balls or sticks, preferring  to roll in dead anything instead.

 

Out of the Depths…Friday Fictioneers.

The river’s fury knew no bounds. Swallowing and regurgitating all in its path, the river gushed through precious Queenslander homes, but didn’t care… just buried its dead in mud.

Pete and Julie clung to each other like limpets. Photograph after sodden photograph fished out of the mud, their memories were falling apart in gloved hands.

Despair…utter despair.

Then, the aliens landed. Strangers wearing gumboots, rubber gloves, carrying spades, mops and plates of food. They’d salvaged their daughter’s precious teddies. Mud was glued to each and every fibre, but for the very first time, they knew they could make it.

………

This has been another contribution to Friday Fictioneers. This week’s photo prompt is © Karuna

A series of floods hit Queensland, Australia, beginning in December 2010. The floods forced the evacuation of thousands of people from towns and cities.[2] At least 90 towns and over 200,000 people were affected.[2] Damage initially was estimated at around A$1 billion[3] before it was raised to $2.38 billion.[1]

Three-quarters of the council areas within the state of Queensland were declared disaster zones.[5] Communities along the Fitzroy and Burnett Rivers were particularly hard hit, while the Condamine, Ballone and Mary Rivers recorded substantial flooding. An unexpected flash flood caused by a thunderstorm raced through Toowoomba’s central business district. Water from the same storm devastated communities in the Lockyer Valley. A few days later thousands of houses in Ipswich and Brisbane were inundated as the Brisbane River rose and Wivenhoe Dam used a considerable proportion of its flood mitigation capacity. Volunteers were quick to offer assistance, and sympathy was expressed from afar…Wikipedia

At the time of the floods, I was staying near Byron Bay in Northern New South Wales and also experienced the deluge. People talk about the sound of rain on a tin roof, but this was terrifying and yet at the same time, strangely beautiful at the same time. We have family and close friends in Brisbane so these floods were very close to our hearts.

I felt I had to write something uplifting in response to this prompt which I found quite disturbing.

xx Rowena

The Wharfie – Friday Fictioneers.

Henry clocked on, praying he’d get through the day without screwing up. Broke and dossing down on Steve’s couch, he couldn’t go outside without freaking out. The bitch was lurking on every corner. Nowhere was safe.

It was too soon, but Steve had got him the job. He was a union man. No questions asked, all his troubles slipped under the radar. Surely, it wouldn’t matter that he couldn’t pick red from green, or that he read things back to front…

Yet, even before his first smoko, he’d spotted the “Thomas” backpack lying by the wharf.

He didn’t even think.

……………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

This has been another contribution to  Friday fictioneers, a weekly challenge set by Rochelle Wisoff Fields to write a 100-word story in response to a photo prompt. You can find other stories here.

PHOTO PROMPT © Fatima Fakier Deria.

xx Rowena

 

 

 

Weekend Coffee Share 19th March, 2017.

Welcome to Another Weekend Coffee Share!

Today, I have a little confession. It’s actually almost Monday afternoon here, but there’s no rule that says you have to stick to local time. So, I’m Coming to you to from Boston where it’s currently 8.42PM Sunday and it’s currently 2ºF. It’s currently 27ºC here in Sydney with 80% humidity. The air is so heavy and sticky and it feels like you could literally wring the water out of it,which is all pretty yuck to be honest. Not that I’m wishing Winter would hurry up. It’s more of a case of “rain, rain go away…”

Woy Woy March 20

After weeks of seriously heavy rain, the sun started to peer through the clouds this morning and I had to seize the moment.

At the moment, I’m wishing I could find some form of cosmic remote control. Mostly, I’d like to press the pause button for awhile to catch up. Or, a bit like the conductor of an orchestra, get some parts to stop of play quietly so I can focus on something else without being interrupted or feeling I’m needing to split my brain so many directions, that it short circuits.

I know I’m far from being the only one who feels like this so when is some young Einstein or Thomas Eddison going to invent the ultimate device. Or, could I be the one to come up with the ultimate invention? Unless it’s made out of a box of spare cuckoo clock parts or the components of the piano I’m thinking of pulling to pieces, I doubt it. I’d better stick to art and my planned deviation into sculpture.

The last couple of weeks have been very stressful. Not because I’ve had a lot on, but I’ve had some big stuff on and I’ve had to be organized and focused, which isn’t my forte.

At the top of the agenda at the moment, our daughter goes to high school next year. Forget any concerns about my baby growing up. At the moment, the preparation side of things is enough to contend with. In a bid to give her plenty of choice and options, she’s sat for the State selective schools test, but she’s also sitting for selective academic and performing arts tests at our local school. We won’t get the results of the selective schools’ test  until after the offers are made for the local school. So, needless to say, the process by itself is an ordeal and my role is never as simple as “taxi driver extraordinaire”. I’m also chief motivator, enforcer and “punching bag”. Golly! I feel like handing in my resignation already and it’s only march. This process goes on at least until October and longer if she’s on the waiting list.

It’s enough to throw yourself under a bus…”Spare me!”That’s metaphorically speaking, of course!

The other big event this week, was my thirty year school reunion. That was a real hoot. reunion.  I really love going to these school reunions, even though I wasn’t one of the cool kids at school. We’ve all moved on and the girls who gave me a hard time, don’t come to the reunions, which intrigues me. Unfortunately, most of the people they really picked on don’t come either and there are also those who walked out the school gate and never looked back. For me, the usual what to wear problem was compounded by weeks and weeks of severely heavy rain, which was saying hibernate to me. I could’ve worn an eskimo suit there if I’d had one. There was also the shoe issue. I can’t stand long at the best of times and as much as I would’ve liked to wear the pretty shoes, I had to go with the sensible shoes. This ended up being quite interesting as I ended up almost feeling short, when I’m usually tall. Some of those heels were like towers. Anyway, I enjoyed catching up on anecdotes from the past and they had scanned in a series of letters to Charles and Di a class had written for the Royal Wedding. They’d got married when I was in 6th class and I clearly remember the insane obsession the world had with Diana, which was such a part of those school years. I clearly remember one of my friends saying her Gran had taken her off for a Lady Di haircut but she had a cowlick in her fridge and it didn’t really come off.  The teenage years are a bit like that though. So much never really comes off.

I should mention, that there was talk about actor Hugh Jackman at the reunion.  Of course, there had to be. He was our local heartthrob. As much as there was talk of Hugh spottings back in the day, there has to be a few stories about the one who broke Hugh’s heart. Of course, it no longer matters whether it’s true or not. You just need a few good myths and legends to rev up a reunion!

Since I missed the coffee share the week before, I still need to wish our son a Happy 13th Birthday. My Dad couldn’t resist writing: “now you’re terrible teenager” in his card and I sure am hoping this isn’t prophetic. I don’t know if you really want a boring kid, but one who did what they were supposed to do without constant reminding would be good.

I guess that’s where that remote control I mentioned earlier would really come in handy. The thing is it would need to be modified to include some kind of homework/study button, which included some kind of “motivational encouragement”.  Of course, this would need to be enabled to override the “play” button. Not that I fancy myself as some kind of dictator, but it would be so much easier to operate the teenager from the couch without having to get up…AND without having to repeat myself!

Anyway, the teenager went very well at sailing over the weekend and is trying to catch up on school work after being sick.

Meanwhile, I’m back off to dancing tonight. I’m not sure how many classes we have left this term   and I love it so much, that I miss it in between. Our adult class is so much fun and caters for beginners through to professional dancers and we each just do our best…AND we have such a laugh.

jennifer-pendergast5

Photo prompt: © Jennifer Pendergast.

BTW, I almost forgot to mention my weekly go at writing flash fiction over at Friday Fictioneers…Local Outrage.

So, how’s your week been? I hope it’s gone well. I know I don’t exactly offer you something to eat or drink but that can do on behind the scenes and doesn’t always need to be spelt out.

Anyway, I hope you have a great week wherever you are!

This has been another Weekend Coffee Share. I encourage you to come over and join us.

Best wishes and I hope you have a great week ahead!

Rowena

Musical Reflections 1941…

In March 1941, while London was in the throws of “The Blitz”, my grandmother was performing in Newcastle, a regional city North of Sydney. She was a concert pianist and after studying at the Royal Academy of Music in London, she returned to Australia in 1940 to tour with famed conductor, Sir Thomas Beecham…and no doubt to escape the bombs!

Fast forwarding to 2017, and I’m meticulously going through old newspapers online, transcribing text and pasting articles about her into word documents by year. It’s taken me years to come up with this approach for compiling all these bits and pieces, especially as filing isn’t exactly my forte.

An interesting aspect of my grandmother’s career, at least from the perspective of a storyteller, is that she lived through an extremely turbulent, yet fascinating, period of history. That included: the Great Depression, WWII, “women’s lib”  and also the Cold War when she actually performed behind the “Iron Curtain” in East Germany and Soviet Russia (the latter being quite an “interesting” thing for Grannie to do and she even brought back some Russian coins which was not allowed!!)

So, when I stumbled across this little discussion in the Newcastle paper about the conflict between classical music and Jazz, I thought of a few bloggers who’d find this interesting and I’ll be popping round to “your place” and dropping off a link. You never know when little historical snippets like this could come in handy:

So, here goes:

“WORDS CONTINUE, like pebbles, to be thrown into the stream of controversy that races between followers of jazz and the classics. One writer, who attempts an impartial summing up of the question suggests: “The highbrow’s error is to suppose himself a different creature from the low brow. He loathes himself if he is betrayed into humming a tune that all the world is singing or into tapping his feet in time with the band. And failing to recognise or contemptuously rejecting these instincts in himself he has nothing but scorn for their manifestation in other people. To him the lowbrow is the person who likes ‘that kind of music.’ How much better if we realised that there are occasions when we all like ‘that kind of music” when our superior faculties are enjoying a rest. “This problem must be giving the B.B.C. a headache in compiling its feature programme. ‘Music while you work,’ since obviously there must be some who would prefer to make a bullet or put an engine together to the accompaniment of a Beethoven sonata than to ‘Roll Out the Barrel.’ “Germany, if reports are true, is producing special music to aid the war effort. Soldiers now march to tunes which automatically control their breathing to enable them to go longer distances without becoming exhausted.”

Newcastle Morning Herald and Miners’ Advocate (NSW : 1876 – 1954) , Friday 21 March 1941, page 18

This tension between classical and contemporary music, rings bells for me back at school, even in the 1980’s.

As if being a teenager wasn’t confusing enough, while the rest of the teenage universe was into  pop/rock/punk etc, my best friend was into classical and drew me under her spell. In retrospect, she was one of “those kids”. Their family only watched the ABC and she never ate junk food. Indeed, she didn’t even know what a Mars Bar was. That should have been a warning in itself, but your best friend is your best friend. Sink or swim, you do it together…even if you do die a social death.

So, if I could speak to my 13 year old self, I’d tell her that she should stand on her own two feet. That before you publicly declare you love classical music, remember you played Grease at your slumber party, which was anything but. Anyone who is your true friend, can accept a difference of opinion and give you the space and freedom to be yourself. You don’t have to be clones. Also, if you decide to go against the flow, make sure it’s for something you strongly believe in and that you’re prepared to cop the fallout. Otherwise, it’s just not worth it.

These are life lessons I’m now trying to pass onto my kids. Navigating your way through high school is a veritable minefield and hopefully they can learn from my mistakes and make different ones of their own.

Meanwhile, getting back to the tension between different styles of music, I’m sensing that this has eased up over the years and we enjoy much more of a smorgasbord of styles these days. That we can be wonderfully eclectic. Is that your take as well? I’d love to read your reflections.

xx Rowena

 

Nothing Said…Flash Fiction.

“You two look cosy,” Jess smiled, almost spilling champagne over her best friend and her ex-lover. They weren’t holding hands. Yet, she could sense that unmistakable sizzle. Almost convulsing, Jess said nothing. She kept her love life private.

Ouch! That Summer with Will stung like a bee. He’d seen straight through her with those damned blue eyes. Didn’t even need his lens.

That’s why she ran. By then, there was no turning back.

She was too broken.

The two people she loved the most and knew the best. Yet, she kept zipped.

She couldn’t tell him about their son.

This has been written in response to Charli Mills weekly Flash Fiction Challenge over at Carrot Ranch.

December 29, 2016 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a cozy story. What is it to be cozy, to experience Danish hygge? It doesn’t need to be culture-specific, but it can be an interesting point of comparison or contrast. A character might long to feel cozy, or you might describe the perfect cozy scene. It may or may not include Prosecco..

Respond by January 3, 2017 to be included in the compilation (published January 4). Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

xx Rowena

Photo: Rowena Curtin

 

Poem: Welcome To the Yellow House

And he coaxed:

“Chirpy bird,

chirpy bird,

rest beside me,

chirpy bird.

The music of your spangled song,

thaws the freeze of love gone wrong.

 

Chirpy Bird.

chirpy bird.

Look what I’ve got,

chirpy bird.

Golden seeds

plucked from my heart.

Feast on these,

fresh shoots will start.”

 

But reason warned:

“Chirpy bird,

Chirpy bird.

Watch fast footsteps, Chirpy bird.

Your beak does peak

to chasms deep

as he bathes in your sweet

tweet

tweet

tweet.

But though he sometimes calls you “dear”,

note he’ll never let you near.”

 

Oh, Chirped bird!

Chirped bird!

Beak jammed in crack,

wings tied to torture wrack.

With a blind man’s bash,

your fragile bones he had to smash.

His yellow house was painted grand.

Do you think you’ll ever understand?

I only ever hear you cry:

“Lord, tell me why?

Just tell me why.”

 

Baited bird.

Beaten bird.

Chirped out bird

flopped in my hand.

Your crumpled feathers,

could I carress,

but you’d die

inside a comfort nest.

 

So, I offer you back

to the outstretched sky.

Spread your wings!

It’s time to fly.

Fresh shoots can spring

from golden seeds.

They’re ripe for thee,

my chirpy bird.

Eat & Fly free.

Rowena Curtin  14th August, 1992.

bird-1-1

Chirpy Bird.

It feels quite surreal these days, to reflect on the horrors of heartbreak in the years before I met my husband and “settled down”.

This poem revisits my trip to Europe in 1992, and the horrors of heartbreak. It’s title comes from Van Gogh’s house in Arles, which appeared in the painting The Yellow House. I chose Van Gogh’s house for the title as I was rapidly descending into the  same sort of anguished madness one associates with Van Gogh.

I hadn’t seen the painting when I named the poem, and the actual painting is much more conventional and “tame” than I’d expected, especially when you think of Van Gogh’s emotional and mental expressionism his works like:  Starry Night, which oozes with raw, unbridled emotion.

My “friend” used to call me “Chirpy Bird”, and seemed to find me a breath o fresh air. He’d never met an Australian before and I remember him and some of our friends wondering whether it was just me or Australians in general.

Due to circumstances my friend and I could only be friends and that was accepted and understood. However, emotions aren’t known for sticking to the rules and while I can’t speak for him, mine blew straight through those bounds, at least in my heart. For those of you who remember that great dating classic: When Harry Met Sally, friendship between single men and women is often fraught. I love this scene. Our “friendship” ended in a huge emotional vortex and then the bucket of ice hit. Ouch!

As I ripped my heart out and through it over  Pont Neuf long after midnight, I felt like I was the only person ever to have suffered such anguish. A sense of angst which permeated every cell like a seeping poison. Instead of being the wind beneath my wings, my friend brutally cut them off and threw them away. Yet, in a strange paradoxical sense, he also set me free. Being enslaved to a love which could never be, would’ve been a much great  thing, but you don’t se that at the time. You only hurt.

By the way, I actually visited Van Gogh’s home in Cuesmes in Greater Mons, Belgium with my “friend”, which also makes the link to Van Gogh more pertinent.

 

xx Rowena